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.
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..
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.
“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.
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.
Kyrgyzstan: Travels on the Synthetic Road From the Trans-Caspian Railway terminus in Andijan, Gustaf Mannerheim travelled by horse cart to Osh, one of the oldest markets in Central Asia and now located in Kyrgyzstan. From here, he and Paul Pelliot went north to Uzgen to procure horses at a famed animal market. They stayed in [...]
Kashgar: Mission Impossible A day or two from Irkeshtam Pass, Gustaf Mannerheim separated from Paul Pelliot, the legendary French sinologist with whom he was travelling from Osh. The two men did not get along, and a power struggle ensued about who was in charge of the expedition. However, they both stayed at the Russian consulate [...]
To Khotan: Oases and Outposts On October 6, 1906, Gustaf Mannerheim left Kashgar for a return expedition to Khotan, about 500 kilometres away on the southern fringe of the Taklimakan Desert. His mission was to investigate rumours of Japanese and British military officers doing secret reconnaissance in the region. It was a monotonous, grueling trek [...]
Tian Shan Range: The Horse that Leaps Through Clouds From Kashgar, Gustaf Mannerheim ventured northward to the foothills of the Tian Shan range. The Chief of the Russian General Staff had instructed him to conduct reconnaissance of the alpine passes and ethnic groups living in the shadow of the Tian Shan range. He left Kashgar [...]
Urumqi: The Banquet Gustaf Mannerheim rested for a month in Urumqi in the summer of 1907. He stayed at the Russian consulate in the south of the city, and visited with local mandarins and Duke Lan, the exiled Manchu nobleman who helped to instigate the anti-foreign uprising and attack on the Peking Legations in 1900. [...]
From Urumqi, Gustaf Mannerheim travelled over the Bogda Shan range to the ancient ruined cities scattered in the Turpan Depression. He spent time collecting manuscript fragments and other ancient scraps at the ruins of Jiaohe and Gaocheng, and visited the Buddhist caves at Bezeklik in the Flaming Mountains and in a gorge behind the Uyghur village of Toyuk. He then continued on to the eastern part of Xinjiang, visiting Barkol and Hami before crossing the border into Gansu Province. In Gansu, his first significant stop was Dunhuang, an ancient crossroads on the Silk Road.
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.
Hexi Corridor: Barbarians Inside the Gate Route Map Click on the features to view details about Mannerheim’s route from Jiayuguan into territories traditionally occupied by the Western and Eastern Yugur peoples. The modern Sunan Yugur Autonomous County is shaded orange on the map and my route is depicted by the blue line. View Chapter 11: [...]
Xi’an: Capitalism with Chinese Characteristics On April 28, 1908, Gustaf Mannerheim’s small horse caravan entered the western gate of the fortress wall surrounding Xi’an. The city, located in Central China, is one of four ancient capitals. It was once known as Chang’an and had been the eastern terminus of the Silk Road. Yet it wasn’t [...]
Labrang: Stoned In 1906, the Chief of the Russian General Staff instructed Gustaf Mannerheim to “assess general conditions and local attitudes to Chinese policies, the political movements in regions or in local tribes toward self-government, [and] the role of the Dalai Lama in such movements.” So from Lanzhou, he ventured into southern Gansu or what [...]
Lanzhou: The Chinese Renaissance In 1907, Lanzhou was still an archaic outpost whose fortified clay walls ran for two kilometres along the Yellow River. It lay pinched at a narrow spot in the dramatic river gorge, surrounded by mountaintop temples, terraced farmland and fruit groves. Inside the fortress town, streets recently paved in cobblestone were [...]
Henan: The Harmonious Countryside After twenty-two months of travelling through the dusty steppes and torrid deserts of Inner Asia and Western China, Gustaf Mannerheim arrived in Zhengzhou, the capital of Henan province, on May 29, 1908. He felt that he had finally “reached the civilized zone of China” with railways, Chinese speaking broken French, telegraph [...]
Wutai Shan: The Wanderer At first, Wutai Shan seems like an odd stopover for Gustaf Mannerheim, a Russian spy tasked with assessing China’s strength and the loyalty of its ethnic minorities, particularly Muslims, Mongols and Tibetans. It is one of four sacred mountains for Chinese Buddhism, and is located in a remote knot of mountains [...]
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.
Preliminary Report on the Trip Undertaken by Imperial Order Across Chinese Turkestan and the Northern Provinces of China to Peking in 1906–07 and 1908 by Col. Baron Mannerheim
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 [...]