Capitalist and Enlightenment Values in Chinese Fiction of the 1990s: The Case of Yu Hua’s Blood Merchant

  • Deirdre Sabina Knight


Recent reports of the HIV infection spreading through blood collection centers in China signal particularly troubling uncertainties about the effects of market transition on the bodies of Chinese citizens. Although health officials estimate that 840,000 Chinese citizens are HIV positive1, some doctors working in Henan Province worry that more than a million people there may have contracted the AIDS virus through selling blood.2 In light of these prognoses, a harrowing set of questions arises concerning what might have been taken as ironic metaphor in Yu Hua’s (1960-) prescient novel, Xu Sanguan mai xue ji (Xu Sanguan the blood merchant, literally Record of Xu Sanguan selling [his] blood) (1995).3 If the prospect of economically desperate peasants contracting HIV provokes a sense of outrage, the unease derives from convictions that the state should regulate such practices to protect its citizens. Yet, transition from Communist Party dominance over economic planning and industry to a still undefined mix of socialism and capitalist markets demands new negotiations of norms and values that can either enhance or jeopardize precisely such protections.


Chinese Literature Moral Luck Market Transition Chinese Citizen Blood Taker 
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© Charles A. Laughlin 2005

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  • Deirdre Sabina Knight

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