Yu Hua (1959), who grew up during the Cultural Revolution, describes in ten personally reflected essays China's dramatic development – in just 4-5 decades. He does not put his fingers in between, and depicts a society behind Shanghai's shiny economy facade hiding on a country at war with itself and the world. The book is also not published in China, but in Taiwan. Hua, who is both essayist and fiction writer, began his «career» as a dentist. As a twenty-year-old, he was appointed a dentist. During the Cultural Revolution one could not choose what one wanted to be, so the aspiring author spent, without dental education, a number of years pulling teeth out on people. That's what the treatment consisted of.
Hua made his international breakthrough with the novel To live (1993; Danish 2015), which deals with the absurd life of China's Cultural Revolution. The book was also filmed by Zang Yimou with To Live (1994). Hua's newly translated essays showcase a China whose tiger leap to economic miracle in its wake leaves a nation of extreme inequality, old-fashioned and corrupt office and a back-to-back world of copy and scam.
The Cultural Revolution
The book tells the story of China before and now through ten words: people, leather, read the changing, write, Lu Xun, research formal, revolution, grass roots, coffee, bluff. The people were once identical to the great Chairman Mao, his way of waving and The little red, which stood in every home. And those who walked on the streets in the famous riot at Tiananmen Square in Beijing were not the people, but enemies of the people, in this case students. The history of the people is about language, corruption and not least historical oblivion. The uprising in which hundreds of thousands of students walked the streets and fought and in a flash saw a new flourishing time, in a few weeks was crushed and destroyed. The day-to-day reports of the riots and the resulting inspiration were replaced from one day to the next with the overarching narrative: The prosperous prosperity of our fatherland. The blackout was total.
Back then there was accuracy, today everyone wants more.
25 years after the uprising, the new young generation has no knowledge of the days in 1989. The historical oblivion is total. According to Hua, only one thing in today's China counts: monetary. "The people" is purely a marketing term used by government officials for the right occasion.
The book’s scoop is also the description of the cultural revolution. Hua writes about the fighting battles of the Cultural Revolution, about the executions of the counter-revolutionaries, the time when everyone controlled everyone and indicated anyone who was suspected of "going the capitalist path".
Hua talks about a host of other tragic and tragicomic things. For example, about a second-grade girl who had come to fill a picture of Mao, so a cross appeared over his face. The whole school was called to a rally, and the girl cried inconsolably as she acknowledged her crime.
During the Great Spring Forward, local officials wildly exaggerated the size of the harvest proceeds, making the state's share far greater. The peasants lost their rations of grain, seeds and fodder grain, the famine broke out. On the transition to capitalism, Hua can tell of many even more tragicomic conditions. Not least under words such as leader and reading, you get sight of the legend of what has gone before during the Kingdom in the Middle.
"The people" is purely a marketing term.
Back then during the Cultural Revolution everything was very simple. You knew what to do and where and how to be in power. Mao's famous words were: "Everything the enemy is against, we support that, and everything the enemy supports, we are against."
Later, during Deng Xiaoping, the new words came: "It doesn't matter if the cat is black or white, if it catches mice, it's a good cat." Under Mao, politics controlled everything, under Xiaoping, it was the economy.
Hua won't back – he says directly that existence back then was harsh. But today it is even worse. Back then there was accuracy, today everyone wants more. Back then you had to have stamps for everything, from doctor visits to school meetings, today you have to have at least as many stamps in order to be represented by an official. Back then, there was no great inequality in the cities, today it has exploded: Today, the desperate retailers and poor bicycle taxis are ready to counter-attack and at worst kill if the city watchmen confiscate their bicycle.
Copy, bluff and surveillance
We know about the stories of China's extreme surveillance technology, and we know the story of the endless copy products. According to Hua, China is an expert in creating a backdrop world: From President Mao's propaganda moment to Shanghai's glitter, the revolution lives on, only in new forms under strict economic and market control Watch lift. It is serving funds that would make Trump's Twitter ticks drip with envy.
Hua himself has experienced reading interviews with himself that he never gave or encountering big commercials where Barack Obama advertising a Chinese pirate phone.
Hua's approach is to show how today's economy-led China in 40 years has moved from a peasant society to the most economically powerful country in the world. But because everything has gone so strongly, the human cost is enormous: "When a society changes dramatically from a time of extreme oppression, a time of extremely loose norms often follows." China of today is also a country of individualists, but with huge differences. "On the one hand, you obey laws and regulations, on the other hand, give people the heck of it all and do what suits them." People allow themselves the most cunning strokes. Some escape from it and smoke to the top of society, while others perish. Old houses are torn down when nobody is home, while the skyscrapers and pollution cut to cover the sky. China has gone from being the place where the luxury goods were produced to being the place where they are consumed.