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Shenfan, William Hinton, 1984, Vintage Books, 790pages.
from MN 31, July 7, 1987

This is the sequel to Fanshen which was about the liberation of China from landlord and Japanese imperialist rule. Shenfan is primarily about the Great Leap through the Cultural Revolution. There is a sprinkling of material both before and after this time period. William Hinton stands out above other China scholars for the length of time he has spent in China. He has lived in one village called Long Bow at various time periods for years at a time.

The work is dense with empirical detail and insights into everyday concerns of Chinese peasants. Aside from his descriptions, Hinton's interviews and reporting of conversation is excellent. He reports what the peasants say, what the Communist Party says and what the highest government officials say. By asking his questions at different time periods, he manages to obtain different answers from different people for each question. Even within each time period, he shows the lines of controversy.

Hinton is of Marxist inspiration and has some strong words for the current regime. On the other hand, he spends several hundred pages detailing the Cultural Revolution as a merely opportunist power struggle among individuals and ultimately factions of millions of people. This book is not appropriate for special distribution efforts. His analysis of power struggle is rather too simple and does not offer an alternative. Still, Shenfan is very valuable for the reader interested in China.

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