More to Life than Kim Jong-un: Reflections on Robert Collins’ Report on the Organization and Guidance Department

  Today the NK News website published a 1600-word essay I wrote in response to Robert Collins’ extensive new report on the Organization and Guidance Department of the Korean Workers’ Party. A short series of extracts follows: More than ever since January 2017, ‘North Korea watchers’ have been wrestling with a dilemma typical for analysing autocracies: Does one take a personalist interpretation of the DPRK’s diplomacy and … Continue reading More to Life than Kim Jong-un: Reflections on Robert Collins’ Report on the Organization and Guidance Department

On the Opening of the Ji’an-Manp’o Trade Port

As a small Chinese city on the Yalu River, Ji’an (集安) is an often-overlooked juncture for Chinese-North Korean movement of supplies and people. It was the main conduit for the Chinese troops into the DPRK during the initial stages of Mao’s intervention in the Korean War. It is the site of ancient tombs of the Koguryo kingdom, which makes it an important site for ancient … Continue reading On the Opening of the Ji’an-Manp’o Trade Port

Robert Jay Lifton, Revolutionary Immortality, and the Chinese Cultural Revolution

In his seminal 1961 study of survivors of detention and interrogation in the new People’s Republic of China, Robert Jay Lifton explains why this topic gripped him so thoroughly:  …I arrived in Hong Kong in late January, 1954. Just a few months before, I had taken part in the psychiatric evaluation of repatriated American prisoners of war during the exchange operations in Korea known as Big Switch … Continue reading Robert Jay Lifton, Revolutionary Immortality, and the Chinese Cultural Revolution

Mistranslating Mao in Chengdu, 1958

If you’re thinking much these days about Mao Zedong’s role in triggering massive famine in China during the Great Leap Forward (1958-61), you aren’t alone. In recent years, big histories in English have been published of the Great Leap by the historian Frank Dikotter and journalist Yang Jisheng, respectively, new sources compiled and translated by Zhou Xun, and excellent comparative monographs and edited volumes produced … Continue reading Mistranslating Mao in Chengdu, 1958

New Fragments from Mao in the Cultural Revolution

In December 2013, scholars of the history of the PRC were given a shot in the arm via the publication of Mao Zedong Nianpu, 1949-1976, consisting of six volumes of previously obscure materials from the central party archives press (党文献出版社) in Beijing with respect to Mao Zedong. Links to some of my previous translation efforts in this text, mostly focusing on the early 1950s, are included at … Continue reading New Fragments from Mao in the Cultural Revolution

George H.W. Bush in Mao’s China

  With the death of George H.W. Bush, it is an opportune time to look back at his time as the top U.S. diplomat in Beijing in the immediate aftermath of Nixon’s 1972 groundbreaking visit to China. Although the period of Bush’s presidency (1989-1993) has yet to hit the Foreign Relations of the United States volumes, a large amount of open-source material has been made available … Continue reading George H.W. Bush in Mao’s China

Thunderclouds Over the Honeymoon: Xi, Kim, and the Trump Summit

Amid the welter of diplomatic moves that have occurred in and around the Korean peninsula in 2018, the two meetings in quick succession between the North Korean leader and China’s eternally-consolidating leader, Xi Jinping, have been one of the more curious elements. After a six-year hiatus from meeting foreign leaders at all, Kim’s mode of turning so suddenly back to China was indeed extraordinary. The … Continue reading Thunderclouds Over the Honeymoon: Xi, Kim, and the Trump Summit