Excerpts

11.16.17

Mementos of 1949

Kevin Peraino
Bodies jostled, elbow to elbow, angling all morning for a spot in the square. Soldiers clomped in the cold—tanned, singing as they marched, steel helmets and bayonets under the October sun. Tanks moved in columns two by two; then howitzers, teams of...

How the Cultural Revolution Changed China Forever

James Griffiths
CNN
Frank Dikotter, author of The Cultural Revolution: A People's History, discusses the turning point in modern Chinese history...

The Bloodthirsty Deng We Didn’t Know

Jonathan Mirsky from New York Review of Books
“Deng was…a bloody dictator who, along with Mao, was responsible for the deaths of millions of innocent people, thanks to the terrible social reforms and unprecedented famine of 1958–1962.” This is the conclusion of Alexander Pantsov and Steven...

Features

06.16.15

Does Xi Jinping Represent a Return to the Mao Era?

Andrew G. Walder, Roderick MacFarquhar & more
Following is an edited transcript of a live event hosted at Asia Society New York on May 21, 2015, “ChinaFile Presents: Does Xi Jinping Represent a Return to the Politics of the Mao Era?” The evening convened the scholars Roderick MacFarquhar and...

Mao’s China: The Language Game

Perry Link from New York Review of Books
It can be embarrassing for a China scholar like me to read Eileen Chang’s pellucid prose, written more than sixty years ago, on the early years of the People’s Republic of China. How many cudgels to the head did I need before arriving at comparable...

Books

04.02.15

Muslim, Trader, Nomad, Spy

Sulmaan Wasif Khan
In 1959, the Dalai Lama fled Lhasa, leaving the People's Republic of China with a crisis on its Tibetan frontier. Sulmaan Wasif Khan tells the story of the PRC's response to that crisis and, in doing so, brings to life an extraordinary cast of characters: Chinese diplomats appalled by sky burials, Guomindang spies working with Tibetans in Nepal, traders carrying salt across the Himalayas, and Tibetan Muslims rioting in Lhasa. What Chinese policymakers confronted in Tibet, Khan argues, was not a "third world" but a "fourth world" problem: Beijing was dealing with peoples whose ways were defined by statelessness. As it sought to tighten control over the restive borderlands, Mao's China moved from a lighter hand to a harder, heavier imperial structure. That change triggered long-lasting shifts in Chinese foreign policy. Moving from capital cities to far-flung mountain villages, from top diplomats to nomads crossing disputed boundaries in search of pasture, this book shows Cold War China as it has never been seen before and reveals the deep influence of the Tibetan crisis on the political fabric of present-day China. —The University of North Carolina Press{chop}

Media

03.04.15

The Other China

Michael Meyer & Ian Buruma
Writers Michael Meyer and Ian Buruma engage in a discussion co-sponsored by The New York Review of Books centered on Meyer’s new book, In Manchuria: A Village Called Wasteland and the Transformation of Rural China, which combines immersion...

China’s Brave Underground Journal—II

Ian Johnson from New York Review of Books
In downtown Beijing, just a little over a mile west of the Forbidden City, is one of China’s most illustrious high schools. Its graduates regularly attend the country’s best universities or go abroad to study, while foreign leaders and CEOs make...

China’s Brave Underground Journal

Ian Johnson from New York Review of Books
On the last stretch of flatlands north of Beijing, just before the Mongolian foothills, lies the satellite city of Tiantongyuan. Built during the euphoric run-up to the 2008 Olympics, it was designed as a modern, Hong Kong–style housing district of...

China: Reeducation Through Horror

Ian Buruma from New York Review of Books
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,...

Books

10.02.13

The Tragedy of Liberation

Frank Dikötter
“The Chinese Communist party refers to its victory in 1949 as a ‘liberation.’ In China the story of liberation and the revolution that followed is not one of peace, liberty, and justice. It is first and foremost a story of calculated terror and systematic violence.” So begins Frank Dikötter’s stunning and revelatory chronicle of Mao Zedong’s ascension and campaign to transform the Chinese into what the party called New People. Following the defeat of Chiang Kai-shek in 1949, after a bloody civil war, Mao hoisted the red flag over Beijing’s Forbidden City, and the world watched as the Communist revolution began to wash away the old order. Due to the secrecy surrounding the country’s records, little has been known before now about the eight years that followed, preceding the massive famine and Great Leap Forward. Drawing on hundreds of previously classified documents, secret police reports, unexpurgated versions of leadership speeches, eyewitness accounts of those who survived, and more, The Tragedy of Liberation bears witness to a shocking, largely untold history. Interweaving stories of ordinary citizens with tales of the brutal politics of Mao’s court, Frank Dikötter illuminates those who shaped the “liberation” and the horrific policies they implemented in the name of progress. People of all walks of life were caught up in the tragedy that unfolded, and whether or not they supported the revolution, all of them were asked to write confessions, denounce their friends, and answer queries about their political reliability. One victim of thought reform called it a “carefully cultivated Auschwitz of the mind.” Told with great narrative sweep, The Tragedy of Liberation is a powerful and important document giving voice at last to the millions who were lost, and casting new light on the foundations of one of the most powerful regimes of the twenty-first century.  —Bloomsbury Publishing {chop}

Books

06.10.13

Anyuan

Elizabeth J. Perry
How do we explain the surprising trajectory of the Chinese Communist revolution? Why has it taken such a different route from its Russian prototype? An answer, Elizabeth Perry suggests, lies in the Chinese Communists’ creative development and deployment of cultural resources – during their revolutionary rise to power and afterwards. Skillful “cultural positioning” and “cultural patronage,” on the part of Mao Zedong, his comrades and successors, helped to construct a polity in which a once alien Communist system came to be accepted as familiarly “Chinese.” Perry traces this process through a case study of the Anyuan coal mine, a place where Mao and other early leaders of the Chinese Communist Party mobilized an influential labor movement at the beginning of their revolution, and whose history later became a touchstone of “political correctness” in the People’s Republic of China. Once known as “China’s Little Moscow,” Anyuan came over time to symbolize a distinctively Chinese revolutionary tradition. Yet the meanings of that tradition remain highly contested, as contemporary Chinese debate their revolutionary past in search of a new political future.—University of California Press

China’s Risky Path, from Revolution to War

Cheng Li
Daily Beast
The scenario of abrupt bottom-up revolution occurring in China has recently generated much debate.

China: The Shame of the Villages

Jonathan Mirsky from New York Review of Books
1.Published fifteen years ago, Chinese Village, Socialist State, as I wrote at the time, not only contained a more telling account of Chinese rural life than any other I had read; it also produced a new understanding “of the methods by which the...

China: The Uses of Fear

Jonathan Mirsky from New York Review of Books
Instilling deadly fear throughout the population was one of Mao Zedong’s lasting contributions to China since the late Twenties. In the case of Dai Qing, one of China’s sharpest critics before 1989, fear seems to explain the sad transformation in...

The Party’s Secrets

Jonathan Mirsky from New York Review of Books
Not long after Mao Zedong died in 1976, one of the editors of the Party’s People’s Daily said. “Lies in newspapers are like rat droppings in clear soup: disgusting and obvious.” That may have been true of the Party’s newspapers, which Chinese are...

Mao and Snow

John K. Fairbank & Jonathan Mirsky from New York Review of Books
In response to:Message from Mao from the February 16, 1989 issueTo the Editors:Edgar Snow was set up by Mao and mugged by the Cold War. I first met him in 1932 in Peking and kept more or less in touch during the next forty years of his life. I think...

Environment

08.12.71

North Vietnam and China: Reflections on a Visit

Martin Bernal
Early this year I went to Hanoi by way of China. After spending a week in Peking I went to North Vietnam for just over a month and then returned to China, where I stayed in Changsha and Canton for two weeks. Later I spent three and a half weeks in...

Contradictions

Martin Bernal from New York Review of Books
Professor Schurmann is not modest. Near the beginning of his book he writes: “translations from Chinese, Russian and Japanese are my own, and hundreds of articles had to be read in the original Chinese with precision and at the same time extensively...

How to Deal with the Chinese Revolution

John K. Fairbank from New York Review of Books
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...

Mao’s China

Martin Bernal from New York Review of Books
To most Westerners China is not a part of the known world and Mao is not a figure of our time. The ignorant believe he is the leader of a host of martians whose sole occupation is plotting the destruction of civilization and the enslavement of...

The Popularity of Chinese Patriotism

Martin Bernal from New York Review of Books
Fundamentally China is a sellers’ market. The first half of this century, when there was a glut of books, seems to have been the exception. Since 1949 a veil has once more been drawn over the center of the mysterious east, and the situation has...