“Dori Jones Yang has given us two wonderful, East-West coming-of-age stories for the price of one.”

—Scott D. Seligman, author of The First Chinese American

When the Red Gates Opened:

A Memoir of China’s Reawakening

In the 1980s, after decades of isolation, China opened its doors—and Communism changed forever. As a foreign correspondent during this pivotal era, Dori Jones Yang fell in love with China and with a Chinese man. This memoir recalls the euphoria of Americans discovering a new China, as well as the despair of Tiananmen. 

A memoir both personal and geopolitical …

When China opened its doors in the 1980s, it shocked the world by allowing private enterprise and free markets. Dori Jones was among the first American correspondents to cover China under Deng Xiaoping, who dared to defy Maoist doctrine to try to catch up with richer nations. Though introverted, Dori used her fluency in Mandarin to get to know the ordinary people she met—people embracing opportunities that had once been unimaginable in China.

Soon, Dori fell for a Chinese man who had fled China with his family in 1949 and only recently returned. Together, they found the relatives his parents had left behind, who were just starting to hope for a better future. This euphoria—shared by American businesses and Chinese citizens alike—reached its peak in 1989, when a million peaceful protestors filled Tiananmen Square, demanding democracy. Dori lived that hope, as well as the despair that followed when the army opened fire. After Tiananmen, dejected and sure that the era of promising possibilities was over, she returned to America—only to watch as China resumed its growth.

 Written in a time when China’s rapid rise is setting off fears in Washington, When the Red Gates Opened offers insight into the daring policies that started it all.

Read a Short Excerpt

   For once, as a foreigner, I am not the center of attention. No one asks my opinion. They are being unbelievably open and trusting, talking politics with strangers on the street, and they want to hear each other. They have lived Chinese history and politics, so their understanding goes far deeper than that of any foreign analyst. Yet their government has, as usual, kept them in the dark about important decisions it has made.

“The army is coming, for sure,” says another man. “I hear that they are about to declare martial law.”

“Who has the guns? When people die, the world will know who killed them.”

“No, no, no! The People’s Liberation Army protects the people. They will not kill anyone.”

I soak up their anxiety, their urgency, their candidness. The barriers that have kept me an outsider have fallen. These Chinese are reaching out and drawing me into their world—at its most fragile and sensitive moment.

            I realize I have crossed the final border. This isn’t just the biggest story of my journalistic career. It is my story, too, and I feel it from the inside out—like baijiu liquor that heats up your innards so much that your face flushes. Those are my children, too. In this very square, I once laughed when a stranger asked me to marry him. Now I have returned as the wife of a Chinese man, mother of a child whose blood runs back to the ancient origins of this country. As such, I am part of this family, related by marriage to both protestors and leaders

Two wonderful, East-West coming-of-age stories for the price of one

“Dori Jones Yang has given us two wonderful, East-West coming-of-age stories for the price of one: China’s metamorphosis from poor Communist backwater to quasi-capitalist powerhouse, and her own journey from rookie reporter in the male-dominated world of business journalism to respected foreign correspondent.”

 – Scott D. Seligman, author of The Third Degree: The Triple Murder That Shook Washington and Changed American Criminal Justice

A mesmerizing tale of struggle, history, and real guts

“Captivating!  A pioneering female foreign correspondent, she captures the story of a young gal finding her way—as a journalist and as a woman.  Her evolution intersects with dynamic world events, resulting in a mesmerizing tale of personal struggle, vibrant history, and real guts.”

  – Marianne Lile, author of Stepmother: A Memoir

Saga of opportunity, challenge, frustration, reward, and tenacious love

“Younger readers will see today’s China more clearly after they ingest this saga of opportunity, challenge, frustration, reward, and tenacious love. As America’s relations with China stumble today, looking back to the decade of Yang’s encounter with China is more important than ever.”

Robert A. Kapp, former president, US-China Business Council

Two wonderful, East-West coming-of-age stories

“Dori Jones Yang has given us two wonderful, East-West coming-of-age stories for the price of one: China’s metamorphosis from poor Communist backwater to quasi-capitalist powerhouse, and her own journey from rookie reporter in the male-dominated world of business journalism to respected foreign correspondent.”

—Scott D. Seligman, author of The Third Degree: The Triple Murder That Shook Washington and Changed American Criminal Justice

A mesmerizing tale of struggle, history, and guts

“Captivating!  A pioneering female foreign correspondent, she captures the story of a young gal finding her way—as a journalist and as a woman.  Her evolution intersects with dynamic world events, resulting in a mesmerizing tale of personal struggle, vibrant history, and real guts.” 

—Marianne Lile, author of Stepmother: A Memoir

Connecting generations and cultures through the lives of ordinary people

Dori Jones Yang is a writer who aims to build bridges between cultures and between generations. Author of a wide variety of books for different audiences, she loves to explore different countries, explain complex issues in understandable language, and make history come alive. 

Author Comments

Researching and writing this memoir felt like time travel—back to the most extraordinary period of my life. To enhance my memories, I reviewed my personal journals, appointment calendars, reporter’s notebooks, and articles I published in the 1980s. This journey into the past brought back funny and fateful moments, painful and awkward episodes, and surprising insights into my own history and that of China. For me, this book is the culmination of my writing life.

Author’s Comments

Researching and writing this memoir felt like time travel—back to the most extraordinary period of my life. To enhance my memories, I reviewed my personal journals, appointment calendars, reporter’s notebooks, and articles I published in the 1980s. This journey into the past brought back funny and fateful moments, painful and awkward episodes, and surprising insights into my own history and that of China. For me, this book is the culmination of my writing life.

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