Books

06.28.17

No Wall Too High

Erling Hoh
“It was impossible. All of China was a prison in those days.”Mao Zedong’s labor reform camps, known as the laogai, were notoriously brutal. Modeled on the Soviet Gulag, they subjected their inmates to backbreaking labor, malnutrition, and vindictive wardens. They were thought to be impossible to escape—but one man did.Xu Hongci was a bright young student at the Shanghai No. 1 Medical College, spending his days studying to be a professor and going to the movies with his girlfriend. He was also an idealistic and loyal member of the Communist Party and was generally liked and well respected. But when Mao delivered his famous February 1957 speech inviting “a hundred schools of thought [to] contend,” an earnest Xu Hongci responded by posting a criticism of the Party—a near-fatal misstep. He soon found himself a victim of the Anti-Rightist Campaign, condemned to spend the next 14 years in the laogai.Xu Hongci became one of the roughly 550,000 Chinese unjustly imprisoned after the spring of 1957, and despite the horrific conditions and terrible odds, he was determined to escape. He failed three times before finally succeeding, in 1972, in what was an amazing and arduous triumph.Originally published in Hong Kong, Xu Hongci’s remarkable memoir recounts his life from childhood through his final prison break. After discovering his story in a Hong Kong library, the journalist Erling Hoh tracked down the original manuscript and compiled this condensed translation, which includes background on this turbulent period, an epilogue that follows Xu Hongci up to his death, and Xu Hongci’s own drawings and maps. Both a historical narrative and an exhilarating prison-break thriller, No Wall Too High tells the unique story of a man who insisted on freedom—even under the most treacherous circumstances. —Farrar, Straus and Giroux{chop}

Books

05.15.17

A World Trimmed with Fur

Jonathan Schlesinger
In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, booming demand for natural resources transformed China and its frontiers. Historians of China have described this process in stark terms: pristine borderlands became breadbaskets. Yet Manchu and Mongolian archives reveal a different story. Well before homesteaders arrived, wild objects from the far north became part of elite fashion, and unprecedented consumption had exhausted the region’s most precious resources.In A World Trimmed with Fur, Jonathan Schlesinger uses these diverse archives to reveal how Qing rule witnessed not the destruction of unspoiled environments, but their invention. Qing frontiers were never pristine in the nineteenth century—pearlers had stripped riverbeds of mussels, mushroom pickers had uprooted the steppe, and fur-bearing animals had disappeared from the forest. In response, the court turned to “purification”; it registered and arrested poachers, reformed territorial rule, and redefined the boundary between the pristine and the corrupted. Schlesinger’s resulting analysis provides a framework for rethinking the global invention of nature. —Stanford University Press{chop}

China Says Hopes Mongolia Learned Lesson after Dalai Lama Visit

Reuters
China said on Tuesday it hopes Mongolia has learned a lesson and will keep a promise not to invite the Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama again after his visit in November led to a chill in relations.

When China Bullies Its Neighbors, India Gets More Muscular

Ilaria Maria Sala
Quartz
China’s increasingly rough-handed and assertive foreign policy towards its neighbors is raising India’s diplomatic and economic clout in the region

Features

12.02.16

How Do You Stand up to China? Ask Mongolia

Sergey Radchenko
The day before the Dalai Lama’s November 18 trip to Mongolia, Beijing issued a “strong demand” to its neighbor to cancel the visit of the “anti-Chinese separatist” or face (unstated) consequences. The Dalai Lama would be making his ninth visit to...

Dalai Lama Says He Will Visit Trump in Move Bound to Anger China

Ben Blanchard
Reuters
"I think there are some problems to go to United States, so I will go to see the new president," the Dalai Lama told reporters, without elaborating...

Russia Stalls China’s $1 Billion Hydropower Loan for Mongolia

Michael Kohn
Bloomberg
The Kremlin said the hydropower project in northern Mongolia could threaten Lake Baikal 580 kilometers downstream.

Environment

07.06.16

China-Backed Hydropower Project Could Disturb a Sensitive Siberian Ecosystem

from Rivers without Boundaries
Lake Baikal contains 20 percent of the world’s freshwater resources and affects the regional climate of North Asia and the Arctic Basin. The lake is home to 2,500 aquatic species and local communities in Mongolia and Russia revere the lake as the “...

Postcard

01.18.16

A People’s Friendship

James Palmer
It takes a brave man to jump off a moving train for the sake of a sale, but the clothes hawkers had the easy courage of men who did this on the regular. I watched as they leapt off the front carriage as the train chugged into a station with no stop...

The China-Russia-Mongolia Trilateral Gains Steam

Bochen Han
Diplomat
The Asian trilateral no one talks about is seeing some interesting new developments.

Mongolia's ‘Rebalance’ Towards Russia and China

Gabriel Dominguez
Deutsche Welle
In a bid to boost its ailing economy, Mongolia is refocusing its foreign policy on its traditional partners Russia and China. But experts warn Ulan Bator runs the risk of becoming increasingly dependent.

Mongolia Finds China Can Be Too Close for Comfort

Charles Hutzler
Associated Press
In a global rush to get rich off China, Mongolia works to ensure that Chinese investment doesn't become Chinese dominance...