Unless China Changes Tack, India Won’t Be the Only Country Opposing One Belt, One Road

Harsh V Pant
Quartz
India said about OBOR that “no country can accept a project that ignores its core concerns on sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

Media

06.21.17

American Universities in China: Free Speech Bastions or Threats to Academic Freedom?

Eric Fish from Asia Blog
In 1986, Johns Hopkins University opened a study center in Nanjing University, making it the first American institution of higher education allowed to establish a physical presence in China during the Communist era. Since then, dozens of other...

The Dark Side of China’s National Renewal

Jamil Anderlini
Financial Times
The race-based ideas of the country’s leaders have unwelcome historical echoes.

China Says It Is Vigilant as Two U.S. Bombers Fly over South China Sea

Reuters
The U.S. military conducts such "freedom of navigation" patrols to show China it is not entitled to territorial waters there, U.S. officials said at the time...

Conversation

06.01.17

Can China Supplant the U.S. in Europe?

Rogier Creemers, Zha Daojiong & more
From May 31 to June 2, Premier Li Keqiang will visit Germany and Belgium, to “further deepen and enrich China’s relations with the European Union (EU) at a time of increasing global uncertainty,” according to an article in China’s state newswire...

Philippines, China Play down Duterte's Talk of War in Disputed Sea

Reuters
The Philippines and China played down on Monday a warning by President Rodrigo Duterte that China would go to war if the Philippines drilled for oil in the disputed South China Sea.

Taiwan’s Failure to Face the Threat from China

ENOCH Y. WU
New York Times
China’s aggression in the Asia-Pacific region has been met with little tangible response from the United States and other countries. China’s neighbors have acquiesced to Beijing’s claims to the airspace above the East China Sea and have stood by as...

China, Philippines to Hold First South China Sea Talks Friday

CLIFF VENZON
Nikkei Asian Review
The meeting will take place in the southern Chinese province of Guizhou, which is also hosting talks on Thursday between China and member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations on establishing a framework for a code of conduct in the...

India Boycotts China’s Global Trade Jamboree

Rishi Iyengar
CNN
India’s main objection is the partnership China is developing with Pakistan. The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, a key component of One Belt, One Road -- passes through the disputed region of Kashmir, which both India and Pakistan claim in its...

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}

Books

05.08.17

The Souls of China

Ian Johnson
From journalist Ian Johnson, a revelatory portrait of religion in China today—its history, the spiritual traditions of its Eastern and Western faiths, and the ways in which it is influencing China’s future.The Souls of China tells the story of one of the world’s great spiritual revivals. Following a century of violent anti-religious campaigns, China is now filled with new temples, churches, and mosques—as well as cults, sects, and politicians trying to harness religion for their own ends. Driving this explosion of faith is uncertainty over what it means to be Chinese and how to live an ethical life in a country that discarded traditional morality a century ago and is searching for new guideposts.Johnson first visited China in 1984. In the 1990s, he helped run a charity to rebuild Daoist temples, and in 2001 he won a Pulitzer Prize for his coverage of the suppression of the Falun Gong spiritual movement. While researching this book, he lived for extended periods with underground church members, rural Daoists, and Buddhist pilgrims. Along the way, he learned esoteric meditation techniques, visited a nonagenarian Confucian sage, and befriended government propagandists as they fashioned a remarkable embrace of traditional values. He has distilled these experiences into a cycle of festivals, births, deaths, detentions, and struggle—a great awakening of faith that is shaping the soul of the world’s newest superpower. —Pantheon{chop}

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...

China Repeats West’s Mistakes in Pakistan

Mihir Sharma
Bloomberg
When President Xi Jinping announced in 2015 that China would pump $46 billion worth of investments into Pakistan, the recipients of his largesse seemed less surprised than one might have expected.

Philippines’ Duterte Says Helpless against China

Channel NewsAsia
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said on Thursday (Apr 27) there was no point protesting Chinese artificial island building in disputed areas of the South China Sea because it could not be stopped.

Hong Kong Charges Pro-Independence Activists over China Protest

Benjamin Haas
Guardian
Hong Kong police have charged two former pro-independence politicians over scuffles in the legislature, amid a widening crackdown on dissenting voices in the former British colony.

Books

04.25.17

China’s Hegemony

Ji-Young Lee
Many have viewed the tribute system as China’s tool for projecting its power and influence in East Asia, treating other actors as passive recipients of Chinese domination. China's Hegemony sheds new light on this system and shows that the international order of Asia’s past was not as Sinocentric as conventional wisdom suggests. Instead, throughout the early modern period, Chinese hegemony was accepted, defied, and challenged by its East Asian neighbors at different times, depending on these leaders’ strategies for legitimacy among their populations. This book demonstrates that Chinese hegemony and hierarchy were not just an outcome of China’s military power or Confucian culture but were constructed while interacting with other, less powerful actors’ domestic political needs, especially in conjunction with internal power struggles.Focusing on China-Korea-Japan dynamics of East Asian international politics during the Ming and High Qing periods, Ji-Young Lee draws on extensive research of East Asian language sources, including records written by Chinese and Korean tributary envoys. She offers fascinating and rich details of war and peace in Asian international relations, addressing questions such as: why Japan invaded Korea and fought a major war against the Sino-Korean coalition in the late sixteenth century; why Korea attempted to strike at the Ming empire militarily in the late fourteenth century; and how Japan created a miniature tributary order posing as the center of Asia in lieu of the Qing empire in the seventeenth century. By exploring these questions, Lee’s in-depth study speaks directly to general international relations literature and concludes that hegemony in Asia was a domestic, as well as an international, phenomenon with profound implications for the contemporary era. —Columbia University Press{chop}

Sinica Podcast

04.24.17

Chris Buckley: The China Journalist’s China Journalist

Chris Buckley, Jeremy Goldkorn & more from Sinica Podcast
Chris Buckley is a highly regarded and very resourceful correspondent based in Beijing for The New York Times. He has worked as a researcher and journalist in China since 1998, including a stint at Reuters, and is one of the few working China...

China Needs Its Friend the Philippines More Than the Philippines Needs China

Ralph Jennings
Forbes
If China can choreograph its own relations with all four Southeast Asian nations that dispute its aggressive, decade-old expansion in the same 3.5 million-square-kilometer sea, it can easily ignore threats from the United States, the world court or...

Why China’s New Cargo Space Ship Is So Important

Namrata Goswami
Diplomat
China’s first indigenously built Tianzhou cargo ship, which is being launched between April 20 and 24, is a major accomplishment.

South Korea Tells Trump It’s Actually Never Been a Part of China

Bloomberg
South Korea’s government wants to know whether Chinese President Xi Jinping gave alternative facts on the nation’s history to Donald Trump.

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...

Viewpoint

04.06.17

Is It Time to Give up on Engagement?

Orville Schell & Anders Corr
In the lead-up to U.S. President Trump’s meeting later this week with China’s Xi Jinping, Orville Schell, ChinaFile’s publisher, wrote an essay in The Wall Street Journal on the history of China’s episodic embrace of democratic principles and why in...

All Mapped Out: How China’s Charting Its Course as a Superpower

Daily Beast
In February, the French daily Le Monde published a map reportedly circulated by the Chinese military. It showed the People’s Republic in the center of the globe with all else shrinking away toward the edges: “The world turned upside down for anyone...

South China Sea: Duterte Orders Philippines Military to Occupy Islands

James Griffiths and Chieu Luu
CNN
Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte said Thursday he has ordered military personnel to occupy all Philippines-claimed islands in the disputed South China Sea.

China’s Once and Future Democracy

Orville Schell
Wall Street Journal
Despite Xi Jinping’s crackdown and Donald Trump’s silence on human rights, China has a vibrant democratic legacy that may yet reassert itself.

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...

Conversation

03.22.17

China Writers Remember Robert Silvers

Ian Johnson, Orville Schell & more
Robert Silvers died on Monday, March 20, after serving as The New York Review of Books Editor since 1963. Over almost six decades, Silvers cultivated one of the most interesting, reflective, and lustrous stables of China writers in the world, some...

Conversation

03.15.17

How Does China’s Imperial Past Shape Its Foreign Policy Today?

Pamela Kyle Crossley, Jeremiah Jenne & more
Throughout most of history China dominated Asia, up until what many Chinese refer to as the “century of humiliation”—when Japan and Western powers invaded or otherwise interfered between 1839 and 1949. Now, with China on the rise again, are Beijing’...

China Fans Anger Over Seoul's Missile Move

BBC
The only perspective that gets an airing is that the Thaad battery allows the Americans to see deep into China, that this is a threat to China. 

Sinica Podcast

03.10.17

Jane Perlez: Chinese Foreign Relations in a New Age of Uncertainty

Jeremy Goldkorn & Jane Perlez from Sinica Podcast
Jane Perlez has been a reporter at The New York Times since 1981. She won a Pulitzer Prize in 2009 for coverage of the war against the Taliban and al Qaeda in Pakistan and Afghanistan. She has reported on wars, diplomacy, and foreign policy from...

Conversation

03.09.17

Is THAAD the Start of a U.S.-China Arms Race?

Isaac Stone Fish, Graham Webster & more
In late February, U.S. President Donald Trump called for adding $54 billion to the U.S. military budget—an increase of roughly 10 percent. And in early March, despite outcry from Beijing, the United States began deploying the Terminal High-Altitude...

Books

03.08.17

The Killing Wind

Tan Hecheng, translated by Stacy Mosher and Guo Jian
Over the course of 66 days in 1967, more than 4,000 “class enemies”—including young children and the elderly—were murdered in Daoxian, a county in China’s Hunan province. The killings spread to surrounding counties, resulting in a combined death toll of more than 9,000. Commonly known as the Daoxian massacre, the killings were one of many acts of so-called mass dictatorship and armed factional conflict that rocked China during the Cultural Revolution. However, in spite of the scope and brutality of the killings, there are few detailed accounts of mass killings in China’s countryside during the Cultural Revolution’s most tumultuous years.Years after the massacre, journalist Tan Hecheng was sent to Daoxian to report on an official investigation into the killings. Tan was prevented from publishing his findings in China, but in 2010, he published the Chinese edition of The Killing Wind in Hong Kong. Tan’s first-hand investigation of the atrocities, accumulated over the course of more than 20 years, blends his research with the recollections of survivors to provide a vivid account exploring how and why the massacre took place and describing its aftermath. Dispelling the heroic aura of class struggle, Tan reveals that most of the Daoxian massacre’s victims were hard-working, peaceful members of the rural middle class blacklisted as landlords or rich peasants. Tan also describes how political pressure and brainwashing turned ordinary people into heartless killing machines.More than a catalog of horrors, The Killing Wind is also a poignant meditation on memory, moral culpability, and the failure of the Chinese government to come to terms with the crimes of the Maoist era. By painting a detailed portrait of this massacre, Tan makes a broader argument about the long-term consequences of the Cultural Revolution, one of the most violent political movements of the twentieth century. A compelling testament to the victims and survivors of the Daoxian massacre, The Killing Wind is a monument to historical truth—one that fills an immense gap in our understanding of the Mao era, the Cultural Revolution, and the status of truth in contemporary China. —Oxford University Press{chop}

Books

03.02.17

The Silver Way

Peter Gordon and Juan José Morales
Long before London and New York rose to international prominence, a trading route was discovered between Spanish America and China that ushered in a new era of globalization. The “Ruta de la Plata,” or “Silver Way,” catalyzed economic and cultural exchange, built the foundations for the first global currency, and led to the rise of the first “world city.” And yet, for all its importance, the Silver Way is too often neglected in conventional narratives on the birth of globalization. Gordon and Morales re-establish its fascinating role in economic and cultural history, with direct consequences for how we understand China today. —Penguin China{chop}

Conversation

02.28.17

Is The Trump Era Really The Xi Era?

Paul Haenle, Shen Dingli & more
On February 17, China’s Communist Party Chairman Xi Jinping announced what he called the “two guidances.” Beijing should now “guide the international community to jointly build a more just and reasonably new world order,” Xi said in an important...

Books

02.28.17

Everything Under the Heavens

Howard W. French
From the former New York Times Asia correspondent and author of China’s Second Continent, an incisive investigation of China’s ideological development as it becomes an ever more aggressive player in regional and global diplomacy.For many years after its reform and opening in 1978, China maintained an attitude of false modesty about its ambitions. That role, reports Howard French, has been set aside. China has asserted its place among the global heavyweights, revealing its plans for pan-Asian dominance by building its navy, increasing territorial claims to areas like the South China Sea, and diplomatically bullying smaller players. Underlying this attitude is a strain of thinking that casts China’s present-day actions in decidedly historical terms, as the path to restoring the dynastic glory of the past. If we understand how that historical identity relates to current actions, in ways ideological, philosophical, and even legal, we can learn to forecast just what kind of global power China stands to become–and to interact wisely with a future peer.Steeped in deeply researched history as well as on-the-ground reporting, this is French at his revelatory best. —Penguin Random House{chop}

‘The President Always Gets Something’: Spicer Suggests Trump Gained Concession from China

Tom Phillips
Guardian
Before taking power Trump hinted he might reverse the US’s stance on Taiwan but later back-pedaled, prompting speculation he had capitulated to Beijing

Conversation

02.23.17

Can China Expand its Beachhead in Hollywood?

Stanley Rosen, Ying Zhu & more
With The Great Wall, a classic army vs. monsters tale, director Zhang Yimou has brought America the most expensive Chinese film ever created. The movie may be backed by a Hollywood studio and it may star no less an American icon than Matt Damon, and...

Books

02.16.17

Chinese Theology

Chloë Starr
In this groundbreaking and authoritative study, Chloë Starr explores key writings of Chinese Christian intellectuals, from philosophical dialogues of the late imperial era to micro-blogs of pastors in the 21st century. Through a series of close textual readings, she sheds new light on such central issues in Chinese theology as Christian identity and the evolving question of how Christians should relate to society and state.Reading these texts in their socio-political and traditional literary contexts, Starr opens a new conversation about the nature of Chinese theology and the challenge it offers to a broad understanding of how theology is created and contextualized. Concentrating on those theologians who have engaged most actively with their cultural and political milieus, Starr argues throughout her readings, as she examines how Chinese literary traditions and reading patterns have shaped Chinese theology, that text is as important as context. —Yale University Press{chop}

Trump Will Honor ‘One China’ Policy

Paul Haenle & Evan Medeiros from Carnegie-Tsinghua Center for Global Policy
President Trump agreed to honor the U.S. “one China” policy in his first phone call with President Xi Jinping since taking office, providing the basis for bilateral relations to move forward. Shortly after the February 9 call, Paul Haenle spoke with...

Books

02.07.17

Shanghai Faithful

Jennifer Lin
Within the next decade, China could be home to more Christians than any other country in the world. Through the 150-year saga of a single family, this book vividly dramatizes the remarkable religious evolution of the world’s most populous nation. Shanghai Faithful is both a touching family memoir and a chronicle of the astonishing spread of Christianity in China. Five generations of the Lin family—buffeted by history’s crosscurrents and personal strife—bring to life an epoch that is still unfolding.A compelling cast—a poor fisherman, a doctor who treated opium addicts, an Ivy League-educated priest, and the charismatic preacher Watchman Nee—sets the book in motion. Veteran journalist Jennifer Lin takes readers from remote nineteenth-century mission outposts to the thriving house churches and cathedrals of today’s China. The Lin family—and the book’s central figure, the Reverend Lin Pu-chi—offer witness to China’s tumultuous past, up to and beyond the betrayals and madness of the Cultural Revolution, when the family’s resolute faith led to years of suffering. Forgiveness and redemption bring the story full circle. With its sweep of history and the intimacy of long-hidden family stories, Shanghai Faithful offers a fresh look at Christianity in China—past, present, and future. —Rowman & Littlefield{chop}

Viewpoint

02.07.17

Can the New U.S. Ambassador to China See Xi Jinping for Who He Really Is?

Jeffrey Wasserstrom
When the Senate Foreign Relations Committee holds confirmation hearings on Terry Branstad’s nomination to be Ambassador to China, the Iowa Governor is sure to be asked about the positions of the president who nominated him. I hope, though, that...

Conversation

02.05.17

Is The White House Beginning to Resemble Zhongnanhai?

Melissa Chan & Yifu Dong
Since Donald Trump was sworn into office on January 20, he has lied repeatedly about the size of the crowd at his inauguration, embraced xenophobic policies, and declareda “running war with the media.” The White House has frozen out the...

Books

02.01.17

Unlikely Partners

Julian Gewirtz
Unlikely Partners recounts the story of how Chinese politicians and intellectuals looked beyond their country’s borders for economic guidance at a key crossroads in the nation’s tumultuous 20th century. Julian Gewirtz offers a dramatic tale of competition for influence between reformers and hardline conservatives during the Deng Xiaoping era, bringing to light China’s productive exchanges with the West.When Mao Zedong died in 1976, his successors seized the opportunity to reassess the wisdom of China’s rigid commitment to Marxist doctrine. With Deng Xiaoping’s blessing, China’s economic gurus scoured the globe for fresh ideas that would put China on the path to domestic prosperity and ultimately global economic power. Leading foreign economists accepted invitations to visit China to share their expertise, while Chinese delegations traveled to the United States, Hungary, Great Britain, West Germany, Brazil, and other countries to examine new ideas. Chinese economists partnered with an array of brilliant thinkers, including Nobel Prize winners, World Bank officials, battle-scarred veterans of Eastern Europe’s economic struggles, and blunt-speaking free-market fundamentalists.Nevertheless, the push from China’s senior leadership to implement economic reforms did not go unchallenged, nor has the Chinese government been eager to publicize its engagement with Western-style innovations. Even today, Chinese Communists decry dangerous Western influences and officially maintain that China’s economic reinvention was the Chinese Communist Party’s achievement alone. Unlikely Partners sets forth the truer story, which has continuing relevance for China’s complex and far-reaching relationship with the West. —Harvard University Press{chop}

A Chinese Nuclear Site, Hidden in a Mountain, Is Reborn as a Tourist Draw

Amy Qin
New York Times
Fifteen years ago, the local government announced that inside the hollowed-out mountain lay the remnants of what was once one of China’s most ambitious military infrastructure projects: the top-secret 816 nuclear plant.

Scientists Discover Prehistoric Giant Otter Species in China

Merrit Kennedy
NPR
Six million years ago, giant otters weighing more than 100 pounds lived among birds and water lilies in the wooded wetlands of China’s Yunnan province.

Viewpoint

01.23.17

The Chairmen, Trump and Mao

Geremie R. Barmé
The January 13, 1967 issue of TIME magazine featured Mao Zedong on its cover with the headline “China in Chaos.” Fifty years later, TIME made U.S. President-elect Donald Trump its Man of The Year. With a groundswell of mass support, both men...

Can Donald Trump Break Beijing’s ‘One China’ Obsession?

Chow Chung-yan
South China Morning Post
Through force and diplomacy, many renowned figures have tried to divide the country, and all have failed. Still, the new U.S. president seems to want the issue back on the table and, if so, he has a steep, historic hill to climb

Sinica Podcast

01.19.17

The State of Journalism in China—Ed Wong’s Exit Interview

Jeremy Goldkorn, Kaiser Kuo & more from Sinica Podcast
Edward Wong became a reporter for The New York Times in 1999. He covered the Iraq war from Baghdad from 2003 to 2007, and then moved to Beijing in 2008. He has written about a wide range of subjects in China for the Times, and became its Beijing...

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...

Sinica Podcast

01.13.17

Can the Vatican and China Get Along?

Jeremy Goldkorn, Kaiser Kuo & more from Sinica Podcast
Ian Johnson is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who has lived in Beijing and Taiwan for more than half of the past 30 years, writing for The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The New York Review of Books, and other publications. He has...

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...

China, Fanning Patriotism, Adds Six Years to War with Japan in History Books

Javier Hernandez
New York Times
For generations, the “Eight-Year War of Resistance Against Japanese Aggression” has been ingrained in the minds of Chinese schoolchildren. Now the war is getting a new name, and an extended time frame.

History Shows Beijing Won’t Budge an Inch on Taiwan

Patricia Kim
Foreign Policy
Trump might want to use the island as a bargaining chip—but for China, it’s a matter of principle

Books

01.04.17

The Oxford Illustrated History of Modern China

Jeffrey N. Wasserstrom
This lavishly illustrated volume explores the history of China during a period of dramatic shifts and surprising transformations, from the founding of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1912) through to the present day.The Oxford Illustrated History of Modern China promises to be essential reading for anyone who wants to understand this rising superpower on the verge of what promises to be the “Chinese century,” introducing readers to important but often overlooked events in China’s past, such as the bloody Taiping Civil War (1850-1864), which had a death toll far higher than the roughly contemporaneous American Civil War. It also helps readers see more familiar landmarks in Chinese history in new ways, such as the Opium War (1839-1842), the Boxer Uprising of 1900, the rise to power of the Chinese Communist Party in 1949, and the Tiananmen protests and Beijing Massacre of 1989.This is one of the first major efforts—and in many ways the most ambitious to date—to come to terms with the broad sweep of modern Chinese history, taking readers from the origins of modern China right up through the dramatic events of the last few years (the Beijing Games, the financial crisis, and China’s rise to global economic pre-eminence) which have so fundamentally altered Western views of China and China’s place in the world. —Oxford University Press{chop}

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,”...

Conversation

12.21.16

Did Oslo Kowtow to Beijing?

Isaac Stone Fish, Stein Ringen & more
In 2010, the Oslo-appointed Nobel Peace Prize committee bestowed the honor on imprisoned Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo. Furious with the selection of Liu, a human rights advocate, who is currently serving an 11-year prison sentence on spurious...

Books

12.20.16

The Beautiful Country and the Middle Kingdom

John Pomfret
From the clipper ships that ventured to Canton hauling cargos of American ginseng to swap for Chinese tea, to the U.S. warships facing off against China’s growing navy in the South China Sea, from the Yankee missionaries who brought Christianity and education to China, to the Chinese who built the American West, the United States and China have always been dramatically intertwined. For more than two centuries, American and Chinese statesmen, merchants, missionaries, and adventurers, men and women, have profoundly influenced the fate of these nations. While we tend to think of America’s ties with China as starting in 1972 with the visit of President Richard Nixon to China, the patterns—rapturous enchantment followed by angry disillusionment—were set in motion hundreds of years earlier.Drawing on personal letters, diaries, memoirs, government documents, and contemporary news reports, John Pomfret reconstructs the surprising, tragic, and marvelous ways Americans and Chinese have engaged with one another through the centuries. A fascinating and thrilling account, The Beautiful Country and the Middle Kingdom is also an indispensable book for understanding the most important—and often the most perplexing—relationship between any two countries in the world. —Henry Holt{chop}

Viewpoint

12.15.16

The Missing Topic in Trump’s Tough Talk on China

Melissa Chan
President-elect Donald Trump’s rhetoric suggests he will push China on many issues, not just one. Some observers have held on to the hope that his phone call with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen, his burst of anti-China tweets, and his most recent...

Books

12.15.16

Crashing the Party

Scott Savitt
It’s 1983. Scott Savitt, one of the first American exchange students in Beijing, picks up his guitar and begins strumming “Blackbird.” He’s soon surrounded by Chinese students who know every word to every Beatles song he plays. Savitt stays on in Beijing, working as a reporter for Asiaweek Magazine. The city’s first nightclubs open; rock ‘n’ roll promises democracy. Promoted to foreign correspondent for The Los Angeles Times and then United Press International, Savitt finds himself drawn into China’s political heart. His girlfriend is the assistant to Bette Bao Lord, the wife of the U.S. ambassador. He interviews people who will become leaders of the democracy movement.Later, at 25 years old, Savitt is the youngest accredited foreign correspondent in China, with an intimate knowledge of Beijing’s backstreets. But as the seven-week occupation of Tiananmen Square ends in bloodshed on June 4, 1989, his greatest asset is his flame-red 500cc Honda motorcycle—giving Savitt the freedom to witness first-hand what the Chinese government still denies ever took place. After Tiananmen, Savitt founds the first independent English-language newspaper in China, Beijing Scene. He knows that it’s only a matter of time before the authorities move in, and sure enough, in 2000 he’s arrested, flung into solitary confinement and, after a month in jail, deported.Savitt’s extraordinary memoir of his two decades in China manages to take an extremely complex political-historical subject and turn it into an adventure story. —Soft Skull{chop}