Entry updated 29 September 2020. Tagged: Author.
(1953- ) Chinese political activist and author, whose sole genre novel to date was banned in the People's Republic but widely read among overseas Chinese. The son of a screenwriter and the vice-president of an automobile factory, Wang was exiled to the Chinese countryside from 1969-1973 for "re-education" during the Cultural Revolution. His father committed suicide in 1968. Rehabilitated as a model worker and permitted to attend the Jilin University of Technology, Wang subsequently became a shop-floor worker art his father's old factory, before becoming a full-time author in 1980.
His first published fiction, the novella "Yongdongji Huanzhe" ["Victim of a Perpetual Motion Machine"] (1983 Jintian) was an allegory of Chinese Politics, in which a farmer attempts to lift his family out of poverty with the Invention of the titular device. His most notorious work is the Near-Future Huang Huo ["Yellow Peril"] (1991, trans by Anton Platero as China Tidal Wave: A Novel, 2008), initially published as by Bao Mi (literally "Keep Secret"). A sprawling, and complex Disaster story, its title refers not to racist fiction (see Yellow Peril), but to the Yellow River, the banks of which burst during a freak double-typhoon, inundating major population centres and setting in motion a sequence of further catastrophes, culminating in nuclear war. Drawing heavily on doomsday scenarios of Overpopulation, Climate Change and Future War, Wang's apocalypse includes political unrest in breakaway provinces, attacks by Russia and Taiwan, and the rise of an extremist Ecology organization, the Green Guards, all of which of which ensured that his book was banned in the People's Republic of China. The book also contained several Sex scenes, including orgiastic rituals at a Beijing temple, sure to have shocked an establishment that was already censuring the comparatively tame works of Wei Yahua.
As genre fiction, Huang Huo is preachy and turgid, suffering, as do many disaster novels, from a cast of thousands that fails to produce a single memorable character; indeed some of Wang's mouthpieces even apologize within the narrative for their long-winded Infodumps. As a parable of worst-case scenarios for the End of the World, it is an intriguing exercise rivalling similar efforts by Sakyō Komatsu or Kim Stanley Robinson. Its closing chapters find China with only enough food to feed 500 million of its 1.3 billion population, while bureaucrats debate the logistics of "wasting" precious fuel to deliver food aid to doomed citizens. As Nuclear Winter looms, the US invades South America to seize provisions, while China sinks into barbarism. The final appearance of the female lead is as a victim of gang-rape by cannibal savages, an event of bleak desolation that, perhaps deliberately, overshadows a vague image of hope in the epilogue. Wang resigned from the Chinese Writers' Association in 2001, and was forced to step down as chairman of China's first non-governmental Ecology organization in 2003. Much of his nonfiction work (largely unlisted here) concerns modern controversies in China, particularly regarding Tibet and Xinjiang (East Turkestan), for which he is frequently placed under house arrest during periods of unrest. [JonC]
born Changchun, China: 2 May 1953
- Huang Huo ["Yellow Peril"] (Hong Kong: Mingjing Chubanshe, 1991) [pb/]
- Tianzang: Xizang de Miyun ["Sky Burial: The Fate of Tibet"] (Hong Kong: Mingjing Chubanshe, 1998) [nonfiction: pb/]
- Tianzang: Xizang de Miyun ["Sky Burial: The Fate of Tibet"] (Taipei: Da Kuai Chubanshe, 2009) [nonfiction: second edition of the above: pb/]
- Wo de Xicheng, Ni de Dongtu ["My West China, Your East Turkestan"] (Taipei: Da Kuai Chubanshe, 2007) [nonfiction: pb/]
- The Struggle for Tibet (London: Verso, 2009) [nonfiction: with Tsering Shakya: pb/]
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