Jeffrey Wasserstrom on Yu Hua's 'China in Ten Words'

Yu Hua (Courtesy of Fabrica)

Asia Society Associate Fellow Jeffrey Wasserstrom has a review of Chinese author Yu Hua's latest work China in Ten Words for the Los Angeles Review of Books. Part memoir and part modern history, China in Ten Words uses the Chinese language as a lens in which to view a society in constant flux. In praise of the book, Wasserstrom writes:

“Just consider,” Yu Hua writes, “how urbanization has been pursued, with huge swathes of old housing razed in no time at all and replaced in short order by high rise buildings.” The term “blood-stained GDP” is becoming a popular one in Chinese online debates, coined to described the high human toll of the government’s rush to make the country look as “modern” as possible as quickly as possible. Yu Hua doesn’t employ this newly minted phrase, but he uses ones that are just as highly charged. He writes, for example, of a “developmental model saturated with revolutionary violence of the Cultural Revolution type,” in which many ordinary individuals are once again suffering in the name of abstractions.

It's rare to find a work of fiction that can be hysterically funny at some points, while deeply moving and disturbing at others. It’s even more unusual to find such qualities in a work of non-fiction. But China in Ten Words is just such an extraordinary work.

An English language edition of China in Ten Words will be available beginning November 8th. 

Readers in New York can catch Yu Hua live this week at Asia Society's Chindia Dialogues, where he'll be taking part in three panel discussions: Underground & Undercover: Literary Reportage (Nov. 4), Cyberwriters & Cybercoolies: China’s New Literary Space (Nov. 5) and Defying The Cartographer: Shared Cultures vs. Nation-States (Nov. 6). More information on the Chindia Dialogues can be found here.

About the Author

Profile picture for user Matt Schiavenza

Matt Schiavenza is the Senior Content Manager at Asia Society. Previously, he worked as an associate editor at The Atlantic, where he helped launch and then oversee the China Channel.