Prisoner of the State by Zhao Ziyang
The Secret Journal of Premier Zhao Ziyang

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Synopsis


"Zhao may be more dangerous in death than he was in life."
-- Time

How often can you peek behind the curtains of one of the most secretive governments in the world? Prisoner of the State is the first book to give readers a front row seat to the secret inner workings of China's government. It is the story of Premier Zhao Ziyang, the man who brought liberal change to that nation and who, at the height of the Tiananmen Square protests in 1989, tried to stop the massacre and was dethroned for his efforts.

When China's army moved in, killing hundreds of students and other demonstrators, Zhao was placed under house arrest at his home on a quiet alley in Beijing. China's most promising change agent had been disgraced, along with the policies he stood for. The premier spent the last sixteen years of his life, up until his death in 2005, in seclusion. An occasional detail about his life would slip out: reports of a golf excursion, a photo of his aging visage, a leaked letter to China's leaders. But China scholars often lamented that Zhao never had his final say.

As it turns out, Zhao did produce a memoir in complete secrecy. He methodically recorded his thoughts and recollections on what had happened behind the scenes during many of modern China's most critical moments. The tapes he produced were smuggled out of the country and form the basis for Prisoner of the State. In this audio journal, Zhao provides intimate details about the Tiananmen crackdown; he describes the ploys and double crosses China's top leaders use to gain advantage over one another; and he talks of the necessity for China to adopt democracy in order to achieve long-term stability.

The China that Zhao portrays is not some long-lost dynasty. It is today's China, where the nation's leaders accept economic freedom but continue to resist political change.

If Zhao had survived -- that is, if the hard-line hadn't prevailed during Tiananmen -- he might have been able to steer China's political system toward more openness and tolerance.

Zhao's call to begin lifting the Party's control over China's life -- to let a little freedom into the public square -- is remarkable coming from a man who had once dominated that square. Although Zhao now speaks from the grave in this moving and riveting memoir, his voice has the moral power to make China sit up and listen.
 

About Zhao Ziyang

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Bao Pu, a political commentator and veteran human rights activist, is a publisher and editor of New Century Press in Hong Kong. Renee Chiang is a publisher and the English editor of New Century Press in Hong Kong. As a teacher in Beijing in 1989, she was an eyewitness to the Tiananmen Square crackdown. Adi Ignatius is an American journalist who covered China for the Wall Street Journal during the Zhao Ziyang era. Formerly, the deputy managing editor of Time magazine, he is now editor-in-chief of the Harvard Business Review. Norman Dietz is a writer, an actor, and a solo performer. Since 1962, he has toured coast to coast, presenting his work before audiences all over the United States and Canada. He is the author of the comic novel Nailing It, as well as Fables & Vaudevilles & Plays and The Lifeguard and the Mermaid, collections of his work for the stage. Norman has also performed frequently on radio and television, and he has recorded over 150 audiobooks, many of which have earned him awards from AudioFile magazine, the ALA, and Publishers Weekly. Additionally, AudioFile named Norman one of the Best Voices of the Century. He lives in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.
 
Published May 19, 2009 by Simon & Schuster. 348 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, History, Political & Social Sciences, Travel. Non-fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for Prisoner of the State

The Washington Post

When Zhao Ziyang, the former Chinese premier who in 1989 had opposed using military force against student protesters, died four years ago, China's top leaders formed an "Emergency Response Leadership Small Group," declared "a period of extreme sensitivity," put the People's Armed Police on specia...

May 17 2009 | Read Full Review of Prisoner of the State: The Se...

London Review of Books

In the afternoon of 23 April 1989, China’s highest-ranking official, the Party’s general secretary Zhao Ziyang, left from Beijing railway station for an official visit to North Korea.

| Read Full Review of Prisoner of the State: The Se...

Bookmarks Magazine

It is today’s China, where the nation’s leaders accept economic freedom but continue to resist political change. If Zhao had survived—that is, if the hard-line hadn’t prevailed during Tiananmen—he might have been able to steer China’s political system toward more openness and tolerance. Zha...

May 17 2009 | Read Full Review of Prisoner of the State: The Se...

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