Zhao ziyang's memior - Chinese version way better!

I'm reading Zhao Ziyang's memoir in Chinese (改革歷程, by 趙紫陽). When I read the prologue and the first chapter, I immediately knew this was going to be a far better read than the English version (with a horribly name Prisoner of the State, see my review before). The most significant reason is that the Chinese version are the exact words of Zhao. Every paragraph fills with wisdom of the dying man. It's not that the English version fails, but it just doesn't read like somebody's words, let alone that of a former Chinese Premier.

(Note: quick diversion... I bought this book at a upstair store 樓上舖 for $105... then promptly saw it for $168 at street level... Zhao and all the former Chinese leaders would have been proud of the capitalist way)

(Note 2: elders is 老人, not 長老 as I originally translated... see? So much is lost in translation!)

By the way, it suddenly struck me about the irony of me reading the book in Vancouver. For those of you who don't know, after the June 4th Incident, there was a massive immigration wave from Hong Kong to Vancouver (and, subsequently, Toronto) as HKers felt that the Chinese government could not be trusted. The same even probably also triggered the urgency to hastily put together democracy in HK (via elections for the Legislative branch). But sticking to the topic of Vancouver, it probably wouldn't have a chance to develop into what it is now had it not been the massive influx of capital from rich HK families - back then, families had to fork over a certain amount of cash in order to qualify for immigration. Ah, how little things in history alters the course of a city (or country, some may believe!).

For reasons detailed above, it is much easier to read the Chinese version and understand what is going on. Couple of points that I got out of the Chinese version and liked:
  • How to accomodate socialism and capitalism? Zhao just gave "socialism" a new definition so it wouldn't conflict with on-going economic reform
  • Economic reform: the Chinese leaders literally envisioned reform and that was it - an ad-hoc experiment that had a general vision but not much details besides looking at what others did. How the Chinese economy developed under those circumstances are both a great achievement as well as a great testiment to the workings of capitalism.
  • Leadership change: the ad-hoc-ness of leaderships and how they come about was striking. Basically, Deng Xiaoping would design a committee that best fit his needs; likewise, conservatives tried to do the same
  • Democracy: the damning assessment of democracy, where Deng basically says balance of power is not efficient and hinders the true growth that China can achieve
Highly recommended, much better than the English version.

No comments: