Work Title: Beijing Time
Work Author(s): Michael Dutton
Harvard University Press
268 pages, Hardcover $26.95
Reviewer: Whitney Hallberg
The Revolution of 1949, which installed into power the Communist Party of China, also combined China's five time zones into one---Beijing's time: Central Time. "This collapsing of multiple time zones into one was no pragmatic exercise to appease a farming lobby or maximize daylight," Dutton writes. "It was a political decision to centralize all decision-making, including those about time, in Beijing and in the hands of the Party's Central Committee..." Dutton insists that it is impossible to overestimate the importance of this revolution and its effects on the people of Beijing. Even today the divide exists between the vastly different time periods of "before liberation" and "after liberation."
Like China's Chairman Mao himself, whose regime simultaneously industrialized the nation and resulted in the deaths of tens of millions, Beijing is full of contradictions. In Beijing Time, Michael Dutton, professor of politics at Goldsmiths University and author of the Joseph Levenson Prize-winning Policing Chinese Politics, takes readers into the city as viewed by a native and explores these discrepancies with a scholar's eye.
To most Westerners, the words "Tiananmen Square" evoke only the bloody protest of 1989, but to the Chinese, the Square is "the glorious place where New China was proclaimed, and from where a very different China is now arising," Dutton writes. It is the place where all Chinese tours of the city begin. Here, Mao Zedong stood before a crowd and announced the establishment of the People's Republic; here also Mao was laid to rest in a crystal tomb. But Tiananmen Square is, at the same time, the scene of a great deception. From 1969...