Book Review

Tom Carter has written an excellent review of Behind the Red Door: Sex in China for City Weekend, the first print review. (The lengthy review in Business Insider and Just Recently were Web only.) Here’s the opening:

Among the many misimpressions that Westerners have of China, the idea of sex as some kind of “taboo” topic here seems to be the most common and clichéd. Forgetting for a moment that, owing to a population of 1.3 billion, somebody must be
doing it, what most of us don’t seem to know is that throughout the years China has been a society of extreme sexual openness.

And now, according to Richard Burger’s new book Behind the Red Door: Sex in China, the Chinese are once again in the sweaty clutches of sexual revolution.

Best known for knives-out commentary on The Peking Duck, one of China’s longest-running expat blogs, Burger takes a similar approach in surveying sex among the Chinese, leaving no explicit ivory carving unexamined, no raunchy ancient poetry unrecited, and ahem, no miniskirt unturned.

Please read the whole thing. And if you haven’t “Liked” my Facebook page please feel free to do so.

Amazon is late in shipping the book due to a supply-chain issue. If you’ve ordered the book please be patient — it should ship this coming Thursday. Kindle version is available now.


“The Chinese Way”

Kevin Carrico (who I believe is an occasional reader of this blog) has written an opinion piece for the Christian Science Monitor that poses a wonderful counter to the bizarre Daniel Bell-Jiang Qing op-ed op-ed on a “Confucian constitution” that set off a spirited debate in this thread. You remember: the one about a Confucian meritocracy system, in which leaders in at least one “house of authority” would need to be descendants of Confucius. (Every time I think of that I have to wonder if this was a parody, but it’s not).

Carrico counters:

Such ideas are part of a much larger discussion of “Chinese characteristics” in recent decades. Promoted by the state and state-friendly intellectuals, the notion of Chinese characteristics portrays the people of China as so unique, on account of their longstanding cultural traditions, as to be immune to the political and cultural change that has swept the world in recent decades. And while supposedly determining China’s sole proper path for handling any and all issues, these unique characteristics, according to their proponents, remain conveniently unable to be fully grasped by outsiders.

Whether applied domestically or internationally, this is a harmful line of thinking.

The primary political effect of these ideas is to deny the inevitable trend of democratization in recent decades – in Asia, Latin America, Europe, and Arab countries. Ironically, however, the notion of Chinese characteristics appeals to many of those whom it would deceive and ultimately disenfranchise. Internationally, it rationalizes authoritarianism under the guise of cultural sensitivity to a uniquely Chinese way. Domestically, it fulfills a desire for uniqueness and exceptionalism in order to distract citizens from the growing desire for basic political and human rights.

He eviscerates the Bell-Jiang nonsense with a biting wit:

The notion that China’s future must inevitably be found in its past, after all, is not particularly liberating, especially when one considers that this past represents a period prior to accountability in governance and recognition of human rights. Anyone who proposed a similar framework for the future of a western country, or even for such traditionally Confucian – but democratic – neighbors of China as South Korea, Japan, or Taiwan, would not be taken seriously.

Equally restrictive is the quirky proposal that the House of the Nation be populated by direct descendants of Confucius and other sages. One such male-line descendant is Kong Qingdong, a professor at Peking University and a contentious Chinese pop-culture figure. Besides his ancestry, which he never hesitates to cite, Prof. Kong is best known for his outspoken hatred of “traitorous” liberals, his fondness for the North Korean political model, and his recent characterization of the people of Hong Kong as “dogs” and worse. Clearly, cultural sensitivity is not a two-way street.

As “a PhD. candidate in sociocultural anthropology at Cornell University, researching neo-traditionalism, nationalism, and ethnic relations in contemporary China” Carrico has credentials. This opinion piece is a joy to read and a much needed antidote to the op-ed that I still can’t believe the New York Times allowed to grace its pages.

The bottom line is that “the Chinese way” is a fancy way to rationalize keeping China an authoritarian state. Whether that’s good or bad isn’t really the point. But let’s call it what it is.


Japan has yet to apologize to China for its sins during WWII

Or at least that’s what you’d think listening to the Chinese media and their fenqing followers. But is it true? I don’t think so. In the wake of all the evidence, of course, there’s the knee-jerk response about the Yasukuni Shrine and the nutty revisionists in Japan (and they really are nutty), etc. But that doesn’t alter the fact that Japan has apologized many times over for its atrocities and crimes against China and Korea throughout its war of aggression.

This post was inspired by a Facebook post I saw earlier today from a friend of mine. It’s such a strange topic, so radioactive, so capable of eliciting such white-hot rage from seemingly normal people. I know, the horrors were unimaginable. But to say that Japan hasn’t apologized for them is simply false.


The Ferrari Scandal

Another day, another scandal. The timing of this one is particularly disconcerting for the CCP, coming a few weeks before they are expected to hold the 18th Party Congress with a changing of the guard that takes place every ten years. This is an odd one with more questions than answers. Did the son of one of China’s highest-ranking officials really die when the Ferrari he was driving crashed into a wall in March 2011? What happened to the two female passengers who were reported to be in the car with him? Was his father demoted because of the embarrassing incident or were there other reasons? And then there’s the biggest question of them all: what was the son of a party official earning about $15,000 a year doing driving a half-million dollar car?

A fresh scandal has hit China’s leadership ahead of this autumn’s once-a-decade transition of power, with reports that a close ally of president Hu Jintao has been blocked for promotion or even demoted following his son’s involvement in a fatal Ferrari crash.

Photos of the horrific smash in Beijing were deleted within hours of appearing on microblogs and websites in March. Even searches for the word “Ferrari” were blocked on the popular Sina Weibo microblog – prompting widespread speculation that a senior leader’s child was involved.

Now unnamed sources have identified the driver of the black sports car as the son of Ling Jihua, who was removed as head of the party’s general office of the central committee this weekend, the South China Morning Post and Reuters reported.

Another article raises question about whether there even was a fatal crash:

Sources quoted by Reuters said at least one of the trio died but that the victims’ identities were unclear; one said the young man had survived….One of Ling’s room-mates at Peking University, from where he graduated with a degree in International Politics in 2011, said he had not been able to contact his friend since the crash.

“We have all been trying to get in touch with him since we heard about the car accident,” he said. “He was supposed to go to graduate school, but he has not been seen since the crash. The last time I saw him was in July 2011.”

“I really cannot tell what happened. But all of his friends said it happened, so I guess it must have,” he added.

While some reports say searches on Weibo for “Ferrari” are blocked, I saw some tweets from China this morning saying it’s not true. Needless to say, any mention of the story by the media has long been banned. The timing couldn’t be worse for the CCP, already beleaguered by the Bo Xilai-Neil Heywood scandals. The People’s Congress is all about harmony and unity, and that threatens to be overshadowed by an atmosphere of suspicion and outrage over the blatant corruption of the Party.The CCP is in a real bind, seeking to get out its message of harmony while people are seething over its lawlessness.


Words that get censored on Weibo

China Digital Times lists the words and phrases that will get your Weibo post zapped, at least if it’s written in simplified Chinese.

One of favorites is:

Bureau of Dicking Around (捅鸡局): Netizen nickname for the National Bureau of Statistics.

“Brainwash” makes it to the list as well. Check out the rest of the entries.


Another hot-shot party official being an idiot

A dangerous idiot. A snarling threatening idiot. Go see Custer’s excellent-as-usual post for the details. It’s also an example of how the Internet can expose these assholes. But you have to wonder, for all the ones exposed and subject to human flesh search engines and the like, how many others get away with their abuse of power and leave innocent people hurt or even dead in their wake? These Internet exposees merely scratch the surface.


Friday cat blogging

As I wrote here a couple of weeks ago, I recently had to put my 23-year-old cat Nick to sleep to put him out of his pain. This was an agonizing decision, but I had to do it because I loved Nick so much. It took me a few weeks to recover, but then, a few days ago, I knew the time had come for me to bring new cats into my home. What is a home without cats? I went to the Humane Society and adopted two kittens, brothers who look almost exactly alike. As soon as I saw them in their cage, arms entwined and looking so happy together, I knew these were going to be my next pets for years, hopefully decades, to come. I just wanted to share with you the joy these kittens, Archie and Zack, are bringing me.

This is Archie and Zack standing on top of their scratching board.
Archie is standing while his brother Zack, as usual, sits passively by.

This is Archie looking down at the rest of the world.

And finally, this is Archie and Zack curled up together in a perfect Yin-Yang formation, in total harmony. They must be Chinese.


Just one more

I had to share this review of Behind the Red Door: Sex in China that just came out in Business Insider. It includes a Q & A with me about China’s sexual revolution. A very brief snip from a lengthy article:

While the book was based on exhaustive research — Burger says he personally went through thousands of articles and dissertations — it’s not just a piece of academia. The point of the book is to bring China’s sexual revolution to a mainstream audience. We’ve read an advanced proof of the book and have to say it’s a great read.

The book becomes available tomorrow if all goes according to schedule. I am delighted to see the advance praise.

UPDATE: And I just learned the godfather of the blogosphere Andrew Sullivan has blogged today about my book’s chapter on same-sex love.