“Review of The Art of Useless”
The Journal of Asian Studies 81.3 (August, 2022): 575-576. DOI 10.1017/S0021911822000687
“In the morning, Deng Xiaoping rules; in the evening, Teresa Teng (Deng Lijun) rules,” went a popular saying in China during the 1980s. The late Chinese leader and Taiwanese singer are ideologically opposed and have nothing in common except for their investment in social change through (pop) culture. Analyzing the stark contrast between the two Dengs, Calvin Hui shows that the subjectivity of China’s middle class and new petty bourgeoisie is constructed by their cultural production and consumption. Before the arrival in China of Teresa Teng’s sentimental songs about love and nostalgia, revolutionary songs such as “We Are the Successors of Communism” and “Glory to the Red Sun” dominated the Chinese pop music scene. Teng’s “decadent music,” as it is sometimes characterized in China, showed Chinese audiences how to express personal feelings as an individual rather than as a collective.