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MAY 24, 1999 VOL. 153 NO. 20

An insightful guide to China's recent changes

When Deng Xiaoping took control of China in 1978, most citizens were still purchasing food with official government vouchers instead of currency. By the time Deng died in 1997, many of these same people had taken to gambling their growing cash hoard on the country's fast-paced stock markets. To get a better understanding of exactly how China got from there to here, flip through The China Reader: The Reform Era (Vintage; 535 pages), edited by Orville Schell and David Shambaugh. This fascinating anthology of essays, reportage and political documents brings together the various perspectives of journalists, scholars and political leaders who lived through the monumental and perplexing changes unleashed by Deng's reforms.

The collection opens a window on the circuitous route China has traveled from socialist orthodoxy to a heady hybrid of capitalism. Among liberal voices, there's former Communist Party chief Zhao Ziyang, issuing a radical 1987 plan to speed reform. From the hard-liners are chilling decrees justifying brutality against protesters, anticipating the 1989 crackdown against the Tiananmen movement, which sealed Zhao's downfall. There are also several moving first-person accounts by individuals who were present at Tiananmen Square on the night of the terrifying assault.

Despite such stirring entries, the collection suffers from both loose organization and minimal explanation of the events certain documents refer to. "We can't hope to be comprehensive," the editors rationalize in the preface, but they offer little rationale for their selection, leaving the reader to wonder what has been omitted and why. But that's a minor complaint. With its impressive array of primary sources, the China Reader is invaluable for novice students of China and a solid reference for longtime observers.

This edition's table of contents | TIME Asia home



U.S. secretary of state says China should be 'tolerant'

Philippine government denies Estrada's claim to presidency

Faith, madness, magic mix at sacred Hindu festival

Land mine explosion kills 11 Sri Lankan soldiers

Japan claims StarLink found in U.S. corn sample

Thai party announces first coalition partner


COVER: President Joseph Estrada gives in to the chanting crowds on the streets of Manila and agrees to make room for his Vice President

THAILAND: Twin teenage warriors turn themselves in to Bangkok officials

CHINA: Despite official vilification, hip Chinese dig Lamaist culture

PHOTO ESSAY: Estrada Calls Snap Election

WEB-ONLY INTERVIEW: Jimmy Lai on feeling lucky -- and why he's committed to the island state


COVER: The DoCoMo generation - Japan's leading mobile phone company goes global

Bandwidth Boom: Racing to wire - how underseas cable systems may yet fall short

TAIWAN: Party intrigues add to Chen Shui-bian's woes

JAPAN: Japan's ruling party crushes a rebel at a cost

SINGAPORE: Singaporeans need to have more babies. But success breeds selfishness

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