Tombs with a View

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

How can we understand cultures whose languages, practices, traditions and mentalities differ so markedly from our own and which have thousands of years of history behind them? At the British Museum, a spirited attempt is currently being made to render 19th-century China more intelligible to visitors, like me, viewing it from afar in time and […]

Blood on the Tracks

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

One hundred years ago, on a cool spring night in 1923, a train rattled north from Shanghai towards Peking, capital of the young, unstable Republic of China. Its passengers were drawn from across China’s vastly unequal and chaotic society. In the third-class carriages, near the smoky engine, were hundreds of Chinese passengers. In the luxury […]

Tale of Two Empires

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

In October 1978, I sat with a small British Rail trade delegation huddled in a minibus on the edge of Tiananmen Square in Beijing. Our two Chinese guides stood chatting on the pavement outside. One of them glanced at us, then remarked to his colleague with an unmistakable snigger, ‘Da Ying Diguo!’ (‘The Great British […]

Reforming Opinions

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

Mobo Gao is a professor at Adelaide University and director of its Confucius Institute – which I imagine is supported in some way by the People’s Republic. Beijing now sponsors such centres to show that China has reclaimed aspects of its traditional past. If this is the case at Adelaide, Beijing will not like Gao’s […]

War & Peace

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

This month, Beijing will be a global star. For three weeks during the Olympics, billions of TV viewers, and millions of visitors, will see a city remade at the cost of £20 billion. The capital will be the face of China, inspiring the complex mixture of apprehension and admiration that the whole country now seems […]

The Chinese Hilary Clinton

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

For over 2,000 years, women rulers and aspiring rulers have been vilified in China and, often, in the West. The title of Jonathan Clements’s latest book is indicative of the abuse. From the Han Dynasty’s Empress Lu, to the Qing’s Dowager Empress in the late nineteenth century, to Mao’s wife, Jiang Qing, Chinese women in […]

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Smoke Without Fire

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

With China supposedly poised to take over the world, it is worth recalling what happened at a couple of history’s other ‘China moments’. In AD 648, when the Tang empire was at its zenith, a Chinese diplomatic mission crossed the Himalayas into Bengal and was there robbed and incarcerated. The attack may have been motivated […]

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Emerging Power

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

In The State We’re In, Will Hutton subjected British society to forensic analysis at a time of disillusionment with the Major government, when there was also the promise of change under New Labour. Change came with Tony Blair, but did not take the direction favoured by Hutton – which was a move towards the European […]

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