Business and history.
After suffering colossal destruction and disruption from two decades of upheaval, the most notorious apex of which was the Cultural Revolution, many ambitious and educated people in China realized one (or both) of two things: 1) They were tired of living /1
lies, and they realized that the only way out of their predicament, and not suffer a repeat of the past 20 years again, was to be truthful and look back at what had happened with a seriously honest perspective; and 2) Politics and ideology can be extremely destructive and /2
wasteful, so their salvation was to pivot all-in, into the capitalist business and entrepreneurial experiments that began in China in the 1980s.
By and large, the populations who pursued (1) and (2) were non-overlapping.
Many Party and military historians (although they are /3
largely one and the same, since in Red China, Party history is military history, and military history is Party history) did pursue (1) in the 1980s, the trauma, pain, and suffering of the prior two decades driving their genuine scholarship. However, as China did not pursue a /4
path of political liberalization in the wake of the events of Tian'anmen in 1989, the movement behind (1) largely dissipated by the 1990s.
Obviously, (2) is alive and well.
But you can get only so far with (2) without (1).
And Jack Ma's disappearance shouldn't be a surprise. /end

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More from @simonbchen

19 Sep 20
“Are these peasants seriously going to eat all the sweet potatoes?”
A distinctive feature of communist operations in Chinese Civil War by 1948 was that novel, large-scale conventional-scale military operations were combined with mass mobilization and conscription of civilians /1
for logistic support—the latter referred to as “People’s War” in Mao Zedong’s parlance.
Before the outbreak of the Huaihai Campaign, Captain Guo, a company commander in 100th Army, 7th Corps, Republic of China Army, was conducting an inspection of civilian houses in a village. /2
In one dwelling, pulling back a cloth curtain, he stumbled upon a room chock-full of sweet potatoes, covering the entire floor.
He promptly reported the suspicious finding to his superior officers.
They scratched their heads. “These peasants in Shandong province, they all eat /3
Read 4 tweets
16 Sep 20
Tales of Anna Shen, one of most notorious communist sleeper agents who penetrated deeply into the military command structure of Chiang Kai-shek's Republic of China Army and government.
How did she—the femme fatale of modern Chinese history—pull off such an intelligence coup? /1 ImageImage
1) What motivated Anna Shen to dedicate her life to radical social change?
Roots could be found in early tensions between her and her family. She was born into a well-to-do family in 1915, in Jiangsu Province of southern China. While she was allowed school education, her /2
(1 cont'd) family was otherwise very traditional, insisting on arranged marriage for her, which she had no interest in and tradition of which she despised. She also sided with her older sister when latter was physically abused by rest of family for being unable to conceive. /3
Read 6 tweets
15 Sep 20
Don’t count on your boss coming back.
In March 1949, as vicious Battle of Taiyuan was increasingly tipping in favor of communists, the provincial warlord there, General Yan Xishan (the “Earthy Emperor of Shanxi”), was looking to flee.
To the public, he loudly proclaimed that /1
he would fight the communists to the bitter end. Not only did he order a supply of poison capsules for himself and his entourage, he even designated former Imperial Japanese Army soldiers serving in his semi-private army to shoot him at very last moment /2
—in his words, he could only trust fanatical Imperial Japanese soldiers, and not even his own Chinese soldiers, to commit that extreme deed.
But he didn’t live up to his word.
Two key events in early 1949 gave him a convenient excuse to hightail out of /3
Read 9 tweets
10 Sep 20
One reason why I think military history is important, when it comes to conflicts involving deep ideological splits that continue to this day, is that it offers a more objective look at social issues that is less at risk of bias. With Chinese Civil War, I actually find authors /1
such as Jung Chang and Frank Dikotter to be not entirely reliable and objective, because even though they rightfully point out the dangerous consequences of communism, they also gloss over the human rights abuses and excesses of the ostensibly democratic and constitutional /2
Republic of China regime, and of the middle-upper class society that was the basis of its power, that the communists were fighting against. This tendency to pick sides is perhaps rendered more tempting, because these authors’ primary focus was on the ideological conflict /3
Read 6 tweets
10 Sep 20
I think there’s an interesting but obscure historical parallel that Western analysis of Sino-Vietnamese War of 1979 has been missing. It’s between that war and the Shangdang Campaign of August-October 1945 in 2nd undeclared prelude to Chinese Civil War, in which Deng Xiaoping /1
also played a critical role as Political Commissar of communist 18th Group Army. While Shangdang was initially started by the Shanxi warlord, Yan Xishan, immediately after capitulation of Imperial Japanese Army in China, the communists had certainly /2
fanned the flames of that conflict in a deliberate and explicitly declared effort to use a limited-scale and limited-objective military operation to secure political leverage in diplomatic maneuvering. That was also very much the rationale behind Deng /3
Read 4 tweets
8 Sep 20
SIGINT cannot replace psychology (and HUMINT).
In late Chinese Civil War in summer 1949, Hunan (Mao’s home province) saw a showdown between the most capable senior military commanders of the warring sides—Gen. Bai Chongxi of Republic of China Army, and /1
Lin Biao of communist 4th Field Army. The vexing issue confronting Lin Biao was to predict Gen. Bai Chongxi’s intentions that summer.
Unlike most other ROCA generals, Gen. Bai Chongxi’s inner circle was fiercely loyal and essentially impenetrable to /2
communist moles and spies (HUMINT). Intelligence section of 4th Field Army had to resort to interception of radio telegraph transmissions (SIGINT) to piece together Gen. Bai Chongxi’s operational intentions.
They did have a break. A stream of transmissions to the provincial /3
Read 5 tweets

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