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Selling Out Hong Kong

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 down. Years, months, days, hours, even anxious last minutes of mind-numbing diplomatic negotiations about protocol had produced an agreement that the sound of God Save the Queen should fade out seconds before the strike of midnight, lest the echoes of the British anthem should spill into the first moments of Chinese sovereignty over Hong Kong.

The “homecoming” of Hong Kong has been the most peculiar ending of any colony in modern history. The last colonial governor drifted off into the bay with tears streaming down his cheeks. He was more popular among the people he had governed than the Chinese tycoon who took his place. The freely elected legislature has been shoved aside in favor of “patriots,” appointed by a Communist regime. Most extraordinary of all, a last-minute poll showed that 74.9 percent of the Hong Kong people thought they were better off under British rule, and only 31 percent wanted Hong Kong to be ruled by China. And this doesn’t mean the British were popular.

Under the organized froth of official celebration I detected little sense of joy in Hong Kong. The noisiest revelers on the night of June 30, decked out in dinner jackets and Chinese fancy dress, were foreign and Chinese businessmen, who expect to make a killing. A young Englishman in a Union Jack waistcoat was braying at midnight: “A bit of a hangover tomorrow, and then more money, money, money!”

In the Mandarin Hotel on the morning after, socialites were knocking back champagne to the keening sounds of a Chinese orchestra, while the British grandees who had helped to seal Hong Kong’s fate were heading for their limos to the airport. There was Lord Howe, and there ex-Governor Wilson. After years of publicly undermining Chris Patten’s political reforms, these men demonstrated just what they thought of democracy in Hong Kong by attending the swearing-in of the appointed legislature, even though the top representatives of Britain and the US had decided not to. A leading Hong Kong democrat, sitting gloomily in the downstairs bar, said she was glad it was raining: it would ruin the Chinese celebrations. And she had been one of the most ferocious critics of the British colonial government.

* * *

Symbols, clearly, were of the highest importance. To Beijing, the handover of Hong Kong to China was itself a symbolic act—with real consequences, to be sure. The question is, symbolic of what? Several messages were driven home without pause, in official speeches, a new movie, mass stadium demonstrations, newspaper headlines, buttons and badges, T-shirts and posters, and slogans in wooden Chinese: the “homecoming” of Hong Kong was a patriotic victory that wiped out “150 years of shame.” It was as though patriotism should compensate for the lack of independence or democracy. But the homecoming was also hailed as a victory for Deng Xiaoping’s Open Door Policy and his concept of One Country, Two Systems, both of which are now described as the brilliant thoughts of a philosopher-king.

Two days before the homecoming, I was waiting for a friend in the Dining Hall of the Legislative Council (LegCo), one of the very few classical colonial buildings left in Hong Kong. There were three other people in the room: a LegCo member named David Chu, and two American reporters. Chu is a Harvard MBA, a former US citizen, a snappy dresser, a “dangerous sports” enthusiast, and a very rich man. He was giving the journalists a history lesson. The thing they had to understand about Hong Kong, he said, was that before Deng Xiaoping’s Open Door Policy of the 1980s, Hong Kong was nothing but an insignificant producer of cheap trinkets, and before that, a mere fishing village. The genius of Deng’s policies, then, had made Hong Kong rich and great. The British contribution was barely worth mentioning.

Chu knew better of course. He knew that Chinese refugees from communism—including his own parents—had given Hong Kong a huge boost already in 1949. He also knew that Hong Kong’s wealth was largely made possible by the British Open Door Policy that goes back to the Opium War itself. The much-vaunted “rule of law” in Hong Kong was the result of British demands for extraterritorial rights. But Chu was giving his grateful interviewers the official, patriotic Beijing line. He was never directly elected to the legislature. He didn’t have to be. He is now an official patriot. History melts into myth in most countries, but few nations have been as systematic in rewriting history to match the politics of the day as China, and as oblivious to its contradictions. Each dynasty began with a revision of history. Britain is now being written out of Hong Kong’s history, except as the rapacious, drug-pushing, imperialist source of those “150 years of shame.”

* * *

In celebration of Hong Kong’s homecoming, the Chinese and Hong Kong people have been shown a movie, made at great expense, entitled The Opium War. So far, the film has not been a hit, perhaps because the propaganda is too crude. One of the British actors, named Bob Peck, who plays an opium trader of such eye-popping, silent movie-style wickedness that you wonder whether he is meant to be comic, complained in an interview that he was “unable to develop his character.” He had, perhaps, rather missed the point, which was this: British barbarians and corrupt, opium-addicted Chinese traders had brought shame and humiliation on the Chinese people, first by trading in opium, then by opening Chinese ports for business, and finally by taking Hong Kong. The British traders had introduced disorder in the Chinese cosmos; the Communist Party has finally restored it. In fact, however, opium was the spark that lit the fuse but not the main issue at stake in the Opium Wars. The clash was between Britain’s aggressive insistence on free trade and the Qing court’s equally vehement insistence on receiving tributes from foreigners instead of trading with them.

As often in patriotic myths, the sullied purity of the nation is symbolized by a beautiful young girl, who is ravished by the barbaric foreigner, in this case by Captain Elliot, the British trade representative in Canton during the 1840s. After a drunken lunge at the Chinese girl, his eyes blazing with bestial lust, he says: “Hong Kong, I want it!”

Hong Kong, we are to understand, is the raped Chinese innocent. Then, however, ruined by the barbaric embrace, she becomes the fallen woman, a Suzy Wong who would sell her own mother for a pot of gold. In the elaborately staged patriotic song and dance shows that were staged in Beijing as well as in Hong Kong, Hong Kong’s reputation was symbolized by dancers wearing dollar signs on their heads. But Western imperialist enclaves in China created pockets of freedom to do more than make money. Revolutions were hatched in cities like Canton, Hong Kong, and Shanghai. It was this, perhaps more than pornography, that Deng Xiaoping had in mind when he warned against the “foreign pollution” which came pouring through his own Open Door.

The patriotic symbol of China is of course not an Open Door at all but, quite the opposite, a Great Wall. In an enormous show staged at the Workers’ Stadium in Beijing—a show which would have done Leni Riefenstahl proud—thousands of young men, bellowing like a chorus of slaves, piled block upon block to form a massive Great Wall, protecting China from the barbarians. The homecoming of Hong Kong was also a celebration of the Great Wall, of Chinese xenophobia, of the Middle Kingdom’s revenge over past humiliations. It is understood that trade brings wealth, and wealth brings power. One Country, Two Systems is meant to preserve Hong Kong’s capacity to produce wealth. The closely guarded border separating Hong Kong from its motherland is supposed to shield Hong Kong from poverty and communism. But the “purity” of China must be protected as well. And so, for another fifty years, a wall will cloister the fallen woman, while she continues to rake in the cash.

2.

In their Empire, the British would award titles and medals to local worthies who had done their bit to maintain British rule. So also in Hong Kong. But in the week before the homecoming a new, Chinese award was announced: the Grand Bauhinia Medal, given to those who had “fostered among Hong Kong people a love for the motherland,” and who had “shown concern for and also identified with China’s accomplishments.” Sir S.Y. Chung, a former loyal servant of the British Empire, and T.S. Lo, another ex-supporter of British rule, were both awarded the GBM. Neither was ever a Communist, but that is beside the point. They now love China. It is not always clear what this means. Is China a culture, a state, a race, or all three? Chinese, like pre-war Germans, have an identity problem. All Chinese, whether they live in Hong Kong, Shanghai, or Vancouver, are supposed to love China. (The cheers in London’s Chinatown on June 30 appear to have rung louder than in Hong Kong—but then Gerrard Street won’t be ruled from Beijing.) Official patriotism, however, is easy to define: to love China is to love its rulers. Like the Yellow Emperors in the past, the Chinese Communist Party expects to be paid tribute by all patriotic Chinese. That is what the GBM is for.

Chinese patriotism is hard to resist, especially for Chinese living abroad, or under colonial rule. Racial pride can be the only form of satisfaction to people who lack political representation. Take the case of Mr. Lim Ken-han, the conductor of the “100% Chinese” Hong Kong China Philharmonic. He was furious that the Hong Kong Philharmonic, which contains musicians of various nationalities, was invited to play at the homecoming ceremonies, and not his own orchestra, which, he said, was “racially more suited.”

Lim is not a Communist, as far as I know. He was born in the Dutch East Indies, educated in Amsterdam, and went to live in China in 1952, to help rebuild the motherland. In the 1960s, Lim was arrested and tortured by Red Guards. His sin was to have claimed that Western composers were worth playing. For five years, he was forced to clean toilets. Before he escaped to the relative liberty of Hong Kong, Lim’s patriotism was rejected in the most horrible manner. Yet, here he is, in a rage because he can’t sufficiently express his love for China.

It was, you might think, particularly difficult for Hong Kong Chinese to resist official patriotism, for they had no other patrie. Very few ever identified with Britain. For an older generation of refugees, Hong Kong itself was a temporary shelter, not a home. The so-called native Taiwanese, whose ancestors left the Chinese mainland several hundred years ago, can turn their sense of grievance against the mainlanders, who came to Taiwan with Chiang Kai-shek, into a sense of local nationalism. Attachment to the Taiwanese soil is their antidote to official Chinese patriotism. This was never an option for the Hong Kong Chinese. Now, for the first time, they have to define who they are, under Chinese sovereignty.

Before the homecoming ceremonies began, I attended a gathering of Hong Kong artists at a modern gallery. Most were in their twenties. “I feel Chinese,” said one young man, “just as Chinese as the people in China, but I don’t identify with a government whose ideas are derived from a nineteenth-century German intellectual.” Others stressed a vague Hong Kong “identity,” expressed through its commercial culture and its Cantonese pop songs. Others still refused to get pinned down to any collective identity, let alone a racial one; they were citizens of the world. But all agreed that they loved Hong Kong for its cosmopolitanism, its freedom, and its openness to foreign people and ideas—the very things, in short, which official patriotism so often seeks to contain behind walls.

* * *

There is, however, an alternative tradition to official Chinese patriotism. It is loosely termed the May 4th spirit. On May 4, 1919, students in Beijing demonstrated for a freer, stronger, more modern China. The movement, which spread to intellectuals and was backed by many businessmen and professionals, was emotional, often muddled, but undoubtedly patriotic. With its commitment to “democracy and science,” and under the influence of Marxism, feminism, and many other -isms, the May 4 Movement constituted a kind of counter-patriotism, set against the authoritarian rulers of Beijing. It was the May 4 spirit which the students invoked on Tienanmen Square seventy years later, and it is in the same spirit that political activists and intellectuals in Hong Kong today hope to build a democratic Hong Kong, and eventually a democratic China. That is why you often see the bust of Lu Xun, the most famous critic to emerge in the May 4 generation, standing on their desks.

When Martin Lee, the lawyer who heads the Hong Kong Democratic Party, spoke from the balcony of the Legislative Council on July 1, in the first rain-soaked hour of Chinese rule, he spoke as a patriot, and a democrat. He was proud that Hong Kong had become part of China again. But without freedom, he said, Hong Kong would soon lose its worth. And you cannot have freedom, he concluded, without democracy. Only a few thousand people had braved the weather to come out and listen, and many of them were foreign reporters, eager for a story to break the tedium of official ceremony. But numbers can deceive. Before the summer of 1989, Hong Kong people were said to be indifferent to politics. Before and after June 4, a million marched in the streets. As Martin Lee said, “Hong Kong has discovered her spirit.” To anyone who witnessed that spirit in 1989, the sight of dancers wearing dollar signs in mass parades was a degrading spectacle which did nothing to elevate the homecoming celebration.

President Jiang Zemin said that future Hong Kong governments would be freely and universally elected. He also said that they should never contain “anti-Chinese elements,” and that Hong Kong would always be “in the hands of patriots.” In this menacing definition of patriotism, Martin Lee is decidedly not a patriot. The democrats are marked as “anti-Chinese elements.” Before June 30, such elements were protected from Chinese rulers by colonial borders. In a way, this suited the rulers too: dangerous ideas were insulated. Now, for the first time since the 1920s and 1930s, two kinds of Chinese patriotism will clash under one Chinese flag: the authoritarian kind and Martin Lee’s kind, the May 4th kind. On the face of it, Lee and his fellow democrats don’t stand a chance. The official patriots have the money and the guns. But in the long run, the love of liberty might yet turn out to be stronger. In that happy event, Hong Kong’s homecoming will prove to have been the most dangerous tribute ever to fall into a Chinese tyrant’s lap.

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Ian Buruma was educated in Holland and Japan, where he studied history, Chinese literature, and Japanese cinema. In the 1970s in Tokyo, he acted in Kara Juro’s Jokyo Gekijo and participated in...

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This article was first published in the August 14, 1997 issue of the New York Review of Books.

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He Told the Truth About China’s Tyranny

SIMON LEYS

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...

China Gets Religion!

IAN JOHNSON

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

IAN BURUMA

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

IAN JOHNSON

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

FANG LIZHI

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

JONATHAN D. SPENCE

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’?

JONATHAN MIRSKY

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

AMARTYA SEN

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

RODERICK MACFARQUHAR

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

PERRY LINK

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

JONATHAN MIRSKY

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

JONATHAN D. SPENCE

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

IAN JOHNSON

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

ORVILLE SCHELL

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

JONATHAN D. SPENCE

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

JONATHAN D. SPENCE

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

JONATHAN D. SPENCE

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

JONATHAN D. SPENCE

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

ORVILLE SCHELL

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

FRANCINE PROSE

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

PANKAJ MISHRA

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

PANKAJ MISHRA

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

RODERICK MACFARQUHAR

“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

JONATHAN D. SPENCE

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...

PU ZHIQIANG

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)

PERRY LINK

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...

A Little Leap Forward

NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF

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...

AsiaWorld

IAN BURUMA

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—...

Found Horizon

IAN BURUMA

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

IAN BURUMA

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

IAN BURUMA

“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

IAN BURUMA

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

ORVILLE SCHELL

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

IAN BURUMA

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...

Holding Out in Hong Kong

IAN BURUMA

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...

China: The Defining Moment

JONATHAN MIRSKY

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...

The Beginning of the End

IAN BURUMA

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

JONATHAN D. SPENCE

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

JONATHAN MIRSKY

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

JOHN K. FAIRBANK

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

JOHN K. FAIRBANK

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

IAN BURUMA

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...

Keeping the Faith

FANG LIZHI

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

JONATHAN MIRSKY

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

JOHN K. FAIRBANK

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

RODERICK MACFARQUHAR

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

NATHAN GARDELS

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...

Passing the Baton in Beijing

RODERICK MACFARQUHAR

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

JONATHAN D. SPENCE

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?

JONATHAN D. SPENCE

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...

Rules of the Game

JOHN GITTINGS

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

JOHN GITTINGS

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

JOHN GITTINGS

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...

A Mao for All Seasons

MARTIN BERNAL

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 “...