Shanghai

Too many years: and I’m struck with sad amazement how much you’ve aged since I last saw you— your face wearing away like sand, grain by invisible grain, the skin leathering, sinew and muscle starting to sag to craggy jowls beneath your bearded jaw, your hair withering like grave-grass on the stone. You’ve grown a mustache to compensate. Your charcoal pin-striped suit is cut to kill. Your body still unbowed, but soon to stoop and slow. I see you clearly.

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Before 2013 begins, catch up on the best of 2012. From now until the New Year, we will be re-posting some of The New Republic’s most thought-provoking pieces of the year. Enjoy. For any number of pundits, policymakers, and scholars, the new next hot thing, in countries developed and developing, is The City—or, more expansively and more precisely, the megalopolis and its little brother, the metropolis.

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Like wolves and teenagers, literary scandals travel in packs, and the first of the spring are already upon us. First came The Lifespan of a Fact, a new book by essayist John D’Agata and his fact-checker Jim Fingal, which presents the blood-and-tears saga of Fingal’s seven-year-long attempt to verify a piece by D’Agata about the suicide of a Las Vegas teenager.

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I. A year has passed since liberal America and the liberal opinion class, in particular, went ecstatic over the Arab debut into the modern world. I know that my standing in that class is suspect. So, being a bit flummoxed myself by the not altogether dissimilar developments in the vast expanse from the Maghreb to Mesopotamia, I conquered my doubts and made a slight stab for hope. But I quickly realized that I was wrong and left the celebration.

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Yesterday, the World Bank released a new less optimistic forecast for global growth in 2012. It warrants a look back at the year that just passed. 2011 was marked by slower growth in both developed and developing countries. The protests of Arab Spring, Japan’s catastrophic earthquake, and the Eurozone’s debt problems contributed to slower growth around the world. But in the midst of a sluggish uneven recovery, a new economic order is being built, one that has major implications for U.S.

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It has a centralized, repressive government for which its citizens do not vote. Local authorities come to people’s houses in the middle of the night to arrest them on bogus charges. Censors control access to information, monitoring the Internet and approving or even writing elementary school textbooks. Corrupt government officials routinely elevate to power the obedient, the well-connected, and the cash-plentiful above the meritorious. Laborers, skilled and unskilled, work breathtakingly long hours.

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Fire and Ice

The Chinese artist Ai Weiwei is a very brave man. Long before April 3, when he was taken into police custody by the Chinese authorities in Beijing as he attempted to board a flight for Hong Kong, he knew that his vigorous support for human rights in China put him on a collision course with the government. He was badly beaten by the police in 2009, his blog was shut down that same year, and in 2010 his new studio in Shanghai was bulldozed by authorities.

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Reading Strauss in Beijing

A few years ago, when I was still teaching at the University of Chicago, I had my first Chinese graduate students, a couple of earnest Beijingers who had come to the Committee on Social Thought hoping to bump into the ghost of Leo Strauss, the German-Jewish political philosopher who established his career at the university. Given the mute deference they were accustomed to giving their professors, it was hard to make out just what these young men were looking for, in Chicago or Strauss. They attended courses and worked diligently, but otherwise kept to themselves.

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With American CEOs gathered at Blair House for a discussion on the economy this morning, the overriding challenge for the president and business is twofold: how to grow jobs in the near term while retooling the economy for the long haul. The United States cannot return to an economy characterized by excessive, debt-leveraged consumption. Rather, we want to move forward to an economy driven by exports, powered by low carbon and fuelled by innovation. The playbook of our competitors is quite straightforward: invest with public and private capital in the things that matter (e.g., first class infr

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Kimpossible

As the North Korea crisis spirals into its second week, and seemingly out of control, many American policymakers and pundits agree on one thing: China needs to do something about Pyongyang. “China is not behaving as a responsible world power,” Senator John McCain told CNN.  “They could bring the North Korean economy to their knees if they wanted to.”  State Department spokesman P.J.

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