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Zha’s vivid cast of characters includes an unlikely couple who teamed up to become the country’s leading real-estate moguls; a gifted chameleon who transformed himself from Mao’s favorite “barefoot doctor” during the Cultural Revolution to a publishing maverick; and a tycoon of home-electronic chain stores who insisted on avenging his mother, who had been executed as “a counterrevolutionary criminal.” Alongside these entrepreneurs, Zha also brings us the intellectuals: a cantankerous professor at China’s top university; a former cultural minister turned prolific writer; and Zha’s own brother, a dissident who served a nine-year prison term for helping to found the China Democracy Party.
Zha’s insightful insider-outsider portraits garnered nationwide acclaim, as they offer a picture of a China that few Western readers have seen before.
"Remarkable and fast paced."
"Zha beautifully combines the hard-earned expertise of an insider with the moral candor of an outsider. In exploring China’s defining struggles . . . [she] illuminate[s] the shadows in between, with empathy and courage."
—Evan Osnos, The New Yorker
"If you want to understand the astonishing developments in China’s contemporary cultural life . . . there could be no surer or more entertaining guide than Zha."
—K. Anthony Appiah, Princeton University
"An engaging, comprehensible cross-section of the personalities and cultural concerns rising with China’s ascent."
"No one who writes in English about contemporary China is more thoroughly bilingual and bicultural than Jianying Zha. She truly 'gets it.'"
—Perry Link, author of Evening Chats in Beijing
Part I The Entrepreneurs 13
A Good Tycoon 15
The Turtles 49
The Barefoot Capitalist 77
Part II The Intellectuals 95
Beida, Beida! 97
Enemy of the State 138
Servant of the State 167