Saturday, February 16, 2008

China Blogs: Intersections of East and West

Anyone who has read my blog for any length of time, will become aware of my affection for Asia, and the people of that region. My introduction to Asia via the Vietnam War did not intially instill this affection. As I wrote earlier,A Resilient Nation, my feelings changed over time and a growing sense of awareness that the experiences, I collected since first setting foot in Asia, shaped and profoundly altered my feelings.

The importance of knowing Asia, and in paticular it's largest nation China is critical to everyone in the rest of the world. For the past two hundred years China remained an enigma, a fallen giant, first stripped of it's wealth, then it's dignity, by the incursion of foreign powers. Within a century it had fallen to be racked by invasion and revolution, that left it cut off behind a political curtain, from the rest of the world.

Today, China is remerging, using it's vast human capitol to make the goods that the rest of the world desires, but is unwilling to pay their own workers to produce. In an ironic way they are turning the tables on a world, that two hundred years ago provided the same benefit to China, and stripped off their ability to invest in their own innovations.

The best window on China today, is provided by the many blogs that are written describing everything from society and local flavor Shanghaiist blog, business information, All Roads Lead to China, to culture and scholarship, The China Beat. There are dozens of other blogs, each one has it's merits, they are not propoganda platforms written by secreted PLA opperatives, but written almost always by westerners, with a mission to open China to the world, one post at a time.

For example a post today on Shanghaiist, offers a great photo gallery.Opening Today: Shanghai 1990-1993 and Disappearing Shanghai. Another post today, on The China Beat takes notice of the circulation of people and ideas between China and the West. From East to West with Grant and Li*. The author of the post, Jeff Wasserstrom, offers up a look back in order to appreciate the future. He writes:

"The increasing intertwining of China and the West—and the excitement and anxiety it’s generating—has inspired breathless forward-looking commentaries about things like whose century this young one will be, as if it has to belong to either Us or Them. But what really seems in order during this countdown to the Olympics is slowing down and trying to catch our breath. Instead of peering anxiously ahead into the unknown, we would do well to pause, look back over our shoulders, and ask: Can we learn something useful from revisiting past moments when East-West exchanges increased? And those interested in the topic have some attractive places to turn just now, thanks to the recent appearance of four books and the mounting of two new exhibits."

The post goes on the offer links to books and even more interesting photo galleries that gives the reader a chance to visit 19th century China with the flick of a mouse. Wasserstrom's post is a treasure trove, that offers a look at China, usually available only to scholars. I recommend you take the time to read it and give yourself a brief look back in time.

In fact, take the time to check all the blogs listed above, they each offer a unique window on a country that we know precious little about.

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