Week in Review
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  • China is the gift that keeps on giving. My latest readings are a couple of books”Chinese Characteristics” and “A Daughter of Han.” They were both written by American missionaries almost a century ago and they are both available on line. Together with Spence’s “The Story of Woman Wang” and “Treason by the Book” we get a good feeling for the continuities in Chinese culture and civilization. The question I come away with is, “How can such a nice people be so cruel to each other?” They devour one another both figuratively (see Lu Xun’s famous short story, “Diary of a Mad Man’) and literally (where cannibalism is a recurrent phenomena in times of famine, families trading babies for purposes of food — see Wei Jingsheng’s autobiographical essay).

    The answer I think is culture. A culture of male chauvinism and misrule, of corruption and exploitatiion, going all the way back to the very beginning of China’s history.

    I called it a culture and a civilization above but I am having second thoughts about the word “civilization.” There is nothing civilized about Chinese culture and institutions unless you believe in art-for-arts sake. It is a barbarous tradition which the people themselves would like to escape but they don’t know how. Lu Xun writes about it in the second volume of his selected works, which you can purchase used on Abebooks.

    My latest thought is that the road to a liberal democracy in runs through a recurrence of one man rule. A committee of corrupt party bosses cannot pull it off. China needs a benevolent dictator to break with tradition, sort of like that guy Lee who brought Singapore around. Taiwan also offers some guidance.

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