‘It’s Hopeless But You Persist’: An Interview with Jiang Xue

Ian Johnson from New York Review of Books
The forty-five-year-old investigative journalist Jiang Xue is one of the most influential members of a group of journalists who came of age in the early 2000s, taking advantage of new—if temporary—freedoms created by the Internet to investigate...

Who Killed More: Hitler, Stalin, or Mao?

Ian Johnson from New York Review of Books
In these pages nearly seven years ago, Timothy Snyder asked the provocative question: Who killed more, Hitler or Stalin? As useful as that exercise in moral rigor was, some think the question itself might have been slightly off. Instead, it should...

Books

01.26.18

A Village with My Name

Scott Tong
When journalist Scott Tong moved to Shanghai, his assignment was to start up the first full-time China bureau for Marketplace, the daily business and economics program on public radio stations across the United States. But for Tong, the move became much more—it offered the opportunity to reconnect with members of his extended family who had remained in China after his parents fled the communists six decades prior. By uncovering the stories of his family’s history, Tong discovered a new way to understand the defining moments of modern China and its long, interrupted quest to go global.A Village with My Name offers a unique perspective on the transitions in China through the eyes of regular people who have witnessed such epochal events as the toppling of the Qing monarchy, Japan’s occupation during World War II, exile of political prisoners to forced labor camps, mass death and famine during the Great Leap Forward, market reforms under Deng Xiaoping, and the dawn of the One Child Policy. Tong’s story focuses on five members of his family, who each offer a specific window on a changing country: a rare American-educated girl born in the closing days of the Qing Dynasty, a pioneer exchange student, an abandoned toddler from World War II who later rides the wave of China’s global export boom, a young professional climbing the ladder at a multinational company, and an orphan (the author’s daughter) adopted in the middle of a baby-selling scandal fueled by foreign money. Through their stories, Tong shows us China anew, visiting former prison labor camps on the Tibetan plateau and rural outposts along the Yangtze, exploring the Shanghai of the 1930s, and touring factories across the mainland.With curiosity and sensitivity, Tong explores the moments that have shaped China and its people, offering a compelling and deeply personal take on how China became what it is today. —University of Chicago Press{chop}

Viewpoint

10.20.17

Mao Wished He Could Upend the World Order. Does Xi?

Sergey Radchenko
In his October 18 speech opening the 19th Party Congress, Chinese Communist Party Secretary Xi Jinping cautiously embraced the future. Eyeing thousands of Party delegates, Xi spoke for three-and-a-half hours about turning China into a “great modern...

Novels from China’s Moral Abyss

Ian Johnson from New York Review of Books
Modern China was built on the nearly thirty ruthless years of Mao’s rule. The country’s elite—the “literati” of educated small landowners who held the empire together at the local level—was brutally eliminated. Almost everyone’s personal life was...

China Has An Awful Safety Record — And Wants To Run 110 Nuclear Reactors By 2030

Emily Rauhala
Washington Post
The country will have 110 working nuclear reactors by 2030.

China’s Think-Tank Great Leap Forward

Yanzhong Huang
Council on Foreign Relations
Governments, universities, and non-governmental actors have all jumped on the bandwagon of growing and creating think tanks.

Sinica Podcast

07.27.15

Beijing’s Great Leap Forward: Microbrew in China

Kaiser Kuo & Carl Setzer from Sinica Podcast
Great Leap Brewing is an institution. As one of the earliest American-style microbreweries in China, not only has the company rescued us from endless nights of Snow and Yanjing, but it has also given us something uniquely Chinese with its assortment...

Books

06.02.15

China Under Mao

Andrew G. Walder
China’s Communist Party seized power in 1949 after a long period of guerrilla insurgency followed by full-scale war, but the Chinese revolution was just beginning. China Under Mao narrates the rise and fall of the Maoist revolutionary state from 1949 to 1976—an epoch of startling accomplishments and disastrous failures, steered by many forces but dominated above all by Mao Zedong.Mao’s China, Andrew Walder argues, was defined by two distinctive institutions established during the first decade of Communist Party rule: a Party apparatus that exercised firm (sometimes harsh) discipline over its members and cadres; and a socialist economy modeled after the Soviet Union. Although a large national bureaucracy had oversight of this authoritarian system, Mao intervened strongly at every turn. The doctrines and political organization that produced Mao’s greatest achievements―victory in the civil war, the creation of China’s first unified modern state, a historic transformation of urban and rural life—also generated his worst failures: the industrial depression and rural famine of the Great Leap Forward and the violent destruction and stagnation of the Cultural Revolution.Misdiagnosing China’s problems as capitalist restoration and prescribing continuing class struggle against imaginary enemies as the solution, Mao ruined much of what he had built and created no viable alternative. At the time of his death, he left China backward and deeply divided.—Harvard University Press{chop}{node, 16186, 4}

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

08.27.13

Ancestral Intelligence

Vera Schwarcz
In Ancestral Intelligence, Vera Schwarcz has added a forceful and fascinating work to her ever-growing list of publications depicting the cultural landscape of contemporary China. Here, she has created stunning “renditions” of poems by a mid-20th century dissident poet, Chen Yinke, and has added a group of her own poems in harmony with Chen Yinke’s. Like his, her poems show a degradation of culture and humanity, in this case through comparison of classic and modern Chinese logographs.  —Antrim House {chop}

Culture

11.27.12

Remember to Tell the Truth

Maya E. Rudolph
The recording of memory brings history to life and creates a legacy of its own. In 2010, documentary filmmaker Wu Wenguang launched the Memory Project to try to shine a light on the long-shrouded memories of one of modern China’s most traumatic...

China: Worse Than You Ever Imagined

Ian Johnson from New York Review of Books
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...

Recording the Untold Stories of China’s Great Famine

Louisa Lim
NPR
A young man trudges doggedly around his village, notebook in hand, fringe flopping over his glasses. He goes from door to door, calling on the elderly.The young man has one main question: Who died in our village during the Great Famine?This is the...

A Great Leap Into the Abyss

Didi Kirsten Tatlow
New York Times
Unlike the horrors of the Soviet gulag or the Holocaust, what happened in China during the Great Leap Forward has received little attention from the larger world, “even though it is one of the worst catastrophes in twentieth-century history,” writes...

China: Politics as Warfare

Jonathan Mirsky from New York Review of Books
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...

The Worst Man-Made Catastrophe, Ever

Roderick MacFarquhar from New York Review of Books
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...

Finding the Facts About Mao’s Victims

Ian Johnson from New York Review of Books
Yang Jisheng is an editor of Annals of the Yellow Emperor, one of the few reform-oriented political magazines in China. Before that, the seventy-year-old native of Hubei province was a national correspondent with the government-run Xinhua news...

The China We Don’t Know

Jonathan Mirsky from New York Review of Books
In the late 1990s, Chinese peasants in the village of Da Fo, many of whom between 1959 and 1961 had survived the twentieth century’s greatest famine, felt free enough to install shrines to Guangong, the traditional war god of resistance to...

The Mark of Cain

Jonathan Mirsky from New York Review of Books
1.In Hong Kong’s China Club, fashionable people have lunch beneath pictures of Mao Zedong after a drink in the Long March Bar. Most of the members are refugees from Mao or the children of refugees. In Russia, or Germany, or Cambodia, there is surely...

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...

Bringing Up the Red Guards

John Gittings from New York Review of Books
Everyone who has studied the Chinese Cultural Revolution has his own favorite quotation from the Red Guard press. Those who want to make fun of it can always pick one of Mrs. Mao’s ridiculous pronouncements (“‘P'an T'ien-shou’ is a...