The Book in 2023

History doesn't repeat itself, but it often rhymes.

Achievement in 2023

At the beginning of 2023, I decided to started reading English books, being a method of learning English, meanwhile, and also being a means of broadening my horizons. I read one saying online said “if you’ve already established a reading habit in your native language, then reading a foreign language book to be as a tool of language-learning is possible, vice versa”. 

 

I established a reading habit when I was in college. Living under the China’s “teaching to the test” educational system, I, and I believe a lot of students like me, don’t like reading, partially because what we read are basically what the Big Brother wants and allows us to read. With my one-year observation with English, the universal and international language today, I believe the whole system just doesn’t encourage students to broaden their minds. 

 

Moreover, as CCP is tightening its control, the social and academic environment is both becoming more and more narrow. In this painful and withering process, I slowly realized that Mandarin being a language is so deeply contaminated in subconscious and hidden ways, especially for those people who use simplified Chinese. 

 

It’s like boiling the frog, yet the temperature is way too high. It’s really the time to read in English. 

 

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Wild Swans by Jung Chang

If I have to choose one book to be the best book I read in 2023, then the book Wild Swans by Jung Chang should be the one. It was very late for me to realize the book is very famous outside of the mainland China. This book has several editions in different language. For most Chinese, I would recommend English and traditional Chinese editions, because, according to its author Jung Chang, although the simplified Chinese edition has never been officially published, and in the foreseeable future would never be, there’s a pirate simplified Chinese edition circulating in the mainland China, which is also a censored edition. The only one edition that is not censored is the traditional Chinese edition, which was published in Taiwan. So, I strongly recommend you to read the traditional Chinese edition if you think it’s bit of challenging to read the English edition.

 

You can get it via Z-lib, a website for downloading e-books for totally free, or you can get it from Amazon or Apple Book Store, if you know how. But to notice, the all pirate versions for English edition that circulate online contains several misspellings. So, reading it is kind of troublesome, although it’s not gonna impede your understanding.

 

 

Back to content itself, I think the majority of Gen-Z like me don’t fully understand the PRC’s history, especially under the strict information control by CCP. But after reading this book, every time when people talk about the China’s humiliation of history, I would think about the cultural revolution, the Great Leap Forward and other enormous political upheaval launched by Mao. How about the deaths caused by these political campaigns, because the number of deaths is dramatically higher than the killings by Japanese. 

 

Ruthless killing and invasion are truly disastrous for the whole world, but, meanwhile, does that mean those who involved in these political upheaval are way more ruthless than “disgusting” Japanese people, considering the corresponding deaths are remarkably higher, moreover, Japanese have already paid for their mistakes, while, someone’s picture is still hanging on there? This is only one very contradictory thing I realize. 

 

We learned from the history textbook that Culture Revolution is a “mistake”, which, according to my knowledge, this description about the Culture Revolution being a mistake is even changing now. Still, enormous questions and facts hasn’t been revealed. Correspondingly, justice has never been brought.

 

How this political campaign was mobilized and what’s the point for? How about the actual price for this mistake? How this deeply affected hundreds and thousands of families? How many people’s lives were ruined by this “mistake”? Did the authority really reflect on their mistakes? Such meaningful questions that have never been raised and you can never count on finding them in the textbook can now be seen in this book, and, of course, you can conclude your own answers.

 

My suggestion is every Chinese needs to learn our own history, especially for those who really think they’re patriotic.

 

There’s also one my personal assumption: in the process of reading, you may naturally compare the history to now, because you can find plentiful similarities can be shared. Then, I have a sentence that I read from the internet for you: “History doesn’t repeat itself, but it often rhymes.” by Mark Twain.

 

 

 

Red Roulette by Desmond Shum

I was so struggling when I run into a question, “What’s the best you read in 2023, if you have to choose one book?”. Although I previously recommend Wild Swans by Jung Chang being the Book in 2023, when I was still in the middle of reading it, I couldn’t decide one. This book is also overwhelming.

 

The only reason I rate this to be a secondary book in my 2023 is because it only includes a small part of era and mainly focus on Hu-Wen’s era, which is much less politically upside-down, compared to Mao’s era.

 

Red Roulette writes the recent history and hidden secrets about highest leaderships, all of which you cannot expect to find them online, even in foreign media news. It gives you a glance of how the system actually works behind the scenes. The political network, personal connections and “the red blood” are the core of ruling rules. I really like what the author, Desmond Shum, said on a podcast show: “I was like being an outsider, trying to get in insiders.” At this political point, I believe a lot of ordinary Chinese people are outsiders, ignoring the fact that we all live in China.

 

Every businessman in china is “white-glove” for the system, according to what he said on a podcast show called “百灵果” based in Taiwan he attended. To be a white-glove doesn’t need to involve high-level politics. If you’re an ordinary person, if you want to open a small business, like a small booth around the street corner, you need to bribe your local authorities for protection. And the authorities don’t need to be as big as government. You become a white-glove when you bribe the local auxiliary policeman. That says doing any business activities needs to be a part of system. Connection is so important. I have never perceived this from this angle, until I heard his words. I think, for people whoever want to do a business, this book is really helpful for comprehending the logic of business operation.

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