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Lucky?

Wednesday, June 10th, 2015

[ by Charles Cameron — where two negatives (OPM and Secret Service) may make an ironic positive — a DoubleTweet ]
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On the one hand…

— while on the other…

Taken separatedly, they’re both on the sinister side — but together, almost dextrous?

Cold War and Political Fire: Speculation on the State of Sinology

Monday, June 8th, 2015

[by Mark Safranski, a.k.a. “zen“]

China HandJohn Paton Davies 

Our newest ZP team member, T. Greer of Scholar’s Stage blog has reposted two very thoughtful essays on the Chinese strategic tradition and its interpretation that can be found in modern Sinology. They are excellent and I encourage you to read them in full.
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In his second post, T. Greer raises many questions regarding the state of Sinology, as well as topics for future investigation yet unexplored that would represent in equivalent fields, the fundamentals. Given that China represents not just a nation-state and a potential near-peer competitor of the U.S. but thousands of years of a great civilization, it is remarkable that the professional community of Western Sinologists is so small. The number of USG employees with the highest level of conversational fluency in Chinese who are neither native speakers nor children of immigrants would probably not fill a greyhound bus.
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Why is the state of Sinology relatively parlous?

I think the poor state of Sinology is traceable primarily, albeit far from exclusively, to the Cold War for two reasons:

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First, Mao’s tumultuous, totalitarian rule cut off access to Chinese sources and China to Western scholars for roughly a generation and a half. This in itself, coming on the heels of almost forty years of revolution, warlordism, foreign invasion and civil war, was enough to cripple the field. Without access to in-country experience, archival sources and foreign counterparts, an academic field begins to die.  Furthermore, Mao’s tyrannical isolation of mainland China was  far more severe than the limited access for Western scholars of Russian history and journalists imposed by the Soviet Union. Josef Stalin, in contrast to Mao, was partially a great Russian chauvinist and the Soviet dictator demanded  certain aspects of Russian history, culture and the reigns of particular Tsars be celebrated alongside the Marxist pantheon . Mao’s feelings towards traditional Chinese culture were much more hostile and ideologically extreme.  Stalin’s worst abuses of Russian history in demolishing a historic Tsarist cathedral for a never-built, gigantic Soviet labyrinthe pale next to the mad vandalism of the Cultural Revolution .

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Secondly, the fate of “the China hands” like John Paton Davies and the “Who Lost China” debate during McCarthyism rendered Sinology politically radioactive in America. It is true that many of the China hands like Davies combined a realistic strategic assessment of Kuomintang/Chiang Kai-shek shortcomings with politically naive or wishful thinking about Mao and the Communists, but the field was dealt a blow from which it never recovered in American universities. Davies was not a Communist or even a leftist (though some China Hands were fellow travelers) but that nuance was lost on the public  in a period that saw in swift succession Alger Hiss, the Berlin blockade, the the Fall of China, the Soviet A-Bomb, Klaus Fuchs, the Rosenbergs and the Korean War. It seemed at the time that the Roosevelt administration had been infiltrated with Soviet spies and fellow travelers (largely because it had been) and in that atmosphere of Red-baiting, Davies was subsequently scapegoated, smeared and fired.  This McCarthyite political cloud over Sinology was curiously juxtaposed with the simultaneous robust funding of studies of the USSR, Russian culture and the training of Slavic linguists in the 1950’s to 1991 by the USG. For academics, going into Sinology could become a professional dead end and carried (at least in the early fifties) an odor of disloyalty.

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There are certainly other and more contemporary reasons for American  Sinology being more of an esoteric field than it deserves, to which someone else with expertise can address but all fields need to attract talent and funding and until Nixon’s “China opening”, American Sinologists struggled against the political current.

Raijin Fury

Sunday, June 7th, 2015

[ by Charles Cameron — for Ibn Siqilli, Gilles Poitras and JM Berger, three friends with eyes on graphical culture, and Thomas Hegghammer, who knows the importance of such matters ]
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Raijin 602 2

Dr-Strangelove

logo 602

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Sources:

  • Tawaraya Sotatsu, Fujin-raijin-zu
  • Squidnova, Dr Strangelove
  • No governmental patch, Stellar Raijin
  • — nor should we forget “the dragon on smoke”:

  • Hokusai, The dragon on smoke escaping from Mt Fuji
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    fuji-koryuu

    McCarthy at the border?

    Saturday, May 9th, 2015

    [ by Charles Cameron — questions that come too close for comfort ]
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    As usual, I’m about the business of comparing and contrasting — this time comparing a question asked of visitors to the US at the Canadian border with the key question asked in the McCarthy era.

    SPEC DQ McCarthy & border

    The similarity is close enough to serve as food for thought, no?

    It’s how we / they roll

    Friday, May 1st, 2015

    [ by Charles Cameron – neither am I a biker, nor encased in armor ]
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    SPEC DQ how we roll

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    The Army puts on a heavy metal tour of Eastern Europe for Mr Putin

  • Three American armored convoys today converged in Czech Republic’s capital on tour of Eastern Europe
  • Vehicles have traveled more than 1,000 miles through Poland and the Baltic States as warning to Putin
  • Countries in the region are nervous after Russian annexation of Crimea and military unrest in the area
  • The Dragoon Ride convoy began in three separate branches; one in Talinn, Estonia, one in Vilnius, Linthuania and one in Drawsko Pomorskie, Poland.

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    An ultra-nationalist Russian biker gang is invading Europe, and Poland isn’t happy

    Not many motorbike groups can claim to have a head of state as a supporter, but the case of Russia’s Night Wolves is an exception. President Vladimir Putin has publicly embraced the group, and after Russia’s annexation of Crimea last year, the Night Wolves were quick to parade through Crimea’s streets.

    Their next ride, however, will be less trouble-free. After the group announced that it was planning a ride through Europe to celebrate the victory over Nazi Germany in World War II, Poland denied the bikers access to the country. Many eastern Europeans saw something else in the ride: a ridiculing of the victims of the Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine.

    Originally, the group wanted to travel from Russia to Berlin, passing through Belarus, Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Austria and imitating the conquest of the Soviet Union from more than half a century ago, according to AFP. Rally organizer Andrei Bobrovsky told the French news agency that the main goal of the trip was “to pay respect to those killed on WWII battlefields in the struggle against Hitler’s Nazis.”

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    Image sources:

  • Libya 360, US Dragoon Ride through Eastern Europe
  • US Convoy March is ‘Shocking Spectacle Fitting Imperialistic Ambitions’
  • Washington Post, Putin rides with the Night Wolves
  • An ultra-nationalist Russian biker gang is invading Europe, and Poland isn’t happy

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