‘Prisoner of the State’ Breaks Out

Former Chinese Premier Zhao Ziyang, who was dethroned for trying to stop the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989 and bringing other liberal changes, offers a fresh look at the motives of the country’s ruling elite in Prisoner of the State. Set for release tomorrow, the book is already at #17 on the Amazon bestseller list, thanks to an excerpt in the New York Times, a review in the Washington Post  and an interview by NPR’s All Things Considered with one of the book’s editors, Bao Pu. Three of the four libraries we checked did not carry it.

The book is based on about 30 audiotapes that Zhao discreetly recorded at his home while on house arrest in 1999 and 2000, which were smuggled out of the country (Zhao died in 2005). “The up-close-and-personal tone of the present book stands out,” according to the review in the Washington Post by Perry Link, an academic at the University of California, Riverside, who also noted that Zhao’s material is consistent with previous reports.

In Zhao’s portrait, Deng Xiaoping appears as “a Godfather figure,” according to Link. “Other leaders jockey for access to [Deng], dare not contradict him and use his words to attack one another. Yet even Deng seeks to avoid responsibility for difficult decisions. The group has dictatorial power, yet is rife with insecurity.”

Prisoner of the State: The Secret Journal of Premier Zhao Ziyang
Zhao Ziyang
Price: $26.00
Hardcover: 336 pages
Publisher: Simon & Schuster – (2009-05-19)
ISBN-10: 1439149380
ISBN-13: 9781439149386

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