The Roar of the Elephant
What might shed light on an enigmatic film in the absence of the artist? Sensitive reading, via literary underdrawings, of Chinese filmmaker and novelist Hu Bo’s masterwork, An Elephant Sitting Still. J. X. Zhang detects a ‘structure of feeling’ distinct from that of Sixth Generation cinema.
Paths not Taken
Joel Andreas on Isabella Weber, How China Escaped Shock Therapy. Reconstruction of the tight contest between ‘big-bang’ and ‘dual-track’ market reformers in Deng’s PRC, weighing generational experience, Western proselytising and the classical Chinese tradition.
Ronald Coase in Beijing
On the eve of the financial crisis, Giovanni Arrighi’s Adam Smith in Beijing posited the advent of a world-equalizing market state in China. Christopher Connery now takes a sardonic look at the country’s ‘institutional economics’ through the eyes of an idiosyncratic English Hayekian.
China’s Credit Conundrum
Interviewed by Robert Brenner, Victor Shih discusses the one-off factors that enabled China’s rise as workshop of the world and its subsequent dependence on state credit as driver of growth. Contradictions between the conditions for political and financial stability, as the Xi regime superintends an unsteady slowdown.
The CPC and the Ancien Régime
Roots of the PRC’s legitimating ideology in the longue durée of Chinese history, as source of the Party’s confidence that it need not imitate Western models in the coming century. Peter Nolan sets out the view from Zhongnanhai on the desirable relation between market and state—a potential alternative to the current world order?
One of China’s greatest modern writers, Eileen Chang reframed its traditional fictional forms to grapple with post-1919 realities: decline of the Qing aristocracy, price of female emancipation, devastation of the Sino-Japanese war. Jiwei Xiao asks how publication of her long-suppressed last novel alters understandings of Chang’s work.
Riddles of Yellow and Red
The bitter oppositions of Thai politics can seem strangely lacking in ideological substance. How might they be explained? In one of his last lectures, Benedict Anderson considers a crucial but overlooked factor: divisions within the country’s Sino-Thai communities.
Capitalisms After Communism
A leading Hungarian sociologist revises Weber’s notion of prebendal and patrimonial regimes to classify the new capitalist orders of the former Second World. Are governments from Budapest to Beijing now converging on the same models of politicized economy?
A Footloose Scholar
The descendant of Dutch bargees, Jan Breman has been investigating workers’ lives for half a century, travelling from rural Gujarat to the Javanese uplands and now coastal China. The social relations patterning control of land and labour framed in historical perspective, from colonial plantations to the globalized informal economy.
Scholarism on the March
Interview with the eighteen-year-old leader of Hong Kong’s radical school students. Joshua Wong discusses his personal and political formation, the battle against Beijing’s patriotic education syllabus and the Umbrella Movement’s three-month occupation of the city’s streets in the fight for democratization.
The Party and its Success Story
How should the balance-sheet of Chinese Communism be assessed? In a rejoinder to Perry Anderson’s comparison of the Russian and Chinese revolutions, Wang Chaohua delivers a critical verdict on the record of Mao’s utopianism and Deng’s pragmatism, and the bleak legacy of the crushing of popular aspirations in 1989.
The Spectre of Global China
China’s overseas expansion has unsettled Western commentators. In this striking ethnographic study, Ching Kwan Lee investigates the labour regimes, investment patterns and management ethos of the PRC’s state-owned firms on the Central African Copperbelt, in contrast to the giant multinationals. Surprise findings include Zambia’s first SEZs and a distinctive, quasi-Weberian ethic of ‘eating bitterness’.
A Traveller’s Glance
Object of fierce controversy when first shown, Antonioni’s documentary Chung Kuo—filmed in the PRC during the Cultural Revolution—has since been largely overlooked within his oeuvre. The director of L’avventura as failed Marco Polo, whose patient, humanizing gaze left a record of China’s past that is belatedly being rediscovered.
China’s Multiple Revolutions
Beneath the dramatic social, political and military turmoil of China’s last two centuries, Mark Elvin suggests, lay a series of existential crises amid the collapse of established pillars of authority, whose most vivid expression can be found in two largely forgotten novels of the 1920s and 1970s.
Uncertainty in the Enclave
Portrait of Hong Kong’s contested political scene. With democratizing reforms blocked by an entrenched alliance of CCP and local magnates, an increasingly radical populace seeks to break the deadlock. Might the PRC’s hyper-capitalist region be its weakest link?
Concepts of Nature
Landscapes of Ausonius, mountain retreats of Xie Tiao, mediaeval paradise-gardens: can underlying similarities of deep structure and social function be traced in the work of classical European and Chinese writers? A panoramic cross-cultural comparison of approaches to the natural world.
America’s Head Servant?
Against predictions that China will soon replace the US as the world’s dominant economic power, Hung Ho-fung argues that the PRC’s export-oriented growth and vast dollar reserves have trapped it in a subordinate role—to which much of its elite remains committed.
The Great Himalayan Watershed
From Asia’s mountainous heart flow rivers on which half the world’s population depends. Pomeranz examines the complex interaction between human water needs, fragile ecology and vast infrastructural projects—and the far-reaching consequences of their conjugation.
Changing Colours in China
The nature of China’s present socio-economic system has for some time been hotly debated. Reflecting on Giovanni Arrighi’s Adam Smith in Beijing, Joel Andreas traces the path of property relations, social services and income distribution in the PRC since the late seventies, reaching unambiguous conclusions.
The Historian as Haruspex
Giovanni Arrighi’s Adam Smith in Beijing proposes a bold new political-economic patterning of China’s rise, America’s decline. Mark Elvin examines the assumptions behind narratives of divergent West and East, and the parameters that will define a reconfigured world order.
The transformation of the former Portuguese enclave of Macau into East Asia’s gambling capital by an alliance of local elites and Las Vegas entrepreneurs, under the approving gaze of Beijing. A frenzy of construction, rising inequalities and rampant corruption as outcomes of a neon-lit decolonization.
No Forbidden Zone in Reading?
For a decade, the monthly review Dushu has published some of China’s most incisive debates on the country’s culture and economy. Zhang Yongle’s survey relates the journal’s trajectory to the PRC’s dramatic development course and ruptures within its intelligentsia.
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.