Unofficial China


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Between the US and China, you can feel that the chill is on among the chieftains, spoiling for a fight over Taiwan or trade or just top billing. But what about the people? Two peoples bound by resentments and admiration, both deep-seated and heartfelt, and under it all, some natural affinities in hard work and competitive play – remember: ping-pong and basketball. What would informed empathy feel like, between the two biggest kids on the world playground, looking into the eyes of the other? The conversation this radio-podcast hour is not from the classroom, much less the war room. We’re in our Zoom room with American searchers who’ve got China in their bones. A heavy-metal rock-star and a Yale historian of “China in the World.”

Kaiser Kuo.
Jing Tsu.

We’re listening for affinities and anxieties, the attitudes in the U.S. and China that could complicate relations in a transition. We’ve heard the official line from Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who can make the challenge from China sound like a threat: China has “a top-tier fighting force,” Blinken said, and it aims to “become the world’s leading power.” The question this hour is: Do the people, here and there, know better, or have a different intuition? Our guests are teachers, talkers, listeners in both cultures. Kaiser Kuo is a celebrity in digital China; first with the heavy-metal rock band Tang Dynasty in the ’80s, now with the Sinica podcast from his American base in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. We open with Jing Tsu, the cross-cultural historian at Yale – her masterpiece so far recounts the literary and typographical breakthrough that made Chinese writing modern.

This is the latest installment of In Search of Monsters, our limited-series collaboration with the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft.

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