The Five-List Plan

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Financial Times journalist Richard McGregor is this year’s recipient of the Asia Society’s Bernard Schwartz Book Award for his 2010 investigation into Chinese leadership, The Party: The Secret World of China’s Communist Rulers. If you haven’t caught up with McGregor’s book yet, here are a few links about it to whet your appetite:

• At China Beat, we’ve previously featured an interview with McGregor, conducted by site editor Maura Cunningham, as well as a review of The Party by Thomas Kellogg of the Open Society Institute.

• Jeff Wasserstrom reviewed the book at The Daily Beast and also interviewed McGregor for the Asia Society blog.

• The Washington Post also ran a review of The Party, this one by Andrew Higgins:

At first glance, a book about the Communist Party seems curiously old-fashioned, a throwback to a time when scholars and journalists scoured the People’s Daily for hints of who was up or down in the Politburo and competed to decipher party gobbledygook. The red flags, the portrait of Mao overlooking Tiananmen Square and the occasional retro-slogan about “workers of the world” can sometimes seem as quaintly removed from present-day reality as the portraits of Queen Elizabeth that grace the offices of British civil servants working for what is, in name at least, “Her Majesty’s government.” However, it is a measure of how much China has changed that McGregor has been able to write such a lively and penetrating account of a party that, since its founding in Shanghai as a clandestine organization in 1921, has clung to secrecy as an inviolable principle.

• Subscribers to the New York Review of Books can read a review essay by Ian Johnson that deals with The Party, in addition to a number of other China-focused titles.

• Watch McGregor discuss his work in a talk at the National Committee on U.S.-China Relations:

• And don’t forget that The Party, in addition to being an Economist best book of 2010, also made another “top China books” list—Donald Trump’s.

With this month’s 100th anniversary of the Xinhai Revolution, we might expect that this would be the perfect time for a big biography of one of that movement’s key players—Sun Yat-sen, perhaps. Not so, though Sun did get turned into an opera star in a show performed in Hong Kong but canceled in Beijing, and David Strand’s new book, An Unfinished Republic, does examine Sun’s life as part of twentieth-century Chinese political culture. Instead, another figure takes center stage in 2011’s biggest (both literally and figuratively) China book: Ezra Vogel’s 928-page Deng Xiaoping and the Transformation of China (The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press). Below, a collection of links about the book itself, as well as some of the many reviews that have appeared recently.

• At the Asia Society’s website, first read a short excerpt from Vogel’s book, then watch Vogel discuss his work with Orville Schell in video from a public event held on October 4 (clips here; full video here).

• David Barboza interviews Vogel for the New York Times Arts Beat blog.

• “Surviving Mao, Revamping a Nation”: Howard French reviews the book for the Wall Street Journal.

• At the New York Review of Books, Fang Lizhi examines “The Real Deng.”

• Jonathan Mirsky’s New York Times review, “How Deng Did It.”

• John Pomfret on the book for the Washington Post.

• At Foreign Policy, Christian Caryl takes a peek at “The Skeletons in Deng’s Closet.”

• “The ‘Steel Factory’”: Edward S. Steinfeld’s review at Harvard Magazine

• Joshua Kurlantzick has a long essay on the book and other matters in The Nation.

• Chris Patten’s review for the Financial Times.

• The Economist‘s review speaks of Deng not as the transformer of China, but as “The Great Stabliser.”

• J. Stapleton Roy reviews Vogel’s book for the Wilson Quarterly.

• Finally, in an article from earlier this year at Miller-McCune, Jeff Wasserstrom brings Vogel’s book into a discussion of “Whose Road Led to Hu’s China?”

Many thanks to the members of the informal Xinhai Geming reading group that’s formed at UC Irvine this term for collecting the following links concerning the one hundredth anniversary of the 1911 Revolution:

• With perfect timing, China Heritage Quarterly, which has established itself as a must-read publication for those interested in the varied ways the past can influence the present in the PRC, is up with an issue devoted to the Xinhai Revolution. True to form, it is made up of pieces that come at the topic from varied angles, from a mix of talented writers with a deep understanding of China’s history.

• For a very useful precis of key issues—from contrasting view of 1911 on opposite sides of the Taiwan Strait to reasons Beijing might be playing down the anniversary just now—see this at the Economist.

“Fear of Dragons,” an op-ed by Yu Hua on the current administration’s nervousness about marking the anniversary. “In the end,” he writes, “the celebration has revealed less about 1911 than about Beijing’s fear of change. Sanctioned commemorative displays tend to be showy distractions that avoid any reference to the transformative effects of the revolution.”

• In Chinese, this website covers one hundred important figures relating to the Xinhai Revolution.

• If you’d prefer a slightly different angle on the revolution, check out one of the new animated features about it. 《民的1911》opened in the PRC recently (trailer here; music video here), while《孫中山傳》will debut in Taiwan on Monday’s anniversary (see news reports about the movie here and here).

• For readers with more time, see this excerpt from David Strand’s new book, An Unfinished Republic: Leading by Word and Deed in Modern China (UC Press, 2011), an impressive work with a 1911 connection. Now is also the perfect time to read (or re-read) a classic about the 1911 era, Lu Xun’s “The Real Story of Ah Q” (perhaps in China Beatnik Julia Lovell’s 2010 translation).

There has been a huge amount of reporting on the July 23 train accident in Wenzhou that killed at least 39 and incited a continuing outcry among Chinese journalists and internet users, as well as government efforts to silence such criticism. Here, a collection of links connected to the rail crash and its aftermath.

• Many journalists have paid special attention to the role of Twitter-like microblogging platform Sina Weibo in spreading information about the rail accident itself as well as providing an outlet for Chinese web users to express their thoughts concerning the larger implications of the event. See, for example, The Hindu’s Ananth Krishnan on the online activism of middle-class Chinese in the wake of the crash, and Adam Minter’s article on pushback against government propaganda for Bloomberg.

• At China Media Project, David Bandurski’s “China media muzzled after day of glory” explores Chinese journalists’ work on the train accident and the government censorship that has followed, including images of three pages that had to be pulled from a recent edition of Chinese Business View due to censor concerns over their content. For more on government treatment of the Chinese press, see this report at the New York Times.

• In the face of the government’s efforts to impose a news blackout, however, China’s Economic Observer decided to go ahead with a special report on the train crash entitled “No Miracles in Wenzhou.” Josh Chin discusses this defiant newspaper’s actions at the Wall Street Journal’s “China Real Time Report” blog.

• David Bandurski also has an op-ed piece on the train crash for the International Herald Tribune.

• The view from abroad: an editorial from Japan’s Yomiuri Shimbun; Michael Sainsbury reports on the accident for The Australian; and Reshma Patil of Hindustan Times discusses what India can learn from China’s tragedy:

While the Chinese chase speed, India is painfully slow and insensitive in modernising a creaking, over-crowded network that transports a Mumbai-sized population per day. The muzzle is now back on the Chinese media with fresh orders to report only positive and official versions on the accident. But the media’s temporary burst of free speech and public sensitivity to the accident is worth noting. In India, we need to keep the railway ministry under the microscope and demand answers to some of the same questions clamouring across China, without waiting for the next tragedy on the tracks.

For Spanish-language reporting and analysis, see the coverage at ZaiChina.

• In Hong Kong, activists held rallies calling for “a thorough and open investigation” into the rail accident.

• At Miller-McCune, Jeff Wasserstrom and Megan Shank write that “China’s High-Speed Crash Leads to Legitimacy Crisis”:

In recent years, China has suffered a series of man-made calamities and natural disasters. Many have been exacerbated by human error. These have led to angry online discourse and sometimes even street protests that ultimately could have posed a serious threat to the government. So far, Beijing has navigated the tumult and emerged with little damage to its legitimacy. We believe this moment is different — and not just because it took Wen Jiabao, the leadership’s go-to guy in crisis situations (also known as “Grandpa Wen” for his bedside manners), several days longer than usual to reach the scene. This time a few compassionate words to families of victims, and the identification of a few suitable scapegoats, seem unlikely to suffice.

This could be the end of the confident era ushered in by the successful hosting of the Beijing Olympic Games; it could undo the post-Tiananmen social contract between the Chinese government and Chinese citizens that has allowed the political status quo to remain in place longer than expected.

• Jason Dean and Jeremy Page explore the “Trouble on the China Express” for the Wall Street Journal, writing that the rail accident “has transformed a symbol of Beijing’s pride into an emblem of incompetence and imperious governance.”

• Time.com has a photo essay of pictures from the crash site.

• After a hiatus, the Sinica podcast returned last week with a new episode, “Train Wrecks.” Host Kaiser Kuo and guests Mary Kay Magistad, Jeremy Goldkorn, Will Moss, and Charles Custer discuss the Wenzhou train crash, the reaction it has provoked on Sina Weibo, and what the repercussions might be for China’s leadership.

• Chinese blogger Han Han posted a commentary on his website that was later deleted, but ChinaGeeks has a translation of the piece, entitled “The Derailed Country.”

• At the Asia Society’s website, see a collection of artistic responses to the train crash.

• Finally, visit ChinaGeeks for a video and translation of an update to Cui Jian’s iconic 1986 rock song, “Nothing to My Name,” which has been reworked into a version responding to the Wenzhou rail accident.

Earlier this month, former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger published On China. Kissinger’s work has received, understandably, a significant amount of attention: not only does On China cover the inside story of Richard Nixon’s landmark 1972 visit to the People’s Republic, it’s also full of Kissinger’s musings on the past, present, and future of Chinese foreign policy. Here, in a special On China reading round-up, we’ve compiled a list of the reviews so far, as well as some links for further reading and listening:

• If you haven’t yet had a chance to dive into Kissinger’s work itself, get a taste of On China from this excerpt at the Wall Street Journal. Also at the WSJ’s website, read this interview between Kissinger and Bret Stephens.

• As we posted the other day, Oxford professor Rana Mitter had an extended conversation with Kissinger on BBC Radio (link active until June 1); read Mitter’s review of On China at the Guardian’s website (and check out the book’s slightly more exciting UK cover art).

• Kai Ryssdal of Marketplace also spoke with Kissinger; listen to the interview and read a sample chapter, on “First Encounters with Mao and Zhou,” here.

• Historian Jonathan Spence reviews On China in a lengthy piece at the New York Review of Books.

• CNN’s Fareed Zakaria named On China his book of the week.

• The New York Times ran two reviews of the book: the first by Michiko Kakutani, the second by Max Frankel.

• A “virtual book tour” around the web featured reviews at many sites familiar to China Beat readers, including Mark’s China Blog and Inside-Out China. For a complete list of tour stops and links to reviews (some still yet to come), see here.

• For readers wondering if On China has gotten any attention in China, Jeremy Goldkorn of Danwei notes that while the book has not been published on the mainland, it has been commented on. A sample of articles: Netease, People’s Daily, and M4.cn, which ran a translation of Kakutani’s New York Times review.

• Elizabeth Economy reviews On China at the Council on Foreign Relations website.

The Economist has a review that spins off Kissinger’s work to question how long the U.S. and China can sustain a relationship based on economic interdependence but marked by an absence of mutual trust.

• Finally, a contrarian view: at the Huffington Post, Michael Levy offers this advice to readers seeking to understand China: “skip Henry Kissinger’s new tome and pick up books by writers (whether journalists or novelists) who are in touch with the average Zhou.”

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