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Anti-SJW Sentiment in China

I say anti-SJW, though it could just as easily apply to plain ol’ regular cosmopolitan globalists, I suppose. Here’s an interesting article at openDemocracy on the use of “white left” in China as a racial-cum-political epithet:

If you look at any thread about Trump, Islam or immigration on a Chinese social media platform these days, it’s impossible to avoid encountering the term baizuo, or literally, the ‘white left.’

Apart from some anti-hegemonic sentiments, the connotations of ‘white left’ in the Chinese context clearly resemble terms such as ‘regressive liberals’ [*] or ‘libtards’ in the United States. In a way the demonization of the ‘white left’ in Chinese social media may also reflect the resurgence of right-wing populism globally. The term first became influential amidst the European refugee crisis, and Angela Merkel was the first western politician to be labelled as a baizuo for her open-door refugee policy.

Read the whole thing. The author notes the lack of “experiential motivation” for this attitude, and how it even extends into a very American thrashing of Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama (but not Donald Trump).

*The link here is to an article at HuffPo claiming “regressive liberal” is an Islamophobic term. So am I to understand that a claim that one is insufficiently liberal is something conservatives do? Yes, actually I am. Once you understand that much of what passes for conservatism these days is simply yesterday’s liberalism (or today’s liberalism, albeit an embattled one), it begins to make sense. That makes someone like Dave Rubin operationally conservative even if they’d resist that label.

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Wisdom of the East

SuperSnail asks:

Hey Razib, could you compile a list of Chinese and Indian religious history/philosophy books?

I’ve actually made the call for books on Indian religion and philosophy elsewhere. My knowledge set in this domain is very thin, so I don’t feel comfortable recommending anything. I have read primary sources such as The Bhagavad Gita and The Rig Veda, as well as Wendy Doniger’s The Hindus, but I have no sense of the lay of the land. To be frank Indian religion and philosophy has minimal appeal for me. The materialist school, the Carvaka, is generally characterized by its opponents, so it isn’t as if I find any succor in that direction (imagine that everything you knew about classical paganism was purely through the polemics of Christian apologists).

When it comes to China I am a bit more comfortable. Unlike the case with the Abrahamic religions I assume many readers are not so familiar with the primary texts. So the list below is more weighted toward the “sources,” though I think one can argue that Confucianism as it is lived has as much to do with The Analects as Christianity does with the synoptic gospels. I’ll leave it up to the reader to make an inference as to the lesson one takes from this analogy!

I am personally rather positively inclined toward the “black sheep” of the early Confucian sages, Xunzi, who I suspect would be most comprehensible to those with a “Secular Right” perspective. Xunzi’s emphasis on the necessity of social order and regulation had a more jaundiced tinge than that of Confucius, and especially Mencius, but some have argued that in practice the Confucianism of Chinese civilization owes more to him than to his more well regarded predecessors.

Because of its concrete and “this worldly” emphasis Chinese religion and philosophy can’t be understood well without a reference to the broader history of China, so there are many general history books on the list. Additionally, the final section has a periodic temporal focus, going from dynasty to dynasty. I’ve omitted any books on Buddhism because I think in the Chinese context this religion can be decomposed mostly into its “foreign” and “indigenous.” The synthesis may be novel (e.g., Chan Buddhism, more commonly known as Zen in the West), but usually I think its antecedents in indigenous Chinese or exogenous Indian & Central Asian traditions are pretty clear.


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Archbishop Duranty

When, writing in Bloomberg News, George Walden begins his review of a new book on the colossal Mao-manufactured famine that was among the most hideous atrocities of the twentieth century, he does so in a curiously forgiving way:

When Julie Nixon Eisenhower met Chairman Mao Zedong in Beijing in 1976, she wore a Mao badge — and thought it fun. More recently, the Archbishop of Canterbury [Rowan Williams] lamented the loss of a China that, under the chairman, had “guaranteed everyone’s welfare.”

After “Mao’s Great Famine,” Frank Dikotter’s chronicle of how that regime killed at least 45 million people in what he calls the greatest man-made famine the world has seen, no one will have any excuses for modish Maoism.

That’s too kind. No-one had had much of an excuse before, either. The horrors of Maoism have been well-known for decades, and the famine the Chairman created has been well chronicled (a good starting point is Jasper Becker’s brilliantly furious Hungry Ghosts from 1996).

One shouldn’t perhaps make too much of Julie Eisenhower’s fashion faux pas (Mao, after all, was, like the badge that bore his face, in some sense a Nixon family trophy), but the case of Rowan Williams is something else altogether different. All too often this over-promoted, and somewhat malevolent, parson is treated as a good-hearted holy fool. He is anything but. Williams, who has described himself, with sly self-deprecation, as a ‘bearded lefty’ is in reality an unpleasantly hard line ideologue. He would have known perfectly well about the hecatombs of Chinese communism (if you look at Williams’ words in their original context you can see that he is specifically referring to the time before the Cultural Revolution, in other words to a time that included the great famine), but this revolting prelate either didn’t care – or he felt that it was an inconvenient truth that could not be allowed to muddy the image of the egalitarian ‘social justice’ he is always so busy promoting.

Or both.

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Faith Meets Reality

From a FT review of China Watcher: Confessions of a Peking Tom by Richard Baum:

One of the best stories [in the book] concerns the actress Shirley MacLaine, who was seated near Deng Xiaoping at a 1979 banquet. She explained to Deng how impressed she had been during a trip to China when she had met a Chinese scientist. He had told her how grateful he was to Mao for banishing him from his ivory tower and sending him to the countryside to learn about ordinary people and grow cabbages. “Deng, ever the polite listener, looked her squarely in the eye and said earnestly, ‘He was lying.’”

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The Confucian conservatives

I highly recommend John Keay’s China: A History to any readers who wish to familiarize themselves with this civilization. Keay’s narrative is aimed at the general reader. Specialists will no doubt find themselves irritating by the simplifications, or even errors (I’m not a China specialist but even I picked out a factual error here and there), but I’m always impressed by Keay’s ability to interject a great deal of erudition and social history into a relatively fast paced political narrative (his India: A History is of similar quality).

Of course China matters. It matters now, and it has mattered in the past. To a great extent much of human history is Chinese history. It is amusing for example when Keay’s points out that China has always been characterized by export surpluses over its history; the world has long craved the goods of the Middle Kingdom, which in return demanded specie or vice. But more interestingly for readers of this weblog is the fact that between 200 BC and 1900 AD the Chinese political-cultural system maintained a high level of continuity and stability. A scholar who flourished during the reign of Hanwudi could have made himself understood with ease to a mandarin serving under the Dowager Cixi over 2,000 years later. It is true that in the 19th century much of the Western elite had familiarity with the classics of the Greeks and the Romans, but I think the analogy is broken because the resurrection of a civilian elite versed in the literature and values of the ancients was a reconstruction of the Renaissance. By contrast, the Confucian literati had maintained a chain of transmission back to antiquity.

Today we in a world dominated by Whiggish technocratic sensibilities are wont to denigrate the achievements of Imperial China, and characterize it as a regime of reflexive adherence to blind protocols and exhibiting a cultural torpor. And yet what would we say if Rome and arisen multiple times and revived its ancient forms for thousands of years? One might wonder if Roman ways were robust and congenial to human flourishing. The Confucian idolatry of antiquity seems backward looking to us today, but in a Malthusian world they made the best of it, and rested their philosophy upon concrete realities of family, custom and tradition. Lived human existence and not abstractions. I suspect there is much we could learn from their long record of success, and I believe, and yes hope, that China might learn something from its own cultural past as it surges toward material affluence.

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