Chairman mao

The thoughts of Chairman Xi – in digestible form

While giving a talk on China I was asked an unusual question: ‘What is the one word you would use to describe China?’ By China we mean of course the Chinese Communist party (CCP) and, more specifically, Xi Jinping. My reply was: ‘Solipsistic.’ Xi wants China to lead the world, but to take very limited responsibility for solving the world’s problems Steve Tsang and Olivia Cheung, from the School of Oriental and African Studies, have produced a study in solipsism, and a mighty fine one. Xi and the CCP are solipsistic in the vulgar rather than true philosophical sense. They are supremely self-centred in their belief that the external world

What Beidaihe reveals about the changing nature of Communist leadership

26 min listen

178 miles to the east of Beijing, there’s a beach resort called Beidaihe. The water is shallow and the sand is yellow and fine. Luxurious holiday villas dot the coastline. Starting from the 1950s, leaders of the Chinese Communist Party have moved their families and work to Beidaihe in the summer, making the beach resort something of a summer capital. Secrecy clouds the gatherings, and though this tradition continues, today the resort seems to serve a much more leisurely purpose when the CCP visits. On this episode, I’m joined by the historian James Carter and Bill Bishop, editor of the very popular Sinocism newsletter, to discuss where Communist leaders go,

Xi Jinping is acting like Stalin

The General Secretary of China’s Communist Party is a different kind of leader. Now in his third five-year term, Xi Jinping believes that time is running out for him to secure his legacy as Mao Zedong’s true successor. He spent a decade dismantling the technocracy and politburo consensus government ushered in by Deng Xiaoping after Mao’s death, rolled back the authority of local party nomenklatura in favour of more centralised control from Beijing, and worked to subordinate China’s economy to the Communist Party’s (meaning Xi’s) political priorities. In abandoning the ‘to get rich is glorious’ social contract of the post-Tiananmen Square era, Xi has come to bury Deng and not

Wang Huning: the man behind Xi Jinping

At the height of the Cultural Revolution, over a billion copies of Mao’s Little Red Book were distributed across the People’s Republic. This small pocket-sized collection of quotations provided the scaffolding for an era of communist purges. Utopians need theory. And while the Maoist orthodoxies of the last century have faded, China’s need for a solid intellectual foundation is as strong as ever. Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era is that new theory. But it is written not by the General Secretary himself but by an unassuming 65-year-old: his supreme theoretician. Wang Huning has quietly shaped China over the last three decades, despite the

One great Chinese puzzle remains its cuisine

A truth that ought to be universally acknowledged is that Chinese food, while much loved, is underappreciated. China certainly has one of the world’s most sophisticated cuisines, yet while there’s a Chinese restaurant in almost every town, there’s little dependable information about it in English aimed at the general reader. Jonathan Clements addresses this in The Emperor’s Feast, a galloping journey through thousands of years of Chinese culinary history, from origin myths through numerous dynasties, the Opium Wars and the Cultural Revolution, right up to the present day. At the start he says his work has been ‘a quest to find out what Chinese food actually is’, by shedding light

Chilli con carnage: the red hot pepper and communism

These days it is as hard to imagine Sichuanese food without chillies as it is to imagine Italian food without tomatoes. Both ingredients were among the New World crops that transformed culinary cultures across the globe after Christopher Columbus’s ‘discovery’ of the Americas in 1492. The chilli first appeared in China sometime in the late 16th century. Within 50 years it was rapidly gaining popularity and by the late 19th century it was ubiquitous in many parts of the country. Brian R. Dott has scoured Chinese and other sources to find out how and why this foreign spice conquered Chinese palates. He examines the chilli’s progress in China from multiple