“It was a time when telling fantasies to oneself as well as others, and believing them, was practiced to an incredible degree…A large part of the population was swept into this confused, crazy world. ‘Self-deception while deceiving others’ (zi-qi-qi-ren) gripped the nation.”
Jung Chang, Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China
I know what you’re thinking: How on Buddha’s still-somewhat-green Earth could Jung Chang have presaged all the way back in 1991 through her book Wild Swans what would happen to the U-nited States of America in 2017? The answer, of course, is that she didn’t; she was writing about growing up in China before, during and after one of the most sinister leaders of the 20th century, Mao Zedong.
Kind of ironic (READ: scare the quills off a porcupine’s balls) that you can read the above passage and say to yourself, Wow! That so captures life today under Donnie T., Spicy Spice and the Grim Reaper.
Lest we forget, though, Jung Chang did a mind-blowing job of capturing 20th-century Chinese history from the perspective of three generations of females in a narrative that is at once memoir, social critique and eyewitness account to one of the most tumultuous eras in modern history.
Mao’s Reign of Terror, which was masked by such euphemistic banners as Cultural Revolution and Great Leap Forward, was in fact on the same sub-human level as the French Revolution’s real la Terreur, Lenin’s Bolshevik Revolution, Pol Pot’s Killing Fields, and Rwanda’s 1994 genocide, to name but a few of the blemishes on civilization’s track record over the last couple of hundred years.
Along with Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn’s China Wakes: The Struggle for the Soul of a Rising Power, Wild Swans should be mandatory reading for anyone trying to get a handle on where China has come from and where it’s heading in the future.