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Xi Jinping, brother Xi Yuanping, father Xi Zhongxun in 1958
In 1980 Deng Xiaoping set 2020 as the completion date for his Reform and Opening program–a 40-year overhaul of China’s economy. On June 1, 2021 President Xi will announce that all Deng’s goals have been reached and a basic xiaokang society established: no one is poor and everyone receives an education, has paid employment, more... Read More
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The Chinese sure can be exasperating. Paul Midler writes in his new book What’s Wrong with China: (Laowai is the common—informal, non-hostile—Chinese term for a foreigner, equivalent to Japanese gaijin. Pronunciation here. During my own China days in the early 1980s the usual expat term for the syndrome under discus
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With their brief existence, and dumbed down now by a degraded and warped education, most Americans have a telescoped and cartoony sense of history, so nothing matters, really, beyond the last two or three presidential elections, and each foreign country is represented, at most, by a caricature or two, so Germany is Hitler and Merkel,... Read More
Vinh Chau Chinese at the Seven Wonders Restaurant, Saigon, 2018
In the 17th century, the Manchus conquered China, causing thousands of defeated Chinese soldiers and their families to flee to Vietnam, then divided between north and south. The Nguyen Clan, rulers of the south, granted these Chinese land in nominal Cambodian territory, paving the way for Vietnam’s annexation of a third of Cambodia. This obscure... Read More
On January 21st the Screen Actors Guild gave Gary Oldman their “Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role” award for his portrayal of Winston Churchill in Darkest Hour. The movie is about Churchill coming to power as Prime Minister in May 1940 and the events leading up to the evacuation from Dunkirk.... Read More
Mao Reconsidered, Part III
Part One of this trilogy described in detail how Mao did more good for more people than anyone in history. In Part Two, his logistical genius saved millions from dying in what could have become an epic famine. In this final episode Mao spends his last decade ending peasants’ ‘deaths from hunger, cold, insult, cruelty... Read More
Starving Chinese Child, 1946, Life Magazine
Judging from the copious comments, it appears that Part One of this trilogy demonstrated conclusively that Mao Zedong did more good for more people than anyone in history. In Part Two, we examine the common belief that–whether through malice, indifference or incompetence–Mao also did great harm by starving millions of people to death. But before... Read More
Mao and Family
One Hundred Percent Good
Colleagues, rivals, academics and propagandists East and West have written much nonsense about Mao Zedong yet, when we correct for bias and discard patent falsehoods it becomes clear that, apart from the bloodshed that accompanies wars and revolutions, it’s doubtful that Mao killed anyone and indubitable that he gave life to billions. Indeed, no-one has... Read More
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
Ancient Silk Road Routes.  Credit: Wikimedia Commons
Peter Frankopan's The Silk Roads: A New History of the World shows why we need to re-vision history
The word revisionist derives from roots meaning "to look again." And since history is an ongoing project, whose main purpose is to help us understand where we have come from and where we are going, we obviously need to keep taking fresh looks at the past as we propose new visions of the future. Obligatory... Read More
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Brexit, 中国 Denialism, and the End of "China"
What does this map have to do with Brexit? The answer may surprise you! But first, the wait is over, people. My Brexit hot take is up at Asia Times: The Brexit Upside for China The PRC was not happy with Brexit, despite the Atlanticist fetish with spinning any difficulties with the neo-liberal project as... Read More
Ceterum censeo Sinisem esse delendam
I enjoy a simplistic historical analogy as much as the next blogger, but “Thucydides Trap” doesn’t cut it for me. “Thucydides Trap” is the “conflict inevitable between incumbent and rising empires” thing, tracing back to Thucydides’ analysis, the first example of the IR deep dive, which sidestepped the proximate cause of the Peloponnesian War (Athens... Read More
I have a piece up exclusively at Asia Times, Duterte’s Beef with America. Go read it! It unpacks the story of Duterte’s coolness to the United States dating back to the Michael Meiring incident in 2002. Duterte’s spokesman recently cited the Meiring case in explaining his attitude toward the U.S., leading to a New York... Read More
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Obama’s Geopolitical Strategy for Containing China
In ways that have eluded Washington pundits and policymakers, President Barack Obama is deploying a subtle geopolitical strategy that, if successful, might give Washington a fighting chance to extend its global hegemony deep into the twenty-first century. After six years of silent, sometimes secret preparations, the Obama White House has recently unveiled some bold diplomatic... Read More
The huge military parade held in Beijing this week was billed as a commemoration of China’s role in World War II. Over 15 million Chinese died in its eight-year resistance to Japanese invasion. China’s supreme leader, Xi Jinping, dressed in a finely tailored Mao suit, stood atop the Forbidden City’s Gate of Heavenly Peace to... Read More
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The Saker Interviews Michael Hudson
Cross-posted from The Saker The Saker: We hear that the Ukraine will have to declare a default, but that it will probably be a “technical” default as opposed to an official one. Some say that the decision of the Rada to allow Iatseniuk to chose whom to pay is already such a “technical default”. Is... Read More
Washington Versus China in the Twenty-First Century
For even the greatest of empires, geography is often destiny. You wouldn’t know it in Washington, though. America’s political, national security, and foreign policy elites continue to ignore the basics of geopolitics that have shaped the fate of world empires for the past 500 years. Consequently, they have missed the significance of the rapid global... Read More
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Ignorance is renewed with each newborn, and by the time any man figures out anything, he can almost feel the mortician leaning over his stiff face. Though all lessons are embalmed within history, few care to explore that infinite corpse. Lewis Mumford, “So far from being overwhelmed by the accumulations of history, the fact is... Read More
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When I was in Beijing during the protests in 1989, a middle-aged man came up to me and asked, “Couldn’t America send some B-52s here and…” and he made a swooping motion with his hand. Ten years later, on May 7, 1999, the American bombers did show up. Instead of showering freedom ordnance on China’s... Read More
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Sending the wrong message to Russia, China and Iran
Currently the United States is assisting Ukraine against Russia by providing some non-lethal military equipment as well as limited training for Kiev’s army. It has balked at getting more involved in the conflict, rightly so. With that in mind, I had a meeting with a delegation of Ukrainian parliamentarians and government officials a couple of... Read More
On the 25 anniversary of Tiananmen Square I posted a guest column by Brian Becker who pointed out that no massacre occurred in China’s Tiananmen Square. A few US journalists who reported a massacre later retracted the claim, including the New York Times’ Nicholas Kristof. Looking at the evidence 15 years after the alleged massacre,... Read More
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A Dangerous Game for Washington
In a recent round of finger pointing, the Obama Administration blamed China for being both “dangerous and provocative” in its crisis in relations with Vietnam. The specific incident that led to the rebuke was rioting in Vietnam in response to a Chinese oil drilling rig being placed in disputed waters in the South China Sea.... Read More
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Memorial Day is when we commemorate our war dead. Like the Fourth of July, Memorial Day is being turned into a celebration of war. Those who lose family members and dear friends to war don’t want the deaths to have been in vain. Consequently, wars become glorious deeds performed by noble soldiers fighting for truth,... Read More
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Once an Enemy Always an Enemy
Does it not seem strange that, with the Cold War long over, the Paramount Enemies of the United States remain Russia and China? That is not a bad question to ponder during Vladimir Putin’s visit with Xi Jinping in Beijing. And there is no doubt that Russia and China hold this pariah status in the... 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
The late historian Iris Chang, and now her mother, take up a generations-old fight to remember the Japanese atrocities...
Hints don't come much less subtle than the one the late Iris Chang received in a small package in 1998. Inside the box, which has been mailed to her front door, were two bullets. Almost anyone else might, there and then, have opted for a less stressful life. Not Iris Chang. The episode is recounted... 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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
Four Sisters of Hofei,by Annping Chin
The 20th century was an "interesting time" in China, and almost any Chinese person who lived through much of it, especially the earlier part of it, has a story worth telling. I have sat with quite ordinary people, in pleasant apartments in Peking or Taipei, and heard them tell of the most astounding adventures —... Read More
Colors of the Mountain, by Da Chen
Another memoir about growing up in Communist China? There are enough of these now to form a well-established genre, from Tung Chi-ping's The Thought Revolution (1967) and Ken Ling's Red Guard (1972) through Liang Heng's Son of the Revolution (1983) to Jung Chang's Wild Swans (1991) with many, many others in between and since. Surely... Read More
Hungry Ghosts, by Jasper Becker
The greatest human calamity of our century — greater than the Holocaust, greater than World War Two itself — was the famine that swept China in the "three bad years" 1959-61. At least thirty million died. For a long time the Chinese authorities and their shills in the West denied that there had been a... Read More
Shanghai, by Harriet Sergeant
Just how naughty was old Shanghai? All of us have, mouldering away somewhere in that recess of the imagination labelled POST-COLONIAL GUILT, some picture of infant prostitutes dying in gutters while slitty-eyed gangsters swill champagne with European nobs. Was it really like that? Or did the Commies make it all up? Harriet Sergeant has looked... Read More
Chinese Intellectuals in Crisis, by Hao Chang
The last twenty years of the Ch'ing dynasty (1644-1911) were not a happy time for Chinese intellectuals. It was bad enough to find oneself living at the wrong end of a dynastic cycle, when the measured tones of ancient rationalism were being drowned out by the rising din of institutional collapse; but for that circumstance... Read More
The Soong Dynasty, by Sterling Seagrave
There were once three sisters. The first loved money; the second loved her country; the third loved power. What a great idea for a novel! Let's see … First sister marries a banker and becomes immensely rich. Second sister elopes with a middle-aged revolutionary. Marvellous! You can imagine the publisher reaching for his cheque-book already.... Read More
Chou: the Story of Zhou Enlai, 1898-1976, by Dick Wilson
Father is somewhat irresponsible, given to childish enthusiasms, extravagant habits and disgraceful infidelities. He is not really very mature. It is Mother who holds the family together. She controls the household finances as best she can, keeps the children fed and clothed, and pacifies the neighbours. Sometimes she argues with Father; but when his mind... Read More
Category Classics
The major media overlooked Communist spies and Madoff’s fraud. What are they missing today?
The “war hero” candidate buried information about POWs left behind in Vietnam.
What Was John McCain's True Wartime Record in Vietnam?
The evidence is clear — but often ignored
Confederate Flag Day, State Capitol, Raleigh, N.C. -- March 3, 2007