When I was off in China earlier this year, one highly memorable series of guest posts was by the writer and technologist Xujun Eberlein. In a five-part sequence -- parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 -- she unraveled a historical mystery involving US and Chinese interactions in the huge central Chinese city of Chongqing. ("Chungking" in tales of Chiang Kai-Shek and the Flying Tigers in World War II.)
Anyone who follows Chinese politics and culture knows how much Chongqing has recently dominated the news. Its flashy party secretary, Bo Xilai (right), is seen as a source of hope by some, and menace by others, because of his all-fronts "Red Culture" campaign. This is an effort to promote old style -- ie "Red" Communist -- values as an offset to the unbridled market-mindedness of modern China. If you want to take it as a sign of hope, you see it is as a critique of the extraordinary inequalities that have come with rapid growth. (This spring in Beijing I watched a man driving a Bentley, and angling it around another man who was pulling an ox cart with the yoke over his shoulders.) If you take it as a cautionary tale, you are concerned about the "cult of the personality" that Bo Xilai is building up and other aspects of this mass-culture campaign.