The seemingly only thing Chairman Mao and Santa Claus have in common is an infatuation with the colour red. After all, only a short time ago Ye Olde Saint Nick and his merry elves would have been attacked as counterrevolutionaries and agents of Western Imperialism in Communist China. But change is now fast afoot in China.
“The Chinese authorities seem to guard the Dalai Lama closely,” Baron Gustaf Mannerheim wrote in his diary in July 1908. The Russian colonel, who was on a secret intelligence-gathering mission in China, had just arrived at Wutai Shan, the most sacred of four Buddhist mountains in China. One of its mountaintop temples was, he wrote, “the present abode, not to say prison, of the Buddhists’ pope, the Dalai Lama.”
In 2006, I celebrated the 800th anniversary of Genghis Khan’s inauguration as Mongol ruler at a Mongolian restaurant in Hohhot, the capital of China’s Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region. It was a bittersweet affair.
Harry Halén, a philologist and the foremost expert on Gustaf Mannerheim’s Asian expedition, has just been nominated for the Teito-Finlandia book award for nonfiction for his masterful new edition of Mannerheim’s travelogue. Like his original diary, or dagbok in Swedish, this three-volume book is in Mannerheim’s mother tongue.
The Economist‘s cover is both cheeky and prescient: China’s Communist leaders are, in fact, ruling and reforming the country much like the late Qing Dynasty a century ago. Back then, the Manchu rulers instituted widespread reforms in almost every sphere of life in China. The empire underwent massive social and economic transformation. There is one area, however, where the Imperial rulers of yore, like the Communists today, refused to make significant changes. That’s political reform.
Some 120 prominent activists and scholars have penned a letter calling for political reform and supporting Nobel Peace prize winner Liu Xiaobo. This comes on the heels of earlier letter by Communist Party elders calling for Beijing to lift censorship which stifles and warps civil society in China..
Stefan Geens, the blogger behind Ogle Earth, provides a guest blog including photos of Kashgar’s demolition and a Google Earth map of old and new Kashgar.
The awarding of the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize to Liu Xiaobo, a Chinese citizen, has drawn strong reactions both inside and outside China. This is a major event in modern Chinese history. It offers the prospect of a significant new advance for Chinese society in its peaceful transition toward democracy and constitutional government.
In an eerie way, Kashgar reminds me of Paris. While researching my book, I visited the Uyghur oasis in China’s western region of Xinjiang and saw it undergoing a massive demolition. The reason: Chinese officials say the town’s old neighbourhoods are unsafe and vulnerable to earthquakes. The solution: raze the ancient quarter and reconstruct a new city.
The wild grasslands of Inner Mongolia are disappearing, but that’s only the most visibly sign of a socio-ecological transformation that began a century ago with the widespread colonization of Mongol pasture lands by Han Chinese farmers.
“The national bird of China is the crane,” quipped Hu Xinyu, managing director of the Beijing Cultural Heritage Protection Centre. Construction cranes are indeed everywhere in China, and so is this joke. While travelling across China to research my book, I heard it in Lanzhou, Xi’an, Taiyuan and even far-flung Kashgar. But in Beijing it took on an especially bitter tone.
Listen to Steve Madely interview Eric Enno Tamm about his book The Horse That Leaps Through Clouds on CFRA 580 News Talk Radio in Ottawa on September 7, 2010.
One of the riches treasures that Gustaf Mannerheim brought back from his journey along the Silk Road from 1906 to 1908 is his very considerable collection of photographs. The pictures contain a huge quantity of information, and the collection amounts to a colourful reportage of a bygone world and of peoples known to few Westerners at the time.
CNN’s Fareed Zakaria talks with Robert Kaplan, a Senior Fellow at the Center for a New American Security and a correspondent for The Atlantic, about his article in Foreign Affairs titled “The Geography of Chinese Power.”
Ken Miller, president of a merchant banking firm and director of the USA Pavilion at the 2010 Shanghai World Expo, has written a level-headed, sophisticated and cautiously optimistic article about China’s financial might in Foreign Affairs.
In 2000 to mark the anniversary of the founding of the Cheka, Nikolai Patrushev, who succeeded Vladimir Putin as director of Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB), made a rather frightful comment: “Our best colleagues, the honor and pride of the FSB, don’t do their work for the money… It is their sense of service. They are, if you like, our new ‘nobility.’”
Richard McGregor’s new book, The Party: The Secret World of China’s Communist Rulers, should be required reading for anyone wanting to do any kind of business in China. His narrative unfolds like Peter Matthiessen’s Snow Leopard, in which the writer tracks the mysterious cat through the Himalayas. With every gripping anecdote, McGregor gets closer to capturing the essence of the Party, but in the end this “beast”, like the snow leopard, proves elusive.
After what seemed like an eternity, the hard cover first edition of my book, published by Douglas & McIntyre, finally arrived this morning by courier. It has been a monumental project, which began a decade ago over a pint of lager at Lund University in Sweden.
The whizzes at Chinfographics have recently designed some interesting graphics showing how China’s enormity also creates anonymity for its many large cities. This is especially true for cities in the vast interior of China, far from the coastal mega-cities such as Shanghai or Shenzhen that are so well known in the West. While researching my book, I trekked through many of these huge, unheard of cities.
The final resting place of Genghis Khan is an utter wasteland—befitting, perhaps, of a ruthless conqueror who laid waste to so much of the world. It is located about 70 kilometres south of Dongsheng, the capital of the prefecture of Ordos in China’s Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region. Once dominated by Mongol nomads, the prefecture, with [...]
In 2006, I visited Osh, Central Asia’s most ancient Silk Road market in southern Kyrgyzstan, for a few days while researching my book. I spent time investigating the Osh and Karasuu bazaars as part of my interest in the New Silk Road. (Chapter 5 is titled “Travels on the Synthetic Road.”) I never felt any [...]
“To analyze China’s future,” Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd recently opined, “we need to better understand China’s extraordinary history, including its long evolution of reform and foreign engagement. That is a complex task.” Rudd should know. The Australian Prime Minister majored in Mandarin and Chinese history at university, and his country with its geographic proximity [...]
To the Finland Station Gustaf Mannerheim had originally planned to return to St. Petersburg via Japan and the United States, or perhaps via India and the Suez Canal, but he was terribly short of money. The only option remaining, he grumbled in a letter to his brother, would be “the unpleasant railway trip across Siberia.” [...]