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Out of Mao's Shadow: The Struggle for the Soul of a New China

4.07 of 5 stars 4.07  ·  rating details  ·  836 ratings  ·  111 reviews
From an award-winning journalist for "The Washington Post" and one of the leading China correspondents of his generation comes an eloquent and vivid chronicle of the world's most successful authoritarian state -- a nation undergoing a remarkable transformation.Philip P. Pan's groundbreaking book takes us inside the dramatic battle for China's soul and into the lives of ind ...more
Hardcover, 349 pages
Published June 17th 2008 by Simon & Schuster (first published January 1st 2008)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 2,417)
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Jason Koivu
I thought China got it's shit together after Mao's death. Apparently I was wrong.

Out of Mao's Shadow by Philip Pan is yet another book notched in my ongoing self-education of that huge honkin' thing known as China. I've got two reasons for my interest.

One, China is a world player now. When I was a kid, China was the overpopulated country that produced cheap plastic goods, and that was essentially it. Now China is stretching out and opening up. They are interacting with the rest of the world. On
...more
Lacey Boland
This book is a compilation of stories of the individuals in China who are working for political and social change. It made me realize that even though I may not be encountering many voices of dissent during my time here in China, they do exist and certainly have throughout the country's tumultuous history. The book follows the stories of a young, and ultimately disillusioned, communist revolutionary woman during the cultural revolution, a pair of lawyers who fight the corrupt bureaucracy in a ru ...more
Richard Burger
Perhaps the most unforgettable scene in the movie Alien, perhaps the greatest science fiction movie ever made, is the attempt by the fast-disappearing crew to resurrect the decapitated robot, Ash, whom they beg for an answer to their simple question:

Ripley: How do we kill it, Ash? There's gotta be a way of killing it. How, how do we do it?

Ash: You can't... You still don't understand what you're dealing with, do you? A perfect organism. Its structural perfection is matched only by its hostility.

L
...more
S
Quite good - Pan does an excellent job of weaving a narrative thread that connects the profiled individuals. Some further discussion of the more meta- issues might have been nice, but it succeeds quite well at putting a face on dissent in China.
Hayley
This book sort of exploded my brain. I know embarrassingly little about world history in general, but the last century of China's history seemed to me especially, as an American who never "needed to know" anything, fuzzy at best. I think many of us, if we haven't had a particularly zealous teacher or reached out to find the information ourselves, see modern China as a vaguely Communist blob full of people who probably have a better work ethic than we do; we harbor weird xenophobic anxieties abou ...more
Steven Grimm
The stories of several very different Chinese dissidents and the people they're up against, this book is pretty much an unabashed critique of the Chinese government and the Communist Party. But even people who generally support the government will find it interesting, if only because it focuses on the personal stories of specific people involved in a number of notable dustups over human rights and other issues, and as such reads like a collection of biographical short stories.

There's no overarch
...more
Alice
Sep 05, 2008 Alice rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Anyone interested in largest country in the world
Recommended to Alice by: Jon Stewart (not personally of course)
I'm not quite through with this, but I am deeply impressed. I've had mixed luck with journalists attempting to do in-depth political and social anthropology, but this one is quite good -- easily as good as anything by Philip Caputo. Because China is so closed off, we so rarely get to hear any of the fascinating stories of individual lives that Pan tells here. The basic thesis of the book is that free markets don't necessarily lead to free societies and it's not clear at all that China will ever ...more
Brian
With the upcoming Olympics, I figured it was time to get a bit more educated on modern day China. This was a fascinating historical analysis by Washington post reporter Phillip Pan about China’s recent economic reforms and the lack of political reforms (one party rule, lack of religious freedom, government censor of papers/internet/doctors, child population control), and whether the situation can co-exist/continue.

Zhao Ziyang’s resignation as party leader when refusing to order the military agai
...more
Thomas
Great book! I also have hometown love for Philip Pan since he writes for the Washington Post (and he studied in Beijing back in the day).

Conventional wisdom dictates that economic growth leads to political liberalization: you got your increasingly affluent middle class, which gives rise to civil society and whatnot, which then spawns oppositional politics. Alas, not so in China! This book is a vivid description of the brutal autocratic regime that persists in the PRC and the people who dare to r
...more
Todd Stockslager
Review title: China: Souled out to Communism?
I recently spent two weeks in Beijing after working with a team of half-dozen or so co-workers there for five years via phone, email, and instant message. The trip was an eye-opener. One of my most important moments was having a lively discussion about "The Social Network", the Oscar-winning movie about the founding of Facebook. My co-worker had seen the movie, and had apparently read some about the history as well, and had some interesting opinions a
...more
Brandt
This book presents an intriguing and well represented account of life within the Chinese society. The personal stories, accompanied by author Philip P. Pan's exposition of the emotions and reality of the lives of Chinese citizen's, gives the reader an appeal to understand the differences between Western concepts of political freedom as opposed to Eastern.
Pan's attempt to explain the multitude of factors that require or produce political and social change within the context of economic develop
...more
Bobby
A very enjoyable look at the current state of Communist China. The books is most interesting when covering the history and coverups of Mao Zedong and communism since.

But as for Phillip Pan's premise, that China defies the western idea of free trade always bringing personal freedom, the anecdotes in the book seem to argue against his interpretation.
James
Out of Mao's Shadow tells the stories of individuals caught up in the chaotic transition China is undergoing from a Maoist state to a modern player in the global economy, a capitalist authoritarian state that will cast a long shadow across the globe and impact current affairs in many ways. This transition is difficult and tumultuous - Philip Pan introduces the reader to a cast of engaging people, whose difficult struggles to change China have cost them so much.

Each of the chapters introduces a
...more
Tom
Out of Mao's Shadow tells the stories of eleven Chinese who fought for political change in China. The book is very readable and offers valuable insight about the ways of the Communist Party of China - and the politics in general.

It was a very welcome read after I've read 'When China rules the World' and 'Wealth and Power'. These books offer a great insight into the development of China, but leave the cost at which this development is achieved underexposed.

Yet I gave it only three stars. Why? I
...more
Kate
Nov 20, 2010 Kate rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommended to Kate by: Linda
This book really opened my eyes to what life in China is like. Mao became the leader in the 1950's who brought in Communism with the promise of equalizing the people. Most people were excited about the change as it would rid them of poverty. However, (and I struggle here for appropriate words, but I can't find any so I'll just say: ) Mao was psycho so everything went wrong. I guess I could say corrupt leaders led to bribery, force, torture, and police intervention.
Suppressing freedom of speech t
...more
Barry
Jan 18, 2009 Barry added it
China's gone through several national traumas that it hasn't been allowed to process.

The mundane repression and exploitation was most affecting to me, though.


The party has always categorized residents of the countryside as nognmin, or peasants, and maintained policies that treat them as second-class citizens. Peasants are forced to sell grain to the state at artificially low prices to keep food costs down in the cities, and their chhildren sometimes must score higher on exams than urban kids t
...more
Niko
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Rajeev Singhal
It is a good book talking about major events which occurred in china's history. It talks about the suffering & challenges faced by the chinese people due to authoritarian governance. The author has put in lot of hard work to get all the information and has written the story in a very engaging way. However it talks very less about the success story of china. It gives a different angle to the way china is been viewed by the world today.
Jessica
This is one of the best books I've read about China to date. I highly recommend it to anyone looking for an interesting and fast-paced primer on current Chinese social issues.

In each chapter, Philip Pan uses a set of captivating individual stories to highlight various current events and cultural developments within China. Some of the themes include: China's political history, rule of law, freedom of press, real estate development, and public health.

I was also pleasantly surprised to find that
...more
Ross
This isn't bad, but I just didn't want to keep reading it. He takes sort of an anecdotal approach and tries to illustrate different social phenomena by way of a few individuals' experiences. I wanted something more academic, but that probably makes it more accessible for a wide audience, and in any case the best / most compelling parts of the book are the ones that just present the primary sources. I wasn't so thrilled with his interpretation and commentary and attempts to frame the context of t ...more
Xue Yun
The first few pages bored me. I was reading it and thinking, another book criticizing the Chinese government? But then when I reached the chapter about Lin Zhao, things started to change. Reading about Lin’s passion and faith in Mao frustrated me. How could a young women who could have chosen the nationalist instead of Mao, be betrayed by Father Mao?

The stories and vivid descriptions of the emotional and physical tortures that many faced, once again challenged my usual justifications of the Chi
...more
Alex
A really interesting listen. I liked its format of many profiles, and the last few tied together particularly well. It was also rather disheartening. This is why I still prefer Hessler, because his books contain a well-balanced mix of optimism and criticism. Mao's Shadow has an obvious Western slant, and I often found myself thinking about the lens through which Pan wrote, but the fact that the Communist government is corrupt is not news to anyone, least of all the Chinese.

But Pan is correct --
...more
David
This was a fascinating book for me, and I learned all kinds of things about Chinese history that were completely new - filled in lots of gaps in my understanding. If the book has shortcomings, it could be that there is too much to keep straight - the stories and characters keep flowing around and through each other and I had trouble keeping them all straight!

Mao Tse-tung (or Mao Zedong) was the chairman of the Communist Party of China from 1943 to his death in 1976. He remains controversial in C
...more
Blaine Morrow
Although this book reveals only a small number of people who have run afoul of the Party's censorship, it paints a bleak picture of the prospects for freedom in modern China. The characters are interesting and most are tragic: heroes who dared to speak and/or write the truth and who were punished for their defiance. I wish there were more of these stories.
Lachinchon
Although Pan acknowledges that China has moved out of Mao's very dark shadow and has made positive strides forward, this book primarily focuses on the negative. This is not completely a criticism, because the book commendably disabuses the reader of the notion that, with the happy face of the 2008 Olympics, the present China is, e.g., the present France. It is not. It bears an appalling legacy from the Mao years, and it remains an autocratic state. Nevertheless, I was anticipating some discussio ...more
Marc Cooper
Very engaging readable collection of vignettes on the state of freedom, dissent, and corruption in modern China. The authors perspective seems very balanced in discussing the complex mix of increasing freedom, struggles with corruption, delicate politics, contradictions, and remaining hard line boundaries in modern China. I gained a lot of perspective from the book.
Taras
This book is full of interesting facts about China. Unfortunately they are diluted by touchy-feely language trying to put a human face on every story. I found description of voices and height particularly unhelpful(How tall is a tall Chinese peasant woman?)

Why does every western reporter assume that they have to start from scratch on explaining that the Chinese regime is vile? Can't we just make that our default starting point? Can we also have some perspective? Other than scale, how does China
...more
Diane

What I learned from this book is that the image China tried to create of itself as a modern, progressive society during the Olympics is far from the truth. Written by a respected journalist who lived and worked in China from 2000 to 2008, the stories that he recounts are fascinating and inspiring. He delves into the lives of those brave enough to confront the communist regime, and to suffer the consequences of their actions. Perhaps the most surprising of his conclusions is that the dynamics of
...more
Petr Havel
A series of non-fictional accounts of the past and present China. Written as a series of reports of individuals who are fighting for their rights to a memory, information and basic individual freedoms, in the background of a one party state that is fighting with any means necessary for it's own survival.

The overall plot highlights how the members of the Chinese Communist party use what ever means necessary to keep their hold on power and preserve the benefits that they bestow on them selves, by
...more
Mayla
I liked it. I liked it a lot. We all knew of this corruption in the communist government of China, but did we all know it was that bad? In hindsight, China seems like a great prideful nation with a booming economy. Te nation is very successful in all that it does, but little did we know, people are fighting everyday for their rights and their lives. Their government is made of violence and deception and with that, Pan offers a brilliant take on exposing it to the rest of the world. He gives us a ...more
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