Mechanical Freak Presents... Learning About China Too, Pt. I

ByMatthew Van Duyn, Brian Platt

While we can't exactly footnote an episode, we can offer you a bibliography of all the books and articles we touch on in the episode. To the best of our ability, these references are organized by topic and by when they are touched on in the show. So, without further ado, the freaks present to you:

Intro Music

Suggested Reading

Matt's Book Picks:

Matt's Recommendations for China News:

Brian's Book Picks:

Articles Discussed

China in the News

2008 Beijing Olympics

Orientalism & Communism

Anticommunists of all stripes used an orientalist framework to explain the rise of communism in the Soviet Union and later China. These explanations came into fashion after the public became aware of the Holocaust and it became untoward for anticommunists to return to their well worn claims of "Judeo-Bolshevism."

One of the first to move toward the idea of "oriental despotism" as a framework for understanding the Soviet state was Leon Trotsky in his 1940 unfinished biography of Stalin. In the first chapter, Trotsky dedicates the first several pages to laying out Stalin's racial heritage, deciding that Stalin "had the blending of grit, shrewdness, craftiness and cruelty which has been considered characteristic of the statesmen of Asia"

George Kennan later built on this thesis in his 1961 book Russia and the West Under Lenin and Stalin. He regales the reader his evaluation of Stalin's racial character, "He had certain well-known characteristics of the Caucasian mountain race to which his father is said to have belonged – an inordinate touchiness, an endless vindictiveness, an inability ever to forget an insult or a slight, but great patience and power of dissimulation in selecting and preparing the moment to settle the score."

The major work on the "Asiatic nature" of Soviet and Chinese communism, however, was Kurt Wittfogel's 1957 book Oriental Despotism: A Comparative Study of Total Power that argued that the Russian and Chinese people had Asiatic minds doomed to despotism because of ancient water projects (don't ask, it doesn't make sense). This book was a sensation and became mandatory reading in most political science programs. Later adherents like Richard Pipes would keep the oriental despotism myth alive and well in Soviet Studies late into the 1990s.

Human Rights Discourse

Uighurs and the War on Terror

MLK Calling the US "the Greatest Purveyor of Violence in the World"

Sanctions and their Effects

Tankie Life & Culture

Outro Music