Kirkus, May 2008:
"...brave, beautifully written testimony with the editorial assistance of ghostwriter Foster Winans, who reworked the Chinese-language text published in 1999. A true 'fly-on-the-wall' account of the momentous changes in Chinese society."
Publishers Weekly, July 21, 2008 (starred review):
"...exciting, eye-witness to history stories featuring Kissinger's and Nixon's first meetings with Enlai. This absorbing book should make an invaluable political (and personal) primer for anyone dealing with today's China."
Library Journal, June 1, 2008 (starred review):
"It is a relief to read an account by an urbane and often witty insider who neither idolizes nor demonizes China's top leaders.... Highly recommended." ---Library Journal Starred Review.
Winans, Ji Chaozhu, Beijing 2005 From the jacket:
"No narrative has offered as intimate and unblinking an account, from inside the halls of power, of the chaos and terror of a nation in thrall to a modern emperor. A key figure in China’s foreign policy, the American-educated Ji provides an honest, detailed account of the personalities and events that shaped today’s People’s Republic."
From Random House Executive Editor, Robert Loomis :
"Foster Winans has done a fantastic job making your life story accessible to readers. I have utter confidence in Foster’s judgment regarding style and narrative flow. More than any other book I’ve read that touches on the Cultural Revolution, this book really helped me understand how it felt to suffer through it. I was moved by so much of this, most particularly the great love story between you and your wife."
Full Publishers Weekly Starred Review (7/21/08):
Born in 1929 China to a privileged family of Communist sympathizers, Chaozhu has witnessed a country transform while catapulting to its newly-emergent centers of power. Chaozhu's memoir begins during the 1937 Japanese occupation, when his father sent him and his brothers to the U.S. to help raise money for the communists and get "a first-class education," after which they would return to "help build the new China."
Returning to China in 1950, after dropping out of Harvard, Chaozhu began working as an interpreter in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs under Prime Minister Zhou Enlai, before rising to become a deputy director. After Nixon's ground-breaking 1972 visit to China, Chaozhu had several postings to the U.S. and was appointed as an Ambassador to the U.K. His last position was a 1991-94 stint as under-secretary-general of the United Nations.
Chaozhu paints a vivid picture of life in China, both the extreme poverty (by 1958, 30 million Chinese had starved to death) and the civil unrest generated by Mao's draconian economic measures and purges of so-called dissidents. Chaozhu describes hard times but also exciting, eye-witness to history stories featuring Kissinger's and Nixon's first meetings with Enlai. This absorbing book should make an invaluable political (and personal) primer for anyone dealing with today's China.
Full Kirkus Review (May 2008):
Longtime translator for Zhou Enlai and Mao Zedong recounts his arduous and ultimately vindicating life’s journey through some of China’s darkest decades.
Landowners from Shanxi province and early communist sympathizers, Ji’s parents escaped the turmoil of the Japanese invasion and civil war by fleeing to New York in 1939 on the urging of Zhou Enlai, who had been a teenaged friend of Ji’s much older brother, Chaoding. While Ji excelled at Horace Mann-Lincoln and earned a scholarship to Harvard, learning perfect English and growing to love his adopted country, Chaoding was working for the Kuomintang’s minister of finance and feeding secrets to Zhou and the communists.
The political winds shifted by 1949, when the victorious communists established the People’s Republic of China and the Cold War ensured that Ji was no longer welcome in America. He began his incredible roller-coaster career in China as a Foreign Ministry official and had his biggest moment on the world stage when he served as interpreter for Zhou and Mao during President Nixon’s visit in 1972.
Initially an enthusiastic Communist Party member, he first began to have doubts about Mao’s increasingly absurd policies during the purges of the Anti-Rightist Campaign of the 1950s. They increased when Ji saw the mass chaos and starvation caused by the Great Leap Forward in 1958–60, followed by the violent zealotry of the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, beginning in 1966.
Ji’s Western education and his wife’s Taiwan connections branded him a “capitalist roader,” and he was periodically sent to shovel pig manure in the countryside to atone for this sin. He endured the relentless cycle of purges and rehabilitation with equanimity and grace, serving in diplomatic posts in London and at the UN in New York, eventually fashioning this brave, beautifully written testimony with the editorial assistance of ghostwriter Foster Winans, who reworked the Chinese-language text published in 1999.
A true “fly-on-the-wall” account of the momentous changes in Chinese society and international relations over the last century.
Full Library Journal Starred Review (6/1/08):
Given the steamy revelations and bitter accusations in many popular memoirs on China (e.g., Li Zhisui's The Private Life of Chairman Mao or, more recently, Gao Wenqian's Zhou Enlai), it is a relief to read an account by an urbane and often witty insider who neither idolizes nor demonizes China's top leaders.
Ji's childhood in a politically connected family of patriots and scholars was ruptured by the Japanese invasion in the 1930s. The family made its way to New York, where Ji discovered American generosity, political debate, and ice cream while he studied his way into Harvard. The Korean War of 1950 shocked him into returning to China, where his dedication and knowledge of foreign countries eventually took him to the top of the Foreign Ministry.
Although he tells revealing anecdotes about being Mao's interpreter, the best stories concern life backstage as foreign policy was made and China regained global respect. Premier Zhou Enlai emerges as a humane but painfully tested leader of almost superhuman ability. Ji's book should attract a general audience, but even China specialists will be intrigued (if slightly tantalized when the stories break off). Highly recommended for all libraries. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 3/1/08.]—Charles W. Hayford, Northwestern Univ., Evanston, IL.