The People’s Republic of Desires

encounters in contemporary China

Twenty years after she studied in China, Catherine Vuylsteke decided to write her first book on the world’s most populous nation. But she wanted to show a different picture: not one the land of uncountable consumers and opportunities for investors but a portrayal of the place that ordinary Chinese call home.

Therefore she did not limit her travels to the metropolitan areas in the east of the country. Vuylsteke visited numerous places in the countryside and went to many poor cities in the west. She looked into the economic reforms and their impact on the people. But at the same time she talked to all sorts of Chinese, especially to those whose voice is rarely heard. Gays, prostitutes, people that were forcefully evicted from their homes, former drug addicts and rural migrants, who usually only travel home once a year.

An acquaintance of hers, himself a playwright, came up with the idea for the title. Thirty years of Maoist madness not just made us move backward, it also ruined us morally. Neither God nor law has survived. We are in a hurry and desire rules. The desire of one fifth of humanity. They want it all and they want it now. Welcome to the People’s Republic of Desire’.