Corruption and Realism in Late Socialist China: The Return of the Political Novel

By Jeffrey C. Kinkley | Go to book overview

1
Introduction: Corruption, Realism, and
the Return of the Political Novel

“Almost invariably, every book on contemporary China is about corruption.”1 A scholar writing in squeaky-clean Singapore invented that bit of hyperbole to open his review of a book printed in America. In fact, China itself, from 1995 until the inevitable clampdown in 2002, published an extraordinary number of books “exposing” its corruption. However, most of the Chinese books, or at least those trying to put all the pieces together rather than just point a finger at crime rings or flaws in the system, necessarily took the form of novels. They were a short course in corruption and its politics for the Chinese public. This book draws inspiration from the major novelist-instructors, while subjecting their observations and imaginings to critical analysis and real-world verifications. I contend that some of the novels and their mass media adaptations deserve to be examined both as social commentary and as art, or at least as popular entertainment that engages real social and moral problems. The works' historical and literary reverberations are many.

Transparency International (TI), known to be less waggish than the reviewer writing from Singapore, likewise gives China low marks in its oft-cited “Corruption Perceptions Index.” In 1996, when Chinese fiction about corruption was just getting a toehold, China ranked 50th among the 54 nations TI rated (above Bangladesh, Kenya, Pakistan, and Nige-

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Corruption and Realism in Late Socialist China: The Return of the Political Novel
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Acknowledgments vii
  • Contents ix
  • 1: Introduction 1
  • 2: The Trendsetter 22
  • 3: The Banned Blockbuster 47
  • 4: Climax 78
  • 5: Anticorruption by Indirection 104
  • 6: Dirt Plus Soap Equals Pay Dirt 125
  • 7: Chinese Realism, Popular Culture, and the Critics 144
  • 8: Conclusion 170
  • Reference Matter 191
  • Notes 193
  • Bibliography 229
  • Character List 269
  • Index 275
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