The "From Beijing to Palestine: Zhang Chengzhi's Journeys from Red Guard Radicalism to Global Islam" written by Lovell Julia follows the intellectual evolution of modern Chinese ethnographer, archaeologist, essayist, novelist and a poet Zhang Chengzhi. In this article, Lovell argues that the intellectual journey of Zhang Chengzhi proves that there is two phenomenon of great importance beyond and within China, they are; the engagement of Chinese people with the global Islam and the Cultural Revolution and legacy of the Maoist. In 2012, Zhang Chengzhi had visited a Palestinian camp in Jordan to do some donation from the profits he got from selling his book "A history of the soul". Considering that Zhang was a follower and an advocate of Cultural Revolution and the fact in the 1980s he led the "individualistic literary avant-garde", Julia Lovell seeks to understand and explain how he Zhang later found himself in a refugee camp in Palestine mixing with other international rhetoric, Muslims, and Chinese. I think the author has a very good introduction to her essay and she manages to grab the attention of the readers by putting some interesting questions about the main character in the article Zhang Chengzhi.
The author of this article Julia Lovell begins by describing the mission Zhang Chengzhi undertook of visiting a refugee camp in Jordan. Since the people in this country are Arabic and he is Chinese, Zhang had prepared himself on how he will convey his message apart from giving out the 500 envelopes filled with some cash. Through the use of banners and ZHnag used some characters such as zhengyi to represent righteousness and others such as Jihad representing "struggle" and diligence (Lovell, 2016). From this description, I think Zhang was a committed and well-organized individual whose main aim was to help the humankind and in this case the Muslims in Jordan. Nevertheless, I think the article explains this outing of Zhang very well and one clearly figure out how his Palestine mission went about. Furthermore, from the description of the mission and the things that Zhang said in Palestine charity work, it clear to see he wanted a better world. For example, he says "This letter calls on us to march towards internationalism, global righteousness, and social justice" and overall I think he gave out a good speech.
Nevertheless, I find it interesting and extraordinary just as the author does that Zhang gave out such a speech leave alone going on such a mission. I think even in the present cultural and political context of China, this was not predictable. More so, his background as an atheistic Red Guard did not give a hint that in the future he would undertake or be involved in such activities.
Another aspect I like about this article is how it describes the Zhang biography and how it describes his academic overview. More importantly is how the article connects Zhang biography precisely his background to the practice of Cultural Revolution Maoism in China. Additionally, his career overview description helps to understand why Zhang might have changed to become an internationalist and a defender of the Muslim at large. His career shows the complexity of literary and intellectual dissent in modern China. Zhang academic life enabled him to think critically about the Chinese culture and major factors that influenced the growth of China as a country. I think his academic life is what made him be a pro-Western advocate and an anti-Communist. Due to this, Zhang tends to get involved in some rebellious activities against the structure of the Chinese politics and the market economy.
The description of Zhang's intellectual journey is another interesting aspect of this article. The authors manage to describe how Zhang came from being Red Guard or a cultural revolution Maoism to being a leader who advocates Islam globally. What I like about this description is that the author does not only shallowly describe how Zhang became part of Global Islam but she analyses factors that could have contributed to this change and I think this is very important. The article describes how Zhang just like many Chinese was raised in a background that only supported Cultural Revolution and communism meaning him becoming a Red Guard was not a surprise. However, after continuous studies of other cultures around the world and him connecting with different people, Zhang was able to forego the idea of being a Red Guard. What I also find amazing is how Zhang refuse to discredit or curse Cultural Revolution but instead he "thanks the revolution for giving him a chance to roam all around China and interact with his fellow citizens" (Lovell, 2016).
All in all, this article has helped me gain an extra understanding of the Cultural Revolution and more so how it is like to experience it as Zhang Chengzhi did. Additionally, I also think that regardless of the flaws and inconsistencies the Zhang's Muslim Maoism have, it deserves credit mainly because of how it combines political heterodoxy and orthodoxy. The description of Zhang's career and life makes me have a broader definition of what Maoist legacies really are in contemporary China.
Lovell, J. (2016). From Beijing to Palestine: Zhang Chengzhi's Journeys from Red Guard Radicalism to Global Islam. The Journal of Asian Studies, 75(4), 891-911.
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