Foreword Reviews

When the Red Gates Opened

A Memoir of China's Reawakening

Clarion Rating: 4 out of 5

Dori Jones Yang’s memoir is an enthralling account of her love affair with China that’s replete with drama, disappointment, progress, and hope.

Dori Jones Yang’s memoir of personal and professional triumphs is When the Red Gates Opened; it includes a fascinating, front-row look at China’s recent history.

Yang began to prepare for her career as a foreign correspondent in China even before the country reopened for international business. After graduating from Princeton, she studied Mandarin in Singapore, then pursued a graduate degree while writing articles for the China Business Review.

Yang parlayed these experiences into a full-time, albeit low-level, job at BusinessWeek. By the time Deng Xiaoping and Jimmy Carter signed an agreement that ended twenty-nine years of hostility, Yang was ready. Although shy, she convinced her boss to allow her to helm the magazine’s Hong Kong bureau. Yang’s personal and professional growth—she was at first hesitant to cold call strangers, but grew toward interviewing movers and shakers in China for cover stories—paralleled the nation’s progress. After being closed to outsiders, the country blossomed to welcome foreign business and influence.

In addition to her accounts of beginning a romance with a Chinese expatriate whom she later married, and to personal details about her relationships with family and friends, Yang describes major cultural events in China during her time there, as well as her experiences as a woman in a field dominated by men. Related anecdotes include a well-regarded colleague trying to hit her breasts with a wad of paper during an editorial meeting. In Hong Kong, she allied herself with other foreign women and hired women to work with her in the bureau.

The book opens with a scene at Tiananmen Square; it is framed by Yang’s arrival in Hong Kong in 1982 and her departure eight years later, following the killing of peaceful protestors on June 4, 1989. Although the events recounted occurred more than three decades ago, the narrative has immediacy thanks to Yang’s careful notes. Vibrant details of the settings couple with recreated conversations; at points, the book reads like a novel. Many of the issues relevant then, including China’s authority over Hong Kong and the roles of women in men-dominated workplaces, remain pertinent.

Dori Jones Yang’s memoir is an enthralling account of her love affair with China that’s replete with drama, disappointment, progress, and hope.

Reviewed by Suzanne Kamata

Disclosure: This article is not an endorsement, but a review. The author of this book provided free copies of the book and paid a small fee to have their book reviewed by a professional reviewer. Foreword Reviews and Clarion Reviews make no guarantee that the author will receive a positive review. Foreword Magazine, Inc. is disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

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