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China café

My wife shed tears over the lieutenant's death. But I had a more cynical explanation. Plus, our quiet hilltop village has turned into a refuge for Shanghai's capitalists

By Mark Kitto   February 2008

Role model wanted, ideally dead

I emerged from my study one evening recently to find my wife, who is Chinese, in tears in front of the television news. Between sobs she told me that a People’s Liberation army lieutenant had drowned trying to save a suicidal young girl.

The tragedy had taken place in Jinhua, a nearby town. Our local station was showing footage of the funeral. There were repeated—to my mind intrusive—close-ups of the widow weeping over the body, the coffin and then the casket. An enormous portrait of the lieutenant dominated the town square. Senior officers saluted.…

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