Understanding China: Podcast Brunch Club theme for June 2019

A curated episode list by

Creation Date May 30th, 2019
Updated Date Updated November 27th, 2020
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About This List

A podcast listening list that explores the history, economy, and culture of China. Podcast Brunch Club is like book club, but for podcasts. Join one of our 60+ chapters in cities across 6 continents!
  1.   “We hear, in the media and in comments by politicians, a lot of very glib statements that oversimplify China, that suggest all of China is one thing or one way,” says Michael Szonyi, a professor of Chinese history and director of the Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies at Harvard University. China, of course, is as complicated as — if not more complicated than — any other country, and misunderstandings about it among Americans are both common and consequential. The relationship with China is “arguably — in anyone’s estimation — the most important bilateral relationship that the U.S. has,” says Jennifer Rudolph, a professor of modern Chinese political history at Worcester Polytechnic Institute. Jennifer and Michael edited a book to address 36 questions that ordinary people, especially Americans, ask about China. The book is titled The China Questions: Critical Insights Into a Rising Power, and it draws on the expertise of the Fairbank Center and prompts these accomplished academics to write 2,000-word essays for a general audience that they typically never aim to reach. View the entire list of questions on the Harvard University Press website. A sampling: “Is the Chinese Communist Regime Legitimate?” (by Elizabeth J. Perry) “Is There Environmental Awareness in China?” (by Karen Thornber) “Will China Lead Asia?” (by Odd Arne Westad) “What Does the Rise of China Mean for the United States?” (by Robert S. Ross) “Can China and Japan Ever Get Along?” (by Ezra F. Vogel) “Will Urbanization Save the Chinese Economy or Destroy It?” (by Meg Rithmire) “Why Does the End of the One-Child Policy Matter?” (by Susan Greenhalgh) “Why Do Classic Chinese Novels Matter?” (by Wai-yee Li) Recommendations: Jeremy: Drawn Together: The Collected Works of R. and A. Crumb, by Robert Crumb and Aline Kominsky-Crumb. The husband-and-wife pair became known for their funny, vulgar comics in the late 1970s, though Robert’s zany work goes back a decade earlier. Jennifer: Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity, by Katherine Boo. A work of creative nonfiction about a young boy and his family, and how the system is stacked against them. Michael: The Fairbank Center website, which features a blog and a podcast. Also, Michael’s new book, titled The Art of Being Governed: Everyday Politics in Late Imperial China. And The Empire of Necessity: Slavery, Freedom, and Deception in the New World, by Greg Grandin. Kaiser: The North Water: A Novel, by Ian McGuire. A dramatic tale that includes whaling, murder, and brutality, and whose overall flavor Kaiser describes as Joseph Conrad meets Cormac McCarthy meets Herman Melville meets Jack London.
  2. With Ian Bremmer, Michèle Flournoy, Yasheng Huang, Parag Khanna, and Susan Thornton President Xi Jinping has made it clear: When it comes to big data, advanced weaponry, and other innovations in tech and AI, China has plans to surpass the United States as the world’s next techonomic superpower. But between the trade war with the U.S., the ambitious Belt and Road Initiative, and an array of domestic challenges, are China’s goals outpacing its capacity? Or is China building and investing in strategic partnerships that will push the country toward global dominance? Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
  3. A truce in the U.S.-China trade war seemed close. The leaders of China and the United States were meeting to discuss a fix. And then arrests started. It got even more confusing, so today, we call up our man on the ground in Shanghai to make sense of it all. The key to understanding the latest turn in the trade war centers around a giant company most Americans haven't heard of called Huawei. Its rise traces the rise of China's economy and Chinese-style capitalism.
  4. On this week's show, recorded live in New York on April 3, Kaiser and Jeremy have a wide-ranging chat with former New York Times China correspondent Howard French, now a professor at Columbia University's School of Journalism. We talk about his book Everything Under the Heavens and China's ambitions and anxieties in the world today. What to listen for on this week’s Sinica Podcast: 7:31: How do Chinese people react to Western reporting about China? Howard has noticed a shift in his students from the People’s Republic of China and suggests, “Because of the changing climate in China, [Chinese students] have a greater appreciation of some of the liberties that go into being able to express criticism about China or being able to think off the beaten path about China.” 23:48: The three discuss Howard’s book, Everything Under The Heavens, and some of the themes in it. Howard: “So the argument that runs through the book is that, if not DNA, then these two realities of [China’s] longevity and continuity on the one hand, and size on the other hand, have created habits of language and habits of mind and patterns of diplomacy that are fairly consistent, but we can see them repeating themselves in variations over a very, very long period of time.” 32:56: Is China a revisionist power or a status quo power? Before Jeremy can finish asking this question, Howard replies, “It’s both.” Howard explains how this could be possible: “There is an insistent notion in China that I admire. I don’t think it’s always to China’s benefit, but I admire the instinct, if instinct is the right world. ‘For every problem we should find a Chinese way to answer it.’ And so, if international relations can be construed as a problem…then finding a Chinese way alongside of accepting incumbent arrangements is a reflex that one is likely to continue to see in China.” 44:46: The relationship between the United States and China appears to have arrived at a critical juncture. In response to Kaiser’s request to provide a prognosis for U.S.-China relations, Howard contests that “most of the liability of the present moment is actually bound up in the present moment.” He continues, “There will be consequences to pay even if Trump goes [in 2020]…and that the United States, I think, no matter what happens in the succession year after Trump, in the best of scenarios, will still have surrendered some not inconsiderable part of its prestige and power in the world.” Recommendations: Jeremy: The Idle Parent: Why Laid-Back Parents Raise Happier and Healthy Kids, by Tom Hodgkinson, a case for laissez-faire parenting. Howard: Empires of the Weak: The Real Story of European Expansion and the Creation of the New World Order, by J.C. Sharman, and River of Dark Dreams: Slavery and Empire in the Cotton Kingdom, by Walter Johnson. Kaiser: An article in the London Review of Books, Is this the end of the American century?, by Adam Tooze.This podcast was edited and produced by Kaiser Kuo and Jason MacRonald.

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