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A Book from Edward Wong 黃安偉, a NYT Reporter

发表于 6-22-2024 10:10:22 | 显示全部楼层 |阅读模式
本帖最后由 choi 于 6-23-2024 11:56 编辑

Tunku Varadarajan, The China Left Behind. He tried repeatedly to join Communist Party but finds his path barred on every occasion; his background is too bourgeois. Wall Street Journal, June 22, 2024, at page C9 (every Saturday, session C is "Review")
https://www.wsj.com/arts-culture ... maos-china-6412c401
https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/w ... s-china/ar-BB1oEEQB
(book review on Edward Wong, At the Edge of Empire. A family's reckoning with China. Viking, 2024)

(i) The book has a preview of certain pages at
https://www.google.com/books/edi ... printsec=frontcover
(ii) Edward Wong's book mentions China as "empire," which is not surprising

黃安偉, 中國,一個復興的帝國. 紐約時報中文網, Jan 8, 2018
https://cn.nytimes.com/opinion/2 ... omic-power/zh-hant/
(iii) Regarding Viking.

Our Story – The Timeline. Penguin Publishing Group, undated
("1925  The Viking Press is founded [in New York City] by Harold K Guinzburg and George S Oppenheimer. The house's name and its logo, a Viking ship drawn by Rockwell Kent, are chosen as symbols of enterprise, adventure, and exploration in publishing"_

Viking was "acquired by the Penguin Group in 1975."  en.wiki pedia.org for "Viking Press."

(b) "When Edward Wong was a child in the 1970s, he’d watch his father put on a uniform and go to work: a red blazer and a pair of black pants, as required by his employer, the Sampan Cafe, a Chinese restaurant in Alexandria, Va. * * * the life of his [Edward's] father, Yook Kearn Wong
(i) Edward Wong
("was born [in ]1972 in Washington, DC. He grew up in Alexandria, Virginia")

There is no page about him in zh.wikipedia.org.
(A) Sampan Cafe  海記
is a restaurant located at 6116 Franconia Road, Alexandria, Virginia, and offers Cantonese food (dim sum, wonton)

The Chinese name 海記 is the name of current restaurant. I do not know whether the restaurant Edward's father worked for had the same Chinese name.
(B) Kibbee Nayee, Sampan Cafe, Kingstowne - Cantonese on Franconia Road and Valley View Drive. Don Rockwell's DC Dining Guide, Nov 3, 2008
https://www.donrockwell.com/topi ... -valley-view-drive/
("I had been going to Sampan Cafe for over 20 years in its original incarnation. It used to be the definition of American Chinese, with big floppy egg rolls and chop suey on the menu, and the waiters clad in red tuxedo tops. Not many Chinese people ate there back then. It closed about 6 years ago and an average-ish Vietnamese restaurant took its place. Then about 4 years ago, it reincarnated as Sampan Cafe, under different ownership")
(iii) Yook Kearn Wong  黄沃强 (born in Hong Kong with 祖籍 广东省江门市台山市)
When Edward Wong was a child in the 1970s, he’d watch his father put on a uniform and go to work: a red blazer and a pair of black pants, as required by his employer, the Sampan Cafe, a Chinese restaurant in Alexandria, Va. A hardworking immigrant with a humdrum job, he was “not someone who revealed much,” least of all about his own past in Mao’s China. Mr. Wong’s mother alluded darkly, on occasion, to those distant times. “Communism did something to your father,” she would say.

“At the Edge of Empire” is Mr. Wong’s tale—told with a filial devotion that is consistently tender, never mawkish—of the life of his father, Yook Kearn Wong. It is also Mr. Wong’s own tale, of the eight years he spent in China (in 2008-16) as a correspondent for the New York Times, finishing his stint as Beijing bureau chief. (He is now a diplomatic correspondent for the newspaper.) Running parallel to these personal narratives is an account of China itself, the country serving as the stage on which Mr. Wong’s kin fought to survive and from which, in the end, they were compelled to escape.

When Mr. Wong was in his 20s, he found out that his father had once worn an outfit much less benign than the one he wore to work in suburban Virginia. It was the uniform of the People’s Liberation Army, and Mr. Wong learned of this disconcerting previous career from a photograph taken in 1953, which he’d never seen before. His father had mailed it as a souvenir to his own father when he was a young soldier, then stationed on China’s northwest border. He had enlisted in the PLA, Mr. Wong learned, and had spent most of a decade on China’s remotest frontiers, “places of beauty and of strife.” The photo left a deep impression on Mr. Wong and sparked in him a desire to find out all he could about his father’s long-suppressed history.

It’s tempting to see Mr. Wong’s effort as a masculine version of “Wild Swans” (1991), the bestselling book by Jung Chang that told the stories of the women in a Chinese family in the years leading up to, and during, Mao’s long, harsh reign. Ms. Chang was a literary pioneer, her book the first of many modern life-in-China epics by other writers. Richer in color than it was in analysis, “Wild Swans” was published at a time when the West knew little about the human condition of Chinese people under communism. The world wasn’t, as yet, entirely awake to the enormity of the Great Leap Forward (1958-62), Mao’s demonic campaign of collectivization in which 40 million people (by some estimates) died of hunger. And China was not yet the threat to the West that it is today under Xi Jinping, who wants his country to surpass the U.S. in power and wealth, by any means.

By comparison with Ms. Chang, Mr. Wong labors under a narrative disadvantage that is not of his own making. There is little that we don’t now know about Mao’s bloodthirsty years in power. And so Mr. Wong can’t simply hope to shock us with harrowing details of life in Mao’s China, as he could have done had we not known already that “emaciated people pulled grass . . . from the soil to eat, . . . and wolfed down bird droppings” in the man-made famine that ravaged China during the Great Leap. Instead Mr. Wong must sell his story to us entirely on its own dramatic merits; and he must persuade us to empathize with the difficult choices that a mere citizen has to make in a totalitarian regime. This isn’t always easy for Western readers to do.

Mr. Wong’s father was born in Hong Kong in 1932 and was 9 years old when the Japanese captured the British colony, “a central node of global seaborne commerce.” After the war and, later, after the triumph of the Communists over the Nationalists in China in 1949, he became an ardent supporter of Mao and was proud of the fact that his was, in 1950, the first class to graduate from high school in Communist China. And yet Mr. Wong strives to steer us away from disapproval: Many ordinary Chinese, he tells us, were pro-communist not out of conviction but from hatred of “the corruption, the condescension, the economic mismanagement” of the Nationalists led by Chiang Kai-shek.

Mr. Wong’s book is a sprawling, complex morality tale, sweeping us along on his father’s odyssey. We read of how Wong père tries repeatedly to join the Communist Party but finds his path barred on every occasion. Discharged from the air-force academy, he’s banished to China’s northwest border with Soviet Kazakhstan—as part of an army unit that works to indoctrinate Muslim nomads. He’s also sent to Xinjiang, in Chinese-colonized Central Asia, where he’s part of a mission to “assimilate” the Turkic Uyghurs, by force if necessary.

After spending nearly the entire decade of the 1950s in fruitless pursuit of party membership, the young soldier realizes that his way is barred because his family is too bourgeois: A forebear had founded the Hong Kong Chinese Medicine Merchants Association. Mao’s China was not unlike “the old feudal hierarchy,” Mr. Wong writes, in its belief in the immutability of birth. As in the pre-communist days, people “couldn’t transcend their past and their family history.”

Seeing that there is no place for him in the New Order, Mr. Wong’s father decides to get out of China. He flees, first, to Hong Kong and thence to the U.S. Impelling him to leave is the realization that his own older brother is thriving in America, having left Hong Kong years earlier to study engineering at George Washington University. Imperialist America, against which Mr. Wong’s father had been taught to rage, was treating his brother better than his own beloved China was treating him.

Mr. Wong’s telling of his father’s story is not without sentiment. But he brings to his descriptions of his father’s moral dilemmas the same objectivity and rectitude that marked his reporting as a correspondent in China. In the book, he retraces the old man’s footsteps, traveling to Xinjiang and telling us—in unsparing detail—of the horrors visited upon the Uyghurs today by the ethno-supremacists of Han China. His writing is particularly poignant on China’s oppression of the Tibetans, whose land was annexed by the Communists in 1951, and his description of Beijing’s destruction of Tibetan culture is as bleak as it is eloquent.

Mr. Wong is very much his father’s son. He has an abiding love of China, and of its culture and people. But his eyes are wide open when he confronts its faults, of which his book gives us an invaluable account. The older man took his time to see these faults. But once he did, there was, for him, no turning back.

Mr. Varadarajan, a Journal contributor, is a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and at Columbia University’s Center on Capitalism and Society.

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