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Business as Usual at the ‘People’s Daily’

Jasper Becker: The Chinese cultural revolution, 29 July 1999

The Origins of the Cultural Revolution. Vol. III: The Coming of the Cataclysm 1961-66 
by Roderick MacFarquhar.
Oxford, 733 pp., £70, October 1977, 0 19 214997 0
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... What do we know of recent Chinese history and how do we know it? This third, massive volume of Roderick MacFarquhar’s Origins of the Cultural Revolution, the first volume of which appeared in 1974, completes what is perhaps the most ambitious effort yet undertaken to unravel why and how this great and confusing event came about. Yet even after reading the 730 pages of the final volume, I was left wondering whether the thoughts and acts of the Chinese Communist Party’s leaders have become any more knowable ...

‘Comrade Jiang Zemin does indeed seem a proper choice’

Jasper Becker: Tiananmen Square, 24 May 2001

The Tiananmen Papers 
by Zhang Liang, edited by Andrew Nathan and Perry Link.
Little, Brown, 513 pp., £20, January 2001, 0 316 85693 2
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... I could hardly bring myself to read this book. When I finished it, I was more puzzled than ever about what I had witnessed before and at the time of the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989. I was then reporting for the Guardian and had been living in China for four years, watching the slow build-up of anger and hope among the intelligentsia. In Shanghai one night in late 1986, I saw the whole of the Bund and the People’s Square filled with crowds of students and expectant onlookers demanding democratic change from Jiang Zemin, who was then the Shanghai Party Secretary and is now China’s leader ...
Hungry Ghosts: China’s Secret Famine 
by Jasper Becker.
Murray, 352 pp., £19.99, June 1996, 0 7195 5433 0
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... into a government policy; its limits were the administrative boundaries of the Chinese state. As Jasper Becker writes: ‘Mao’s famine ... was entirely man-made. China was at peace. No blight destroyed the harvest. There were no unusual floods or droughts. The [urban] granaries were full and other countries were ready to ship in grain. And the ...

We look at it and see ourselves

Bruce Cumings: Fantasies of Korea, 15 December 2005

Under the Loving Care of the Fatherly Leader: North Korea and the Kim Dynasty 
by Bradley Martin.
Dunne, 868 pp., $29.95, October 2004, 0 312 32221 6
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Rogue Regime: Kim Jong Il and the Looming Threat of North Korea 
by Jasper Becker.
Oxford, 300 pp., £16.99, November 2004, 9780195170443
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... out to have been quite modest and uneasy. None of this scholarship is mentioned by Martin or by Jasper Becker. The Soviets of course controlled Korea north of the 38th parallel, and Kim could not have come to power over their objections. But even if Stalin had handpicked Kim and installed him in Pyongyang as his faithful servant, it wouldn’t have ...

How to Defect

Isabel Hilton: North Korea, 10 June 2010

Nothing to Envy: Real Lives in North Korea 
by Barbara Demick.
Granta, 314 pp., £14.99, February 2010, 978 1 84708 014 1
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... song What do we know about North Korea? The ‘quintessential rogue regime’ in the words of Jasper Becker, the most secretive of states, member of the ‘axis of evil’, run by a crazy dictator who ‘brutalised his own population … murdering or starving to death some four million people’ while he ‘swilled imported French cognac and gifted ...

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