China

Since the time of celebrated figure painter Gu Kaizhi (345–406 CE) of the Jin dynasty (266–420 CE), artists in China have been researchers of sorts. Over millennia, a scholarly ideal in painting would emerge. Late in their working lives, many artists sought an aesthetic that was uncontrived and conformed to the inner workings of nature. For Nanjing-based art historian Xue Xiang, this was Fairweather’s achievement. A Scottish-born artist, son of civil servants to the British Raj, war survivor, migrant, vagabond, builder of makeshift rafts and huts, well-connected recluse, acclaimed foster child of Australian art: what makes Ian Fairweather resonate with Chinese artists across millennia?

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It has become a rite of passage for foreign correspondents returning home from a stint in China to pen a memoir recounting their experiences. All too often, the story begins with the said reporter crossing into mainland China at Lo Wu, having just spent time enjoying the bright lights of Hong Kong. Clearly, the Lo Wu railway station holds a certain allure for wandering Australian journalists.

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The China Journals: Ideology and intrigue in the 1960s by Hugh Trevor-Roper, edited by Richard Davenport-Hines

by
November 2020, no. 426

When the Society for Anglo-Chinese Understanding (SACU) invited Hugh Trevor-Roper, Regius Professor of History at the University of Oxford, to visit China in 1965, he jumped at the chance. It was a decision that all parties concerned came to regret. The eminent historian had a terrible time in China, ‘that land of bigots and parrots’. He didn’t meet the right people. He found no intellectual equals. The interpreters and guides assigned to the group weren’t up to the job. He nicknamed them Cement-head, Duckbottom, Smooth-face, and the Presbyterian.

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Scott Morrison does not like to explain the decisions he makes on our behalf. Sometimes he just refuses to discuss them, as he did when, as immigration minister, he simply rejected any questions about how his boat-turnback policy was being implemented at sea. At other times he is a little subtler, as he has been this year while presiding over what will probably prove to be the most consequential shift in Australia’s foreign relations in decades. The collapse in relations with our most powerful Asian neighbour and most important trading partner is not just Canberra’s doing, of course; it has resulted from decisions made in Beijing too. But Australia’s recent and current choices have certainly contributed to the chill, and our future choices will do much to determine where things go from here.

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Sometime in 2017, one of the world’s largest academic publishers started quietly removing thousands of articles from its websites in China because they covered topics deemed politically sensitive by the Chinse Communist Party (CCP). Much of the offending material related to the three Ts: Taiwan, Tibet, and the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989. At the time I was a China correspondent for the Financial Times, and an academic who was horrified by this censorship tipped me off. I contacted the publisher, Springer Nature, which admitted that it had begun censoring to comply with ‘local distribution laws’. I naïvely thought that the exposure of such craven behaviour by the owner of Nature, Scientific American, and the Palgrave Macmillan imprint would prompt a huge backlash from academics, universities, and governments.

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Lawyers, media organisations, human rights NGOs, and unions have been lining up recently to warn us of a serious threat facing civil liberties in Australia. It comes in the form of Malcolm Turnbull’s new national security laws, which, in the name of combating foreign influence, would criminalise anyone who simply ‘receives ...

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For upward of a decade, Hugh White has been sounding a warning: that Australia’s long-standing policy of relying on the United States as guarantor of our security in Asia was approaching its use-by date. As a conspicuous relic of European colonial expansion, Australia has always viewed with trepidation the ...

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Anger and indignation seem to dominate headlines around the world these days. Angry citizens are found in every corner rallying against social injustice and global warming. Angry politicians in the West call for new walls, impervious to the plight of refugees and threatening a new round of trade wars. In stark contrast, China’s ...

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In his searching introduction to this immense volume, the editor, Harvard scholar David Der-Wei Wang, refers to the ‘architectonics of temporalities’ by which the project re-maps and re-chronicles Chinese literary history. A New Literary History of Modern China follows the model of the provocatively kaleidoscopic slice ...

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In 1989, as the Chinese Communist Party came to terms with the ongoing significance of religion in post-Mao China, they needed a new formula to explain its survival. Religion was, they said, a long-term phenomenon. It had a mass base; it had national dimensions, in that some of China’s nationalities identified strongly with ...

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