Shanghai, from which I have just returned after a first visit to China, has a specially built modern museum to house exhibits on the planning for the future Shanghai, and it includes an enormous model of Shanghai today. It is of a scale and detail that matches the huge model of New York City built for the 1964 World's Fair and now housed in the Queens Museum—which is itself located in a fragment of the 1939 World's Fair in New York City. But the contrasts are striking and reveal much that distinguishes China's largest city from our own largest city.
JUST LIKE MANY OF AMERICA’S railroads, Zambia’s longest rail line was built by the Chinese. But the Tazara line, which links the landlocked country with neighboring Tanzania, wasn’t built by coolies. Rather, it was built by Commies. IT WAS THE 1970S, AND, IN THE NAME of Afro-Asian friendship and fraternal socialist solidarity, Chairman Mao built the countries a rail line to the sea.
Earlier this year, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad arrived in China—and quickly made himself at home. The occasion was a meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), a regional group linking China, Russia, and Central Asia. During the summit, Ahmadinejad seemed to be everywhere. He posed, arms linked, with Russian and Chinese officials, who said nothing as he called for “impartial and independent experts” to investigate whether the Holocaust happened. He delivered a major address broadcast on Chinese state television.
A FRIEND RECENTLY TOLD me that his most important pedagogical tool as an architect is this maxim: the architect's primary ethical responsibility is to be the guardian of the public realm, in contrast to the myriad others who currently configure our built landscape— clients, politicians, contractors, developers, and NIMBY-driven "community action" committees.
Campo Santo By W.G. Sebald Translated by Anthea Bell (Random House, 221 pp., $24.95) Unrecounted Poems by W.G. Sebald Lithographs by Jan Peter Tripp Translated by Michael Hamburger (New Directions, 109 pp., $22.95) I. Although he arrived at it relatively late in his senselessly truncated life, once W.G. Sebald found his real voice, it became unmistakable: melancholy, allusive, inward, and elegant, its cadences carried from book to book until each one seemed like another sketch from a single, instantly recognizable personal landscape.
In Hollywood, the one thing as inevitable as death and taxes is sequels. They roll them out, year after year, the 2s and IIs, the Returns and Revenges, and Strikes Backs and Strikes Agains. For decades, the first rule of making a successful sequel has been simple and unchanging: Figure out what you did right the first time and do it again. The problem, of course, is that this isn't always so easy. For every The Godfather: Part II there's a The Two Jakes; for every The Empire Strikes Back, an Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.
I was interviewing Hong Kong tycoon Albert Yeung in his office on a recent afternoon when he suddenly changed the subject to ask whether I knew that his forebears had come from Chiu Chow, a region in south China famous for breeding tough guys. A Chiu Chow is the Chinese equivalent of a Sicilian. I took the bait, and told Yeung that some people had advised me to stay away from him because he was reputed to be a dangerous man. He did not even try to conceal his delight.
Both China and the USA during 1976 look to their own body politic, and not much at broad world vistas. Yet from different starting-points. We focus on who the next President will be and now the list is pruned to two. But the election issues are as hard to sight as corks on a choppy sea. In China it is the personnel stakes that are elusive. The issues being debated under the orange tiles of Peking's palaces are, on the other hand, clearer than usual. And the "what" may be as momentous for China's future as the "who." Glimpse six items that reflect what is controversial in China.