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

4.07  ·  Rating details ·  1,145 Ratings  ·  129 Reviews
Prize-winning journalist Philip P. Pan offers an unprecedented inside look at the momentous battle underway for China's future. On one side is the entrenched party elite determined to preserve its authoritarian grip on power. On the other is a collection of lawyers, journalists, entrepreneurs, activists, hustlers, and dreamers striving to build a more tolerant, open, and d
Hardcover, 368 pages
Published June 17th 2008 by Simon & Schuster (first published January 1st 2008)
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Jason Koivu
Dec 21, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
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
Alice Poon
Feb 15, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: asia-themed

[This review was posted on my Asia Sentinel blog on August 30, 2008.]

There are perhaps two resounding messages that the author tries to convey in this book: firstly that “those counting on the capitalists to lead the charge for democratization in China are likely to be disappointed”, and secondly, that the society’s struggle for social justice and civic liberties is often futile, although passionate individuals with a conscience and a sense of justice are ceaselessly trying against all odds to a
Richard Burger
Feb 23, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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.

Lacey Boland
Jun 25, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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
Jul 17, 2008 rated it really liked it
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.
Ian McHugh
Jul 24, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A devastating account of China in the first decade of the 21st Century. The timing of this book, just prior to the Beijing Olympics of 2008, was crucial as, since then, the popular view is that China has 'cleaned up its act' somewhat.

This book outlines just how insidious the presence of the CPC was in everyday life. Read against Evan Osnos' "Age of Ambition" it can give readers an excellent introduction to 21st Century China.

It also gives insight into the pre-Olympics China which, despite the pr
May 03, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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

(Zhao Ziyang)

(Zhao Ziyang)

(Lin Zhao Wrote poetry in blood)

"On a warm Friday night in the summer of 2001, I stood amid hundreds of thousands of young Chinese pouring into Tiananmen Square in a joyous and largely spontaneous celebration of Beijing’s successful bid to host the Summer Olympics in 2008."

"The army crushed those protests, and in the early 1990s, when I was studying Mandarin in Beijing, the memory of the massacre still darkened university campuses. But now people seemed to have forg
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
Aug 16, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
Aug 27, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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
Steven Grimm
Sep 03, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
Good book. It helped solidify my knowledge of post-Mao China -- and it definitely solidified my opinion of Mao Zedong.

When I first read "Mao: The Unknown Story" by Jung Chang and Jon Halliday several years ago, I really liked it. I thought, "FINALLY, someone has written an account of Mao that stops making him out to be a hero, that shows him for the fraud and horrific leader he really was." Imagine my disappointment, then, when every single China watcher I follow thoroughly bashed the book as ov
William Johnson
Feb 19, 2017 rated it really liked it
2017 is the year I return to non-fiction in mass quantities. I've always ebbed and flowed between literature and non-fiction in the last 16 years. College was all literature, fiction, stage plays, etc (that was my major). After college I rebelled! I decided to study history. Before I had children I debated getting a second degree in history and read history exclusively. The back and forth, back and forth.

But 2017 is the year I got broad AND specific. Broad in that I want to tackle multiple topic
Todd Stockslager
Jun 04, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: travel-geography
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
Xue Yun
Sep 07, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 12-grade
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
May 14, 2009 rated it really liked it
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
Mar 31, 2013 rated it really liked it
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 --
Feb 05, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: china-stuff, history
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
Oct 02, 2008 rated it really liked it
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.
David Bales
Feb 26, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2011
Very interesting book about the "1989" generation of now middle-aged Chinese activists trying to expose the hidden histories of modern China through seeking out the victims--and sometimes perpetrators--of the Cultural Revolution and its aftermath. Mao's mad, tyrannical rule is rehashed here in ways I had never seen before. I highly recommend it.
Mar 26, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
B. Cheng
Nov 17, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: china, library-audio
I read a lot of China books and if you want a deep dive into some of the difficult issues currently facing China, this is an excellent take. One thing with a book like this is timeliness and despite being 8 years od, it doesn't feel dated or that you've missed anything for the most part (a new addition would surely want to update hen Guangcheng's tale of oppression and then escape to Beijing, but where the author leaves off at least gives a solid base for the story).

When we read, we're always ho
Sep 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing
很自然地将这本书和上学期读的Age of ambition对比起来,如果说Age of ambition是08-12年五年份的翻墙大礼包,那么Out of Mao’s Shadow并不仅仅描绘了00-08年一系列敏感事件,而往往追溯到隐藏在事件背后的上个世纪。两本书之间似乎体现了某种传承的意味比方说从程益中到胡舒立面对书报检查机构的策略(甚至东师古村两次前后相隔数年不同的逃亡),都给人一种似曾相识之感,相比于欧逸文野心勃勃地想通过各式各样的人物展现当代中国的全景(却失之于碎片化与距离感),潘公凯更聚焦于中国的政治改革背景下一系列个体对于不公的反抗,他的亲身经历(比如说I attended ZZY’s funeral myself, staying for more than an hour before police identified me and forced me to leave)使得他的文字更具有一种感染人心的力量,某些地方(比如说中国农民调查诽谤案里)他似乎表现的过于乐观了,也有章节收尾得有点仓促,但“第一手报道的即时性和小说
Ted Tyler
Jul 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Great writing! The author weaves the accounts of different individuals together in a way that show just how connected the lives of people are in the PRC. Inspiring individuals that fought through difficult circumstances in the name of justice. Not all of their fights ended well, but you owe it to them to read their stories.
Jul 15, 2008 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 to
Jan 30, 2009 rated it really liked it
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
Jan 19, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: asia-non-fiction
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
Sep 07, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Feb 27, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
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
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