China Venerates a Revolutionary, the Father of Its New Leader

Chris Buckley
New York Times
The Communist Party has devoted official meetings, books, a six-episode television documentary, a garish children’s performance and postage stamps to mark a century since the birth of Xi Zhongxun, a veteran revolutionary and Xi Jinping’s father...

Why Are Hundreds of Harvard Students Studying Ancient Philosophy?

Christine Gross-Loh
Atlantic
Professor Michael Puett uses Chinese philosophy as a way to give undergraduates concrete, counter-intuitive, and even revolutionary ideas, which teach them how to live a better life, putting ancient Chinese thought in the context of contemporary...

Sinica Podcast

10.11.13

Steven Schwankert and the HMS Poseidon

Kaiser Kuo & Jeremy Goldkorn from Sinica Podcast
When the HMS Poseidon struck a Chinese freighter in the Gulf of Bohai in 1931, the collision sparked a devastating accident that would see the British submarine plunge to the ocean floor in mere minutes, claiming the lives of nearly half the crew,...

The Good, the Bad and the Exiled? China's Class of '77

Jaime FlorCruz
CNN
After walking several blocks through New York's busy streets recently, I finally found Wang Juntao in the middle of Times Square, where the exiled Chinese dissident was holding a sit-down protest...

Mao’s Little Red Book to Get Revamp

Tania Branigan
Guardian
The re-emergence of Quotations from Chairman Mao comes amid an official revival of the era’s rhetoric. Xi Jinping has embraced Maoist terminology and concepts, launching a “mass line rectification campaign” and even presiding over...

Books

10.02.13

The Tragedy of Liberation

Frank Dikötter
“The Chinese Communist party refers to its victory in 1949 as a ‘liberation.’ In China the story of liberation and the revolution that followed is not one of peace, liberty, and justice. It is first and foremost a story of calculated terror and systematic violence.” So begins Frank Dikötter’s stunning and revelatory chronicle of Mao Zedong’s ascension and campaign to transform the Chinese into what the party called New People. Following the defeat of Chiang Kai-shek in 1949, after a bloody civil war, Mao hoisted the red flag over Beijing’s Forbidden City, and the world watched as the Communist revolution began to wash away the old order. Due to the secrecy surrounding the country’s records, little has been known before now about the eight years that followed, preceding the massive famine and Great Leap Forward. Drawing on hundreds of previously classified documents, secret police reports, unexpurgated versions of leadership speeches, eyewitness accounts of those who survived, and more, The Tragedy of Liberation bears witness to a shocking, largely untold history. Interweaving stories of ordinary citizens with tales of the brutal politics of Mao’s court, Frank Dikötter illuminates those who shaped the “liberation” and the horrific policies they implemented in the name of progress. People of all walks of life were caught up in the tragedy that unfolded, and whether or not they supported the revolution, all of them were asked to write confessions, denounce their friends, and answer queries about their political reliability. One victim of thought reform called it a “carefully cultivated Auschwitz of the mind.” Told with great narrative sweep, The Tragedy of Liberation is a powerful and important document giving voice at last to the millions who were lost, and casting new light on the foundations of one of the most powerful regimes of the twenty-first century.  —Bloomsbury Publishing {chop}

Famous Trials of China’s Communist Party

Celia Hatton
BBC
An historical look at two other famous trials in recent Communist Party history: the Gang of Four trial after the Cultural Revolution, and the corruption trials of Chen Xitong and Chen Liangyu which bears greater resemblance to the Bo Xilai case...

Sinica Podcast

09.27.13

Laszlo Montgomery and the China History Podcast

Kaiser Kuo, Jeremy Goldkorn & more from Sinica Podcast
The broken chopstick fell to our studio floor, its shaft splintered beyond repair where Laszlo had snapped it between his fingers. “Alone we are weak,” he looked Jeremy and Kaiser in the eyes while those of us outside the studio wondered faintly who...

Postcard

09.25.13

The Strangers

James Palmer
In the winter of 2009, I was spending my weekends in the northeast Chinese city of Tangshan, and eating most of my food from the far-western province of Xinjiang. Like many minorities, the Uighur, the native people of Xinjiang, have made their chief...

Books

09.25.13

Forgotten Ally

Rana Mitter
For decades, a major piece of World War II history has gone virtually unwritten. The war began in China, two years before Hitler invaded Poland, and China eventually became the fourth great ally, partner to the United States, the Soviet Union, and Great Britain. Yet its drama of invasion, resistance, slaughter, and political intrigue remains little known in the West.Rana Mitter focuses his gripping narrative on three towering leaders: Chiang Kai-shek, the politically gifted but tragically flawed head of China’s Nationalist government; Mao Zedong, the Communists’ fiery ideological stalwart, seen here at the beginning of his epochal career; and the lesser-known Wang Jingwei, who collaborated with the Japanese to form a puppet state in occupied China. Drawing on Chinese archives that have only been unsealed in the past ten years, he brings to vivid new life such characters as Chiang’s American chief of staff, the unforgettable “Vinegar Joe” Stilwell, and such horrific events as the Rape of Nanking and the bombing of China’s wartime capital, Chongqing. Throughout, Forgotten Ally shows how the Chinese people played an essential role in the wider war effort, at great political and personal sacrifice.Forgotten Ally rewrites the entire history of World War II. Yet it also offers surprising insights into contemporary China. No twentieth-century event was as crucial in shaping China’s worldview, and no one can understand China, and its relationship with America today, without this definitive work.—Houghton Mifflin Harcourt {chop}

Insecurity Drives China’s Syria Policy

Kendrick Kuo
Diplomat
At home, the Party sees parallels between Gaddafi and Morsi and its own regime. Any legitimization of the West’s role in their demises is inherently a legitimization of future interference in China with the aim of undermining the Party. ...

Conversation

09.17.13

What’s Behind China’s Recent Internet Crackdown?

Xiao Qiang, John Garnaut & more
Last weekend, Charles Xue Manzi, a Chinese American multi-millionaire investor and opinion leader on one of China’s most popular microblogs, appeared in handcuffs in an interview aired on China Central Television (CCTV). Xue is just the most visible...

Conversation

09.13.13

What Can China and Japan Do to Start Anew?

Paula S. Harrell & Chen Weihua
Paula S. Harrell:While the media keeps its eye on the ongoing Diaoyu/Senkaku islands dispute, heating up yet again this week after Chinese naval ships and aircraft were spotted circling the area, a parallel, possibly game-changing development in...

China Past Due: Facing the Consequences of Control

Mary Kay Magistad
Public Radio International
In the midst of it all, the Chinese people increasingly expect a different kind of relationship with their government – one of citizens and not subjects. They want their rights respected and their preferences heard. 

Milestone for Yuan Marks Rise of China

Wall Street Journal
China for the first time joined the ranks of the most-traded international currencies, underscoring the rise of the world’s second-largest economy and the growth of the global foreign-exchange market.  

Viewpoint

09.11.13

Beijing’s Air in 2013 or Ground Zero’s After 9/11: Which Was Worse?

Emily Brill
When I moved to Beijing from New York in February to study Chinese, a question began to haunt me: Could Beijing’s air in 2013 be more dangerous than the toxic brew produced by the 9/11 attacks on New York City’s World Trade Center, which hung over...

The Puzzle of Identifying as Chinese

Didi Kristen Tatlow
New York Times
In the U.S.A., there’s a tension between the self that is invented and the self that is inherited,” Chinese-American writer Gish Jen said. “But in China, it’s 20 percent of one and 80 percent of another,” whereas in America, “it’s the...

Conversation

09.09.13

What Are Chinese Attitudes Toward a U.S. Strike in Syria?

Chen Weihua, Vincent Ni & more
Chen Weihua:Chinese truly believe that there is no military solution to the Syrian crisis. On the contrary, a U.S. air strike would only worsen the situation there. Chinese have seen many failures of U.S. intervention in the Middle East in the past...

Deng Xiaoping’s Lessons for Today’s China

Bloomberg
The earthy Deng, father of reform-era China, favored a Chinese phrase to describe the current anti-corruption maneuvers being undertaken at Xi Jinping’s behest: killing a chicken to scare the monkeys. 

Look Who’s Afraid of Democracy

New York Times
For all of China’s vaunted influence in the world, many of its top leaders are deeply fearful of losing control of their own country. That fear is reflected in the Bo Xilai trial and the recently revealed “Document No. 9” warning of subversive...

Conversation

09.05.13

To Reform or Not Reform?—Echoes of the Late Qing Dynasty

Orville Schell, John Delury & more
Orville Schell:It is true that China is no longer beset by threats of foreign incursion nor is it a laggard in the world of economic development and trade. But being there and being steeped in an atmosphere of seemingly endless political and...

China’s Press Corps Ordered to Study Marxism

Josh Rudolph
China Digital Times
The nation’s 307,000 reporters, producers and editors will soon have to sit through at least two days of Marxism classes, the Communist Party’s Propaganda Department has announced along with the press association...

30-Year Throwback: What Fodor’s Was Saying About China Three Decades Ago

Paul Chung
Asia Blog
When asked to give examples of China's transformation over the last three decades, you may first be tempted to cite year-to-year G.D.P. growth figures. Yet in 2013, we may also find some of these answers tucked inside a Fodor's...

Books

09.03.13

China Across the Divide

Rosemary Foot (Editor)
Understanding China’s world role has become one of the crucial intellectual challenges of the 21st century. This book explores this topic through the adoption of three conceptual approaches that help to uncover some of the key complex and simultaneous interactions between the global and domestic forces that determine China’s external behavior. A central assumption of this study is that it is unhelpful to treat the global and domestic levels as separate categories of analysis and that the study of China can be enriched by a recognition of the interpenetrated nature of the domestic and international spheres.The first section of the book concentrates on the role of ideas. It examines Chinese conceptions, at both the elite and mass levels, of the country’s status and role in global politics, and how these conceptions can influence and frame policies. The second section provides evidence of Chinese societal involvement in transnational processes that are simultaneously transforming China as well as other parts of the world, often in unintended ways. The third section assesses the impact of globalization on China in issue areas that are central to global order, and outlines the domestic responses—from resistance to embrace—that it generates. This study adopts a multidisciplinary approach involving scholars in international relations, history, social anthropology, and area studies. It offers a sophisticated understanding of Chinese thought and behavior and illustrates the impact that China’s re-emergence is having on 21st century global order.  —Oxford University Press {chop}

China: When the Cats Rule

Ian Johnson
New York Review of Books
On one level Lao She’s novel is a work of science fiction—a visit to a country of cat-like people on Mars—that lampoons 1930s China. On a deeper level, the prophetic work predicts the terror and violence of the early Communist era’s chaos and...

‘The Grandmaster,’ Wong Kar-wai’s New Film

Manohla Dargis
New York Times
When Ip Man slyly asks “What’s your style?” it’s clear that director Wong Kar-wai is asking the same question because here, as in his other films, style isn’t reducible to ravishing surfaces; it’s an expression of meaning.  

The East is Still Red

John Garnaut
Foreign Policy
China’s Left believes that only a stronger Communist Party could solve the country’s problems of corruption, inequality, and moral torpor. Those on the Right believe unbridled state power is actually the problem, as China learned during the Mao...

Model Gives Glimpse of Old Beijing

Jin Haixing
China Daily
A model on a sand table, made 64 years ago, replicating the city's landscape in 1949, will provide a bird's eye view after it is fully restored later in September. The model, in the Beijing Urban Construction Archives Museum,...

Bo Xilai Trial Draws Comparisons to China’s Greatest Courtroom Drama

Barbara Demick
Los Angeles Review of Books
In 1980, the Gang of Four trial was widely mocked in the West as a political show trial in which Deng Xiaoping purged his enemies. While there are many differences between that trial and Bo’s it is the long ago trial that is likely to prove more...

At Bo Xilai Trial, a Goal to Blast Acts, Not Ideas

Edward Wong and Chris Buckley
New York Times
In a delicate balancing act, China’s leaders aim to simultaneously parade Mr. Bo as a criminal and silence his most vocal supporters while avoiding tarring the leftist policies he championed or alienating important revolutionary families. 

Conversation

08.28.13

Beijing, Why So Tense?

Andrew J. Nathan, Isabel Hilton & more
Andrew Nathan:I think of the Chinese leaders as holding a plant spritzer and dousing sparks that are jumping up all around them.  Mao made the famous remark, “A single spark can start a prairie fire.”  The leaders have seen that...

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}

Visitors Flock to China’s ‘Kingdom of Women’

Nicola Davison
Guardian
Lugu Lake, situated in the mountains on the border between Sichuan and Yunnan provinces, is the historical home of the Mosuo, an ethnic minority with a population of 40,000 that forms one of the last matrilineal societies on Earth.&nbsp...

China: When the Cats Rule

Ian Johnson from New York Review of Books
In the Northwest corner of Beijing’s old city is a subway and bus workshop. It was built in the early seventies on the site of the Lake of Great Peace, which was filled in as part of a plan to extend the city’s subway system. In the bigger picture...

Viewpoint

08.22.13

How Bo Xilai Split the Party and Divided the People

Ouyang Bin from Chinese Law Prof Blog
After the 1989 Tiananmen Incident, Chinese political struggles became milder and more mundane. Members of the Politburo and politicians of higher rank rarely were toppled (except for Chen Liangyu in 2006) and ideology seldom triggered significant...

Conversation

08.21.13

Is Xi Jinping Redder Than Bo Xilai Or Vice Versa?

Michael Anti & Shai Oster
Michael Anti:Competing for Redness: The Scarlet Bo vs the Vermilion Xi?Bo Xilai, the fallen Chinese princeling famous for leading a “Red Songs” communist campaign in southwest China's megacity Chongqing, is on trial today, live-Twittered from...

Amid Tribute to King of Pop, an Echo of Tiananmen Square

Edward Wong
New York Times
 The famous and politcally sensitive “Tank Man” photograph of June 1989 appears during a Michael Jackson tribute concert in Beijing. 

What the Word ‘Toad’ Can Tell You About China’s Modernization

Dan Kedmey
Time
While users of a phonetic alphabet can sound out a word, writers of Chinese must memorize a series of character strokes unique to that word, and the strokes have to be executed in a precise order. 

China ‘Dog-lion’: Henan Zoo Mastiff Poses as Africa Cat

Michael Bristow
BBC
An animal described as an African lion at a Chinese zoo was exposed as a fraud—when the creature started barking in front of visitors. 

Japanese visits to shrine on war anniversary anger China

Antoni Slodkowski
Reuters
Japan's prime minister sent an offering to a shrine for war dead on the anniversary of Japan's World War II defeat, drawing harsh complaints from China and South Korea and risking tentative ties...

About That Tiananmen Tank Man Image In Cirque du Soleil’s Beijing Show

Anthony Tao
Beijing Cream
On opening night of Cirque du Soleil’s Michael Jackson: The Immortal World Tour in Beijing, the highly sensitive the Tiananmen Tank Man image was displayed on the giant big-screens above the stage in Wukesong MasterCard Arena.

The Shadow from Yasukuni

Rana Mitter
Project Syndicate
Around this time of year, speculation in Asia always runs high as to whether Japan’s prime minister or other prominent politicians will visit the Yasukuni Shrine to honor, among others, more than a thousand indicted war criminals.

Where Is China’s Gorbachev?

Matt Schiavenza
Atlantic
Why China hasn't had—and isn't likely to have—a political reformer in the mold of the former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev...

The Man Who Got It Right

Ian Buruma from New York Review of Books
1.Near the beginning of Simon Leys’ marvelous collection of essays is an odd polemic between the author and the late Christopher Hitchens, fought out in these very pages. Leys takes Hitchens to task for attacking Mother Teresa in a book entitled The...

Introducing Père David, the Bold Priest Who Brought Us Gerbils

Christopher Howse
Catholic Herald
French naturalist and missionary Armand David was one of the first westerners to set eyes on the giant panda, and contributed in familiarizing the West with other native Chinese species.

Viewpoint

08.09.13

Five Years On

Jonathan Landreth
On August 8, 2008, I was in Beijing reporting on the media aspects of China’s first Olympic Games, and I am still amazed that the four-hour opening ceremony, as designed by film director Zhang Yimou, was seen by sixty-nine percent of China’s...

From Maoist Criminal to Popular Hero?

Pin Ho
New York Times
At a time of rampant corruption and social injustice, many see Bo Xilai as a charismatic leftist who at least dared to challenge the status quo of organized crime and official self-dealing and to revive Mao’s socialist, egalitarian ideals.&nbsp...

Conversation

08.07.13

What Will Come out of the Communist Party’s Polling the People Online?

David Wertime, Duncan Clark & more
David Wertime:Simon Denyer’s recent article (“In China, Communist Party Takes Unprecedented Step: It Is Listening,” The Washington Post, August 2, 2013) provides a valuable look at some of the ways that Chinese authority mines domestic micro-...

Books

08.05.13

China Threat?

Lionel Vairon
From the long-term threat of nuclear war between the U.S. and China, to the disappearance of the African elephant due to Chinese demand for ivory, each week brings a new round of critique and denunciation of the risks China poses to the stability of the entire planet. While critics raise a certain number of fundamental questions that bear asking about this nascent superpower, the answers put forth are usually based on ideological or economic considerations. Lionel Vairon systematically challenges these views in this first English language edition of China Threat?With an incisive review of China’s economic strategy, deployment of resources, national defence, political reform, ethnicity and religion, terrorism, and developments in human rights, Vairon amply demonstrates that China poses no threat to the world. On the contrary, China Threat? shows that China’s peaceful rise should be a matter of positive news across the globe.  —CN Times Books {chop}

China Warns Against Rush to Set Code of Conduct in South China Sea

Xinhua
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said on Monday in Hanoi that the envisaged Code of Conduct in the South China Sea (COC) cannot be set in a rush as it concerns the interests of many countries and lots of work is required.

China May Let More Families Have Second Child, Xinhua Says

Alexandra Ho
Bloomberg
China is studying whether to relax its one-child policy to allow more couples to have two children, the official Xinhua News Agency reported, citing the National Health and Family Planning Commission.

Conversation

08.01.13

How Dangerous Are Sino-Japanese Tensions?

Jerome A. Cohen
Sino-Japanese relations do not look promising at the moment. Obviously, the Diaoyu-Senkaku dispute is not the only factor in play but it does focus nationalist passions on both sides. Yet both countries are capable of wiser conduct if their leaders...

Books

07.31.13

Pacific Crossing

Elizabeth Sinn
During the nineteenth century, tens of thousands of Chinese men and women crossed the Pacific to work, trade, and settle in California. Drawn by the gold rush, they brought with them skills and goods and a view of the world that, though still Chinese, was transformed by their long journeys back and forth. They in turn transformed Hong Kong, their main point of embarkation, from a struggling, infant colony into a prosperous, international port and the cultural center of a far-ranging Chinese diaspora.Making use of extensive research in archives around the world, Pacific Crossing charts the rise of Chinese Gold Mountain firms engaged in all kinds of trans-Pacific trade, especially the lucrative export of prepared opium and other luxury goods. Challenging the traditional view that this migration was primarily a “coolie trade,” Elizabeth Sinn uncovers leadership and agency among the many Chinese who made the crossing. In presenting Hong Kong as an “in-between place” of repeated journeys and continuous movement, Sinn also offers a fresh view of the British colony and a new paradigm for migration studies.   —Hong Kong University Press {chop}

Conversation

07.30.13

Is Business in China Getting Riskier, Or Are Multinationals Taking More Risks?

Arthur R. Kroeber, David Schlesinger & more
Arthur Kroeber:The environment for foreign companies in China has been getting steadily tougher since 2006, when the nation came to the end of a five-year schedule of market-opening measures it pledged as the price of admission to the World Trade...

Media

07.29.13

On “Wealth and Power”

Authors Orville Schell, Arthur Ross Director of the Center on U.S.-China Relations at Asia Society, and John Delury, Assistant Professor of East Asian Studies at Yonsei University in South Korea, joined Jonathan Spence, Professor of History at Yale...

Conversation

07.23.13

What Would a Hard Landing in China Mean for the World?

Barry Naughton, James McGregor & more
Barry Naughton:Paul Krugman in a recent post (“How Much Should We Worry About a China Shock?” The New York Times, July 20, 2013) tells us NOT to worry about the impact of a slowing China on global exports, but to be worried, very worried about the...

Conversation

07.18.13

Xu Zhiyong Arrested: How Serious Can Beijing Be About Political Reform?

Donald Clarke, Andrew J. Nathan & more
Donald Clarke:When I heard that Xu Zhiyong had just been detained, my first thought was, “Again?” This seems to be something the authorities do every time they get nervous, a kind of political Alka Seltzer to settle an upset constitution. I searched...

A Rising China Needs a New National Story

Orville Schell and John Delury
Wall Street Journal
It is time for China and the more vociferous propagandists in Beijing to move beyond declarations about China’s “one hundred years of national humiliation.” That period has come to an end. 

Sinica Podcast

07.12.13

Ripples from the Egyptian Revolution

Kaiser Kuo, Jeremy Goldkorn & more from Sinica Podcast
In Egypt in 2011, what was by all accounts a free and fair democratic election resulted in the victory of Mohammed Morsi, a controversial figure whose brief rule ended last week after being overthrown by the Egyptian military. With Western media...

Literary Guide to China

Rana Mitter
Telegraph
Rana Mitter chooses a collection of stories, novels and pieces by writers who either grew up in China or were China implants intended to give the curious a more textured understanding of China’s history and culture.