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Classmates: Portraits of a Chinese Generation

Song Liming lost his virginity on a chilly day in February 1982 to an Italian temptress named Antonella in Building 10 of the Foreign Students Dormitory at Nanjing University, while Antonella’s ex-, an avuncular German named Uli, was knocking on the door outside. Song was 21 and China was changing. Song hailed from Yancheng, a small city near the shores of the Yellow Sea in Jiangsu province, 200 miles north of Nanjing. During the Cultural Revolution, Song’s father, a small-time official in the Grain Bureau, embraced the insanity of the time and joined a radical faction of the Red Guards, called the Eager Gallopers – taken from a poem by Chairman Mao. Song’s father spent several years interrogating (and often, Song feared, brutalizing) officials at a May 7 Cadre School, established in 1967 to remold errant bureaucrats through hard labor and intense ideological indoctrination. Barely an elementary school graduate, Song’s father lionized the schools’ usefulness in “strengthening the dictatorship of the proletariat” in an article published by the People’s Daily – the mouthpiece of the

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