In commemoration of the 100th anniversary of World War I, Penguin China has released a seven-book series on China-focused Great War history. It tabbed Paul French, author of the popular and award-winning Midnight in Peking: The Murder That Haunted the Last Days of Old China, to contribute Betrayal in Paris: How the Treaty of Versailles Led to China’s Long Revolution.... I sat down with the author (over Skype) to talk about the "betrayal," Japan's role in it, and how it might have been tipped by -- of all things -- America's Jim Crow laws.
There are those moments when you feel the weight of history pressing on you -- that awestruck realization that a great moment happened here, and now you're bearing witness. Maybe you've ducked into a tower while on the Great Wall. Or you're standing just inside the Lincoln Memorial. The thing is, I never expected to have that feeling while standing in my basement, squinting up at an unidentified roll of film. But that's what happened to me last Sunday, as I was searching through an old shoebox from my parents labeled "photos."
It was just another day on the Square, though it seemed there were slightly fewer people than usual. Many must have gotten turned away at the security line underground, as officers informed, "If you don't have ID, don't bother waiting in line." The sternest reprimand we heard all day came from an officer who halted a woman sauntering past the queue. "Go wait in line," he barked. "Do you not see all these people waiting?"
China ramped up its censorship considerably in the lead-up to today, both of words and Internet services. Google is by far the biggest company to find its services halted -- as anyone trying to access Gmail without a VPN knows well -- and Google has by far the best response to it. We really want this to be true, anyway -- via Jonah Kessel:
Today marks the 25th anniversary of a turning point in modern Chinese history. In the run-up, around 20 key intellectuals and campaigners have been been detained, and security around Beijing heightened. And who knows how many warnings and threats have been issued to the family and friends of conscience-driven citizens across the country.
I’m back writing about Ai Weiwei, which isn’t what I particularly want to be doing, but as he seems to be the only Chinese artist known or cared about by a wider (Western) audience, here we are. This continued, and likely mutually beneficial, publicity for AWW has led to yet another documentary focusing on the trials and tribulations -- well, mostly the trials -- of him as he continues to work as an artist and professional dissident.
This notice has been going around Twitter and Facebook all day, so it's likely you've seen it, but we want to hear from the students in Beijing -- what happens if you say no to this "study tour" that "all foreign students have to attend"? Drop us a line.
In a recent discussion held as part of the inaugural Lean In Beijing Mentorship Event, a college student in my circle noted, “In China, it’s so difficult to stand out sometimes. We all pursue the same goals, we all do the same things, we all study hard and we all have similar experiences and ideas. In order for us to stand out and be unique, I really think we have to be unafraid to be different.”
It’s true, especially in a country of 1.4 billion people. But it’s not common to see young Chinese doing what's necessary to stand out: pushing themselves to their limits and going beyond their comfort zone. Which is why Ivan Xu's project, the Ultimate Ride, is interesting:
Because it's politically expedient to do so -- proven by Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, etc., to work -- Beijing conducted a drug investigation that recently culminated in a bust of street-level slingers in Sanlitun. This news doesn't affect the vast majority of Beijingers, foreign or local, which is to say, there's little reason any of us should cheer. If anything, we should cringe, knowing these "crackdowns" almost always disproportionately affect those on society's fringes who are most powerless to defend themselves.