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As deplorable as we Badwhites are, our medieval forebears were deplorabler. Here’s one: Geoffrey le Barbu (“the Bearded”), Count of Anjou, around a.d. 1065: Now that’s Badwhite! (Geoffrey, by the way, was a great-granduncle of the English King Henry II, first of the Plantagenet Dynasty. His younger brother, who rejoiced in the epithet Fulk the... Read More
I’ve met more than my share of famous people, just because I’ve lived mostly in big metropolises and hung around with journalists a lot. Among those encounters: one with His Holiness the Dalai Lama, back in 1984. I wrote up an account in a column back in 2003. Well, His Holiness is still among us... Read More
chinastillalmosttotallychinese
The current (November 19th-25th) issue of The Economist has a striking long article about Chinese — more precisely, ChiCom — nationalism. Bottom line: it’s racial. I’ve made this point myself, e.g. in my 2001 China Diary: (You can argue that it’s really ethnic, not racial. After 4,000 years of absorbing border tribes and enduring long... Read More
John Derbyshire teaching English (but not spying) in Communist China, Christmas 1982.
Thirty-three years ago I was teaching English at a college in provincial China. This was the early post-Mao period, and foreigners were a rarity outside the big cities. I think I was the only one resident in that town since the Russians had left twenty years previously. I was on friendly terms with some of... Read More
The thorny tangles of identity, ethnicity, nation, and race, are made thornier under a state ideology based on utopian fantasies and the denial of reality. Sound familiar? It should; it’s what we write about here at VDARE.com. As a mind-clearing exercise, it helps to occasionally step back from our domestic broils to look at how... Read More
Hong Kong, in long historical perspective.
History is full of strange folds, wrinkles, and repetitions. Consider for example the following true story. There was once a great empire of the despotic-bureaucratic sort. It had enjoyed centuries of glory; but at last came corruption, political paralysis, foreign incursions, and fragmentation. As the empire entered its long decline, a much smaller nation of... Read More
… to politics in a postindustrial society.
Wednesday this week marks the 25th anniversary of the Chinese army’s retaking Tiananmen Square from anti-regime protestors, an event known to Chinese by the date as “6/4.” The first thing to be said about this is that if, like me, you welcome summer by reading a good thick middlebrow novel, here’s just the thing. Not... Read More
[This is the text of a talk I gave to the American Renaissanceconference on April 26th, 2014. The talk was organized around PowerPoint slides, links to which are scattered through the text. As is always the case, the delivered talk differed somewhat from the text here. AmRen will be posting the talk on on their... Read More
Hard Road Home, by Ye Fu
Taking humanity at large, perhaps the greatest service any person of our time could perform for future generations would be to bring rational, consensual government to China. That such a populous nation, with such high general levels of industriousness and intelligence, and with such a glittering cultural legacy, should be ruled by a clique of... Read More
Unbalanced: The Codependency of America and China, Stephen Roach
China forecasting is a mug’s game. The terrible example before us all is Gordon Chang, who in 2001 published a book titled The Coming Collapse of China, which predicted that within five to ten years the Communist Party would be chased out of power amid social and economic breakdown. (I reviewed the book here.) As... Read More
Are the ChiComs feeling their oats? Exhibit A: British Prime Minister David Cameron spent the first three days of this week in China. The Communists greeted him withsneering arrogance. The Global Times, a major Party propagandaorgan, honked that: Another Communist Party organ, the China Centre for International Economic Exchanges, invited to submit questions to Cameron,... Read More
And can China get along fine without it?
So where are we with this democracy business? Last time I brought it up I left you with Robert A. Heinlein’s time traveler: It’s not clear that American democracy, as it has developed to the present, really is so wonderful. One of our big political parties somehow manages to market itself as the party of... Read More
I was slow on the uptake in understanding Chinese communism’s awfulness. I’d been a lefty in my student days without knowing anything much about China. Toward the end of those days, female Chinese author Han Suyin published A Crippled Tree, an account of her parents’ lives in early 20th-century China written from a standpoint of... Read More
I don’t have sufficient experience or knowledge to call myself an Old China Hand, but I can claim to be something of an authority on China punditry—an Old “Old China Hand” Hand, as it were. I think I’ve read ’em all at some time or other in the past forty years, from Matteo Ricciand the... Read More
It's a world-wide phenomenon.
The war between the sexes is fought on many fronts, some of them very far away. There’s a report from one of those fronts in the January 2013 issue of The China Journal. The writer is Katherine A. Mason, billed as “Lecturer in Health and Societies in the Department of History and Sociology of Science... Read More
Who will own the 21st century?
Which nation will own the 21st century? The leading candidates are the USA and China. Few people would admit any others into the competition, but I’d be a tad more careful. History takes some odd turns. Who in the year 612 AD would have prophesied that the 7th century would belong to the Arabs? To... Read More
Such Is This World@sars.come, by Hu Fayun
There has never been a good time to be an honest writer in Communist China, but the present is an exceptionally bad time. Spooked by the "Arab Spring" and jostling for position in next year's scheduled leadership changes, the Party bosses have been coming down hard on every kind of independent thinking. The cases of... Read More
Address to the Sixth Annual Meeting of the Property and Freedom Society, Bodrum, Turkey
————————— Good morning, Ladies and Gentl
Not so much a Wirtschaftswunder as a Staatskunstswunder.
You think the 2012 Republican field is lackluster? Check out these party animals. The "party" in that last sentence is of course the Chinese Communist Party. The gents in the picture are the Standing Committee (changwu weiyuanhui, lit. "everyday affairs committee") of the Central Politburo (zhongyang zhengzhiju, lit. "central political bureau") of the CCP. They... Read More
Terrorism and self-determination.
Sometimes you write a column just so you can for ever after refer people to it. "Oh, that subject/point/complaint/theory/argument? I tackled/countered/responded to/exploded/demolished that back in July '11 — here's the link." Well, this is one of those. Back in — heaven help me! — 1999 I wrote a column for the Weekly Standard about Uighurs.... Read More
Lang Lang's patriotism, and Obama's.
This week's storm in a teacup was Chinese pianist Lang Lang's playing of the Chinese song "My Motherland" at a state dinner for some visiting Chinese functionaries. The song is a gushy old patriotic thing — you can inspect the lyrics here and see it sung in its original movie setting here — from the... Read More
The new Internet?
This week's state visit of Hu Jintao, China's "president" — I would prefer to say "head apparatchik," since "president" implies an elected position, which is not the case — has fired off another round of China-up? / China-down? speculation in the press. In the present climate of American national foreboding, the speculation comes paired with... Read More
Tom Friedman gushes over the Chinese dictatorship.
Thomas Friedman has been to China again, and seems to have experienced another Lincoln Steffens moment. More than one such, in fact. In his January 10 New York Times column Tom was swooning over the new high-speed rail link between Peking and Shanghai — five hours to cover 700 miles. "By comparison, Amtrak trains require... Read More
Out of Mao's Shadow, by Philip P. Pan
Reading Philip Pan's fine book — somewhat late: it came out in June last year: I am sorry — I was reminded of one of those caustic jokes that used to circulate in Brezhnev's U.S.S.R. Coming up to its 60th birthday, Communist China has not actually run out of bullets, any more than the U.S.S.R.... Read More
Atatürk got it right.
The current constitution of the People's Republic of China, adopted in December 1982, tells us that: "The People's Republic of China is a unitary multi-national state." That is pretty darn close to the dictionary definition of an empire: "an extended territory usu. comprising a group of nations, states, or peoples under the control or domination... Read More
Poorly Made in China, by Paul Midler
Is China really a modern country? Can China be a modern country? Paul Midler's book leaves you wondering. After studying Chinese at college, Midler lived and worked in China through the 1990s before returning to the U.S.A. to take a business degree. In 2001 he went back to China, setting himself up as a consultant... Read More
A wasted century?
When, thirty years ago, Deng Xiaoping authorized a retreat from the Maoist command economy, he called his plan "Socialism with Chinese characteristics." After a spell of cautious experimentation, Deng's schema blossomed into the export-led, double-digit-growth Chinese economy we have become familiar with this past couple of decades. Now, with thedeepening world-wide recession, China watchers are... Read More
The Man Who Loved China, by Simon Winchester
One of my schoolmasters was fond of saying that there are only two worthwhile forms of worldly immortality: to get a poem in the Oxford Book of English Verse, or to have a mathematical theorem named after you. The British scholar Joseph Needham (1900-1995) was no better than a passable amateur poet, judging by the... Read More
The Poems of Mao Zedong, edited and translated by William Barnstone
The Belgian sinologist Pierre Ryckmans (pen-name "Simon Leys") was once asked for his opinion of Mao Tse-tung's poetry. He replied: "Well, if poetry were painting, I would say that Mao was better than Hitler … but not as good as Churchill." Ryckmans' quip[*] suggests the moral dilemma in confronting Mao's poetry. Imagine yourself at an... Read More
Those little pork pies.
The various petty deceptions that have come to light at the Beijing Olympics — the computer-generated "fireworks", the bogus "ethnic minority" dancers, the little girl who lip-synced because the kid with the voice wasn't cute enough, thesuspiciously preteen look of some of the "16-year-olds" on the gals' gymnastics squad … What's going on here? Or,... Read More
Olympic Dreams, by Xu Guoqi
A favorite piece of expat lore among foreigners in early 20th-century China concerned the Chinese government official who called on some Western friends one hot day just as they were starting a game of tennis. They invited him to watch, so he took a seat in the shade, had a servant bring him some green... Read More
Don't feel Chinese, don't feel American.
Two big news stories of the past few days, from places far apart, and as different as two places could possibly be, tell us useful things about the age we live in. In Lhasa, the capital city of Chinese-occupied Tibet, there were demonstrations on March 10. The Chinese authorities responded clumsily, Tibetans reacted with riots,... Read More
Coping with the demographic crunch.
A Chinese (Chinese-born, Chinese-educated, came to the West as an adult) friend of mine made a remark to me a few months ago that has been bobbing up to the surface of my mind at intervals ever since. I should preface my retailing of it by noting that the Chinese are considerably more outspoken on... Read More
The Dragon and the Foreign Devils: China and the World, 1100 B.C. to the Present, by Harry G. Gelber
Ocean to the east, mountains to the west, steppe to the north, jungle to the south: no wonder the ancient Chinese felt themselves to be in the middle of everything. At the dawn of Chinese history proper, around 800 B.C., the land regions just outside the borders of the Chinese culture zone were known to... Read More
But not the way Sir Francis Galton wanted.
To modern sensibilities there can be few documents more shocking than Sir Francis Galton's "Africa for the Chinese" letter published in the London Times of June 5, 1873. Sir Francis, a polymath and explorer, and a member of the great Darwin-Wedgwood clan, held Africans in low esteem, believing that they could not "sustain the burden... Read More
China's present and future.
Watching the recent proceedings of China's National People's Congress — the country's legislature, if you believe China's constitution, which of course you should not — I got that sinking feeling I always get nowadays when I pay attention to Chinese affairs. Hearing the Communist Party hacks droning on about "safeguarding China's sovereignty and territorial integrity"... Read More
How did I hate Hero, the newest box-office-bustin' Chinese sword'n'skyhook movie? Let me count the ways. ————————— • I hated the endless swordfight scenes. To call them "swordfight scenes" is in fact a stretch, as they bear as much relation to actual swordfights as The Flintstones does to family life in the Upper Paleolithic. The... Read More
A Bitter Revolution: China's Struggle With the Modern World, by Rana Mitter
Until very recently Chinese intellectual life had a peculiar frozen-in-time quality. Intellectual fads that, in the West, had come and gone in the early or middle years of the twentieth century, were regarded as exciting and new. I can recall, around 1982-3, being eagerly quizzed by Chinese acquaintances about topics like existentialism, Esperanto, and psychoanalysis.... Read More
Falun Gong: The End of Days, by Maria Hsia Chang
Eccentric religious sects present a nontrivial problem even for open societies. The early history of the Mormon Church illustrates this; so, more recently, have the People's Temple, Heaven's Gate, and Branch Davidian episodes. Issues of public health and the welfare of minors may arise. So may matters of straightforward criminality: the black-racist Nation of Yahweh... Read More
Losing the New China: A Story of American Commerce, Desire, and Betrayal, by Ethan Gutmann
Ethan Gutmann lived in China for three years, from late 1998 to late 2001. He went there with the hope of making a TV documentary about how capitalism and globalization were going to democratize China. He came back much wiser and sadder. InLosing the New China he presents a cold-eyed look at the Beijing expat... Read More
Chiang Kai Shek, by Jonathan Fenby
I think Chiang Kai Shek's career is well known, at least in outline. The last Chinese emperor abdicated in 1912. China fell into utter chaos until, in 1926, Chiang marched an army northward and achieved a semblance of national unification. From 1928 China was under Chiang's dictatorship, with Nanking as the capital. However, Japan seized... Read More
China's New Nationalism: Pride, Politics and Diplomacy, by Peter Hays Gries
It is an item of current conventional wisdom that the Chinese Communist Party, confronted with a population to whom communism no longer has any appeal, has resorted to an extreme form of nationalism to justify its rule over China. The principal message of Peter Hays Gries's fascinating book is that while this is true, it... Read More
Before Mao, by Patrick Lescot
One of the photographs collected at the center of this book has a great deal to tell us about Communism. Dated March 29, 1980, the photograph shows the late Chinese despot Deng Xiaoping face to face with an elderly European woman. Deng is seen in profile. He is wearing a Mao suit with some kind... Read More
China's New Order, by Wang Hui
Americans are usually a bit surprised to hear that mainland China has a vigorous culture of political and social critique. The dictatorship imposes some constraints, of course, and the political weather blows cold now and then, but tianxia da shi — the large matters of the world — are keenly discussed among Chinese intellectuals, and,... Read More
A demonstration in China.
Looking at the picture of those Chinese students demonstrating in Xi'an last weekend, a half-forgotten literary reference came to mind. I went to my books and found the reference. It's in Chapter Eight of Ba Jin's novel The Family, written around 1930. Ba Jin (old spelling: Pa Chin**) was the most prominent Chinese novelist of... Read More
Soong May-ling, R.i.P..
I imagine the death of Madame* Chiang Kai-shek** barely registered with any non-Chinese person much under the age of sixty. The lady was 105 years old, and had not been in the news in any interesting way since 1988, when she made an unsuccessful attempt to interfere in Taiwan politics. She had not had any... Read More
Recalling Bruce Lee.
For web column topics I have an "Ideas" file that I dip into when I can't be bothered with the actual news — a state of mind that I find comes upon me more and more often lately. A lot of these ideas have been suggested by kind readers. This is one such. None of... Read More
The New Chinese Empire: And What It Means for the United States, by Ross Terrill
Thirty years ago — at about the time, in fact, that Ross Terrill published his first book about China — the catch-phrase in political science circles was that people who studied the Soviet Union hated the object of their studies, while people specializing in modern China loved the object of theirs. There was truth in... Read More
Before the Deluge, by Dierdre Chetham
Fifty years ago the sinologist, political scientist and recovering Marxist Karl Wittfogel gave us his theory of "hydraulic despotism." Surveying the great imperial systems of the pre-industrial world, Wittfogel argued that their centralized, bureaucratic nature was a consequence of their having to organize great masses of manpower for water-management projects — dams, dikes, canals, and... Read More
China up? China down? Who knows? Me.
You can get whiplash reading commentary about which way China is going. Here was Nicholas Kristof, in the December 3 New York Times with an article titled "Will China Blindside the West?" Kristof is a capable journalist who wrote a decent book about China in the early nineties, so let's see what he has to... Read More
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John Derbyshire
About John Derbyshire

John Derbyshire writes an incredible amount on all sorts of subjects for all kinds of outlets. (This no longer includes National Review, whose editors had some kind of tantrum and fired him. He is the author of We Are Doomed: Reclaiming Conservative Pessimism and several other books. His most recent book, published by VDARE.com com is FROM THE DISSIDENT RIGHT (also available in Kindle).His writings are archived at JohnDerbyshire.com.


Personal Classics
Limbaugh and company certainly entertain. But a steady diet of ideological comfort food is no substitute for hearty intellectual fare.
Once as a colonial project, now as a moral playground, the ancient continent remains the object of Great Power maneuvering