This is a strange, even unsettling book. It's so far out of my usual depth of experience that I have barely any ideas on what to say. It might be lumpThis is a strange, even unsettling book. It's so far out of my usual depth of experience that I have barely any ideas on what to say. It might be lumped in with 'magical realism' though that term seems more and more inadequate. This old edition uses the insulting word 'primitive', but almost as a form of praise.
This is a sort of Bildungsroman where a young boy flees bands of slave-traders and hides in the African bush. The land is populated by strange ghosts (here meaning spirits, not only the deceased), with freakish forms and unknown motives. There's one without eyes, without hands, one who is decorated with scorpions for rings and a snake-belt. Their names, too, are strange - 'Skulls', 'Give and Take', 'H.M. The King of the Bush of Ghosts'.
The boy himself changes. He takes animal form. He is mistaken for a ghosts' dead father, he grows eyes and becomes a god. He is buried alive by the spider-eaters, he marries a woman who was once an antelope.
Tutuola's language is direct yet unusual - partly the result of his limited formal education, partly from local oral traditions. He describes this supernatural world directly, matter-of-factly.
What can I call this? It might be 'fantasy', but that too is a limiting word for it. It's weird and never boring. ...more
By All Means Necessary is a clear summary of the recent trends behind Chinese resource consumption and its implications on the global economy.
The booBy All Means Necessary is a clear summary of the recent trends behind Chinese resource consumption and its implications on the global economy.
The book starts with the historic rise of oil prices to $100 a barrel in 2008, with early predictions of doom and how this would be the new normal. We're not there - yet. Though Chinese demands for oil can and will continue to be a major factor influencing prices, Economy says this is not the same pattern to apply everywhere. The circumstances vary with each commodity. Furthermore, eecent trends suggest a focus on investment as well as trade. To use the oil example again, the state-run oil companies don't always hoard oil for domestic use. They sell it on the market like everyone else.
Nor is Chinese investment inevitable and all-consuming. Chinese businesses and government officials often have to deal with the international trade structures and political institutions which already exist. The government can write the broad outlines of these deals, but private businesses act independently, and often have their own interests. This results in a combination of new methods for striking deals.
In some cases, they can be turned towards China's benefit. Take, for example, the common tactic of resource investment in exchange for aid. This aid is often given without a need to institute governmental reform, which makes it more appealing than World Bank or IMF loans. It also explains why so many countries in Western Europe and Central Asia are eager to sign up for the new AIIB despite American protest.
There is also considerable backlash against Chinese investment. Developing countries resent the low-cost labor shipped in to work on projects, and there are protectionist fears of a 'new colonialism' where raw materials are exported to China in exchange for manufactured goods. In countries like Canada, the United States, or Australia, on the other hand, there is some political resistance to Chinese-majority holdings in new investment companies. Add on to this environmental concerns, labor rights, and personal corruption, and now it is possible to understand the new caveats of this investment.
What is the future of this trend? A look back from history shows that no boom lasts forever. The authors look at how Japan once consumed some 17% of the world's oil production but that collapsed when the housing bubble did. Australia did not become Japan's mining colony. Japan is still recovering from the 1990s collapse. Will China go the same way? It's impossible to predict these things, even though people have tried since 1989, but the 15% drop in exports in March is not promising.
This is a responsible and interesting book which looks at the facts and avoids the twin pitfalls of complacency and panic. ...more
It's become almost standard to say that a collection of stories is uneven. One stories might have more emotional power than the others, or another oneIt's become almost standard to say that a collection of stories is uneven. One stories might have more emotional power than the others, or another one might have a refined or delicate bit of writing.
This collection was a more dramatic case. The first story I read, The Death of Wang Asao, was not so good. The writing was slow, cliched, and unsatisfying. I almost gave up until I read the second and third stories. The difference was very impressive. It was almost as though the first story was only a draft, and the next stories were all improved versions.
These stories are almost all set in rural northeastern China in the early 20th century, with a keen eye towards the brutal class structure and extreme poverty of the average farmer. Add on top of that the spectre of Japanese occupation and extreme gender inequality and you have deeply tragic reading. The main themes being separation of parent and child. Only one of these stories has anything like a happy mood, 'Spring in a Small Town'.
I felt something after reading these, though I also had doubts that it was never communicated through these stories. ...more
勿忘国耻。 振兴中华。 "Never forget national humiliation. Rejuvenate the nation."
This volume presents a comprehensive history on the state of contemporary histo勿忘国耻。 振兴中华。 "Never forget national humiliation. Rejuvenate the nation."
This volume presents a comprehensive history on the state of contemporary history education in China, and its demonstrated effects on the legitimacy of the Chinese Communist Party, and China's foreign relations. The main thrust of this education recasts the role of China in world history, presenting it as the victim of colonialism and imperialism through a 'century of humiliation' (百年国耻), lasting from 1839 at the start of the First Opium War to the takeover of the Chinese Communist Party in 1949.
This process of shaping historical education has multiple roles. First among these is a new role for the CCP after the Tienanmen Square Incident of 1989. The party has long ago abandoned the Marxist rhetoric of class struggle, revolution, economic justice, and the like. Instead it presents itself as a patriotic association, and one which led the struggle for national rebirth and avenging the century of humiliation. Although the party still finds it useful to present itself as a bringer of economic prosperity after Deng Xiaoping's economic reform, it is still necessary to have other pillars of support should this one fall.
Furthermore, history is used as a tool in foreign policy. In response to the 'century of humiliations', the government presents itself as a revenging these historical losses. However, this now institutional use of history presents a series of misunderstandings and complications in foreign policy. The author presents multiple cases - the historical textbook controversy with Japan over representation of the Nanjing Massacre, and disputes with the United States over a crashed plane in 2001 and the Belgrade embassy bombing in 1999. This need to overcome humiliation extends to nearly every aspect of foreign policy, including disaster relief and sports - take the 2008 Olympics as a 'triumphal re-entry'.
To take a more humorous example, Chinese bloggers have assembled a list of nations that supposedly have 'hurt the feelings of the Chinese people'. On one blog, you see a list of the usual suspects like the United States, the United Kingdom, and Japan, but also India, Guatemala, the Nobel Prize Committee, Albania, Iceland, Guatemala, Nicaragua, and South Africa.
However, it should not be said that this policy of shaping the collective memory represents total societal control. Often times it can complicate historical negotiations. The territorial disputes over islands in the East Asia and South China Sea, for example, are complicated by pressure from below in order to achieve a fair deal. Likewise, the same events which caused the massive outburst of protest in 1989 - governmental corruption and one-Party Rule - have remained in place. In effect, it is concealing the symptoms and leaving the causes unchanged.
That said, this is still an important issue in understanding how a major power with a post-colonial history presents itself and its aspirations for the future. ...more