Sunday, May 20, 2012

Rare Earth by Paul Mason.

Paul Mason, an economics correspondent with BBC Newsnight, has presented some very interesting reports on China. In Rare Earth he obviously uses a lot of this material to give a grimy picture of a China in 2009 where 'the air was not cooled by the river's flow. It was baked by blast furnaces and hung heavy with the odour of coal and gasoline, the odour of 9.9% GDP growth'.

It is written in an accessible style with several explicit sex scenes, a lot of double-dealing and action-adventure, and even a few ghosts (of the political kind). Some parts I found hilarious, some parts interesting and there was some insight into an aspect of Chinese life I'd only slightly glimpsed when I was over there: 'whole swathes of China are ungoverned: ruled by mobsters and corrupt officials just like under the Qing'.

This becomes even more interesting towards the end when an old general called Gao considers how the world has changed since the 'unfortunate events' of 1989 - not just in China but everywhere. 'What kind of people have come to the fore in the Eastern Europe since 1989? And the West for that matter?'

The protagonist Brough, who is a western journalist, provides his opinion, which the general takes further.  The general proposes that Brough sees 'sociological types in China that are completely recognisable' and then 'maybe there is very little difference between here and there' and then, more chillingly, 'And maybe what has happened now is not just some 20-year reactionary period. Are you prepared to consider the possibility that 1989 began the era of the... individualist, the egoist, the businessman, the sexual predator, the human-being perpetually separated from society by the self-selected soundtrack on their iPod?'

It is a thought-provoking viewpoint - and worth reading the book for this alone.

I bought this book on Kindle.


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