One of the first researchers allowed in China. So, a snapshot of the era. The Cultural Revolution was over -- the young men and women had grown up in it -- and the Four Modernizations, such as they were, were in full swing, and their anti-population movement had just started the one-child policy. This covers mostly what he saw while settled in the Pearl River Delta. (For his road-trip, see A Journey to the Forbidden China)
So, an overview of that time. Their households and the ease with which people go in and out. How they say not "how are you?" but "have you eaten?" and it's more complimentary to talk of how much food there is than of how good it is. The enormous bureaucracy with its 24 grades -- though only at 17th does it start to acquire privileges, and there's another ramp up at 13th and 7th; 18th and inferior are generally such part of the populace. The rampant corruption and theft. His adventures in first getting a van registered and then (fruitlessly) trying to get his own license.
There was one (1) man who had actually denounced his father in struggles, despite many stories of it in the Chinese press. Furthermore, this man's father had fled to Hong Kong, and remarried without ever again communicating with his first wife and children, so he suffered no harm, and the son probably had more than revolutionary fervor behind his attacks on his landlord father. Nevertheless, this was regarded with contempt.
Children and schooling. One effect of the Cultural Revolution was to bring education into contempt. Nevertheless, it was picking up and getting much more rigorous -- though speaking of the standards of the Cultural Revolution make it clear it was hard for it to get much worse. It also locked children in a college preparatory course when the great majority would never come close. Even those with bad family backgrounds who would never be permitted had to take that course.
The young people who grew up in the Cultural Revolution and what affects it had on them. The courtships and marriages -- you arrange to sit by someone at the movies through a go-between, and after three or four, you are able to talk to each other.
The women, for whom the chief effect of the Revolution is now they have to work in the fields as well as in their households. And now the anti-birth campaigns for which they are now the chief target. Pregnant women forced to meeting where they will be fined if they don't go and lose their days' wage if they do until they "think clear."
And the brief febrile excitement of political campaigns, which then have their life drained out of them by the relentlessly high pitch they are carried to. Some stories of the victims of the Cultural Revolution. And the way the peasants, if you got past the rote responses by asking when life was better, personally, for them, would praise the Republic.
Lots of stuff.