On China

Journalism and Essays on The Middle Kingdom

On China

Culture as ideology

Various Western commentators have noted a resurgence of ‘Confuciansim’ in China. But will Chinese youngsters buy into it? This essay, which appears in China Rights Forum (2008, No. 3), discusses other influences at work on younger generations: smaller family size; increased access to education; wider exposure to culturally demotic media; increased personal freedom and responsibility. It concludes that 21st century Chinese will certainly differ from their ancestors substantially (although in ways that are not easily predictable); and that a neo-Confucian discourse need not imply either loss of cultural diversity and experimentation or reversion to cultural type. (This was written in my capacity as guest editor of the journal. Unlike my ‘guest editor intro’ piece, which the journal’s publisher, Human Rights In China, declined to use, this was published with only minor modifications.)

Where is China’s Balzac?

China’s economic renaissance and renewed cultural confidence have not yet been matched by a creative re-awakening. So argues this review essay, which considers the comparative globalisation of ‘Eng Lit,’ departing from an unpretentious detective story set in Shanghai.

‘Chinese need better conversations among themselves’

This April 2008 e-interview with the US-based Grantmakers without Borders provided an opportunity to offer detailed answers to very frequently asked questions: what is the nature of civil society in China, the growth trajectory and challenges facing NGOs, the influence of foreign organisations—and what part in this was China Development Brief trying to play?

Self righteous sinophobia misses the intricacy of truth

Reflexive sinophobia may be self-fulfilling for it risks strengthening the forces within China that are opposed to political reform. So argues the essay that follows, which was written in the run-up to the Beijing Olympics and published, with the title ‘Altered Images’ in Index on Censorship (Volume 37 No. 2, 2008).

One country, many diasporas

The following paper was commissioned by the Asia Pacific Philanthropy Consortium for a conference in Vietnam in May, 2008. [Endnote 1]. It serves as an update for—but does not need to be read in conjunction with—an earlier book chapter also distributed at the conference: Philanthropic Links Between the Chinese Diaspora and the People's Republic of China, co-authored by June Shih, which appeared in Diaspora Philanthropy and Equitable Development in China and India (Geithner P F, Chen L C, Johnson PD eds., 2005, Harvard University Press.)

What can the ‘developing’ world learn from China?

The government of China has long taken the view that its own development must be sui generis, resisting ‘foreign models’ or at least adapting and investing them with ‘Chinese characteristics.’ International development agencies and some developing countries are now asking what lessons they can draw from China’s own fast-forward growth. This essay, which was presented as a discussion paper to a Wilton Park conference in November 2007, questions whether the diverse forces that have propelled China forward can be emulated. A shorter version entitled ‘Saving Globalisation’ appeared in the Winter 2007 (No. 41) issue of China Review.


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