China: The Defining Moment

China: The Defining Moment

The evolution of the People’s Republic of China since its founding in 1949 has been tumultuous and bloody, and marked by the suffering of millions. It has been anything but peaceful. Yet it is precisely the prospect of “peaceful evolution,” which in Peking has the special meaning of the undermining of Party authority by Western “bourgeois liberalism,” that worries Chinese leaders. This explains why in 1992 Deng Xiaoping, already so infirm of speech that only his daughters could understand him and retransmit his utterances to a wider audience, said,

Hostile forces realize that so long as we of the older generation are still alive and carry weight, no change is possible. But after we are dead and gone, who will ensure that there is no peaceful evolution?

Deng’s successors are worried right now about the effects of his reforms, which allowed both private economic development and a variety of Western cultural influences, and ended the rigid commitment to the thought of Mao. They fear that the reforms have undermined the authority of the Party—which is true enough, although the Cultural Revolution and Tiananmen Square were also heavy self-inflicted blows. President Jiang Zemin, designated by Deng as the “core leader” in 1989, has been making many statements like the following: “We must strictly ban the cultural trash poisoning the people and social atmosphere and not sacrifice culture and ideology merely for a short period of economic development.”

iconDavid Levine. Copyright Matthew and Eve Levine.
Jiang Zemin, 1997

But while Deng feared what would happen after he went “to see Marx,” he was not afraid of further economic reforms or of opening China to foreign capitalism. Indeed, although on June 9, 1989, five days after the Tiananmen killings, he congratulated the army, “the Great Wall of Steel,” for its exploits, he insisted in the same remarks that economic reforms must not be slowed down. And in 1992, during his “southern tour” of China, almost the last time he appeared in public as more than a kind of zombie, he defied the devout Maoists or “leftists” who attacked his reforms as “peaceful evolution.” He insisted that “had it not been for the achievements of the reform and open policy, we could not have weathered June 4th. And if we had failed that test, there would have been chaos and civil war.”

In 1990 Deng told Pierre Trudeau, Canada’s former prime minister, that had China erupted in 1989, the result would not have been a mere Cultural Revolution. That cataclysm did not amount to a true civil war, Deng explained. But “if some so-called democratic fighters seize power, they’ll start fighting among themselves. As soon as civil war breaks out there’ll be rivers of blood.” Deng then spun off into a fantasy involving the flight of over 100 million Chinese from China. “It would be a global disaster.” In Mr. Deng’s opinion, what happened instead was an act of minimal common sense.

* * *

The British writer James Miles agrees with Deng that the Tiananmen repression was a defining “incident,” as the Chinese call it. His conclusion, however, is very different from Deng’s. One of the main contributions of his book is to show why the Tiananmen episode, despite the insistence of a growing number of American China scholars that it is no longer a live issue in China, will not be forgotten by many Chinese.

Mr. Miles reported from China for eight years, most of them for the BBC, for which he now broadcasts from Hong Kong. In The Legacy of Tiananmen, a sobering and convincing analysis of China’s present and its likely future, he says that he has had a “passion for things Chinese” since he was ten and began learning the language. This passion did not cloud his judgment. He arrived in China in 1986, when it was “austere, Stalinist, and backward,” and left in 1994, convinced that “prosperity may have increased in China but not enough to wipe out memories of decades of ruthless political campaigns. Nor has it boosted the morale of those who are on the losing side in the race to establish a market economy.” His book’s major contention is that “while China has changed in many important ways it is, if anything, less stable than it was in the buildup to the unrest of 1989.”

Despite his apocalyptic forebodings—he foresees that a Chinese “Pandora’s box of rivalry, hatred, vengefulness, and a myriad other destructive emotions will spill open”—Mr. Miles is a meticulous scholar and a laconic, dryly observant writer. He recalls how on June 3-4, 1989, tanks ground their treadmarks into Changan Boulevard, which leads into Tiananmen Square; the marks were mostly smoothed away, but if you listen carefully you can still hear “the faint, eerie hum produced by the tires of your vehicle as they passed over the indentations.” “Suppressing memories is one thing,” Mr. Miles says, “but erasing them is quite another.”

Is it true, as some claim, that the Tiananmen events happened seven years ago, and now that making money is the national obsession few care deeply about the uprising anymore? This is improbable if, as Mr. Miles estimates, between three and five thousand people were killed in Peking alone. The People’s Liberation Army had never before fired on civilians in the capital, and the number killed far exceeded those who died during the twentieth century’s periodic student uprisings in China. Indeed, in my opinion, the regime was unable to celebrate the Party’s seventy-fifth anniversary in Peking this June (just as the thirtieth anniversary of the beginning of the Cultural Revolution slid by unmarked ) because such celebrations always look back as well as forward. And Tiananmen, until it is “re-evaluated,” makes discussing the recent past impossible.

* * *

As Mr. Miles observes, if between three thousand and five thousand dead are multiplied by the number of their relatives and close friends, “the population profoundly affected by what happened is already substantial.” He adds to this the hundreds arrested after Tiananmen and their relations and friends, and the tens of thousands of others actively involved in attempting to block the troops from moving into the city for days before the final night. He thus believes that a “huge” number of Chinese were actively involved in the demonstrations, in one way or another. Although it may not show on their faces, he suggests, “the memories undoubtedly still haunt them.” And Peking was not alone. Mr. Miles visited the city’s Military History Museum a few weeks after the killings and saw a map showing over eighty cities in which demonstrations had occurred. The actual number, he supposes, was yet higher and he notes that even on the islet of Gulangyu in the Taiwan Straits “protesters took to the narrow streets in support of the students in Beijing.”1

What happened next was called qingcha, “ferreting out.” This was directed by Document Number Ten, kept secret to disguise from the public the extent of what was about to happen, especially because Deng had previously given the impression that yundong—campaigns to suppress entire groups—were a Maoist thing of the past. The targets for the ferreting were government organizations, educational establishments at every level, the press, radio, and television—everywhere, in fact, suspected of being a nest of counterrevolutionaries. Four million party members out of about forty million were to be investigated and “hostile elements, antiparty elements, and corrupt elements” were to be expelled or worse. The purge divided the party; internal documents, says Mr. Miles, indicate that there was some resistance. But “schooled in the art of lying through decades of political movements,” party members had become expert at the bogus self-confession. A friend of Mr. Miles, known to have been at the demonstrations, wrote an artfully phrased 10,000 words which managed to convey both contrition and, if circumstances later changed, a hint of opposition to the way the unrest had been crushed.

More than thirty thousand officials were sent throughout the country to ferret out not only what party members had actually done during Tiananmen but their lifelong attitudes. A friend of mine, accused of composing some of the pamphlets distributed in the square, was questioned eight hours a day for six months; he and his interrogators sat opposite each other at a small table on which always lay a pistol to remind him of his mortal danger. He escaped prison only because of the intervention of a Politburo member who was an old family friend. Mr. Miles criticizes those who want to play down Tiananmen. “Millions of people who had joined the protests, not to mention those who had played a leading role, lived in terror.” He goes on to say what is not widely enough known: that hundreds of thousands of ordinary people across China also demonstrated and were arrested and treated like common criminals.

The names of most of them are unknown to the Western media…. Even in the mid-1990s, cases of people imprisoned in connection with Tiananmen were still frequently coming to light for the first time.2

* * *

In addition to the festering wounds of Tiananmen, Mr. Miles identifies economic inequality as another source of instability and here too he challenges a myth: that China’s economic growth during the Deng period has been so broad and so fast that no one has time to be resentful. He refers to a 1993 World Bank report—which like other World Bank publications on China seems to concern a country unlike the one I have visited for many years. The 1993 report, revealingly called The East Asian Miracle, praises China for achieving low levels of inequality. Mr. Miles claims this is contrary to the experience of many Chinese who find that economic growth is actually increasing inequality. He cites a 1994 report by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences which warns of severe unrest if polarization, often the result of illegally gained income, continues. In a telling example Mr. Miles describes a nightclub near his flat in Peking where the price of admission exceeded two weeks’ wages for a factory worker. There, “attractive young female waitresses approached guests’ tables on their knees to take orders for drinks.”

So helter-skelter is the pursuit of money that in Chengdu in western China Mr. Miles found a street on which most shops, run by the police, sold

police equipment ranging from knives and electric cattle prods to police uniforms and insignia and the flashing light used on top of police cars…. This was going on in spite of repeated warnings in the national media that ‘fake policemen’ were everywhere, extorting money from ordinary citizens by demanding the payment of fines or bribes.

The trade in police equipment is only one of many examples of open official corruption. Mr. Miles recalls a song sung to the tune of “Frère Jacques” in Tiananmen Square: “Down with corrupt officials, oppose corruption.” In 1986, the Party General Secretary Hu Yaobang had begun an investigation of growing corruption in the Central Committee and Politburo. Because of his reputation among students as a rare honest official, his death in April 1989 set off a reaction which led to the Tiananmen uprising. Not by coincidence, in July 1989, a month after Tiananmen, new regulations banned the families of senior leaders from engaging in commerce.

Miles gives a list of some of the official families now involved in corrupt businesses. As he points out, “The relatives of retired revolutionaries—the real leaders of China—were not mentioned.” He could add to that list the Chinese who manufacture abroad the automatic weapons recently seized in the US; the FBI has named as responsible a weapons company of which one of Deng’s sons-in-law is an executive. One of his daughters is a regular visitor to Hong Kong, where she represents a property firm selling buildings just across the border. The Chinese military, sometimes known abroad as The People’s Liberation Army, Inc., “operated virtually outside the law,” Miles writes, managing thousands of enterprises from airlines to selling American ice cream. Miles also reports on a racket involving three hundred officers who sold demobilization papers to workers “so that they could enjoy the better housing and employment opportunities given to ex-servicemen.”

Some senior officials, Mr. Miles says, dislike the vulgarity and corruption arising from the Dengist reforms, and in his view they represent the views of many ordinary people as well. President Jiang has taken to calling for “spiritual reforms,” an old chestnut always available when it becomes important to savage the values of the West, but one that Jiang may now be using to strike a moral note in an atmosphere of greed and corruption. Chinese traditionally admire moral models: in the Mao period the Dazhai commune in northern China was celebrated for the spirit of selfless cooperation among its members, although this view was later discredited as propaganda.

* * *

In one of the most informative chapters in his book Mr. Miles describes the village of Nanjie in a backward region of central China, “a microcosm of a China run the way Deng Xiaoping’s conservative critics would like it to be run when ‘the chief architect of reform’ is no longer around.” A thirty-foot white marble statue of Mao hovers over its three thousand permanent inhabitants and eight thousand temporary workers, and unlike many other Chinese towns there are no signs of praise for Deng. In 1986, when the Dengist reforms had failed to lift Nanjie out of its grim poverty, local officials offered to pay its farmers forty-five pounds of flour each month in exchange for the land which they had been cultivating individually under the post-Mao “output-related responsibility system” which succeeded the communes. By 1989 almost everyone had joined the new system and factories were built on the accumulated land. On the remaining agricultural acreage, eighty people using new machinery were able to almost double the amount of grain which it had taken hundreds of people to produce during the reform years.

Nanjie is not a Dengist Potemkin village, says Mr. Miles, who visited the place. It has the biggest instant noodle factory in China, and also produces beer, cakes, and packaging materials. Its joint printing venture with a Japanese firm made $2 million within six months of opening. In this collectivist Eden, housing, fuel, and education are free. There has not been a single crime in Nanjie since 1988, the authorities there claim. There are many new buildings with free TV; the only personal possessions allowed the inhabitants are bedding, clothing, and cooking utensils. Heirlooms have been thrown or given away. Overtime pay and weekends off are unknown, but handouts and benefits make the average income double that of Nanjie’s neighbors and more than the national peasant average, with the result that the residents of the village have considerable savings. Nanjie must be one of the last places in China where everyone must study “Mao Thought,” and every day people go to work listening to loudspeakers playing the Cultural Revolution standby “Sailing the Ocean Depends on the Helmsman.” After the events of Tiananmen Square, every villager received a collection of Mao’s essays. Each household’s doorway has a metal plaque displaying up to ten stars. If a family is obedient to regulations on family planning, industriousness, and good behavior, it keeps the stars. If it loses a star it loses some benefits. Only seven stars, for example, means no free oil or coal. Six stars loses everything.

The mainstream press hates Nanjie and describes the conservatives’ praise for it as “lunatic raving.” Its practices are said to be devoid of “the principles of modern civilization,” and its success dependent on the economic reforms that have been carried out elsewhere. “Where reality ends and propaganda begins is, as often in China, difficult to determine in the case of Nanjie Village,” writes Mr. Miles. “But its importance lies not so much in what it actually is, [as] in the ideal it represents to its hardline backers….” Among these, he writes, were some of the officials whom Deng was forced to call out of retirement to support him in crushing the Tiananmen demonstrations in 1989.

Many Chinese leaders, including Deng’s supporters, have been warning in recent years that the scramble for money has undermined central authority, partly, they admit, because so many top officials are scrambling as fast as anyone else. Fewer and fewer provincial tax revenues find their way to the central treasury, and policies issued from Peking are steadily ignored. Mr. Miles, a voracious reader of official documents, quotes from a 1993 report of the Academy of Sciences which warns that the leadership has

not fully realized the danger of the central government’s rapidly declining power, or they have realized it and have no effective way of halting the continuing downward trend…. The continuing decline of central authority and power is an important potential cause of the collapse of Chinese society and the breakup of the country. This must not be overlooked.

This is a combustible situation, all the more so because of a little noticed danger mentioned by Mr. Miles: China is awash with weapons sold by the military and the police, or stolen from them. In the south, he says, villagers can buy automatic weapons and rocket launchers smuggled in from Vietnam, Laos, and Burma. (Such weapons are used in violent robberies in Hong Kong by ex-servicemen who are hired to do a one-time-only job by the colony’s gangsters and then disappear back across the border.) “It is important to bear in mind,” writes Mr. Miles, “that many Chinese have considerable experience with organized rebellion.” During the violence of the Cultural Revolution many young Red Guards fought each other in factional collisions, using modern weapons. One well-known dissident, Wang Xizhe, who recently fled to the US, had been in and out of prison since the Seventies, and told Mr. Miles that “in the event of political turmoil in China, former Red Guard leaders, now mostly in their forties or fifties, will play a role, not as cheerleaders for a Maoist revival but on the side of liberal dissidents.”

What is surprising about this forecast is that many other observers assert that one of the main signs that China will remain stable is that these very Red Guards have now subscribed fully to the Dengist slogan “to get rich is glorious.” But Miles’s contrary impressions here confirm my own; one of the most striking aspects of twentieth-century China, in the midst of violence, disillusion, and hopelessness, has been the idealism of many Chinese. Deng was an idealist once; the man whom the whole world saw on television standing in the front of the tanks in Tiananmen is, or more likely was, another.

* * *

After reading Mr. Miles’s book I went to Manila, where Presidents Bill Clinton and Jiang Zemin met on what was called “the margins” of the Asian Pacific Economic Community conference, although their eighty-five-minute conversation was the big news of the whole four days. Mr. Miles believes that despite everything many Chinese remain idealists. Having watched Mr. Clinton and Mr. Jiang, both practiced cynics, in action, I think that after Manila idealism will be harder to sustain. Mr. Jiang’s idea of a goodwill present to Mr. Clinton was a video showing an American World War Two bomber that had been recovered in southern China with “the remains” still inside. This took the place of the pandas that Peking used to confer on foreign dignitaries.

The really grisly part of their encounter was their avoidance of the subject of human rights. Mr. Clinton, who once condemned the coddling of “the butchers of Beijing” by his predecessors, mentioned not one name of a Chinese who had been imprisoned for his opinions. American diplomats in Peking used to read out long lists of such prisoners when meeting with Chinese officials, but this has been stopped. So much for Wei Jingsheng and Wang Dan, together with the rest of the dissidents, virtually all of whom are by now detained or in exile. This fitted in with Secretary of State Warren Christopher’s determination, while he was in Peking just before Mr. Clinton’s arrival in Manila, to have a relationship with China “that’s not rooted in a single issue.” Two years ago John Shattuck, the Assistant Secretary for Human Rights, preceded Mr. Christopher to Peking, where he had a talk with Mr. Wei, who was promptly arrested; then Mr. Christopher considered canceling his visit. This time Mr. Shattuck had no visible part in Christopher’s negotiations; but there would have been hardly any dissidents at large for him to meet.

Mr. Christopher also gave the Chinese a big present. Peking officials contend that there is no such thing as universal human rights; if there are rights in China, they consist essentially of adequate shelter and food. To suggest otherwise, it is maintained, is to interfere in China’s sovereignty and “to hurt the feelings of the Chinese people.” In Shanghai, speaking to students at Fudan University, where he was asked about human rights, Mr. Christopher said, “Each nation, with its own history and its own set of requirements, must find its own way on this subject.”

This was contradicted by President Clinton after he left Manila, when he addressed the students at Bangkok’s Chulalongkorn University on November 26. “The United States is proud to have supported democracy’s march across Asia,” he said. “…We do believe that freedom and justice are the birthright of mankind.” And then, for the first time on this trip, Mr. Clinton named a name: “The brave reformers in Burma led by Aung San Suu Kyi remind us that these desires know no boundaries. Their aspirations are universal because they are fundamentally human.” Such contradictory talk, in Manila, Peking, and Bangkok, shows the hollowness of the most recent Clinton policy of “constructive engagement,” which amounts to the view that it is always better to discuss sensitive matters with China behind closed diplomatic doors.

What will really shake the idealism of Chinese, however, especially those who take the history of the Tiananmen Square repression seriously, is the visit to the US in early December of General Chi Haotian, China’s Minister of National Defense. General Chi was received with full military honors in Washington and was presented to West Point cadets. They may have been aware of the official American handout on General Chi, which quotes statements in the Chinese press about his “plain down-to-earth workstyle,” and his fondness for shooting, riding horses, swimming, and calligraphy. In its detailed account of General Chi’s career, beginning with his birth in a peasant family in 1929, the US release omits something the cadets should know. According to an American army directory of Chinese “personalities,” he was in command of operations on the night of the Tiananmen killings, with well over 300,000 troops at his disposal from fourteen army groups and two airborne brigades. In response to charges of a cover-up the Pentagon said in early December that General Chi was not the “architect” of Tiananmen. If there were a similar event in Rangoon, West Pointers would not be left in the dark; nor would a general from SLORC, the Burmese junta, address them.

* * *

Mr. Miles would doubtless agree about the duplicity of US policy. What his otherwise excellent book ignores are some central questions, including the problems of population growth, the status of women, and gender distribution. China is a poor, backward, and unstable country whose enormous population, now nearly 1.2 billion people, poses a danger to itself and to the unborn. In some regions, because of the destruction of unborn or infant females, the ratio of all males to females is ten to one. Moreover, women are often singled out for political persecution and many of them were among the victims during the Tiananmen killings.3

The one-child policy, promulgated in 1980, was intended to halt the population explosion and then reduce the population from a projected 1.3 billion people to under seven hundred million within seventy-five years. Not only has China’s population continued to expand, however, although at a slower rate, but peasants, even in rich and relatively Westernized provinces like Guangdong just over the border from Hong Kong, have used a variety of techniques to ensure that their only infants are boys—capable, they believe, of eventually making more money than girls in order to sustain their parents in their old age. Throughout the early Eighties, infanticide was the commonest method of getting rid of girls. But now ultrasound equipment, illegal but widely and cheaply available, has ensured, according to official sources, that 97 percent of all Chinese abortions are of female fetuses.4 Many female babies are abandoned and some end up in orphanages, where the survival rate is low, as a recent report by Human Rights Watch/Asia vividly showed.

The result is that in many parts of China there are 118 males for every 100 females, as opposed to a normal ratio of 105 to 100. The country will have to deal with what one Chinese newspaper described as “an army of bachelors,” which will grow in the twenty-first century to over 100 million men, the population of an average African state, most of them with little prospect of finding a wife.

For at least ten years, moreover, Chinese newspapers and police reports have described the abduction or sale of thousands of women from poorer parts of China to richer regions. The stories usually report on the convictions of leaders of abduction rings who have so far been arrested, while many thousands more remain at large. Women from Vietnam and Thailand have also been sold or kidnapped.

Just before the UN Conference on women last year in Peking, the American-based group Human Rights in China published a 102-page document claiming that hundreds of thousands of women were being abducted or sold into prostitution and marriage. Referring to conditions of “virtual slavery” under which most Chinese women live, the report described them as “the silent victims of government policies which encourage or tacitly accept human rights abuses,”5 and stated that half a million female babies, five percent of the total expected to be born each year, are “missing.”6 The elimination of members of the next generation of Chinese women on an unprecedented scale, whether as fetuses or as infants, and the ill treatment of the survivors, including abduction and prostitution, may turn out to be among the greatest acts of social and cultural self-destruction in modern Chinese history.

  1. The most detailed and convincing account I have seen on what happened in Tiananmen Square at the height of the killings is in Jan Wong’s recent Red China Blues: My Long March From Mao to Now (Anchor, 1996), pp. 259- 260.
  2. The most compendious source for these hitherto unnamed prisoners is Detained in China and Tibet: A Directory of Political and Religious Prisoners, published in 1994 by Human Rights Watch/Asia, and largely compiled by Robin Munro, the main author of Human Rights Watch’s equally invaluable work on the scandal of China’s orphanages. The directory has entries like this: “Sun Sanbao, a worker at a shipbuilding facility in Hubei province, was sentenced to eight years’ imprisonment for allegedly organizing a strike during the 1989 pro democracy movement” (p. 97).
  3. “It is significant that women in China continue to suffer human rights violations for activities which are considered entirely legitimate and central to the work of NGOs across the world…. Women from all walks of life were among the peaceful protestors and unarmed civilians killed by the army in Beijing that day during the suppression of pro-democracy protests.” Women in China: Imprisoned and Abused for Dissent (Amnesty International, June 28, 1995), pp. 1, 3. A substantial defense of the status of Chinese women, Women in China, stating that while their status “is still not wholly satisfactory,” overall women “have stood up and become the masters of New China, like all citizens of the country,” and “they enjoy rights equal to those of men,” was published by the official Chinese news agency, Xinhua, on June 3, 1994. BBC Survey of World Broadcasts, FE/2019 S1/1, June 10, 1994. S1/1, S½.
  4. Caught Between Tradition and the State: Violations of the Human Rights of Chinese Women (Human Rights in China, August 1995), p. 52.
  5. Caught Between Tradition and the State, p. 1.
  6. For more information on missing females and gender imbalances, see Caught Between Tradition and the State, Chapter 2, especially pp. 49-51; Shripad Tuljapurkar, Nan Li, and Marcus Feldman, High Sex Ratios in China’s Future, Morrison Institute for Population and Resource Studies, Department of Biological Sciences, Stanford University, 1994 (mimeograph).
Jonathan Mirsky was born in New York in 1932 and educated at Columbia University, Cambridge University, and the University of Pennsylvania. He has taught Chinese and Vietnamese history, Comparative...
Reviewed in This Article

The Legacy of Tiananmen: China in Disarray
by James Miles
University of Michigan Press, 379 pp.

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This article was first published in the January 9, 1997 issue of the New York Review of Books.



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The China Challenge


In 1890, an undistinguished U.S. Navy captain published a book that would influence generations of strategists. Alfred Thayer Mahan’s The Influence of Sea Power Upon History, 1660–1783 posited that great nations need potent, blue-water navies backed by far-flung naval bases...

Solving China’s Schools: An Interview with Jiang Xueqin


In December, China stunned the world when the most widely used international education assessment revealed that Shanghai’s schools now outperform those of any other country—not only in math and science but also in reading. Some education experts have attributed these results...

Chinese Atheists? What the Pew Survey Gets Wrong


Earlier this month, I came across a fascinating opinion survey by the Pew Research Center’s Global Attitudes Project. The report asked people in forty countries whether belief in God is necessary for morality. Mostly, the results aren’t surprising. In advanced democracies,...

Paddling to Peking


For Richard Nixon’s foreign policy, 1971 was the best of years and the worst of years. He revealed his opening to China, but he connived at genocide in East Pakistan. Fortunately for him, the world marveled at the one, but was largely ignorant of the other.The two events were...

The Brave Catholics of China


Like most pilgrimage sites in China, the shrine in the village of Cave Gulley in Shanxi province is located partway up a mountain, reachable by steep stairs that are meant to shift worshipers’ attention from the world below to heaven above. Thousands make the journey each year...

China’s Way to Happiness


Richard Madsen is one of the modern-day founders of the study of Chinese religion. A professor at the University of California San Diego, the seventy-three-year-old’s works include Morality and Power in a Chinese Village, China and the American Dream, and China’s Catholics:...

China: Reeducation Through Horror


Here are two snippets from a Chinese Communist journal called People’s China, published in August 1956:In 1956, despite the worst natural calamities in scores of years, China’s peasants, newly organized in co-operatives on a nation-wide scale, produced 2,740 million Yuan’s...

China: Five Pounds of Facts


No one seems to have measured exactly how old Chinese civilization is, but Endymion Wilkinson can probably give a more precise answer than anyone else. “1.6 billion minutes separate us from the Zhou conquest of the Shang,” he informs us at the beginning of his Chinese History...

The Surprising Empress


In the mid-1950s, when I was a graduate student of Chinese history, the Manchu Empress Dowager Cixi (1835–1908) was invariably condemned as a reactionary hate figure; Mao Zedong was admired. In the textbooks of that time, leading American scholars characterized Cixi as cruel,...

Dreams of a Different China


Last November, China’s newly installed leader, Xi Jinping, asked his fellow Chinese to help realize a “Chinese dream” of national rejuvenation. In the months since then, his talk has been seen as a marker in the new leadership’s thinking, especially as Xi has pursued a...

How to Deal with the Chinese Police


A casual visitor to China today does not get the impression of a police state. Life bustles along as people pursue work, fashion, sports, romance, amusement, and so on, without any sign of being under coercion. But the government spends tens of billions of dollars annually (more...

Unhinged in China


In one of the central scenes in Jia Zhangke’s new film, a young man working in the southern Chinese manufacturing city of Dongguan goes to an ATM and finds that he’s broke. He’s just spent the past month betraying his friends and hopping from job to job, including one as a...

China: “Capitulate or Things Will Get Worse”


The massacre of protesters in Beijing on June 4, 1989, and the harsh repression during the months immediately following put China into a foul mood. Among ordinary Chinese, the prestige of the Communist Party, whose leaders had ordered the brutal assault, fell to a new low....

Who’s Afraid of Chinese Money?


“China is what it is. We have to be here or nowhere.” Chancellor George Osborne, Britain’s second-highest official, was laying out the British government’s view last week, near the end of his trip aimed at selling Britain to Chinese companies. Western governments used to...

Old Dreams for a New China


Ever since China’s new leader, Xi Jinping, first uttered the phrase “China Dream” last year, people in China and abroad have been scrambling to decipher its meaning. Many nations have “dreams”; in Canada, the country’s most prominent popular historian used the word to...

China: When the Cats Rule


In the Northwest corner of Beijing’s old city is a subway and bus workshop. It was built in the early seventies on the site of the Lake of Great Peace, which was filled in as part of a plan to extend the city’s subway system. In the bigger picture of the destruction of old...

The Man Who Got It Right


1.Near the beginning of Simon Leys’ marvelous collection of essays is an odd polemic between the author and the late Christopher Hitchens, fought out in these very pages. Leys takes Hitchens to task for attacking Mother Teresa in a book entitled The Missionary Position. He...

Censoring the News Before It Happens


Every day in China, hundreds of messages are sent from government offices to website editors around the country that say things like, “Report on the new provincial budget tomorrow, but do not feature it on the front page, make no comparisons to earlier budgets, list no links,...

Faking It in China


One of the most striking features about daily life in China is how much of what one encounters has been appropriated from elsewhere. It’s not just the fake iPhones or luxury watches—pirated consumer goods are common in many developing countries. In many Chinese cities,...

Chen Guangcheng in New York


Following are excerpts from a recent conversation among Chen Guangcheng, the blind legal activist who was recently permitted to leave China and is currently a distinguished visitor at New York University School of Law; Jerome A. Cohen, Professor of Law and Co-Director of the US-...

The ‘Breaking of an Honorable Career’


1.In the 1950s, the late John King Fairbank, the dean of modern China studies at Harvard, used to tell us graduate students a joke about the allegation that a group of red-leaning foreign service officers and academics—the four Johns—had “lost” China: John Paton Davies,...

Who Killed Pamela in Peking?


An ordinary winter evening in the Legation Quarter of Peking, where foreign embassies and consulates were located, January 7, 1937. Cold. The heavy sound of Japanese armored cars, out on patrol down the busy shopping streets that flank the Forbidden City. (Japan would occupy the...

Dancing in Empty Beijing


The Lunar New Year began last week as it always does, with a new moon. The empty sky seemed to empty Beijing of up to half its residents—authorities estimate that an incredible nine million people left the city, which usually has a population of eighteen to twenty million. This...

The New Chinese Gang of Seven


In traditional Chinese religion, a fashi, or ritual master, will recite a set of phrases to turn an ordinary space into a sacred area where the gods can descend to receive prayers and rejuvenate the community. The ceremony can last days, with breaks and feasts, until the rites...

Does This Writer Deserve the Prize?


On October 11 Peter Englund, permanent secretary of the Swedish Academy in Stockholm, announced that the Nobel Prize in Literature for 2012 will go to the fifty-seven-year-old Chinese writer Guan Moye, better known as Mo Yan, a pen name that means “don’t talk.” (The name is...

China: Worse Than You Ever Imagined


Last summer I took a trip to Xinyang, a rural area of wheat fields and tea plantations in central China’s Henan province. I met a pastor, a former political prisoner, and together we made a day trip to Rooster Mountain, a onetime summer retreat for Western missionaries and...

Who Was Mao Zedong?


In Kashgar’s largest bazaar a few years ago, I spotted a pencil holder sporting an iconic Cultural Revolution image: Mao Zedong and Marshal Lin Biao smiling together. But Mao’s personally chosen heir apparent had been a nonperson since 1971, when he allegedly godfathered an...

An Honest Writer Survives in China


A little over a year ago, I went with the Chinese writer Yu Hua to his hometown of Hangzhou, some one hundred miles southwest of Shanghai, and realized that his bawdy books might not be purely fictional; their characters and situations seemed to follow him around in real life too...

China’s Lost Decade


It’s hard to believe, but just twenty years ago China was on the verge of abandoning the market reforms that have since propelled it to its current position as a world power. Conservatives had used the 1989 Tiananmen massacre to reverse the country’s economic direction. Many...

News from the Dalai Lama


“I told President Obama the leaders of the Chinese Communist Party are missing a part of the brain, the part that contains common sense,” the Dalai Lama said to me during our conversation in London in mid-June.But it can be put back in. I am hopeful about the new Chinese...

Bo Xilai: The Unanswered Questions


The Chinese Communist Party has always put great emphasis on smooth surfaces, maintaining political “face” through a decorous exterior. Men at the top dye their hair black and every strand must be in place. But sometimes there are cracks in the smoothness and outsiders are...

The People’s Republic of Rumor


A group of people the other day were at the large shopping mall at a place called Shuangjing, just inside Beijing’s Third Ring Road, looking at their cell phones and comparing notes. “Don’t go to Sina Weibo—it’s too famous,” one person advised, referring to the...

‘Pressure for Change is at the Grassroots


The Chinese legal activist Chen Guangcheng arrived in the United States last month following top-level negotiations between U.S. and Chinese officials. Several weeks earlier, Chen had dramatically escaped from house arrest in his village in northeast China by jumping over a wall...

China: Politics as Warfare


Mao’s Invisible Hand is one of those books that make one feel good about scholarship. It describes inner workings of Chinese Communist society about which few nonexperts know anything—it may even surprise the experts—and it will interest anyone professionally interested in...

A Chinese Murder Mystery?


Roughly every decade, China’s political system cracks, its veil is rent, and its inner workings are laid bare. 2012, the Year of the Dragon, is turning out to be one of those periods when the country’s high priests can’t quite carry out their rituals as planned.The...

On Fang Lizhi (1936–2012)


Fang Lizhi, a distinguished professor of astrophysics, luminary in the struggle for human rights in contemporary China, and frequent contributor to The New York Review, died suddenly on the morning of April 6. At age seventy-six he had not yet retired, and was...

Debacle in Beijing


The story of a blind Chinese lawyer’s flight to the US Embassy in Beijing is likely to ignite accusations and recriminations until the US presidential election in November. But what few will acknowledge is a harsher truth: that for all our desire to effect change, outsiders...

Beijing Dilemma: Is Chen Guangcheng the Next Fang Lizhi?


The Chinese lawyer Chen Guangcheng, blind since childhood, self-taught in the law, defender of women’s rights to resist forced abortion, thorn in the side of local despots in his home district of Linyi in Shandong province, veteran of a four-year prison sentence on the spurious...

A Master in the Shadows


How should one assess the best ways to survive in a revolution? What exactly is the tipping point between obedience and outright sycophancy? When does one try to hold on to the values that gave meaning to one’s upbringing, and when is it best to just let it all go? When does...

China’s Falling Star


In China, the year is traditionally divided into periods based on the moon’s orbit around the earth and the sun’s path across the sky. This lunisolar calendar is laden with myths and celebrated by rituals that allowed Chinese to mark time and make sense of their world.So too...

The Chinese Are Coming!


The day after the Russian parliamentary elections in early December, the Chinese publication Global Times, an English-language newspaper and website managed by People’s Daily, the official organ of the Communist Party official, ran an editorial on how little credit the West...

He Told the Truth About China’s Tyranny


Better than the assent of the crowd: The dissent of one brave man!—Sima Qian (145–90 BC)Records of the Grand HistorianTruth will set you free.—Gospel according to JohnThe economic rise of China now dominates the entire landscape of international affairs. In the eyes of...

The New York Review of Books China Archive

Welcome to the New York Review of Books China Archive, a collaborative project of and The New York Review of Books. In the archive you will find a compilation of full-length essays and book reviews on China dating from the Review's founding in 1963. We encourage you...

China Gets Religion!


This autumn, China has been marking the one hundredth anniversary of the collapse of its last imperial dynasty, the Qing, with a series of grand celebrations. The government has released an epic film showing how the revolution of 1911 prepared the way for the Communists’...

From Tenderness to Savagery in Seconds


Much nonsense has been written about the Nanjing Massacre, also known as the Rape of Nanking. We know this much: in December 1937, the Imperial Japanese Army, after taking the Chinese Nationalist capital of Nanjing, went on a six-week rampage, looting, murdering, and raping large...

The High Price of the New Beijing


One recent weekend, I went for a walk through the alleys around the Qianmen shopping district, once Beijing’s commercial heart and still home to nationally known traditional shops. One of its chief side streets, Dazhalan, had been turned into a Ye Olde Pekinge-type street: its...

The Past and the Future


Concerning the Past:I have maintained that China should move forward with the reform of society. In many speeches before 1988, I openly expressed my advocacy of reform in China.I acknowledge that the following are my principal views:Marxism—whether viewed as a philosophy, a...

Kissinger and China


It is hard to fit Henry Kissinger’s latest book, On China, into any conventional frame or genre. Partly that is because the somewhat self-deprecatory title conceals what is, in fact, an ambitious goal: to make sense of China’s diplomacy and foreign policies across two and a...

Will There Be a ‘Duel of Dalai Lamas’?


On March 10 the Fourteenth Dalai Lama made front-page news throughout the world by saying,As early as the 1960s, I have repeatedly stressed that Tibetans need a leader, elected freely by the Tibetan people, to whom I can devolve power. Now, we have clearly reached the time to put...

Quality of Life: India vs. China


1.The steadily rising rate of economic growth in India has recently been around 8 percent per year (it is expected to be 9 percent this year), and there is much speculation about whether and when India may catch up with and surpass China’s over 10 percent growth rate. Despite...

The Worst Man-Made Catastrophe, Ever


When the first waves of Chinese graduate students arrived on American campuses in the early 1980s, they were excited at entering an unfettered learning environment. After the recent ravages of the Cultural Revolution, political science students had few inhibitions about studying...

China: From Famine to Oslo


1.Each year around the “sensitive” anniversary of the Beijing massacre of June 4, 1989, Ding Zilin, a seventy-four-year-old retired professor of philosophy, is accompanied by a group of plainclothes police whenever she leaves her apartment to go buy vegetables, or to do...

How Reds Smashed Reds


July and August 1966, the first months of the ten-year Cultural Revolution, were the summer of what Andrew Walder, a sociologist at Stanford, calls “The Maoist Shrug.” Jiang Qing, Mao Zedong’s wife, told high school Red Guards, “We do not advocate beating people, but...

The Question of Pearl Buck


The announcement by the Swedish Academy in November 1938 that Pearl Buck had been awarded the Nobel Prize for literature was met with sarcasm and even derision by many writers and critics. They were not impressed that this was the third choice by the academy of an American writer...

The Party: Impenetrable, All Powerful


In the next few weeks, an event will take place in Beijing on a par with anything dreamed up by a conspiracy theorist. A group of roughly three hundred men and women will meet at an undisclosed time and location to set policies for a sixth of humanity. Most China watchers will...

The Message from the Glaciers


It was not so long ago that the parts of the globe covered permanently with ice and snow, the Arctic, Antarctic, and Greater Himalayas (“the abode of the snows” in Sanskrit), were viewed as distant, frigid climes of little consequence. Only the most intrepid adventurers were...

The Triumph of Madame Chiang


Charlie Soong, born in 1866, was a new kind of figure in Chinese history, an independent-minded youngster with an openness to the world who came to Boston from Hainan Island at the age of twelve to work in a store. At fourteen he stowed away on a Coast Guard cutter, was baptized...

Specters of a Chinese Master


1.Luo Ping, who lived from 1733 to 1799, was perfectly placed by time and circumstance to view the shifts in fortune that were so prominent in China at that period. He grew up in Yangzhou, a prosperous city on the Grand Canal, just north of the Yangzi River, which linked the...

The Mystery of Zhou Enlai


Through the ups and downs of the unpredictable Chinese Revolution, Zhou Enlai’s reputation has seemed to stand untarnished. The reasons for this are in part old-fashioned ones: in a world of violent change, not noted for its finesse, Zhou Enlai stood out...

The Passions of Joseph Needham


It is now a little over four hundred years since a scattering of Westerners first began to try to learn the Chinese language. Across that long span, the number of scholars studying Chinese has grown, but their responses to the challenges of Chinese script have been generally...

China: Humiliation & the Olympics


The IncidentOn a snowy winter day in 1991, Lu Gang, a slightly built Chinese scholar who had recently received his Ph.D. in plasma physics, walked into a seminar room at the University of Iowa’s Van Allen Hall, raised a snub-nose .38-caliber Taurus pistol, and killed Professor...

Casting a Lifeline


Sixty pages or so into Ma Jian’s novel Beijing Coma, the hero, Dai Wei, is troubled by the memory of a harrowing anatomy lecture that he attended as a university student. Taught by “a celebrated cardiovascular specialist,” the class observed the dissection of the fresh...

Sentimental Education in Shanghai


1.In April 1924 Rabindranath Tagore arrived in Shanghai for a lecture tour of China. Soon after receiving the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1913, Tagore had become an international literary celebrity, lecturing to packed audiences from Japan to Argentina. His message—that...

The Quiet Heroes of Tibet


Earlier this year, shortly before boarding the new Chinese train from Beijing to Lhasa, I met Woeser, a Tibetan poet and essayist (she uses only one name). Unusual among Tibetans in China, who tend to avoid talking to foreigners, she spoke frankly about Chinese rule over Tibet....

Mission to Mao


“This was the week that changed the world” was Richard Nixon’s summing up at the end of his trip to China in February 1972.1 The hyperbole was justified, for this visit to China by an American president was a turning point in the cold war. Hitherto, the Soviet Union and...

China’s Great Terror


Long before August 1966, when immense chanting crowds of young Chinese Red Guards began to mass before Chairman Mao in Tiananmen Square, alerting those in the wider world to the onset of the Cultural Revolution, senior figures in the Chinese leadership began to seek their own...

‘June Fourth’ Seventeen Years Later: How I Kept a Promise


The weekend of June 3, 2006, was the seventeenth anniversary of the Beijing massacre and also the first time I ever received a summons. It happened, as the police put it, “according to law.” Twice within twenty-four hours Deputy Chief Sun Di of Department 1 of the Beijing...

Liu Binyan (1925-2005)


Liu Binyan, the distinguished Chinese journalist and writer who died of cancer on December 5, 2005, in exile in New Jersey, at the age of eighty, was an inveterate defender of the poor and the oppressed, a man with a powerful analytic mind. But the trait that most determined his...

On Leaving a Chinese Prison


Jiang Qisheng, a former student of philosophy and a human rights activist, was arrested in 1999 for commemorating the victims of the 1989 Tiananmen massacre. After four years in prison, he was recently released. He wrote the following statement upon accepting the Spirit of...

A Little Leap Forward


The Communist dynasty is collapsing in China, and in retrospect one of the first signs was a Chinese-language computer virus that began spreading when I was a reporter in Beijing in the early 1990s. The virus would pop up on your screen and ask a question about the hard-line...



1.To stand somewhere in the center of an East Asian metropolis, Seoul, say, or Guangzhou, is to face an odd cultural conundrum. Little of what you see, apart from the writing on billboards, can be described as traditionally Asian. There are the faux-traditional façades—...

China: The Anaconda in the Chandelier


In China’s Mao years you could be detained and persecuted for talking with your neighbor about your cat. The Chinese word for “cat” (mao, high level tone) is a near homonym for the name of the Great Leader (mao, rising tone), and a tip to the police from an eavesdropper who...

Found Horizon


1.Traveling recently by bus from Shigatse to Lhasa, squeezed in between a heavily made-up bar hostess from Sichuan who was vomiting her breakfast out the window and a minor Tibetan official in a shiny brown suit who asked me about Manchester United football club before noisily...

East Is West


Chang-rae Lee has an extraordinary talent for describing violence. Here is his account of the gang rape and murder of a Korean sex slave (“comfort woman”) in a Japanese army camp during World War II:I ran up the north path by the latrines, toward the clearing, as it was known...

Divine Killer


“If there was anything Mao wouldn’t want to see, it was tears. Mao said on one occasion, ‘I can’t bear to see poor people cry. When I see their tears, I can’t hold back my own.’ “Another thing which upset Mao was bloodshed.” —From Mao Zedong: Man, Not God by...

China in Cyberspace


1.It is not widely known that the People’s Republic of China and Taiwan are now at war. The battles are not being fought on land, however, or at sea, or even, strictly speaking, in the air; they take place in cyberspace, where nobody so far has ever died. The soldiers in this...

The Jiang Zemin Mystery


1.Since the Chinese Communist Party leaders will not allow themselves to be criticized in the press or on television, critics have had to find other means to express their political grievances. Historically speaking, one of the most telling ways to make a protest known has been...

Sex and Democracy in Taiwan


Fairly or not, sex scandals in politics have acquired a peculiarly Anglo-Saxon ring. The French boast of taking a more sophisticated view of the private lives of public men—that is to say, those lives are shielded from public scrutiny. Germans smack their lips when their...

Selling Out Hong Kong


1.And so it finally came to pass, at midnight, June 30, 1997, in the brand-new Hong Kong convention center, resembling, local people say, a giant cockroach: the red flag of the People’s Republic of China, snapping in the breeze of wind machines, went up, and the Union Jack came...

Holding Out in Hong Kong


1.The Master said: “If seeking wealth were a decent pursuit, I too would seek it, even if I had to work as a janitor. As it is, I’d rather follow my inclinations.”—Confucius: Analects1Flicking through the April issue of the Hong Kong Tatler, a glossy high life magazine...

The Beginning of the End


Failed rebellions are often like failed marriages: former partners and their friends blame the other side for what went wrong; old tensions are magnified; the past is rewritten; feuding camps are formed. This pretty much sums up the situation among the survivors of the Beijing...

In China’s Gulag


Near the end of The Gulag Archipelago, Solzhenitsyn includes a chapter he calls “The Muses in Gulag.” Most of the chapter describes the absurdity and uselessness of the Communist Party’s Cultural and Educational Section, but he also briefly reflects on the relationship...

Unmasking the Monster


In 755 the Tang dynasty poet Tu Fu wrote about the corruptions of court life:In the central halls there are fair goddesses; An air of perfume moves with each charming figure. They clothe their guests with warm furs of sable, Entertain them with the finest music and pipe and...

History on the Wing


Golden Inches is a charming memoir of an American couple who built up the YMCA in Chengtu and Chungking. Their careers on America’s farthest Western cultural frontier in Szechwan province give us a sense of the day-to-day texture of Chinese-American relations during the golden...

From the Ming to Deng Xiaoping


When I began teaching Chinese history at Harvard in 1936 my first students turned out to be the brightest I would ever have—Theodore White as an undergraduate and Mary Clabaugh as a Ph.D. candidate. Mary Clabaugh was a Vassar graduate from Tuscaloosa who came to study...

The Last Days of Hong Kong


1.“Everything you need to know about a new life abroad…. It’s all in the pages of The Emigrant.”—Advertisement for a new Hong Kong periodical, 1989May 1983: It was exactly seven months after Mrs. Thatcher stumbled and fell on the steps of the Great Hall of the People in...

Keeping the Faith


On June 4, the day after the People’s Liberation Army opened fire on the citizens of Beijing, the distinguished Chinese astrophysicist and dissident intellectual, Fang Lizhi, reluctantly sought refuge in the American embassy in Beijing with his physicist wife, Li Shuxian. They...

Stories from the Ice Age


Since the Tiananmen Square killings it has become fashionable within the Chinese leadership to refer to dissident intellectuals as “scum.” That was Mao’s view, too. In 1942, the chairman, his armies besieged by both Chiang Kai-shek and the Japanese army, took time off for...

Why China’s Rulers Fear Democracy


To try to understand is not to condone or forgive. Quite the contrary. In this bicentennial year when a euphoria for democratic rights seemed to be sweeping the world, why was it stopped in Tiananmen Square? Why do China’s rulers attack their students like enemies when in our...

The End of the Chinese Revolution


When Deng Xiaoping suppressed the Beijing Spring last month, he thought he was putting down a new Cultural Revolution. Pirated notes from a Party meeting in late April quoted him as telling his colleagues:This is not an ordinary student movement. It is turmoil…. What they are...

The Price China Has Paid: An Interview with Liu Binyan


Liu Binyan is a sixty-two-year-old writer and journalist who is regarded as the preeminent intellectual advocating reform in China today. During the mid-1950s and again throughout the post-Mao period, he has strongly criticized Communist party officials for abusing their power...

Roots of Revolution


The books by Frank Ching and Zhang Xianliang are vastly different in content, aim, and style, as opposite as yang and yin. Yet each casts light on the Cultural Revolution. Considered together, they may even begin to explain it.Mao’s venomous “class struggle” against his own...

Passing the Baton in Beijing


Succession has become an omnipresent problem not only in China but throughout Asia. Long-lasting regimes under aging rulers are entering their twilight zone in North Korea, Burma, and Indonesia, and face a period of weakness and uncertainty, for the moment...

Our Mission in China


This is the bicentennial year for contacts between the United States and China, since it was in 1784 that the merchant ship Empress of China sailed to Canton from New York. It was an auspicious beginning, at least for the American backers of the voyage; the trip netted them 30...

China: How Much Dissent?


In the year 278 BC an aristocrat and poet named Qu Yuan took his own life by throwing himself into the waters of the Milo River. Qu Yuan had once been the powerful adviser to the ruler of the Chu kingdom, specializing in legal affairs and diplomacy, but the monarch was tricked...

Sitting on Top of the World


Remoteness is often a condition of status and an attitude cultivated by parties to inequality. Chinese peasants, for more than twenty centuries subjects not citizens of the realm, were being literal when they said, “Heaven is high and the emperor far away.” Their world was...

Rules of the Game


On September 18, 1931, a very small bomb caused a very minor explosion on the South Manchurian Railway just north of Mukden, a railway controlled by the Japanese and crucial to their economic domination of Manchuria. The explosion was denounced as the work of Chinese saboteurs....

Bringing Up the Red Guards


Revolutionaries are Monkey Kings, their golden rods are powerful, their supernatural powers far-reaching and their magic omnipotent, for they possess Mao Tsetung’s great invincible thought. We wield our golden rods, display our supernatural powers and use our magic to turn the...

Peanuts and the Good Soldier


In 1927, the province of Shantung was under the control of the warlord Chang Tsung-chang, a ferocious ex-coolie with a taste for white mercenaries and white women. His forces included a Russian brigade with four armored trains; he himself went to war with a trainload of forty-two...

Still Mysterious


Within mainland China today the ratio of Westerners to Chinese is probably no greater than it was in Marco Polo’s time seven hundred years ago. Sino-foreign contact is so minimal that it almost meets the old Taoist stay-at-home ideal, “to live hearing the dogs bark in the...

A Mao for All Seasons


A psychologist and an expert on the Far East, Mr. Lifton believes that the most fruitful way to look at Mao Tse-tung and the Cultural Revolution is to combine the investigation of psychological motives with historical analysis in what he calls the “...

The Great Wall


China is so distant, big, and complex that each Marco Polo nowadays tells a different tale. The authors of the three books under review—a cool Swedish journalist, a passionate Chinese true-believer, and a philosophical Frenchman—give very different impressions of Chairman Mao...

How to Deal with the Chinese Revolution


The Vietnam debate reflects our intellectual unpreparedness. Crisis has arisen on the farthest frontier of public knowledge, and viewpoints diverge widely because we all lack background information. “Vietnam” was not even a label on our horizon twenty years ago. It was still...