SEVEN MYTHS ABOUT CHINA AND ITS HISTORY

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This Article is from The Australian March 2018 We are on the cusp of serious debates about the implications for Australia and the whole Asia Pacific world of the vast increase in Chinese wealth and power this century, not least with the repudiation of political reforms by Xi Jinping and his assumption of indefinite and all but absolute power. In order for those debates to be conducted intelligently and productively, it is vital that we think about China in a clear-headed manner. Unfortunately, the field at present is cluttered with myths about China, sedulously propagated by the Chinese Communist Party,…

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FINEST CHINA

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I wrote Thunder from the Silent Zone some years ago, but much of it still resonates. I recently reviewed and compared the contributions from: Destined for War: Can America and China Escape Thucydides’s Trap? By Graham Allison Scribe, 384pp, $35 China Matters: Getting It Right for Australia By Bates Gill and Linda Jakobson La Trobe University Press, 256pp, $29.99 Will China Dominate the 21st Century? By Jonathan Fenby Polity Press, 144pp, $21.95 My Recent Book Review In The Australian

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JAMES PACKER GAMBLED AND LOST

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  There is a scene towards the end of Kostantinos Gavros’s 1982 film, Missing, in which a hard-edged US military officer tells Ed Horman, played by Jack Lemmon, ‘Suppose I went up to your town and started messing around with the Mafia and I wind up dead in the East River and my wife or my father complains to the police because they didn’t protect me. They really wouldn’t have much of a case, would they? You play with fire, you get burned.’ James Packer, gambling tycoon, played with fire in China and has just been burned. Eighteen of his…

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A SPLENDID PAEAN TO ART AND DISSENT

By | Book reviews for the press, China, History | No Comments

Over the past half dozen years, at least three journalists of Australian origin or based in Australia have written first class books about contemporary China. The first was Richard McGregor, in 2010. The second was Rowan Callick, in 2013. The third is Madeleine O’Dea, this year. O’Dea’s is easily as good as the other two and completely trumps (if one can now comfortably use that verb) all mealy mouthed apologetics for the repressive China of Xi Jinping. McGregor’s The Party: The Secret World of China’s Communist Rulers was a brilliantly incisive expose of the huge Communist Mafia that holds the…

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MAO ZEDONG WAS THE FULL CATASTROPHE IN CHINA

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With The Cultural Revolution: A People’s History (2016), Frank Dikotter completes a trilogy on the catastrophic impact that Mao Zedong and his Communist Party inflicted on China between their seizure of power in 1949 and Mao’s death in 1976. The first volume in the trilogy chronologically, though it was written second, was The Tragedy of Liberation: A History of the Chinese Revolution 1945-57 (2013). It covers the civil war, the seizure of power, the mass terror campaigns that accompanied and followed that seizure of power, the vaunted Marxist-Leninist nationalization of the means of production, distribution and exchange and the crushing…

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CHILDREN OF THE REVOLUTION

By | Biography, China, Critical Essays, Geopolitics, History, Taiwan | No Comments

On the death of Zhao Ziyang and the future of China  “We Chinese people have an old weakness: we cling to some things so hard that we can’t let go…This weakness has blocked up people’s thinking, has stifled democracy and science, has aided ignorance and backwardness, and is a major obstacle to the advance of Chinese society.” Li Ruihuan (1992)[i] “Rapid economic growth is a stressful process…it churns and reorders economic and political elites. It can destabilize the political order that is responsible for the policies that sustain it, unless the political order itself evolves with the economic structure.” Ross…

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QUEMOY: AT THE FRONTIER OF THE POSSIBLE

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  Visiting the island of Quemoy, or Kinmen, as it is now commonly called, is like visiting Check Point Charlie before the Berlin Wall came down, or Panmunjom up on the militarised border between North and South Korea. It is a tiny island, 150 square km in size, set right inside a major inlet in the Chinese coast, just two kilometres from the old port city of Amoy, now the thriving special economic zone of Xiamen. Through the powerful binoculars at the Mashan Hill Broadcasting and Observation Station, on the northernmost tip of the island, you can clearly see the…

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GREEN ISLAND ELEGY: HUMAN RIGHTS IN THE CHINESE WORLD

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Green Island lies just off the south east coast of Taiwan. For decades it was Taiwan’s most notorious place of incarceration for political prisoners. Built during the so-called White Terror of the early 1950s, it held thousands of political prisoners at one time. There were 14,000 there in the mid-1950s, according to official figures.[i] Thereafter, numbers declined, but the prison was not closed until after the end of martial law, in 1987. During that era, officially, 29, 407 people were imprisoned for political reasons. Unofficially, Guomindang figures have put the total at up to 70,000. According to none other than…

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DEMOCRATISING CHINA: HU, WEN AND HOW

By | China, Critical Essays, Geopolitics, History | No Comments

On the Chinese President’s speech in Canberra “[Gorbachev]’s got it backwards. He opened up the political system without a clue about the economy. The result is chaos. I did it the other way around, starting in agriculture and small businesses, where opening up worked, so now I have a demand for more of what succeeds. [Political opening] will come later and will start small, just as in the economy. You have to be patient but you have to get the sequence right.” Deng Xiaoping to George Shultz, July 1988 “In China today we need to restrict the powers of the state…

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