NPR is running a three-part series to mark the upcoming 60th anniversary of the PRC:
As the country approaches its anniversary, NPR asks three of China’s most astute observers for their perspectives. They are best-selling novelists with sales in the millions. Each author is a product of his era, shaped by the prevailing political forces of his generation.
In a three-part series, each author offers his distinct views — of the country and the changing social order. Collectively, they expose a wide generation gap between young Chinese and their forbearers.
Wearing his thick horn-rimmed spectacles and a V-neck beige sweater, Jiang doesn’t look like a freedom fighter as he sips coffee in the lobby of a five-star hotel. But looks can be deceiving. In Wolf Totem, the author attacks the weakness of the Chinese national character by criticizing the ethos that underlies it, Confucianism.
“Confucianism wants people to become sheep. Its central tenet is obedience, following the emperor,” Jiang explains. “In essence, the political system during the Cultural Revolution was the same as that of the last several thousand years: Both were autocratic, totalitarian and dictatorial.”
“I’m criticizing China’s cultural roots. It’s not a surface problem. It’s like grass: If you cut it out, the roots are still there,” he says.
“The Cultural Revolution was a craziness for revolution, then we had a craziness to earn money,” Yu says. “It’s like a pendulum that’s swung from one extreme to another. It’s gone from being an extremely oppressive society to being an extremely free one with no moderation.”
Brothers, a lewd, rambunctious, heartbreaking epic of modern China, has sold 1.3 million copies. It is wildly popular — and widely criticized — at home.
The next installment will focus on writer Guo Jingming.