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Monthly Archives: May 2009

Research on Postwar Japan

Colleagues in Tokyo who are interested in my work on Chinese images of postwar Japan can now find my dissertation in the National Diet Library.

In response to the question if the document is related to Japanese military history, the library notes that the dissertation touches on the following topics: 日本占領 (Occupied Japan)・戦争裁判 (War Judgements/Trials)・戦争犯罪 (War Crimes).  And that is all quite correct.

He Yingqin, left, accepts Yasuji Okamura's declaration of Japanese surrender to China

Le mort de Mathieu [I]

So much of Sartre’s Le Mort dans l’Âme is pessimistic, full of spite for the French army and regime, the very opposite of United Front literature in wartime China.  Yet, at the conclusion of part two of the book, the hero of the entire triology, Mathieu, the socialist professor, gets himself a gun.

The resistance thus takes shape, assumes reality: the intellectual has taken up arms.

The apogee, in a tower, firing away at the faceless invaders, he meets his death.  In a book full of drnken, careless capitulation, Mathieu salvages the nation and consecrates memory through his violence:

Il s’approacha du papapet et se mit a tirer debout.  C’etait une énorme revanche; chaque coup de feu le vengeait d’un ancien scruple.  Un coup sur Lola que je n’ai pas osé voler, un coup sur Marcelle que j’aurais dû plaquer, un coup sur Odette que je n’ai pas voulu baiser.  Celui-ci pour les livres que je n’ai pas osé écrire, celui-là pour les voyages que je me suis refusés, et autre sur tous les types, en bloc; que j’avais envie de détester et que j’ai essayé de comprendre.


Ba / reflections on a father

On August 10, 1990, drifting past apocolyptic oil refineries in South St. Paul, a boy sat on plush red cushions, listening to his father talk.  He looked at the old man against that blackened horizon, images melding forever with the truths of new mysteries like “Kuwait” and “Saddam Hussein” and “your brother’s deployment.”  In activating this connection, fusing Baathists and nuclear bombs, the father thus fulfilled his charge, baptising the lad in the brimstone and slag of the post-Cold War within the confines of a rust silver steed from broken Detroit, balancing the lives of his sons as he tacked between lanes in a Minnesota summer.  So when he died two weeks later, the brunt of the work had already been done. 

Helmsman!  your blessings were rendered not of cloth, but of aspirated air merged through a stained and oft-indecent tongue, broken chords of sound, of wheels grinding into snow.  Heroism?  Hardly.  But you brought us into workplaces imprinted for decades:

gas stations, stanchion pits, yellow buckets, builder of foundations, tutor to criminals, friend to the brilliant disorder of mathematics, teller of stories, and although rarely stoic, you were a man with time, of time —

but that when death snapped out its lashes/the charred lungs and blasted arteries/out of your own body it contorted and destroyed you/

but the myths of the man lay quietly in wait/a well-trained army of anecdotes disproving this or that/and we laid them upon your brow like heavy carbon roses/and in farewell, our crushed papers scattered

Wild Days in Northeast Asia

North Korea tests another nuclear weapon, hinting at domestic stability for an uncertain population.  Certainly the hard-liners seem to be in control.

Nancy Pelosi, in Shanghai, condemns the test along with the rest of the Americans and Northeast Asian allies, including China.  Yahoo very sloppily denoted that human rights protests were going on in China in anticipation of Pelosi’s visit.

The sourcing of these reports is very unclear and the Chinese website (Boxun) to which they are traced is actually an article about a murder case in Hangzhou!  This is sloppy reporting, Wall Street Journal!  What the protests appear to be are on going rafts of petitioners at the Supreme Court in southern Beijing who will latch on to anything they can get so that their very specific [and yes, often vaguely human-rights related] cases can be heard.  But in general, the idea that Nancy Pelosi has a following in China of people who will spring up and stand versus the government at the calling of her (or the Dalai Lama’s name) is quite ludicrous; in fact she is a somewhat reviled figure among nationalist circles.

And then we have the suicide of Noh Moo-hyun.  What is of interest here is how Xinhua, the Chinese press, soft-pedaled the story for the Chinese people.  Soon after the news broke, headlines on Xinhua.com read “Noh Moo-Hyun Suddenly Found Dead; Suicide Suspected” while the CCP figured out how to break the idea that the country’s highest former executive had taken his own life over shame on corruption charges.  Don’t you think that some Chinese laobaixing would feel vindicated if a few top corrupt officials, too, decided to take their own lives as a strange means of balancing the scales with the people they fleeced?  But we should support China even its very strange way of rooting out corruption; with just one party, it ain’t easy.

The End / am Endlichkeit

Die Jahr ist vorbei, die Fröhling ist Voll.

Im Herz hab ich Dankbarkeit, dass ich lebe noch wohl.

Wie Schwan/gesang des’ Lohengrins, jetzt schwimme ich ab,

Für Küsten, für Örten, wo mann fremden sprach.

Hinab, und wieder, und weiter, und Vor!

und bin ich nicht willig, so brauch ich Freude!

Gestalt, o wie plötzlich, macht Frieden es Frei

bewegt sich nach Frankreich, wo Kanzlerin sei!

und dannach wird furchten, weil sie mich nicht Liebt

mit wutvollem Herz, dass mich selbst verdient

(und endlich so!): die 内容 von Heine zu verstehen.

Cultural Diplomacy / Basketball

The Cleveland Cavaliers, the premier team of the National Basketball Assocation, appear to be poised to accept a 15% bid for joint ownership by a Chinese business conglomerate led by Huang Jinghua.

Dalai Lama in Europe

Xinhua is upset: the Dalai Lama is planning to arrive in France from June 6-8 to become an honorary citizen of Paris. While the national government of France has pledged that no federal officials will meet with him, the mayor of Paris is offering the Dalai Lama honorary citizenship (and thus the trip).

Here he is in Paris in 2003, giving an interview (the present link is also in French translation, with better links than the YouTube version):

Chinese media notes that the visit could again destabilize Sino-French relations, and asserts that the timing of the visit is intended to maximize global visibility (it is planned for the day after Obama’s trip to Normandy to commemorate the D-Day invasion of 1944).

Xinhua has also put together a nicely gigantic surveillance page of Sarkozy and the French government.

France24 has some solid analysis and video on this.

Fortunately, China is already gearing up for what is sure to be an outsized campaign called “I Love You, China” to commemorate the 65th anniversary of the People’s Republic this coming October 1.