井底之蛙

6/1/2014

I would totally buy this, and so would you.

Filed under: — Alan Baumler @ 1:46 pm

Chinese Posters sells copies of some of its stuff, but not of this.

“To love the country one must first know its history”1

This would look perfect in the hallway of every History Department in the world. We may think  that historical study is more than just training in patriotism, but we know that a -lot- of the funding for historical stuff comes from just that. For a reminder of how important history is, and some of its implications you can’t beat this. Would you buy a copy?

  1. Ok.a better translation of would be “To love the country one must first know the country” History as such is only mentioned in the book title. []

2/24/2014

China’s Museums

Filed under: — Alan Baumler @ 1:57 am

I have been reading China’s Museums, part of the Cambridge University Press series Introductions to Chinese Culture. I am finding the table of contents particularly interesting,1 as it reflects on how you categorize things. The authors, Li Xianyao and Luo Zhewen, are both major figures in the museum world, so the book gives you a reasonably up-to date2 official view of China’s 5,000 years of history and what matters in it.

It is interesting to try and figure out why things were included in what category and why they are there at all. The first category is Chinese Treasures, which starts with the Palace Museum in Beijing, but follows that with the Palace Museum in Taipei (and they call it Taipei) as well as the Shaanxi History Museum, (birthplace of Chinese culture). The Shanghai Museum is included because of “The scope, depth and quality of its collection, and its striking architecture and use of modern technology” I’m guessing that Liaoning Provincial3 is included because of the Qing stuff they have. Something good on China’s last Emperors, and thus emperors in general, is worth including. Three Gorges in Chongqing has a “glass dome [that] resembles a huge magnifying glass, reminding us to pass on the inheritance we have received from our forebears to the next generation, to use culture to nourish the earth.” So I am guessing that some combination of quality of your collection, excellence of your presentation, and importance of what you do in the narrative of Chinese history will get your museum in this book.

The second section, is, of course, The Contribution of China’s Ethnic Minorities. Eventually we get to Huaxia civilization, and these two reflect the problems of defining China. This is particularly acute for museums, since it is easier for them to slip into Han chauvinism. If all of China’s 56 nationalities are part of the great tapestry of Chinese civilization, then why is almost everything in the book Han, other than a single section on minorities?

They get around this a bit, with their definition of Huaxia 華夏, a sort of cosmic Han category that includes everything.

The term huaxia, however, is broader in meaning that “China” It indicates more of a cultural space than a geographic designation, and also implies a historical lineage. Xia is the name of the first-known dynasty of what later came to be “China.” dating to some three millennia ago.  The term hua includes both overseas Chinese as well as non-ethnic Chinese under the overarching umbrella of what today is known as China. Cultural aspects of huaxia, such as silk, tea, ceramics and Chinese medicine, have all made great contributions to mankind.

Some of the rest of the book is trying to categorize the stuff you are stuck with. Not many other countries would have a category on Treasures of China’s Grottoes, but when you have Dunhuang and Yungang and Longmen in your cultural past you probably should. Should we include archeological sites? Well, if we don’t Peking Man and Banpo will be left out, so I would guess we should.

One thing I noticed was that there is very little modern history here. Once upon a time Chinese history was revolutionary history, the story of how the Chinese people rose up and destroyed the old feudal society. There is very little of that story here.  No sites associated with Sun Yat-sen or even Mao Zedong, and little reference to the modern period at all.4 You can see this most clearly in the discussion of the National Museum of China5 The Museum has an area of 192,000 square meters, but only 2,000 square meters are dedicated to the Road to Resurgence and China’s modern history.

 

 

  1. Why, yes, I am a load of fun at parties. Why do you ask? []
  2. This seems to be the same book that was published in 2004 by China Intercontinental Press, so I’m not sure when the text was written []
  3. Which I have not been to []
  4. Zigong Salt Industry Museum does manage to slip into Natural History. []
  5. There is a great dissertation in how the China Revolutionary Museum and the China History Museum merged to form this. []

1/12/2013

Japanese Counter-Insurgency: Strategy or Tactic?

Filed under: — Jonathan Dresner @ 12:45 pm

Robert Farley’s article on Japan’s WWII Counter-Insurgency planning and implementation begs the question of whether COIN, as it’s called now, was a strategy or a tactic. (Though it also illustrates something I’d like to see more of: blogging on journal articles and book chapters. Yes, I should do more of that, too.) Farley says

[retired Japan Ground Self-Defense Force (GSDF) Lieutenant General Noboru] Yamaguchi suggests that elements of the Japanese Army and a variety of hybrid civil-military organizations took the problem of COIN quite seriously from a strategic point of view, appreciating that the only way to victory in China was the establishment of a self-sustaining, pro-Japanese Chinese government.

Farley goes on to cite some examples, but he also notes some of the atrocities associated with the Japanese military in China (and elsewhere), and also that resources for “hearts and minds” operations were decidedly lacking. Comfort Women are notably missing, which is too bad: it’s a fantastic example of an attempt to solve the “hearts and minds” problem that goes horribly wrong.

But what struck me about the discussion is the use of the term “strategy”, which suggests a substantial goal, guiding tactics and training. I don’t doubt that there were Japanese who saw the necessity of developing real ties with China, building relationships, any more than I doubt that some Japanese authentically believed the pan-Asianism which underlay the rhetoric of the Greater East Asian Co-Prosperity Sphere. What I don’t believe is that Japanese military, political or economic leaders were at all serious about the GEACPS, or that pan-Asianism was more than a theoretical and rhetorical fig leaf for aggressive imperialism. And I don’t believe that “hearts and minds” COIN really rose to the level of “strategy”: military training and tactics routinely ignored priorities beyond raw domination and control. Farley’s right that resource issues and circumstances mitigated against long-term relationship-building, and our colleague Konrad Lawson has been doing fascinating work on Chinese who did develop strategic alliances with Japanese occupiers. But just as Manchukuo illustrates the hollowness of Japanese claims to support Chinese autonomy, the realities of the battlefield and occupation make it clear that winning over Chinese support was far from a serious strategic consideration.

That said, I was also struck by a comment on the article from one “John Chan”

Japan is an unapologetic war criminal; Yamaguchi’s quote is the tip of iceberg of how Japanese systematically white wash their war crimes and gloss over their atrocities.

Thru history Japanese are pirates; barbarism, deceitfulness, and brutality are their way of life. Using atrocity to overcome any resistance is their default choice of action; the conformity nature of the Japanese makes them particular wicked, they will compete in cruelty as an honour, it makes Yamaguchi’s quote about Japanese COIN theory an outright shameless lie and evidence of Japanese has no remorse about its war crimes.

This is not, as I understand it, an uncommon view of Japan from a Chinese mainland perspective. The historiographical accusation is a familiar one — Japan has a long history of denying, downplaying, ignoring, and justifying modern atrocities which is rivaled only by a few other countries1 — but the idea of wartime Japan as an authentic representation of Japan’s essential historical character is something I hadn’t seen before.2 Connecting the wako pirates (I assume that’s what he means) to WWII is an historical and cultural stretch that boggles the historical imagination. But if you’re looking at Japan solely through the lens of Chinese victimization, perhaps it’s not as much of a leap as all that.

  1. China’s official amnesia regarding the Great Leap Forward Famine and Cultural Revolution purges; America’s denial that westward expansion was imperialist and effectively genocidal; the rehabilitation of Stalin in Russian historical memory; etc. []
  2. and obviously, not something I think is historically or culturally supportable as a thesis []

10/11/2012

Fire and protest in China

Filed under: — Alan Baumler @ 4:39 pm

The Atlantic has a nice set of pictures of the Great Wall up, for your teaching pleasure. The one I found most interesting is this.

Is the Great Wall on fire? Well, the caption says “Smoke rises from a watchtower of the Great Wall during an activity to mark the International Anti-Drug Day in Beijing, on June 26, 2006″ There is an old tradition of burning stuff in China, but mostly as a form of worship. In the late Qing, however, missionaries and Chinese reformers began to make burning opium and opium paraphernalia a regular part of their rituals. Here is one from Fujian1

Opium and drug burnings became a regular part of Chinese anti-opium events, but as far as I know the whole burning things in protest meme never caught on as a general method of protest in China. Eventually this form of anti-opium protest became engrained enough in Chinese political culture that it traveled back in time.  Lin Zexu had -destroyed- opium in 1839, and by 1909 he was credited with burning it, as in this image2 This mistake is now pretty common.

I’m not really a 19th century person, so I never put much effort in to figuring out when this form of protest emerged. It does not seem to link up well with the Chinese tradition of burning things as an offering, since you burned things you thought the ancestors would want. Admittedly, by 1909 some of your ancestors probably would have liked some opium, but that does not fit in with the protest aspect of things. Maybe a legacy of Guy Fawkes day in England? In any case, if you want to burn something in the name of China, the Great Wall would seem a great place for it.

 

  1. via Ryan Dunch []
  2. via MIT []

9/20/2012

Daiyou Islands: New Sources, New Clarity?

Filed under: — Jonathan Dresner @ 1:08 am

NYT reporter Nick Kristof brought in a guest blogger, Han-Yi Shaw of Taiwan, to examine some new mid-Meiji documentation about Japan’s relationship with the contested Senkaku/Daiyou islands. The core of Shaw’s findings is

the Meiji government acknowledged Chinese ownership of the islands back in 1885.

After several abortive attempts to survey the islands, the Japanese government declared them incorporated Japanese territory during the Sino-Japanese war, despite recognizing that it should have been negotiated with China. As territory seized in 1895, it should have been reverted to China in 1945, but for a variety of reasons, including an administrative shift of the islands from Taiwan to Okinawa prefecture, it remained outside of negotiations until a few years later.

It’s a reasonably persuasive presentation, historically, though I don’t think that these details are going to shift Japanese nationalists, even mild or moderate ones, to support politicians who would abandon Japan’s claim to these useless rocks which sit in such valuable territory. And as long as there’s no particular cost to maintaining the claim — Chinese hostility to Japan is not predicated on this issue sufficiently that abandoning the claim would eliminate anti-Japanese sentiment as a nationalist motivational tool of the mainland regime — it seems unlikely that anything will change, except a few American lectures.

9/30/2009

PRC National Anthem

Filed under: — Jonathan Dresner @ 8:16 am

In honor of the sixtieth anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic on October 1st, my friend Carsey Yee has sent another video: The Two Chinese Characters do the March of the Volunteers (twice, once with English subtitles). I was a bit surprised to learn that the song predates the PRC by over ten years, that the author was arrested and the song banned for a time (Can anyone think of another case where a national anthem was banned without a regime change taking place?), and, of course, the lyrics changed during the Cultural Revolution.

I suppose it makes sense: the history of the song really is the history of China.
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7/29/2009

Imperial Visits and Attitudes

Filed under: — Jonathan Dresner @ 1:02 am

I just learned of the Japanese Emperor and Empress’ visit to Hawai’i [via]. It’s not the first time that a member of the Japanese Imperial family has visited the islands, though you would hardly know it from the gushing “historic” reports of the media. Though this is the first visit by Akihito as Emperor, Akihito has visited the islands before, as have other members of Japan’s now-symbolic dynasty. In addition to the Advertiser’s photo gallery, there are some excellent shots on Flickr by “731photo” and “onecardshort”, as well as one picture from the US Pacific Command.1

The continuing connection between the Hawai’i Japanese immigrant community and Japan was a matter of strategic concern from the beginning: The Kingdom of Hawai’i wanted to use Japan as a counterweight against US power; the Republic of Hawai’i used the threat of Japan — which was actively concerned about the treatment of Japanese in Hawai’i — to support the annexation of the islands by the US; in the Territorial era, disputes about immigration and about labor organization often involved the Japanese consulate.2 Chinese Old Man Statue 2 And it’s also true that the Japanese government considered Japanese emigrants to be an extension of the nation3 , and tried, in a fairly blunt fashion, to influence foreign opinion through the overseas communities. By the 1910s and 20s, discussion in the media and halls of power of the Hawaiian Japanese community as a potential “fifth column” was pretty common, and that view was also common on the mainland. It took an immigration ban, a war, Japan’s crushing defeat and entry into the US security system, and the “blood sacrifice” of Nikkei serving with distinction in the US military to overcome those fears, and transform the Japanese immigrant community and their descendants into simply “ethnic” Americans. So, a little over twenty years past the end of WWII, fifteen past the end of the US occupation, the centennial of Japanese immigration into Hawai’i could be celebrated with public monuments, publications and events.

This history is why I was so disturbed to read about PRC policy which sees overseas Chinese as intelligence and lobbying agents. There’s a reasonable argument to be made — as Ichioka does — that Japanese government policy towards emigrants gave support to anti-immigrant attitudes in the US and elsewhere. It’s true that other governments treat emigres as resources to some extent, and urge their citizens overseas to represent the nation well, but the level of coordination, and open encouragement distinguishes pre-war Japanese policy and current PRC policy from the rest of the pack. I don’t think we’re on the verge of a “Yellow Peril” panic in the US at this point, but there’s no question that this has lead to serious negative consequences for individuals, and could lead to wider problems in the future.

x-posted

  1. That it’s a better shot of the Admiral than of the Emperor is, I suppose, not surprising. []
  2. See Gary Okihiro, John Stephan, also Morris-Suzuki []
  3. see also []

6/7/2008

Show me the money

From the Times via CDT an article about a group of Chinese intellectuals who are asking for some new people to be put on Chinese currency. This is actually a big issue, since who nations put on their money is a political statement of some importance.1 The list of suggested people is pretty interesting. They are suggesting Qu Yuan, Li Bai, Yue Fei, and Wen Tianxiang. The Times calls Qu Yuan a poet, which he was, but of course he was much better known as a protester against political corruption. Li Bai is the “pure” poet in the group, and Yue Fei and Wen Tianxiang are both straight nationalist figures who died resisting foreign interference in China’s internal affairs. It is a well-thought out list (Not all Mao, but nationalistic enough to pass muster) and I wish them luck, but I suspect not much will change. Chinese money has always been very focused on politicians.

Sun1

Sun Yat-sen got most of the face time under the Republic, appearing on all sorts of notes.

Mao1

Mao has taken pride of place since.

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  1. I’ve always thought that American money had remained stuck in the 19th century because of a lack of national confidence. If someone did suggest changing our money some Democrat would probably suggest putting MLK on there and Republicans would go nuts about political correctness. Easier to stick with Jackson. Plus, if we went with more modern designs and colors like most of the world has done in might turn us gay. []

5/11/2008

Olympics, China’s Dreams, and the Fear of Nationalism

Filed under: — C. W. Hayford @ 2:59 pm

The new book Olympic Dreams: China and Sports, 1895-2008 (Harvard University Press) by Xu Guoqi 1 , is a good read but also a serious piece of research which uses sport to see new dimensions of nationalism. The Olympics, one of those “invented traditions” if there ever was one, and nationalism feed on each other. Xu has the story on everything from Chiang Kai-shek to Ping Pong Diplomacy to the politicization of the non-political ideal and all points in between.

Susan Brownell’s Beijing Olympic FAQ at China Beat has a slightly contrarian take on the recent flap over Olympic torch protests. She suggests that the comparison with the 1936 Olympics in Nazi Germany is not so useful as a comparison with the 1904 Summer Olympics in St. Louis — remember the song, “Meet Me in St. Louis, Louey?” The United States was then the rising power, fresh from conquests in the Philippines and ready to take on the world. Brownell points out why Europeans could look down their noses at the newcomers and how Americans responded.

Meanwhile, two other recent posts also put the present moment into (drum roll, please) Historical Perspective.

China’s Nationalism and How Not to Deal With It” at China Digital Times translates a Chinese blog posting which also urges more patience, while the response from “angry young Chinese” to the torch protests is nicely illustrated in a YouTube video, “Chinese Nationalism is Westerners’ Fear.

The video accuses the West of hypocrisy. One of many examples: 1) “we tried Communism and you hated us for being Communist” and then 2) “when we embraced Capitalism you hate us for being Capitalist.” Robert Daly, Responding to Chinese Grievances posted at China Digital Times, comments on this long list. For instance, to 1) he replies: “True, more or less. And China hated America for being a capitalist liberal democracy. It was a hate- and fear-filled time all around” and 2) “Not exactly. But America does fear China, in part, because China is gaining wealth and power through following (with Chinese characteristics) prescriptions that were offered by the West.”

  1. Full disclosure, Guoqi is a good friend. []

3/26/2008

Unity across the Taiwan strait

Filed under: — Alan Baumler @ 6:26 pm

Via China Digital Times a You Tube presentation for foreigners who know f****1 all about Chinese history explaining why Tibet was, is and always will be part of China. The only really interesting thing about it in a historical sense is that when they flash a series of maps to prove the “legitimancy” of China’s claims to Tibet they give the start and end dates for the Yuan and Qing dynasties2 For the Republic they only have a start date, not an end date, whereas most mainland stuff ends the Republic in 1949. Nice to see an attempt to reach out to the other side.

UPDATE More from Danwei

  1. a word that is used about 20 times in this bit of scholarship []
  2. They have a map showing that the Ming controlled Tibet too. Did you know that? Neither did I. Learn something everyday []

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