October 1, 2012 |
KIEV, Ukraine - Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych is the model of a new kind of power-grabbing authoritarian. Gone is the preening, bullying fascist in a comical military costume, like Hitler or Mussolini. Mao's jacket and Fidel Castro's combat fatigues are out of fashion. Today, it is all business. Today, Stalin would be wearing Hugo Boss or Brooks Brothers, his mustache would be shaved off and he, like Yanukovych, would look like any chief executive flying business class. The pogrom and the putsch have given way to PR. Yanukovych has hired lobbyists and public relations teams to help him project a progressive image while he quietly squeezes the press and rejiggers election laws to guarantee his party permanent rule. An example of this is the Podesta Group's $200,000 contract with an entity called the European Centre for a Modern Ukraine.
August 16, 2012 |
BEIDAIHE, China - Celebrity sightings used to be part of the fun in Beidaihe, the summertime retreat of the Chinese Communist Party. "In the old days, people would see Mao Tse-tung or Zhou Enlai walking around, shopping, eating in a restaurant, talking to ordinary people," said Yu Heping, 62, a lifelong resident who used to farm corn and sorghum and now works in the tourism industry. Nowadays, the presence of the Chinese leadership is viewed primarily in fleeting shadows through tinted glass, as their black Audis glide past stifling security roadblocks.
May 25, 2012 |
China Daily, the largest English-language newspaper in China, carried a front-page headline last week: "Village Gratitude Shows Integrity of Task. " Not clear what that's about, and the opening sentence isn't much help: "On a hot afternoon, Zhou Yi picked up a bag of freshly boiled eggs that had been left on the doorstep of the committee office in Chaqulak village in the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region. " I figured this must be some feel-good story about the noble, uncorrupted country folk taking care of the less fortunate in their midst.
May 3, 2012 |
BEIJING - The Fox Tower in southeastern Beijing, a centuries-old fortress-like building with deep-set red windows and curving eaves, has stood through the fall of the Qing Dynasty, the reign of Mao Tse-tung and the crush of urban development. But for 45-year-old Sinologist Paul French, one historical event stands out above the rest: One morning in 1937, the mutilated corpse of a 19-year-old British woman was found at the base of the tower, her organs removed with surgical precision.
March 20, 2012 |
In the latest political tumult in China, it is the Maoists who find themselves in trouble. Maoist websites have been shut down, ostensibly for "maintenance. " A public park in Chongqing where retirees sang and twirled to patriotic anthems while waving red flags posted a notice saying the music was now banned because it disturbed the neighborhood. A former television host, known for his Maoist views, found his scheduled speeches abruptly canceled. The crackdown started late last week during the conclusion of the National People's Congress.
March 18, 2012 |
Like many peasants from the outskirts of Yanan, China, Ren Shouhua was born in a cave and lived there until he got a job in the city and moved into a concrete-block house. His progression made sense as he strove to improve his life. But there's a twist: The 46-year-old Ren plans to move back to a cave when he retires. "It's cool in the summer and warm in the winter. It's quiet and safe," said Ren, a ruddy-faced man with salt-and-pepper hair who moved to the Shaanxi provincial capital, Xian, in his 20s. "When I get old, I'd like to go back to my roots.
March 7, 2012 |
In early December, Liu Zhangning was tending her cabbage patch when she saw a tall yellow construction crane in the distance. At night, the work lights made it seem like day. Fifteen days later, a 30-story hotel towered over her village on the outskirts of the city like a glass and steel obelisk. "I couldn't really believe it," Liu said. "They built that thing in under a month. " A time-lapse video of the project in Changsha, which shows the prefabricated building being assembled on site, has racked up more than 5 million views on YouTube and left Western architects speechless.
February 15, 2012 |
The palace intrigue surrounding the shape of China'snext leadership is thick. Rumors abound about who's up, who's down and who's out. What is fairly certain is that Vice President Xi Jinping, who arrives Thursday in Los Angeles for a visit, will become general secretary of the Communist Party in November and China's next president in March 2013. What we do not yet know is who will fill the remaining open slots on the powerful Politburo Standing Committee, as seven of the nine members retire.
December 23, 2011 |
For the Chinese government, a dead Kim Jong Il is a popular Kim Jong Il. In life, the North Korea leader was a constant irritant to Beijing with his dangerous nuclear ambitions and his stubborn refusal to reform an economy that left the population starving. Although Chinese officials rarely criticize North Korea openly, they quietly suspended energy assistance and demanded cash in advance for sales at times when they were angry about the nuclear program. They sometimes have been stingy with food aid and have said publicly that North Korea needs to overhaul its economy.
December 11, 2011 |
When the young Mao Tse-tung agitated for revolution, he found a vivid way to get his point across to an uneducated audience: He picked up a single chopstick and snapped it in two. Then he picked up a handful of chopsticks: They would not break. Thus he showed that so long as everyone stood side by side, no force could withstand the tide of revolution. By gathering together China's scattered, indignant chopsticks, Mao finally was able to ascend Tiananmen — the Gate of Heavenly Peace — on Oct. 1, 1949, and announce the establishment of his republic.