Listicles

10 Bad China Takes

A tongue-in-cheek list of imperfect China articles


As China-US relations sour and nations become more cloistered in their own interests, it's more important than ever to have nuanced information about, and reporting from, China. In its stead (and in the wake of recent journalist expulsions), there are ever more hot takes, helicopter articles, stereotype-bolstering blogs and second-hand opinions. That's why we feel its valid and valuable to collect a few of the more egregious "bad China takes" from the last decades, in the hope that the next years can bring more informed detail and sager balance. To avoid cheap shots, we're calling out established publications rather than smaller blogs. In no particular order:

 

 

Chinese Corner

Learning Chinese

FAQ and tips for those seeking to study Mandarin

We're back from summer break, and in anticipation of the new academic year to come (albeit a socially-distanced one for much of the world) we're giving some tips on Chinese learning. Whether you're looking to pick up Chinese, or brush it up, here are some pointers. – Alec Ash

First things first. How long will it take me to learn Chinese?

If you are living in China, two years full-time study is enough to get good conversational Chinese from scratch, as well as basic reading and writing. That is, you will be able to hold a conversation about pretty much any non-specialist topic, as well as write and read texts and emails – i.e. you can operate in Chinese, albeit awkwardly. Even part-time study for a couple of years in China will give you a good enough foundation to build on with self-study after. If you’re learning outside of China, double that time to get the same results. Being immersed in the language environment is a huge boon.

 

2020 China Books

2020 China Books (Part 4): History, Art, Literature

A fourth list of new China books – compiled by Brian Spivey

We have arrived at the fourth and final part of our 2020 China Books series (also read parts one, two, and three), showcasing books about China’s past that came out, or are coming out, in 2020 – and giving their authors, who wrote the blurbs below, an opportunity to suggest why readers might be interested in their book in this current historic moment. Art and culture in various forms features prominently in this list: from the literature of Yan Lianke to the global spread of Chinese antiquities; Chinese cinema to Maoism’s influence on modern and contemporary art; before ending with historical fiction on Ming courtesans, and literary nonfiction on China’s youth.  – Brian Spivey

2020 China Books

2020 China Books (Part 3): Modern Chinese History

A third list of new China books on modern history – compiled by Brian Spivey

This is part three of our 2020 China Books series (read parts one and two), showcasing books about China’s past that came out, or are coming out, in 2020 – and giving their authors an opportunity to suggest why readers might be interested in their book in this current historic moment. The books in this third post cover an eclectic range of subjects related to China’s modern history. The Chinese Party-state features prominently, whether as marshal of nationalist narratives that seek to elide China’s linguistic diversity, as censor of information, as producer of data and statistics, as legatee of nationalist and revolutionary movements, as third pole in the Cold War, and as capitalist economic reformer. Understanding the many faces of the Party-state allows for a more nuanced understanding of China in the 20th century. Of course, the state is not the whole story: many of the books emphasize the history of non-state actors such as commercial artists, publishers, authors, and diasporic medical communities.  – Brian Spivey

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2020 China Books

2020 China Books (Part 2): Shanghai and Borderlands

A second list of new China history books not to miss – compiled by Brian Spivey

This is part two of a series we’re calling 2020 China Books, showcasing new or forthcoming books about China’s past and giving their authors an opportunity to suggest why readers might be interested in them at this current historic moment. Part one was themed around China and the World. The books in this second list (all blurbs written by the authors) are emblematic of two enduring themes in literature about Chinese history: a fascination with Shanghai – the “Paris of the East” – and a desire to understand China at its fringes. Both subjects are appealing in their apparent exceptionalism. Shanghai’s unique cosmopolitanism and energy have fascinated writers and travelers for more than a century. Meanwhile the people living in borderland regions like Tibet, Xinjiang and Manchuria have their own rich and complex histories. By placing these exceptional and peripheral regions and the experiences of China’s minorities at the center of their writing, the authors below do the important work of providing a more capacious understanding of what constitutes China’s history.