July 2011

You are currently browsing the monthly archive for July 2011.

By Jared Hall

In a post yesterday at this site, I discussed recent cleavages between the rapidly expanding Beijing Subway and segments of the public the system is meant to serve. In that post, I pointed to residents who voiced concerns about property seizures, safety lapses, and excessive noise from nearby tracks. When the subway corporation attempted to shut out community objections related to each of these issues, residents then utilized a common repertoire of protest that included petitions, visits to government offices, and public demonstrations.

While our understanding of each of these incidents must to a certain extent be conditioned by the contingencies particular to their contemporary moment, significant parallels with previous eras beg closer attention. Long before the subway—opened to the public only in 1984—earlier generations of track-bound infrastructure provoked similar debates among Beijing residents.

In the two decades after the fall of the Qing dynasty in 1911, railways and streetcars were central to elite modernizing visions for Beijing. It was in the first heady years of the post-revolutionary order that Sun Yat-sen, acting as director for national railway planning, drew up plans for a nationwide network connecting Beijing to every provincial capital in China. His total vision, still unrealized to this day, was designed to serve as the backbone of a national economic development program that would transform the country. Within the capital, political and commercial elites together with leading intellectuals cheered on streetcar development as a revolution in urban mobility. In a 1919 manifesto, Li Dazhao, the Beijing University librarian and future co-founder of the Communist Party, called on the government to “build a municipally managed streetcar system at once.”

Just as today, undertaking such an ambitious task of infrastructure development was costly. In financial terms, the construction demands easily exceeded the capacity of the weakened post-Qing state. Instead of a publicly-run system as Li Dazhao had envisaged, the city’s streetcar development was entrusted to a French banking conglomerate that then issued stock to wealthy non-resident investors. Since the 1880s, railway development had proceeded along much the same path, with new infrastructure predominantly financed and controlled by foreigners. Ironically, it was resistance to precisely this type of foreign encroachment that animated the rights-recovery movement that had helped give the ailing dynasty a final shove in 1911.

Even so, there was more reason than patriotism alone to oppose external control over transportation networks. Streetcar and railway routes, like subways in present-day Beijing, posed social challenges that outside investors had little incentive to address. Rickshaw pullers, as David Strand has vividly detailed, were one group that had good reason to fear the arrival of new transportation technology. They worried that fast, convenient trolleys would render their services redundant. Local merchants also raised alarm once construction was underway, objecting to the disruption caused by debris that clogged roadways and the partial demolition of shop fronts to make way for the tracks. The concerns of both groups remained unacknowledged until the Chamber of Commerce pressed its case with a boycott of shop taxes and police license fees.

In the freewheeling political atmosphere of Republican Beijing, protest tactics only escalated from there. On the day the streetcar service was slated to launch in December 1924, rickshaw men boldly threatened to block the tracks by laying down en masse. Tragedy was avoided only after the protest were called off, though the incident might be seen as an ominous prelude to streetcar-smashing riots that broke out just four years later. While it is true such tactics point to a wide gap between the protest strategies of the 1920s and today, the underlying pattern of closed, unaccountable planning process being met with grassroots opposition persists. Moreover, the discourse of “people’s livelihood” (民生) that pervaded popular discussion during the period has remained a viable discursive claim down through to the present. Originating from the vocabulary of Confucian moral economy, the term was elevated to the heights of Republican political discourse as one of Sun Yat-sen’s Three People’s Principles (三民主义), only to be reappropriated once again by the Communists, this time with a distinct Marxist inflection.

The same pattern of elite planning being met with popular resistance and similar rhetorical debates over the political content of people’s livelihood also appear centrally in Madeleine Dong’s account of another incident from the period, the removal of the Beijing city walls around Xuanwu Gate (宣武门). The project, which began in December 1928 after having been mired in a decade of delay, aimed to alleviate traffic congestion by straightening a stretch of railway and widening the road that passed through the gate. Unlike streetcar development, which was handled solely by a corporation autonomous from public control, responsibility for the project was shared jointly by the Municipal Council and the Beijing-Hankou Railway, though the latter’s role was limited to financial support. Without private interests clouding the planning process, the path should have been cleared for an inclusive approach. Still, area residents and shopkeepers remained shut out by bureaucrats driven by a technocratic vision of public interest.

Neighborhood shopkeepers, while conceding the broader benefit of increased mobility, nevertheless wanted their interests considered when weighing public welfare. One merchant framed the issue in exactly these terms in his petition to the Department of Public Works: “How can we hope to make a living if our roots are cut? It is necessary to make transportation convenient, but at the same time, attention should also be paid to people’s livelihood.” When initial pleas like this were shrugged off, members of the community worked together to lobby the mayor. When they found information was blocked and compensation denied, they filed still more petitions and refused relocation.

Like more recent struggles between Beijing’s municipal government and city residents, the former retained an advantage over the latter by controlling information about the project and claiming a monopoly over the right to define the public interest. However, some residents were able to expose political vulnerabilities within the bureaucracy and did ultimately receive compensation for property destroyed during construction. Undoubtedly, certain strategies from the Republican era are no longer possible for present-day Beijingers (the last hope for a wide-scale cross-class alliance, to take one example, collapsed in the summer of 1989). Yet, this process of contestation, joined with the popular ability to force the debate over people’s livelihood into a more widely-accessible public realm, represent important continuities with the present battles over subway and other transportation expansion projects in contemporary Beijing.

Jared Hall lives in Beijing, where he teaches Chinese and World History at the International Division of Peking University’s Affiliated High School. He can be found online on Twitter and on his blog, Beijing Time Machine.

By Jared Hall

An elderly couple camped outside as most of the city took shelter from the winter chill. They were doused in gasoline, flanked by a box of matches and a coffin. A small crowd looked on solemnly as the pair read posters recounting their story. These were Wang Shibo’s grandparents, whose store on the southern end of the popular Nanluoguxiang (南锣鼓巷) shopping street had been slated for demolition to make way for a new station along Beijing Subway’s newly-extended Line Eight.

Wang Shibo and her family insisted they were driven to this bold, possibly risky, act of public protest because their entire family teetered on the brink of financial ruin. According to Wang, the family invested practically everything they had to renovate the small clothing shop. But when the subway corporation abruptly presented a notice of eviction, they were reportedly offered just two percent of their investment back in compensation. The very public confrontation with the subway corporation that followed attracted the interest of the international press and a delegation from the National People’s Congress. The shop was torn down two weeks later, but not before an agreement was quietly reached with the family.

Although the Wang case would surely rank high among the most dramatic acts of resistance to Beijing’s ongoing subway expansion, the family is not alone. In recent years, city residents have pushed back against forced relocations, safety lapses, and other planning deficiencies.

To understand why something as innocuous as mass transit might provoke public outcry, one first has to appreciate just how rapidly the system has grown in recent years. “Urban rail-based transit is developing extremely quickly,” Beijing’s vice mayor Huang Wei boasted recently to Nandu Weekly, “we have accomplished in ten years what took developed countries over a hundred years to achieve.” Indeed, since 2001, Beijing’s two-line 54 kilometer (33 mile) subway system has experienced staggering growth. Today, 14 lines are in operation, stretching 336 kilometers (209 miles). By the end of 2015, the city plans to open five more lines and extend another 40 percent in length, making Beijing’s, at least by some measures, the world’s largest subway system.

Not all have been as impressed with what the Nandu Weekly slyly satirized as China’s subterranean “Great Leap Forward.” Safety concerns have escalated alongside the pace of construction. Since 2003, Beijing Subway has admitted three separate incidents of stations collapsing during construction, each resulting in worker fatalities. Public uneasiness has been further heightened by tragedies elsewhere, including the massive sinkhole that appeared above a subway line in Hangzhou that claimed dozens of lives in 2008. Concerns have also been raised over incidents of poor planning that have compounded minor problems and created major disruptions for Beijing residents. In one case earlier this year, occupants of a building adjacent to the Daxing extension of Line Four protested when trains passing on the elevated line rattled their homes. A subsequent investigation revealed the tracks had been laid too close to existing buildings, and that basic sound and vibration management technology had been scrapped to cut costs.

The Daxing extension case is illustrative of two common features of the subway corporation’s interaction with Beijing residents. First, the above-ground project was implemented without any community participation in the planning process. When inquiries from those affected were directed to the company, they were simply ignored. Of course, this high-handed approach to planning extends well beyond mass transit authorities. It is endemic among transportation-related initiatives ranging from road-widening to car registration, and reflects an attitude that permeates a much wider swath of the public and quasi-public sectors in China. At the same time, it is still striking to see how blatantly the corporation disregards voices from the precise population it pledges to serve.

Second, although residents only discovered engineering deficiencies after the line had begun operation, they swiftly developed a coordinated strategy to redress their grievances. Their tactics included a combination of petitions and visits to government offices, public demonstrations, as well as lawsuits directed against the subway corporation. This particular repertoire of actions aligns exactly with those described by You-tien Hsing in her discussion of urban households resisting demolition more broadly. Even while operating within the political constraints of the capital, residents’ ability to first draw press coverage and then to extract a commitment from the subway corporation to rectify the problem should warn against dismissing localized resistance to expansion as futile.

Nevertheless, some have persisted in dismissing resistance to subway expansion as narrow-minded. This is partly because conflicts appear to emerge in the form of individuals or small groups defending what might be characterized as “private interests” staking claims against the subway corporation, an entity charged with promoting the “public interest.” This contrast is sharply apparent in press accounts and online chatter deriding holdouts against demolition as “nail households” (钉子户) or “tigers blocking the road to progress” (拦路虎).

The subway corporation itself defends cost-cutting measures and meager compensation rates by citing the immense cost associated with such an infrastructure. Without a doubt, the cost of laying new underground track is staggering. Initial construction alone costs an estimated 500 million yuan per kilometer (or 48 million U.S. dollars per mile). By this measure it takes just 20 kilometers of newly laid track to exceed the city’s entire 2010 transportation budget of 8.92 billion yuan. None of this even takes into consideration operating costs or constraints on revenue, most notably the local government’s 2 yuan (0.31 dollar) cap on ticket prices.

To fund its ambitious expansion program, Beijing Subway has had to look beyond ticket sales. State-owned banks have been part of the solution. Generous loan terms have provided the capital necessary to construct much of the new infrastructure. Even so, mounting debts have only worked to underscore the need for fresh sources of revenue. This has pushed the subway corporation into related sectors like vehicle manufacturing and advertising. If such moves appear harmless enough, others have exposed real contradictions with its public interest mandate.

None have been more controversial than real estate development. The subway corporation, making use of its mandated public authority, has seized scarce urban plots and large tracts of suburban land. Those with previous land-use rights are compensated––often at below-market rates––and the land is sold later to developers at a considerable profit. The scale of this practice is difficult to measure, but its results are evidenced by sleek luxury condos and high-end shopping plazas erected on land formerly cleared for subway construction.

Beijing Subway is hardly alone in this game of property speculation. Last December, Shanghai Metro was called out for seizing over 35,000 square meters (8.6 acres) of land to construct a 603 square meter (0.1 acre) station in Jing’an District. Not long after, an office complex was erected on the site zoned as “municipal utility.” Wang Chengli, a professor researching urban transportation at Central South University in Changsha, chided metro operators across the country for “being led by the nose by developers.” He pointed to local officials as complicit in the practice, with some even going so far as to “operate ministries for profit.”

Despite being intentionally kept in the dark, those with pre-existing land-use rights have hardly been blind to the yawning gap between the compensation offered and prices quoted for newly built housing units. After all, it is this very price disparity that prevents retirees or other low-income residents of the Old City (the central area bounded by the Second Ring Road) from finding new housing remotely close to their original neighborhoods in the city center. Facing the break-up of communities and two-hour commutes to jobs or senior health check ups, resistance against evictions has been understandably robust.

As with the cases of Wang Shibo and the Daxing extension line, hutong residents often work collectively to lobby government ministries, organize demonstrations, and file legal challenges. Nevertheless, few succeed in attracting nearly the same degree of media attention. Even fewer––if any––force a realignment of the subway’s late-stage plans.

While Beijing Subway provides an essential public good as it constructs a sorely-needed mass transit infrastructure, it might avoid similar confrontations in the future by listening more closely to the concerns of local residents and taking steps to balance the advantages of development with the disadvantages posed by the disruption and displacement of existing residents.

Jared Hall lives in Beijing, where he teaches Chinese and World History at the International Division of Peking University’s Affiliated High School. He can be found online on twitter and on his blog, Beijing Time Machine.

By Maura Elizabeth Cunningham

Yi-Li Wu is an independent scholar and a center associate at the Center for Chinese Studies, University of Michigan. She is also the author of Reproducing Women: Medicine, Metaphor, and Childbirth in Late Imperial China (UC Press, 2010).

MEC: Your book examines “medicine for women” (妇科 fuke) in Qing China. How did the practice of fuke then differ from present-day obstetrics and gynecology? What has changed in the Chinese understanding of women’s medicine?

YLW: Qing fuke was a subfield of a literate corpus of medical knowledge that formed the basis of what is now called “traditional Chinese medicine” (TCM). This medicine drew its authority from a body of ancient classical texts that explained health and illness in terms of the harmony or imbalances in the body’s “qi,” what could loosely be thought of as a vital force. Doctors explained the relationship between different types of bodily qi in terms of the cosmological concepts of yin-yang and the five phases. You can manipulate and harmonize qi through acupuncture, pharmacological formulas, and regulating your behavior and diet.

Today we think of TCM as alternative medicine, lower in status than Western medicine, and used as a complement to it. But back then, this was the medicine deployed by the social and medical elites, the educated practitioners who could read and write. It was the healing system used by the government doctors who treated the imperial family and state officials. So that’s one big change. Insofar as women’s health is concerned, an important difference with modern obstetrics is that fuke historically dwelt very little on the physical mechanics of childbirth itself. Unlike European doctors of the time, Qing doctors didn’t try to take over obstetrics, and they didn’t develop surgical techniques for extracting the baby. Chinese male doctors might be called in to administer drugs if the labor was prolonged, but otherwise everyone assumed that delivery was the job of female midwives. What doctors did was to focus on the other aspects of female fertility: menstrual health, conception, pregnancy, and postpartum recovery. As I discuss in my book, they believed that childbirth would go smoothly as long as the woman’s health was properly managed during all these other stages. Today’s TCM is still based on the same core principles and therapies as late imperial medicine, but it’s also influenced by Western medicine. TCM gynecology textbooks in China today discuss anatomical science, for example, alongside yin and yang. When I was researching this book, I got the chance to sit in on a TCM gynecology clinic, and I was interested to see that patients would bring in their blood test results and ultrasound reports and the like to show the doctor.

MEC: What are some of the topics you cover in Reproducing Women?

YLW: Childbirth is something that humans have been worrying about throughout history and across cultures. My aim in writing this book was to help readers understand how people in the Qing thought about these universal issues. The first part of the book sets fuke in its historical context, and asks, why did people write and publish texts on fuke and how did male doctors try to establish their authority as experts in fuke? The second part is structured around the key medical issues that various experts and laypeople were actively debating at the time: how to promote fertility by ensuring the health of the woman’s menses and womb; how to ensure a healthy pregnancy and avoid miscarriage; how to protect the body’s ability to give birth smoothly; and how to prevent illness after delivery. Throughout, I also explore the issue of medical change and innovation by examining the continuities and divergences between Qing views and the medical perspectives of earlier eras.

MEC: What did you find to be the most challenging part of researching and writing this book? What types of sources did you use to understand the practice and perception of fuke?

YLW: My main sources were medical texts, primarily Ming-Qing works but also sources dating as far back as the Han. To be sure, there are many other types of sources that one could use to explore late imperial Chinese medical thought, notably literature, local histories, and literati jottings, and I do bring in some of these as well. But there is a staggering amount of pre-20th century Chinese medical literature that is still extant, and scholars are still only in the early stages of parsing out this immense source base. To give you an example, there are some 300 specialized works on women’s medicine and childbearing, and that doesn’t even count all the information on fuke that is contained in general treatises on medicine, medical cases collections, and encyclopedias. So one fundamental challenge was simply to figure out what to do with all this stuff!

One thing that made it both interesting and complicated was that late imperial authors are continually altering and recombining earlier works in new ways. To understand the special characteristics of Qing medicine, therefore, I had to continuously read back and forth between late imperial writings and earlier sources. And then, after spending so much time immersed in the doctrinal minutiae, I wanted to find a way to de-wonk the book, to make it accessible and relevant to people who didn’t have a background in the subject. What I eventually did was to frame each chapter with a medical case. The point I tried to make with these cases was that even if arguments about hot vs. cold medicines seem a bit esoteric to the modern reader, these issues really matter to the man who has just lost his wife in childbirth, or to the woman who has had five miscarriages in a row. These were the ideological and technological resources they had at their disposal during the Qing, and I wanted to find a way to bring the reader into that mental universe. People tend to see Chinese medicine as mystical, and certainly it takes a while to understand the cosmology and philosophy that underlies it. But when you get past that, you have the universal story of people getting sick, and people trying to cure them.

MEC: In a previous article, you wrote about Buddhist monks who were fuke practitioners. What was the relationship between religion and medicine in women’s healthcare during the Qing dynasty?

YLW: Religious healing was a routine form of therapy, not just for women, but for everyone. The classical medicine that I am studying historically arose as a rejection of religious models of healing, and it argued that the processes of health and disease were located in the body, not in the whims of god or demon. But people continued to use prayers, incantations, and rituals of all kinds as a way to prevent or cure illnesses, ranging from eye diseases to plagues and epidemics. Women also regularly visited temples to pray that they would be granted sons. People also performed rituals during and after childbirth to protect the woman and newborn from harmful demons. While some doctors criticized these practices, others included this kind of information in their medical works. What is particularly interesting, furthermore, is the way that medical texts themselves could take on ritual meanings. For example, in the book I discuss the phenomenon of merit publishing, where people printed and distributed medical texts as a way of obtaining karmic rewards. These included a man whose wife started vomiting blood during a difficult labor. He vowed to publish 1,000 copies of a medical text on childbirth if only she could be saved, and she then safely delivered a son. So medical experts are working and writing in an environment in which the boundaries between different healing modalities are both fluid and contentious.

MEC: What are you working on now?

YLW: My current book project is a comparative study of Chinese and European medicine in the 1830s to 1860s. I first got interested in this years ago when a friend showed me the work of Benjamin Hobson, a British surgeon and medical missionary who wrote a series of texts in the 1850s to introduce Western medicine to Chinese doctors. These included a specialized work on midwifery. What I’d like to understand is the factors that influenced Chinese views of Western knowledge at a time when European therapeutics was not self-evidently superior to Chinese methods. For example, neither Chinese nor European doctors had an effective means of treating cholera, which was the major global health issue of the time. Also, caesarean sections were still very dangerous, so Western obstetricians would often resolve obstructed labor by dismembering the baby, techniques that were broadly similar to those used by Chinese midwives. And yet, there were a number of Chinese doctors and literati in the early nineteenth century who were very interested in Western medical writings. The aim of my project is to explore why.

By Chris Cherry

Wang Jia Yi and Gao Tian Ci, Dalian to San Li Village, Anhui Province

For an introduction to Chris Cherry’s “Factories without Smoke” photography series, see here.


By Alec Ash

When I left Beijing after two years studying Mandarin at Peking and Tsinghua Universities, my Chinese friends from those universities threw me a leaving dinner at the Cultural Revolution restaurant, far on the outskirts of Beijing, outside the 5th ring road. While punters ate, drank and sang along with Mao era songs, waitresses dressed as Red Guards performed patriotic dances, clutching prop rifles. “Long live Chairman Mao!,” the diners would shout, tucking into red-braised pork – good thing this wasn’t the Great Leap Forward restaurant, or it would perhaps have been a quarter bowl of rice each. “Death to capitalist roadsters!,” as the bill came in at a distinctly capitalist 900 yuan.

This summer, in London, I was reminded of this throwback image of China when I went to an exhibit of propaganda posters from the Mao era, titled Poster Power and curated by Harriet Evans for Westminster University. I never thought I would say that London needed more Cultural Revolution, but this is a great collection and a must-see if you’re in town. (As is China Beatniks Jeffrey Wasserstrom and Pankaj Mishra discussing the legacy of Mao on July 4th – a strictly unintentional snub to Independence day I’m sure.)

The posters are colourful, bright, and disturbing. “I’ve found the red flag” reads one (我到了红旗), with an image of a slender Chinese revolutionary ballerina holding the cloth of the flag to her cheek like a lover’s palm. “Hong Kong and Britain must be destroyed” proclaims another (港英必败), in angry font underneath an equally angry mob, arms linked, all clutching Mao’s little red book. My favourite is a beach scene of young children doing stretches in synch, with smiles that could have been stapled on. 从小锻炼身体好 – “Exercise from a young age is good.”

Many of the posters were originally collected by John Gittings, the writer and China hand. He told me he bought most of them on the streets of Beijing in 1971, when he first visited China, for sums in the region of 1 mao, 8 wen. I can’t even begin to approximate what that is in sterling or dollars. Today, maybe a nickel. In 1971 … frankly, I’m too young (25) to even guess.

Were I to begin a collection of posters like these today, from Beijing, it would be easy. They are on sale in ditan (street vendor’s stands) across the city, spread out on cheap cloth on pedestrian overpasses, or thrust in your face by peddlers at the city’s lakeside circus of bright lights and bars. I would buy them for 10 yuan apiece, and they would mostly be fake. If I wanted a real one, perhaps I could go to a backstreet in Qianmen, south of the Forbidden City, and pay through the nose – because no matter how hard I bargain, my skin colour and foreign accent would bargain harder.

And there it is, the great joke: these one-time slogans of Chinese communism are now artefacts of Chinese capitalism, pawned off for the highest price by the sons and daughters of red guards, or perhaps even former red guards themselves. That serene half-smile of the great helmsman looks up helplessly as crisp banknotes – also bearing his face – purchase him for foreign students and tourists, who will pin him to their walls and bring him back home as an ironic gift to friends and family. As John Gittings would say: from Mao to Market.

What these old posters meant to the people they were printed for, in the 60s and 70s, is a nuanced matter for a longer post by a more expert hand. To many, perhaps, they spoke hope and possibility. Kinship with your fellow countryman and woman in the fight for a brave new world. To many, they might still speak this, in the muted voice of nostalgia for a youth which has past. And to others, they might speak with the shrieks of struggle sessions, of family members beaten to death, of homes destroyed, beliefs trampled, children turning on their parents. In this light, “exercise from a young age” doesn’t sound quite so innocent.

But what message do they speak now, to the young Chinese of my generation, whose parents found that red flag and clutched that little book to their hearts? I invited a friend from Henan – now finishing his PhD in Cambridge – to the exhibit with me, and asked him. “It’s like this is near to me,” he said, pointing to the posters around us, “but it’s still history, it’s not something I experienced. It’s 50 years ago, but might as well have been 100 or 200. It’s like a fairy tale that you are told by your mum when you’re 3 or 4, and now you see the fairy tale again when you’re older.”

That these posters mean different things to different people is something the exhibit is very conscious of. Harriet Evans, the curator, asked in her opening speech “why is it that images from a radical, even brutal, regime travel across space and time.” Travelled they certainly have. One of the most interesting items in the collection is a small postcard, brightly coloured like the rest of them, featuring a bulky Chinese man set in heroic revolutionary pose, a red star badge on his chest. But look closer. Behind him is a giant, neon pink, disco ball. He is pointing to two, bold characters: 晚会. “Party.”

The more pertinent question, perhaps, is where they will travel from now. What is the red legacy in today’s China, and what will it be in 2020 when China’s GDP is forecasted (in the Economist’s special report on China) to catch up and then overtake America’s? Your gaze might understandably drift to Chongqing for an answer, where Bo Xilai is enjoying the limelight of his so-called “red revival”. Residents are encouraged to sing Mao era songs (“Without the Communist Party, there is no new China” and that ilk – read this excellent post from the Granite Studio blog for more nuance), while the Politburo standing committee smiles benevolently from the wings, and wonders whether Mr Bo should join their ranks in 2012.

Is this song and dance in Chongqing … nostalgic? Patriotic? A bit of fun? Dead serious? What of the punters in the Cultural Revolution restaurant? Or “red tourists” in Shaoshan, Mao’s home village? By the hundreds they lined up, me with them, to shuffle though Mao’s childhood house (which is very large for such a persecutor of the landed gentry). Sometimes this red nostalgia seems completely disassociated from its historical context – like a memento from an old and long-forgotten friend which you don’t know why you keep. At other times, it strikes me as a desperate attempt by Chinese of an older generation to find continuity in their lives over the past thirty years of breakneck change.

But that continuity is a ghost. The truth is that the 21st century China I know, which I first saw up close in 2007 at the age of 21, is a world apart from the China of 1971 that John Gittings witnessed. Much more importantly, today’s young generation of Chinese live in a country which is different is so many drastic ways to the China their parents grew up in. And, like me, they will never really know what that old China was like. They didn’t see it. Their parents prefer not to talk about it (why burden your child?). They have poor access to an impartial history of it, and no real reason to look back.

Which raises an uncomfortable question. To the leaders of tomorrow’s China, are the lessons of its yesterday just a fairy tale?

Alec Ash writes the new blog the curious Ant and is on Twitter at @alecash. Read stories of his days in Beijing at Six.

Newer entries »