Thursday, October 4, 2012

Getting into China

Got through a couple of books while on hols, both China-related, both very different. 
Kate Teltscher's The High Road to China is about the British (or rather the East India Company's) obsessive urge to trade with China in the 1770s, which at that time was pretty much shut off to the world, trade in & out limited to Canton. So they tried another way, via Tibet, with the influence of the Panchen Lama. It didn't work, but it's a fascinating read. George Bogle, the young leader of the delegation, strikes a sympathetic character.
Simon Napier-Bell's I'm Going to Take You to Lunch is an altogether lighter affair, recounting the pop manager's successful attempt to bring Wham! to China in 1985, the first western pop group ever to play there (if one discounts Jean Michel Jarre in 1981). In all he made 17 trips to Beijing to convince the authorities that Wham! were what the people needed. Of course it was just a big publicity stunt to make them huge elsewhere, and ironically they split up shortly after.
There's a kind of conclusion you could draw from the two: the West's desperation to get into China, and China not being that bothered.  

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