The New York Review of Books China Archive is a collaborative project of ChinaFile and The New York Review of Books. When complete, it will contain a full and easily searchable collection of China-related essays and reviews that The New York Review of Books has published since its founding in 1963.

Photo credit: Copyright Matthew and Eve Levine

Mission Impossible

Roderick MacFarquhar
The name of George C. Marshall, one of only six U.S. Generals of the Army in modern times, is indelibly linked with the Marshall Plan that was critical to the rebuilding of Western Europe after the devastation of World War II. When he spoke at...

Breaking Eggs Against a Rock

Ian Johnson from New York Review of Books
Blood Letters is an important new biography of Lin Zhao, the journalist who was executed 50 years ago this spring for criticizing the Communist Party’s misrule in the 1950s and 1960s. After years of imprisonment, torture, and mental deterioration,...

One Decent Man

Geremie R. Barmé from New York Review of Books
The thought of hearing back from Simon Leys filled me with dread. It was late 1976 and I was an exchange student at a university in Shenyang, in northeast China. I’d only recently learned that Pierre Ryckmans, the man who had taught me Chinese, was...

‘Ruling Through Ritual’: An Interview with Guo Yuhua

Ian Johnson from New York Review of Books
Guo Yuhua is one of China’s best-known sociologists and most incisive government critics. A professor at Tsinghua University in Beijing, she has devoted her career to researching human suffering in Chinese society, especially that of peasants, the...

The Fantastic Truth About China

Alec Ash from New York Review of Books
In 1902, Liang Qichao, a reformist intellectual of the late Qing dynasty, wrote a futuristic story called “A Chronicle of the Future of New China.” In the unfinished manuscript, he depicts Shanghai hosting the World Fair in 1962 (“Confucius year...

China: Back to the Future

Andrew J. Nathan from New York Review of Books
In 2023, Xi Jinping will conclude his second term as China’s president. Ever since Deng Xiaoping revised the country’s constitution more than 35 years ago, two consecutive terms have been the most that a president can legally serve. But it has...

After-Shocks of the 2008 Sichuan Earthquake

Ian Johnson from New York Review of Books
The province of Sichuan is a microcosm of China. Its east is flat, prosperous, and densely settled by ethnic Chinese. Its mountainous west is populated by poorer minorities, but possesses resources that help make the east rich.In Sichuan, the...

Chairman Xi, Chinese Idol

Ian Johnson from New York Review of Books
For nearly sixty years since it opened in 1959, the Great Hall of the People has been the public focus of Chinese politics, a monumental granite block that extends 1,200 feet along the west side of Tiananmen Square. It is where the country’s leaders...

The Brands That Kowtow to China

Richard Bernstein from New York Review of Books
There’s been no joking as the apologies to China have come thick and fast in recent weeks, issued not by teenage singers but by some of the largest and richest multinational corporations in the world—the German luxury car manufacturer Daimler, the...

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...

The Red Emperor

Roderick MacFarquhar from New York Review of Books
This fall, the Nineteenth Congress of the Chinese Communist Party (C.C.P.) gave proof that during his five years as general secretary Xi Jinping has become the most powerful leader of China since Mao Zedong died in 1976. Most observers, Chinese and...

‘The Biggest Taboo’

Ian Johnson from New York Review of Books
One of China’s most influential artists is forty-eight-year-old Qiu Zhijie. A native of southern China’s Fujian province, Qiu studied art in the eastern city of Hangzhou before moving to Beijing in 1994 to pursue a career as a contemporary artist...

China’s Art of Containment

Geremie R. Barmé
On the evening of May 20, 1989, in response to weeks of mass demonstrations in Tiananmen Square, the Chinese government placed Beijing under martial law. The following morning, in Hong Kong, far to the south, Wen Wei Po, the main Communist-...

The True Story of Lu Xun

Geremie R. Barmé from New York Review of Books
1.Addressing an audience at the Hong Kong YMCA in February 1927, the writer Lu Xun (the pen name of Zhou Shuren, 1881–1936) warned that despite ten years of literary revolution and the promotion of a written vernacular language, Chinese people had...

Sexual Life in Modern China

Ian Johnson from New York Review of Books
Throughout the late 1970s and 1980s, Chinese writers grappled with the traumas of the Mao period, seeking to make sense of their suffering. As in the imperial era, most had been servants of the state, loyalists who might criticize but never seek to...

The Chinese World Order

Andrew J. Nathan from New York Review of Books
Ten years ago the journalist James Mann published a book called The China Fantasy, in which he criticized American policymakers for using something he called “the Soothing Scenario” to justify the policy of diplomatic and economic engagement with...

Beijing’s Bold New Censorship

Perry Link from New York Review of Books
Authoritarians, in China and elsewhere, normally have preferred to dress their authoritarianism up in pretty clothes. Lenin called the version of dictatorship he invented in 1921 “democratic centralism,” but it became clear, especially after Stalin...

When the Law Meets the Party

Ian Johnson
Like an army defeated but undestroyed, China’s decades-long human rights movement keeps reassembling its lines after each disastrous loss, miraculously fielding new forces in the battle against an illiberal state. Each time, foot soldiers and...

The Lonely Struggle of Lee Ching-yu

Richard Bernstein from New York Review of Books
On March 19, a human rights activist from Taiwan named Lee Ming-che disappeared in mainland China, and his wife back in Taipei, Lee Ching-yu, became a member of one of the least desirable clubs in the world: the spouses of people who for political...

Liu Xiaobo: The Man Who Stayed

Ian Johnson from New York Review of Books
In 1898, some of China’s most brilliant minds allied themselves with the Emperor Guangxu, a young ruler who was trying to assert himself by forcing through reforms to open up China’s political, economic, and educational systems. But opponents...

The Passion of Liu Xiaobo

Perry Link from New York Review of Books
In the late 1960s Mao Zedong, China’s Great Helmsman, encouraged children and adolescents to confront their teachers and parents, root out “cow ghosts and snake spirits,” and otherwise “make revolution.” In practice, this meant closing China’s...

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’s Astounding Religious Revival

Roderick MacFarquhar from New York Review of Books
If there were just one Chinese in the world, he could be the lonely sage contemplating life and nature whom we come across on the misty mountains of Chinese scrolls. If there were two Chinese in the world, a man and a woman, lo, the family system is...

The Earthy Glories of Ancient China

Ian Buruma from New York Review of Books
French schoolchildren used to be taught that they were descended from the Gauls, a tribe that emerged around the fifth century BC. It is a common conceit of 19th-century nationalism that citizens of modern nation-states can trace their national...

Should the Chinese Government Be in American Classrooms?

Richard Bernstein from New York Review of Books
Since their beginning in 2005, Confucius Institutes (CIs) have been set up to teach Chinese language classes in more than 100 American colleges and universities, including large and substantial institutions like Rutgers University, the State...

Recreating China’s Imagined Empire

Ian Johnson from New York Review of Books
China’s influence in the world has become a persistent theme of these early days of the Donald Trump era. During his campaign, Trump portrayed China (not entirely incorrectly) as the leading malefactor in the politics of international trade—holding...

Liberating China’s Past

Ian Johnson from New York Review of Books
With the closing of this month’s National People’s Congress, China’s political season is upon us. It will culminate in the autumn with Xi Jinping’s almost certain reappointment to another five-year term. With Xi rapidly becoming the most important...

Xi Jinping: The Illusion of Greatness

Ian Johnson from New York Review of Books
Politics is always about pomp and pageantry, but as pure, stultifying ritual few occasions can compare to the convening of the Chinese parliament, the National People’s Congress, which ended this week. No matter what is happening in China or the...

China: The Struggle at the Top

Andrew J. Nathan from New York Review of Books
The Chinese were gloating over the flaws of the American political system long before the election of Donald J. Trump. Coming from an obsessively orderly system, they were again and again baffled by an institutional setup that flips control from...

When the Chinese Were Unspeakable

Ian Johnson from New York Review of Books
The Xiao River rushes deep and clear out of the mountains of southern China into a narrow plain of paddies and villages. At first little more than an angry stream, it begins to meander and grow as the basin’s 63 other creeks and brooks flow into it...

China’s Hidden Massacres: An Interview with Tan Hecheng

Ian Johnson from New York Review of Books
Tan Hecheng might seem an unlikely person to expose one of the most shocking crimes of the Chinese Communist Party. A congenial 67-year-old who spent most of his life in southern Hunan province away from the seats of power, Tan is no dissident. In...

How Tibet Is Being Crushed—While the Dalai Lama Survives

Jonathan Mirsky from New York Review of Books
If you read every page of Tsering Woeser’s latest book and skip the first and last chapters of Tsering Topgyal’s, the ultimate message about the situation in Tibet is often the same. Chinese rule, writes Woeser, is no less than “ethnic oppression,”...

Inside and Outside the System: Chinese Writer Hu Fayun

Ian Johnson from New York Review of Books
Over the summer, I traveled to Wuhan to continue my series of talks with people about the challenges facing China. Coming here was part of an effort to break out of the black hole of Beijing politics and explore the view from China’s vast hinterland...

A Magician of Chinese Poetry

Perry Link from New York Review of Books
Some people, and I am one, feel that Tang (618–907 CE) poetry is the finest literary art they have ever read. But does one need to learn Chinese in order to have such a view, or can classical Chinese poetry be adequately translated?In 1987 Eliot...

China: The Virtues of the Awful Convulsion

Ian Johnson from New York Review of Books
For decades, Beijing’s Beihai Park has been one of the city’s most beloved retreats—a strip of green around a grand lake to the north of the Communist Party’s leadership compound, its waters crowded with electric rental boats shaped like ducks and...

China: A Life in Detention

Yang Zhanqing from New York Review of Books
Every year in China, thousands of people suffer what the United Nations calls “arbitrary detention”: confinement in extra-legal facilities—including former government buildings, hotels, or mental hospitals—which are sometimes known as “black jails...

‘The Songs of Birds’

Ian Johnson from New York Review of Books
Day and night,I copy the Diamond Sutraof Prajnaparamita.My writing looks more and more square.It proves that I have not gone entirelyinsane, but the tree I drewhasn’t grown a leaf.—from “I Copy the Scriptures,” in Empty ChairsEvery month, the...

The People in Retreat

Ian Johnson from New York Review of Books
Ai Xiaoming is one of China’s leading documentary filmmakers and political activists. Since 2004, she has made more than two dozen films, many of them long, gritty documentaries that detail citizen activism or uncover whitewashed historical events...

Who Is Kim Jong-un?

Andrew J. Nathan from New York Review of Books
The pudgy cheeks and flaring hairdo of North Korea’s young ruler Kim Jong-un, his bromance with tattooed and pierced former basketball star Dennis Rodman, his boy-on-a-lark grin at missile firings, combine incongruously with the regime’s pledge to...

China: The People’s Fury

Richard Bernstein from New York Review of Books
It has long been routine to find in both China’s official news organizations and its social media a barrage of anti-American comment, but rarely has it reached quite the intensity and fury of the last few days. There have been calls from citizens on...

The Heritage of a Great Man

Freeman Dyson from New York Review of Books
Why did communism grow deep roots and survive in China, while it withered and died in Russia? This is one of the central questions of modern history. A plausible answer to the question is that communism in China resonated with the two-thousand-year-...

A New Language for Chinese Film

J. Hoberman from New York Review of Books
Kaili Blues, an eccentric, remarkably assured first feature by the young Chinese director Bi Gan, is both the most elusive and the most memorable new movie that I’ve seen in quite some time—“elusive” and “memorable” being central to Bi’s ambitions...

Who Is Xi?

Andrew J. Nathan from New York Review of Books
More than halfway through his five-year term as president of China and general secretary of the Chinese Communist Party—expected to be the first of at least two—Xi Jinping’s widening crackdown on civil society and promotion of a cult of personality...

A Revolutionary Discovery in China

Ian Johnson from New York Review of Books
1.As Beijing prepared to host the 2008 Olympics, a small drama was unfolding in Hong Kong. Two years earlier, middlemen had come into possession of a batch of waterlogged manuscripts that had been unearthed by tomb robbers in south-central China...

‘China’s Worst Policy Mistake’?

Nicholas D. Kristof from New York Review of Books
Perhaps no government policy anywhere in the world affected more people in a more intimate and brutal way than China’s one-child policy. In the West, there’s a tendency to approve of it as a necessary if overzealous effort to curb China’s population...

If Mao Had Been a Hermit

Perry Link from New York Review of Books
At the annual meeting of BookExpo America that was held in New York last May, to which most leading U.S. publishers sent representatives, state-sponsored Chinese publishers were named “guests of honor.” Commercially speaking, this made sense. China’...

Crackdown in China: Worse and Worse

Orville Schell from New York Review of Books
“As a liberal, I no longer feel I have a future in China,” a prominent Chinese think tank head in the process of moving abroad recently lamented in private. Such refrains are all too familiar these days as educated Chinese professionals express...

China: The Benefits of Persecution?

Jonathan Mirsky from New York Review of Books
During decades of reading and reviewing books on China I have learned a great deal, even from those I didn’t like. Only a few have surprised me. Mao’s Lost Children is such a book, and those like me who believe that the Mao period was bad for China...

What Is the I Ching?

Eliot Weinberger from New York Review of Books
The I Ching has served for thousands of years as a philosophical taxonomy of the universe, a guide to an ethical life, a manual for rulers, and an oracle of one’s personal future and the future of the state. It was an organizing principle or...

Lost in China’s Exploding Future

Ian Buruma from New York Review of Books
Chinese director Jia Zhangke’s new movie, Mountains May Depart, begins with a disco dance in a bleak mining town to the sounds of “Go West” by the Pet Shop Boys. It is the lunar New Year, 1999. Outside, the end of the millennium is celebrated in a...

Why Are Tibetans Setting Themselves on Fire?

Tsering Woeser from New York Review of Books
February 27, 2009, was the third day of Losar, the Tibetan New Year. It was also the day that self-immolation came to Tibet. The authorities had just cancelled a Great Prayer Festival (Monlam) that was supposed to commemorate the victims of the...

‘My Personal Vendetta’

Ian Johnson from New York Review of Books
The presumed kidnapping of the Hong Kong bookseller and British citizen Lee Bo late last year has brought international attention to the challenges faced by the Hong Kong publishing business. During a break from The New York Review’s conference on...

Why Pollution is Good for China

Ian Johnson from New York Review of Books
I am a member of a martial arts group that performs at annual temple fairs around Beijing. Half of our group are children, and almost without fail they meet at a park on the west side of town at around three in the afternoon to practice fighting...

Xi’s China: The Illusion of Change

Ian Johnson from New York Review of Books
Xi Jinping is often described as China’s most powerful leader in decades, perhaps even since Mao. He has been credited—if sometimes grudgingly—with pursuing a vigorous foreign policy, economic reforms, and a historic crackdown on corruption.But as...

China: Novelists Against the State

Perry Link from New York Review of Books
Can writers help an injured society to heal? Did Ōe Kenzaburō, who traveled to Hiroshima in 1963 to interview survivors of the dropping of the atomic bomb on that city eighteen years earlier, and then published a moving book called Hiroshima Notes,...

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...

‘I Try to Talk Less’: A Conversation with Ai Weiwei and Liao Yiwu

Ian Johnson from New York Review of Books
In late July, Chinese authorities renewed travel privileges for conceptual artist and political activist Ai Weiwei, ending a five-year prohibition following his arrest in 2011. He promptly flew to Munich and then Berlin, where he has accepted a...

China: The Superpower of Mr. Xi

Roderick MacFarquhar from New York Review of Books
In the almost one-hundred-year existence of the Chinese Communist Party (C.C.P.), its current general secretary, Xi Jinping, is only the second leader clearly chosen by his peers. The first was Mao Zedong. Both men beat out the competition, and thus...

A Blind Lawyer vs. Blind Chinese Power

Evan Osnos from New York Review of Books
In early 2012, Chen Guangcheng, a self-taught lawyer who had been blind since infancy, lived with his wife and two children in the village of Dongshigu, where he’d been raised, on the eastern edge of the North China plain. They were not there by...

A Partnership with China to Avoid World War

George Soros from New York Review of Books
International cooperation is in decline both in the political and financial spheres. The U.N. has failed to address any of the major conflicts since the end of the cold war; the 2009 Copenhagen Climate Change Conference left a sour aftertaste; the...