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Virtual protest in China

Filed under: — Alan Baumler @ 9:34 am
From Danwei (via Virtual China) a post on protests in ZT Online (征途), the largest on-line game in China. That there are on-line games that cater to Chinese users is not surprising if only because of the language barrier and the lag time across the Pacific. ((I tried to get on to ZT for this post, but the lag was something awful)) According to the article however, the main reason Chinese gamers like Chinese games is that
"Chinese gamers are an unwelcome species on European and American servers," said a game manager who once worked on World of Warcraft. Chinese players always have ways of quickly ascending levels that leave European and American gamers in the dust, and on group missions they do not like to respect the tacit rules of profit division. For those "pedantic" European and American gamers, Chinese players are like fearsome pagans. "European and American games do not encourage unlimited superiority of power; they put more of an emphasis on balance and cooperative support." The former WOW manager said, "Perhaps this is because of the influence of traditional culture and the current environment; truth be told, Chinese gamers are better suited to jungle-style gaming."
Ahh, those individualistic Chinese just don't get along with the group-oriented Euro-Americans. The essay itself is interesting enough, although the author needs to spend more time on Terra Nova. One thing that struck me is the bit on sit-down strikes, something I talked about here before. One of the big differences that the essay mentions is that ZT makes no effort at all to maintain the fiction that the game world is non-commercial or more accurately that it is a commercial world unattached to ours. If you want success in the game you can just buy it for real-world cash from the company. At one point this led to a protest from the players (who thought they were being cheated) and staged a sit-down strike.
Gamers were furious. They stopped fighting monsters, refused quests, and the kingdom's rulers sat down in a rare peace and refused to request wars. The Royal Plaza at the center of the game map was thickly dotted with seated warriors, mages, archers, and summoners. These characters, usually bent on slaughter, used absolute peace to protest the insatiable greed of the system.
I assume that in order to sit down in the Royal Plaza players would have to actually log into the game and sit there, so it seems that people are going to some effort to protest like this, so these forms of protest seem to have broken the digital barrier. Needless to say the ringleader of the protest was imprisoned by the game company and killed. This being a game she was killed several times.

Yang Tianshi on the Chiang Kai-Shek Diaries

Filed under: — K. M. Lawson @ 9:30 am
Jonathan Benda reports on a talk by the historian Yang Tianshi on Chiang Kai-Shek's diaries given at Tunghai university in Taiwan. Professor Yang is a very well published and respected historian, and I had a chance to meet him when he was the chairman of the Chinese delegation to the Third International Conference on Wartime China held in Hakone in November, 2006 that brought together Japanese, Chinese, Taiwanese, and North American historians to discuss issues related to the Sino-Japanese war. According to Benda's notes on the talk, Professor Yang argues that Chiang's diaries were primarily written for himself, rather than written with his future legacy in mind.
He said that two key pieces of evidence for this are how much CKS cursed (罵) people close to him, and how much private, even confessional, material is in the diaries. (CKS used to give himself demerits for looking lustily at women.) Prof. Yang argued that CKS would not have wanted this kind of material to be made public...One result of the private nature of Chiang's diaries, according to Prof. Yang, is that we can learn a lot more about what was really going on in CKS's head at certain important historical moments, such as the 1926 Zhongshan Warship Incident and the 1936 Xi'an Incident.
I find this quite interesting since I have seen the diaries used in quite a number of places and whenever I have heard them mentioned in presentations, it is usually accompanied by warnings about the care that needs to be taken when using the source. The first thing thing this makes me wonder is why, if Chiang was concerned about the confessional material and other damaging contents ever becoming public, he did not take better care to destroy what must have amounted to a huge amount of material (if the diaries indeed covered the period 1915-1972)? Surely the great generalissimo must have suspected these diaries would get into the hands of someone following his death and get published? Were there secret orders for them all to be burned that were betrayed following his death? Sounds like there could be a great story here. Second, given Chiang's exposure to Christian, Western, and Japanese historical, military, and political traditions and heroes that are filled with the diaries, memoirs, etc. of great leaders - I really find it very difficult to believe that Chiang could have put pen to paper every time he made a diary entry and not ever have imagined his words were speaking to an audience larger than one. Although I haven't come across it myself, I suspect there is a whole theoretical literature among historians and literary scholars on the topic of diaries, their authors, and their conscious or unconscious audience. I would venture to suggest that it is really difficult for an author, writing something like a diary - or a weblog, for that matter, to maintain a consistent audience in mind across a large span of time. Let me give a few examples. I have a public personal weblog that mixes postings about my own life with my thoughts on more academic and political topics. When I write, I try to imagine that my own graduate advisor or a future hiring committee is reading every posting (I honestly hope they don't and won't). The idea is that this way I don't write anything that would be inappropriate for the widest possible audience. This is the reverse of what Professor Yang is arguing. However, going back over my entries, I notice that over the past few years, I see numerous postings where I slip, where I can tell that I was writing a posting which had a much smaller audience in mind - and though not too embarrassing, is probably not the kind of thing I would written if I really was imagining that hiring committee or advisor reading it. Isn't the opposite quite common too? Maybe I'm on my own here, but I don't think I have ever been able to write a diary entry in my life where the thought hasn't occasionally crossed my mind: won't someone else someday somewhere possibly see what I wrote? Are there really people out there, especially ambitious military and political leaders, who are so confident that they are the one eternal and only audience for their writing? I suspect that at the very least, CKS suffered from the kinds of "lapses" that I mentioned above - a kind of "audience" slippage in his writing. Finally, as a historian, we must confront the issue of what it means to know what is "in someone's head." The issue of diary audience notwithstanding, the actions, intentions, and opinions of someone like CKS caught in the Xi'an Incident, for example, inevitably goes through a form of translation as he puts his thoughts to paper. Diaries are not written thoughts, they are narrated thoughts. While what is put on paper in this manner does not lose historical value - we might want to be careful in how to articulate what it is that we have found. I didn't hear Professor Yang's talk or how exactly he expressed these ideas but it sounds like it was a fascinating discussion of an important historical source. I'm curious what others have to say about some of these issues surrounding the diaries of leaders like CKS? UPDATE: Jonathan records another interesting comment by Professor Yang: "One last thing that Prof. Yang mentioned--he said that Chiang's status has risen in China from that of a devil (鬼) to a human (人), while in Taiwan, coincidentally, it seems his status has gone from god to human. (No one commented on the immediate political conditions that might be responsible for that coincidence.)" On this point, Sayaka over at Prison Notebooks has an interesting posting worth checking out.


Journals: Critical Asian Studies Vol 39 No 3

Filed under: — K. M. Lawson @ 10:40 pm
Below is the table of contents for the september issue of Critical Asian Studies: Critical Asian Studies 2007 ; VOL 39 ; PART 3   (2007/09/01)  EALA Wiki Entry for this journal Article Title: Submerged and submerging voices : hegomony and the decline of the Narmada Bachao Andolan in Gujarat , 1998 - 2001 Author(s): Whitehead , Judith Page: 339-421 Article Title: The Limits of Protest and Prospects for Political Reform in Malaysia Author(s): Nair , Sheila Page: 339-368 Article Title: Robo Sapiens Japanicus : Humanoid Robots and the Posthuman Family Author(s): Robertson , Jennifer Page: 369-398 Article Title: Inequality for the Greater Good : Gendered State Rule in Singapore Author(s): Yenn , Teo You Page: 423-445 Article Title: Beyond Modern : Shimizu Shikin and "Two Modern Girls" Author(s): Winston , Leslie Page: 447-481 Article Title: IRAQ AND THE LESSONS OF VIETNAM : Introduction Author(s): Gardner , Lloyd ; Young , Marilyn Page: 483-498 Article Title: Book Review Page: 499-503 About TOS Updates

Journals: The China Quarterly Vol 192

Filed under: — K. M. Lawson @ 10:35 pm
Below is the table of contents for the December issue of the China Quarterly: The China Quarterly 2007 ; VOL 192 ; PART 01   (2007/12/01)  EALA Wiki Entry for this journal Article Title: Index of Books Reviewed Page: iv-viii Article Title: Index for 2007 Page: i-iii Article Title: Index of Authors Page: xiii-xiv Article Title: Index to Quarterly Chronicle Page: ix-xii Article Title: Integrating Wealth and Power in China : The Communist Party's Embrace of the Private Sector Page: 827-854 Article Title: From Resisting to "Embracing ? " the One - Child Rule : Understanding New Fertility Trends in a Central China Village Page: 855-875 Article Title: Clans for Markets : The Social Organization of Inter - Firm Trading Relations in China's Automobile Industry Page: 876-897 Article Title: Rural Households , Dragon Heads and Associations : A Case Study of Sweet Potato Processing in Sichuan Province Page: 898-914 Article Title: The Political Ecology of Pollution Enforcement in China : A Case from Sichuan's Rural Industrial Sector Page: 915-932 Article Title: Ethnicization through Schooling : The Mainstream Discursive Repertoires of Ethnic Minorities Page: 933-948 Article Title: State - Press Relationship in Post - 1997 Hong Kong : Constant Negotiation amidst Self - Restraint Page: 949-970 Article Title: The Making of Chinese Intellectuals : Representations and Organization in the Thought Reform Campaign Page: 971-989 Article Title: Was Japanese Colonialism Good for the Welfare of Taiwanese ? Stature and the Standard of Living Page: 990-1013 Article Title: The China Quarterly Page: 1018-1019 Article Title: Books Received Page: 1052-1057 Article Title: Quarterly chronicle and documentation Page: 1058-1084 Article Title: Contributors Page: 1085-1087 About TOS Updates

Journals: Journal of Asian Studies Vol 66 No 4

Filed under: — K. M. Lawson @ 10:17 pm
Below is the table of contents of the November issue of JAS. Journal of Asian Studies 2007 ; VOL 66 ; PART 4   (2007/11/01)  EALA Wiki Entry for this journal Article Title: Law and Custom under the Choson Dynasty and Colonial Korea : A Comparative Perspective Author(s): Kim , M . S . - H . Page: 1067-1098 Article Title: Bharucha , Another Asia : Rabindranath Tagore and Okakura Tenshin Author(s): Katrak , K . H . Page: 1099-1100 Article Title: Cannell , ed . , The Anthropology of Christianity Author(s): de la Cruz , D . Page: 1101-1102 Article Title: Mair , ed . , Contact and Exchange in the Ancient World Author(s): Lawergren , B . Page: 1103-1104 Article Title: Yoffee and Crowell , eds . , Excavating Asian History : Interdisciplinary Studies in Archaeology and History Author(s): Flad , R . Page: 1105-1106 Article Title: Ash and Greene , eds . , Taiwan in the 21st Century : Aspects and Limitations of a Development Model Author(s): Rubinstein , M . Page: 1107-1108 Article Title: Brockey , Journey to the East : The Jesuit Mission to China , 1579 - 1724 Author(s): Delury , J . Page: 1109 Article Title: Carroll , Between Heaven and Modernity : Reconstructing Suzhou , 1895 - 1937 Author(s): Wasserstrom , J . N . Page: 1110-1111 Article Title: Dikotter , Exotic Commodities : Modern Objects and Everyday Life in China Author(s): Goldstein , J . Page: 1112-1113 Article Title: Dong and Goldstein , eds . , Everyday Modernity in China Author(s): Nedostup , R . Page: 1114-1115 Article Title: Kinkley , Corruption and Realism in Late Socialist China : The Return of the Political Novel Author(s): Song , W . Page: 1116 Article Title: Knapp , Selfless Offspring : Filial Children and Social Order in Medieval China Author(s): Epstein , M . Page: 1117-1118 Article Title: Lee , ed . , Working in China : Ethnographies of Labor and Workplace Transformation Author(s): Frazier , M . W . Page: 1119-1120 Article Title: Lloyd and Sivin , The Way and the Word : Science and Medicine in Early China and Greece Author(s): Csikszentmihalyi , M . Page: 1121 Article Title: Michael , The Pristine Dao : Metaphysics in Early Daoist Discourse Author(s): Miller , J . Page: 1122-1123 Article Title: Notar , Displacing Desire : Travel and Popular Culture in China Author(s): Davies , D . J . Page: 1124-1125 Article Title: Rowe , Crimson Rain : Seven Centuries of Violence in a Chinese County Author(s): Dardess , J . W . Page: 1126-1127 Article Title: Schipper and Verellen , eds . , The Taoist Canon : A Historical Companion to the Daozang Author(s): Ziporyn , B . Page: 1128 Article Title: von Falkenhausen , Chinese Society in the Age of Confucius ( 1000 - 250 BC ) : The Archaeological Evidence Author(s): Shaughnessy , E . L . Page: 1129-1131 Article Title: Wang and Rojas , eds . , Writing Taiwan : A New Literary History Author(s): Chiu , K . - f . Page: 1132-1133 Article Title: Wang , Personal Matters : Women's Autobiographical Practice in Twentieth - Century China Author(s): Lupke , C . Page: 1134-1136 Article Title: Yeh , Shanghai Love : Courtesans , Intellectuals , and Entertainment Culture , 1850 - 1910 Author(s): Forges , A . D . Page: 1137-1138 Article Title: Yu , State and Religion in China : Historical and Textual Perspectives Author(s): Gaustad , B . Page: 1139-1140 Article Title: Zhang , An Amorous History of the Silver Screen : Shanghai Cinema , 1896 - 1937 Author(s): Wang , Y . Page: 1141-1142 Article Title: Bangsbo , Teaching and Learning in Tibet : A Review of Research and Policy Publications Author(s): Yeh , E . T . Page: 1143-1144 Article Title: Di Cosmo , ed . and trans . , The Diary of a Manchu Soldier in Seventeenth - Century China : ``My Service in the Army' by Dzengseo Author(s): Graff , D . A . Page: 1145 Article Title: Doctor , Tibetan Treasure Literature : Revelation , Tradition , and Accomplishment in Visionary Buddhism Author(s): Gardner , A . Page: 1146-1147 Article Title: Kim , Holy War in China : The Muslim Rebellion and State in Chinese Central Asia , 1864 - 1877 Author(s): Bovingdon , G . Page: 1148-1149 Article Title: Liberman , Dialectical Practice in Tibetan Philosophical Culture : An Ethnomethodological Inquiry into Formal Reasoning Author(s): McClellan , J . Page: 1150-1151 Article Title: Papas , Soufisme et politique entre Chine , Tibet et Turkestan : Etude sur les Khwajas Naqshbandis du Turkestan oriental Author(s): Light , N . Page: 1152-1155 Article Title: Starr , ed . , Xinjiang : China's Muslim Borderland Author(s): Beller - Hann , I . Page: 1156-1157 Article Title: Svantesson et al . , eds . , The Phonology of Mongolian Author(s): Thompson , M . Page: 1158-1159 Article Title: Bartholomew - Feis , The OSS and Ho Chi Minh : Unexpected Allies in the War against Japan Author(s): Ulbrich , D . J . Page: 1160-1161 Article Title: Dator , Pratt , and Seo , eds . , Fairness , Globalization , and Public Institutions : East Asia and Beyond Author(s): Guan , B . T . C . Page: 1162 Article Title: Gabriel , Spirit Matters : The Transcendent in Modern Japanese Literature Author(s): Siary , G . Page: 1163-1166 Article Title: Havens , Radicals and Realists in the Japanese Nonverbal Arts : The Avant - Garde Rejection of Modernism Author(s): Igarashi , Y . Page: 1167-1168 Article Title: Nakamura , Deaf in Japan : Signing and the Politics of Identity Author(s): Baynton , D . C . Page: 1169-1173 Article Title: Shirane , ed . , Traditional Japanese Literature : An Anthology , Beginnings to 1600 Author(s): Strong , S . M . Page: 1174-1175 Article Title: Best , A History of the Early Korean Kingdom of Paekche , Together with an Annotated Translation of the Paekche Annals of the Samguk Sagi Author(s): McBride , R . D . Page: 1176-1177 Article Title: O'Rourke , ed . and trans . , The Book of Korean Poetry : Songs of Shilla and Koryo Author(s): Pettid , M . J . Page: 1178 Article Title: Pratt , Everlasting Flower : A History of Korea Seth , A Concise History of Korea : From the Neolithic Period through the Nineteenth Century Author(s): Robinson , M . E . Page: 1179-1180 Article Title: Wender , Lamentation as History : Narratives by Koreans in Japan , 1965 - 2000 Author(s): Kim , J . C . H . Page: 1181-1182 Article Title: Ahmed , Sorrow and Joy among Muslim Women : The Pukhtuns of Northern Pakistan Author(s): Sharma , K . Page: 1183-1184 Article Title: Banerjee , Make Me a Man ! Masculinity , Hinduism , and Nationalism in India Author(s): Reddy , D . S . Page: 1185-1186 Article Title: Dalmia , Poetics , Plays and Performances : The Politics of Modern Indian Theatre Author(s): Bhatia , N . Page: 1187-1191 Article Title: Dharwadker , Theatres of Independence : Drama , Theory , and Urban Performance in India since 1947 Author(s): Bhatia , N . Page: 1187-1192 Article Title: Deegalle , Popularizing Buddhism : Preaching as Performance in Sri Lanka Author(s): Overbey , R . R . Page: 1192 Article Title: Hawley and Narayanan , eds . , The Life of Hinduism Author(s): Rinehart , R . Page: 1193-1194 Article Title: Hodges , ed . , Reproductive Health in India : History , Politics , and Controversies Author(s): Khanna , S . K . Page: 1195-1196 Article Title: Korom , South Asian Folklore : A Handbook Author(s): Steindorf , S . Page: 1197-1198 Article Title: Neuman and Chaudhuri with Kothari , Bards , Ballads and Boundaries . An Ethnographic Atlas of Music Traditions in West Rajasthan Author(s): Erdman , J . L . Page: 1199-1200 Article Title: Niranjana , Mobilizing India : Women , Music , and Migration between India and Trinidad Author(s): Ramnarine , T . K . Page: 1201-1203 Article Title: Oddie , Imagined Hinduism : British Protestant Missionary Construction of Hinduism , 1793 - 1900 Author(s): King , R . Page: 1204-1205 Article Title: Ring , Zenana : Everyday Peace in a Karachi Apartment Building Author(s): Ronkin , M . Page: 1206-1207 Article Title: Singh , The Birth of the Khalsa : A Feminist Re - Memory of Sikh Identity Author(s): Thursby , G . Page: 1208-1209 Article Title: Whitaker , Learning Politics from Sivaram : The Life and Death of a Revolutionary Tamil Journalist in Sri Lanka Author(s): Gamburd , M . R . Page: 1210-1211 Article Title: Adams , Art as Politics : Re - Crafting Identities , Tourism and Power in Tana Toraja , Indonesia Author(s): Hoskins , J . Page: 1212-1213 Article Title: Anderson , Colonial Pathologies : American Tropical Medicine , Race , and Hygiene in the Philippines Author(s): Lahiri , S . Page: 1214-1216 Article Title: Boellstorff . The Gay Archipelago : Sexuality and Nation in Indonesia Author(s): Jones , C . Page: 1217-1219 Article Title: Cohen , The Komedie Stamboel : Popular Theater in Colonial Indonesia , 1891 - 1903 Author(s): Budi Susanto , S . J . Page: 1220-1221 Article Title: Tran and Reid , eds . , Viet Nam : Borderless Histories Author(s): Leshkowich , A . M . Page: 1222-1224 About TOS Updates

Journals: Modern China Vol 34 No 1

Filed under: — K. M. Lawson @ 10:03 pm
Below is the table of contents of the new Modern China issue: Modern China 2008; VOL 34; PART 1 (2008-January)  EALA Wiki Entry for this Journal Introduction to "The Nature of the Chinese State : Dialogues among Western and Chinese Scholars , I" Author(s): Philip C . C . Huang Page: 3 - 8 Centralized Minimalism : Semiformal Governance by Quasi Officials and Dispute Resolution in China Author(s): Philip C . C . Huang Page: 9 - 35 Graduated Controls : The State - Society Relationship in Contemporary China Author(s): Kang Xiaoguang Page: 36 - 55 Changing Models of China's Policy Agenda Setting Author(s): Shaoguang Wang Page: 56 - 87 Societal Transition : New Issues in the Field of the Sociology of Development Author(s): Sun Liping Page: 88 - 113 The Liberation of the Object and the Interrogation of Modernity : Rethinking The Rise of Modern Chinese Thought Author(s): Wang Hui Page: 114 - 140 Rule as Repertory and the Compound Essence of Authority Author(s): Vivienne Shue Page: 141 - 151 History and Globalization in China's Long Twentieth Century Author(s): Prasenjit Duara Page: 152 - 164 A Theory of Transitions Author(s): Ivan Szelenyi Page: 165 - 175 About TOS Updates

TOS Update Experiment

Filed under: — K. M. Lawson @ 9:49 pm
Today I'll begin an experiment here at Frog in a Well. I thought some readers might appreciate an update of the table of contents of journals which include articles on East Asian history. I don't know how often I'll be able to do this, but it turns out to be easy to transform the email updates I receive into a post for Frog in a Well. You can register for TOS updates by email with many journals but it doesn't hurt to post them here for those who don't want to clutter inboxes. Many journals also now provide RSS feed. I'll try to remember to copy and paste the TOS into the appropriate page Journals section of the Frog in a Well EALA wiki. If anyone wants to create individual wiki pages for articles of interests, posting summaries, links to commentary, or civil discussion about the articles directly in the wiki, that is welcome too. NOTE: Unfortunately, the email updates I get often don't show any distinction between articles, book reviews, and research notes so visit online home pages for this information. Also, most journals are only available for reading at research libraries, or online through paid subscription services such as JSTOR, Muse, and other databases.


A tame civil society in China?

Filed under: — Alan Baumler @ 9:30 am
Via Kevin Drum (where the comments so far are better than you might expect) a link to an article by Christina Larson in the new Washington Monthly about environmentalism in China. It's a nice piece, although not much of it will be terribly new for the Old China Hands who read this blog. What I found most interesting was her emphasis on the attempts of the central government to encourage the creation of useful but not dangerous environmental groups. It is not news that China has changed some since the death of Mao, and that zhongnanhai has both encouraged things like local elections and a freer press and found that it has less ability to prevent them than it might wish. In the case of the environment Beijing is encouraging local environmental groups to form and to help the state in carrying out what some would consider pretty basic state functions, like collecting reliable statistics. The problem with this is that many of these groups end up becoming political. Larson talks a lot about Green Watershed a group that actually managed to get some dams canceled. Its leader Yu Xiaogang was happy with this success, but was convinced that more fundamental changes were needed.
"There will always be another dam proposal, another financier," he explained. He said he wants a reliable process for gathering public and expert input while plans are being drafted, not when the bulldozers are ready to roll. "What we have got to do," Yu said, "is change the system." The veteran environmentalist Wen Bo also told me, "For China's environment to improve, I think the political system needs to change. I don't know exactly what the future needs to look like, but it needs to be more democratic, more free society, more free media."
The obvious comparison for me are the New Policies reforms at the end of the Qing. Just as in the present the state set people (then the local elite rather than NGOs) loose to carry out reforms. The one I know most about are the opium suppression campaigns, which were decreed by the state but at the retail level largely carried out by local elites. In a 1906 edict the Guangxu Emperor explicitly encouraged the founding of anti-opium societies. He warned, however that "Such society shall be purely for the anti-opium smoking, and the society shall not discuss any other matters, such as political questions bearing on topical affairs or local administration or any similar matter." I suspect that the current attempts to harness civil society will be even less 'successful' than in the Qing. In the Qing case the state took on all of the responsibility for negotiating an end to imports of foreign opium and most of the responsibility for ending domestic production. Locally led anti-opium societies were to eliminate opium smoking, a task to which they were well suited. The state was entirely incapable of collecting information on opium smoking nationwide, and it lacked the institutional reach to change popular behavior to that extent. The local elite knew more about local behavior and had a long tradition of trying to mould popular morality. What could go wrong? One pretty obvious difference here is that the division of labor is not the same. The environmental groups seem to be tasked with the entire job of saving China's environment, and I doubt they have the power. Larson points out that the environmentalists get in trouble in a hurry if they criticize the politically well-connected. Public criticism can have effect when it aligns itself with factional politics, but it is not yet 'out of control' in the sense of being really autonomous from the formal political structure.


Teaching with Tools

Filed under: — Alan Baumler @ 7:03 am
One of the classes I will be doing next semester is History 200, Introduction to History, which is our methods course for majors, usually taken when they are sophomores. This time I will be using Cohen's History in Three Keys as the monograph we all read together. I picked it first because it is a good read, ((by historian standards anyway. Some of them will get very frustrated by his unwillingness to Just Tell The Damn Story, but part of the purpose of the class is to introduce students to some of the other things historians do)) second because he is quite open about explaining how historians create a book like this, what their goals are and what problems they face, and third because it is a book that is easy to tie into non-China things. Most of these students will not end up 'concentrating' on Asia (which is fine) and I don't like to get too Sinocentric on them in this class. Cohen's book is about the Boxers, which means that it connects to all sorts of issues about Imperialism and Colonialism and Missionaries and Cultural Contact and all that. Plus lots of people wrote stuff about it in English, so it is easy for the students to do a bit of primary source research. The tool I will be using for that is Diigo which is social annotation software that allows a defined group of people to "add" comments to any document on the web. Ideally we well be able to read and comment on a set of documents "together" in a big group (two sections of 20 this time) just as we would do in reading a document one-on-one, and they will learn how historians read primary sources and what we get out of them.  Any advice on how to pull this off is welcome. One of the things we will be reading is Twain's To The Person Sitting in Darkness which is more about American imperialism than the Boxers, and maybe something from Weale's Indiscreet Letters from Peking and then turn them loose in the NY Times Archive. Do any of our readers know of any good (translated) European or Japanese accounts of the Boxer events, the siege, etc?


Asian History Carnival #18

Filed under: — C. W. Hayford @ 3:03 am

Somehow the items that have caught my eye since the last Asia Carnival are more cultural than historical – future carnivals will right the balance. But culture, after all, can’t be separated from history. History doesn’t stop. As Ambrose King of Chinese University of Hong Kong once put it in very Confucian terms: “we live in history, not in the past.”

December offers a number of days to remember. I’m sure you’re all looking forward to the Holiday – December 26? In England this is Boxing Day, but to us it’s the birthday of Mao Zedong.

To celebrate, the nomination for the year’s most original use of the concept “Cultural Revolution” is an editorial in Taipei’s China Post, “Cultural Revolution Redux“ (December 7) which comments on the demonstrations and counter demonstrations between the followers of President Chen Shui-bian and his critics. The immediate occasion for the conflict is the government’s move to change the name of the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial to Democracy Square. The editorial, decidedly in the anti-Chen camp, sees this conflict as “almost a re-run of the violent struggle between Mao Zedong's Red Guards and the reactionary ‘black five categories.’” The standoff is but a “tip of the iceberg in Taiwan's cultural revolution,” which has been in progress since Chen won the 2000 presidential election. Chen’s ultimate goal, of course, is to wipe out Chinese culture in favor of Taiwan's indigenous culture.”

Further Taiwan coverage of the demonstrations is posted on the exemplary blog EastSouthWestNorth , including stories detailing the intense heckling.

In a more scholarly vein, popular movements in Taiwan politics are analyzed in “The 'Red' Tide Anti-Corruption Protest: What Does it Mean for Democracy in Taiwan?“ by Fang-long Shih. The article appears in a new free online journal: Taiwan in Comparative Perspective. The journal has a stimulating lineup of articles, review articles, commentaries, and reviews which use Taiwan as a reference point for global issues. The journal is published by the Taiwan Culture Research Programme of the London School of Economics.

Also free online is How Taiwan Became Chinese: Dutch, Spanish, and Han Colonization in the Seventeenth Century by Tonio Andrade, published in the Columbia University Press Gutenberg-e project (all books in the project are now online for free). Andrade argues that it was Dutch protection that made Chinese settlement on Taiwan possible.

[Addendum: After I posted this edition of the Carnival, Michael Turton at The View from Taiwan added to his string of analytical and deeply informed articles "Minimum Differentiation, Maximum Indentification" (December 14). Michael points out that aside from (very important?) difference of being either "pro-Taiwan" or "pro-China," the two parties have basically similar stances on a range of important issues. The "renaming of the Memorial Formerly Known as CKS must be seen as part of the normal electoral dance between the two parties..." not as primal warfare. My only complaint about this article is that I wish I had read it two days before.]

Returning to Mao. At the Harvard Business Review, Kuang S. Yeh and Shaomin Li report on “Mao's Pervasive Influence on Chinese CEOS.” Executives over the age of forty are deeply influenced by Mao. They often use “Mao-style tactics,” such as mobilizing workers at the level below a leader to defy him in order to force him to resign, playing one group off against another, and the reluctance to appoint a successor. Now I wonder if this isn’t using exotic concepts to explain behavior that can be better explained by circumstances. Each of the examples, it seems, is common enough in places where Mao is scarcely known, much less “pervasive.” To be sure, the executives themselves said they turned to Mao for inspiration, but more skepticism from the authors would make their conclusions more convincing.

The etymology of the word “carnival” involves “carne,” or meat. Meat without spice is dull, so it’s appropriate to welcome Stewart Gordon’s handsome new website Spices and Networks. Pages include a long one on Gordon’s writings (five books on India and the Asian world), a section of photographs, and his blog.

Gordon’s most recent blog piece, Spices, Networks, and Asian History (December 10) explores how study of the 12th - 14th century spice trade can help historians avoid a long standing trap. Modern historical study takes the nation as its basic unit, so the temptation has been to use the boundaries of present day nations as cookie cutters to make pre-modern geographical units. Gordon wants to avoid this falseness by using "social network theory" to identify what we could call, to borrow a phrase from the news, “reality based” units. Social network analysis “looks at how relationships, especially social pressures, around a person, group, or organization affect beliefs or behaviors” and sees “properties of relations between, people, rather than the characteristics of individuals.” Networks form around any kind of exchange, whether of knowledge, slaves, spices, or blog postings. For the historian with adequate data, this has many advantages. By focusing on networks rather than regions, social network analysis “sidesteps the discussion whether change was ‘external’ or ‘internal’ and focuses attention away from ‘cores’ and ‘peripheries.’” And it “avoids European ‘exceptionalism’ by accepting that some networks included Europe and others did not.”

To keep up on Korea, Asia Carnival often depends on Matt at Gusts of Popular Feeling. Well, he’s done it again, this time with “1941's ‘Volunteer,’” a presentation of films from the Korean language DVD box set “Unearthing the Past.” The set consists of four films made in Korea from 1941 and 1943. Matt’s artful plot synopses and screen shots illuminate the cultural stance of the Japanese colonial regime, making a striking comparison with John Dower’s “Japanese Cinema Goes to War.” (( Japan in War and Peace (New York: New Press, 1993): 33-54. )) “Volunteers” (1941) is the story of a young Korean who is at first turned down in his attempt to join the Imperial Army and serve the empire: he is Korean. After many twists of the plot and help from benevolent Japanese, he joins the Army and rides off.

Mark Russell, who brought these films to Matt’s attention, presides over Korea Pop Wars: Notes on Entertainment, Culture, and More from Korea (Or Wherever). For instance, the New York Philharmonic recently agreed, under State Department pressure, to visit North Korea. In “Symphony for the Devil ” (October 14) Russell reports that the North Koreans take their classical music seriously and “have not politicized it the way the Soviet Union did.” They did ban the public performance of classical music in the 1960s and 70s, but it is “probably the least controversial part of high culture, accepted in a way that painting and the other Western fine arts are not.” For comparison, there’s a link to an article about Glenn Gould’s trip to the Soviet Union in 1957. Russell’s October 30 posting, “Naxos of Evil,” lists, with links, several other planned cultural tours to NK. Eat your heart out, NY Times!

Gusts of Popular Feeling also links to the red hot “I Got Arrested for Calling the Police“ on Scribblings of the Metropolitician. Mike, an African-American photographer and Korean speaking resident of Seoul, is harassed by a drunken Korean and retreats to a coffee shop. The drunk follows him and keeps up the poking and abuse. Finally, Mike calls the police, who take both him and the drunk to the station, then arrest and fingerprint not the drunk, but Mike!

Rashomon this is not, though the wild and diverse comments following the piece hardly seem to be seeing the same incident. The academic interest for us at Frog is the cultural reasoning on display in the comments section, as if in a museum, just lacking labels and accession numbers. Some make racist attacks on Korea’s racism, some apologize to Mike, some take him to task for not understanding Korea, others point out the differences in law (Korean police take all parties to a dispute to the station), still others blame Confucian culture.

One such comment links to “Honesty vs. Loyalty: Which is More Important?” by Horace Underwood, grandson of the founder of Yonsei University. Underwood argues that “It is not the case that Koreans are dishonest.... Korean culture has a strong sense of honesty. The problem is the hierarchy of values. Honesty is a value, but there is a higher value, and it is loyalty.” In other words, this commenter tells Mike, he is at fault for not knowing Koreans would be loyal to Koreans!

Well, peace to Mike, sobriety to the drunk Korean, and apologies to both for talking about them without having met them. To the commenters, thanks for demonstrating the challenges in explaining differences in culture (the article on the pervasive influence of Mao may show the dangers of assuming that culture explains behavior).

Japan Focus frequently runs articles on this question, most recently a sharp debate on Ruth Benedict’s classic The Chrysanthemum and the Sword: Patterns of Japanese Culture (1946). Toru Uno’s “How to Critique: Lummis on the Legacy of Ruth Benedict,” (December 4) responds to C. Douglas Lummis, “Ruth Benedict's Obituary for Japanese Culture.” (Japan Focus July 17) Dr. Uno’s critique of Lummis is full throttle: The “single minded pursuit of faults in Benedict’s work inevitably contributed to his tendency to reach sweeping and prejudicial judgments without benefit of evidence.” Lummis’ extensive reply includes a summary of his original objections:

1) Benedict confuses ideology with culture.

2) She treats Japan as though it were not a class society. Thus, she takes the modernized version of the bushi ethic as representing Japan as a whole.

3) She sees Japanese culture as essentially static. More precisely, she sees it as incapable of change from within, though it can be changed by intervention from outside (the Occupation).

4) She claims that Japanese ethics are entirely based on shame, and that guilt plays virtually no role there

5) She claims that American culture is the almost perfectly matched opposite to this.

6) As the combined consequence of 1~5, the book is not merely ethnocentric, but gives ethnocentrism a new basis, replacing race with culture.

A baleful anniversary: the entry of the Japanese Army into Nanking on December 13, 1937. Iris Chang’s The Rape of Nanking: The Forgotten Holocaust was amateurishly researched and preachy, but it turned half forgotten events into foundations for a new Chinese-American nationalism. Japan Focus continues to run terrific pieces. “The Nanking Atrocity: An Interpretive Overview,” by Fujiwara Akira (October 13) shows that the Japanese Army expected Chinese resistance to quickly crumble and had no plans for extended war, which all sides wanted to avoid. The atrocities were rooted in long settled attitudes and strategies but the particular events developed from chance and oversight, not orders or plan. Occupying armies commit atrocities; occupying a country requires terror.

David McNeill’s Look Back in Anger: Filming the Nanjing Massacre (Japan Focus December 6) reports that there are at least a dozen films being made in Japan, China, Hong Kong, and North America. Japanese right wing deniers, who are making their own film, will have a hard time refuting the visual evidence presented in the documentaries and the emotional impact of the dramas depicting John Rabe and Minnie Vautrin. Warning for the weak of heart: Oliver Stone seems to be developing a script on the subject.

Let’s not leave China out of the cross cultural marathon. One recent exchange tossed and gored the knotty relation of culture (a.k.a “history”) to current behavior. James Fallows, one of the star reporters of our time, is now in Shanghai for The Atlantic. His November 27 blog piece “The” way vs “a” way (Japan vs China dept) is brief but provoking. Fallows looked out his plane window in Changsha and saw the ground crew improvising a siphon to refuel the plane (he has a picture of it). Now in Japan, Fallows reflects, there was always a plan, “the” way to do it. From this, Fallows deduces great things about the respective National Characters of the two countries.

Dan Harris at China Law Blog said “right on” in his Planes, Trains And Automobiles: The China Way (December 3), but Paul Midler at The China Game wasn’t about to let them get away with it (James Fallows Turns On His Television Set; December 3). “Nearly anyone who has lived in China for an extended period of time,” asserts Old China Hand Midler, “knows that the Chinese love protocol. And while I am sure Fallows is a nice guy, he’s not a China guy.” Dan shot right back with Looking Out Airplane Windows In China Is For Grizzled Old China Hands ONLY (December 4).

The exchange is all in good humor, but the serious question remains. Do you have to be trained in Asianology before you are licensed to opine or can you just go on the basis of what you see? Are we just regurgitating Arthur Smith’s Chinese Characteristics (1894)?

One of Smith’s Chinese characteristics was “absence of sincerity." Josh’s “Cross-cultural Honesty Catalysis“ (December 7) at Sinosplice comments on a movement for “radical honesty,” that is, saying exactly, I mean, exactly what you think. He got to “thinking about whether this could ever conceivably be tried in China, and about some people in my life who might be considered unknowing practitioners. It seems to me that the ones who come closest are certain English-speaking Chinese women, in their dealings with foreigners.” This is a question with a big footprint, and I'd like to return to it in future posts.

The radical honesty movement reminds me of George Orwell’s comment that “it’s fine to call a spade a spade, but you don’t have to call it a @#$ing shovel.”

Speaking of which...

In “The Etiology and Elaboration of a Flagrant Mistranslation“ (December 9 guest post at Language Log), Victor Mair takes on the problem of Chinglish and the widespread appearance of “f*ck” in PRC signs and menus. When I first went to Taiwan in the 1960s, people claimed that the name “F*ck You Hairshop” was hung on an innocent barber by an American G.I. as a joke. Mair gives many examples of signs, including “spread to f*ck the fruit,” “f*ck to adjust the area” and “f*ck goods section.” He quotes a handbook which counsels readers to ask “what do you want to f*ck?” These are not random mistakes. The Chinese “gan” can mean “dry” or “do” but also “f*ck.” Mair has now located the particular translation program which used the last sense of “gan” to translate all senses. Mair is a Living National Treasure and skewers this “abomination” with the same gusto as he tracks down an idiom from a Tang dynasty tale.

There continue to be predictions of China’s future on the basis of China’s past – combining “extrapolation” with “speculation” to produce “retrospeculation.” Zizek Slavoj, “China’s Valley of Tears.”(posted on In These Times December 3) observes that the “explosion of capitalism in China has many Westerners asking when political democracy—as the “natural” accompaniment of capitalism—will emerge.” But Zizek challenges the logic: “China is not an oriental-despotic distortion of capitalism, but rather the repetition of capitalism?s development in Europe itself.”

Ralph Harrington, a fellow Independent Scholar, critiques Zizek in his December 7 “China’s Future is Not Europe’s Past,” (thegraycat blog, reprinted, History News Network Roundup section (where it was the number two most viewed piece as of December 12).

Rowan Collick’s The China Model (The American December 7) asks “How long can economic freedom and political repression coexist?” Developing countries in Asia and Africa admire the “China Model.” A “shorthand way to describe the model is: economic freedom plus political repression.” The article goes on to an extensive description of China today.

One last December anniversary. Although I did not see significant postings on the December 7 beginning of the war between the US and Japan, there was well flung controversy over the end of it.

At History News Network is “Conservative Revisionists and Hiroshima” (December 12) in which Leo Maley III and Uday Mohan comment on reactions to the November 1 death of Paul Tibbetts, pilot of the plane which dropped the Hiroshima bomb. Maley and Mohan claim that conservative commentators “took the opportunity to denounce any and all critics of the atomic bombing of Japanese cities as ‘left-wingers,’ ‘self-haters,’ ‘wacko communists,’ ‘ultraliberal Americans,’ ‘idealistic fools,’ and (one of our favorites) ‘peace-at-any-pricers and ban-the-bombers.’” But they then come back with a series of conservatives who slammed Truman’s decision, including Herbert Hoover, The Chicago Tribune (then an ultra-conservative voice), Henry Luce, and even the pater familias of modern conservatism, William F. Buckley.

The HNN page Hiroshima: What People Think Now has links to dozens of articles which they reprinted from many locations.

Finally, a few resources:

Recent articles about China are organized at China Digital Times, where you can search or read them. CDT is run by the Berkeley China Internet Project out of the Graduate School of Journalism at the University of California, Berkeley. For instance, searching the tag “Foreigners in China“ yields 41 recent items. CDT also has photos, announcements, podcasts.

Asia Media (UCLA Asia Institute) selects English language news stories from all over Asia, with links to their texts.. If you add their feed to your reader, you will get several dozen articles a day. They also have commentaries, such as my own “Don’t Toy With China.”

Resources on Korean Film include:, maintained for many years by Darcy Paquet. The site includes reviews of Korean films year by year from the 1940s to the present, essays, and other resources and references. Especially useful is “South Korean Films About the Korean War....”

Korean Cinema Edition, a site rich with information, but unfortunately not mainained after 2004.

Korean Film Archive In Korean only.

Korean Film Council. The official government body. Detailed information on current and recent films, often with screen shots.

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