My Fascination With China

Author and journalist Jonathan Fenby explains what started him on an endless journey of exploration into China’s past.

Professional visits to the mainland took me to Beijing and Shanghai, and across the border to Guangzhou (the former Canton). With my wife, I travelled up the Yangzi just before the flooding caused by the Three Gorges Dam, and into China’s Far West along the old Silk Road to the great trading city of Kashgar. I soon became fascinated by China – the relationship between the authoritarian Communist political system and the booming market-led economy, the soaring skyscrapers rising from marshland in the Pudong district of Shanghai and the Yellow Hat Buddhist monastery in the great grazing lands of the northwest, with its array of monumental statues made of yak butter.

Just before I left Hong Kong to return to London, came a suggestion that I might like to write a biography of the Chinese Nationalist leader, Chiang Kai-shek. A mad idea, I responded. I knew nothing about him. There must be scores of scholars better equipped than I to do such a book. But the idea germinated.

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