Ragnar Baldursson, Icelandic diplomat and Sinologist introduces his book Nineteen Seventy-Six, Penguin China Special, which will be available on 1 October.
China's political shifts and changes have invariably taken Western China Watchers by surprise. The events of the Fire Dragon Year 1976, when China was hit by the Tangshan earthquake, Chairman Mao passed away and Chairman Hua was introduced as his successor, were just as shocking to most spectators as the launching of the Cultural Revolution ten years earlier. And few expected China to embark on the path of economic reform and international integration as a result. But there is certain dialectical logic in the convulsions characterizing China’s path towards modernization that can be traced to its ancient traditions and ideology.
The events of 1976 convulsed China: Mao died, the Gang of Four fell, hundreds of thousands perished in the Tangshan earthquake. Ragnar Baldursson, an idealistic true believer in the Chinese socialist experiment, was one of the few foreigners present to witness these events. Forty years on, living in a very different China, Ragnar revisits his experiences as a student in Beijing, offering rare glimpses of life during this turbulent and decisive year.
Ragnar Baldursson is a diplomat and scholar of Chinese philosophy. He is the Deputy Chief of Mission at the Embassy of Iceland in Beijing and has served in the Icelandic foreign ministry for over 20 years. Ragnar was one of the first foreign students admitted to study at Peking University in the 1970s where he gained a BA in Philosophy. He has translated the Analects of Confucius and the Daodejing into Icelandic.