Where Do We Go from Here?

With just three weeks until president-elect Ma Ying-jeou's inauguration, many Taiwanese and their friends and relatives abroad are experiencing a sense of optimism, perhaps best expressed in the frequent utterances of the phrase mashang jiuhao 馬上就好, which can mean either "Everything will ready right away" or "Things will get better as soon as Ma takes power". At the same time, however, there is also a growing sense of trepidation about some of the challenges facing the in-coming Ma administration:

1. To begin with, much of Taiwan's non-Mainlander population has yet to be convinced that the new administration will be sensitive to their needs. For example, when the first round of cabinet appointments was announced, more than a few eyebrows were raised about the sizeable percentage of Mainlanders in the cabinet (as of this posting, approximately 25% of the new cabinet appointees were Mainlanders, who make up about 15% of Taiwan's total population). Others voiced dismay that southern Taiwanese elites like Chan Chi-hsien 詹啟賢, who worked hard to get out the vote for the Ma campaign, ended up being passed over for key positions. While the latest round of appointments has proven somewhat less controversial (at least in terms of sub-ethnic politics, but see #2 and #3 below), people will still be watching to see how things develop.

A related and perhaps even thornier issue is that of transitional justice (轉型正義), and in particular what to do about the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall (國立中正紀念堂), which President Chen Shui-bian's administration attempted to rename as the National Taiwan Democracy Memorial Hall (國立台灣民主紀念館), only to have its efforts blocked by the Legislative Yuan. A similar problem surrounds the Cihhu Presidential Burial Palace (慈湖陵寢), to which Ma paid an emotional visit shortly after his election (see previous blogposts for discussions of these two sites). Concerns have also been expressed by the appointment of Wang Ching-feng 王清峰, former convener of the March 19 Shooting Truth Investigation Special Committee (三一九槍擊事件真相調查特別委員會), to the position of Minister of Justice.

2. A second challenge involves the merits of bringing back officials from previous KMT administrations, which has given rise to a sense of "meet the new boss, same as the old boss" (from The Who's rock classic "Won't Get Fooled Again"). One Chinese expression currently being used to describe the situation is "old wine in new bottles" (老酒裝新瓶), although some wags prefer "old wine in old bottles" (老酒裝老瓶). While administrative experience can be most valuable, questions have been raised about when the younger generation will get its chance. There is also a pressing need to avoid returning to the corrupt politics of previous decades of one-party rule, especially since the overwhelming KMT majority in the Legislative Yuan bodes ill for the prospect of checks and balances. After years of voiciferous complaints about corruption during Chen Shui-bian's presidency, it would be particulalry ironic if this spectre were to haunt his successor.

Another disturbing harbinger is a proposal put forth by the Soochow University (東吳大學) administration to restrict faculty participation in political talk shows. Although this proposal failed to pass the faculty senate, one professor is said to have withdrawn from a pro-green talk show due to pressure from the university authorities, including the Board of Directors. The current President of Soochow University is none other than Premier-designate Liu Chao-shiuan 劉兆玄, another former KMT official who has served as Minister of Transportation (1993) and Vice-Premier (1997).

3. Achieving a suitable framework for talks with China constitutes the third challenge. In the short term, establishing direct links and allowing Chinese tourists into Taiwan should not be too difficult to achieve, especially since the PRC seems highly willing to display its magnanimity in light of the Tibet fiasco. Things will get tougher as soon as issues of sovereignty are raised, however, as the Ma administration will have to convince the people, and especially the 42% of voters (over 5.4 million people) who supported the DPP, that it will not "sell out" to China. The utility of the so-called "1992 Consensus" (九二共識) in future negotiations also remains to be seen, while the appointment of "deep green" former Taiwan Solidarity Union (台聯) legislator Lai Hsin-yuan 賴幸媛 as chairperson of the Mainland Affairs Council (陸委會) has succeeded in offending many KMT members, some of whom are striving to assert their own authority over future negotiations. And, as if the situation wasn't complex enough, the Ma administration will have to balance its desire for improved cross-Straits relations with the strategic needs of Japan and especially the United States, which will welcome exit of "troublemaker" Chen but may be wary of Taiwan's becoming too cozy with China. (See also the analysis by Ting Yu-chou 丁渝洲, a former head of the National Security Bureau (國家安全局) during KMT rule)

4. Finally, as noted in this blog's most recent post, it is still the economy (stupid). Closer links to China will come just as many Taiwanese and Western businesses are starting to abandon the Middle Kingdom in favor of shifting operations to India and the newly developing economies of Southeast Asia (Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, and even Burma). More importantly, prices of essential commodities have yet to rise to free market levels, having been frozen during the recent election season. The Ma administration hopes to resolve this issue with one huge hike, which can then be blamed (with some credibility) on the out-going Chen administration. If prices continue their upward trend, however, Ma may end up like George Bush did in 1992. Ma has already expressed his concerns about his administration's ability to fulfill its campaign promises regarding the economy during a speech to the American Chamber of Commerce in Taipei on April 29.

Increased Chinese tourism and investment in the housing market may help cushion any economic shocks, but questions remains as to who will really benefit from such growth. Most people tend to forget that those who profited from the stratospheric stock and housing prices of the mid-1980s were not ordinary citizens but wealthy speculators, many of whom had ties to the KMT. One wonders what they might be thinking now...

In Case You Missed It: The China Fantasy

Though published last year, James Mann’s The China Fantasy takes on renewed relevance in light of the recent Tibetan riots and various responses to them. In this little book (just about 120 pages), Mann argues that the grab bag of American policymakers, business leaders, and academics he calls the “China elites” have convinced Americans that more trade will lead to more freedom in China. Mann asserts that this vision, which he calls the “Soothing Scenario,” has led the United States to overlook human rights abuses it would not otherwise.

Mann is certainly correct in pointing out that the belief that greater engagement will bring political change in China directs current American foreign policy and popular opinion (and he does an admirable job of sketching the evolution of that policy over the past four decades). But his assertion that this viewpoint has been foisted on the US by a set of China-friendly elites—and he particularly singles out for blame academics who were trained in the 1970s and 1980s—simply doesn’t bear out. As Mann explains:

“For decades, the China hands proceeded through their careers without impediment. Indeed, some of them became so well established and so closely linked to American policy that they moved back and forth between academia and the U.S. government. But they continued always to be wary of a new return to McCarthyism. Hence, any upsurge in criticism of the Chinese regime, particularly in Congress or in the news media, was viewed as potentially threatening…It is against this background that we can examine the unfolding series of rationalizations put forward by American intellectuals over the past decades to explain away the continuing suppression of political dissent by the Chinese regime.” (43).

To whom does Mann refer here? He never elaborates or names names (other than David Lampton,
with whom he debated the book’s central tenets in Foreign Policy). Nor does Mann articulate the transition in thinking of many American China scholars between the late 1960s and 1970s, when some did support movements like the Cultural Revolution, and the late 1980s and early 1990s, when, as the full picture and history of the Communist government’s actions emerged, many China scholars began to speak out against the Tiananmen crackdown and other situations.

Mann’s premise that the United States should re-examine its assumptions about the link between capitalism and democratic change is sound, as is his argument that the U.S. has ignored serious concerns with China’s policies in order to establish business or political relations (for instance, Google’s acquiescence two years ago to self-censor its searches in China). But Mann writes as though, in this view, he counters widely held opinions in business, politics, and academia. This is simply not true. Pragmatists may advocate engagement (can we truly imagine, say, imposing sanctions on China?), but the majority of China scholars hold a more nuanced view of the political realities.


Growing Up Han: Reflections on a Xinjiang Childhood

By Timothy B. Weston

The US media rarely covers the regular people who are living in the areas of China with large ethnic minorities. In chatting with a Han Chinese student (Han Chinese are by far the largest ethnic group in China) at the University of Colorado named Leong, I was struck by his nuanced perspective on his experiences growing up in Xinjiang, a province in western China with large populations of Hui (ethnically Chinese Muslims), Uighers (Turkic Muslims), and other ethnic minorities. Given the recent discussions in the Western media—in light of the situation in Tibet—of Chinese policies toward ethnic minorities, I thought China Beat’s readers might be interested to hear from Leong.

(Timothy B. Weston conducted this interview with Leong on April 23, 2008.)

Timothy B. Weston: Please explain who you are and where you grew up and when?

Leong: I was born in Urumqi to Han parents. I grew up in Urumqi and lived there for 18 years in a neighborhood of kids from different ethnic groups, such as Uighurs, Hui, Tajikis, Kirghiz, Kazaks and Han. My school was ethnically integrated. Though most students were Han, there also many Uighurs and Kazaks and even more Hui. There were two kinds of schools in Xinjiang when I was growing up – one kind had students of all ethnic backgrounds and the language of instruction was Chinese. There were also special schools for ethnic minorities where instruction was in their native language. Otherwise the curriculum was the same. It was up to the parents where to send their kids. More ethnic students went to special schools where there were no Han Chinese and instruction was in their native languages. Recently the Xinjiang government combined the two types of schools together, so the teachers have to learn the other languages. According to the old model, when the students took exams to enter the next level of school they took different tests and answered different questions depending on who they were. Now all the questions are the same. Han Chinese kids never have to learn ethnic languages. There was no serious tension or self-segregation among students when I was a student. That is because all students speak Chinese and share the same culture and talk about similar subjects. When I was a student at a mixed school virtually all teachers were Han, though there were also a few Hui teachers, but none were Uighurs or Kazaks because they don’t speak Chinese. The mother tongue of the Hui people is Chinese.

TW: Was your parents’ generation equally integrated with the other ethnic groups?

Leong: It was even more integrated than in my generation. My parents had a very close Kazak friend. My parents felt equally friendly toward all ethnic groups. Some Han Chinese were very biased, however. I lived in a mixed area of the city, where people regularly interacted with others from different ethnic groups. Some who live in more exclusively Han areas display bias toward other ethnic groups. I did not understand the difference between myself and other ethnic groups until I was 5 or 6 years old. I only knew their faces were different. In festivals they would dress distinctively, but otherwise we all dressed the same way.

TW: How are ethnic relations changing as some in Xinjiang are becoming more wealthy?

Leong: From the perspective of the market economy, now that there is a free market there are definitely some groups that are more talented, shrewd and able to take advantage of the new opportunities. In villages this is less true. Some who have become wealthier are traveling more to the Central and Western Asia for business and are exposed to Islamic fundamentalist ideas and as a result are becoming more fundamentalist. These people, when they come back to Xinjiang, sometimes propagate fundamentalist ideas such as the idea of a Holy War against the infidels and in favor of an independent East Turkestan state. Their immediate goal is an East Turkestan Islamic state. But so far there has not been a survey that indicates how much influence those radical ideas and are having in China. I do not personally know anyone who has become a fundamentalist.

TW: To what extent are members of other ethnic groups in Xinjiang trying to move inland, to other parts of China?

Leong: It’s a general trend that with a booming economy people want to move to more prosperous areas to make money, and many succeed. But that number is smaller than the number who travel to Central or Western Asia, where the ethnic groups are more similar and thus easier to navigate. Many who travel to Central and Western Asia are not radicalized. Only some are radicalized. I have a Uighur high school classmate whose father did business in Western Asia but showed no signs of fundamentalism.

TW: In your entire life in Xinjiang you never personally encountered any separatists?

Leong: No, never. It’s my sense that these radical ideas are not dominant among ethnic people. Another reason might be because it is very dangerous to discuss these ideas in public. In this sense, it’s consistent with the general political atmosphere in China. Of course, I did encounter racial discrimination and was at times taunted by students by other ethnicities because Hans eat pork and are not Muslims and are viewed as infidels. I was robbed many times by older kids from other ethnic groups when I was growing up. They picked on me because I am Han. But all ethnic groups have bad people. Generally, in the U.S. life is peaceful but we cannot deny that there are crimes and racism here, too. In every society, there are some people who are not satisfied with the status quo, who are discontent with others. For me, the taunts and robberies do not change the larger reality that the different ethnic groups mostly live together peacefully in Xinjiang.

TW: Are you still in contact with friends from your childhood and if so which types of people?

Leong: I call my friends in Xinjiang several times a month. I call them because they are my friends, not because they are of any specific ethnic groups. Some of the people I call are Uighurs.

TW: As someone who grew up in that environment, do you think you think differently about the recent troubles in Tibet?

Leong: Yes, definitely. The experience of living in Xinjiang, where there are other ethnic groups, leads me to understand that there are some problems with the Chinese government’s policies toward minority ethnic groups. I tend to think that some Tibetans are truly unhappy. In the free market economy local officials are more powerful and have much more leeway over the implementation of policies set by the central government and frequently they carry out polices that benefit themselves, which means they may distort or ignore the central government’s preferential polices toward ethnic minorities.

TW: How do you respond to the outpouring of Chinese nationalism in reaction to criticism of China’s Tibet policy from outside China?

Leong: First of all, I think it’s understandable because the claim from some Tibetan exiles is that Tibet should be separated from the People’s Republic of China. When we study Chinese history we know how much Chinese sacrificed to hold the country together. I understand the Han response to the separatist movement in Tibet. But I also think the extreme nationalist reaction is dangerous because it has resulted in a lost chance for all Chinese people to examine what is going wrong with ethnic policies. The outpouring of nationalism focused too much attention on patriotism and away from the very real problems at hand. There’s been too much focus on the separatist threat and bias in the Western media. Many Chinese people think about this the way I do but do not want to speak out because they are afraid of being labeled traitors, which comes in handy for those stupid so-called “patriots.”

TW: What do you think of Beijing’s handling of the recent ethnic conflicts in Tibet and Xinjiang?

Leong: I think as a political party that is ruling over a modern and in some respects a post-modern country like China, the Chinese government’s tactics and actions are reminiscent of those used by nineteenth century political actors. They do not understand how to communicate with the rest of the world in a way the rest of the world can understand. They show little knowledge of public relations. I think there are many good things going on in the ethnic regions, such as preferential policies, but why does the rest of the world know so little about this? And why does the rest of the world have such a bad view of what China does in these areas? The public relations is terrible and stupid—for example, the recent decision to kick foreign journalist out of Tibet. As someone from Xinjiang, I mostly have no criticisms of the Chinese government’s current polices in the ethnic regions. Generally, the ethnic groups really do benefit more than the Han. On college entrance exams the ethnic groups are given preferential treatment, and they do not have to submit to family planning policy. They have their own TV programs in their own languages. The Han are actually the minority in Tibet and Xinjiang, in a numerical sense. I disagree with Western media accounts that report that Han Chinese are pouring into Tibet. Unlike Tibet, Xinjiang is rich in natural resources and business opportunities, and not located at a high altitude; it’s more comfortable for Han Chinese, so more Han come to Xinjiang than to Tibet. But at the same time, many first or second generation (after the founding of People’s Republic of China) Han Chinese left Xinjiang because they were disappointed by the policies and quality of life there, which is due to the huge gap between the western region and the eastern coast. This has been under reported.

TW: How do you feel about Xinjiang as your home?

Leong: I love Xinjiang, its culture and its people (regardless of ethnicity). It is my home.

Images borrowed from the following websites:
Xinjiang in China Map from: www.ccc.nps.navy.mil/images/si/xinjiang.gif

Follow the Bouncing Torch

It can become numbing to try to keep up with all the stories about the torch and keep track of where exactly it has been and is going next. Still, it remains fascinating to see how the response to it have varied from place to place. Plus there are some intriguing locales such as Pyongyang are on the horizon. Fortunately, for those who want a quick visual reminder of what's happened so far, as well as a guide to where the flame is headed, there's a handy interactive map in the Financial Times.

With a name like the FT's, clever multimedia visuals aren't the first thing that come to mind, except maybe ones that show bulls and bears fighting it out to illustrate the latest stock market developments. But the FT is often unusually good at covering China, and this is not the only nifty Olympic-related visual at their site. I also like their visual timeline of China's involvement in the Games, which includes a reminder of the now often forgotten moment in 1960 when an element of protest came into the Rome 1960 Opening Ceremonies, due to a flap over how Taiwan's team had to describe itself. So much for the tired notion that the Games have never been politicized before, or have only been politicized in a few hot-button years, such as 1936 and 1980.


Five Sites for Lesson Plans and Teaching Materials on China

Many of us who write for China Beat are also teachers. There are multiple web resources that we use, recommend, and, in some cases, have even contributed to. If you teach about China, or are interested in learning more about how Chinese history is being taught in the United States, take a look at these innovative websites and programs.

Asia for Educators: Based at Columbia University, this website provides a variety of background information for educators on Asia history topics like the Song Dynasty, China and Europe comparisons, Chinese religion, and the Mongols. The website includes images, literature selections, some clips of college professors discussing the topics (you need RealPlayer to view the videos), and links to lesson plans, teaching guides, and other resources. The Asia in the Curriculum bulletin board is also run by this organization.

The Asia Society: The New York-based Asia Society works to promote understanding and interactions between American and Asian institutions. Their “Ask Asia” website includes activities for kids as well as lesson plans for teachers at K-12 levels. Those who are looking for ways to integrate Chinese history into their world history curriculums are particularly encouraged to check out the Society’s Silk Road Encounters site. (For more on the Silk Road, see also the China Institute’s From Silk to Oil, downloadable online, and the interactive maps at the University of Washington’s Silk Road site.)

Expanding East Asian Studies: Also based at Columbia University, the ExEAS site includes detailed lesson plans, syllabi, and teaching guides on a wide range of East Asian history and literary topics. Mainly targeted toward the college-level, some of the material and activities could be adapted for high school classrooms.

Morning Sun: This is a phenomenal website for resources on the Cultural Revolution. Though the website does not contain set lesson plans, it does include translated materials from the 1960s, clips of movies and revolutionary operas, radio broadcasts, song clips, and many photos. (For another website that relies heavily on images for teaching, see Visualizing Cultures, MIT’s Visualizing Cultures project, run by Japanese historian John Dower and linguist Shigeru Miyagawa. Though mainly focused on Japan, one of the lessons is on the Sino-Japanese war.)

Visual Sourcebook of Chinese History: Historian Patricia Ebrey prepared this site which, like Visualizing Cultures, relies on images to cover social history topics like clothing, religion, homes, and gardens ranging in time from ancient China to the twentieth century.

6. And, as a bonus, a world history site,
World History for Us All: Developed at San Diego State University to engage “big history” and provide resources to K-12 teachers of world history, this site features lessons on historical topics ranging from Out-of-Africa to globalization.

Coming next week: five stand-out Chinese language and literature websites.


National Geographic on China

The current issue of National Geographic focuses on China. The photos, in the magazine's style, are stunning, but the magazine also features pieces by a noted batch of China writers, including two pieces by Peter Hessler (on migration and economic change), Leslie Chang (on the lives of the children of China's growing middle class), Amy Tan (on village life and traditional singing in Dimen, Guizhou), Ted Fishman (on Beijing's Olympic construction), and Brook Larmer (on Yellow River pollution). See more at the National Geographic website.


It's Not Just 8/8/08: A Year of Chinese Anniversaries

One thousand years ago (1008 C.E.) The Song Emperor, the goddess of Mt. Tai, and transformations of Chinese religion:
I’ve been waiting awhile to post another “round number anniversary” piece, figuring I’d let discussions of Tibet take precedence while it remains in the news – but it looks like that could be a long while. Meanwhile, choosing this anniversary may be a bit self-indulgent, since I’ve been writing about this goddess off and on for years – but bear with me.

The story starts when Song Zhenzong, the not-very-successful emperor (r. 998-1023), claimed that he had received a Heavenly Letter, communicating instructions and approval from above. While many officials and literati expressed doubt about the legitimacy of this sacred text, the emperor further announced that in gratitude for receiving it, he would journey to Mt. Tai ( a sacred mountain in Shandong province), and perform the ancient feng and shan ceremonies, in which emperors reported to heaven on their accomplishments. These ceremonies were quite rare; they were only supposed to be performed when the realm was peaceful and prosperous, so to undertake them was to make a big (and contested) claim. It also turned out to be the last time these rituals were ever performed, unless you count the re-enactments for tourists that began about 10 years ago --but that’s another story.

At any rate, while digging at the top of the mountain (probably to set up an altar), the emperor’s men uncovered both a spring and a statue of a female figure. The statue was said to be that of a goddess of Mt. Tai, and it was later claimed that this goddess had been known to the ancients but somehow forgotten since then. In fact, up to that point only a god of the mountain was worshipped: he was officially understood as a rather abstract nature spirit but also figured in the popular imagination as a sort of lord of the underworld.

Over the next few centuries, worship of this goddess spread gradually until she had almost completely eclipsed the god of the mountain, and taken over (in the popular mind) his key functions, including regulating the length of human lives. Her main temple on the mountain received at least half a million pilgrims per year by the early 1600s and other shrines for her sprouted around the country (mostly, but not exclusively, in the North). Since the 18th century, her following has narrowed, but she remains very popular in North China today. She is associated both with human fertility (she is one of the deities women go to if they have trouble conceiving, or if they want to make sure their baby is a boy) and with prolonging the lives of elderly relatives. A previously unknown fifteenth century temple to her was recently unearthed in the process of building the Olympic village in Beijing; a much larger temple that housed one of her most popular altars until the Revolution has recently re-opened as a museum of popular religion.

But back to history. The unexceptional-sounding events of 1008 capture a lot of important aspects of Chinese cultural/religious politics in the making. First, the emperor reached for authority by claiming that he received a written letter from Heaven: not a vision, a rainbow, a golden statue, or whatever. The exceptional importance of the written word in Chinese life goes back a long way, to be sure; but it’s also something that grows over time, and the Song was a crucial era for this. A bit earlier, sacred scrolls produced by lay people had begun appearing, containing new accounts of popular Buddhist and Daoist deities and usually written in fairly easy repetitive Chinese – these texts stood in sharp contrast to the earlier Buddhist scriptures laboriously translated from Sanskrit by learned monks, and were part of a massive shift of religious authority towards lay people and practitioners who competed for their favor in a sort of marketplace, rather than clergy ordained by a religious establishment living off vast tax-free endowments or government revenues. (The latter half of the preceding Tang (645-907) dynasty had been marked by the dissolution of many such endowments, by order of the state.) This boom in more or less vernacular religious literature would continue for centuries, reaching a crescendo of sorts in the late Ming (around the same time as the European Reformation). And it was probably in the Song that people began submitting requests to local gods by writing them out (or having someone do it for them) and burning the paper – a practice which continues today. It became increasingly common for the gods to answer in writing as well.

Second, the incident highlights the complicated religious role of the emperor, and the ways in which various other parties restrained it. On the one hand, as the Son of Heaven, he had enormous charismatic power – only his sacrifices were acceptable to heaven for many purposes (just as a son’s sacrifices are best for nourishing an ordinary parent in the other world). On the other hand, these sacrifices were highly ritualized, and attempts to innovate frequently provoked struggles. For instance, new deities continued to be recognized throughout the imperial era – but the emperor had little role in this process. It was dominated on the one hand by commoners who claimed to have witnessed miracles (or recorded that others had done so), and on the other by a bureaucracy that checked such claims, evaluated (and often altered) the stories of the candidates’ earthly lives to highlight appropriate virtues, and so on. Even the strongest emperors (such as the first Ming Emperor) usually failed when they tried to alter the pantheon single-handedly.

Third, the eclipse of the old god of Mt. Tai by the goddess (Taishan niangniang, Bixia yuanjun, or various other names) over the next few centuries was part of a more general transformation one scholar has called “the feminization of compassion.” Its essence was the rise of a new group of female deities – including Guanyin and Tianhou (on Taiwan, Mazu),who remain the most important goddesses in the Chinese world today. These goddesses frequently took on functions previously associated with very hard-nosed male gods. The male deities resembled bureaucrats – either in being “by the book” hanging judges who would condemn you for minor infractions, or by being corrupt, arbitrary, and terrifying. The females,on the other hand, were conspicuously non-bureaucratic. They oversaw their domains with far greater mercy; they also would accept the prayers and offerings of all comers, while the older gods often excluded despised people (prostitutes, vagrants), people who were outside their geographic jurisdiction, or people who lacked the proper rank to address them directly. These goddesses represented a fundamental shift in the religious landscape in more inclusive and humane directions.

If you want to push it a bit, you could call this phase two of an even larger and longer-term religious shift. In pre and early imperial times, lots of popular religion centered around very fierce deities that were either monsters of some sort with horrible appetites to be appeased (i.e. animal sacrifices to these deities were often said to be a replacement for the people that they had devoured in the bad old days) or associated with the natural landscape (e.g. rivers) or dangerous, inhuman forces (e.g. plague). In short worship centered on those gods was much more about appeasing power than honoring or identifying with virtue. Gradually, most of these spirits were superseded by anthropomorphic deities, who were often based on government officials – and who were often said to be entitled to worship in part because they were the ones who had vanquished the monster/god. (This kind of story was often also a representation of the conquest of some local population by the Han Chinese and/or the subordination of some local potentate by the expanding Chinese state). These bureaucratic gods were far more virtuous and reasonable deities than the old monsters, but still pretty tough –like the god of Mt Tai, who presided over various subterranean hells, and judged the newly dead, assigning most of them to a term of gruesome tortures before their soul could move on. That those gods in turn began to balanced – or sometimes even replaced – by goddesses like Guanyin (whom missionaries later called “the Chinese Mary,” noting her importance, her virginity and her more or less unlimited mercy) marked a very important shift in the way people saw their relations with the cosmos. The goddess of Taishan – sometimes conflated with Guanyin, by the way – was another important figure in this transformation.

So, they may not have a single dramatic moment to match tacking 95 theses to the church door or putting witches on trial, but the religious struggles of 1008 are worth remembering. And a happy 1000th to you, Bixia!

Kenneth Pomeranz

A Weekend Chockfull of Interesting China Events

By Jeff Wasserstrom

Seeking enlightenment on China’s increasing enmeshment in the wider world, trends in Chinese media, human right issues, Chinese films, or the complexities of defining the “Han” ethnicity? If you are, and you happen to be in New York City, Los Angeles, Stanford, or Irvine, California, between April 24 and 27 and have some time to kill, you are in luck. There’ll be an event going on that can answer your questions—or at least give you novel food for thought. And some will include presentations by people who’ve either posted to this blog in the past (yours truly, Tom Mullaney, and Nicole Barnes), or are associated with websites that we at China Beat find invaluable (Xiao Qiang and Jeremy Goldkorn).

China Beat has generally steered clear of promoting conferences and workshops, as there are plenty of lists out there that already do a good job of alerting people to upcoming China events. Still, during the period April 24-27 there will be so many different gatherings or presentations on themes the blog has addressed or is likely to address in the future that mention of this perfect storm of workshops and conferences seems worthy. And with any luck, if particularly interesting things take place at these events, someone from China Beat will blog about them (or if you go and want to post a comment about them, that would be most welcome too).

1) Closest to home (for me at least and several others at China Beat, though I’ll be out of town, alas, and unable to attend), UCI political scientist Dorothy Solinger (author of important books such as
Contesting Citizenship in Urban China, an influential study of migrant workers) has put together a one-day April 26 workshop on a very timely topic indeed: “Contemporary China Confronts the International Arena.” Speakers will include such high profile figures as Rick Baum (who along with numerous publications runs the important Chinapol listserv).

2) Meanwhile, just 50 miles or so up the freeway at USC, April 26 will see the close of a three-day event on “
Chinese Cinema at 100.” One thing that makes that event look special is that it combines presentations by film scholars with presentations by people working in the film industry, from actress Vivian Wu to director Li Yang.

3) For those on the other side of the U.S., a one-day event devoted to the theme of “
Defining Chinese Modernity: Information, Economy, and Environment” will be held in New York City on April 25. That’s where Xiao Qiang and Jeremy Goldkorn will be sharing the stage for a session on “Covering China: The Battle for the Story.” See the above link for details on that and other panels (including the one I’ll be on with the Asia Society’s Orville Schell and Joseph Kahn of the New York Times).

4) Given how hot a topic Chinese nationalism has become (yet again), readers in Northern California may be interested in the Stanford
Han Studies Conference that will take place April 25 thought 27, which Nicole Barnes mentioned in her China Beat review of Wolf Totem. The event is being organized by Tom Mullaney and will include presentations by scholars studying Chinese ethnicity who are based in different parts of the world (China, France, Canada, Australia) and trained in varied disciplines (keynoting will be historian Mark Elliott, anthropologist Dru Gladney, and Xu Jieshun, founding director of a Guangxi-based “Han Nationalist Research Center”).

5) Last but not least, for those in the sprawling megalopolis that is Southern California and who are nearer to UCLA than to Irvine or USC—or more interested in book fair settings than academic conferences, there are several authors of new China-related books speaking at the
Los Angeles Times Festival of Books taking place at UCLA April 26-27. Pico Iyer, a favorite author of mine whose writings about the Dalai Lama have been mentioned before on China Beat, will be on a session taking place at 11:30 on April 26. Then on April 27 at 11:30, Lisa See, author of Snow Flower and the Secret Fan (a book that introduces foot-binding and the Taiping Uprising to young adult and adult readers), will be featured in a panel that also includes her mother Carolyn See (who has had a long and fascinating career as a prolific author, writing in many different genres). Later that same day, at 1:30, a panel on “Memoir: Other Places, Other Lives” will include Lijia Zhang. She’s a Beijing-based writer whose memoir, Socialism is Great! A Worker’s Memoir of the New China, was already at the top of my looking-forward-to-reading-it-list (thanks partly to the glowing blurbs by the likes of Peter Hessler, Jonathan Spence, and Pankaj Mishra, and partly to the fascinating tidbits of her life story the author shared with me when I met her in Shanghai), even before it got a complimentary write up in the New York Times.


Frivolous Friday: Remembering the Tokyo Olympics

This video of the opening ceremony for the 1964 Tokyo Olympic Games (mislabelled as the winter Olympics at Youtube) seems like an example of how China would like this summer's games to be remembered.

More Tibet Reading

It has been a few weeks since we last posted an installment of recommended reading on the situation in Tibet and neighboring provinces. Here are a few of the interesting or informative things we've run across in that time:

1. Historian James Millward's piece at openDemocracy on how China could right its worldwide public image is insightful--we urge you to read it.

2. A recent (often heated) discussion on the Asian history listserv, H-asia, centered around China's historical role in Tibet--reflecting questions that have been important in the popular discussions of Tibet as well. For example, Tibet specialist Elliott Sperling wrote another recent piece on this topic.

3. Dissent editor Michael Walzer, in a commentary that uses Palestine as a backdrop for the Tibetan situation, argues against boycotts but urges continued discussion and criticism.

4. A Chinese student at Duke University has sparked controversy (and personal threats) for mediating between pro-Tibet and pro-China demonstrators on campus. Read more at the New York Times.

5. And, finally, in the "maybe this explains something, but we're not sure what" category, head over to The Huffington Post to see video of National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley repeatedly referring to Tibet as "Nepal" in an interview with George Stephanopoulos.


Branding Through the Romantic Rural

The following ad for GE, featuring a short love story set in rural China, has been running in the United States. The ad’s soundtrack is the song “In Summer” by Cao Fang (you can hear the complete song here).


Lust, Camera, Action: How Ang Lee’s Risqué Thriller Charts a Profitable New Course for Transnational Cinema

By Guest Contributor Matthew Johnson

Was it real? While anticipation for the release of Lust, Caution built, one perennial question followed director Ang Lee’s most recent feature: were the sex acts performed by its two stars, Tony Leung and Tang Wei, simulated or full? The parties involved played coy. Lee himself spoke sparingly of the closed sets and skeleton film crew used to film these scenes. While he would later lament the ceaseless focus on his film’s erotic content, however, Lee could hardly be disappointed with the outcome. Lust, Caution reveled in its superstar cast, splashy publicity, and arresting imagery. Released in both edited and unedited versions, it successfully played by the rules of multiple film ratings and review commissions while earning the respect of audiences worldwide. Box office and rental profits remain high. In short, Lee returned to form as a director capable of courting worldwide admiration for his mastery of spectacle and fantasy. And unlike his two actors, he hardly broke a sweat.

Initial reactions to the film were mixed. Hollywood Reporter coverage of the Venice International Film Festival, where Lust, Caution debuted on August 30, 2007 noted that the film brought to mind “what soldiers say about war: that it’s long periods of boredom relieved by moments of extremely heightened excitement.” Yet festival judges disagreed, awarding Ang Lee his second Golden Lion in two years (the first was for the 2005 release Brokeback Mountain). Nor did U.S. co-producer Focus Features necessarily play up the film’s sexual imagery. One plot synopsis circulated by the company remains fairly close to the details of the eponymous Eileen Chang story on which the screenplay was based:

Shanghai, 1942. The World War II Japanese occupation of this Chinese city continues in force. Mrs. Mak, a woman of sophistication and means, walks into a café, places a call, and then sits and waits. She remembers how her story began several years earlier, in 1938 China. She is not in fact Mrs. Mak, but shy Wong Chia Chi. With WWII underway, Wong has been left behind by her father, who has escaped to England. As a freshman at university, she meets fellow student Kuang Yu Min. Kuang has started a drama society to shore up patriotism. As the theater troupe's new leading lady, Wong realizes that she has found her calling, able to move and inspire audiences and Kuang. He convenes a core group of students to carry out a radical and ambitious plan to assassinate a top Japanese collaborator, Mr. Yee. Each student has a part to play; Wong will be Mrs. Mak, who will gain Yees' trust by befriending his wife and then draw the man into an affair. Wong transforms herself utterly inside and out, and the scenario proceeds as scripted until an unexpectedly fatal twist spurs her to flee. Shanghai, 1941. With no end in sight for the occupation, Wong having emigrated from Hong Kong goes through the motions of her existence. Much to her surprise, Kuang re-enters her life. Now part of the organized resistance, he enlists her to again become Mrs. Mak in a revival of the plot to kill Yee, who as head of the collaborationist secret service has become even more a key part of the puppet government. As Wong reprises her earlier role, and is drawn ever closer to her dangerous prey, she finds her very identity being pushed to the limit...

Nonetheless, the sex scenes included in Lust Caution have dominated almost all media discussion of the film, despite other worthy qualities it may have possessed. The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) promptly gave it an NC-17 rating, guaranteeing that screenings and audiences would remain limited. In China, substantial portions of the explicit scenes were excised entirely. State news agency Xinhua reported that these cuts were made by Lee himself, and totaled as much as 30 minutes of the 157 minute film (the final “edited” version runs at 148 minutes). Lee defended these actions to USA Today by asserting on September 12, 2007 that his reputation in China also represented a kind of “burden” for the director. Speaking again to Xinhua, he emphasized that it was Chinese viewers who might feel “uneasy” and “shocked” not only by the explicit material, but also some of the violence of the film as well. These sensibilities were not tested by Brokeback Mountain, which despite Lee’s reputation received no official support in China.

It should be noted, however, that United States audiences were initially given little opportunity to appreciate the unedited version, which during its opening week in New York played to a single theater (although earning $61,700, which placed it among the year’s best films in terms of per-theater average). By October, Focus Films had released Lust, Caution in 19 theaters and was earning approximately $22,000 per, during a month when art house theaters were generating strong numbers overall. Yet Focus executives remained hesitant to push the film, which U.S. CEO James Shamus described as “a very Asian film … whose politics and sexuality are challenging.” While the Western press gave Lust, Caution mixed reviews, the film was greeted as a sensation in Taiwan, where it was shown uncut and opened in 95 theaters to generate a $2.9 million September record. Hong Kong box offices reported similarly exuberant numbers. The largest totals, however, came from the mainland, where despite releasing only Lee’s tamer “director’s cut” distributor The China Film Group boasted a four-day opening total of $5.4 million.

Among mainland audiences, however, the existence of an alternate, potentially titillating version of Ang Lee’s new masterpiece created additional demand, with interesting consequences. China University of Political Science and Law student Dong Yanbin filed a lawsuit again the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television (SARFT) alleging that the organization had infringed on his “consumer rights” and “society’s public interest,” while demanding that SARFT apologize and pay him compensation for “psychological damages.” Pirated uncensored versions of Lust, Caution available for download turned out to be rife with viruses. Rumors of mainland couples traveling overseas for romantic viewings of the unedited cut also surfaced. Hong Kong, which maintains its own film review board, was the most frequently-mentioned destination.

Lee has not been the only beneficiary of his erotic thriller’s international success. Independent festivals in the United States warmed to the director only gradually, particularly following the box-office triumphs of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. Yet stars Tony Leung and Tang Wei have gone straight to the big time, with both nominated for honors at the Film Independent’s 2008 Spirit Awards; Tang alone received a nomination for the Orange Rising Star award at the British Academy Film and Television Awards (BAFTA). All of which paled in comparison with reception of the film and its makers in Taiwan, where the Taiwanese Golden Horse Awards credited Lust, Caution, Lee, Leung, and Tang with Best Film, Best Director, Best Actor, and Best Newcomer respectively (Lee was also awarded Outstanding Taiwanese Filmmaker of the Year, while Lust, Caution co-star Joan Chen won Best Actress for her role in another film).

This contrasts with the somewhat surprising response of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences, which rejected the film as Taiwan’s entry for Best Foreign Language Film Category at the 80th Annual Academy Awards (2008). Oscar spokespeople described the film as having insufficient Taiwanese participation. Controversy over Lust, Caution related to its country of origin has indeed followed the film. Prior to its debut at the Venice International Film festival Lee’s work was labeled a “USA/China” co-production, based on the involvement of United States companies Focus Features and River Road Productions, and Chinese companies Haishang Films (Shanghai Film Group Corporation) and Hai Sheng Film Production Company (Taiwan). Later the producers’ respective countries of origin were given as “USA/China/Taiwan, China,” whereupon the Taiwanese Mainland Affairs Council wrote to the festival protesting the wording. Other festivals and awards labeled Lust, Caution an entry of “Taiwan.” If such events count as controversies, they have nonetheless failed to adversely affect the commercial success of the film in any appreciable way. Produced for an estimated $15 million, Lust, Caution has grossed close to an estimated $10 million worldwide while pulling in approximately $16.5 million in U.S. video rentals alone.

Yet there are also reports that participation in Lust, Caution has also created longer-term problems for the film’s stars. An early March 2008 memo circulated internally by SARFT ordered that television and other media content featuring actress Tang Wei be pulled. No reason was given for the decision, which effectively ended broadcast of a series of advertisements for skin care brand Pond’s featuring Tang and limited her exposure in the mainland press. Hong Kong sources have speculated that this decision reflects dissatisfaction with the sexual nature of Tang’s performance, and that it corresponds with a public statement issued by SARFT, entitled “Reassertion of Censorship Guidelines,” which informed film and broadcast companies that the state would be renewing prohibitions against “lewd and pornographic content” and depictions of “promiscuous acts, rape, prostitution, sexual intercourse, sexual perversity, masturbation, and male/female sexual organs and other private parts.” SARFT had issued an earlier injunction in December 2007, warning directors that they would face “the heaviest punishment” for films with overtly erotic content. SARFT also warned that directors submitting films with such content to overseas festivals might find themselves barred from directing for a period. The earlier list of prohibited depictions included “rape, whoring, obscene sex exposing human genitals, sex freaks, vulgar conversations, nasty songs, and sound effects with sexual connotation.”

If anything, English-language media coverage of Lust, Caution, including that provided by the Chinese state press, indicates that Ang Lee’s most recent film has proven popular for several reasons. The director’s star has risen internationally. He is gifted at working within numerous national contexts, and willing to dialogue with authorities concerning the limits which these different systems can accommodate. Lee declined to follow MPAA guidelines ensuring that Lust, Caution would receive an R rating, acknowledging that popular enthusiasm for this “Asian” topic would probably be limited in the United States anyway. In China, by contrast, he has capitalized on flexibility where given the opportunity. As noted by the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences, Lee does indeed eschew employing “sufficient” numbers of Taiwanese in his film crews, placing emphasis instead on assembling an international cast of talent capable of winning awards beyond the narrow Best Foreign Language Film Category of the Oscars. The sensitive nature of geopolitics across the Taiwan Strait, or state attempts to stem the tide of a rising sex industry, may occasionally disturb the hermetic chamber of “art” which Lee has constructed around his career. They have not, however, compromised its structural and economic integrity.

The immense prestige conferred upon Ang Lee by his international successes has, perhaps unsurprisingly, become a tremendous source of pride for many members of Lee’s Chinese audience. Even those disturbed by the “humanistic” depiction of the relationship between a collaborator and patriotic student/spy have often proved willing to commend the director for his creation of a Hollywood-sized success that showcases Chinese actors with nuance and daring (this same depth, it should be noted, is not extended to the film’s Japanese characters, who during their brief appearances are depicted as either submissive hostesses or boorish, drunken officers, each according to stereotype). One stereotype that Lust, Caution does break with: that of the risqué Chinese film “banned” by mainland authorities. Tang Wei’s recent and much-publicized plight aside, thematic innovation and multinational productions will continue to thrive in China’s rapidly-expanding exhibition industry, so long as filmmakers and the state can agree on who the protagonists should be.

Matthew Johnson is a Ph.D. Candidate at University of California, San Diego and has recently accepted a position for next year at University of Oxford.

(This article written using material from: The Hollywood Reporter, Studio Briefing, World Entertainment News Network (WENN), and the IMDb database. Any additional errors are the responsibility of the author.)


Report from the Road: AAS Meeting, 2008

As our regular readers will have noticed, China Beat has been unusually quiet of late. This is mainly because we were out of range of the internet two weeks ago to attend the Association for Asian Studies (AAS) annual meeting in Atlanta, Georgia (and in recovery from the conference hubbub the following week). The AAS is primarily composed of scholars but is also open to those in other fields who study and think about Asia; it has about 7,000 members, with a few thousand in attendance at this conference.

We took advantage of the largest gathering of China Beat contributors in one place since our founding to have breakfast together (where we also got feedback on
the blog and brainstormed with a friend of the blog in the world of publishing) before everyone dashed off to hear panels, meet with publishers, and catch up with colleagues from other institutions. Paul Katz, Tim Weston, Nicole Barnes, Jeff Wasserstrom, and Kate Merkel-Hess were in attendance. As most of us had not met the others before (Jeff was the link between us all), the breakfast gathering was an affirmation of the fundamentally virtual nature of this endeavor.

However, we were not the only ones at the meeting who were considering how those involved in Asian studies could be writing and talking to a larger public. Several crowded sessions featured scholars who have made “outreach” (in other words, work that goes beyond the standard academic job description of teaching and research) a central part of their practice. These included a panel on “New Dimensions in China Watching: Internet Forums and the Study of Contemporary China” (chaired by Richard Baum of the University of California, Los Angeles); “China’s Move into the Global Spotlight: Implications for Scholars” (chaired by Jeff Wasserstrom of UCI), and “Public Intellectuals: Old Hands and the New Generation in China Studies” (chaired by Kristin Stapleton of the State University of New York, Buffalo). The lack of empty seats at these panels indicated the general interest in the topics at hand, and the lively discussions that followed the sessions reiterated how seriously many of those in attendance were considering the implications of public engagement.

AAS President Elizabeth Perry even raised the issue of public engagement in her Friday night presidential address on reconsidering the legacy of the Chinese Revolution, a remarkable lecture (nicely illustrated with visuals) that centered around the history and memorializing of CCP labor organizing in Anyuan in the 1920s (she used the 1960s image above—Mao Goes to Anyuan—and its many variations to talk about how revolutionary memories have evolved in recent decades). In effect, Perry challenged the scholars in the audience to question (and then question again) the dominant narratives that emerge around particular events—using her own beginnings in Chinese studies (as a member of the Committee of Concerned Asian Scholars, an organization whose members viewed Mao's legacy much more positively at the time than most of them do now) to illustrate how our understanding of historical topics can change, in part simply because of new information coming to light. As she noted in closing, paraphrasing a line by the late great Benjamin Schwartz (and here we paraphrase her paraphrase from our notes): “The Chinese Revolution probably wasn't necessary, but China definitely needed a revolution."

In her talk, provocatively titled "Reclaiming the Chinese Revolution," Perry's goal was to remind us that there were roads not taken at many stages in the unfolding of the events of the 1910s-1970s. This means that China might easily have ended up with a revolutionary legacy less stained with bloodshed, more attuned to the goals of equality and openness, than the one now associated with the Maoist era. A powerful presentation, it is one that will be worth revisiting and taking in more fully when it appears in print in the Journal of Asian Studies, the flagship publication of the AAS, in November.


Predictions and Timing in an Olympic Year

[Note: in the past, several China Beat postings have been brought to the attention of new audiences by being reposted (with attribution) on the History News Network website, a wonderful online resource for the historically minded. With this piece, we are reversing the process, as a slightly shorter version of what follows--number 4 on the prediction list has been added for the China Beat version--appeared a few days ago as an HNN original.]

Let’s pretend that, twelve months ago, someone had put me in a room with 20 or so other China specialists, handed us each four slips of paper, and asked us to write on each piece a story with a Chinese theme that we predicted would make headlines in 2008, the year when the Beijing Olympics will start on August 8. It’s quite possible that the following would have happened:

1) One or more of us would have written that a headline-grabbing protest would break out. And going into more detail, some of those who made that forecast would have added this detail—that the authorities, unusually concerned with global public relations in China’s Olympic year, would respond less quickly and less harshly to this oppositional act than they would have at another point in time, though in the end repression would come.

2) Other slips of paper would have forecast that an individual foreigner or group of foreigners would disrupt an Olympic ceremony in an effort to draw attention to a human rights issue. (That would probably have been something I would have written down myself.)

3) Some of us would have predicted that, at some point during the year, the Chinese blogosphere would be filled with complaints that the Western media had been biased in its coverage of an event involving China.

4) At least one or two of us would have speculated that plans would be discussed about the wisdom of handling things differently in upcoming Olympics, due to things that had occurred during the 2008 ones.

Now, the four main predictions mentioned above have all come true during the last couple of weeks (as has the prediction within a prediction about how the authorities would respond to unrest). But if you gathered that imaginary group together again to talk about the situation, I don’t think any of us would be feeling that our clairvoyance had been demonstrated.

Why? Timing.

If we were honest, we would have to admit that, when making our most on-target predictions, we were writing about things we expected to take place in August of 2008, not March. I know that whenever I have mentioned to someone that I wouldn’t be surprised if an individual or small group of people, probably from a country other than China, used an Olympic ritual to draw attention to a human rights issue, I have been thinking about what could happen in Beijing during the open ceremonies. Or, a la the 1968 Black Power salute in Mexico City, while a medal is being awarded.

Similarly, while it seemed most likely that plans to alter the pattern for future Olympics would wait until the Games actually took place, there is already much discussion of how, in the future, the torch relay should be handled differently, due to how fraught the route has become this time around. Some have suggested the relay should be abandoned completely, others that it should revert from being an around-the-world event to one that just goes from Olympia to the host city. And so on.

The rest of the lead-up to the Olympics will undoubtedly include dramatic moments. Some completely unexpected things will surely take place, as well as some things that are more predictable, but which may serve to surprise us, due to the precise form they take or timing of their occurrence. But the event-filled last few weeks have sometimes left me with the strange sensation that China’s much-anticipated Olympic moment, rather than still being in the offing, has already come and gone. The one thing that virtually no one would have predicted a year ago is that the opening ceremony scheduled for 08/08/08 and the Games that follow would have the potential to feel anticlimactic, the coverage them merely a rehash of familiar stories. But this is now within the realm of possibility.

This is nothing, though, compared to the situation with the other big Chinese mega-event on the horizon, about which there will be much more international media attention once the Games have ended: the Shanghai World Expo set to start in 2010.

This first World’s Fair for the country is being eagerly anticipated in China, and especially in the city that will host it. This is to be expected, at least by those who know their history. Expos may seem passé to people living in Western nations that hosted their first World’s Fairs more than a century ago. But when the first American ones were held in Philadelphia in 1876 and Chicago in 1893, they were a very big deal indeed, moment of intense local and also national pride, which symbolized that the United States and its leading cities could hold their own in any international arena.

The thing about the Shanghai Expo is that the city already looks in many ways more like one that recently held a World’s Fair than like one gearing up to hold such an event. For example, it already has state-of-the-art architectural landmarks (like the Jinmao Tower and the Shanghai Museum) that look like the kinds of structures erected especially for a World’s Fair (think of the Crystal Palace). And in the Maglev, it has a iconic—if contested—novel mode of transportation, of the sort that sometimes debuts during a World Fair (as the moving walkway did at the Paris Exposition of 1900).

Still, just as the 2008 Games may still surprise us in the end, the 2010 Expo could manage to make a novel imprint on the already landmark-filled Shanghai cityscape. For after all, Paris as it geared up for the 1889 Exposition also looked like a city that had already hosted a World’s Fair—naturally enough, as two had been held there previously, in 1855 and 1867. Yet that year’s fair, thanks to a tower built by a man named Eiffel, left an already landmark-filled cityscape forever transformed.


Tibet, 228, and Ta-pa-ni: Some lessons for us all

(Please note: The following is based on my recent book about the Ta-pa-ni Incident (a colonial era uprising that changed the course of modern Taiwanese history), primary and secondary sources about the 228 Incident of 1947 (see also my recent blogpost), and current reporting + web/blogosphere debates about the tragic events in Tibet)

As we struggle to make sense of the maelstrom of violent resistance and its suppression, not to mention cope with our own feelings as concerned observers, it might be useful to consider the following:

*Such outbreaks are invariably sparked by a complex combination of socioeconomic, ethnic, and religious factors.

*The violence is never a case of black and white; it is simply red, with aggressors and their victims far outnumbering any heroes. When tensions boil over, the initial targets tend to be symbols of authority (policemen, officials), but can also include men and women who are stigmatized and persecuted as scapegoats. However, when the empire strikes back, it uses violence on a much larger and more systematic scale, with those who end up being punished including not only the original aggressors but many innocent victims as well.

*Casualty figures vary wildly, and are rarely subject to critical analysis. In the case of the Ta-pa-ni Incident, estimates of the dead have ranged from a few hundred to tens of thousands, but my analysis of archival and demographic sources puts the total at slightly under two thousand. It is also essential to note that the dead included men who fell on the field of battle, men who were rounded up and systematically executed, men who died in prison, women, children, and the elderly who were indiscriminately massacred, and children who died of exposure and disease while hiding in the mountains. All were victims, but death came to them in many different forms.

*The process of mythologizing the history of violent resistance begins almost as soon as the brutality. In the past, the state did most of the myth-making, or at the very least made its voice heard above all others. This is not the case in today's world, where we are overwhelmed by a wealth of information provided by all sides of a conflict, much of which is not rigorously scrutinized before being further disseminated.

*Once mythologizing processes are underway, their greatest casualty is the truth about those who suffered. Complex causes are ignored in favor of simplistic explanations, while the identities of victims end up being subsumed by stereotypical images constructed by the myth-makers. Think about it: How much do we really know about victims and their loved ones, regardless of whose hands they perished at?

Our responsibility is to cut through the Gordian Knot of myth and stereotype in order to better understand the diverse experiences of all people caught up in acts of violent resistance (regardless of whether they are aggressors or victims), as well as contemplate what their tragic fates can tell us about our past and our future.