Wednesday 6 May 2020

The recent past is the most forgotten historical period, in China and everywhere


“Ironically, North Korea in the 1960s and 1970s had far higher living standards than China and North Koreans would frequently congratulate themselves on not having fallen into the chaos and backwardness of their giant neighbour. It was only in the early nineties, with the end of Russian and Chinese subsidies, that the North Korean economy collapsed.” 

James Palmer, Heaven Cracks, Earth Shakes: The Tangshan Earthquake and the Death of Mao's China (2012)

I met James Palmer when I was in Peking. He's a very interesting man who tells me that the Chinese have the same attitude to the West as Eastern Europeans have. They certainly do not think of China as the centre of the world as they did under the emperors. Talking to him I formed the impression that they do not have the creativity of the West.

James is firmly on the left. He told me over a very good dinner that everything Niall Fergusson wrote about China in his book Civilization: The West and the Rest is wrong. I was reading it when we met. He is now working for Foreign Policy and accused the WHO back in February of acting as the Chinese government's PR agency.

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