“If you’re trying to understand China the language issues are secondary. The real problem is this is a country ruled through the suppression of historical memory. The Communists’ legitimacy rests on the claim that only stultifying bureaucracy and patriarchy can keep it together; that it is “not ready” for democracy; indeed that it was never ready.

“But delve into Chinese literature, and history, and a more much more complex picture emerges. After the May Fourth 1919 protests, the intelligentsia embraced modernity and fought for it. The early 20th century produced the Chinese Dickens and a whole legion of Orwells. The late 20th century produced a generation of novelists whose sufferings during the Cultural Revolution pushed them towards everything from magic realism to cyberpunk.

“What follows are 10 books that influenced me in the writing of Rare Earth: five must-read Chinese novels, five western-authored non-fiction books worth reading.”

Read his Paul Mason’s list in the Guardian

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