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The long-awaited memoir by Fang Lizhi, the celebrated physicist whose clashes with the Chinese regime helped inspire the Tiananmen Square protests Fang Lizhi was one of the most prominent scientists of the People's Republic of China; he worked on the country's first nuclear program and later became one of the world's leading astrophysicists. His devotion to science and the The long-awaited memoir by Fang Lizhi, the celebrated physicist whose clashes with the Chinese regime helped inspire the Tiananmen Square protests Fang Lizhi was one of the most prominent scientists of the People's Republic of China; he worked on the country's first nuclear program and later became one of the world's leading astrophysicists. His devotion to science and the pursuit of truth led him to question the authority of the Communist regime. That got him in trouble. In 1957, after advocating reforms in the Communist Party, Fang -- just twenty-one years old -- was dismissed from his position, stripped of his Party membership, and sent to be a farm laborer in a remote village. Over the next two decades, through the years of the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution, he was alternately denounced and rehabilitated, revealing to him the pettiness, absurdity, and horror of the regime's excesses. He returned to more normal work in academia after the death of Mao Zedong in 1976, but the cycle soon began again. This time his struggle became a public cause, and his example helped inspire the Tiananmen Square protests. Immediately after the crackdown in June 1989, Fang and his wife sought refuge in the U.S. embassy, where they hid for more than a year before being allowed to leave the country. During that time Fang wrote this memoir The Most Wanted Man in China, which has never been published, until now. His story, told with vivid detail and disarming humor, is a testament to the importance of remaining true to one's principles in an unprincipled time and place.


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The long-awaited memoir by Fang Lizhi, the celebrated physicist whose clashes with the Chinese regime helped inspire the Tiananmen Square protests Fang Lizhi was one of the most prominent scientists of the People's Republic of China; he worked on the country's first nuclear program and later became one of the world's leading astrophysicists. His devotion to science and the The long-awaited memoir by Fang Lizhi, the celebrated physicist whose clashes with the Chinese regime helped inspire the Tiananmen Square protests Fang Lizhi was one of the most prominent scientists of the People's Republic of China; he worked on the country's first nuclear program and later became one of the world's leading astrophysicists. His devotion to science and the pursuit of truth led him to question the authority of the Communist regime. That got him in trouble. In 1957, after advocating reforms in the Communist Party, Fang -- just twenty-one years old -- was dismissed from his position, stripped of his Party membership, and sent to be a farm laborer in a remote village. Over the next two decades, through the years of the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution, he was alternately denounced and rehabilitated, revealing to him the pettiness, absurdity, and horror of the regime's excesses. He returned to more normal work in academia after the death of Mao Zedong in 1976, but the cycle soon began again. This time his struggle became a public cause, and his example helped inspire the Tiananmen Square protests. Immediately after the crackdown in June 1989, Fang and his wife sought refuge in the U.S. embassy, where they hid for more than a year before being allowed to leave the country. During that time Fang wrote this memoir The Most Wanted Man in China, which has never been published, until now. His story, told with vivid detail and disarming humor, is a testament to the importance of remaining true to one's principles in an unprincipled time and place.

30 review for The Most Wanted Man in China: My Journey from Scientist to Enemy of the State

  1. 4 out of 5

    Horace Derwent

    Dr. Fang and His Holiness, Dalai Lama XIV, New York, 1991 Dr. Fang and His Holiness, Dalai Lama XIV, New York, 1991

  2. 4 out of 5

    Carol

    The Man Most Wanted in China by Fang Linzhi is a very informative and enjoyable memoir. I had remembered hearing about him on TV during the Tiananmen Square Massacre back in 1989. But I didn't know much about him. There is a foreword by the translator, Perry Link that sums up Fang’s beliefs and his real connection to the massacre. Instead of actually inciting them, Fang had came to a conclusion about communism and science. He could understand science and enjoy the freedom to doubt, to ask, to re The Man Most Wanted in China by Fang Linzhi is a very informative and enjoyable memoir. I had remembered hearing about him on TV during the Tiananmen Square Massacre back in 1989. But I didn't know much about him. There is a foreword by the translator, Perry Link that sums up Fang’s beliefs and his real connection to the massacre. Instead of actually inciting them, Fang had came to a conclusion about communism and science. He could understand science and enjoy the freedom to doubt, to ask, to respect other people’s questions but he could not accept dogma of any kind. He was not a leader of a revolution, he was fighter for truth. He starts his story with his ancestors and explains some Chinese culture along with it. His sense of humor and the way that he told his life story made me feel very comfortable. It was like he was sitting in a chair beside me and chatting. His personality shown through his writing. His father stayed away from political discussion but his mother was a rebel. She could speak four dialects and played the accordion. She may be his inspiration for him to seek the truth. He was not just an astrophysicist. He was recruited by Mao Zedong to work on building the atomic bomb. At the age of twelve he became a member of a secret group in high school. He did not know much about it except that he would not have to leave his family. In actuality, he had joined the Communist revolution. His life was a series of being in favor and out of favor with the government. In 1957 he was sent to the countryside. He learned pig farming, mining and all sorts of different jobs of country people and had great respect for them and enjoyed being with them. Back and forth, his work life and even social life determined by the government. He and his future wife had wanted to get married but he had to leave for his "reforming". So they had to “freeze” their relationship until later. He loved talking to his students and in part got him into trouble and forced him and his wife to leave his beloved homeland. Fang is a great story teller and knows just the right amount of detail to make you keep reading. I really enjoyed the parts about the different provinces of China that he lived in. When he was out of favor, he published under a different name. That struck me with irony. It made me think of the screenwriters of Hollywood publishing under a pseudonym because they had been accused of being Communists! I would recommend this book to anyone interested in science and/or political systems. I received an Advance Reading Copy of this book as a win from LibraryThing from the publishers in exchange for a fair book review. My thoughts and feelings in this review are totally my own.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Thomas

    I really enjoyed reading this book. I want to thank LibraryThing and the publisher, Henry Holt, for sending me this book in return for an honest review. Fang Lizhi was a physicist whose clashes with the Chinese government helped inspire the Tiananmen Square protests. He wrote this autobiography while living at the US embassy in Beijing. The Chinese authorities had issued a warrant for his arrest. He was there 13 months with his wife, while the US and Chinese governments negotiated an agreement t I really enjoyed reading this book. I want to thank LibraryThing and the publisher, Henry Holt, for sending me this book in return for an honest review. Fang Lizhi was a physicist whose clashes with the Chinese government helped inspire the Tiananmen Square protests. He wrote this autobiography while living at the US embassy in Beijing. The Chinese authorities had issued a warrant for his arrest. He was there 13 months with his wife, while the US and Chinese governments negotiated an agreement to allow him to leave China. Besides being a brilliant scientist, He writes very well, easily understood by a lay person. He begins his story as a child and carries through to his exile in the US. He has an engaging sense of humor. P.146: "even after death a a suicide victim could be targeted for denunciation" Quoting Deng Xiaoping, p.253: "people are taking advantage of our constitution!" (referring to Tiananmen protests) Fang's comment;"Here Deng established in a single blow that one characteristic of 'Chinese democracy' is that citizens lack the right to take their constitution litarally." Fang was sent for reeducation/punishment several times-a farm, a coal mine and digging a railroad tunnel by hand. To treat such a brilliant scientist so poorly speaks ill of any government. But I should point out that the US government treated some of its own scientists in a simlar manner during the McCarthyism scare. Also, the Roman Catholic church prohibited people who committed suicide burial in "consecrated ground" until the 90s. I give it 5 out of 5 stars

  4. 4 out of 5

    Marge

    This is a fascinating account of life in China as experienced by a man who started out as an idealist Marxist and went through much privation during the Cultural Revolution. He truly did get re-educated during his work assignments in a poor farm village, a coal mine, and a brick factory, where he saw that the proletariat were victims of the state. As a scientist, everything he experienced went against his intellectual honesty. As a university official, he encouraged students to voice their opini This is a fascinating account of life in China as experienced by a man who started out as an idealist Marxist and went through much privation during the Cultural Revolution. He truly did get re-educated during his work assignments in a poor farm village, a coal mine, and a brick factory, where he saw that the proletariat were victims of the state. As a scientist, everything he experienced went against his intellectual honesty. As a university official, he encouraged students to voice their opinions as provided in the Chinese constitution. A warrant for his arrest was issued after the Tiananman Square massacre made him seek refuge in the U.S. embassy, where he lived for 13 months and wrote this memoir as well as a number of scientific papers. His tale exposes the corruption and lawlessness in this so-called rule of the proletariat, which is actually a vicious and amoral dictatorship.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Cat

    I confess, when receiving this book, part of me said “this is important, I must read it” and another part said “ummm will it be depressing?” Well, it IS important but it was inspirational. Yes, Lizhi went through hell for his scientific beliefs but he never gets maudlin about it. He tells his story full of details and history of a China we do not know. He explains how he gets into trouble, but he owns his trouble, is proud of it even as he is being punished with backwards farming, or backbreakin I confess, when receiving this book, part of me said “this is important, I must read it” and another part said “ummm will it be depressing?” Well, it IS important but it was inspirational. Yes, Lizhi went through hell for his scientific beliefs but he never gets maudlin about it. He tells his story full of details and history of a China we do not know. He explains how he gets into trouble, but he owns his trouble, is proud of it even as he is being punished with backwards farming, or backbreaking mining. He seems to thrive on pointing out the flaws in Mao’s China. He never runs from the consequences and does his best to keep other, younger students from standing out as targets when all he really wants is to see China advance in the sciences. This could almost pass for a novel, it is so full of passion, aftershocks, and all that a man can gain and lose from telling the truth. His writing and the translation are so down to earth, you wish you could sit on a porch and discuss any topic. He is a hero who never considered himself as such. Perhaps those are the only true heroes. An advanced reader’s copy of this book was provided for an honest review.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Caroline

    Fang LiZhi's memoir traces his emotional and philosophical journey. As a child, he revered Mao Tze Tung and believed in the Communist movement, but as he became involved in science, more specifically the realm of physics where facts ruled, he found conflicts in Mao's policies. As a result of a letter coauthored by himself, a friend and his girlfriend, they were branded reactionaries, removed from their posts in their respective universities and sent to rural areas to perform hard labor. Fang's h Fang LiZhi's memoir traces his emotional and philosophical journey. As a child, he revered Mao Tze Tung and believed in the Communist movement, but as he became involved in science, more specifically the realm of physics where facts ruled, he found conflicts in Mao's policies. As a result of a letter coauthored by himself, a friend and his girlfriend, they were branded reactionaries, removed from their posts in their respective universities and sent to rural areas to perform hard labor. Fang's honest and at times humorous reflections provide an insight into the inconsistencies and at times cruel policies under Mao's rule, how he adapted to survive while retaining his integrity and what he did to strive towards change.

  7. 4 out of 5

    David

    Enormously entertaining account of a brilliant, accidentally famous dissident who was lucky enough to have a great sense of humor. His experiences during the Cultural Revolution and the Great Leap forward are particularly illuminating, and his mindset brings to mind Czech dissidents of the 70s and 80s who couldn't bring themselves to be terrified by a regime that employed so many idiots.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Steven Hsu

    Remarkable first-hand account of life in China under Communism.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Stephen Douglas Rowland

    Fang Lizhi is an admirable man, and I, for the most part, like the relaxed, almost colloquial tone in which this memoir is written. Yet, it still manages to be tedious from time to time, relaxed (given the circumstances) to the point of almost being comatose. And while his attitude is commendable, it doesn't always make for interesting reading. Still worth it for fans of modern Chinese history and dissidents.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Ash

    Written during his asylum/captivity at the US Embassy in Beijing following a warrant issued by the Chinese government for his and his wife's arrest shortly after the Tiananmen Square Massacre. While he did not play a direct role in the students' protest, he laid the foundation for their dissident behavior: demanding the rights in their constitution and having open discussions on improving their society/government. Joining the communist party early (when it was still underground), he spent most o Written during his asylum/captivity at the US Embassy in Beijing following a warrant issued by the Chinese government for his and his wife's arrest shortly after the Tiananmen Square Massacre. While he did not play a direct role in the students' protest, he laid the foundation for their dissident behavior: demanding the rights in their constitution and having open discussions on improving their society/government. Joining the communist party early (when it was still underground), he spent most of his life formally expelled. Eventually his technical/theoretical training as a scientist and his numerous re-education assignments convinced him that the operation of the Party is not internally consistent (its professed ideals are substantively absent from its practices) nor does it represent China's best interest. His interest in cosmology (ignited by a forced stint in a coal mine), placed him in direct opposition to Marxist dogma and on a path toward international admiration and official national denouncement. Fascinating account of disillusionment and the insane degree of upheaval to the general population caused by the communist dynasty in China.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Brian

    Lizhi's autobiography gave me the same feeling, while reading it, that I got the first time I read Richard Feynman's Surely You're Joking ...:. I can think of no higher praise than that. Lizhi has a charming style and directness. The book is sweet, entertaining, and enlightening. Lizhi's autobiography gave me the same feeling, while reading it, that I got the first time I read Richard Feynman's Surely You're Joking ...:. I can think of no higher praise than that. Lizhi has a charming style and directness. The book is sweet, entertaining, and enlightening.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Aaron Polish

    being a man who hate science I really have nothing to say about it, but the way things happened to him, it was crazy, who would thought bring a man into his own country only to hate him so much and try to ban him. The only thing that reminds me of him is .....me. I almost have the same life as him except for the science part. Good Job Fang and RIP.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Qmmayer

    Fang Lizhi was an accomplished (seemingly quite brilliant) scientist as well as a courageous, outspoken dissident in China. In this autobiography, he also shows himself to be an eloquent, engaging writer. No doubt some of the credit goes to the translator, Perry Link, but certainly the pacing, storytelling, themes and frequent humor all originate entirely from the author. Fang's overarching point is that the work of a true scientist is for the most part incompatible with living in an authoritari Fang Lizhi was an accomplished (seemingly quite brilliant) scientist as well as a courageous, outspoken dissident in China. In this autobiography, he also shows himself to be an eloquent, engaging writer. No doubt some of the credit goes to the translator, Perry Link, but certainly the pacing, storytelling, themes and frequent humor all originate entirely from the author. Fang's overarching point is that the work of a true scientist is for the most part incompatible with living in an authoritarian regime. A scientist must be an eternal skeptic, only accepting hypotheses that have been validated by facts. But unelected governments tend to demand blind loyalty and punish those who raise questions. That was certainly true in Fang's case, as he was ultimately forced to leave his home country for the U.S. This book is likely best for someone who already has some familiarity with China and its history. It is not heavily footnoted and some references are not widely known. For anyone with an interest in contemporary China, however, I would highly recommend it.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Jen

    This was a good read. I learned a lot about China, about communism and about that period of time. It was an excellent retelling of his path from absolute believer in the Party to empirical scientist and Chinese dissident. He was good at discussing very technical topics (astrophysics, for example) in a way that catered to non technical audiences. The forward by Perry Link seemed somewhat unnecessary and could have been covered the afterward (which he also did). He didn't touch much on his family This was a good read. I learned a lot about China, about communism and about that period of time. It was an excellent retelling of his path from absolute believer in the Party to empirical scientist and Chinese dissident. He was good at discussing very technical topics (astrophysics, for example) in a way that catered to non technical audiences. The forward by Perry Link seemed somewhat unnecessary and could have been covered the afterward (which he also did). He didn't touch much on his family life at all and so even though this was a lengthy book, it wasn't very personal for a memoir.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Victor Fang

    Interesting to see the political workings of the Chinese communist party and how they acted/reacted to Fang Li Zhi from both when Mao Zedong to Deng Xiaoping governed the state. Fang li zhi’s (often controversial) ideas contributed significantly to both science and political events like the Tiananmen square protests.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Whitney

    Full review at www.brownbooksandgreentea.com Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars Short Review: Fang Lizhi’s long awaited memoir will satiate the curiosity of those who followed his story. Riveting and intellectually challenging, it’s sometimes bogged down by extraneous detail. These book reviews are usually rather easy to write, but I struggled with this one. The Most Wanted Man in China: My Journey from Scientist to Enemy of the State has been almost as difficult to summarize as it was to read. That’s not b Full review at www.brownbooksandgreentea.com Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars Short Review: Fang Lizhi’s long awaited memoir will satiate the curiosity of those who followed his story. Riveting and intellectually challenging, it’s sometimes bogged down by extraneous detail. These book reviews are usually rather easy to write, but I struggled with this one. The Most Wanted Man in China: My Journey from Scientist to Enemy of the State has been almost as difficult to summarize as it was to read. That’s not because this book was uninteresting or in any way lacking– it’s because there’s so much to cover. Starting with the basics, author Fang Lizhi’s title is no hyperbole. He was, quite literally, the “most wanted man in China.” Along with his wife, he was labeled a dissident, which culminated in their 13-month hideout in the American embassy. This memoir was written during his stint in the embassy, while the United States and China engaged in a lengthy negotiation over his fate. Fang Lizhi begins his book by disclosing that there are Chinese police officers patrolling outside his window as he writes, hoping to catch him unawares. The official charge? Carrying out counterrevolutionary propaganda and incitement. The Most Wanted Man in China starts at the end, providing the main facts for those who are perhaps not well acquainted with his story. While forwards or introductions are oftentimes overlooked, this one demands to be read. The rest of the book is a sprawling history of Fang Lizhi’s life, from early childhood to the safe house. Fang Lizhi’s story is an extraordinary one through which to study Chinese political history, as he deeply understands the relationship of activism and academia, and the intricacies of reeducation through labor. The Most Wanted Man in China is lengthy and cumbersome, the product of a man whose brain holds much more information than the average person. This hinders its readability, making it feel more like a history or physics textbook at times. Yes, physics. It’s honestly not so unexpected once one remembers that Fang Lizhi was not merely an activist, but also an intellectual. He bounced around from cosmology to theoretical astrophysics (because that’s what normal folk do), and the book does too. Descriptions of his publications and academic work make this book even more cumbersome, but contribute to making this book authentically Fang Lizhi. I gave The Most Wanted Man in China 3.5 out of 5 stars because it’s an incredible read for scholars of Chinese history or international activism and human rights movements. Unfortunately, an otherwise riveting story was bogged down at time by extraneous commentary. Disclaimer: I received this book on NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Frank Peters

    This was both well written (translated from Chinese) and very interesting. It is the autobiography of a Chinese Physicist who lived through the intellectual chaos of communist China. Initially a strong supporter of Mao, the author became increasingly disenchanted by what Maoism offered. The re-education that he experienced in farms and mines seriously undermined the Marxist claims of the government, as it was evident that the proletariat were clearly just slaves of the communist state. Ultimatel This was both well written (translated from Chinese) and very interesting. It is the autobiography of a Chinese Physicist who lived through the intellectual chaos of communist China. Initially a strong supporter of Mao, the author became increasingly disenchanted by what Maoism offered. The re-education that he experienced in farms and mines seriously undermined the Marxist claims of the government, as it was evident that the proletariat were clearly just slaves of the communist state. Ultimately, Fang was blamed for the student protests at Tiananmen and eventually escaped to the US. Much of his autobiography was centred on how the search for truth and reality in Physics served to highlight the lack of consistency in communism. Highly recommended to anyone interested in China and Physics.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Azabu

    Love story and political observation, Fang composed the book in 1989 while he and his wife were in protective custody at the US Embassy in Beijing after he was expelled from the Party by Deng Xiaoping as the Ur dissident. The Party’s efforts to smear Fang by publishing excerpts of his speeches backfired, instead giving his reputation a ‘major boost’. If you can’t beat them join them was his attitude about how to instill change in the Party, a dangerous premise with his anti-Marxist stance. Yet h Love story and political observation, Fang composed the book in 1989 while he and his wife were in protective custody at the US Embassy in Beijing after he was expelled from the Party by Deng Xiaoping as the Ur dissident. The Party’s efforts to smear Fang by publishing excerpts of his speeches backfired, instead giving his reputation a ‘major boost’. If you can’t beat them join them was his attitude about how to instill change in the Party, a dangerous premise with his anti-Marxist stance. Yet he had no desire to escape since, like Milan Kundera, he found political trouble could be ‘oddly addictive’. A meditation on ‘Mao’s whip of power’ and courtship under duress, he vividly describes the sequence of events that led to the 1989 student uprising. Have you ever visited Tiananmen Square? It's massive, squelching bodies must have taken a lot of muscle.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Sarah Wagner

    A fascinating memoir of a Chinese scientist, whose life vividly displays the ups and downs of life under in Communist China. Growing up during World War II and coming of age as Mao Zedong rose to power, Fang Lizhi quickly found his passion for science at odds with Marxist dogma. Things didn't come to a head until the late 1980s, however, when Deng Xiaoping viewed him as a traitor and the political tension surrounding the Tiananmen Square protests propeled Fang Lizhi to seek asylum in the US emba A fascinating memoir of a Chinese scientist, whose life vividly displays the ups and downs of life under in Communist China. Growing up during World War II and coming of age as Mao Zedong rose to power, Fang Lizhi quickly found his passion for science at odds with Marxist dogma. Things didn't come to a head until the late 1980s, however, when Deng Xiaoping viewed him as a traitor and the political tension surrounding the Tiananmen Square protests propeled Fang Lizhi to seek asylum in the US embassy. Well-written and at times even humorous, this memoir is highly recommended to anyone interested in Chinese history of the last century.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Lesli

    Part personal history. Part political memoir. Very good read; but a little meandering. Probably fascinating for anyone interested in China or Chinese politics. I was a little startled to realize this only covers Fang Lizhi's life in China. Perry Link writes an afterword about the man's life in the US.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Donna Vaal

    How honorable is the life of one willing to place their own life at risk for another. Learning Chinese culture is a real plus. I love the line "leaves falling onto roots" to describe going home to die. II love this!

  22. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth

    As seen in The American Scholar: https://theamericanscholar.org/the-sp... As seen in The American Scholar: https://theamericanscholar.org/the-sp...

  23. 4 out of 5

    Ashleigh

    Brilliant book. As a former Physicist and someone who knows very little about China I thought this could be a really interesting and educational read and I was not disappointed.

  24. 5 out of 5

    K.W. Ji

  25. 5 out of 5

    Robert Zhang

  26. 5 out of 5

    Tung CHENG

  27. 4 out of 5

    Ina Cawl

  28. 4 out of 5

    Ruixue

  29. 4 out of 5

    Jin Li

  30. 5 out of 5

    George

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