Journal of Political Risk, Vol. 6, No. 2, February 2018
WHAT’S WRONG WITH CHINA By Paul Midler 227 pp. Wiley. $25.00
Paul Midler’s What’s Wrong With China doesn’t disappoint. Anecdotes, theories, and historical curiosities fall from its pages in answer to its titular question. Midler’s stories of caution are current, enjoyable, accessible, historically grounded, and witty. But the deeper importance of the book is that Midler, as a sharp and knowledgeable outsider to academic China studies, can criticize, revive, and develop theories in a way that staid academics would never dare. In a field careful about even mentioning sensitive topics like Taiwan, Tibet, and Xinjiang, Midler’s latest book is a bulldozer with bumper-stickers to offend almost anyone. Which is why it’s a great read. The field is being shaken up by President Trump’s tweets, President Xi’s disconnect with how his increasingly totalitarian government is perceived abroad, and now by Midler.
Journal of Political Risk, Vol. 6, No. 1, January 2018
By Arthur Waldron
I have some thoughts about the “year of doom” 2018 that appeared on the web yesterday. They are as follows:
(1) China has undertaken her dangerous policies for internal reasons. That is how China is. She has no pressing or other need for Scarborough Shoal in the Philippines EEZ, for example.
(2) We know (1) is true because Xi Jin Ping goes on an on about loyalty, reshuffles the army, creates the most boring flag raising ceremony in history, and was reported to get in a fight with a general about whether the army should be made national instead of party. Who after all is going to take a bullet for Xi? We need to get to the root of this domestic phenomenon, but how is an almost impossible question.
(3) China’s tactics have sought to win without fighting by overawing small countries (and not-so-small countries, like India and Indonesia) using their awesome military as no more than a threat and their awesome economy likewise. The problems are (a) even the Philippines is not overawed and China is very much on the wrong side of international law and (b) this is important: China overestimates her own achievements. Maoism was a cesspool. She has gotten out rinsed off, and started some large but financially dodgy corporations. Skyscrapers have sprouted and tilted.
Group of People’s Liberation Army (PLA) soldiers in China. Credit: Getty Images.
Journal of Political Risk, Vol. 5, No. 6, June 2017
By Arthur Waldron, Ph.D.
Yan Liangkun, last of the legendary conductors of The Yellow River Cantata (1939) the powerful classic composed by Xian Xinghai in wartime, is dead. With him dies a precious and authentic Chinese revolutionary tradition, that of those who once truly believed. Our house echoed with the music all morning. It filled with tears the eyes of me, a simple white boy from the Boston suburbs, still unable to distinguish the five grains, and prompting all sorts of reflections.
We are drawing very near to the end of an era, when people are still alive who remember the radiant vision of the New China that would arise, somehow from the good land and rivers themselves, of war ravaged China (Rana Mitter tells us 20 million dead). In their imaginations that vision still lives, under the layers of tragedy, personal suffering and disappointment, as what guided them and consumed their spirits when they were young and has never died. Somehow we must capture this, for these were sincere people, whose love of country was simple and absolutely authentic (though few ever carried a gun: that was for the lower orders).
Shanghai, China. Xian Xinghai at about 23 years old in the 1920s. He composed the Yellow River Cantata, a classical work that uses a series of powerful Chinese melodies to evoke the beauty of China and the heroism of the war of resistance against Japan (1937-1945). Source: People’s Republic of China
Journal of Political Risk, Vol. 5, No. 2, February 2017
By Tom Stern
As President Donald Trump takes command 28 Years after the Tiananmen Square Massacre in Beijing, there are three prominent groups which are considered by the Communist Party of China (CPC) to be dissident and subversive to its ideals, posing a danger to political stability. Each of these could potentially become the backbone necessary for the expansion of freedoms in China.
The 退黨運動 (Tuìdǎng yùndòng), or Tuidang movement for short, is one that seeks the abolition of the CPC. Literally meaning “to withdraw from the Communist Party,” its members are bound by their desire to end the corruption tied to the Party. Caylan Ford, in his dissertation “Tradition and Dissent in China: The Tuidang Movement and its Challenge to the Communist Party” notes a key difference between the movement and those before it in that, rather than drawing from western principles and ideals of democracy and free expression, it seeks to act as a mirror to the nation’s idealized past. In its reflexive approach, the movement employs exigent and distinct Chinese language and ways of thought, such as Confucianism. Ironically, Ford also notes that the movement views the Communist ideology as a largely foreign and detrimental one, “which is portrayed as antithetical to true Chinese values, human nature, and universal laws.” Rather than using a geopolitically-charged force behind its espoused arguments, the Tuidang movement draws from both history and morality in its efforts to compel the Chinese public to recognize their unified, and wholly unnecessary, suffering under the Communist Party.
Long considered an anchor of East African stability, Tanzania has recently made headlines for aggressive expansion of its mining and extractive industries. In what might be considered growing pains, economic prosperity has strained government and civilian relations, and is increasingly testing the governance skills of Tanzania’s Ministries. Adverse investment laws, widening religious conflict, and proliferation of small arms and light weapons, however, tarnish Tanzania’s image as a peaceful and prosperous republic. Continue reading →
Despite the political change that just swept Venezuela — which may indicate a decrease in the promotion of socialism from that country — a more powerful influence for Latin American socialism just arose in Rome. Today Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio became Pope Francis, a name he chose after a Saint known for his asceticism. While socially conservative (e.g., on abortion and gay rights), Cardinal Bergoglio was known to eschew the luxuries of his station for a simple life that included modest quarters, self-cooked meals, and hailing the bus in Buenos Aires. His sermons suggest great sympathy for social justice and the poor, and he comes from Latin America (Washington Post).
Bergoglia’s reputed historical links to 1970s fascism in Argentina, and his political astuteness, means that he wants to prove otherwise. Regardless of his true feelings, it will be hard for him not to play to his massive constituency of poor Catholics in Latin America — the greatest number of Catholics worldwide. Nearly all of Latin America’s poor will be looking to him to address their plight. Regardless of the position he takes on poverty in the future, the lay Catholic ministry in Latin America, and political entrepreneurs farther up the hierarchy, will gain favor among their largely overlapping constituencies for presenting the new Pope as supportive of socialist endeavors. This points to a revival of the liberation theology of the 1980s, and a greater probability of socialist-inspired coups, revolutions, debt defaults, and nationalizations — especially in Latin America.
Journal of Political Risk, Vol. 6, No. 2, February 2018
WHAT’S WRONG WITH CHINA
By Paul Midler
227 pp. Wiley. $25.00