Features

China: Portrait of a Country

March 31, 2009

…the starving, the homeless, the dispossessed, the exiled and the regimentation of uniforms all convey a country grappling with a past of endemic political unrest and poverty.

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With chapters titled ‘Suspicion’, ‘Subversion’ and ‘Continued Madness’ any preconception of an ordinary history book are quickly negated. Rather, this is a personal and beautiful account of the People’s Republic of China. The book’s editor and Pulitzer-winning photojournalist, Liu Heung Shing, opens the record with a simple account of the Destroy Four Pests Campaign, which he experienced as a boy. His later realisation that this stratagem turned attention away from food shortages somewhat prepares us for the unofficial report – that 30 million people died of famine between 1960 and ’62. Utilising the work of 88 artists and photojournalists Shing throws an uncomfortable light on the scenes behind the public face. Exhausted railway workers, Mao’s widow handcuffed during her trial, protests, the starving, the homeless, the dispossessed, the exiled and the regimentation of uniforms all convey a country grappling with a past of endemic political unrest and poverty. It is, however, anything but a bleak book and beyond the seeming sea of conformity individuality shines through, as does the conviction that progress is inevitable.
Publisher: Taschen
Distributor: Tower Books
RRP: $125

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