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Muchos chinos, y no solo sus dirigentes políticos, asocian la democracia con la violencia y el desorden. Este pensamiento llevó a Deng Xiaoping a tomar medidas drásticas contra los rebeldes que protagonizaron los sucesos de la Plaza de Tiananmen en junio de 1989. Y es que solo un jefe supremo, el equivalente a un emperador, puede garantizar el alimento y el descanso de su Muchos chinos, y no solo sus dirigentes políticos, asocian la democracia con la violencia y el desorden. Este pensamiento llevó a Deng Xiaoping a tomar medidas drásticas contra los rebeldes que protagonizaron los sucesos de la Plaza de Tiananmen en junio de 1989. Y es que solo un jefe supremo, el equivalente a un emperador, puede garantizar el alimento y el descanso de su pueblo y sin él el imperio chino se disgregaría en mil pedazos. Esta idea reposa sobre miles de años de gobierno autoritario, comenzando por el emperador Quin, el primero que inició una milenaria historia de déspotas al frente del gran imperio chino. Sin embargo, la historia de China es también una historia de rebeliones de hombres y mujeres que desafiaron a la ortodoxia impuesta por sus gobernantes y es esta historia paralela la que se aborda en este libro. ¿Qué idea tienen estos rebeldes de la libertad? ¿Qué piensan de China? ¿Su concepto de la disidencia es el mismo que el de otras culturas?


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Muchos chinos, y no solo sus dirigentes políticos, asocian la democracia con la violencia y el desorden. Este pensamiento llevó a Deng Xiaoping a tomar medidas drásticas contra los rebeldes que protagonizaron los sucesos de la Plaza de Tiananmen en junio de 1989. Y es que solo un jefe supremo, el equivalente a un emperador, puede garantizar el alimento y el descanso de su Muchos chinos, y no solo sus dirigentes políticos, asocian la democracia con la violencia y el desorden. Este pensamiento llevó a Deng Xiaoping a tomar medidas drásticas contra los rebeldes que protagonizaron los sucesos de la Plaza de Tiananmen en junio de 1989. Y es que solo un jefe supremo, el equivalente a un emperador, puede garantizar el alimento y el descanso de su pueblo y sin él el imperio chino se disgregaría en mil pedazos. Esta idea reposa sobre miles de años de gobierno autoritario, comenzando por el emperador Quin, el primero que inició una milenaria historia de déspotas al frente del gran imperio chino. Sin embargo, la historia de China es también una historia de rebeliones de hombres y mujeres que desafiaron a la ortodoxia impuesta por sus gobernantes y es esta historia paralela la que se aborda en este libro. ¿Qué idea tienen estos rebeldes de la libertad? ¿Qué piensan de China? ¿Su concepto de la disidencia es el mismo que el de otras culturas?

30 review for Elementos Perniciosos, Una Historia De Rebeldes Chinos,Desde Pekin Hasta Los Angeles

  1. 5 out of 5

    Daniel Warriner

    Bad Elements by Ian Buruma was published in 2001 so, considering how dramatically China has grown over the past couple decades, I almost gave the book a pass. I'm glad I didn't. While China has grown, and many changes have come with this growth, it has yet to undergo the transformation expected or hoped for by countless many, especially in the areas of human rights, freedom of speech, and transition to some form of workable democracy. Bad Elements is therefore relevant to the present but obvious Bad Elements by Ian Buruma was published in 2001 so, considering how dramatically China has grown over the past couple decades, I almost gave the book a pass. I'm glad I didn't. While China has grown, and many changes have come with this growth, it has yet to undergo the transformation expected or hoped for by countless many, especially in the areas of human rights, freedom of speech, and transition to some form of workable democracy. Bad Elements is therefore relevant to the present but obviously without reference to very recent events. Another reason to read it is for Buruma's remarkable clarity of thought and smooth writing, and so whatever in it might be less relevant is still a brilliant read. It also brought me back to a late 90s feel, when the whole world knew China was on the cusp of monumental change but unsure as to what exactly that change would mean. For Bad Elements Buruma sat down (often with food, and reminiscent of Anthony Bourdain's interview style) with Chinese dissidents to hear their stories (some quite violent and harrowing, and heroic) and views on the past, present and future of China as well as Singapore, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Tibet. Throughout the book he revisits the Tiananmen Square demonstration in 1989 as a sort of modern-day focal point for activism and opposition. He starts off his interviews in the U.S. (farthest from Beijing) and then makes his way towards the political center or core of control over the "Chinese people" with stops to chat with others of Chinese birth or descent living in regions or countries outside of greater China. Parts are frustrating, for us and Buruma too, as he tries to track down answers in a miasma of lies and delusion and indoctrination and the systemic belief that China is way too old and too big and too complicated for any outsider to ever properly understand. He also takes a look at the interesting link between Christianity and Chinese dissidents as well as parallels between religion and democracy. Overall a really interesting, still relevant book by an author I've for too long read only his books on Japan.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Jim

    This book covers the intellectual world of Chinese dissidents, ranging from exile in the West to the heart of China itself. One the way, it looks at dissent in repressively paternal Singapore and in the schizophrenic environment that is Hong Kong. On reflection, I raised my rating of this book. When I first read it, parts of it put me off, but I realize that I was not so much upset with the book, as such, but frustrated and maddened by the some of the dissidents it covers. One of the themes that This book covers the intellectual world of Chinese dissidents, ranging from exile in the West to the heart of China itself. One the way, it looks at dissent in repressively paternal Singapore and in the schizophrenic environment that is Hong Kong. On reflection, I raised my rating of this book. When I first read it, parts of it put me off, but I realize that I was not so much upset with the book, as such, but frustrated and maddened by the some of the dissidents it covers. One of the themes that examined in this book is that of collective Chinese identity, what is considered properly Chinese. This has traditionally been the obsession of Chinese rulers, from the philosopher Confucius to the People’s Republic, and might be seen as a source of repressive conformity. Buruma shows how this is also an obsession for dissidents and used as an ideological weapon. Buruma takes odds with the idea, held by Chinese authorities, many Westerners, and not a few dissidents, that the Chinese are culturally incapable of democracy. In China, this line of thought goes, democracy will lead to unrest and chaos. To refute this, Buruma points to Taiwan as an example of a Chinese democracy. I found this book was much more interesting the closer it got to China. Buruma own analysis indicates why this might have been. Exiles are removed from the ongoing ideological discourse of Chinese society. They are seen by dissidents in China as having little to say that applies to the situation on the ground. As such, the exiles become more and more abstract in their thinking, and often more shrill in their pronouncements. They obsess over squabbles with other exiles and seem slightly sad, dissipated figures. The places the book really hooked me were the sections on Taiwan, Hong Kong, and mainland China. Buruma is one of the better commentators on East Asian affairs, and it shows here. He gives the reader a detailed view of the ideological cracks and inconsistencies in a China that is pursuing the status of great power and, at the same time, suffers from a deep-seated over-sensitivity to perceived insult or implied weakness.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Spirohir

    I liked the concept of Buruma's book chasing the Chinese diaspora around the world, before ending up on the Mainland itself. The chaotic world of dissidents and denunciations makes for depressing reading, as are the attempts of his subjects to explain what 'Chineseness' is and what 'we Chinese' meant. It is perhaps good then that he never attempts to be an expert, but instead writes as an outsider following the shattered dreams and lives around the globe. The book is inevitably one-sided, and th I liked the concept of Buruma's book chasing the Chinese diaspora around the world, before ending up on the Mainland itself. The chaotic world of dissidents and denunciations makes for depressing reading, as are the attempts of his subjects to explain what 'Chineseness' is and what 'we Chinese' meant. It is perhaps good then that he never attempts to be an expert, but instead writes as an outsider following the shattered dreams and lives around the globe. The book is inevitably one-sided, and the shades of grey that reality often is gets lost in the anger and disappointment - at times interspersed with hope and even delusion. But if anything, it tells the stories of many individuals who have lived to tell the tale despite horrifying experiences, and that in itself makes it worth a read. Sadly, the book is already outdated, as events in the region have moved at breakneck speed towards loosening up of official controls (at least on the surface) and it now 16 years since the handover of Hong Kong (with increasing hostility towards mainlanders in the territory), the DPP in Taiwan has already gained and lost power (with many of his interviewees having held high political office since, thus completing the democratic evolution process in Taiwan), and Singapore too has more than a couple of elected opposition members of parliament with the governing party's share of the popular vote dipping closer towards the 50% mark. It would be fascinating to note the differences should a similar round of interviews be done today.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Kes

    This is a book that definitely shows its age (first published in 2001). The author set out to explore who the Chinese are - whether the Chinese (as a race) are able to be democratic. There is also a introduction to the 2003 edition that starts with "Strange things happen when Chinese dynasties near their end." and goes on to say that: I believe that Communist Party rule will end in China; sooner or later all dynasties do. But when or how, I cannot say. Will one authoritarian dynasty be replaced, This is a book that definitely shows its age (first published in 2001). The author set out to explore who the Chinese are - whether the Chinese (as a race) are able to be democratic. There is also a introduction to the 2003 edition that starts with "Strange things happen when Chinese dynasties near their end." and goes on to say that: I believe that Communist Party rule will end in China; sooner or later all dynasties do. But when or how, I cannot say. Will one authoritarian dynasty be replaced, once again, by another, in the name of national unity and superior virtue? Or will the Chinese finally be able to govern themselves in a freer and more open society? The example of Taiwan, whose citizens can now speak freely and elect their own government, shows that it is possible. The example of Singapore, which combines relative economic liberalism with political authoritarianism, points in another, equally plausible, direction. That introduction has aged well. (view spoiler)[/sarcasm (hide spoiler)] The book is divided into three sections: first, Chinese dissidents in exile (we're talking about China Chinese, largely involved in the cultural revolutions from 1960s - 1989); second, Greater China (Singapore, Taiwan, and Hong Kong); and third, Chinese dissidents in China (including Tibet). Naturally, I'm interested in the Singapore chapter and it felt a little too glib? For example, the author would relate Singapore history, but because of the way the chapter is written), I'm unsure if his explanation is the author's perspective or the perspective of the person (Chia Thye Poh) relating it to him. There are also the minor factual errors, like saying that "the officially approved languages, apart from Malay, are a pseudo-BBC English and Mandarin Chinese". Tamil has always been a national language; so what did the author mean by "officially approved" language? There's mention of a "Singapore National University" - this is a non-existent university (and there are only two in Singapore!), and I suspect that the author means "National University of Singapore". I don't want to detract from the book; it clearly is a major undertaking. But these minor errors feel like they throw the rest of the book into into question - how accurate is the author's retelling of history? Other notes: (1) this is the only chapter of the book when non-Chinese are quoted. (2) Singapore as part of Greater China feels sort-of offensive - both Taiwan and Hong Kong can be argued to be part of China; Singapore doesn't. (3) The author's words are interesting: Being Chinese in Singapore is in any case anything but straightforward. For many people, especially among the lower, commercial classes - hawkers, shopkeepers, artisans, taxi drivers, minor civil servants - it is a matter of food, language, and vaguely remembered customs: burial rites, annual festivals, and family relations. Cultural identity is not something most of them are likely to worry about. They take it for granted. If anyone frets over identity it is the highly educated, English-speaking, westernised elite. It is they who want their children to learn Mandarin, take classes in Confucian ethics, and talk obsessively about being "Asian". And But it was there all the time, hanging in the air of almost encounter I had in Singapore - the fear of authority and the anxiety to appease it. On the rest of the book as a whole I felt like it was a book where the themes could have been brought up more clearly - either as a summary or a conclusion. There are little snippets here and there, for example, the use of religion to fill a spiritual need or the sense of ideology. Another theme: the distinction between being Chinese (as a racial/ethnic identity) and being China Chinese (as someone still living in China) could also have been brought clearer. For example - in the chapter about Taiwan, there is an interview with Mark Chen, who talks about Taiwanese independence because "we can never trust the Chinese". From that, the author says: "And again the idea, expressed by a Chinese, that other Chinese cannot be trusted, that, in Chen's words, the Chinese are "tricky people". " A third possible theme - Chinese dissidents in exile (he talks about Singaporean Chinese in exile from Singapore; that could have been a counterpoint to the China Chinese he mentions). I was fascinated by the idea of zige (I suspect he means 资格), explained: The pecking order among the exiles revolves around a key phrase: zige, meaning "credentials" or "qualificaations". To be a leader you need zige, indeed more zige than any rival. It is one of the most common phrases of abuse or dismissal: He has no zige to ... speak for the democratic movement or to organise a conference or to lead a party or to testify to a congressional committee. Zige can be earned in various ways and played like a trump card in an elaborate game whose rules are necessarily vague. And yet he doesn't take it further - does this signify a need for authority? There is an analogy in the 2003 Introduction about the importance of order juxtaposed against democracy (disordered and violent)- "in most prisons, every cell has a boss and a hierarchy of henchmen. The boss gets to eat the best food and the best spot to sleep... but hard though it may be, at least there's order. Every man gets his food... Such an arrangement is better than a democracy cell. Democracy is what you get when there is no cell boss. The men fight one another like savages. They all want to be boss." This book felt like there was a huge potential for analysis; just missed because the author tended to focus on what was happening. Also, the author's prediction about the communist party not lasting has not aged well.

  5. 4 out of 5

    James

    A stunning piece of journalism, tracing Chinese dissident thought from the Tiananmen exiles in the US, to their heirs in China itself, stopping along the way in Hong Kong and Taiwan to masterfully dispel the paternalistic notion promoted by the Communist Party and its sycophants that Chinese people aren't "ready" for democracy. Depressingly, for a book published in 2001, its subject does not feel dated: China remains in the grip of authoritarianism, Hong Kong is teetering even more on the edge o A stunning piece of journalism, tracing Chinese dissident thought from the Tiananmen exiles in the US, to their heirs in China itself, stopping along the way in Hong Kong and Taiwan to masterfully dispel the paternalistic notion promoted by the Communist Party and its sycophants that Chinese people aren't "ready" for democracy. Depressingly, for a book published in 2001, its subject does not feel dated: China remains in the grip of authoritarianism, Hong Kong is teetering even more on the edge of being subsumed within it, and Taiwan still stands alone as a beacon of hope and progress. This is a fantastic book to read to understand how this can be the case, and what would need to be different in future to change course.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Hope

    Good, but hard to follow at times. If you find it hard to keep foreign names straight, this will be a challenge. Still, it's intensely insightful and helps for the university students of this time understand what happened in Beijing in the spring of 1989.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Channing

    This man writes about contemporary politics in East Asia with a grace and finesse normally only encountered in intellectually aware popstars...

  8. 4 out of 5

    Hester

  9. 4 out of 5

    Frank

  10. 4 out of 5

    Nele

  11. 5 out of 5

    Theodore Hasse

  12. 5 out of 5

    Hyatt Lee

  13. 4 out of 5

    Gerry

  14. 5 out of 5

    Joseph

  15. 5 out of 5

    Lainey Zee

  16. 5 out of 5

    JoAnn

  17. 5 out of 5

    Gary

  18. 4 out of 5

    N. N. Santiago

  19. 5 out of 5

    Peck

  20. 4 out of 5

    Stephen Jennings

  21. 4 out of 5

    Darius

  22. 5 out of 5

    Frank

  23. 4 out of 5

    Phoebe

  24. 4 out of 5

    Denis

  25. 4 out of 5

    Witter

  26. 5 out of 5

    Suzanne

  27. 4 out of 5

    Tom Barker

  28. 5 out of 5

    Andy Raptis

  29. 5 out of 5

    Andy

  30. 5 out of 5

    Alex

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