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It would be difficult to name a subject that has puzzled the learned world so much and for so long, as the accurate delineation of the character of that wonderful and unchanging people, the Chinese.


As the nineteenth century wore on, however, the model of knowledge as an encyclopedic whole dissolved and was replaced with one where knowledge was parsed into finer and finer disciplinary units. This only compounded the problem of where to fit Asians and their civilizations. As one writer put it, "In what category to place them must puzzle the psychologist."

(It's from 1838.)
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[This photograph] represented a boy from ‘the upper or most highly educated class, the son of a distinguished civil officer of Canton.' Although 'a fine, attractive-looking little fellow, his full hazel eyes beaming with kindliness and intelligence,' the boy’s face would, Thomson argued, gradually lose its attractions as it grows to maturity. "The softness of the eye is then frequently replaced by a cold, calculating expression, the result of their peculiar training, and the countenance assumes an air of apathetic indifference which is so necessary to veil the inner feelings of a polished Chinese gentleman." Thomson classified people visually, constructing knowledge of their physical and moral character. The latter was often evaluated in terms of usefulness for British commerce and the Western traveller.

more from the same. formatting wonky because it's copy and pasted from something with wonky format. )
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This book I'm reading illegally on google books but will totally buy once I get back questions whether Communist China had to be our enemy. I thought I was the only person who thought that a Mao-US alliance ought not to have been completely out of the question.

wtf yogurt

Feb. 25th, 2010 04:44 am
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I wrote a letter to an organic yogurt company in Iowa. It is as follows:


I am writing to inquire about the name of your yogurt called "Cultural Revolution." It is unclear to me what widescale destruction, brutality, and chaos that affected tens of millions of lives and the internal Party struggles over the question of Mao's successor have to do with peach yogurt. Please clarify.



Jan. 10th, 2010 04:17 am
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Reading this column, my first reaction was to question the author's style. This is not just a matter of taste; anyone who calls himself "pithy" is not writing in expectation of serious disagreement--and hence, no expectation of serious discussion. The labored, self-congratulatory pileup that passes for a second paragraph confirms this. Someone who brags about how "politically incorrect" he is isn't thinking about the grace of God, but about how best to give a complacent audience their weekly sneer.

The next thing I noticed was that his source is rubbish. Note I said source: he only has one. A single, solitary biography of Mao. If that doesn't raise red flags (ha!), then here are the names of the authors: Jung Chang and Jon Halliday.

You probably don't know who they are; certainly Mr Zmirak doesn't (he cannot consistently spell Chang's name). Well, having read more than one (1) book, I do. Jung Chang is the Red Guard daughter of a VERY high level Communist cadre. She eventually she moved to the West, where she discovered that Mao-hating is a multimillion dollar industry. Her husband, Halliday, is more than willing to ride the cash train. The two have falsified and misquoted sources, flatly ignored eyewitness and other testimony, conducted hundreds of interviews nobody else has access to (hmm!), spewed so much libel their book isn't even publishable in Taiwan (that famous bastion of Mao-coddling), and just plain made shit up in order to milk ever more money out of an eagerly gullible audience.

Reception among people who know which end of China is not Tibet has been unfavorable. Particularly delicious examples can be found on the Wikipedia article; I especially like "the 'facts' in The Da Vinci Code are about as reliable as those to be found in...Mao: The Unknown Story." Translated from the academic? This book is bullshit.

Unfortunately, that means that this column is also bullshit. A brief rundown of two lies that Zmirak parrots:

George Marshall [forced] Chiang Kai-Shek [Jiang Jieshi] to stop attacking Mao's guerillas when victory was still possible.

This is libel. Marshall got there in 1947; victory was impossible for Jiang since at least 1937, when a foreign army invaded his country and HE DID NOTHING. On the other hand, the Communists engaged in a skillful takeover of the northeastern part of the country through their campaign to redistribute land and, you know, fight the giant fucking army that had conquered the place.

Oh, yeah, and far be it from me to say anything good about Jiang Jieshi, but the authors lie about him, too. Jiang did not deliberately let Mao go at the beginning of the Long March; the Communists escaped because Jiang was an incompetent. There was no evil conspiracy of Americans and Soviets (in fact the Soviets weren't too fond of him) and Nationalists to let Mao win: he won because the support of the majority of the Chinese people was behind him, period, end of story. That is the real thing that a certain school of rightist in the US cannot bear to hear, but it is true.

- Mao had already racked up most of his estimated 70 million deaths

The seventy million figure is a commonly repeated but unverifiable one. Simply put, the method we have for calculating the statistics of the deaths that happened as a result of the Great Leap Forward is screwy; some academics even contest the 20 million minimum figure. Most, though, put the figure at 30 million. Taking into account more than the GLF, I'd say it's 40 million, but the simple fact is we don't know. Someone who doesn't acknowledge that they're just pulling numbers out of their ass isn't being honest. The other thing important about this figure--which is extraordinarily high even taking into account the ass-pulling--is that those deaths were by and large not deliberately planned. Mao's communism is not like Pol Pot's or Stalin's: those millions of deaths happened because of incompetence, bad policies, and overenthusiastic red guards and cadres, not deliberate malice. This is important for a variety of reasons, in this case to emphasize that Maoism is distinct from other forms of left-wing totalitarianism.

So this column is a blindly accepting summary of an offensively inaccurate book. The only contributions Zmirak makes are how he frames it: his "politically incorrect" metaphor for God's grace and a few telling transitions.

Here's one instance of the latter. Having said that "Mao's system organized committees to micromanage the public, private, and sexual lives of millions at the point of a bayonet," he also says that Mao's "ethical core -- which could have been cribbed from the writings of the Marquis de Sade -- was precisely what the New Left was peddling, in the form of 'free love' and the Dionysian frenzies of drug-fueled musical orgies such as Woodstock."

No. No. No. No. No. No. No.

Maoism is not American leftism. Maoism is a very puritanical form of Communism. I read one account of Red Guards who beat an exhibitionist to death because they didn't know what else to do with a penis; while I doubt that this was common, repeating that anecdote is a concise way to summarize the attitudes among the 1960s Chinese youth. Not Woodstock, in other words (and anyway, on what aged planet is Woodstock still the epitome of American leftism?). Maoism is, more to the point, a very popular/democratic form of Communism--one that would NEVER take place in the US. You know how I said that Chang was the daughter of a Communist cadre? Well, the reason she got so pissed off at Mao is that he turned the masses against the party. If Mao had been more of a Soviet-style Communist, or more like the American left (which has a VERY elitist ideology), he would never have allowed the masses to criticize Party officials, particularly such high up ones as Chang's father.

But the fact he and his commenters smash the two together tells us exactly what his point is. The evilest man in history, of all people, is apparently fullheartedly endorsed by or/and the same as our political enemies in the United States. This is certainly the point the commeters take away: it isn't about Mao, but about the faceless legions of "politically correct" Americans who apparently want to implement Maoism here. Obama, queer theorists, and Mao are all exactly the same...waitwat.

While that's a common point, it is not thoughtful or intellectually honest. I could point out that spreading lies about your opponents isn't a good or intelligent political move to make, nor is it the right way to conduct academic inquiry or casual discussion. But that's irrelevant; Zmirak's not a political columnist, he's an allegedly Catholic one. The fact is, what is not true or honest cannot be Christian, and does not belong on a Catholic website. I said, initially, that his "politically incorrect" metaphor about British gunboats (which, by the way: you want to know who's to blame for Mao? Look to the Victorians!) was not about the grace of God.

It's not. This column isn't insightful commentary connecting contemporary problems to Christian teaching; it's "oh look at how evil people who disagree with me are." But the thing about Christianity--the terrifying thing--is that it's not about other people. You cannot stand before Christ on the day of judgement and say "oh but I wasn't a Democrat, I never agreed with TEH EVILIZT PEEPS ON TEH PLANETORS EVAR." In a truly frightening way, it is all about you.

How rotten you are, how vulnerable, how conceited, silly, and weak you are. How you need to challenge yourself, shake yourself out of complacency, how you need to maintain constant vigilance lest you get exactly what you deserve. You're going to hell. Unless...unless...the British gunboats come sailing up the river to save your silly native ass?

Uh, yeah, that makes no sense.

If he'd been thinking more of Catholic teaching and less of clever ways to brag about how "politically incorrect" he is (and thus cement his solidarity with and confirm the biases of his own collective), Zmirak might have chosen a metaphor thought up by a far more adequate essayist:

Christianity agrees with Dualism that this universe is at war. But it does not think this is a war between independent powers. It thinks it is a civil war, a rebellion, and that we are living in a part of the universe occupied by the rebel.

Enemy-occupied territory-that is what this world is. Christianity is the story of how the rightful king has landed, you might say landed in disguise, and is calling us all to take part in a great campaign of sabotage.

I'll take Lewis one step further. Far from being the ex-colonies at risk of corruption that Zmirak envisages, we are already fully corrupt. We are not only living in rebel territory, we are rebels. We eat, talk, and think like rebels (and yes, this "I'm so right and other people who are not like me are so wrong, nyah nyah nyah" column is an example of rebelthink). We have rebel friends and family. We have rebel interests, passions, pursuits, and careers. We are already traitors. Until we have fully and finally acknowledged the rightful king and accepted his offer to turn us into resistance fighters, it is not our place to discuss who is the mostest evilest person ever. Besides, I suspect that Christian thought would understand "successfully evil" as nonsense.


Aug. 29th, 2009 09:16 pm
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Speech allegedly documenting a Chinese 'plan' for eliminating the United States by biological warfare. The Chinese is ostensibly here, and it matches up pretty closely.

Epoch Times is, charitably, an uncesnsored account of what is going on in the Chinese mainland; uncharitably, it's as ideologically biased, one-sided, and unreliable as Maoist propaganda. The Chinese government hates them; if you google "epoch times," you can see that the Chinese cybermachine has made "crooks" a related search term. Given that there is a great deal of noise from both sides, you are not going to be able to find anything useful about them on teh intarwebs. There are probably a lot of articles with basis in fact because the Chinese government isn't nice, but this isn't one of them.

It is written, I think, by a Chinese dissident pretending to be a "leading CCP official." It appears to be less a coherent speech advocating a given plan of action than a hodge-podge effort to hit every single hot button issue among the anti-China crowd except for the planned birth policy. It was translated by someone with an ear for the expectations of the sort of white conservative who would read the Epoch Times seriously.

Taiwan, imminent inhumane threat to all Americans, contempt of Chinese culture (simply sage worship?), evolutionary theories of race (pointing out that Hitler was a Darwinist: big among contemporary conservatives), specifically anti-Christian sentiment, Communists-and-Marxists-are-really-Nazis, the Tian'anmen Square Massacre (June 4 Riots), cold war rhetoric ("nuclear bondage" = mutually assured destruction), the lie that 20 million people died from Maoist campaigns that weren't the Great Leap Forward, the "oh my gosh China is going to be a superpower" hysteria. It has an explicitly racial element: above all, the "speaker" is the cunning and lying Chinaman with the evil subhuman plan. If you had to build a straw man, Fu Manchu "Chi Haotian" is it.

China is not going to invade Taiwan so long as there is economic development; the United States would probably not intervene if it did; China is not going to be a superpower; I like semicolons. I'm pretty sure that the hysteria over all these is simply a modern manifestation of the Yellow Peril. Maybe there's a cultural problem in the US. We haven't gotten over the Yellow Peril, the Yellow Claw, or Fu Manchu, and it shows in what anti-Chinese people will countenance.

It's a caricature, one more manifestation of a vile archetype (see also the cartoon: do you know any real Chinese men that look like that?).

But twist it, a bit: it is true that the Chinese government takes interest in proving that there is one China for 5,000 years or more. It is true that the CCP still touts an explicitly Leninist view of race and ethnicity. It is true that Maoism is an especially violent strain of Communism--the CCP as a whole has moved away from Maoism, but if it's just one Maoist...

Not a malevolent race with a heartless government, but one aging soldier seeing that what he worked for and believes in will not come to pass, is in fact actively editing itself out of existence. He wants to stop it, looks to his understanding of history, ideology, and capacities, and comes up with a plan. He presents the plan, they applaud him out of politeness, respect for what he did back in the old days. He recognizes what they're doing, thanks them for their time, and goes back home, presumably to die.

A modernist story would end there, sad commentary on how we all die and get alienated and despair and blah blah angst blah. A pulp story? No. He then tries to implement it himself--necessitating, of course, heroic intervention--by someone who's the product of the real new China, not the new China he thought he was creating.

It's not true, but it could be...

i'm tired

Dec. 28th, 2007 02:05 am
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made with a revolutionary super-plush microfiber, these luxurious sleep socks are so soft, so indulgent--you have to feel them to believe it...Socks made in China.

Yeah. Luxurious, soft, indulgent...Made by fifteen-year-old peasant girls. That really says a lot about a certain aspect of the United States.

I'm tired and very worn out, though, and the "sleep socks" are nice. I wish I could get sleep socks for my brain and emotions, but they would probably have them made out of fifteen-year-old Chinese peasant girls.


Apr. 7th, 2007 03:31 pm
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I was raised associating China with Communism and opium. I was warned by solicitous Americans to avoid both. I've succeeded. Like any functionally rational being encountering Marxism in practice, I've been turned away from going red for good. I also have yet to come across any opium dens.

However, there very similar houses of addiction with which I am intimately connected. Dimly lit by a dull red glow made worse by the smoke and filled to the brim with practically soulless, mind-numbed addicts who might once have been human, they are the internet cafes. Even with 250-500 computers per cafe, I've found it's hard to snag one; most of them are taken by people doing . . . What?

In the United States, people wonder what they can do. There are a lot of websites that cannot be accessed with a Chinese IP. My blog is located on one such website, so I have to improvise in order to give my friends urgent updates on my fascinating life*. Thankfully, I'm well-trained in the art of subversion, and can draw on skills I learned in boot camp—er, public school, ninth grade. It turns out that the same websites deemed evil by the godless reds are the same ones deemed inappropriate for American children.

Actually, that's not true. Censorship in Communist China is less strict, though not less irrational and petty. China blocks blogs, but not information about the physics concepts that make firearms work, comics, or religion. I'm not sure who would be more offended to hear it, the freedom-hating censors or the guardians who keep our children safe. Forgive me for not taking all the moral outrage over Google and Microsoft selling out American values seriously.

Meanwhile, the addicts are too busy playing games to care.

*It's censored. Ipso facto, it is fascinating.


Mar. 26th, 2007 03:28 pm
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I'm eating the first Kraft Macaroni and Cheese I've had since I came here. I have to say that it doesn't taste all that good. My Chinese mom heard me making it and came in just in time to see me the pour neon-orange powder into the bowl. I told her that every American kid loves this stuff. She said, "oh, we can't eat it. We're really scared of it."

Scared of Kraft Macaroni and Cheese—tebie hai pa were her exact words. This seems amusing until you really consider that cheese has never, ever resembled powder. I won't drink the milk they buy because it doesn't spoil for two months; therefore, I reason, it is fake and undrinkable milk. But yet I eat "cheese" that lasts for years.


Aug. 10th, 2006 01:28 am
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"I really like Chinese stuff! Like their cartoons--" "Like Pokemon?" said another one of them. "Yeah, like that. And the ones with the gigantic eyeballs?" "Anime?" I offered. "Right!"



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