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Anglophiles in Beijing?

For those keeping score, a pattern is beginning to emerge in the cultural tastes of Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao. Mr. Wen has recently revealed an affinity for both Adam Smith and Shakespeare.

To some degree, the Chinese leader is no doubt trying to make a political point — he is careful to contrast his interest in Western culture with his counterparts’ relative ignorance of Chinese history and civilization. Still, Wen comments belie a genuine interest in and engagement with these landmarks of British cultural history.

The popularity of Western and specifically Anglophone culture within the Chinese elite is not a new development — Shanghai was known for its cosmopolitanism in the 1920s and Deng Xiaoping was an avid and apparently skillful bridge player — but its persistence makes an important point about the nature and direction of contemporary geopolitics.

Many American academics seem to want to bury the dead white men responsible for much (though by no means all) of the western and specifically Anglophone cultural canon; that, apparently, is not what the world’s rising powers want to do.  Somebody should write a book about this — oh wait, somebody already has.

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  • David Hoffman

    I’ll have to get that book. Any chance that Special Providence could be made available for the Kindle?

  • Jim.

    It’s a fun read, too. 🙂

    Sometime, if you’d like a week or two of light reading, try out “The Water Margin” (Chinese Robin Hood, more or less), and the great but unfortunately named “Romance of the Three Kingdoms” (A cross between King Arthur legends and the fall of the Roman Republic.)

    Any marketeer in this country should be able to come up with a better word than “Romance” … Chronicles, Tales, Legends, Epic. I think they would be pleasantly surprised by the spike in sales it would enjoy, and if there’s anyone left in Hollywood with an appetite for epics, this certainly gives you grist for that mill.

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