The China Lovers

John Byron's first book was The China Lovers, which was a detective story set in the Beijing of the early 1980s, and which set out to describe the complex bureaucratic rivalries that were emerging in a society in which the ways of the Communist Party were being challenged by the policy of economic reform, and by the renaissance of a long-suppressed Chinese passion for the material and spiritual values of the outside world.  The China Lovers came out in 1985, published by the South China Morning Post.

Byron co-authored this book with David Bonavia, who was the correspondent for both The Times and the Far Eastern Economic Review in Beijing.   The idea of writing The China Lovers emerged during a well-lubricated lunch at the Minorities Hotel, on the western stretches of Chang'an Avenue where David Bonavia was living at the time.   Byron wrote the basic outline and the plot, while Bonavia added an enormous amount of colour and edited the text as it emerged from two different type writers.

Critical reception of The China Lovers emphasized the accuracy with which it portrayed the Chinese capital in the mid 1980s.   Writing in Asia Magazine Bert Okuley concluded that "what they have done is produce a very plausible account of the Peking of the mid-1980s."   In JETRO's China Newsletter Masaharu Hishida, the head of the China Section of JETRO, compared The China Lovers   with books by Anthony Grey, Gerard de Villiers, and Edward Behr and concluded that while these three authors did not "capture the flavour of the People's Republic," Bonavia and Byron draw "a true-to-life picture of modern China as shaken by the economic reforms and the opening to the West."

© John Byron - 2019