“Country driving” and “Chinese lessons” comparison Essay (Book Review)

March 15, 2022 by Essay Writer

Updated: Apr 11th, 2019

Analytical Review

The two books illustrate the variations in cultures, infrastructures, and politics between China and the US. From the perceptions of two Americans on a visit to China, the books illustrate the progresses in infrastructure, economic development, and cultural change in China over the last few years.

In Chinese Lessons, Pomfret outlines what foreigners in the communist state go through, and details the differences between the American and the Chinese governments (Pomfret, 2006). On the other hand, Country Driving focuses on the Chinese infrastructures, and outlines the major industrial developments realized by their government in the last decade (Hessler, 2010). This paper reviews the two books by focusing on the progress gained by the Chinese government in the last few years.

Chinese Lessons

Through this book, Pomfret reveals to the readers the cultures and the histories of Chinese people (Pomfret, 2006). By doing so, the author fosters in their minds a remarkable and awful illustration of the Chinese governments in the past, present, and future. The book begins by focusing on the past awful experiences faced by the Nanjing University students in the early 1980s.

In one incident, the Chinese government leaders killed one of the country’s scholars for criticizing the government. Through this tragic incident, the author ridicules the communist leaders for their inhuman and barbaric acts. Having been raised in a democratic and civilized nation, the author’s experiences in China were bewildering.

Notably, the author was surprised that the international students in China were never allowed to live with the local students. To socialize with them, the author had to engage in social events. Equally, Pomfret was shocked when he realized that the Chinese government had outlawed all sports associated with the Westerners in the country (Pomfret, 2006).

Through the above illustrations, the author reveals to the readers how dictatorial and archaic the Chinese government were in the past. By doing so, the author educates the readers on several challenges foreign students may face through their exchange programs. Similarly, through these illustrations the author enlightens the readers about the advantages of capitalist governments over communist governments.

By focusing on Guan’s life, the author demonstrates how activists suffered under the communist government for speaking out their mind. Mao had encouraged the Chinese to speak out their minds during the Hundred Flowers Boom movement (Pomfret, 2006). Not knowing the trick behind Mao’s initiatives, those who spoke out their minds were later identified and punished by the ruler.

Guan’s father was among those punished for participating in the demonstration. Later on Guan was forced to denounce his father for her to access higher education. Through these, the author demonstrates to us how intellectuals can suffer under the leadership of dictatorial leaders. Thus, the book encourages us to condemn all the efforts by our governments to implement dictatorial policies.

Country Driving

Through this book, Hessler illustrates how the Chinese government has transformed its transportation industry in the past few decades (Hessler, 2010). By acknowledging that the country was still struggling with its past development plunders, the author reveals the positive side of the country’s infrastructure in the future.

This book consists of three parts. The first part of the book details the author’s adventures travelling by car in the rural China. Through this part, the author demonstrates to the readers that the Chinese people are hilarious and illuminating. Similarly, through this part the author manages to satirize the Chinese driving skills.

The author states that the average Chinese driving skills are suicidal. In addition, through the first part, we are able to identify the perception the Chinese government officials hold about Americans visiting their country. More than once, the Chinese police suspect that the author was an American spy.

In the second part of his book, Hessler portrays to us a different understanding of the Chinese culture. The author reveals the Chinese individuals as industrious, determined, and hospitable. To illustrate on the industriousness of the Chinese government, the author depicts how Chinese industrial towns have specialized in producing specific products they were gifted in. Similarly, the author notes that Chinese workers in these towns are interested in nothing but money.

On the other hand, the author illustrates the weakness of the Chinese government and private organization business policies. Through the book, we realize that the Chinese firms are so vulnerable to fluctuating international product prices. This implies that if the international demand for their products drop, the Chinese firms may be forced to close down due to their poor business plans. Similarly, through this book we are able to understand the country’s bribery and corruption systems.

The author details on Guanxi systems in China. These systems allow individuals to give and receive tokens for business related favors. According to the author, the system is so rampant that the government institutions have adopted it for their smooth operations. Through this book, we realize that the Chinese government is unconcerned with the vices.

The authors of the two books try to change the readers’ hard held perceptions about the Chinese people. Pomfret offers its readers a chance to enhance their global awareness. Many writers have written literatures about the Chinese, but few have managed to focus on the country’s issues as Pomfret does.

Despite his success in unraveling the Chinese cultures, I realized that the author stereotyped the Chinese people. He views the Chinese women as opportunists. Through this, the author promotes the stereotype held against the Asian American women in America. In America, Asian American women have been portrayed as promiscuous.

Through this, I strongly disagree with the author perceptions, as his illustration of the Chinese women may enhance prejudices against Asian people. Similarly, Hessler portrays a positive image about Chinese people contrary to what most foreigners believe. Normally, most foreigners believe that the Chinese have expanded their economy through unscrupulous means.

However, after reading this book, readers will realize that the Chinese individuals are industrious, and that they have struggled against the communist leaders to achieve their development success. Another similar attribute between the two books is their views on the future of the Chinese. Based on the current political, social, and economic changes in the country, the two authors believe that the Chinese future is bright.

The two authors trace the history of China under the leadership of communist leaders to the current leaders. Through this, the authors have illustrated every positive step the country has made towards achieving a democratic political space. By focusing on the country’s past, the two authors similarly portrayed economical achievements realized in the last decades.

Between the two books, I do find that County Driving meets its stated goal more than Chinese Lesson. As depicted in the book, Hessler focuses more on the positive attributes of the Chinese cultures and developments than Pomfret. Hessler, more often, portrays how China has transformed its infrastructures in the last decade to be among the best in the world.

While focusing on his experience, on Chinese factories, Hessler illustrates the industriousness of the Chinese firms. Through this, the author enables readers to understand why China is among the leading exporters of consumer products. Similarly, Hessler describes his experience with the Chinese families in a remote village.

From his interaction with them, we realize that the author realizes that the Chinese way of thinking is quite different from the way the Westerners perceive them. On the other hand, Pomfret focuses more on his struggles in China. As such, he illustrates how he struggled to learn their language, and come into terms with the injustices perpetuated by the communist government.

Through this, he focuses less on the positive attributes of the Chinese, thus reaffirming some of the stereotypes held about the Asian communities by the westerners. Since the two books were aimed at enhancing the Chinese image among the foreigners, Hessler’s book meets its stated goal more successfully.

For the students planning to undertake this course next year, the two books will provide an insight on the Chinese government operations. The students will be able to study the progress realized by the Chinese government in the last decade. Through these readings, the students will be able to identify the effects of communism on the Chinese government. Similarly, the students can analyze and evaluate the benefits the Chinese government has gained from its dramatic development changes.


Hessler, P. (2010). Country driving: a journey through China from farm to factory. New York: Harper.

Pomfret, J. (2006). Chinese lessons: five classmates and the story of the new China. New York: H. Holt.

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