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China In Ten Words

The ten key concepts underlying China’s transformation

Von Yu Hua
18 Minuten
Audio-Version verfügbar
China In Ten Words von Yu Hua

China in Ten Words (2012) explores the way modern China talks about itself and probes what that tells us about its past, present and likely future. Honing in on ten common concepts, author Yu Huan tells the story of a nation that has seemingly changed beyond recognition, yet in many ways remains closer to its revolutionary origins than one might believe.

  • Students of the history of Communist China
  • Linguists curious about how language shapes cultural concepts
  • Those who are fascinated by the modern “Chinese Miracle”

Yu Hua is a Chinese author who has written four novels, six short story collections and three volumes of essays. Acclaimed in both China and abroad, his work has been translated into over 20 different languages. Yu became the first Chinese citizen to win the prestigious James Joyce Award in 2002.

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China In Ten Words

Von Yu Hua
  • Lesedauer: 18 Minuten
  • Verfügbar in Text & Audio
  • 11 Kernaussagen
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China In Ten Words von Yu Hua
Worum geht's

China in Ten Words (2012) explores the way modern China talks about itself and probes what that tells us about its past, present and likely future. Honing in on ten common concepts, author Yu Huan tells the story of a nation that has seemingly changed beyond recognition, yet in many ways remains closer to its revolutionary origins than one might believe.

Kernaussage 1 von 11

“The people” was a key concept in modern China, up until the Tiananmen Square protests.

Few concepts were as crucial as “the people” when Yu Hua was growing up in 1960s China. The idea was so central to the way the nation talked about itself that Yu even learned to write renmin – the Pinyin romanization of “the people” – before his own name!

The concept really came into its own during the Cultural Revolution, a decade of turmoil which began in 1966. Launched by China’s leader Mao Zedong, the revolution was an attempt to consolidate the Communist Party’s grip on power and wipe out all remnants of the pre-communist past.

The idea of “the people” played a central role in that program. Communists emphasized the collective over individuals, so what better concept to communicate their vision for a society in which everyone – from workers and peasants to soldiers and intellectuals – was equal. Mao, of course, was a dictator, making him more equal than others. That circle was squared by claiming, as a popular slogan of the day did, that “Chairman Mao is the people, and the people are Chairman Mao.”

The term remained important throughout the second half of the twentieth century. It was only displaced when an altogether different kind of turmoil emerged: the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests.

After the death of Hu Yaobang, a leading reformer in the Communist Party, students flocked to Beijing’s grand central square to demand an end to corruption and more democratic freedoms. The protests transformed the city – police officers disappeared from the streets and people came together, lending the city an almost festive atmosphere. The sense of common purpose was so great that even petty thieves stopped stealing to join the demonstrators!

This didn’t last, however. In early June, the army entered the square and opened fire, dispersing the crowds and putting an end to the protests. The crackdown was broadcast on state TV channels, which celebrated the capture of prominent student leaders and the attempts to locate others. Then, one day, the coverage suddenly stopped. The incident was never mentioned again.

Since then, the concept of “the people” was never again widely used. Since 1989, Chinese citizens have been increasingly boxed into ever-smaller categories. Today, they’re just as likely to be defined – and define themselves – as migrants, stockholders or celebrity fans as they are members of the Chinese people.

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