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The China Beat Blog Archive 2008-2012

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All Good Things Must Come To An End: China Beat’S 1,000th Post, Maura Cunningham, Kate Merkel-Hess, Ken Pomeranz, Jeff Wasserstrom Jul 2012

All Good Things Must Come To An End: China Beat’S 1,000th Post, Maura Cunningham, Kate Merkel-Hess, Ken Pomeranz, Jeff Wasserstrom

The China Beat Blog Archive 2008-2012

With much gratitude, the China Beat editors say goodbye.

What a difference four years can make—for a blog, a country, and a planet. (“Blog, country, planet” might have made a nice coat of arms if we’d thought of it…) When China Beat launched early in 2008, blogs seemed like relatively new kids on the block, at least to academics. Four years later, the genre is old hat, sharing a landscape with newcomers like Tumblr, Twitter, and other microblogging platforms, and we’re increasingly catching up on China news not on computers but on devices that fit in our ...


Book Review: A Passion For Facts By Tong Lam, Maggie Clinton Jun 2012

Book Review: A Passion For Facts By Tong Lam, Maggie Clinton

The China Beat Blog Archive 2008-2012

Tong Lam’s engaging new study A Passion for Facts analyzes the processes by which modern modes of apprehending and ordering the social world were forced upon and ultimately embraced by Chinese political and intellectual elites during the late Qing and Republican periods. Lam focuses on the rise of the “social survey” (shehui diaocha) as a means of knowing and constituting a new object called “society” (shehui), as well as the epistemological violence of imperialism that rendered the social survey a seemingly natural way of investigating the world. By the time the Nationalists assumed state power in 1927, Lam argues ...


Book Review: Superstitious Regimes By Rebecca Nedostup, Stefania Travagnin Jun 2012

Book Review: Superstitious Regimes By Rebecca Nedostup, Stefania Travagnin

The China Beat Blog Archive 2008-2012

Superstitious Regimes is an interdisciplinary work that sheds new light on the interaction between the state-body and the religion-body in early twentieth-century China, with a focus on the Nanjing Decade (1927-1937). Nedostup develops her analysis from both a diachronic and synchronic perspective. The author underlines shifts and continuities between a few historical periods: Sun Yat-sen’s time, the early years of the Nanjing Decade, the late years of the Nanjing Decade, and the post-Nanjing Decade.

Nedostup’s interdisciplinary study is of interest for a large readership: students and scholars of Chinese studies, Chinese politics, Chinese religions, and Chinese history would ...


Book Review: Dream Of Ding Village By Yan Lianke, Mike Frick May 2012

Book Review: Dream Of Ding Village By Yan Lianke, Mike Frick

The China Beat Blog Archive 2008-2012

Unsurprisingly, the Chinese government levied a “three nos” ban—no sales, no distribution, and no promotion—against Dream of Ding Village after its publication in 2005. Though the storytelling relies heavily on dream sequences, Yan takes little poetic license when exposing the depth of the state’s culpability in spreading HIV among poor, medically-naïve farmers. He is just as uncompromising when detailing how officials denied responsibility for the ensuing AIDS epidemic, even as they profited from its human tragedy. No one in Ding Village receives medical care, mental health counseling, food assistance, or a chance to hold the blood heads ...


Changsha: Photographs By Rian Dundon, Rian Dundon Apr 2012

Changsha: Photographs By Rian Dundon, Rian Dundon

The China Beat Blog Archive 2008-2012

Rian Dundon, whose photographs have previously appeared at China Beat, will soon be releasing a new book of photography on China, Changsha. Dundon’s book will feature a forward written by friend of the blog Gail Hershatter and includes his photos of and essays on the Hunan province city of Changsha. For more information, and to pre-order a copy of the book, see the book’s website (pre-sales of the book are part of a crowd-funding campaign raising funds for its first run with the publisher, Emphas.is). Below is a special teaser of Changsha material that Dundon has prepared ...


Book Review: Keeping The Nation’S House, Elizabeth Lacouture Jan 2012

Book Review: Keeping The Nation’S House, Elizabeth Lacouture

The China Beat Blog Archive 2008-2012

In 1940, China’s Nationalist Ministry of Education issued a decree from its wartime capital of Chongqing. At a time when Japan occupied China’s eastern seaboard and the Communists controlled the north, the Ministry called on educators and homemakers to “cultivate children’s happiness.” Doing more with less, teachers and mothers were supposed to make children believe that “even if the food is unsatisfactory, the clothes are inadequate, or the habitation is insufficient… it is still very good” (p. 1). In Keeping the Nation’s House, Helen Schneider explores how Chinese educators and the Chinese state transformed the seemingly ...


Excerpt: Autumn In The Heavenly Kingdom, Stephen R. Platt Jan 2012

Excerpt: Autumn In The Heavenly Kingdom, Stephen R. Platt

The China Beat Blog Archive 2008-2012

A big new China book to hit shelves in recent weeks is Autumn in the Heavenly Kingdom: China, the West, and the Epic Story of the Taiping Civil War, written by University of Massachusetts, Amherst historian Stephen Platt. Platt places the Taiping Rebellion in a global context, emphasizing its importance to American and European observers of the conflict, whose economic ties to China made them keenly interested in the country’s domestic situation. Autumn in the Heavenly Kingdom also offers new insights into how the Taiping Rebellion tied into Chinese internal politics, particularly the ways in which the Taiping rebels ...


Book Review: Developmental Fairy Tales, Nicole Kwoh Jan 2012

Book Review: Developmental Fairy Tales, Nicole Kwoh

The China Beat Blog Archive 2008-2012

At the 1996 APEC Economic Leaders Meeting, Jiang Zemin concluded his speech on economic development with a quote from Lu Xun: “For actually the earth had no road to begin with, but when many men pass one way, a road is made” (1921). This quote highlights the important role played by the first generation of modern Chinese literature in shaping the current rhetoric of building a road to progress. In Developmental Fairy Tales: Evolutionary Thinking and Modern Chinese Culture, Andrew F. Jones explains the construction of this ubiquitous concept of cultural and historical progress. With a focus on Lu Xun ...


Digital Chinese Whispers: Death Threats And Rumors Inside China’S Online Marketplace Of Ideas, James Leibold Jan 2012

Digital Chinese Whispers: Death Threats And Rumors Inside China’S Online Marketplace Of Ideas, James Leibold

The China Beat Blog Archive 2008-2012

The Chinese internet is a wonderfully raucous and interesting place. It has greatly expanded the scope of public discourse and activity, despite the party-state’s extensive censorship regime. Not surprisingly, the world’s largest cyber-community exhibits tremendous depth and diversity: progressive cyber-activists and professional agitators; navel-gazing starlets and steam-venting gamers; mundane infotainment and the banal waxing of quotidian life; and, sadly, dark corners of fear, hatred and paranoia. It’s all there; it simply depends on where one looks. Like other technologies before it, the internet is normatively neutral, and thus can be put to good, bad and anodyne uses ...


Republican China, Kate Merkel-Hess Jan 2012

Republican China, Kate Merkel-Hess

The China Beat Blog Archive 2008-2012

Several years ago, I gave a talk on my research to a community group. My first slide included the words “Republican China” and as I waited to begin I heard a woman in the front row lean over and whisper to her neighbor, “I had no idea they have Republicans in China too!”

At this time of bruising primary battles, though, the China that the Republicans have seems more relevant—as China, imagined and real, has played a recurring role in the raucous Republican primaries. Here’s a rundown of some of the ways China has popped up on the ...


A Q&A With Janet Chen, Author Of Guilty Of Indigence, Jeff Wasserstrom Jan 2012

A Q&A With Janet Chen, Author Of Guilty Of Indigence, Jeff Wasserstrom

The China Beat Blog Archive 2008-2012

Every society sees and treats its poorest members differently. The distinctive way that Victorian Britain dealt with poverty is a central theme in many novels by Charles Dickens, the prolific author whose books are getting even more attention as the bicentennial of his birth is being marked. For those more interested in India’s present than England’s past, the book of the moment on this theme seems to be Katherine Boo’s Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity, which is earning enthusiastic advance reviews and is due out soon (coincidentally or not on ...


The First Asian Man: The Story Behind The Jeremy Lin Story, Yong Chen Jan 2012

The First Asian Man: The Story Behind The Jeremy Lin Story, Yong Chen

The China Beat Blog Archive 2008-2012

There are good reasons why Jeremy Lin deserves the extensive news coverage he has received recently: a Harvard grad playing in the NBA, he had an indispensible role in the Knicks’ 9-2 run before losing to Miami on February 23, averaging 23.9 points and 9.2 assists in 11 games. Yet the extraordinary “Linsanity” displayed by the mass media seems to suggest that what makes Lin’s story so notable is what it says about perceptions of Asian masculinity. In Lin, the media has finally found an Asian man.


Behind Bo Xilai’S Halo, Xujun Eberlein Jan 2012

Behind Bo Xilai’S Halo, Xujun Eberlein

The China Beat Blog Archive 2008-2012

In the wake of Bo Xilai’s sudden downfall, shortly after what could be called an online carnival among China watchers—probably more in celebration of a rare, real-life political drama than anything else—international media is changing its tune and beginning to paint a more sympathetic image of Bo than previously reported, by focusing on Chinese people’s love of him. Reuters, for example, has a report titled “In China’s Chongqing, dismay over downfall of Bo Xilai” that quotes a working “stick man” (棒棒军, a porter-for-hire) who praises Bo as “a good man” that “made life a lot ...


Letter From Little Lhasa, Reshma Patil Jan 2012

Letter From Little Lhasa, Reshma Patil

The China Beat Blog Archive 2008-2012

The runaway from a Tibetan village in Naba, China, led the way down the slippery dirt track to the doorstep of a restaurant with a Potala Palace bereft of tourists and soldiers painted on its blue walls. The Tibetan-speaking attendant at Chonor House politely declined to serve my first meal in McLeod Ganj. The kitchens were functioning only for hotel guests until the end of Losar. The three-day Tibetan New Year passed uncelebrated earlier this month in the Indian hill-town teeming with Tibetan exiles who give Dharamshala the moniker of Little Lhasa. The exiled Tibetan government is edged higher in ...


Hong Kong Identity And Democratic Values, Sebastian Veg Jan 2012

Hong Kong Identity And Democratic Values, Sebastian Veg

The China Beat Blog Archive 2008-2012

When Peking University Professor Kong Qingdong’s diatribe on Hongkongers and their lingering colonial infatuation swept over the Internet in late January, the widespread and growing uneasiness about mainland Chinese in Hong Kong suddenly had a face. Triggered by a viral video of a Hongkonger telling off a mainland family in the subway because their daughter was eating dry instant noodles, Kong’s interview sparked a wave of predictable but nonetheless justified outrage in Hong Kong. It took place against the background of the annual mainland shopping spree over Chinese New Year (in a previous episode, Dolce and Gabbana staff ...


Literacy And Development Within China’S Minorities, Alexandra Grey Jan 2012

Literacy And Development Within China’S Minorities, Alexandra Grey

The China Beat Blog Archive 2008-2012

Outside of China, people are agape at the prospect of learning to write Chinese: “So hard! Too hard.” Back in Australia, I know first generation migrants who speak Chinese at home but have never learnt to write; they gape along with everyone else. But for all the jaw-dropping, these people can read and write the national language of their home (for the Aussie-Chinese, that’s English). What about the people inside China for whom ‘Chinese’ is a foreign language? They are a significant minority, and, on the Chinese scale, a minority still means millions of people. ‘Chinese’ is usually loosely ...


Book Review: Phoenix: The Life Of Norman Bethune, David Webster Jan 2012

Book Review: Phoenix: The Life Of Norman Bethune, David Webster

The China Beat Blog Archive 2008-2012

Millions of Chinese have memorized Mao Zedong’s 1939 lines “In Memory of Norman Bethune,” written soon after the Canadian surgeon’s death amidst the war against Japan. As a result, Bethune remains the best-known Canadian in China, still outstripping comedian Dashan (Mark Rowswell).

“Comrade Bethune’s spirit, his utter devotion to others without any thought of self, was shown in his great sense of responsibility in his work and his great warm-heartedness towards all comrades and the people,” Mao wrote, extolling Bethune’s “spirit of absolute selflessness.” If Bethune was pure selflessness and internationalist heroism after coming to China ...


Ai In Mumbai, Reshma Patil Jan 2012

Ai In Mumbai, Reshma Patil

The China Beat Blog Archive 2008-2012

The Chinese artist offered a firm handshake and his business card. The Indian curator hesitated for a split second. They were, after all, standing in a men’s loo in Gwangju, South Korea. The curator returned to Mumbai, a financial powerhouse that several Chinese artists in the study group at Gwangju had never heard of. “What is Mumbai?” they asked him. The artist, who happened to know where Mumbai lies, returned to his studio in Beijing. He and the curator communicated via email for over a year. There were long silent gaps, until one day this year, the curator received ...


How Chongqing People View Bo Xilai, Xujun Eberlein Jan 2012

How Chongqing People View Bo Xilai, Xujun Eberlein

The China Beat Blog Archive 2008-2012

One April day in my birth city of Chongqing, I encountered a rare quarrel in People’s Park. The park is one of several places in downtown Chongqing that offer low-cost “baba cha” (open-space tea), where retirees and others with time on their hands lounge under leafy banyan trees with their teacups and bird cages for a good part of the day. Two fiftyish men sat at a plastic table drinking tea and chatting about Bo Xilai, their city’s ousted leader. One of the men said that Bo’s promotion of “people’s livelihood” had been a fake show ...


Whither The "Year Of China"?, Denise Ho, Jared Flanery Jan 2012

Whither The "Year Of China"?, Denise Ho, Jared Flanery

The China Beat Blog Archive 2008-2012

To conclude my Chinese history lecture course at the University of Kentucky, I introduce my undergraduates to the concept of “soft power” and suggest that Confucius Institutes are emblematic of China’s cultural diplomacy, which aims to project a peaceful image abroad. Confucius Institutes are centers for teaching Chinese language and culture overseas; they are organized by an office known as Hanban in the Ministry of Education, though their funding comes directly from the Chinese government’s treasury. There are now over 350 Confucius Institutes in the world, and two of these are in the state of Kentucky.


Book Review: Chiang Kai-Shek’S Interpersonal Relationships: Perspectives Across The Strait, Sherman Lai Jan 2012

Book Review: Chiang Kai-Shek’S Interpersonal Relationships: Perspectives Across The Strait, Sherman Lai

The China Beat Blog Archive 2008-2012

This book brings together papers and panel discussions of a conference on Chiang Kai-shek held in Taipei in January 2011 with the joint participation of historians from both the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and Taiwan. It reflects new scholarship on Chiang Kai-shek in the Chinese-speaking world and showcases the approaches that historians in the PRC adopt in handling challenges that their Western colleagues do not encounter. While Chinese historians have enormous audiences, they do not share the academic freedom enjoyed by their colleagues in the West and Taiwan. Because their careers and livelihood are dependent on the Chinese ...


A Flourishing Profession: Reflections On A Career In Asian Studies, Charlotte Furth Jan 2012

A Flourishing Profession: Reflections On A Career In Asian Studies, Charlotte Furth

The China Beat Blog Archive 2008-2012

At the March annual meeting of the Association of Asian Studies, held in Toronto, the association recognized Charlotte Furth with the AAS Award for Distinguished Contributions to Asian Studies. Furth is Professor Emerita of history at the University of Southern California and has written and edited five books, including A Flourishing Yin: Gender in China’s Medical History, 960-1665 (UC Press, 1999). Below is an expanded version of remarks that Furth gave at the AAS award ceremony, in which she reflects on the changes to Asian Studies that have taken place since she entered the field in 1959, particularly regarding ...


Chinese Youth: A Quick Q And A With Mary Bergstrom, Jeffrey Wasserstrom Jan 2012

Chinese Youth: A Quick Q And A With Mary Bergstrom, Jeffrey Wasserstrom

The China Beat Blog Archive 2008-2012

Whenever I take a trip that includes stops in Shanghai and Beijing, two people I make sure to meet up with are Jeremy Friedlein and David Moser, the Academic Directors of the CET study abroad programs in those cities. I do this for several reasons. One is that CET has deep ties to China Beat, since the blog’s founding editor Kate Merkel-Hess and current editor Maura Cunningham are both alums. Another reason is that, for almost two years now, CET has been sponsoring a series of literary events at M on the Bund (in Shanghai) and now also Capital ...


Book Review: China And Orientalism, Fabio Lanza Jan 2012

Book Review: China And Orientalism, Fabio Lanza

The China Beat Blog Archive 2008-2012

This slim, sharply-argued volume should be a mandatory reading for all of us who work on post-1949 China. China and Orientalism is a refreshing and often eye-opening analysis on how knowledge of the object called “China” has been constructed in the West since the end of Maoism. That knowledge, as Vukovich cogently demonstrates, is fundamentally flawed.

Writing as a “barbarian” outside the disciplinary gates— i.e. a self-declared non-sinologist (pp. xii-xiii) —Vukovich argues that, since the late 1970s, Western knowledge production about the PRC has been dominated and defined by a new form of Orientalism. But while for Edward Said ...


Celebrating Chunjie In Old Nanjing, Sarah Tynen Jan 2012

Celebrating Chunjie In Old Nanjing, Sarah Tynen

The China Beat Blog Archive 2008-2012

“You must be so homesick! Aren’t you going home to celebrate chunjie?” asked the Auntie who sells tofu on the back of a freight tricycle in the old city of Nanjing. Auntie rides down the narrow, winding alleys of Old Nanjing several times a day to emphatically announce her price of tofu at 500 grams for 1.5 yuan (that’s about a pound for 25 cents). Standing at my doorstep the week before chunjie, or the Spring Festival, also known as the Chinese New Year in the West, she told me to stock up. It was the last ...


“Unwavering Public Support” Not Quite So Easy To Find These Days, Duncan Hewitt Jan 2012

“Unwavering Public Support” Not Quite So Easy To Find These Days, Duncan Hewitt

The China Beat Blog Archive 2008-2012

It was just like old times—in many of China’s major newspapers, a prominently displayed half-page story headlined: “Officials and citizens all across the country express unwavering support for central party leadership’s decision.” It followed hot on the heels of the previous day’s People’s Daily headline: “Resolutely support the party’s correct decision,” which appeared on many front pages. In the wake of the stunning news that Bo Xilai, one of China’s most prominent politicians, had been suspended from the ruling Politburo, and his wife arrested on suspicion of being involved in the murder of ...


Book Review: The Gender Of Memory, Nicole Elizabeth Barnes Jan 2012

Book Review: The Gender Of Memory, Nicole Elizabeth Barnes

The China Beat Blog Archive 2008-2012

Gail Hershatter and her Shaanxi-native research collaborator Gao Xiaoxian (of the Shaanxi Provincial Women’s Federation) spent ten years interviewing 72 women and a few men in rural Shaanxi province in northwest China. The Gender of Memory, Hershatter’s sole-authored product of this joint effort, fills a crucial gap in historiography of the 1950s, providing the first personal stories of land reform, the 1950 Marriage Law, collectivization, and the Great Leap Forward. Moreover, through incisive gender analysis, Hershatter illustrates how gender determined not only how Chinese women and men lived their lives, but also how they remember them. Whereas male ...


Excerpt: Heaven Cracks, Earth Shakes, James Palmer Jan 2012

Excerpt: Heaven Cracks, Earth Shakes, James Palmer

The China Beat Blog Archive 2008-2012

When the Tangshan Earthquake hit northern China on July 28, 1976, the country was in the midst of a tumultuous year that would grow even more chaotic with Mao’s death less than two months later. In retrospect, the massive earthquake has been viewed as a sign of trouble to come and a signal that major changes were on the horizon. In his new book, Heaven Cracks, Earth Shakes: The Tangshan Earthquake and the Death of Mao’s China, James Palmer delves into the history of 1976, tracing the developments of that pivotal year for all in China, from the ...


Salvaging Memories From The Ruins Of The Three Gorges, Daisy Yan Du Jan 2012

Salvaging Memories From The Ruins Of The Three Gorges, Daisy Yan Du

The China Beat Blog Archive 2008-2012

The Three Gorges Dam is the largest hydro-electric power station in the world. The construction of the dam began in 1994 and was completed in 2009. Proponents bill it as a symbol of China’s rise on the global stage, while critics worldwide see it as a huge humanitarian crisis that has the potential to worsen in years to come. The biggest controversy of this project concerns the forced migration of around two million people, who, due to the rising water, have been displaced from their hometowns along the upper reaches of the Yangzi River in Chongqing and Sichuan and ...


Book Review: Modern China’S Network Revolution, Brett Sheehan Jan 2012

Book Review: Modern China’S Network Revolution, Brett Sheehan

The China Beat Blog Archive 2008-2012

The title of Zhongping Chen’s new book has a double meaning. Modern China’s Network Revolution refers both to his claim for new, revolutionary forms of networking among lower-Yangzi Chinese elites at the end of the nineteenth and beginning of the twentieth centuries and to the revolutionary roles of those networks in elite mobilization, especially in the 1911 revolution which overthrew the Qing. As such, the book makes a meaningful contribution to debates on the nature of Chinese organizational practices, especially merchant organizational practices, and to debates about the nature of late-Qing elite mobilization and the relationship of those ...