Book Review Beijing Confidential by Jan Wong

With this decade’s Olympic interest in Beijing having already reached its peak, I still found a lot of reasons to read Jan Wong’s Beijing Confidential: Lost and Found in the Forbidden City. Jan Wong is not exactly a local, but she’s of Chinese origin and has spent many years both living in and reporting about China, and in particular Beijing. You may have heard of her more famous book Red China Blues, but I prefer this newer book.

51vni25fdnl_sl500_aa240_The main story of Wong’s Beijing Confidential narrative is intriguing: when Wong was a university student in China, she “dobbed in” a Chinese girl she met who had asked her for advice on getting to the west. Wong’s guilty conscience had worried about this for decades, and she finally wanted to know what had happened to this girl. This premise for her trip leads to all kinds of interesting discussions of life under Mao and the developments since.

Wong does find the girl she feels she wronged – but what has happened to her is something I won’t give away. The rest of the book tells a lot more about Beijing, such an important world city that seems impossible to understand from a distance. It’s very readable and may not make you want to jump on the next plane to Beijing, but you will certainly feel you know the city a bit better.