Jasper Becker: a shocker on China (shame on OUP)

Every now and then you come across a real shocker of a book. I refer to Jasper Becker’s book on Beijing, called City of Heavenly Tranquility. While it attempts to provide a potted history of Beijing, the underlying thesis is that Beijing’s reconstruction is aimed at obliterating any memory of the Tiananmen ‘massacre’. Of course, he has to construct the fiction of the massacre in the first place to justify such an intriguing argument. Or, to be more polite, the whole book is an extraordinary piece of rubbish. But then what you expect from Jasper Becker, who is as about as rabidly anti-communist as one can get? For instance, his book, Hungry Ghosts, undertakes a comparable task to Robert Conquest’s Harvest of Sorrow. Conquest constructs the Ukrainian famine of 1932-33 as a deliberate act of ‘mass murder’ – genocide in other words, now dubbed the ‘Holodomor’. In a similar effort to construct a Goebbels-like big lie, Becker suggests largely the same for Mao’s Great Leap Forward in 1958-62.

This stuff is to be expected, especially from a journalistic and scholarly machine that has a default anti-communist position. But I must admit to being a trifle disappointed that the works come from Oxford University Press. In fact, of all the books on China, and indeed the USSR, from Oxford, only half a dozen are of any real use. Actually, I am not surprised at all. It’s Oxford, after all.

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9 thoughts on “Jasper Becker: a shocker on China (shame on OUP)

  1. I’m in Davos, Roland, and let me tell you – everybody here is reading Becker’s book on Beijing. I’ve made a start to it, but – between the skiing, 16-course meals, continual pressing of the flesh, and constant small talk (“we’re not the bad guys”) – I haven’t made much headway.

    And that’s not the only thing that’s got the 0.0000001% abuzz here. Everyone’s talking about your recent attempt to resurrection Lenin with holy water. That was you, wasn’t it? I’ve been telling everyone. I mean, it’s got your name written all over it, anyway. Good work. LOL

  2. Must be lonely in Davos with all the top shots off to join the mourning wailing for that protagonist for Feminism (Lagarde) and the Free World in Saudi Arabia. But I can see why people want to pretend to be reading, as there is a shabby chocolate oligarch doing the rounds there with a piece of metal with bullet holes. Reportedly he’s trying to sell it for billions of dollars. Yet the capitalists are smart enough to know there’s much more bullet-ridden scrap metal from his fascist militias that will soon become available on the market.

    1. Yes, cycling through East Germany soon reveals how much environmental work was inaugurated by communist governments in the 1970s at least. And wolves began moving westward after 1989, since they didn’t like the post-communist regimes very much.

    2. And on a relatedly unrelated note, Lysenko was (maybe partly) right. Biologist Rupert Sheldrake says now that the heritability of acquired characteristics is getting some respect–“epigenetics”–someone should take a look at the mass of research done in the Lysenko era. Could be a real treasure trove.

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