De eeuw van Xi

Impressive book

Last year my friend Stefan Blommaert launched his book “De eeuw van Xi”.
He had asked me to review one chapter only ” Hoofdstuk 8 – Vervuiling en duurzaamheid”. I started reading and decided to review the entire book, sending him my remarks.
I was impressed with his analysis and comments on “China Today” as I would call it.

I am generally speaking cautious with books about China by journalists and so-called “sinologists”. I knew Stefan well as he was journalist in Beijing many years ago, working for Belgian media (VRT).
See one interview:

Belgian PM Charles Michel in the Embassy

The book is one of the few I can recommend; it is a balanced view on China and I can fully agree with his views.

I was happy to receive the printed copy, and one copy I gave to our Belgian ambassador Marc Vinck on 13 March 2019, in his name.

The book is in Dutch, for those who can read it, strongly recommended.

Remark: how to buy

Het boek kan online besteld worden via de website (, maar ook bij en consoorten en ook de webshops van standaard boekhandel, Fnac, en de onafhankelijke boekhandels die daarover beschikken (29 January 2021)

China Remembers by Lijia Zhang

Finally read it!

See my earlier post:

So I made it to the end of the new book. Fascinating.
China Remembers by Zhang Lijia and Calum MacLeod groups 33 contributions from Chinese and foreign residents in China, arranged to give insight into the history of the People’s Republic and leavened with introductions to guide the reader through the complexities of its political campaigns.

About the author:
Lijia Zhang – writer, journalist, social commentator and public speaker

Her novel Lotus:

How to buy

China Remembers: The PRC’s first 50 years, told through extraordinary personal journeys
by Zhang Lijia und Calum MacLeod (Author)
Format: Kindle Edition:
The printed version came out in 1999, and the digital version came out in 2020.
Printed second hand copy is available on Amazon of the 1999 version.

See screenshot and here the link:

My report

I was very impressed with it, the book should receive more media attention while obviously some Chinese officials would not be pleased as it addresses too many issues it does not want to be talked about.
For me, a lot of the content is familiar as I know quite a bit about the turbulent past of the “New China”. But I learned a lot.
I think any so-called sinologist (sinologue) should read the book before pretending they understand modern China. A translation into Chinese would be great as many Chinese, especially the younger generation, know little or nothing about the difficult periods China went through to become the world power it is today.

Remarkable is that many of the people who suffered a lot still remain supportive of the government and the party.
Yes, the book is a must read and is an important legacy to preserve history.

Some remarks

– The contributions by the people interviewed could be dated to better understand the historical context. Something simple like “Interview with XYZ, dated March 1997”.
– Omission
In “Making Revolution” the adopted daughter of Zhou Enlai was not named. It is Sun Weishi, our auntie.
In “Entering the World” it is mentioned Li Peng was the adopted son of Zhou Enlai. We knew that was a false rumor that circulated a lot. Later on Li Peng officially admitted it was not true. Zhou and Li were not so close. Only Sun Weishi was really the “adopted” one. They were very close.
– An index at the end with in particular names of people and important historical events would be nice.
– Printed version: a new and updated printed version would be nice.

Congratulations for this great book. A must read!
I am now reading her book Socialism is Great. Keep posted for my review.

Stories from My Chinese Journey

Another Old China Hands

Mark Levine is the author of “Stories from My Chinese Journey”. He is also a member of my monthly gathering, the Old China Hands Lunch, see here the latest lunch where he was present. He is also part of our Foreign Expert team under SAFEA (China International Talent Exchange Foundation) and we jointly participated is several events. See here about our team.

Two pics from our trip to Qinyuan, Shanxi Province – Changzhi City, where Mark took the stage, to the delight of the local crowd, in August 2019.
Mark, together with his partner Ms. Fu Han, have performed all over China. Their duo is called In Side Out, here their introduction in Chinese: In Side Out_intro

About his book

I had the honor to write a few words for “Stories from My Chinese Journey”, see the pic of the back of the book.
I finally read it, I am terribly behind in my reading…

I admire Mark for his talents as a speaker, professor, musician and especially for his role as a bridge between China and the West. I am also impressed how he could remember so many details of his intense track record. I am so bad at it myself.

He brings a unique and personal insight in the Chinese academic world, how Chinese students are going through their studies at university, how he successfully bound with the students and remained in contact with many. It gives a good picture of the Chinese universities from the inside. He shows how a foreign teacher, not speaking Chinese, navigated the universities and their administration all over China, successfully.
It also gives a correct and detailed insight on how Chinese society functions, how young people think, study, marry and how they deal with their parents and in-laws.

Another interesting part tells the story what role some foreigners played during the early years of the People’s Republic of China, earning them the respect and honors from the government.

Mark could go through all his fascinating experiences with his limitless patience and jovial attitude.
For sure an interesting book by an insider!

Other books by Lijia Zhang

Where is “Socialism”?

Of the other books by Lijia Zhang I should mention her first book “Socialism Is Great!” A worker’s Memoir Of The New China.

Well yes, found it back in my library and to my great shame I somehow never read up. It will be my next reading… Worse, I am not sure when I actually bought the book… Shame…

A new book is out

“China Remembers” is an oral history book of China’s first 50 years that Lijia Zhang co-authored with Calum MacLeod. A Germany based publisher has just published it as an e-book. See the link below.



People say that to understand China, you need to understand its past.
Her introduction of the book:

The PRC’s first 50 years, told through extraordinary personal journeys
Making history not only comprehensible, but also a reading experience that gets under the skin: this is the art that the two authors Zhang Lijia and Calum MacLeod have mastered impressively. China Remembers recounts the first fifty years of the People’s Republic of China (1949-1999) in 33 interviews with contemporary witnesses from all walks of life: From the founding of the state by Mao Zedong and the mass movements of the 1950s and 1960s to Deng Xiaoping’s reform and opening policy and China’s rise to become a great economic power in the 1990s. Each of the historical sections as well as each individual interview is expertly introduced, and so one does not have to be a an expert on China to follow the moving memories of the interviewees, who include soldiers, farmers, street vendors, priests, teachers, singers, interpreters, business people, architects, refuse collectors and many other professions.

China Remembers offers authentic voices of a group of remarkable raconteurs for those who are willing to listen as well as for those whose ears are attuned to subtle cultural messages from the ancient and ever vibrant civilization. (Du Weiming, Professor Emeritus of Asia Center, Harvard University)

Lotus by Lijia Zhang

China Culture Center

On 15 April 2017 I joined the book talk “Lotus by Lijia Zhang” organized by the China Culture Center. I was very much attracted by the title “China’s underground sex industry” as I know quite a bit myself about the topic. I was a bit surprised Ms. Zhang Lijia (as I prefer to call her) could publish a book about it and freely talk about this sensitive topic. The event was well organized, small crowd but just right to have a proper Q&A.
I was certainly not disappointed and gladly bought her book that she kindly signed.

More about her:

My take on Lotus by Lijia Zhang

After so many years I finally read the book. Yes it is a novel and I was fascinated till the end as I was eager to know how the story would end. (I won’t tell you!)

The book is one of those that discourage me. Being a writer myself and vaguely planning to write a kind of novel/love story, I feel so poorly able to write anything after reading Lotus. Yes, it it took her some twelve years to write the novel. But how she could develop the story with all the details fascinates me and leaves me with a sense of helplessness. There are many details in the story that sound very familiar to me so I can say she knows what she is talking about. Contrary to what other book reviews may say, see further, the depiction of the individuals is pretty realistic, the way they act and feel. That is how many Chinese really are. As mentioned in SCMP: “Male sexuality in the novel is either brutish or monkish. This may be a function of the setting, but in a novel of sexual empathy, this feels like a structural flaw.” I tend to disagree because I see it the same way as the author. Many aspects of the attitudes of the people depicted are very realistic. That is how some segments of Chinese society are.
In other words, a thumbs up for the book. Great stuff, at times I felt emotional as some scenes seemed all too familiar.

See here the book review done by South China Morning Post, in the PDF you find the link to the original article: 170104 LotusSCMP
So I do not fully agree with the review.

The author has been touring around the world to promote her book and it is now published in several languages.


See here some pics from her visit earlier this year to Vilnius to launch the Lithuanian version.