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Sunday, October 15, 2006

"China's New Leftist"

The NYT has a nice little article on one of the great Chinese intellectuals writing today, Wang Hui.  Although I think the article tends to align him more with the CCP than I ever would, it is great that more people are being made aware of the exciting political theorizing taking place in China today.  Here, I'll refrain from making any comments about who counts as a "Leftist" and just recommend Wang's masterly work, China New Order.

Other fun new political theory books about China include (of course!) Leib & He's The Search for Deliberative Democracy in China and Bell's Beyond Liberal Democracy: Political Thinking for an East Asian Context.

Posted by Ethan Leib on October 15, 2006 at 08:56 AM in Article Spotlight | Permalink


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Tracked on Oct 18, 2006 7:39:29 PM


Thanks Bart.

I have Peerenboom's book, which I'm slowly reading, as I've read articles of his I thought were first-rate.

I gave Oracle Bones as a gift, thinking it might be good (the title caught my attention, as I know far more about ancient China [Chinese philosophies in particular] than contemporary China, or the period in between), and now I want to read it myself.

And, it seems, need to read Stanley Lubman.

Posted by: Patrick S. O'Donnell | Oct 15, 2006 1:13:00 PM

Peerenboom's book is the definitive introductory volume, along with Stanley Lubman's Bird in a Cage. Both contain excellent, comprehensive bibliographies of modern Chinese legal scholarship. Peter Hessler is one of the best journalists writing on China today. In Oracle Bones, his reach exceeds his grasp a bit, in my opinion, but no less than Jonathan Spence gave his imprintur to it. Some of the material in Oracle Bones is retreaded from Hessler's New Yorker columns and some of it stretches too far in search of a grand narrative where he's best at the vignette. Also, Hessler's essential character as a detached, hyper-judgmental individual emerges. I hadn't realized that this was his essential journalistic approach before--its always been subtle enough to work very well, but in Oracle Bones it becomes a touch disconcerting. For example, he seems far too clinical about some of his urstwhile friends and his judgments on some individuals seem rather petty and narrative-serving. He observes that these provincial businessmen wear "cheap Buddhist beads." Actually, I think I know the beads he is referring to. I've worn them. They are cheap, of course, but they are also simple and unassuming--which is why many Buddhist monks wear them. The reason that the critical description disturbed me was because I am certain that if the businessmen had worn more expensive beads, Hessler would have criticized them for wearing gaudy beads or something similar. We get the point, they are crass and commercialistic. Fair enough, but I find it a shame when the details in a narrative serve the author's agenda in such a transparent fashion. Still, Hessler is one of the best popular writers on China today.

Posted by: Bart Motes | Oct 15, 2006 12:59:38 PM


Any thoughts on Minxin Pei's China's Trapped Transition: The Limits of Developmental Autocracy (2006) or Randall Peerenboom's China's Long March Toward Rule of Law (2002)?

Or, for that matter, opinion on Peter Hessler's Oracle Bones (2006)?

Posted by: Patrick S. O'Donnell | Oct 15, 2006 9:47:24 AM

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