Monday, August 2, 2010

Zhang Yajun Reviews COUNTRY DRIVING by Peter Hessler from the Chinese Point of View


On Jottings from the Granite Studio, Christian Science Monitor Beijing bureau staffer Zhang Yajun has this to say:

...In Hessler’s account of Wei Ziqi, I see my family, my relatives and my friends all facing a similar predicament. But it is not their fault. They are just normal human beings looking for the best for their families and themselves. At the same time, China is developing fast — almost everyone is better off than before — but the psychological and mental adjustment to cope with the rapid change is much more difficult than they expected. Hessler does a good job capturing both the anxiety and opportunity of this transitional period.

...There is a myth, one believed by many Chinese, that foreigners do not and cannot understand China. This book shows that this myth is simply nonsense.

...Hessler makes the effort. He drives through many of the least developed provinces and villages in China and down little country lanes for months on end. He camps in the open air and lives on Red Bull, chocolate bars and Oreos. He saw the China where villagers worked for months to dig useless tree holes even though the diggers only received two bags of instant noodles each day to show for their work; the China where young people move away to cities or towns to find jobs while the elderly cling to their old life in the villages; the China where desperate migrants have to lie about their age and identities to seize a job in a booming industrial coastal town. Even many Chinese, especially those who live in the cosmopolitan illusion of Shanghai and Beijing, are unaware of this China. It may not always be pretty in pieces, but there is great beauty in the mosaic of a people living their lives in a time of great change and working to make a better life for themselves and their children. It is a China I want more people to know about.