The Unz Review: An Alternative Media Selection
A Collection of Interesting, Important, and Controversial Perspectives Largely Excluded from the American Mainstream Media
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Such Is This [email protected], 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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
A survey of the Middle Kingdom.
Let's start with the bad. China continues on its road to become the Wilhelmine Germany of the early 21st century. The Pentagon report released last week shows an intensifying of the nation's military buildup, with an increase in the nation's defense budget of 18 per cent this year, from a base believed to be three... Read More
Wang Ruowang, 1918-2001.
Wang Ruowang, 1918-2001 The Central Funeral Home on 41st Avenue in New York's Flushing district is, one of the ushers told me, the largest Chinese-owned establishment of its kind in the city. On Saturday we had its biggest room, but that was still too small for the crowd of mourners who came to pay tribute... Read More
It's a funny business, writing. Sometimes you give up days to crafting a piece, sweat blood over it, research all the background stuff the way journalists are supposed to, make sure the ideas all connect, weed out all the superfluous adjectives and adverbs, add just the right amount of "seasoning" — a pinch of literary... Read More
I practice humility.
I'm going to perform a little exercise in humility — one of the trickier virtues, in my experience, since it is one of the easiest to fake, and also one that is grossly unattractive when taken to excess. Well, I'm not going to fake it, and I'm not going to cringe and wring my hands,... Read More
I actually went there.
This summer I spent six weeks in China with my family, travelling all over the country, visiting with friends, relatives and ex-students. (My wife is mainland-Chinese with a large extended family, and I taught college in China in the early 1980s.) We mainly stayed in the homes of these people: in Beijing, in the Manchurian... Read More
The Derbs do China.
————————— Beijing, China: Week of July 1st to July 7th Having written a couple of pieces on this site in strong opposition to Beijing getting the 2008 Summer Olympics, I find myself in something of a moral quandary over here. I still don't want Beijing to get the Olympics, for the aforementioned reasons. On the... Read More
Bush decides not to decide.
After careful deliberation, the Bush administration has decided to take no position on Beijing's bid to host the 2008 Summer Olympics. By itself, this is not a very remarkable decision. The U.S. government is not required to take any position on bids to host the Olympics, and many people would prefer they not do so.... Read More
Translation of a Chinese poem.
  A Song of Valediction: Dreaming I Roamed on TianMu Mountain by Li Po (Li TaiBai), tr. John Derbyshire Seafarers tell of the Blessed Isles — Veiled, indistinct in the mists of the sea. Southern folk speak of TianMu Mountain, Now seen, now hidden in slow-shifting clouds. TianMu soars straight to the sky, to the... Read More
China-Taiwan: What might happen.
[Local announcer] Viewers, please continue to stand by. Do not change station. The President's address will be carried on all network channels, and on all cable news services. As soon as … Excuse me … Yes? … We do? … Thank you. All right, we are now going over to … [Washington announcer cuts in]... Read More
Modern Chinese nationalism.
The recent crisis in Hainan Island has brought Chinese nationalism to the front of our minds. Specialist China-watchers have understood for some time that the events of 1989 — not only the student and worker movements that were crushed in Tiananmen Square on June 4 of that year, but also the collapse of Soviet and... Read More
Guess what? They're in it for the money.
In yet another display of that selfless humility for which I am well-known, and with the generous permission of our noble editor, I once again direct my readers' attention to a piece far superior to any of my own meager offerings. This one is by John B. Judis in the current (issue date 4/23/01) issue... Read More
China wins first showdown with Bush.
So the United States has done a full kowtow, begging China's pardon for having the audacity to land a plane, crippled by the antics of a hot-dogging Chinese pilot, on a Chinese airfield, without first securing the written approval of 43 bureaucrats in Beijing. The President has also, by implication, blamed U.S. military personnel for... Read More
Hint: They're commies.
To judge from the Internet chat groups and radio call-ins, there is widespread disgust and anger in the U.S. at China's attitude in the spy-plane incident. China's peculiar way of addressing the matter has especially got people's backs up. Colin Powell's statement of regret over the loss of that Chinese pilot is "a step in... Read More
Trash that plane!
With all due respect, Admiral: the hell you say. The U.S. can prevent the Chinese from boarding the plane very easily, by destroying it. The administration should do this as speedily as possible, without any regard whatsoever to Chinese sensitivities, or indeed lives and property. The only question worth serious discussion is that of technique.... Read More
What George W. Bush should say.
The news that China is continuing its build-up of missiles opposite Taiwan, with 100 more short-range ballistic missiles now in place at a newly-built base, comes as one of China's most senior officials, Vice Prime Minister Qian QiChen, arrives in Washington for the first high-level Sino-U.S. discussions of the new administration. (That "q," by the... Read More
Why Beijing shouldn't get the Games.
Inspectors from the International Olympic Committee were in Beijing last week, studying that city's qualifications to host the 2008 Olympic Games. The purpose of the inspection was to make sure that Beijing has suitable facilities for staging Olympic events, can accommodate the expected number of visitors, has sufficient infrastructure to move them around efficiently and... Read More
China's Three Kinds of Crises.
January 8th saw the publication of the so-called "Tiananmen Papers," transcripts of high-level discussions among the Chinese leadership in the period leading up to the suppression of the 1989 student movement. What do these documents reveal about the inner workings of the Chinese leadership? What guidance do they offer to the new U.S. administration in... Read More
What we can learn from them.
This week has seen the publication of the so-called "Tiananmen Papers." These are said to be transcripts of high-level discussions in the Chinese leadership in the period leading up to the suppression of the 1989 student movement. It possible that these documents are some kind of bluff, put out by a united Chinese leadership to... Read More
Prospects for the next few years.
The world is full of surprises. With the Middle East coming to the boil again and the Russians acting up, it would be foolish to guess what foreign-policy headlines might look like this next four — let alone eight — years. However, there is not much doubt that China will feature in many of them,... Read More
The China Threat, by Bill Gertz
In the middle 1930s, as Hitler consolidated his power in Germany and began re-arming that country in earnest, the facts of the situation were duly reported back to the British foreign secretary, Sir John Simon. However, Sir John, as one of his underlings later remarked, did not want to know "uncomfortable things." Still less did... Read More
One of the members of my Human Biodiversity e-mail group recently posted a small historical gem: a letter to the London Times, dated June 5th 1873, from the great 19th-century English biologist Sir Francis Galton. Galton's principal passion was eugenics, at that time (and, indeed, well into the next century) a popular and respectable field... Read More
The March 18 elections in Taiwan.
————————— In the minds of Chinese people, the modern history of their country is marked off by "incidents," most of them unknown to the general Western public. Each incident is remembered by the digits of the month and day on which it occurred. The grandaddy of all these milestones is "Five Four": May 4th 1919,... Read More