The Old Fears of China’s New Leaders

Jonathan Mirsky from New York Review of Books
I felt a shudder of déjà vu watching the mounting protests inside China this week of the Communist Party for censoring an editorial in Southern Weekend, a well-known liberal newspaper in the southern city of Guangzhou. It is all too similar to the...

Why China and Japan Can't Get Along (Opinion)

Odd Arne Westad
New York Times
There are few societies on earth more complementary than China's and Japan's. But Japan is afraid of China’s rise, and China is troubled by Japan...

My First Trip

12.31.12

After Ping Pong, Before Kissinger

Robert Keatley
My first trip to China apparently began in Montreal.It was April 1971, and the American ping-pong team had just been invited to China, opening the public part of the complex diplomacy that eventually brought Richard Nixon to Beijing and direct...

Caixin Media

12.28.12

Uncertain Future for Architectural Treasures

Nestled between mountains and a winding river in a scenic corner of Shanxi province is Zhongyang County, the home of an exquisite Confucian temple built during the Ming dynasty.The colorful wooden temple graced this idyllic valley for hundreds of...

Out of School

12.24.12

Politics and the Chinese Language

Perry Link
The awarding of the 2012 Nobel Prize in Literature to the Chinese novelist Mo Yan has given rise to energetic debate, both within China’s borders and beyond. Earlier this month, ChinaFile ran an essay by Chinese literature scholar Charles Laughlin...

Beijing's Doomsday Problem

Ian Johnson
New York Review of Books
Over the past 10 days, China's been riveted by accounts of what authorities call a doomsday cult: the church of Almighty God. ...

In the People’s Liberation Army

Mo Yan
New York Review of Books
Mo Yan, recent recipient of the Nobel Prize in Literature, describes an experience in the People's Liberation Army in the 1970s. This text is excerpted from his part fiction, part memoir Change...

In China, New Leadership and New Style

Bill Bishop
New York Times
Xi Jinping is hitching himself to Deng Xiaoping’s legacy and style and is serious about reinvigorating reforms.

The Hungry Years

Pankaj Mishra
New Yorker
Pankaj Mishra reviews two new books on Mao Zedong and the Great Famine of 1958-62.

Top 10 Myths About China in 2012

Evan Osnos
New Yorker
This year may prove to be a pivot point, when the myths that China and the world had adopted about the politics and economics of the People’s Republic began to erode. 

My First Trip

12.03.12

A China Frontier: Once the Border of Borders

Orville Schell
In 1961, when I first arrived in Hong Kong as an aspiring young China scholar, there was something deeply seductive about the way this small British enclave of capitalism clung like a barnacle to the enormity of China’s socialist revolution. Because...

China Unearths Vast Ancient Palace Near Terracotta Army in Xi'an

Jonathan Kaiman
Guardian
The palace is the largest discovered in the emperor's sprawling second century BC mausoleum, which lies on the outskirts of Xi'an, an ancient capital city in central China...

China Overtaking U.S. as Global Trader

Joe McDonald and Youkyung Lee
Associated Press
In just five years, China has surpassed the U.S. as a trading partner for much of the world.  The first story in new Associated Press series on "China's Reach."...

Opinion: China's Narrative of Han Expansion

Philip Bowring
South China Morning Post
China's focus on its role as victim of past humiliation is tempered by the spread of its largest ethnic group...

Out of School

11.30.12

Heirs of Fairness?

Taisu Zhang
An unusual debate on what may seem an arcane topic—China’s imperial civil service examinations—recently took place on the op-ed page of the The New York Times. The argument centered on the question of whether or not China during the past 1000 years...

Culture

11.27.12

Remember to Tell the Truth

Maya E. Rudolph
The recording of memory brings history to life and creates a legacy of its own. In 2010, documentary filmmaker Wu Wenguang launched the Memory Project to try to shine a light on the long-shrouded memories of one of modern China’s most traumatic...

Will China's New Leaders Change Tibet policy?

Martin Patience
BBC
Xi Zhongxun, father of China's new president, Xi Jinping, was a former leader known for a more conciliatory approach to Tibetans...

China: Worse Than You Ever Imagined

Ian Johnson from New York Review of Books
Last summer I took a trip to Xinyang, a rural area of wheat fields and tea plantations in central China’s Henan province. I met a pastor, a former political prisoner, and together we made a day trip to Rooster Mountain, a onetime summer retreat for...

Books

11.20.12

Mao: The Real Story

Alexander V. Pantsov, Steven I. Levine
Mao Zedong was one of the most important figures of the twentieth century, the most important in the history of modern China. A complex figure, he was champion of the poor and brutal tyrant, poet and despot.Pantsov and Levine show Mao’s relentless drive to succeed, vividly describing his growing role in the nascent Communist Party of China. They disclose startling facts about his personal life, particularly regarding his health and his lifelong serial affairs with young women. They portray him as the loyal Stalinist that he was, who never broke with the Soviet Union until after Stalin’s death.Mao brought his country from poverty and economic backwardness into the modern age and onto the world stage. But he was also responsible for an unprecedented loss of life. The disastrous Great Leap Forward with its accompanying famine and the bloody Cultural Revolution were Mao’s creations. Internationally Mao began to distance China from the USSR under Khrushchev and shrewdly renewed relations with the U.S. as a counter to the Soviets. He lived and behaved as China’s last emperor. —Simon & Schuster

China: The Mao Dynasty Moves Toward Democracy And Human Rights

Ralph Benko
Forbes
China is visibly evolving toward liberal republican governance.  Ten years, rather than life, tenure for its leaders is a major step.

The New Member's of China's Ruling Body

The New York Times
New York Times
All of China’s new Politburo Standing Committee, the group of politicians who rule country, have close connections with former leaders.

Viewpoint

11.14.12

The Future of Legal Reform

Carl Minzner
Carl Minzner, Professor of Law at Fordham University, talks here about the ways China’s legal reforms have ebbed and flowed, speeding up in the early 2000s, but then slowing down again after legal activists began to take the government at its word,...

Viewpoint

11.14.12

Change in Historical Context

Peter C. Perdue
China’s Communist Party has only ruled the country since 1949. But China has a long history of contentious transfers of power among its ruler. In these videos, Yale historian, Peter C. Perdue, an expert on China's last dynasty, the Qing, puts...

Opinion: Don't Expect Radical Reforms in China

Michal Meidan
Financial Times
If Li Keqiang walks on stage second it will suggest the premier post has been upgraded to a position of greater political clout.

The Real China Model

Mark Elliott
New York Times
As a historian, however, I cannot let pass unchallenged the characterization of premodern Chinese political culture as “meritocratic.” Over the last 20 years, research has shown that the keju was far from the “ladder of...

The U.S.-China Reset

Minxin Pei
New York Times
The leaders of the U.S. and China may not want to say it out loud, but they would privately admit that U.S.-China relations are in trouble.

China Dodges Politcally Sensitive Questions at Key Congress

Ben Blanchard and Terril Yue Jones
Reuters
In pre-Olypmics 2007, officials took solo interviews and overseas reporters were encouraged to ask questions. Not so this time.

Recording the Untold Stories of China’s Great Famine

Louisa Lim
NPR
A young man trudges doggedly around his village, notebook in hand, fringe flopping over his glasses. He goes from door to door, calling on the elderly.The young man has one main question: Who died in our village during the Great Famine?This is the...

Building China's Enlightenment

John Garnaut
Sydney Morning Herald
China's most ambutious, radical and consequential think tank behind the scenes at the 18th Party Congress...

Opinion: Meritocracy Versus Democracy

Zhang Weiwei
New York Times
Without much fanfare, Beijing has introduced significant reforms and established an elaborate system of what can be called “selection plus election.”

Viewpoint

11.09.12

Pragmatism and Patience

Hamid Biglari
Hamid Bilgari, Vice Chairman of Citicorp, the strategic arm of Citigroup, is a leader in international investment banking. Bilgari says that pragmatism and patience are the dominant qualities exhibited by cultures facing major change, such as...

Features

11.06.12

Fragments of Cai Yang’s Life

Chen Ming
The man suspected of smashing the skull of fifty-one-year-old Li Jianli, the owner of a Japanese automobile, has been arrested by police in Xi’an; he is twenty-one-year-old plasterer Cai Yang.Cai Yang came to Xi’an from his hometown of Nanyang [...

Caixin Media

11.05.12

Scenes from a Leadership Transition

Jiang Zemin’s Lyrical MemoryCompiled by Caixin(Beijing)—A glance at off-hours correspondence between two veteran leaders has added a lighter dimension to the recent public appearances of former Politburo members in the run-up to the party’s 18th...

One-Child Policy Up for Reform in China?

Alexa Olesen
Associated Press
The unpopular policy should be phased out, says a Chinese government think tank.

My First Trip

10.24.12

Struggling with Antonioni

Isabel Hilton
My first sight of Beijing was puzzling. It was October 1973, at the end of a very long flight, and the city seemed so dark I could hardly believe we had arrived. In those days, flights to China were not allowed to cross Soviet airspace—the two...

A Test Case for the Communist Party’s Commitment to Reform

Yiyi Lu
Wall Street Journal
Critics say the Party can't hold power much longer if fundamental reforms are not introduced – a notion echoed by an essay in the latest issue of the CCP’s own theoretical journal, Seeking Truth...

Better Ways to Deal with China

Eduardo Porter
New York Times
Pushing China around like a bulked-up version of 1980s Japan doesn't fit a long-term U.S. objective: drawing China into the club of prosperous, rule-bound and democratic nations...

China Hints at Reform by Dropping Mao Wording

Sui-Lee Wee
Reuters
Dropping Mao's name from policy statements hints that the Communist Party may move toward reform...

China hints at move to strengthen Communist rule

Sui-Lee Wee
Reuters
Xinhua says China's ruling Communist Party will discuss a proposal aimed at strengthening one-party rule over the next five years. ...

"The Revolutionary": An Unrequited Love for China

Scott Simon
NPR
In a new documentary on his life, Sidney Rittenberg, who once translated for Mao, refers to his jailer as both a hero and criminal.

China's Consumer-led Growth

S.C.
Economist
Official data show that consumption contributed over half of China's growth so far this year, more than investment's contribution...

Sinica Podcast

10.19.12

From the Ruins of Empire

Kaiser Kuo, Jeremy Goldkorn & more from Sinica Podcast
{vertical_photo_right}Today on Sinica, Kaiser Kuo and Jeremy Goldkorn host a discussion with Pankaj Mishra on his book From the Ruins of Empire, a history of Asia’s intellectual response to Western imperialism in the late nineteenth and early...

Analysis: Lost in Debate - Reality of U.S.-China Ties

Associated Press
U.S. presidential politics vilifying China obscures how deeply entwined the two countries have become. 

Japan and China Agree to Talks on Rift after Noda Call

Isabel Reynolds and Takashi Hirokawa
Bloomberg
Talks aim to reduce tensions over territorial dispute, avoid suffering in Asia’s biggest economies.

The Mixed Bag of Socialism

Qian Gang
China Media Project
Ahead of the 18th National Congress, the phrase “socialism with Chinese characteristics” is as strong as ever.

Books

09.27.12

Restless Empire

Odd Arne Westad
As the twenty-first century dawns, China stands at a crossroads. The largest and most populous country on earth and currently the world’s second biggest economy, China has recently reclaimed its historic place at the center of global affairs after decades of internal chaos and disastrous foreign relations. But even as China tentatively reengages with the outside world, the contradictions of its development risks pushing it back into an era of insularity and instability—a regression that, as China’s recent history shows, would have serious implications for all other nations.In Restless Empire, award-winning historian Odd Arne Westad traces China’s complex foreign affairs over the past 250 years, identifying the forces that will determine the country’s path in the decades to come. Since the height of the Qing Empire in the eighteenth century, China’s interactions—and confrontations—with foreign powers have caused its worldview to fluctuate wildly between extremes of dominance and subjugation, emulation and defiance. From the invasion of Burma in the 1760s to the Boxer Rebellion in the early 20th century to the 2001 standoff over a downed U.S. spy plane, many of these encounters have left Chinese with a lingering sense of humiliation and resentment, and inflamed their notions of justice, hierarchy, and Chinese centrality in world affairs. Recently, China’s rising influence on the world stage has shown what the country stands to gain from international cooperation and openness. But as Westad shows, the nation’s success will ultimately hinge on its ability to engage with potential international partners while simultaneously safeguarding its own strength and stability. —Basic Books

My First Trip

09.24.12

Witnessing the Cultural Revolution at its Dawn

John Hawkins
To this day, I am not sure why the Chinese government approved my request to visit the PRC in the summer of 1966.On a hot and humid early August Sunday, a fellow student from the University of Hawaii and I walked across the border in Hong Kong at Lo...

Reconsidering Marco Polo

Jonathan Dresner
Frog in a Well
Even the harshest critics of Polo’s historicity admit that he got some thing right, and must have had some valid sources. The question is whether he was an eyewitness and participant in the history and culture he described, and, most importantly,...

China and Japan Must Break Out of History’s Trap

Pankaj Mishra
Bloomberg
So what about the Sino-Japanese relationship periodically enrages nationalists in both countries? What is this trap of historical memory and nationalist myth-making in which both countries find themselves?

Video

09.18.12

Last Call to Prayer

Kathleen McLaughlin & Sharron Lovell
China’s Hui Muslims are unique in many respects. The country’s second-largest ethnic minority share linguistic and cultural ties with the majority in China that have allowed them to practice their religion with less interference and fewer...

Beijing Revisited After Half a Century

David Willey
BBC
Returning to Beijing after nearly 50 years sparks recollections of a China long gone, and the memory of one very special meeting.

A Great Leap Into the Abyss

Didi Kirsten Tatlow
New York Times
Unlike the horrors of the Soviet gulag or the Holocaust, what happened in China during the Great Leap Forward has received little attention from the larger world, “even though it is one of the worst catastrophes in twentieth-century history,” writes...

China's Long History of Defying the Doomsayers

Jeffrey Wasserstrom and Stephen Platt
Atlantic
Thirty-six years after "Great Helmsman" Mao Zedong died of a heart attack, leaving his country briefly rudderless during a time of crisis and uncertainty, the Chinese ship of state is still sailing. But is it still seaworthy? Observers are...

Out of School

08.30.12

Refresher Course: The Silk Road

Valerie Hansen
The “Silk Road” was a stretch of shifting, unmarked paths across massive expanses of deserts and mountains—not a real road at any point or time. Archeologists have found few ancient Silk Road bridges, gates, or paving stones like those along Rome’s...

Books

08.29.12

The Silk Road

Valerie Hansen
The Silk Road is as iconic in world history as the Colossus of Rhodes or the Suez Canal. But what was it, exactly? It conjures up a hazy image of a caravan of camels laden with silk on a dusty desert track, reaching from China to Rome. The reality was different—and far more interesting—as revealed in this new history.In The Silk Road, Valerie Hansen describes the remarkable archeological finds that revolutionize our understanding of these trade routes. For centuries, key records remained hidden—sometimes deliberately buried by bureaucrats for safe keeping. But the sands of the Taklamakan Desert have revealed fascinating material, sometimes preserved by illiterate locals who recycled official documents to make insoles for shoes or garments for the dead. Hansen explores seven oases along the road, from Xi'an to Samarkand, where merchants, envoys, pilgrims, and travelers mixed in cosmopolitan communities, tolerant of religions from Buddhism to Zoroastrianism. There was no single, continuous road, but a chain of markets that traded between east and west. China and the Roman Empire had very little direct trade. China's main partners were the peoples of modern-day Iran, whose tombs in China reveal much about their Zoroastrian beliefs. Silk was not the most important good on the road; paper, invented in China before Julius Caesar was born, had a bigger impact in Europe, while metals, spices, and glass were just as important as silk. Perhaps most significant of all was the road's transmission of ideas, technologies, and artistic motifs.The Silk Road is a fascinating story of archeological discovery, cultural transmission, and the intricate chains across Central Asia and China.  —Oxford University Press

Reinventing the Manchus: An Imperial People in Post-Imperial China

Mark Elliott
China Story
With the 1911 overthrow of the Qing dynasty (1644-1911), many predicted that the dynasty’s ethnic founders, the Manchus, would soon be swallowed up by the Han majority – the final act in a long process of acculturation that began in 1644, which even...

Sinica Podcast

08.24.12

The Raid of the Scorned Mongol Woman

Jeremy Goldkorn from Sinica Podcast
This week on Sinica, we take a break from the trial of Gu Kailai, the 18th Party Congress, and the recent flurry of disgruntled expat blog posts to cast our gaze back to the age of Mongol politics, barbarian cross-border raids, and that period in...

“If They Won’t Make It, I Can”-An Interview with Documentarian Hu Jie

Dan Edwards
ArtSpace China
 For many in contemporary China, the past is another country – and a hazy, dimly lit one at that. It’s not uncommon to meet young people in China who can recite every dynasty in the nation’s 5,000 year history, yet can barely muster more...

Sheng Shuren: A Journalist in Mao’s New China

Yaxue Cao
Seeing Red in China
I came upon the name Sheng Shuren (盛树人) recently when I was reading one of the documents left behind by Uncle Liu Erning. From the reference I learned Sheng Shuren was a man arrested along with Uncle Erning in Xushui, Hebei Province, in the summer...