This hugely important and ground-breaking book – an unprecedented oral history – gives voice to a silent generation and tells the secret history of 20th century China.
In 1912, five thousand years of feudal rule ended in China. Warlords, Western businessmen, soldiers, missionaries and Japanese all ruled China, exploited and fought one another and the Chinese. In 1949, Mao Zedong came to power.
China Witness is both a journey through time and through the author’s own country, and a memorial to an extraordinary generation of men and women who have survived war, invasion, revolution, famine and modernization – to tell the story of their times. It is an extraordinary personal testimony from a normally silent generation who, in their lifetimes have seen China transformed from a largely peasant, agricultural country of more than 1.3 billion people into a modern state. These are ordinary people – a herb woman at a market, retired teachers, a legendary ‘bandit’ woman, Red Guards, oil pioneers, an acrobat, a naval general, a shoe mender, a lantern maker, taxi drivers, and others – from west to east, across the vast country, now in their seventies, eighties and nineties, and whose memories will soon die with them.
Here, for the first time many of them speak out about their lives and private thoughts about what they witnessed. Together their intimate stories are perhaps the only accurate record of modern Chinese history.