Media

05.26.15

Weighing Mao’s Legacy in China Today

Roderick MacFarquhar, Susan Shirk & more
At the May 21 Asia Society event ChinaFile Presents: Does Xi Jinping Represent a Return to the Politics of the Mao Era?, a discussion of author Andrew Walder’s new book, China Under Mao: A Revolution Derailed, sparked a lively debate about the...

Caixin Media

05.05.15

A Byronic Hero for China’s Supremo

A little known vignette about Xi Jinping’s fondness for Song Jiang, a fictional hero in the 14th century classic novel The Water Margin, gives a peek into the private thoughts of China’s most powerful man. For someone born with a red spoon in his...

TV Presenter Insults Mao at Private Dinner

Tania Branigan
Guardian
CCTV is investigating a top presenters after he was caught calling Mao a “son of a bitch” at a private dinner.

Born Red

New Yorker
How Xi Jinping, an unremarkable provincial administrator, became China’s most authoritarian leader since Mao.

Books

04.02.15

Muslim, Trader, Nomad, Spy

Sulmaan Wasif Khan
In 1959, the Dalai Lama fled Lhasa, leaving the People's Republic of China with a crisis on its Tibetan frontier. Sulmaan Wasif Khan tells the story of the PRC's response to that crisis and, in doing so, brings to life an extraordinary cast of characters: Chinese diplomats appalled by sky burials, Guomindang spies working with Tibetans in Nepal, traders carrying salt across the Himalayas, and Tibetan Muslims rioting in Lhasa. What Chinese policymakers confronted in Tibet, Khan argues, was not a "third world" but a "fourth world" problem: Beijing was dealing with peoples whose ways were defined by statelessness. As it sought to tighten control over the restive borderlands, Mao's China moved from a lighter hand to a harder, heavier imperial structure. That change triggered long-lasting shifts in Chinese foreign policy. Moving from capital cities to far-flung mountain villages, from top diplomats to nomads crossing disputed boundaries in search of pasture, this book shows Cold War China as it has never been seen before and reveals the deep influence of the Tibetan crisis on the political fabric of present-day China. —The University of North Carolina Press{chop}

Singapore Former PM Meets with Chinese Leaders

People’s Daily Online
Pepople's Daily photo archive of the late Lee Kwan Yew's meetings with five of China's top leaders...

Q. and A.: David Shambaugh on the Risks to Chinese Communist Rule

Chris Buckley
New York Times
Shambaugh’s recent essay argued that the “endgame of Chinese communist rule has now begun.”

Shambaugh China Essay in Shambles

China Daily
Shambaugh's deep flaw is that he looked at China with a bias, completely ignoring the positive aspects...

Xi Jinping Hopes to Count in Chinese Political History With ‘Four Comprehensives’ -

Wall Street Journal
Chinese President Xi Jinping has uncorked his own ordinal political philosophy.

Conversation

02.12.15

Is Mao Still Dead?

Rebecca E. Karl, Michael Schoenhals & more
It has long been standard operating procedure for China’s leaders to pay tribute to Mao. Even as the People’s Republic he wrought has embraced capitalist behavior with ever more heated ardor, the party he founded has remained firmly in power and his...

In Sharp Words From Xi, Ominous Implications for China’s Legal Reforms

Stanley Lubman
Wall Street Journal
A Communist saying about the role of law states “the handle of the knife is firmly in the hands of the party and the people.”

Caixin Media

01.06.15

In Praise of Hu Feng

Sheila Melvin
Hu Feng (1902-85) is a name that most students of P.R.C. history have undoubtedly encountered at one time or another. I remember reading it for the first time years ago in Jonathan Spence's "The Search for Modern China." It stuck in...

Viewpoint

12.16.14

Why Marx Still Matters: The Ideological Drivers of Chinese Politics

Rogier Creemers
In days of greater political brouhaha, “to go and see Marx” used to be a slang expression among Chinese Communists, to refer to death. More recently, a considerable number of commentators have pronounced the expiry of Marxism itself. China’s reform...

Infographics

12.05.14

China’s Fallen Mighty [Graphic]

David M. Barreda, Youyou Zhou & more
Over the past thirty-eight years, twelve of China’s top leaders have been purged. This infographic and the bios of these leaders explain how and why these mighty men fell. Download the high-resolution graphic.

Features

12.05.14

China’s Fallen Mighty [Updated]

Ouyang Bin, Zhang Mengqi & more
Political infighting and purges have been hallmarks of the Chinese Communist Party since its earliest days but came to a peak during Mao Zedong’s Cultural Revolution, damaging the country and paralyzing the Party itself. When Mao died in 1976, it...

Books

11.05.14

China 1945

Richard Bernstein
A riveting account of the watershed moment in America’s dealings with China that forever altered the course of East-West relations.As 1945 opened, America was on surprisingly congenial terms with China’s Communist rebels—their soldiers treated their American counterparts as heroes, rescuing airmen shot down over enemy territory. Chinese leaders talked of a future in which American money and technology would help lift China out of poverty. Mao Zedong himself held friendly meetings with U.S. emissaries, vowing to them his intention of establishing an American-style democracy in China.By year’s end, however, cordiality had been replaced by chilly hostility and distrust. Chinese Communist soldiers were setting ambushes for American marines in north China; Communist newspapers were portraying the United States as an implacable imperialist enemy; civil war in China was erupting. The pattern was set for a quarter century of almost total Sino-American mistrust, with the devastating wars in Korea and Vietnam among the consequences.Richard Bernstein here tells the incredible story of that year’s sea change, brilliantly analyzing its many components, from ferocious infighting among U.S. diplomats, military leaders, and opinion makers to the complex relations between Mao and his patron, Stalin.On the American side, we meet experienced “China hands” John Paton Davies and John Stewart Service, whose efforts at negotiation made them prey to accusations of Communist sympathy; FDR’s special ambassador Patrick J. Hurley, a decorated general and self-proclaimed cowboy; and Time journalist, Henry Luce, whose editorials helped turn the tide of American public opinion. On the Chinese side, Bernstein reveals the ascendant Mao and his intractable counterpart, Nationalist leader Chiang Kai-shek; and the indispensable Zhou Enlai.A tour de force of narrative history, China 1945 examines the first episode in which American power and good intentions came face-to-face with a powerful Asian revolutionary movement, and challenges familiar assumptions about the origins of modern Sino-American relations. —Knopf {chop}

China’s Crackdown on Dissent Shows How Nervous Its Leaders Are

The Washington Post Editorial Board
Washington Post
The legal assault on a critic of Mao gives a flavor of the current climate. Tie Liu is the pen name of Huang Zerong, 81, who has collected and published memoirs of people who were purged by Chinese dictator Mao Zedong in the 1950s and 1960s.

Xi Jinping Wants to be Seen As on a Par with Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping

Cary Huang
South China Morning Post
Xi Jinping has amassed more power in 20 months than his two immediate predecessors, but it may be premature to call him China's new strongman...

Mao’s Little Red Book, Meet Xi Jinping’s Collected Speeches

Te-Ping Chen
Wall Street Journal
Since its publication not quite two months ago, the somewhat turgidly named “A Reader of General-Secretary Xi Jinping’s Important Speeches” has already sold 10 million copies, its publisher reports.

Conversation

08.11.14

Simon Leys Remembered

Isabel Hilton, Perry Link & more
Isabel Hilton: When I heard the news of the death of Pierre Ryckmans, better known by his pen name, Simon Leys, I began to hunt in my bookshelves for the now yellowing and grimy copies of Chinese Shadows and The Chairman’s New Clothes: Mao and the...

Paddling to Peking

Roderick MacFarquhar from New York Review of Books
For Richard Nixon’s foreign policy, 1971 was the best of years and the worst of years. He revealed his opening to China, but he connived at genocide in East Pakistan. Fortunately for him, the world marveled at the one, but was largely ignorant of...

Viewpoint

01.14.14

Xi, Mao, and China’s Search for a Usable Past

Paul Gewirtz
Since its founding, the United States has had understandable pride in its great achievements, but also has had to reckon with its complex moral history—beginning but hardly ending with the fact that our original Constitution accepted the evil of...

Confucius Comes Home

Evan Osnos
New Yorker
In my fifth year in Beijing, I moved into a one-story brick house beside the Confucius Temple, a seven-hundred-year-old shrine to China’s most important philosopher.

How Andy Warhol Explains China’s Attitudes Toward Mao

Julian Gewirtz
Atlantic
The sheer number of Warhol’s screen prints of Mao’s face—at once persistent and reinvented—that captures, with unusual clarity, the attitude of China’s leaders today toward Mao, coloring and recoloring this legacy within an enduring outline.&...

On Chairman Mao’s Birthday, a Conflicting Legacy for Xi Jinping

Jeremy Page
Wall Street Journal
Mr. Xi and the six other members of the Politburo Standing Committee–the top decision-making body—bowed three times at the mausoleum holding Mao’s body in a glass sarcophagus on Beijing’s Tiananmen Square, state media said. Mr. Xi then addressed a...

Books

12.17.13

Ping-Pong Diplomacy

Nicholas Griffin
The spring of 1971 heralded the greatest geopolitical realignment in a generation. After twenty-two years of antagonism, China and the United States suddenly moved toward a détente—achieved not by politicians but by Ping-Pong players. The Western press delighted in the absurdity of the moment and branded it “Ping-Pong Diplomacy.” But for the Chinese, Ping-Pong was always political, a strategic cog in Mao Zedong’s foreign policy. Nicholas Griffin proves that the organized game, from its first breath, was tied to Communism thanks to its founder, Ivor Montagu, son of a wealthy English baron and spy for the Soviet Union. Ping-Pong Diplomacy traces a crucial inter­section of sports and society. Griffin tells the strange and tragic story of how the game was manipulated at the highest levels; how the Chinese government helped cover up the death of 36 million peasants by holding the World Table Tennis Championships during the Great Famine; how championship players were driven to their deaths during the Cultural Revolution; and, finally, how the survivors were reconvened in 1971 and ordered to reach out to their American counterparts. Through a cast of eccentric characters, from spies to hippies and Ping-Pong-obsessed generals to atom-bomb survivors, Griffin explores how a neglected sport was used to help realign the balance of worldwide power.  —Scribner{chop}

Dreams of a Different China

Ian Johnson from New York Review of Books
Last November, China’s newly installed leader, Xi Jinping, asked his fellow Chinese to help realize a “Chinese dream” of national rejuvenation. In the months since then, his talk has been seen as a marker in the new leadership’s thinking, especially...

Viewpoint

11.07.13

Deciphering Xi Jinping’s Dream

Ouyang Bin & Roderick MacFarquhar
On November 9, the Chinese Communist Party will host its Third Plenary Session of the Eighteenth Central Committee. This conference will be a key to deciphering the ruling philosophy of the new Chinese leadership, who will run the country for the...

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}

Excerpts

07.02.13

Rejuvenation (复兴)

Orville Schell & John Delury
If any of the makers of modern China who agonized over their country’s enfeebled state and dreamed of better times during the past century and a half could have visited Beijing’s Pangu Plaza today, they would hardly believe their eyes. Pangu’s...

Books

07.02.13

Wealth and Power

Orville Schell and John Delury
Through a series of lively and absorbing portraits of iconic modern Chinese leaders and thinkers, two of today’s foremost specialists on China provide a panoramic narrative of this country’s rise to preeminence that is at once analytical and personal. How did a nation, after a long and painful period of dynastic decline, intellectual upheaval, foreign occupation, civil war, and revolution, manage to burst forth onto the world stage with such an impressive run of hyperdevelopment and wealth creation—culminating in the extraordinary dynamism of China today?Wealth and Power answers this question by examining the lives of eleven influential officials, writers, activists, and leaders whose contributions helped create modern China. This fascinating survey begins in the lead-up to the first Opium War with Wei Yuan, the nineteenth-century scholar and reformer who was one of the first to urge China to borrow ideas from the West. It concludes in our time with human-rights advocate and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo, an outspoken opponent of single-party rule. Along the way, we meet such titans of Chinese history as the Empress Dowager Cixi, public intellectuals Feng Guifen, Liang Qichao, and Chen Duxiu, Nationalist stalwarts Sun Yat-sen and Chiang Kai-shek, and Communist Party leaders Mao Zedong, Deng Xiaoping, and Zhu Rongji.{node, 3592}The common goal that unites all of these disparate figures is their determined pursuit of fuqiang, “wealth and power.” This abiding quest for a restoration of national greatness in the face of a “century of humiliation” at the hands of the Great Powers came to define the modern Chinese character. It’s what drove both Mao and Deng to embark on root-and-branch transformations of Chinese society, first by means of Marxism-Leninism, then by authoritarian capitalism. And this determined quest remains the key to understanding many of China’s actions today.By unwrapping the intellectual antecedents of today’s resurgent China, Orville Schell and John Delury supply much-needed insight into the country’s tortured progression from nineteenth-century decline to twenty-first-century boom. By looking backward into the past to understand forces at work for hundreds of years, they help us understand China today and the future that this singular country is helping shape for all of us. —Random House

Jail For Rare China Cultural Revolution Murder Case

Agence France-Presse
Chinese media said Qiu had been arrested last July. But it was unclear why his case went ahead several decades after the Cultural Revolution, a violent period that the government has sought to move beyond. 

Sanmao Learns From Lei Feng

Maura Cunningham
Maura Cunningham
Learn how to be a selfless good Samaritan like Lei Feng through Zhang Leping's Sanmao comics...

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...

The Hungry Years

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

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.

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...

Who Was Mao Zedong?

Roderick MacFarquhar from New York Review of Books
In Kashgar’s largest bazaar a few years ago, I spotted a pencil holder sporting an iconic Cultural Revolution image: Mao Zedong and Marshal Lin Biao smiling together. But Mao’s personally chosen heir apparent had been a nonperson since 1971, when he...

"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.

Jesus vs. Mao? An Interview with Yuan Zhiming

Ian Johnson
New York Review of Books
In the intellectual ferment leading up to the 1989 Tiananmen protests, a much-watched series on Chinese television called River Elegy became closely identified with the hopes of China’s reformers. The six-part series, which used...

Minxin Pei: What China's Leaders Fear Most

Minxin Pei
Diplomat
The news that Chinese prosecutors have filed formal murder charges against Gu Kailai, the wife of disgraced former Communist Party boss of Chongqing Bo Xilai, has conjured up tantalizing images of a sensational trial at which the dirtiest laundry of...

Books

02.09.12

Mao Zedong and China in the Twentieth-Century World

Rebecca E. Karl
Throughout this lively and concise historical account of Mao Zedong’s life and thought, Rebecca E. Karl places the revolutionary leader’s personal experiences, social visions and theory, military strategies, and developmental and foreign policies in a dynamic narrative of the Chinese revolution. She situates Mao and the revolution in a global setting informed by imperialism, decolonization, and third worldism, and discusses worldwide trends in politics, the economy, military power, and territorial sovereignty.Karl begins with Mao’s early life in a small village in Hunan province, documenting his relationships with his parents, passion for education, and political awakening during the fall of the Qing dynasty in late 1911. She traces his transition from liberal to Communist over the course of the next decade, his early critiques of the subjugation of women, and the gathering force of the May 4th movement for reform and radical change. Describing Mao’s rise to power, she delves into the dynamics of Communist organizing in an overwhelmingly agrarian society, and Mao’s confrontations with Chiang Kai-shek and other nationalist conservatives. She also considers his marriages and romantic liaisons and their relation to Mao as the revolutionary founder of Communism in China. After analyzing Mao’s stormy tenure as chairman of the People’s Republic of China, Karl concludes by examining his legacy in China from his death in 1976 through the Beijing Olympics in 2008. —Duke University Press

The Worst Man-Made Catastrophe, Ever

Roderick MacFarquhar from New York Review of Books
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...

Sinica Podcast

05.21.10

Mao’s Legacy and Foreign Self-Censorship

Kaiser Kuo, Jeremy Goldkorn & more from Sinica Podcast
Notice your friends holding something back? In this Sinica podcast, we talk about the self-censoring phenomenon that’s taken root among the foreign community in China, and discuss a surprising case which demonstrates exactly the opposite: how one of...

Books

03.01.10

China In the 21st Century

Jeffrey Wasserstrom
The need to understand this global giant has never been more pressing: China is constantly in the news, yet conflicting impressions abound. Within one generation, China has transformed from an impoverished, repressive state into an economic and political powerhouse. In China in the 21st Century: What Everyone Needs to Know, Jeffrey Wasserstrom provides cogent answers to the most urgent questions regarding the newest superpower and offers a framework for understanding its meteoric rise. Focusing his answers through the historical legacies—Western and Japanese imperialism, the Mao era, and the massacre near Tiananmen Square—that largely define China's present-day trajectory, Wasserstrom introduces readers to the Chinese Communist Party, the building boom in Shanghai, and the environmental fall-out of rapid Chinese industrialization. He also explains unique aspects of Chinese culture such as the one-child policy, and provides insight into how Chinese view Americans. Wasserstrom reveals that China today shares many traits with other industrialized nations during their periods of development, in particular the United States during its rapid industrialization in the 19th century. Finally, he provides guidance on the ways we can expect China to act in the future vis-a-vis the United States, Russia, India, and its East Asian neighbors.  —Oxford University Press

The Mystery of Zhou Enlai

Jonathan D. Spence from New York Review of Books
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...

Mission to Mao

Roderick MacFarquhar from New York Review of Books
“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...

China’s Great Terror

Jonathan D. Spence from New York Review of Books
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...

Portrait of a Monster

Jonathan D. Spence from New York Review of Books
1.It is close to seventy years since Edgar Snow, an ambitious, radical, and eager young American journalist, received word from contacts in the Chinese Communist Party that he would be welcome in the Communists’ northwest base area of Bao-an...

China’s Assault on the Environment

Jonathan Mirsky from New York Review of Books
In 1956 Chairman Mao wrote the poem “Swimming,” about a dam to be built across the Yangtze River. This is its second stanza:A magnificent project is formed. The Bridge, it flies! Spanning North and South, and a Natural Barrier becomes a thoroughfare...

Divine Killer

Ian Buruma from New York Review of Books
“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,...

Talking with Mao: An Exchange

Henry Kissinger & Jonathan D. Spence from New York Review of Books
In response to:Kissinger & the Emperor from the March 4, 1999 issueTo the Editors:No China scholar has influenced my own thinking more than Jonathan Spence. My comments on his review of The Kissinger Transcripts edited by William Burr [NYR,...

Kissinger & the Emperor

Jonathan D. Spence from New York Review of Books
From the moment when they first began to keep historical records, the Chinese showed a fascination with the complexities of diplomacy, with the give-and-take of interstate negotiation, the balancing of force and bluff, the variable powers of human...

The Mark of Cain

Jonathan Mirsky from New York Review of Books
1.In Hong Kong’s China Club, fashionable people have lunch beneath pictures of Mao Zedong after a drink in the Long March Bar. Most of the members are refugees from Mao or the children of refugees. In Russia, or Germany, or Cambodia, there is surely...