Leaving the Garden
Cao Xueqin’s monumental 18th-century novel Honglou Meng—Dream of the Red Chamber—is an undisputed masterwork of world literature. Andrew Plaks on the resonant imagery and dense interweaving of literary and philosophical motifs in a paradoxical Bildungsroman of decline.
The Chinese Road
The PRC’s breakneck transition to capitalism seen through the prism of 19th-century Europe and America, as its cities rehearse the processes analysed by Marx: commodification of land and labour, formation of markets and capitalist elites. What lessons might the West’s past hold for China’s future?
Death in China
Does the PRC’s staggering economic growth confirm the thesis that ‘wealthier is healthier’? Using life expectancy data from three decades, Sanjay Reddy measures China’s advances against those of other countries—and finds explanations for its relatively poor performance in the marketization of health care and shrinkage of state spending since 1980.
Depoliticized Politics, From East to West
Reflections on China’s ‘revolutionary century’, and roots of its state-party rigidification in the failures of the Cultural Revolution. What deeper dynamics of capitalist restoration link the contemporary neutralization of politics, east and west?
East Asia’s Dollars
Discussions of the sustainability of the US current-account deficit—trending upward from $800bn—rarely plumb the long-term motives of its creditors. Taggart Murphy analyses the historical roots of Tokyo’s post-1868 geofinancial support for the ruling superpower, London or Washington, and the implications of China’s rise for Japanese strategy.
Chinese Labour Struggles
A railway worker caught up in the events of Tiananmen Square, now using his radio show to broadcast the problems of Chinese factory hands live on air. Han Dongfang describes life in the Red Army, student-worker unity in 1989, surviving TB and torture in prison and the China Labour Bulletin’s legal strategy. Can the PRC’s official trade unions be captured from below?
A Tale of Two Nationalisms
As tensions are ratcheted up across the Taiwan Strait, Wang Chaohua analyses the distinctive trajectory of national consciousness on the island. Contradictions of identity, as the legacies of KMT and Cold War confront local particularities and democratic impulses, and possibilities for an exit from the impasses of geography and history.
Dark Side of the Chinese Moon
Yang Lian on Chen Guidi and Wu Chuntao, Zhongguo nongmin diaocha. A catalogue of the iniquities visited on rural China as the CCP safeguards the ‘investment environment’ of the coastal cities, at the cost of the countryside. Impoverishment and extortion of 40 per cent of the world’s peasants, in a survey suppressed by the PRC authorities.
Ruins of the Future
West of the Tracks, Wang Bing’s stupendous documentary on the collapse of heavy industry and the fate of workers in China’s North-East, viewed in comparative perspective by a film-critic compatriot. Memories of the battlegrounds of Manchuria, and echoes of Lukács, Benjamin and Hobsbawm, amid the debris of an epoch and its human fall-out.
Dividing the Big Family Assets
Where is the PRC heading? One of its leading intellectual iconoclasts, after describing his origins in the Cultural Revolution, offers a long-range comparative perspective on the Chinese state’s strategy for land and industry today. The divisions in the intelligentsia and the fate of the peasantry, the overwhelming majority of the country, as China enters the WTO.
Elgin in China
The sacking of the Emperor’s Summer Palace in Beijing by an Anglo-French expeditionary force was one of the high-points of nineteenth-century imperialism. The lucidity of its perpetrator, Elgin, offers a paradoxical contrast with the chorus of apologists for Anglo-American interventions today.
Race and History in China
The official ideology of the PRC has been changing rapidly. Do new definitions of the ‘nation’ imply a greater racial tinge? The author of The Tyranny of History looks at the long sweep of Chinese civilization, and asks whether the current period is seeing a shift away from the general tenor of that past.
Fire at the Castle Gate
The Chinese intellectual scene has been transformed by the emergence of a New Left. Its leading theorist explains how and why the neo-liberal consensus of the early nineties broke down, and considers what a radical agenda should look like as social and political problems mount.
China’s Listing Social Structure
An iconoclastic study of the PRC’s increasingly polarized society that has made headline international news. What is the new hierarchy of wealth and power in contemporary China? Is it sustainable—and if not, what is needed to set the country on a better course?
Return to Beijing
A Chinese poet rediscovers his native city, learning how much a favourable book review costs. Vignettes of China’s new ‘literary merchants’ drawing water from Mao’s well, with a faux slice of the Great Wall in the garden; and of its older industrial workers, destined for the scrapheap.
Postmodernism and Post-Socialist Society: Cultural Politics in China After the 'New Era'
“Enthusiasts for Chinese postmodernism are nowadays put on the defensive by those who dismiss the issue as a Chinese problematic, or resist postmodernism in general. However, it is often neglected that, at a pedestrian, journalistic level, it has never been too difficult to identify and inventory postmodern(ist) works . . .” read more
Student Protests in Fin-de-Siecle China
“It was springtime in China and, once again, students were taking to the streets and making headlines. Some youths held aloft official flags bearing the names of their schools, while others carried banners covered with passionate phrases written out in Chinese characters or Roman letters. Campuses throughout the . . .” read more
A Dialogue on the Future of China
“How do you think the June 4th movement of 1989 will be remembered—as another May 4th 1919, the threshold of a period of general political awakening and turbulence, or instead as a Chinese version of 1848 or 1968 in Europe: a last spontaneous explosion of idealistic revolt, followed . . .” read more
Introduction to the Dialogue on China’s Future
“The student movement that arose in Beijing in March 1989, and developed into a nation-wide upheaval, drawing in millions of citizens in the capital and across the country in protest against the official response to the crisis, before the occupation of Tiananmen Square was repressed by military force . . .” read more
The Strategic Triad: The United States, Russia, and China
“The official end of the Cold War, marked by the growing incapacity and then the collapse of the Soviet Union, inevitably meant a reduction of us military expenditure. This had long been regarded as essential from a strictly economic point of view: the extraordinary prodigality of the . . .” read more
Creative Destruction: Capitalist Development and China’s Environment
“The ‘Rise of China’ has been hailed as the most important trend in the world for the next century, and with good reason. While Russia and much of Eastern Europe sink into depression, Deng Xiaoping’s market reforms have turned China into the fastest growing large economy in the . . .” read more
Consumerism, Confucianism, Communism: Making Sense of China Today
“The dramatic social, economic and cultural changes that have been taking place in China over the past fifteen years have been attracting more and more attention from commentators in the West. The old order maintained by stringent state control over the economy and everyday life has been gradually . . .” read more
Current Successes and Future Challenges in China’s Economic Reforms
“China’s programme of economic reform has met with remarkable success. The average annual growth rate since 1979 has been 8.8 per cent, placing China in a select group of developing countries which have achieved sustained industrial growth for over a decade. Indeed, China doubled output per person in . . .” read more
China in the Russian Mirror
“When people all over the world think about the collapse of the Soviet Union they draw a certain picture in their minds. According to this picture, modern societies developed along two different paths: the market economy and the command economy. Countries that took the path of the command . . .” read more
China Today: 'Money Dissolves the Commune'
“Before I returned to China last year I was working on an essay entitled (borrowing and combining Raymond Williams and Juliet Mitchell) ‘Culture: The Longest Revolution’, explaining how difficult it would be to get rid of our dominant cultural heritage of patriarchy, and more specifically, what I called . . .” read more
The Chinese Road to Capitalism
“In the late 1970s, in the face of a deepening economic crisis, growing political unrest and the ideological exhaustion of Maoism, China’s pragmatic post-Mao leadership turned to the market to rescue their sinking bureaucratic economy. In the West, many left-wing China scholars began to look with favour on . . .” read more
The Elegy of Wild Swans
“The significance and integrity of this first-hand account of the lives of three women in twentieth-century China—the author, her mother and grandmother—so vividly written and ambitious in scope, are beyond question. The author, someone of my own age and background, was born in 1952 to a Communist family, . . .” read more
Russia Should Be Looking East, Not West
“It is difficult not to feel one has seen it all before as one watches the Western response to the request of the new Russian and Union governments for economic assistance. The ‘grand bargain’ has been dusted off the shelf on the Russian side and the more impressionable . . .” read more
Chinese Communism and Democracy
“Just a few years ago many socialists in the West saw China as the stronghold of true socialism in the world and Mao Zedong as its wise leader. Now China has few such ‘foreign friends’ and Mao-bashing has taken over from Mao-worship, with some of yesterday’s main worshippers . . .” read more
The USSR and China: Confrontation or Detente?
“Difficulties in relations between the cpsu and the Chinese Communists existed before Mao Tse-tung came to power in Peking and they were apparent in the first negotiations in Moscow with the Party-Government delegation of the Chinese People’s Republic. At the time, however, the existence of these difficulties . . .” read more
“Since late 1978 an original dissident movement has sprung up in the main cities of China under the slogan Democracy and Science. This movement is still in its infancy, and the conditions under which it operates change from day to day. It is heterogeneous in composition, and it . . .” read more
For a Return to Genuine Marxism in China
“The latest media fad in our country is a kind of ‘worship’ of the Gang of Four. It appears to people as if the Gang of Four were almost gods, with vast magical powers. They were capable of moving heaven and earth—they could make China change colour if . . .” read more
“I had no illusions—I was well aware that during an eighteen-day stay in China I would not gather enough material to write even a journalistic article, let alone a more serious analysis or essay. I had adopted a somewhat self-righteous attitude towards those who after their first short . . .” read more
Marxist Analysis and Post-Revolutionary China
“The Communist Party of China’s triumph in 1949 was an event of momentous importance. It put an end to the century of foreign intervention in China that had begun with the Opium War of 1840, and liberated a quarter of the world’s population from control by capitalism. The . . .” read more
“While I was walking alone along the river bank, I saw a comrade wearing a pair of old-style padded cotton shoes. I immediately fell to thinking of Comrade Li Fen, who also wore such shoes. Li Fen, my dearest and very first friend. As usual my heart missed . . .” read more
It Is Still the Age of the Tsa-wen
“In our glorious border areas there are some people who claim that we are no longer in the age of the tsa-wen. I too wish that there was no need for the tsa-wen to stage a comeback, for if there were no tsa-wen then there would be no . . .” read more
Introduction to 'The Yenan Literary Opposition'
“In the spring of 1942 a series of articles appeared in the Yenan press which took as their theme the need to expose the ‘dark side’ of life in the Communist base areas of northern China. The authors of these articles saw themselves as upholders of the literary . . .” read more
People’s Communes: How to Use the Standard Visit
“The tourist who visits the Chinese countryside for the first time has the disconcerting feeling that he is entering a different world. According to his inclinations, he may exultantly discover in it a revolution successfully carried through on a land smitten in the past with calamities, where new . . .” read more