China In Ten Words Book Summary - China In Ten Words Book explained in key points
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China In Ten Words summary

Yu Hua

The ten key concepts underlying China’s transformation

4.1 (104 ratings)
29 mins

Brief summary

"China In Ten Words" by Yu Hua describes China's rapid development and transformation through ten pivotal words such as "revolution" and "disparity." The book offers a unique, personal account of China's history and culture.

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    China In Ten Words
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    “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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    What is China In Ten Words about?

    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.

    China In Ten Words Review

    China In Ten Words (2011) by Yu Hua is a thought-provoking book that offers a unique perspective on China's history, society, and culture. Here are three reasons why this book is worth reading:

    • The book provides a deep understanding of China through ten carefully chosen words, uncovering the complexities and nuances of the country's past and present.
    • Through personal anecdotes and vivid storytelling, Yu Hua brings these words to life, making the book both engaging and informative.
    • By exploring topics such as rebellion, censorship, and freedom, the book sheds light on the challenges faced by individuals in China, making it a captivating and eye-opening read.

    Best quote from China In Ten Words

    Advance bravely through wind and waves. – Mao Zedong

    —Yu Hua
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    Who should read China In Ten Words?

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

    About the Author

    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 FAQs 

    What is the main message of China In Ten Words?

    China In Ten Words explores the complexities of modern China through ten powerful words.

    How long does it take to read China In Ten Words?

    Reading China In Ten Words will take a few hours. The Blinkist summary can be read in 15 minutes.

    Is China In Ten Words a good book? Is it worth reading?

    China In Ten Words is a must-read. It provides unique insights into Chinese society and culture.

    Who is the author of China In Ten Words?

    The author of China In Ten Words is Yu Hua.

    What to read after China In Ten Words?

    If you're wondering what to read next after China In Ten Words, here are some recommendations we suggest:
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