Stalin and Mao are not making a comeback, but nationalism sure is

One interesting theme in recent press coverage of Russia is the revival of the popularity of Stalin, which seems to parallel the increasingly authoritarian governing strategy of Putin. Here is Alec Luhn in the New York Times: In 2015, the Communist Party, which has 92 of 450 seats in Parliament and often toes the Kremlin line, raised a banner […]

What is nationalism anyway, and why is it so powerful?

I’ve had nationalism on the brain lately–thinking about the history of Chinese nationalism, reading about Russian nationalism–so I was predisposed to interpret the UK’s vote to leave the EU as being driven by nationalism. I found Fintan O’Toole’s essay arguing that the Brexit movement was an undeclared English (not British) nationalist movement very convincing, and it looks […]

Who won the battle of ideas in China?

Ideological struggle in China is not dead, only hidden. That is perhaps the shortest possible summary of Jude Blanchette’s lively intellectual history of China’s neo-Maoist movement, China’s New Red Guards. He aims to demolish the simplistic idea that China’s populace has agreed not to ask political questions in exchange for economic prosperity, and show how […]

Three ways of looking at China and its history

A friend recommended I read Rana Mitter’s Modern China: A Very Short Introduction, and being a big fan of the Very Short Introduction series I was happy to do so. I’m glad I did: although the book surveys some fairly familiar material, it also puts forth some interesting historical ideas. What I found most useful […]

Richard Bush on Xi vs Trump, or, who is the real Maoist?

Richard Bush from Brookings has come up with the best point-by-point comparison of Xi Jinping and Donald Trump, the two most important global political figures of the present moment, that I have yet seen. Some of these points may seem obvious by now, but there is always value in a concise and clear summary, and […]

There are laws of history, and they work in China’s favor

The latest issue of Bill Bishop’s excellent Sinocism newsletter pointed out an interesting speech by Kevin Rudd analyzing recent Xi Jinping’s official pronouncements on foreign policy. Here is the section that jumped out at me: There is a second element to the June 2018 Conference which grows out of the first. It is Xi’s deeply […]

Reinhard Bendix on the economic dilemma for nationalist politicians

Is there a connection between nationalism in politics and inward-looking, statist economic policies? The examples of China and Russia (and perhaps Turkey) in recent years suggest that there could be. But where does this linkage come from? I recently stumbled across a 1987 article by the sociologist Reinhard Bendix, called “The Intellectual’s Dilemma in the Modern World,” […]

What is the real driver of the Russian revanche?

The deterioration of US-Russia relations, and Russia’s shift to increasingly repressive domestic politics and an increasingly aggressive external stance, is one of the most important shifts in global politics over the past couple of decades. One of the standard explanations for this worrying trend is that it is Russia’s natural reaction to what it could […]