The Melancholy Pop Idol Who Haunts China

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Media Outlet: The New Yorker

Teng’s influence was particularly powerful in China, which her parents had fled after the revolution. As an index of personal desires and romantic possibilities, the Communist regimes would occasionally ban Teng’s music as decadent and pornographic. Her syrupy ballads came to represent a foil to Party chairmen like Deng Xiaoping, whose family name she shared. There was a popular saying that, by day, everyone listened to “old Deng” because they had to. At night, everyone listened to “little Teng” because they wanted to.

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Hua Hsu is a New America fellow, working on a study of immigrant culture and American ideas around diversity. He is an associate professor at Vassar College, a contributor to the New Yorker, and an executive board member of the Asian American Writers Workshop.