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  • Originally published 01/28/2014

    The Pacific Pivot

    Why America’s strategic rebalance is really just retreat.

  • Originally published 11/25/2013

    A First Season Recap of China's Still-New Leader

    A year after the arrival of China's new president on the world stage, it's time to ask if he's achieving his twin goals of being the new Deng Xiaoping and not the new Mikhail Gorbachev.

  • Originally published 08/23/2013

    Zheng Wang: It’s All About Mao

    Zheng Wang, an associate professor of diplomacy and international relations at Seton Hall University and a global fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, is the author of “Never Forget National Humiliation: Historical Memory in Chinese Politics and Foreign Relations.”WASHINGTON — The trial of Bo Xilai, the fallen Chinese Communist Party official and former member of the ruling Politburo, is attracting the world’s attention with its tales of corruption, sex, murder and political intrigue. But while such details are riveting, they divert attention from the real meaning of the case.

  • Originally published 08/21/2013

    CCP document condemns Western ideas; Chinese historian says "ramifications very serious"

    ...Condemnations of constitutional government have prompted dismayed opposition from liberal intellectuals and even some moderate-minded former officials. The campaign has also exhilarated leftist defenders of party orthodoxy, many of whom pointedly oppose the sort of market reforms that Mr. Xi and Prime Minister Li Keqiang have said are needed.The consequent rifts are unusually open, and they could widen and bog down Mr. Xi, said Xiao Gongqin, a professor of history at Shanghai Normal University who is also a prominent proponent of gradual, party-guided reform.“Now the leftists feel very excited and elated, while the liberals feel very discouraged and discontented,” said Professor Xiao, who said he was generally sympathetic to Mr. Xi’s aims. “The ramifications are very serious, because this seriously hurts the broad middle class and moderate reformers — entrepreneurs and intellectuals. It’s possible that this situation will get out of control, and that won’t help the political stability that the central leadership stresses.”...

  • Originally published 08/15/2013

    Aging Chinese apologise for Cultural Revolution 'evil'

    BEIJING (AFP).- As a teenager radicalised by China's Cultural Revolution, Zhang Hongbing denounced his mother to the authorities. Two months later a firing squad shot her dead.Now after more than 40 years of mounting guilt, Zhang has ruffled the silence that cloaks China's decade of turmoil with a public confession.Such rare apologies have been welcomed as a potential gateway to the collective soul-searching that could bring healing -- but is blocked by a ruling Communist Party whose critics say is unwilling to confront its own responsibility."Back then everyone was swept up and you couldn't escape even if you wanted to. Any kindness or beauty in me was thoroughly, irretrievably 'formatted'," Zhang told the Beijing News last week."I hope that from my self-reflection other people can understand what the situation was like at that time."...

  • Originally published 08/05/2013

    Jeffrey Wasserstrom: Old Stories from the New China

    Jeffrey Wasserstrom teaches at UC Irvine and is the author of "China in the 21st Century: What Everyone Needs to Know."In July, two stories out of China were big news. One focused on watermelon seller Deng Zhengjia, a poor urban migrant in Hunan province, who became newsworthy only when reports circulated that thuggish chengguan — members of para-police units — allegedly beat him to death. A week later, someone very different, Bo Xilai, was back in the news when he was formally charged with "abuses of power" and corruption. Bo — the former party boss of one of China's biggest cities, Chongqing, a Politburo member and once thought to be bound for elevation to the Communist Party's ruling Standing Committee — was anything but poor, powerless or unknown before cascading scandals brought him down in 2012. Putting the tales of Deng's death and Bo's indictment side by side illuminates a major challenge China's leaders face: How to keep the people believing the stories they tell to justify their rule.

  • Originally published 08/02/2013

    The ancient Chinese exam that inspired modern job recruitment

    Getting an office job can be a complicated process. There are the headhunters and references, psychometric testing and endless interviews....The Chinese had developed an examination system from hell that you had to pass to get into the imperial service. In place since the 7th Century, it consisted of a cascading series of dawn-to-dusk tests for which you had to memorise 400,000 characters of Confucian text and master the fiendishly rigid "eight-legged essay". The pass rate? A mere 1-2%.But the Brits were impressed, and some thought that exams could help them make a better fist of running the Empire.Charles Trevelyan, the permanent secretary to the Treasury 1840-59, was horrified by the Barnacle types in the civil service, once describing a colleague, as a "gentleman who really could neither read nor write, he was almost an idiot"...

  • Originally published 07/30/2013

    Why Deng Zhengjia Will Not Be China’s Mohamed Bouazizi

    Cross-posted from Dissent.On July 17, Deng Zhengjia, a Chinese watermelon seller, got into an altercation with chengguan (para-police) officers. The chengguan allegedly struck Deng in the head, delivering a fatal blow with a weight from his own handheld scale. Local police claimed that Deng “unexpectedly fell to the ground and died,” a statement quickly mocked online for its absurdity. Deng’s case sparked an outcry against the blatantly abusive actions of chengguan on Weibo, the popular Chinese micro-blogging platform.

  • Originally published 07/30/2013

    Six decades after Korean War, a second rescue attempt for missing airmen

    BEIJING — As more than 100,000 Chinese soldiers swarmed over far fewer American Marines and soldiers in subzero temperatures on treacherous terrain in one of the fiercest battles of the Korean War, two United States Navy pilots took off from an aircraft carrier to provide cover for their comrades on the ground.One of the airmen, Ensign Jesse L. Brown, was the son of an African-American sharecropper from Mississippi. The other, Lt. Thomas J. Hudner Jr., was the son of a white patrician merchant family from Massachusetts.An hour into the flight, Ensign Brown’s plane was hit by enemy fire, forcing him to crash land on the side of a mountain at Chosin, north of Pyongyang. Lieutenant Hudner brought his plane down nearby and found Ensign Brown, but could not rescue him.On Monday, nearly 63 years after the Battle of Chosin Reservoir, Mr. Hudner, 88, arrived in Beijing after a 10-day visit to North Korea aimed at finding his friend’s remains....

  • Originally published 07/25/2013

    Maura Elizabeth Cunningham: China’s Para-Police

    Maura Elizabeth Cunningham is a PhD candidate in modern Chinese history at the University of California, Irvine.I didn’t notice the apple seller at first. I was walking east on Shanghai’s Changle Street—the Street of Eternal Happiness—mentally making a list of all the things I needed to do to fix up the apartment I had moved into the day before, while the fruit vendor slowly pedaled his tricycle cart in the road ahead of me. Preoccupied, I might never have taken note of the man if not for the white station wagon with a shield painted on the side that slowed down and stopped behind him. Four men jumped out of the car and rushed at the tricycle cart; in a flash, before I could even fully absorb what was happening in front of me, the men had overturned it and knocked the apple seller to the ground. Apples rolled everywhere, scattering across the street like hundreds of billiard balls, while the men briefly yelled at the silent vendor and then got back in their station wagon and drove away. The entire incident lasted under two minutes.

  • Originally published 07/22/2013

    Jeffrey Wasserstrom: A Reformist Chinese Leader? Stop Fooling Yourself

    Jeffrey Wasserstrom is the author of China in the 21st Century: What Everyone Needs to Know, an updated edition of which has just been published by Oxford University Press.For those of us who have tracked Chinese political trends since the late 1970s when Deng Xiaoping came to power, reading the news about China these days can prove strangely disorienting. One week, we’ll be struck by a slew of stories, on everything from fast trains to record growth rates, which underscore how different China is than it was when Deng first launched his reforms. The next week, though, we’ll be struck just as powerfully by a sense of eerie familiarity. Headline after headline — about the intractability of corruption, the death of a watermelon vendor or a petitioner’s desperate attempt to draw attention to this plight by detonating an explosive device at a Beijing airport — seem just like those we came across a few years or even a couple of decades ago.

  • Originally published 07/21/2013

    Book on Hong Kong history withdrawn after censorship from mainland China

    A translated work that apparently censored remarks on politics - such as Democratic Party founding chairman Martin Lee Chu-ming comparing the handover of Hongkongers to China to "surrendering Jews to Adolf Hitler's Germany" - will be recalled after its writer cried foul over the unapproved changes.The book's mainland-funded local publisher, Chung Hwa Book Company, agreed last night to withdraw the Chinese edition of A Concise History of Hong Kong from sale. It also apologised to the history professor who penned the work in English.Professor John Carroll, associate dean of the University of Hong Kong's arts faculty, earlier said he was "shocked and disappointed" about the changes....

  • Originally published 07/18/2013

    Marketus Presswood: On Being Black in China

    Marketus Presswood is currently pursuing his Ph.D. in Modern Chinese History with an emphasis on both the Republican Era (1912-1949) and the post-1949 era.In the 1996 China edition of the Lonely Planet's Guidebook, a text box aside comment from a street interview provided some interesting conversation fodder, "... there is no racism in China because there are no black people," a Chinese woman was reported to have said. This became a little running joke in my small study abroad circle, since I was the only black student in my program of fifty students. It was 1997, and I was in Beijing studying Chinese. "There is no way you could be experiencing any racism in China," one classmate sardonically told me, "because you are the only black person here." We all laughed.

  • Originally published 07/11/2013

    Jeffrey Wasserstrom: Why Bad News Elsewhere Is Good News for China

    Jeffrey Wasserstrom is Chancellor’s Professor of History at UC Irvine and the author of China in the 21st Century: What Everyone Needs to Know, an updated edition of which has just been published.China’s appearance in international headlines thus far in 2013 has often been because of quality of life issues. The year began with reports of unusually high smog levels in Beijing and images of massive numbers of dead pigs clogging Shanghai waterways. Next came stories of a run on milk-powder supplies in Hong Kong, triggered by ongoing fears over tainted baby formula on the mainland. And now comes a study suggesting that simply breathing the foul air of northern China can shorten your life expectancy by more than five years. Given the extent to which China’s leaders have based their legitimacy on the notion that they are making life better and better for ordinary Chinese people, it’s worth asking whether this rash of bad news could have an impact on a different sort of life-expectancy issue: that of China’s Communist Party.

  • Originally published 07/08/2013

    Jeffrey Wasserstrom: Hong Kong Versus Goliath

    Jeffrey Wasserstrom is Chancellor's Professor of History at the University of California, Irvine. His most recent book is China in the 21st Century: What Everyone Needs to Know.IRVINE, CALIFORNIA – We live in an era fascinated with David-versus-Goliath tales. The Biblical confrontation is invoked to describe everything from sporting contests to popular uprisings against dictators. Malcolm Gladwell’s forthcoming book David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants promises to give the story the ultimate pop-culture treatment. And the parallel between the classic tale and the unfolding story of the former intelligence contractor Edward Snowden’s solitary battle against America’s massive security establishment is inescapable.But Snowden received help from an unexpected source, Hong Kong’s government, which disregarded a US request to hold him to face espionage charges and allowed him to leave for Moscow. In fact, Hong Kong’s siding with a “David” should not surprise us, given that its relationship with mainland China is the quintessential David-versus-Goliath story – and it is still in progress.

  • Originally published 07/08/2013

    Leslie H. Gelb and Dimitri K. Simes: A New Anti-American Axis?

    Leslie H. Gelb, a former columnist, editor and correspondent for The New York Times, is president emeritus of the Council on Foreign Relations. Dimitri K. Simes is president of the Center for the National Interest and publisher of its magazine, The National Interest.THE flight of the leaker Edward J. Snowden from Hong Kong to Moscow last month would not have been possible without the cooperation of Russia and China. The two countries’ behavior in the Snowden affair demonstrates their growing assertiveness and their willingness to take action at America’s expense.

  • Originally published 06/26/2013

    Jeff Wasserstrom considers three tumultuous years in ever-changing China

    This month Asia Society Associate Fellow Jeffrey Wasserstrom, China expert and Professor of History at the University of California-Irvine, is coming out with an updated version of his book China in the 21st Century: What Everyone Needs to Know (Oxford University Press), originally published in 2010. Since three years is a long time in rapidly changing China, we were curious to know what changes he made to the text to make it as relevant as possible for today's readers.Since the writing of your book China has gone through one of its ten-year leadership changes with the entrance of the Xi Jinping administration. What did you feel people needed to know about a new government that has declared its focus to be fulfilling the "Chinese Dream?"

  • Originally published 06/21/2013

    Russell Leigh Moses: What to Make of Xi Jinping’s Maoist Turn

    Russell Leigh Moses is the Dean of Academics and Faculty at The Beijing Center for Chinese Studies. He is writing a book on the changing role of power in the Chinese political system. Is Xi Jinping lurching towards a Maoist revival?With a number of Mao-like pronouncements emanating from Beijing in recent months, some observers of Chinese politics think he might be.The most recent example is an editorial published earlier this week in the authoritative People’s Daily (in Chinese), which argues that the “mass line is the ruling lifeline” for the Communist Party.In the days since, that phrase has proliferated through state media, with the official Xinhua news agency announcing on Thursday that the Communist Party had published, not one, but two new books on interpretations of “mass line” by everyone from Friederich Engels to Jiang Zemin.

  • Originally published 06/21/2013

    Amartya Sen: Why India Trails China

    Amartya Sen, a Nobel laureate, is a professor of economics and philosophy at Harvard. He is the author, with Jean Drèze, of “An Uncertain Glory: India and its Contradictions.”

  • Originally published 06/18/2013

    Jeffrey Wasserstrom: Exploring Peter Hessler's China From the Ground Up

    Jeffrey Wasserstrom, a professor of Chinese history at UC Irvine, is the author of China in the 21st Century: What Everyone Needs to Know and co-editor of Chinese Characters: Profiles of Fast-Changing Lives in a Fast-Changing Land. Like other Americans, I draw a sharp line, linguistically and symbolically, between mice and rats. But one thing I learned during my first trip to China a quarter of a century ago was that the distinction between these two kinds of rodents, both typically called laoshu in Chinese, is fuzzier there. When posters went up in Shanghai to accompany a campaign to purge that metropolis of vermin, they showed Mickey Mouse with a spike through his heart. These images shocked me but local residents seemed to find them unremarkable.

  • Originally published 06/18/2013

    Oxford historian sheds light on China in WWII

    The China theater of World War II is sometimes forgotten today in the West. But one historian aims to change that, Andrew Moody in Oxford reports.Rana Mitter is determined to shed light on what is often seen in the West - although clearly not in China - as the forgotten war.Despite killing up to 20 million people, including many savagely such as in the infamous Nanjing Massacre, and creating between 80 and 100 million refugees, China's War of Resistance against Japanese Aggression (1937-45) is often treated as a World War II sideshow."I thought it was one of the great untold stories of the 20th century and certainly the World War II period," he says....

  • Originally published 06/10/2013

    John Haddad: Avoiding ‘Cultural Arrogance’ With China

    John Haddad is an associate professor of American studies and popular culture at Pennsylvania State University at Harrisburg. He is the author of America’s First Adventure in China: Trade, Treaties, Opium, and Salvation.On a recent trip to China, I made a stop at Sias International University, in Xinzheng, Henan Province, to deliver a lecture on American popular culture. Sias is a relatively new private university that presents itself as an American-style college. Its founder, a local entrepreneur who made his fortune in the United States, believes in internationalism and in cooperation between China and the United States—so much so that he has infused the campus with this vision.The effect is striking: It feels like a world’s fair. Touring the campus, I passed New York Street, Red Square, European Street, and Spanish Square. I wound up at the administration building, a bizarre Sino-American hybrid. After entering through its neo-Classical front, modeled on the U.S. Capitol, I found upon exiting that the building had morphed into the Forbidden City.

  • Originally published 06/07/2013

    Jeffrey Wasserstorm: Looking Back at the June 4 Massacre, Twenty-Four Years On

    Jeffrey Wasserstrom is Chancellor’s Professor of History at UC Irvine. He is co-editor (with Angilee Shah) of Chinese Characters: Profiles of Fast-Changing Lives in a Fast-Changing Land (University of California Press, 2012) and also a short anthology, China Stories, published as an ebook by the Los Angeles Review of Books.Late last year and early this year, I worked with Maura Elizabeth Cunningham on creating the second edition of China in the 21st Century: What Everyone Needs to Know, a short book with a question-and-answer format whose first edition came out in 2010. Given how quickly China has been changing, there were many things that needed updating, especially in chapters that come late in the book. Since work on the first edition was completed late in 2009, Liu Xiaobo and Mo Yan won Nobel prizes, the microblogging platform weibo took off, and there was a dramatic uptick in environmental protests—to name just a few recent developments that Maura and I needed to address in the 2.0 version. Today, though, I am thinking with sorrow of a section in a chapter titled “From Mao to Now” that I wish we needed to revise, but didn’t—the answer to the following question: “Why Hasn’t the Chinese Government Changed Its Line on Tiananmen?”...

  • Originally published 06/07/2013

    Graham T. Allison Jr.: Obama and Xi Must Think Broadly to Avoid a Classic Trap

    Graham T. Allison Jr. is the director of the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard Kennedy School.CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — AS President Obama welcomes China’s new president, Xi Jinping, for an informal “shirt-sleeves” summit meeting in California on Friday, the bureaucracies of both governments must be quivering. Each will have prepared a long list of issues for its country’s leader to discuss, from cyberattacks and trade disputes to North Korean antics and competing claims in the seas near China. Talking points have been drafted, and many hope that a historic communiqué is in the works.But if that’s all that happens, this summit meeting will have been a huge missed opportunity. Let us hope that these two leaders will rise above their bureaucracies’ narrow goals to confront the overarching challenge facing the two most important nations in the world.Simply put, can the United States and China escape [the] Thucydides Trap?In 11 of 15 cases since 1500 in which a rising power rivaled a ruling power, the outcome was war. Can Mr. Obama and Mr. Xi successfully defy those odds?...

  • Originally published 06/02/2013

    Much Ado about Islands

    Credit: Wiki Commons.This article is a condensed version of a longer essay which appeared in JapanFocus.More than six decades from the San Francisco Treaty that purportedly resolved the Asia-Pacific War and created a system of peace, East Asia in 2013 remains troubled by the question of sovereignty over a group of tiny, uninhabited islands. The governments of Japan, China, and Taiwan all covet and claim sovereignty over the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands.The islands, known in Japanese as Senkaku and in Chinese as Diaoyu, are little more than rocks in the ocean, but they are rocks on which there is a real prospect of peace and cooperation in the region foundering.The Long View

  • Originally published 05/30/2013

    Michael Klare: The Cold War Redux?

    Michael Klare is a professor of peace and world security studies at Hampshire College, a TomDispatch regular, and the author, most recently, of The Race for What’s Left, now published in paperback by Picador. A documentary movie based on his book Blood and Oil can be previewed and ordered at www.bloodandoilmovie.com. You can follow Klare on Facebook by clicking here.Did Washington just give Israel the green light for a future attack on Iran via an arms deal? Did Russia just signal its further support for Bashar al-Assad’s Syrian regime via an arms deal? Are the Russians, the Chinese, and the Americans all heightening regional tensions in Asia via arms deals? Is it possible that we’re witnessing the beginnings of a new Cold War in two key regions of the planet -- and that the harbingers of this unnerving development are arms deals?

  • Originally published 05/17/2013

    John B. Thompson: Review of Stephen Platt's "Autumn in the Heavenly Kingdom" and Tobie Meyer-Fong's "What Remains: Coming to Terms with Civil War in Nineteenth-Century China"

    John B. Thompson (@johnbthomp) is a writer from Columbus, Ohio. He is a PhD student in East Asian history at Columbia University. THIS SUMMER MARKS the sesquicentennial of the Battle of Gettysburg, and November holds the anniversary of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address — “the words that remade America,” according to journalist and historian Garry Wills. Part of the address’ power flows from the image of the dead as martyrs for “a new birth of freedom,” the promise that the unprecedented savagery of the American Civil War was not a departure from the American project but a necessary part of it. We tend to remember this civil war for the positive reasons that Lincoln primed us to believe. But Lincoln’s rhetorical accomplishment makes us forget that death and civil war are more often toxic things. And few here remember that, at the same time that Lincoln was delivering his speech, China was witnessing its own civil war, with even higher costs and more unclear ends.

  • Originally published 05/09/2013

    Christian Caryl: 1979 and the Birth of the Chinese Economic Miracle

    Christian Caryl, the editor of Democracy Lab, is a senior fellow at the Legatum Institute and a contributing editor at Foreign Policy. He is also the author of a new book, Strange Rebels: 1979 and the Birth of the 21st Century, to be published in May.It is inevitable, perhaps, that we tend to focus on leaders when we examine grand political and economic transitions. But they are not the only actors in these dramas. Deng Xiaoping and his colleagues triumphed precisely because they unleashed the creativity and the entrepreneurial urges of millions of Chinese. Many of them -- shocking though it might be to think -- were not even members of the Chinese Communist Party.

  • Originally published 05/06/2013

    Origins of agriculture in China pushed back by 12,000 years

    The first evidence of agriculture appears in the archaeological record some 10,000 years ago. But the skills needed to cultivate and harvest crops weren't learned overnight. Scientists have traced these roots back to 23,000-year-old tools used to grind seeds, found mostly in the Middle East.Now, research lead by Li Liu, a professor of Chinese archaeology at Stanford, reveals that the same types of tools were used to process seeds and tubers in northern China, setting China's agricultural clock back about 12,000 years and putting it on par with activity in the Middle East. Liu believes that the practices evolved independently, possibly as a global response to a changing climate. The earliest grinding stones have been found in Upper Paleolithic archaeological sites around the world. These consisted of a pair of stones, typically a handheld stone that would be rubbed against a larger, flat stone set on the ground, to process wild seeds and tubers into flour-like powder....

  • Originally published 04/25/2013

    Mirror workshop discovered in China

    A 2,000-year-old bronze mirror workshop has been excavated in east China's Shandong Province, the first such discovery in China, archaeologists announced on Wednesday.More than 100 stone moulds, as well as foundry pits, wells and blastpipes have been unearthed at the site in a village near Zibo City, said Bai Yunxiang, deputy director of the archaeological institute of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. The workshop is believed to have been active in the early period of the Han Dynasty (202 BC - 220 AD), when the once-costly bronze mirrors gradually became household objects, according to Bai....

  • Originally published 04/25/2013

    Historian Frank Couvares on the Hollywood-China connection

    [Hollywood studios are increasingly editing their movies to cater to the Chinese market.]...Frank Couvares, a professor of history and American Studies at Massachusetts’ Amherst College, said that rather than something new, Hollywood’s readiness to cater to Chinese demands on content reflects business practices the American film industry has had in place for more than seven decades.“If back in the 1930s or ‘40s the French objected to portraying the Foreign Legion as being overly harsh on Africans, or the British were unhappy that they were being shown as too colonialistic, then Hollywood would make the edits it needed to market its product,” he said.Still, the scope of this latest iteration seems to dwarf that of its predecessors, not only because China’s economic and political clout is so immense — successive years of GDP growth rates around 8- 10 percent have made its economy the second largest in the world — but also because the country’s communist masters seem obsessed by the way Beijing is perceived abroad.

  • Originally published 04/22/2013

    Jonathan Zimmerman: Boston Marathon, Long a Melting Pot for Good

    Jonathan Zimmerman, author of "Small Wonder: The Little Red Schoolhouse in History and Memory," is a professor of history and education at New York University.A Chinese graduate student, killed by one of the explosions. An immigrant from Costa Rica, clad in a cowboy hat and assisting a victim who lost his legs. An Indian-American surgeon, charging toward the injured after completing the race himself.And two Chechen brothers, suspected of causing all of this mayhem.These images have haunted and inspired us since last Monday's bombings at the Boston Marathon. Lu Lingzi was studying statistics at Boston College. Carlos Arrendondo, who was handing out flags at the race, lost a son in Iraq. Dr. Vivek Shah is an orthopedic surgeon at New England Baptist Hospital, where he returned to work just a day after bandaging several of his fellow runners....

  • Originally published 04/18/2013

    Farewell Lu Lingzi 吕令子

    Lu Lingzi, from a Facebook photo.Cross-posted from Madmen of Chu."How happy it is to have friends come from afar." This line from the opening passage of the Confucian Analects greets one everywhere that tourists congregate in China. Despite its having become a marketing cliche, it still expresses a profound truth. Bridging the distance between people is a basic human act. It is what makes families from isolated individuals, communities from disparate families, nations from disconnected communities, and what makes peace possible in a divided world. That joy is today mixed with sorrow, as we have lost a friend who came from afar. Lu Lingzi, a young graduate student from the city of Shenyang in the northeastern province of Liaoning, China, was killed in Monday's attack in Boston.

  • Originally published 03/28/2013

    Skulls of early humans carry signs of inbreeding

    Buried for 100,000 years at Xujiayao in the Nihewan Basin of northern China, the recovered skull pieces of an early human exhibit a now-rare congenital deformation that indicates inbreeding might well have been common among our ancestors, new research from the Chinese Academy of Sciences and Washington University in St. Louis suggests.     The skull, known as Xujiayao 11, has an unusual perforation through the top of the brain case - an enlarged parietal foramen (EPF) or 'hole in the skull' - that is consistent with modern humans diagnosed with a rare genetic mutation in the homeobox genes ALX4 on chromosome 11 and MSX2 on chromosome 5. These specific genetic mutations interfere with bone formation and prevent the closure of small holes in the back of the prenatal braincase, a process that is normally completed within the first five months of fetal development. It occurs in about one out of every 25,000 modern human births.... 

  • Originally published 03/28/2013

    Sergey Radchenko: Mao and Stalin, Xi and Putin

    Sergey Radchenko is a lecturer at the University of Nottingham, based at the University's China campus in Ningbo, China. He is the author of Two Suns in the Heavens: the Sino-Soviet Struggle for Supremacy, 1962-67 and the forthcoming Unwanted Visionaries: Soviet Failure in Asia at the end of the Cold War. Original declassified documents for this article are provided through the Digital Archive of the History and Public Policy Program at the Wilson Center. In December 1949, Mao Zedong traveled to Moscow, for his first trip abroad. Three months earlier, perched high above a crowd of thousands in Beijing's Tiananmen Square, Mao had announced the founding of the People's Republic of China. The nascent country was yet unformed, and Mao thought it important to ensure that New China would stand on the right side of history: the Communist side. In this, Mao needed Joseph Stalin's blessing and Soviet help.

  • Originally published 03/28/2013

    China's Cultural Revolution: son's guilt over the mother he sent to her death

    They beat her, bound her and led her from home. She knelt before the crowds as they denounced her. Then they loaded her on to a truck, drove her to the outskirts of town and shot her.Fang Zhongmou's execution for political crimes during the Cultural Revolution was commonplace in its brutality but more shocking to outsiders in one regard: her accusers were her husband and their 16-year-old child.More than four decades on, Fang's son is seeking to atone by telling her story and calling for the preservation of her grave in their home town of Guzhen, central Anhui province, as a cultural relic....

  • Originally published 03/28/2013

    China's First Lady was crooner to troops who suppressed Tiananmen Square protests

    BEIJING — A photo of China’s new first lady Peng Liyuan in younger days, singing to martial-law troops following the 1989 bloody military crackdown on pro-democracy protesters, flickered across Chinese cyberspace this week.It was swiftly scrubbed from China’s Internet before it could generate discussion online. But the image — seen and shared by outside observers — revived a memory the leadership prefers to suppress and shows one of the challenges in presenting Peng on the world stage as the softer side of China.The country has no recent precedent for the role of first lady, and also faces a tricky balance at home. The leadership wants Peng to show the human side of the new No. 1 leader, Xi Jinping, while not exposing too many perks of the elite. And it must balance popular support for the first couple with an acute wariness of personality cults that could skew the consensus rule among the Chinese Communist Party’s top leaders....

  • Originally published 03/28/2013

    Forgotten women victims of World War II

    Ahn Sehong had to go to China to recover a vanishing — and painful — part of Korea’s wartime history. Visiting small villages and overcoming barriers of language and distrust, he documented the tales of women — some barely teenagers — who had been forced into sexual slavery during World War II by the Japanese Army.Starting in 2001, he began tracking down 13 of these women who had been stranded in China after the war. Now in their 80s and 90s, some were childless, others penniless. Most lived in hovels, often in the same dusty rural towns where they had endured the war. They had been away from their native land so long, some could no longer speak Korean.Mr. Ahn had no doubts about their identity.“Each one of these women is history,” he said. “They have suffered the biggest pain created by the war. Everyone forgot about the suffering these women went through. But I want to embrace them. As Koreans, we have to take care of them.”...

  • Originally published 03/26/2013

    Macau: China's Unlikely Bridge to the Lusophone

    The view from Macau Fortaleza do Monte. Credit: Wiki Commons.One of the most memorable dates I have ever had was on the walls of a seventeenth-century fort. Located on a small lush hill in the middle of a Chinese city, in the September rain you could see and smell the warm waters of the tropical ocean. The cannons evoke the first Iberian intrusions into Asia, when southern European sailors -- essentially pirates or middlemen plying the lucrative trade between much larger Asian countries -- were the first Europeans to set foot in the country. To the south the powerful Malay sultanate of Melaka, a tributary state of the Ming, was the first to fall. Further east the Portuguese attempt to proselytize Japan -- resisted violently by the archipelago's warrior rulers -- also left deep marks on that country’s history. In Macau, the latest addition to China’s territory, Asia's mostly forgotten encounter with Europe in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries finds beautiful expression in the city's forts and baroque architecture.

  • Originally published 03/25/2013

    Clarissa Sebag-Montefiore: False Historical Consciousness

    Clarissa Sebag-Montefiore is an editor at Time Out Beijing.BEIJING — My courtyard home in the heart of old Beijing has a view of the Drum Tower, which for centuries helped citizens keep track of the time.The tower still rolls its drums daily for tourists. But over the past few weeks a different rumbling could be heard in the public square where it stands: the sound of sledgehammers knocking down surrounding buildings.For years, the government has proposed leveling the zone around the Drum Tower and the neighboring Bell Tower, known in Chinese as Gulou and Zhonglou, respectively. In 2010, local media reported that except for the two towers, the area, a maze of snaking hutong alleyways and ramshackle courtyard homes, would be demolished to make way for a new “Beijing Time Cultural City” and underground mall.That did not come to pass. But in late 2012, the government posted new notices ordering local businesses and residents to vacate by Feb. 24. My home, which is one hutong down from the square, will be spared, but dozens are slated for destruction. Many residents have already left; those who have stayed are demanding more compensation....

  • Originally published 03/20/2013

    Afghanistan moves to salvage ancient Buddhist city

    It had the potential to be another Afghanistan Buddha disaster, recalling the Taliban’s destruction of two ancient statues that had stood for centuries in this country’s west: A buried Buddhist city lost to time was about to be obliterated by what promised to be one of the largest copper mines in the world.Now, however, thanks to delays in construction of the massive mine and a hefty influx of cash from the World Bank, the 1.5-square-mile Mes Aynak complex is an archaeological triumph – though bittersweet.An international team of archaeologists and more than 550 local laborers are now frantically excavating what turns out to be a unique window into Afghanistan’s role on the ancient Silk Road connecting China and India with the Mediterranean.With its Buddhist city, a ring of perhaps a half-dozen monasteries and a striking complex of workshops and mine shafts built into a high mountain ridgeline at an altitude of 8,200 feet, the site shows the interplay of Buddhism, mining and trade during the years it was in operation, now thought to be from the fifth to the late eighth centuries....

  • Originally published 03/13/2013

    Illinois scientists find rare coin in Kenya

    Scientists from Illinois have found a rare, 600-year-old Chinese coin on the Kenyan island of Manda.The Field Museum in Chicago announced the find Wednesday. The joint expedition was led by Chapurukha Kusimba of the museum and Sloan Williams of the University of Illinois-Chicago. Researchers say the coin proves trade existed between China and eastern Africa decades before European explorers set sail....

  • Originally published 03/11/2013

    History unfolds--the states of Sui and Zeng

    The discovery of a 2,500-year-old dagger in Hubei province might prove that the states of Sui and Zeng were actually the same. Wang Ru shares his findings.Huang Fengchun, a leading archaeologist in Hubei province, has been receiving congratulatory messages from fellow archaeologists ever since he unearthed a bronze dagger in January.The treasure is 21 cm long and at least 2,500 years old, with a nine-character inscription on it, which literally means "dagger offering to the Great Minister of War of Sui". It is now wrapped and kept in the storeroom by his office that looks like an air-raid shelter, in the basement of Suizhou Museum....

  • Originally published 03/11/2013

    Chinese excavate early bronze armor

    Archaeologists in northwest China's Shaanxi Province said Sunday that one piece of thigh armor and two pieces of upper-body armor dating back 3,000 years may be the oldest pieces of bronze armor ever unearthed in China.The announcement was made after experts studied the artifacts retrieved from the tomb of a nobleman from the West Zhou Dynasty (1046 BC - 771 BC) in Shigushan Mountain of Baoji City.Liu Junshe, head of the excavation team, said the discovery filled in a blank in China's early military history, as excavations of pieces of armor forged during or prior to the Qin Dynasty (221 BC - 206 BC) have been rare....

  • Originally published 02/27/2013

    Palace maids cemetery unearthed in NW China

    A public cemetery uncovered in the city of Xi'an, capital of Northwest China's Shaanxi province, was used for maids of the Tang Dynasty (618 - 907), an archaeologist told Xinhua Tuesday. A dozen tombs, located in the west of the thousands-year-old city, were found in April, 2012, Liu Daiyun, a Shaanxi Archeology Research Institute researcher said. Since then, the tombs have been examined....

  • Originally published 02/13/2013

    John Blaxland and Rikki Kersten: East Asia in 2013 Resembles Europe in 1913

    Dr John Blaxland is Senior Fellow at the Strategic and Defence Studies Centre, the Australian National University.Rikki Kersten is Professor of modern Japanese political history in the School of International, Political and Strategic Studies at the College of Asia and the Pacific, the Australian National University.The recent activation of Chinese weapons radars aimed at Japanese military platforms around the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands is the latest in a series of incidents in which China has asserted its power and authority at the expense of its neighbours.

  • Originally published 02/06/2013

    Is Turkey Leaving the West?

    Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan with then Russian President Dmitry Medvedev. Credit: Wiki Commons.Originally posted on DanielPipes.orgRecent steps taken by the government of Turkey suggest it may be ready to ditch the NATO club of democracies for a Russian and Chinese gang of authoritarian states.Here is the evidence:

  • Originally published 01/28/2013

    Jim Cullen: Review of David Shambaugh's "China Goes Global: The Partial Power" (Oxford, 2013)

    Jim Cullen, who teaches at the Ethical Culture Fieldston School in New York, is a book review editor at HNN. His new book, Sensing the Past: Hollywood Stars and Historical Visions, has just been published by Oxford University Press. Cullen blogs at American History Now.Here's a book that has its title right -- a statement worth making because so many stretch or bend them for marketing purposes. And that's only the beginning of the elegant distillation George Washington University political scientist David Shambaugh provides in this useful volume, which offers a detailed yet concise portrait of a nation widely perceived as on the cusp of what the Chinese government often ascribes to its American rival: hegemony.

  • Originally published 01/24/2013

    Native American connection to 40,000 year old human in northwest China

    Detailed examination of samples of ancient DNA has revealed the genetic makeup of humans living circa 40,000 years ago in an area near what is now Beijing in China.An international team of researchers including Svante Pääbo and Qiaomei Fu of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, have sequenced nuclear and mitochondrial DNA extracted from the leg of an early modern human from Tianyuan Cave near Beijing.Analyses of DNA recovered from the leg bones showed that the Tianyuan human shared a common origin with present-day Asians and Native Americans. In addition, the researchers found the proportion of Neanderthal and Denisovan-DNA in this early modern human is no higher than in current populations living in this region today....

  • Originally published 01/24/2013

    The China Blog: An Interview with Historian James H. Carter

    Historian James H. Carter recently wrote a piece for the Los Angeles Review of Books on a new “biography” of the “The Books of Changes,” an important Chinese classical text.  Asia Editor Jeffrey Wasserstrom caught up with Carter to ask him a few questions about, naturally enough, China and biography.JW: You began your review of Richard Smith’s new “biography” of the Yi Jing (Book of Changes) with some ruminations on the whole notion of biographies that don’t focus on individuals.  If there were one other book with a tie to China you think especially worthy of a “biography,” what would it be - and who would you like to see writeJHC: It’s hard to eschew “actual” biographies - ones about people - because there are so many lives in China’s past that are so rich and resonant.  Zhang Xueliang, who began life as the son of China’s most powerful warlord, and saw his homeland overrun by Japanese troops after his own commanders ordered him not to resist, played a key role in kidnapping Chiang Kai-shek and forcing him to cooperate with the Communists before living for decades under house arrest in Taiwan (eventually dying - at age 100! - in Hawaii), seems a more than deserving subject.

  • Originally published 01/18/2013

    Gen. Yang Baibing Dies at 93; Led Tiananmen Crackdown

    BEIJING — Gen. Yang Baibing, a military strongman who carried out the violent suppression of student-led protests in Tiananmen Square in 1989 and was later purged because of fears that he was accruing too much power, died here on Tuesday. He was 93.His death was reported by the official Xinhua news agency. A statement issued by the party’s Central Committee provided the sort of terse homage typically reserved for a disgraced political figure, saying, “He was a seasoned loyal Communist fighter and a proletarian revolutionist.”

  • Originally published 01/17/2013

    Plan to bulldoze courtyard homes for 18th-century-style square in Beijing

    BEIJING — In a corner of old Beijing, the government may soon be both destroying history and remaking it.District officials want to re-create a piece of China’s glorious dynastic past by rebuilding a square near the Drum and Bell towers in 18th-century Qing Dynasty fashion. To do it, they will demolish dozens of scuffed courtyard homes that preservationists say have themselves become a part of a cultural history that is fast disappearing as construction transforms the capital.Because of relatively recent renovation, few of the homes can claim to be more than a few decades old. But they are in crooked alleyways known as “hutongs,” which formed around courtyard houses and date back centuries....

  • Originally published 01/17/2013

    Jeffrey Wasserstrom: Is China’s Communist Party Choking?

    Jeffrey Wasserstrom is Chancellor’s Professor of History at UC Irvine, the author of China in the 21stCentury: What Everyone Needs to Know and co-editor of Chinese Characters: Profiles of Fast-Changing Lives in a Fast-Changing Land.

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