Hong Kong on the Brain

Christopher Rea reviews Hon Lai-chu’s The Kite Family

‘Spoiled Brains,’ the first story in Hong Lai-chu’s collection The Kite Family, expertly translated by Andrea Lingenfelter, reminds me of Wong Kar-wai’s 1994 film, Chungking Express. When I taught a course on the history of Chinese cinema in Vancouver last spring, students voted Chungking Express their favorite film. In one of its iconic sequences, a cop commemorates his lost love by buying and consuming tins of pineapple stamped with a date that has already passed. He hopes that she’ll return before his 25th birthday, but she doesn’t, and he gorges on rancid fruit, only to throw it up again. “When,” he muses in a voiceover, “did everything start having an expiration date?”


Aren’t We All Accomplices?

Unearthing a father’s past – by Xujun Eberlein

In May 2012, a stranger contacted me through my website. A professor of cultural psychology at Hampshire College, Q.M. Zhang was interested in talking about Chongqing, the city I grew up in. What triggered her request for a meeting, apparently, was my article titled “Another Kind of American History in Chongqing,” which had appeared on the Atlantic website the previous year. She was writing a memoir about her relationship with her father, who had worked for the Kuomintang (aka the KMT or the Nationalists, the ruling party of China from 1928 to 1949) in Chongqing during WWII.

By contrast, my own parents were underground Communists in the 1940s. So her father and mine, though unknown to each other, had literally been enemies in the same city.


What Does China Want?

Mike Cormack reviews China’s World by Kerry Brown

With Xi Jinping making a bid for global preeminence and the effects of China’s foreign policies seen everywhere from Australia to Iran, the question “What Does China Want?” – the subtitle of Professor Kerry Brown’s new book, China’s World – has never been so pertinent. (The echo of Mark Leonard’s 2008 book What Does China Think? is instructive. The subject has changed from Chinese opinion and feeling to Chinese action and desires).

The very fact that this question is being asked in global capitals might give us pause. A highly-regarded China watcher, Professor Brown reminds us that just forty years ago, China had almost no interaction with the outside world, with very few foreign embassies and even less foreign travel. To go from that to becoming the biggest trading partner of almost every country in the world, with the largest proportion of foreign students in many countries, active in ASEAN and G20 not to mention its own Belt and Road strategy, is a remarkable journey. But the point, which Brown steadily keeps his eye on, is “Where does it go from here?”


China and Japan Face Off

Melissa Chan reviews Asia’s Reckoning by Richard McGregor

In 1945, two conferences at Yalta and Potsdam determined the post-war world order and set the terms for the surrenders of Germany and Japan, with the latter meeting setting an ultimatum for Tokyo, to which Japan did not respond. Four days later, the United States dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima.

Much can happen in seventy years, but few survivors of World War II might have predicted that in 2017, democracies would look expectantly to Germany’s chancellor, Angela Merkel, as the best candidate for the leader of the free world. Nor would countries in Asia, ravaged by the Imperial Japanese Army, have imagined supporting Japan’s leadership as it moves forward on a regional trade deal, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which America abandoned.


Fever Pitch

Yellow Fever and the sexpat literary review – by Robert Foyle Hunwick

Travel may not be fatal to prejudice, but it’s usually pretty effective against celibacy. It can also be a fast-acting bromide to modesty, especially among writers, and often with tragic consequences. Every few months, it seems, some guy comes down with a case of “yellow fever” and produces a book — called Yellow Fever.

That’s the title of the latest effort in a burgeoning canon of non-fiction, memoirs about sleeping with Chinese girls. These books don’t have many regular readers — I’m beginning to think I’m the only one — though they certainly have a lot of writers. Yellow Fever, subtitled a tale of “Love and Sex in China,” comes from Alex Coverdale, the cover name of a former teacher who says he’s now landed one of the “most sought-after jobs in journalism,” after a London editor was “impressed by some of my random Facebook comments and postings.”