4 Things to Read About China

A big, exciting country -- with serious problems.

1) Yan Lianke, in the NYT, on "China's State-Sponsored Amnesia." Sample:

[Widespread Chinese ignorance of the "June 4 1989 episode"] reminded me of something another teacher told me. She had asked her students from China if they had heard about the death by starvation of 30 to 40 million people during the so-called "three years of natural disasters" in the early 1960s. Her students responded with stunned silence, as if she, a teacher in Hong Kong, was brazenly fabricating history to attack their mother country.
2) Christina Larson, in Bloomberg Businessweek, about new evidence on the birth-defect epidemic being caused by pollution in China. Sample:
In the U.S., for every 10,000 live births, there are 7.5 infants with neural tube defects. In Shanxi province, that number is 18 times higher: 140 infants....

Over a 10-year period, the researchers gathered placentas from 80 stillborn or newborn infants in Shanxi with the disorder. Based on their analysis, they confirmed that those infants had been exposed in utero to significant levels of pesticides, industrial solvents, and especially polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), which are released into the air when fossil fuels are burned.
3) A Chinese language report saying that as many as 15 percent of overall recent deaths in China may be due to pollution; to similar effect in the NYT.

4) A Xinhua report saying that March in Beijing -- when we were there -- was the smoggiest in modern history.

And this is without even getting into the dead pigs, the new cases of "bird flu," etc. China is a big, exciting country. But it has very serious problems, and different problems from those in the Western world just now.
Bonus, these are not about China but among the offerings not to miss from the Atlantic recently:

A) Matt O'Brien on why David Stockman's "sky is falling" recent piece was so wrong-headed;

B) Robert Vare with an extended appreciation of Michael Kelly;

C) John Gould on why the return of Hannibal Lecter is more interesting than you might expect; and

D) - Z) Ta-Nehisi Coates's reports from Europe and Conor Friedersdorf's reports from all over , both too numerous to itemize with links right now but worth seeking out.

And many others ...

James Fallows is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and has written for the magazine since the late 1970s. He has reported extensively from outside the United States and once worked as President Carter's chief speechwriter. His latest book is China Airborne. More

James Fallows is based in Washington as a national correspondent for The Atlantic. He has worked for the magazine for nearly 30 years and in that time has also lived in Seattle, Berkeley, Austin, Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai, and Beijing. He was raised in Redlands, California, received his undergraduate degree in American history and literature from Harvard, and received a graduate degree in economics from Oxford as a Rhodes scholar. In addition to working for The Atlantic, he has spent two years as chief White House speechwriter for Jimmy Carter, two years as the editor of US News & World Report, and six months as a program designer at Microsoft. He is an instrument-rated private pilot. He is also now the chair in U.S. media at the U.S. Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, in Australia.

Fallows has been a finalist for the National Magazine Award five times and has won once; he has also won the American Book Award for nonfiction and a N.Y. Emmy award for the documentary series Doing Business in China. He was the founding chairman of the New America Foundation. His recent books Blind Into Baghdad (2006) and Postcards From Tomorrow Square (2009) are based on his writings for The Atlantic. His latest book is China Airborne. He is married to Deborah Fallows, author of the recent book Dreaming in Chinese. They have two married sons.

Fallows welcomes and frequently quotes from reader mail sent via the "Email" button below. Unless you specify otherwise, we consider any incoming mail available for possible quotation -- but not with the sender's real name unless you explicitly state that it may be used. If you are wondering why Fallows does not use a "Comments" field below his posts, please see previous explanations here and here.


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