Cogs and Wheels: The material culture of revolutionary China

March 7, 2007

The China fantasy

Filed under: China, Cultural Revolution, Images, Reading, Useful links — amyjaneb @ 8:33 pm

Here’s an interesting little item from

In it the reporter reviews a new book by James Mann, The China Fantasy:  How Our Leaders Explain Away Chinese Repression.  I haven’t read it, but the gist of Mann’s argument – former Beijing Correspondent at the LA Times – is that it is policy makers, politicians and diplomats who skew information about China, thereby creating false images in the West. 

The author of the article starts with a tale about an exchange between Shirley MacLaine and Deng Xiaoping.  MacLaine – as a potentially sympathetic to the regime – was invited to travel in China with a group of ‘ordinary’ American women towards the end of the Cultural Revolution, which she records in her book, You Can Get There From Here (1977).

While it does, in many ways, document a personal journey – MacClaine charts the struggle she goes through, as she attempts to reconcile her own political ideologies with contemporary American society and what she finds in China, while – at the same time – negotiating between the different ‘camps’ in her party (herself – the Hollywood Star, the ‘ordinary women’ – from a diverse range of backgrounds, and her film crew), and their Chinese ‘minders’, it is a useful first-hand resource (i.e. it offers a contemporary western account of the Cultural Revolution), by someone who – by dint of their position and public profile – could themselves affect changes, perhaps, in the popular cultural imaginings of her potential readership.  I think it feeds into a discussion of the image of China in 1960s and 1970s counter and youth culture (and by extension, popular culture) fairly well.

But returning to Mann’s book, although the review suggests it doesn’t offer a terrible balanced perspective, it sounds like a useful read.  Will add that one to the ‘to read’ list…


Leave a Comment »

No comments yet.

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

Create a free website or blog at

%d bloggers like this: