The Trouble with Taiwan (1)

I am an American anthropologist who is preparing an analysis of a key Taiwan public health system. Totaling almost a decade living and researching here off and on since since the 1980s, I have personally witnessed and thought much about the political processes this book promises to discuss.  Assuming the facts adduced in the review accurately reflect its content, I speculate the volume will become required reading for public officials whose duties encompass managing cross-strait relations. I include in this category persons in Europe and North American and, more particularly, in Taiwan and mainland China.

Jim Martin < jmar3701tin2@gmail.com>

The Trouble with Taiwan

Source: SCMP (10/26/19)
The Trouble with Taiwan – book maps out why the world should care about the self-ruled island
Charting the island’s history, Kerry Brown and Kalley Wu Tzu-hui underscore the global significance of its relationship with China. Makes the case for why the world should pay attention to what happens in Taiwan and to its citizens
By Kit Gillet

The Trouble with Taiwan maps out the island’s history, underscoring the global significance of its relationship with China and making the case for why the world should still care, very much, about what happens next. Photo: Shutterstock

The Trouble with Taiwan maps out the island’s history, underscoring the global significance of its relationship with China and making the case for why the world should still care, very much, about what happens next. Photo: Shutterstock

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The Trouble with Taiwan: History, the United States and a Rising China
by Kerry Brown and Kalley Wu Tzu-hui

Zed Books

The Trouble with Taiwan is a provocative title for a book, but then a lot about Taiwan is provocative, depending on who you’re talking to.

Tensions between the People’s Republic of China and the Republic of China (as Taiwan is officially called) have not ceased since the Nationalist government of Chiang Kai-shek fled to the island in 1949, after losing the civil war to Mao Zedong’s communist forces. As such, alongside the unresolved conflict between North and South Korea, the stand-off is seen as one of the last vestiges of the cold war.

Now, in an age when China is a global superpower, Taiwan’s position is of particular importance, both symbolically as well as practically. How other nations treat Taiwan and its citizens is directly related to their willing­ness to either alienate or placate China. At the same time, how China deals with Taiwan is seen as the great litmus test for its fitness to remain a global power. So far the jury is out, but, as Kerry Brown and Kalley Wu Tzu-hui write, “the stakes could not be higher”. Continue reading

The Myth of Political Brainwashing (3)

The Ryan Mitchell paper is very nostalgic, very bilateral, and rather ivory tower. Xinao, yes. Heard about it, read about it before. Interesting. But this article sounds like a kind of old-school liberal scholarship that has long existed in the West in the Cold War. And in Hong Kong. Removed from the reality of places where there is no academic freedom. Could he have written this in Taiwan nowadays, without someone telling him how it was under Chiang Kaishek? Scientific doesn’t mean nice and neutral, never did. Science wasn’t something better before the Cold War. Not at all. Remember race. Most science on race. Or Scientific Communism. A somewhat discredited term in Central and Eastern Europe. Some still use it, of course. Nothing wrong with Marx. Something tedious about ivory towers. Re-centering, oh god. In love with his idea of China or the East through the ages. Is he still writing in Hong Kong now? Sorry, I know this is very rambling, not very polite and so on. Has anyone looked when the word brain-washing came up in other languages? In Russian, for example. Did Orwell know it? It’s a classical modern scholarship thing to bring up a word, a term, a phenomenon, to declare it Western, Euro-centric, then de-construct it with non-Western facts. In China it works the other way around, ever since the times of the reformers around Liang Qichao Mitchell mentions, and earlier. Marx was very close to the political reality of his time. He wanted that very much. I suspect Mitchell doesn’t. I understand the impulse. But reality has overtaken Hong Kong, hasn’t it?

Peace,

Martin Winter <dujuan99@gmail.com>

The Political Myth of ‘Brainwashing’ (1)

It’s eerie to have this article, which argues brainwashing is a pointless Cold War term only bounded about for political purposes and with no analytical purchase either on the past or on today, with no reference at all to the recent waves of forced-confession spectacles which are the results of months of “brainwashing” (exchange with another word if you don’t like it), surely the polar opposite of “individuals’ active attempts to re-examine their own ideas,” — whether or not that was an original sense of this word xinao, as the article says it was.

Worse, if you don’t like the term “brainwashing,” then what will you call the violent conversion therapy currently practiced on hundreds of thousands of concentration camp detainees in Xinjiang?

Even if Mitchell is right that “the term is used frequently by ideologues of all stripes to define the opinions of those whom they disagree with as the result of external mind control rather than an independent thought process,” how is it remotely possible to even write on this topic without touching on the massive campaign forcing people at gunpoint, in the Xinjiang camps, to regurgitate CCP dogma and then denounce themselves and deny their identity day out and day in — as copiously documented by numerous witnesses — surely a full-throated contemporary revival of Maoist CCP torture-brainwashing? Continue reading

The Political Myth of ‘Brainwashing’

Source: Made in China (10/8/19)
China and the Political Myth of ‘Brainwashing’
By Ryan Mitchell

‘Investigative Study of Brain Essence’, article and diagrams in the Zhixin Bao, 1897. Source: 全国报刊索引 database.

‘Brainwashing’ is a ubiquitous word, a basic part of the vocabulary in various languages around the world. In fact, the allegation is used so frequently in modern discourse that we might be puzzled as to how political arguments ever got by without its striking, pejorative imagery. It is de rigueur to describe those with different viewpoints as incapable of independent thought—instead, for example, Mainland Chinese citizens must have been ‘brainwashed’ into fervent nationalism, or, alternatively, Hong Kong protesters must have been ‘brainwashed’ by Western media or governments. Though it was the English word that became globalised from the middle of the twentieth century, writers on the topic have long claimed, with varying degrees of certainty, that it was in turn a calque of a preexisting Chinese term: xinao (洗脑), literally ‘to wash the brain’. Continue reading

China and Taiwan clash over Wikipedia edits

Source: BBC News (10/5/19)
China and Taiwan clash over Wikipedia edits
By Carl Miller

Jamie Lin

Jamie Lin – seen on the left – is one of many Taiwanese Wikipedians concerned about changes being made to the online encylopedia

Ask Google or Siri: “What is Taiwan?”

“A state”, they will answer, “in East Asia”.

But earlier in September, it would have been a “province in the People’s Republic of China”.

For questions of fact, many search engines, digital assistants and phones all point to one place: Wikipedia. And Wikipedia had suddenly changed.

The edit was reversed, but soon made again. And again. It became an editorial tug of war that – as far as the encyclopedia was concerned – caused the state of Taiwan to constantly blink in and out of existence over the course of a single day.

“This year is a very crazy year,” sighed Jamie Lin, a board member of Wikimedia Taiwan.

“A lot of Taiwanese Wikipedians have been attacked.” Continue reading

A Birthday Letter to the PRC

Source: China File (9/28/19)
A Birthday Letter to the People’s Republic of China
By Yangyang Cheng

(China Photos/Getty Images) A student draws the Chinese national flag on a chalkboard during an activity to mark National Day, in Nanjing, Jiangsu province, September 30, 2007.

Dear People’s Republic,

Or should I call you, China?

I am writing to you on the eve of your 70th birthday. 70, what an age. “For a man to live to 70 has been rare since ancient times,” the poet Du Fu wrote in the eighth century. You have outlived many kings and countless men, and you have lasted longer than every other state that has espoused the hammer and sickle. Congratulations must be in order.

I was born a few weeks after you turned 40. We are both October babies, a fact I was so proud of as a child, your child. During a class in elementary school, the teacher showed us a recording of the day of your birth The audio, raspy with time, still echoes in me as I write, its black-and-white imagery etched in my memory.

“The People’s Central Government of the People’s Republic of China is founded today!” Chairman Mao declared atop the Gate of Heavenly Peace, overlooking a sea of red flags and exuberant faces. His portrait hung at the center of the gate, where it remains, next to these words: “Long Live the People’s Republic of China.” Continue reading

China’s New Red Guards review

Source: SCMP (9/25/19)
China’s New Red Guards: rise of the neo-Maoists examined in briskly written book
Author Jude D. Blanchette explores the stresses within China’s Communist Party. ‘It may present itself as a united and monolithic organisation but is in fact a sackful of sects struggling for control of the narrative’
By Peter Neville-Hadley

In China’s New Red Guards, author Jude D. Blanchette explores how the country continues to be shaped by Mao Zedong’s legacy.

In China’s New Red Guards, author Jude D. Blanchette explores how the country continues to be shaped by Mao Zedong’s legacy.

“The mortuary of global politics is piled high with the corpses of socialist countries,” said PLA Air Force Senior Colonel Dai Xu in a 2014 pep talk to a military audience in northeast China.

A hero to the neo-Maoists, whose rise is described in Jude D. Blanchette’s China’s New Red Guards – The Return of Radicalism and the Rebirth of Mao Zedong, Dai saw shadowy forces everywhere conspiring to add Chinese socialism to the list of casualties, whether by encouraging “peaceful evolution” or taking to the streets in the then ongoing Occupy Central protests.

A China specialist at United States risk-advisory firm Crumpton Group, Blanchette has had face-to-face meetings with many of his subjects – neo-Maoists and opposing economic reformers, grass-roots activists and high-profile figures alike. Continue reading

Who wrote Jin Ping Mei

Source: LARB, China Channel (9/13/19)
Who Wrote China’s Most Notorious Erotic Novel?
By Tristan Shaw
Tristan Shaw unpicks the controversial authorship of Jin Ping Mei

A pornographic Ming Dynasty painting (public domain image from Wikicommons).

For over 400 years, the Ming-era novel Jin Ping Mei  known in English as The Golden Lotus – has been celebrated by some readers as a literary masterpiece, while others condemn it as a salacious influence. Chronicling the life of a decadent merchant named Ximen Qing in the Song dynasty, the book’s notoriety comes from its graphic descriptions of sex, covering everything from adultery to sado-masochism. As Ximen rises up the social hierarchy, his lust for power and sex becomes increasingly depraved. Over the course of the story, he takes six wives and numerous concubines and servants, before eventually dying during the passionate raptures of sex from an overdose of aphrodisiacs. Continue reading

Artists reflect on what has gone in HK

Source: SCMP (9/5/19)
Out of time: artists return to darkroom, make coin collages to remind Hong Kong of what has gone
Anita Mui, Queen’s Pier, and former Legco building among icons of Hong Kong artist Giraffe Leung depicts using specially treated 20-cent coins. Multiple exposures of city streets in China, Singapore, Japan and South Korea, printed in a darkroom without digital manipulation, make up Simon Wan’s show
By Snow Xia

Giraffe Leung rubs a panel made of 20-cent coins with chemical solutions to create an image of Hong Kong at La Galerie Paris 1839 in Central. Photo: Snow Xia

Giraffe Leung rubs a panel made of 20-cent coins with chemical solutions to create an image of Hong Kong at La Galerie Paris 1839 in Central. Photo: Snow Xia

Coins and darkroom photography may be falling out of use, but they have been given new life in an exhibition that explores and evokes Hongkongers’ collective memory.

Showing at La Galerie Paris 1839, Hollywood Road, Central, “Coins – Memories of Hong Kong” by Giraffe Leung Lok-hei and “City Glow” by Simon Wan Chi-chung look at how rapid urbanisation has changed the city.

“As e-payments and virtual money have replaced traditional money globally, I want to use money to remind us of the role … people and things play in our lives [and their value],” explains Leung, whose show re-examines unremarkable objects that became or are becoming obsolete. Continue reading

Su Shaozhi dies at 96

Source: The Guardian (9/3/19)
Su Shaozhi obituary
Chinese political scientist who was forced into exile after the Tiananmen Square massacre
By John Gittings

Su Shaozhi was a prominent campaigner for reform of the Chinese Communist party

Su Shaozhi was a prominent campaigner for reform of the Chinese Communist party

The political scientist Su Shaozhi, who has died aged 96, was a campaigner for reform of the Chinese Communist party in the post-Mao years, until he was forced into exile after the Tiananmen Square massacre of 1989. Su was eventually allowed to return to China, but the news of his death has been ignored except on unofficial websites.

In his earlier career, Su would admit, he had “put obedience to the [Communist] party in first place”, churning out what was required to “elaborate the thoughts of Chairman Mao”. He made up for this in the 1980s by denouncing the party’s “feudalism and Stalinism” and proposing democratic reforms that are still unachieved. Privately he was even more outspoken, telling me in 1985 that “we need to make a clean sweep of the leadership”, which still insisted on rigid control. Continue reading

HK’s changing attitude toward China

Source: NYT (9/3/19)
Hong Kong Was Once Passionate About China. Now, It’s Indifferent or Contemptuous.
By Andrew Higgins

Hong Kong’s harbor. The attachment many Hong Kongers once felt with the mainland is fading. Credit: Lam Yik Fei for The New York Times

HONG KONG — As a young student learning classical Chinese, I stopped off in Hong Kong nearly 40 years ago to catch a slow train up to Beijing, then still known as Peking. At the station, I bought a Chinese-language magazine of politics, culture and ideas that I was advised to hide when I crossed the border out of what was then still a British colony into China.

With only a rudimentary grasp of modern Chinese, I spent much of my three-day journey north trying to decipher the Hong Kong magazine’s articles that were wrestling with China’s past political convulsions under Mao, its present challenges and future possibilities. It was my first taste of what was then the city’s raucous and passionate debate about China. Continue reading

“Teaching the PRC” PRC History Review 4.2

The PRC History Review
Volume 4, Number 2 (August 2019)
Special Issue: Teaching the PRC

The PRC History Group is very excited to announce the newest issue of The PRC History Review, which features a series of essays on teaching the PRC. An extra special thanks to our guest editors, Brian DeMare and Covell Meyskens, for all of their work on this issue, which also includes contributions from (in the order they appear) Rebecca Karl, Marc Matten, Emily Wilcox, Gail Hershatter, Ralph Thaxton, Kirk Denton, Denise Ho, Guobin Yang, Jeremy Brown, Stefan Landsberger, Elizabeth Perry, Eddy U, Sun Peidong, and Kaiser Kuo!

The issue is available online here: Special Issue: Teaching the PRC. Table of Contents appears below.

Fabio Lanza <flanza@email.arizona.edu>

Editorial Introduction
Brian DeMare, Tulane University and Covell Meyskens, Naval Postgraduate School

Why Mao? Why Now? A Brief Essay on Pedagogy and Possibility
Rebecca E. Karl, New York University Continue reading

Rittenberg dies at 98

Source: NYT (8/24/19)
Sidney Rittenberg, Idealistic American Aide to Mao Who Evolved to Counsel Capitalists, Dies at 98
阅读简体中文版 | 閱讀繁體中文版
By Robert D. McFadden

Sidney Rittenberg with Mao Zedong during a gathering of Communist Party leaders. Mr. Rittenberg was a dedicated aide to Mao as a party propagandist, but ran afoul of Mao’s suspicions, offended Mao’s wife and spent 16 years in prison. Credit: Personal Collection of Sidney Rittenberg

Sidney Rittenberg, an American soldier-linguist who stayed in China for 35 years after World War II as an adviser and political prisoner of the Communist Revolution, and later made millions as a counselor of Western capitalists exploiting booming Chinese markets, died on Saturday in Scottsdale, Ariz. He was 98.

The family confirmed the death in a statement.

In a saga of Kafkaesque twists, Mr. Rittenberg was a dedicated aide to Chairman Mao Zedong and Premier Zhou Enlai as a party propagandist known across China by his Mandarin name, Li Dunbai — the mysterious foreigner in Mao’s government. But he ran afoul of Mao’s suspicions, offended Mao’s wife and spent 16 years in prison, falsely accused of espionage and counterrevolutionary plotting. Continue reading