30 November 2011

Book Review: My China Years, by Helen Foster Snow, **

Foster Snow is the wife of Edgar Snow, the author of "Red Star Over China - The Rise Of The Red Army". She actually met "Ed" in China and her book is about her time there, mostly with him. It is an interesting read to grasp the reality of life in China, and especially in Shanghai, in the thirties. She was well introduced in the circles that made things happen then, and had tea with notable Chinese as well as foreign dignitaries. She always was a naive political analyst though, and when she leaves her travelogue mode to draw more general conclusions about politics in China, or her future, it is clear that this was not her cup of tea...

She is repeatedly wrong in her historical assessment and prognosis, and while this was perhaps excusable in the thirties, it is shocking to see that in the late seventies, when China was reduced to rubbles by the Cultural Revolution, Mao was dead and Den was beginning to lay the foundations for his country's rebirth, she would wite that "capitalism is now and has been impossible in China ... individualism is impossible in a nation of a billion people ... China shold continue on the road to socialism and its historical high ethics".

Read this book to get the flavor of life among the privileged in the thirties in China, but don't expect to understand much of its politics or economics. She is wrong so often, and yet she is to be commended for making the effort, one of very few women in China then, to go beyond tea parties and mingle in the society around her.

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