OVERRIDE

Chinese Lessons

Five Classmates and the Story of the New China

John Pomfret

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As a twenty-two-year-old exchange student at Nanjing University in 1981, John Pomfret was one of the first American students to be admitted to China after the Communist Revolution of 1949. Living in a cramped dorm room, Pomfret was exposed to a country few outsiders had ever experienced, one fresh from the twin tragedies of Mao's rule—the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution.
 
Twenty years later, Pomfret returned to the university for a class reunion. Once again, he immersed himself in the lives of his classmates, especially the one woman and four men whose stories make up Chinese Lessons, an intimate and revealing portrait of the Chinese people.
 
Beginning with Pomfret's first day in China, Chinese Lessons takes us back to the often torturous paths that brought together the Nanjing University History Class of 1982. We learn that Old Wu's father was killed during the Cultural Revolution for the crime of being an intellectual; Book Idiot Zhou labored in the fields for year rather than agree to a Party-arranged marriage; Little Guan was forced to publicly denounce and humiliate her father.  In Chinese Lessons, Pomfret follows his classmates from childhood to university and on to adulthood to show the effect that the country's transition from near-feudal communism to First World capitalism has had on his generation.

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Chapter One
 
Warmly Welcome You
 
At six o'clock in the morning of February 3, 1981, I awoke with a start to the sounds of drums, trumpets, and the squawk of a woman telling me in Chinese to "increase vigilance, protect the motherland, and prepare for war!"
 
This woman would hound me for the next year, her disembodied voice blasting out of a tinny speaker dangling by a wire just far enough from the bottom bunk that I could not disable it with a broom, yet close enough to wreck my mornings. And not just mine. She was China's daily national wake-up call, broadcast
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REVIEWS

Praise for Chinese Lessons

"In this intimate and revealing book, John Pomfret shows why he is one of the great China correspondents of his generation: He has never held himself at a distance, but has plunged in, with vigor and an open mind. His approach to China has no tint of romanticism or awe; the lives he discovers and the stories he tells, including his own, are unvarnished, unexpected, and riveting."--Steve Coll, author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Ghost Wars
 
"Chinese Lessons is an extraordinary book. Through telling the intimate stories of his former classmates, John Pomfret reveals a contemporary China where many individual lives have been thwarted and twisted. This is a book full of insights, honesty, and compassion. It touched me deeply."--Ha Jin, author of Waiting
 
"John Pomfret has written a brilliant, insightful book describing the dark side and human cost of the 'Chinese economic miracle.' His feel for China, based on years of living there, his fluency in Chinese, and his reporting genius cut through the sham and spin."--James R. Lilley, former U.S. Ambassador to China and chief of the American Mission in Taiwan

Reviews from Goodreads

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

  • John Pomfret

  • John Pomfret is a reporter for The Washington Post. Formerly the Post’s Beijing bureau chief, he is now the Los Angeles bureau chief. In 2003, Pomfret was awarded the Osborn Elliott Prize for Excellence in Asian Journalism by the Asia Society, an annual award for best coverage of Asia. He lives with his wife and family in Los Angeles.
  • John Pomfret
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    Chinese Lessons

    Five Classmates and the Story of the New China

    John Pomfret

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