IT HAPPENS ONLY IN INDIA,
GREAT JOB MR. PARMAR
it is good to eat as many as vegetables and fruits (totally vegetarian), but my aurvedic doctor asked me to stop eating every...
Book>> Socialism is Great by Lijia Zhang Harper Collins India, Delhi 2008 Price Rs 45
In 1979, the Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping visited the US, a journey in which he charmed Americans with his apparently folksy ways. On that trip, he also cut major business deals with Boeing and Coca-Cola. That heralded the socialism under market conditions in China.
Lijia Zhang was 16 then, a student in a Nanjing school with dreams of becoming a journalist. Lijia's aspirations were quashed, when her mother announced she would be retiring from her job at the Liming Machinery Factory. Lijia was to replace her. Thirty years down the line, she has written this riveting memoir of what it was like growing up in a "modernizing China".
The job meant a guarantee of sorts of minimal blessings--a worker's apartment of two rooms shared by four people with communal bathrooms, a ration of rice and the privilege of singing Socialism is Great on the Communist Party's birth anniversary. But Lijia found the factory job every bit as dull as she expected. Liming made ballistic missiles, artillery and guns. Its production was a high-level state secret. Lijia was assigned to a minor workshop where her colleagues thrived on gossip and sniped at each other. The rules were strict and sometimes stupid--they even set down how closely a man's hair had to be cropped.
In her ample free time, Lijia began reading a form of protest literature known as misty poetry. She also taught herself English by devouring classics. During interminable political study sessions, she read Jane Eyre, hiding it behind The People's Daily. The times were changing. There was an innovation ideally suited to the mass desperation for advancement TV University, earlier meant for training party cadres, now switched to professional training. Lijia managed to get accepted in one class; she began to hear murmurs about China adopting "western values". For young people who grew up with anti-capitalist propaganda, those were exciting times.
But dissent spread as it became obvious that accommodating capitalism would require more personal and universal freedom. Lijia got into serious trouble by organizing demonstrations of Nanjing workers in support of the Tiananmen Square Protest in 1989. She managed to flee to England with her Scottish boyfriend. This is where the book concludes.
Socialism is Great is a well-considered observation of Chinese society and the political tides--the hangovers of its ancient superstitions and legends and the simultaneous doubt and hope that accompanied the democracy movement of 1989. Lijia who co-authored China Remembers, a 50th anniversary story of the People's Republic of China told through interviews, has a flair for getting into the lives of those around her. Her memoir is populated with many interesting characters. One boyfriend introduces Lijia to the theory of oriental despotism, which says the need to mobilize large numbers of people for public-works helped pave the way for repressive regimes. She later discovers the theory was "borrowed" from the west.
Earthy dialogues bring to life the inter-generational tensions in an overcrowded home in Nanjing; the joys of a family that just managed an extra ration of fish; gossip of workers idling through monotony in a state-owned enterprise; and the hopes of those who manage to break from the government's iron hand to swim in China's rising tide of private business.
Lijia uses Communist Party slogans to give them an ironic twist. For instance in one place she writes, "'Revolution is not a dinner party,' our great leader Chairman Mao once warned. But today's revolution seemed to be all about dinner parties--most business deals, official or private, were concluded at a banquet table crowed with expensive items." Socialism is Great calls for a sequel. For much of the conditions and attitudes Lijia describes persist even today.
Danny Larkin is working on a PhD on Deng Xiaoping's reforms