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China Watcher: Confession of a Peking Tom (review)

China Watcher: Confession of a Peking Tom (review) Reviews 77 RichardBaum.China Watcher: Confession of a Peking Tom. Seattle: UniversityofWashingtonPress,2010.xiii,328pp.Hardcover$29.95, isbn 978-0-295-989967-6. RichardBaumisadistinguishedprofessorofpoliticalscienceanddirectoremeritusoftheCenterforChineseStudies,UniversityofCaliforniainLosAngeles. AfterfortyyearsofpassionateaddictiontoteachingaboutChina,his"drugof choice"(p.3),hewriteshisverypersonalandcandidmemoirsinChina Watcher: Confession of a Peking Tom,avirtualhistoryofcontemporaryChinafromthelate 1960s.Intheforewordtothisbook,SidneyRittenberg,thefirstAmericanaccepted intotheChineseCommunistParty,1saysofhimselfthatasan"insider,"heknew thetreesbetter,butthatBaumandotherserious,unbiasedscholarsknowthe forest. ForChinawatcherslikemyself,wholivedthroughtheperiodaboutwhich Baumwrites,thebookoffersanexcellentreviewofsignificanteventsandBaum's interpretationofthem.Whatisevenmorehelpfulishisownhonestaccountof "China'sconvolutedjourneyfromMaoismtomodernity....Chinaupcloseand personal,arecordofoneman'sintellectualandemotionalodyssey--includinga fairnumberofembarrassingmissteps--throughtheever-changing,everfascinatinglandscapeofarenascent,reinventedMiddleKingdom"(p.xii).Autobiographical,thebookisareenactmentofBaum'sjourneyfromearlyyouthtohis achievementasarenownedChinascholar. NotunlikemostAmericanundergraduatesatUCLAin1957,Baum,too,had littleinterestinChina.HestumbledintoH.ArthurSteiner'sgovernmentand politicsinChinacoursemerelyoutofschedulingconvenience.Afterreading EdgarSnow'sRed Star over China(NewYork:RandomHouse,1938)andother writingsonCommunistChina,Baumwasthoroughlyhookedonthesubject. Thus,hebeganhisstudiesofpoliticalsciencewithacentralfocusonChina. Inhischapter"ADissertationIsNotaDinnerParty,"Baumshowsusthe ingredientsnecessaryinthemakingsofaspecialistoncontemporaryChina. Baum'sbookcovershisscholarlyjourneyfromundergraduatestudiesatUCLAto graduateatBerkeleyunderthementorshipofscholarsChalmersJohnson(1931­ 2010)2andRobertA.Scalapino(1919­)3,tohisresearchinTaiwanandHong Kong,tohisprofessorshipofAsianstudiesatUCLA,whereitallbegan.Afourth ofhisscholarlylife(beforenormalizationofSino-Americandiplomaticrelations), however,hadtobespentoutsidethebamboocurtainasa"PekingTom."Scalapino'sauthorshipofthe"ConlonReport,"preparedfortheU.S.Congressin1959, Baumtellsus,challengedAmerica'sone-sidedmythandsupportofChiangKaishek'sfreeChinathatbeganthenormalizationprocessofU.S.diplomaticrelations withthePeople'sRepublictwodecadeslater,andthegrowingmovementfor independenceamongnativeTaiwanese(pp.290­291). © 2011 by University of Hawai`i Press 78 ChinaReviewInternational:Vol.17,No.1,2010 LikemostbuddingChinascholarsinthe1960s,theyoungBaum,hiswife,and hisfirst-born(daughter)spenttimeinTaiwan,whereheimmersedhimselfin Chinesecultureandstruggledwiththedifficultyofthelanguage.Amajorrecreationaloutletwashisparticipationonabasketballteamwithfellowexpatriates. BaumconfessesthatatTaiwan'sInstituteofInternationalRelationshe,indaring desperation,managedtostealaclassifieddocumentthatsignificantlylaunchedhis careerasacredibleChinawatcher.BecauseofaclosedChina,Baum,likemany otherwould-beChinascholarsandjournalists,neededcloseproximiltytothe PRCbygatheringatHongKong'sUniversitiesServiceCenter.Theretheypicked eachother'sbrainsandsharedinsightsandinformation,albeitinaprofessionally guardedmanner.Allofthemweregreatlydependentonreportsmadeavailableby thearmyofU.S.intelligenceprofessionals,headquarteredattheHongKong AmericanconsulateandotherthinktanksintheBritishCrowncolony,suchasthe UnionResearchInstituteofnon-CommunistChineseintellectuals.Andogged Chinawatcher,LaszlowLaDany,aJesuitpriestwhopublishedthebiweeklyChina News Analysis, wasalsoasourceofvaluableinformation. Paidinterviewswith morerecentrefugeesfromthemainlandwereanimportantembodiedsource, howevercredibleordubiousforChinawatcherswhosejudgmentanddiscernment weregreatlychallenged.Bythe1980s,however,Chinahadopenedupforthe financial,technological,andmanagerialskillsitneededtoresumeitsinterrupted modernization.ThePekingTomnecessity,thus,ended.Accessibilityfordirect contactwithChinawasgradualwiththeeventualopeningupofthearchives of someinstitutionsinthePeople'sRepublicofChina(PRC),especiallyfor a cademicians. BaumexperiencedhighlevelsofinvolvementintheUnitedStates­China relationsalongwithmoreseniorconsultantssuchasMichelOksenberg,who occupiedacovetedpositionasaChinaexpertfortheU.S.StateDepartmentand theWhiteHouse.Baum'sdiverseexperiencesinChinaincludedhands-onworking relationswithordinaryChinese,amongthepoorestofthepoor,includingTibetan minoritiessuchastheMangghuers(anendangeredethnicminorityofMongol origin)inQinghaiprovince.Furthermore,hewasabletoinvolveadozenofhis UCLAstudentsinlivingandteachingEnglishforthreeweeksinJuly2002ina "onceinalifetimeexperience"(p.208)inGuanting,Qinghai,apristinesocietyin WestChina.Baumbemoans"thedramatictakeoffofChina'sdomestictourism industry"inLijiangcountyinYunnanprovince.HeiscynicalaboutHanchauvinismthatturnstheculturesofethnicminoritiesintocommodityandtriviality, despitethefactthatLijiangisina"protected"regionofYunnan,designatedin1997 asaUNESCOWorldHeritageSite(pp.214­217).4 Baumcandidlygiveshisopinionsondifferentscholars,includingcolleagues atUCLAsuchasPhilipHuang,withwhomamutualcordialitywascommensurate withamutuallowleveloftrust.Baumindicatesthathedidnotshedanytears whenHuangretired.Furthermore,hedoesnothesitatetoadmitprofessionalenvy Reviews 79 andanimosityovertheyearsinpersistentriftwithMichelOksenberg,thesenior ChinascholarwhoincludedBaumandothersasadviserstoPresidentGeorge H. W.Bush.Towardtheendofhisofficialteachingcareer,however,Baumand Oksenbergreconciledinfriendshipandhumorbeforethelatter'sdeathin2001 (p. 289). Throughoutthebook,morethantwentywell-chosenphotographsprovidethe readerwithimagesoftheimportanthistoricaleventsinthemakingofthisChina scholar.Baumendshismemoirswithasenseofgratitudeandhumilitythatisin spiritsimilartothatoftwoothergiantsintheChinafield:FairbankandSpence. JohnKingFairbank(1907­1991),theone-timedoyenofChinesehistoryinthe English-speakingworld,intruehumility,wasknowntoneverhesitatetochange hisviewsuponnewresearchbyhisstudents.Inhisfirst(1948)ofthefoureditions ofThe United States and China, hepontificatedthat"thedisintegrationoftheold orderinChinaleavesthatcountryopentoreorganizationunderthedominant influenceofeithertheUSSRortheUnitedStatesassuperpowers.""Whatnonsense!"wasFairbank'schastenedreponseafterthreeandahalfdecades."China," therenownedHarvardscholarinsisted,"hasgoneherownway.Foreignmodels andforeignactivitiesinChina,whetherJapanese,Western,orSoviet,couldserve onlyasstimuli,notassubstance"(4theditionofThe United States and China, Cambridge,MA:HarvardUniversityPress,1983,p.470). Speakingofhisownhistoricalwriting,JonathanSpencelikenshimselfto his father'sterrier.Keeningafterarabbitinaharehole,thedograpidlydugupa pileofdirtbehindit.Ofhisownpileofhistoricalwriting,thelearnedprofessor acknowledgesthatsomeachievementhasbeenmade."Wedowhatwecanatthe timewecandoit."Withoutapologyordefensiveness,Spencematter-of-factly states,"[A]llofuswillbesuperseded"(prefacetoJonathanD.Spence'sChinese Roundabout: Essays in History and Culture[NewYork:W.W.Norton,1992]). RichardBaumreminiscesabouthimself: Blessedwithaninquisitivenature,outstandingrolemodels,richopportunities, andabundantgoodfortuneasayoungman,Ibecamepowerfullydrawntothe lureofcontemporaryChina....Afterthreedecadesofeconomicreformand globalengagementhavemadeChina'spoliticalandsocialrealityfarmore accessible--andfarlessbizarre--thantheywereinMao'stime,thePeople's Republicremainsformeaprofoundpuzzle.Everchanging,everfascinating,and everfrustrating,itcompelsmyattentionevenasitstubbornlydefies comprehension.Icannotlookaway.(p.291) Asacivilization,ChinahasalwaysbeenachallengetoWestern--toall other--civilizations.WhenwethinkofChinaasanation-state,eitherthecommunistortheso-calledfreeChinainTaiwan,wemaymissthepointorwemaybe askingthewrongquestionsofChinaandthingsChinese.China'sinfluenceinEast AsiaandelsewherethroughtheChinesediasporahadnotbeenasintentionally mission-mindedasWesternChristianity.China'sinfluencehasbeenessentially 80 ChinaReviewInternational:Vol.17,No.1,2010 egocentric,concentratingonbeingitself,andlettingotherswhowishtolearn cometoitinatributaryfashion,bringinggiftsandhomage.Itisaself-satisfied andproudculture,evenarrogant,andcertainlynotwithoutasenseofsuperiority. Chinaisperplexingtooutsiders.Oncecommunist,itisnowturningcapitalistat breakneckpaceandwithavengeance.Itis,asLucianPyesoaptlysaid,"acivilizationpretendingtobeanation-state."AslongasweviewChinaasanationora geopoliticalentityrapidlyrisingeconomically,ifnotmilitarily,andnotasa r eligious-culturalpeoplewitharichmulti-millennialtraditiondespitedynastic andpolitychanges,wewillalwaysremain,alongwithRichardBaumandothers, "PekingToms." FranklinJ.Woo Franklin J. Woo (retired) was a chaplain and lecturer in religion, Chung Chi College, the Chinese University of Hong http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png China Review International University of Hawai'I Press

China Watcher: Confession of a Peking Tom (review)

China Review International , Volume 17 (1) – Mar 1, 2010

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Reviews 77 RichardBaum.China Watcher: Confession of a Peking Tom. Seattle: UniversityofWashingtonPress,2010.xiii,328pp.Hardcover$29.95, isbn 978-0-295-989967-6. RichardBaumisadistinguishedprofessorofpoliticalscienceanddirectoremeritusoftheCenterforChineseStudies,UniversityofCaliforniainLosAngeles. AfterfortyyearsofpassionateaddictiontoteachingaboutChina,his"drugof choice"(p.3),hewriteshisverypersonalandcandidmemoirsinChina Watcher: Confession of a Peking Tom,avirtualhistoryofcontemporaryChinafromthelate 1960s.Intheforewordtothisbook,SidneyRittenberg,thefirstAmericanaccepted intotheChineseCommunistParty,1saysofhimselfthatasan"insider,"heknew thetreesbetter,butthatBaumandotherserious,unbiasedscholarsknowthe forest. ForChinawatcherslikemyself,wholivedthroughtheperiodaboutwhich Baumwrites,thebookoffersanexcellentreviewofsignificanteventsandBaum's interpretationofthem.Whatisevenmorehelpfulishisownhonestaccountof "China'sconvolutedjourneyfromMaoismtomodernity....Chinaupcloseand personal,arecordofoneman'sintellectualandemotionalodyssey--includinga fairnumberofembarrassingmissteps--throughtheever-changing,everfascinatinglandscapeofarenascent,reinventedMiddleKingdom"(p.xii).Autobiographical,thebookisareenactmentofBaum'sjourneyfromearlyyouthtohis achievementasarenownedChinascholar. NotunlikemostAmericanundergraduatesatUCLAin1957,Baum,too,had littleinterestinChina.HestumbledintoH.ArthurSteiner'sgovernmentand politicsinChinacoursemerelyoutofschedulingconvenience.Afterreading EdgarSnow'sRed Star over China(NewYork:RandomHouse,1938)andother writingsonCommunistChina,Baumwasthoroughlyhookedonthesubject. Thus,hebeganhisstudiesofpoliticalsciencewithacentralfocusonChina. Inhischapter"ADissertationIsNotaDinnerParty,"Baumshowsusthe ingredientsnecessaryinthemakingsofaspecialistoncontemporaryChina. Baum'sbookcovershisscholarlyjourneyfromundergraduatestudiesatUCLAto graduateatBerkeleyunderthementorshipofscholarsChalmersJohnson(1931­ 2010)2andRobertA.Scalapino(1919­)3,tohisresearchinTaiwanandHong Kong,tohisprofessorshipofAsianstudiesatUCLA,whereitallbegan.Afourth ofhisscholarlylife(beforenormalizationofSino-Americandiplomaticrelations), however,hadtobespentoutsidethebamboocurtainasa"PekingTom."Scalapino'sauthorshipofthe"ConlonReport,"preparedfortheU.S.Congressin1959, Baumtellsus,challengedAmerica'sone-sidedmythandsupportofChiangKaishek'sfreeChinathatbeganthenormalizationprocessofU.S.diplomaticrelations withthePeople'sRepublictwodecadeslater,andthegrowingmovementfor independenceamongnativeTaiwanese(pp.290­291). © 2011 by University of Hawai`i Press 78 ChinaReviewInternational:Vol.17,No.1,2010 LikemostbuddingChinascholarsinthe1960s,theyoungBaum,hiswife,and hisfirst-born(daughter)spenttimeinTaiwan,whereheimmersedhimselfin Chinesecultureandstruggledwiththedifficultyofthelanguage.Amajorrecreationaloutletwashisparticipationonabasketballteamwithfellowexpatriates. BaumconfessesthatatTaiwan'sInstituteofInternationalRelationshe,indaring desperation,managedtostealaclassifieddocumentthatsignificantlylaunchedhis careerasacredibleChinawatcher.BecauseofaclosedChina,Baum,likemany otherwould-beChinascholarsandjournalists,neededcloseproximiltytothe PRCbygatheringatHongKong'sUniversitiesServiceCenter.Theretheypicked eachother'sbrainsandsharedinsightsandinformation,albeitinaprofessionally guardedmanner.Allofthemweregreatlydependentonreportsmadeavailableby thearmyofU.S.intelligenceprofessionals,headquarteredattheHongKong AmericanconsulateandotherthinktanksintheBritishCrowncolony,suchasthe UnionResearchInstituteofnon-CommunistChineseintellectuals.Andogged Chinawatcher,LaszlowLaDany,aJesuitpriestwhopublishedthebiweeklyChina News Analysis, wasalsoasourceofvaluableinformation. Paidinterviewswith morerecentrefugeesfromthemainlandwereanimportantembodiedsource, howevercredibleordubiousforChinawatcherswhosejudgmentanddiscernment weregreatlychallenged.Bythe1980s,however,Chinahadopenedupforthe financial,technological,andmanagerialskillsitneededtoresumeitsinterrupted modernization.ThePekingTomnecessity,thus,ended.Accessibilityfordirect contactwithChinawasgradualwiththeeventualopeningupofthearchives of someinstitutionsinthePeople'sRepublicofChina(PRC),especiallyfor a cademicians. BaumexperiencedhighlevelsofinvolvementintheUnitedStates­China relationsalongwithmoreseniorconsultantssuchasMichelOksenberg,who occupiedacovetedpositionasaChinaexpertfortheU.S.StateDepartmentand theWhiteHouse.Baum'sdiverseexperiencesinChinaincludedhands-onworking relationswithordinaryChinese,amongthepoorestofthepoor,includingTibetan minoritiessuchastheMangghuers(anendangeredethnicminorityofMongol origin)inQinghaiprovince.Furthermore,hewasabletoinvolveadozenofhis UCLAstudentsinlivingandteachingEnglishforthreeweeksinJuly2002ina "onceinalifetimeexperience"(p.208)inGuanting,Qinghai,apristinesocietyin WestChina.Baumbemoans"thedramatictakeoffofChina'sdomestictourism industry"inLijiangcountyinYunnanprovince.HeiscynicalaboutHanchauvinismthatturnstheculturesofethnicminoritiesintocommodityandtriviality, despitethefactthatLijiangisina"protected"regionofYunnan,designatedin1997 asaUNESCOWorldHeritageSite(pp.214­217).4 Baumcandidlygiveshisopinionsondifferentscholars,includingcolleagues atUCLAsuchasPhilipHuang,withwhomamutualcordialitywascommensurate withamutuallowleveloftrust.Baumindicatesthathedidnotshedanytears whenHuangretired.Furthermore,hedoesnothesitatetoadmitprofessionalenvy Reviews 79 andanimosityovertheyearsinpersistentriftwithMichelOksenberg,thesenior ChinascholarwhoincludedBaumandothersasadviserstoPresidentGeorge H. W.Bush.Towardtheendofhisofficialteachingcareer,however,Baumand Oksenbergreconciledinfriendshipandhumorbeforethelatter'sdeathin2001 (p. 289). Throughoutthebook,morethantwentywell-chosenphotographsprovidethe readerwithimagesoftheimportanthistoricaleventsinthemakingofthisChina scholar.Baumendshismemoirswithasenseofgratitudeandhumilitythatisin spiritsimilartothatoftwoothergiantsintheChinafield:FairbankandSpence. JohnKingFairbank(1907­1991),theone-timedoyenofChinesehistoryinthe English-speakingworld,intruehumility,wasknowntoneverhesitatetochange hisviewsuponnewresearchbyhisstudents.Inhisfirst(1948)ofthefoureditions ofThe United States and China, hepontificatedthat"thedisintegrationoftheold orderinChinaleavesthatcountryopentoreorganizationunderthedominant influenceofeithertheUSSRortheUnitedStatesassuperpowers.""Whatnonsense!"wasFairbank'schastenedreponseafterthreeandahalfdecades."China," therenownedHarvardscholarinsisted,"hasgoneherownway.Foreignmodels andforeignactivitiesinChina,whetherJapanese,Western,orSoviet,couldserve onlyasstimuli,notassubstance"(4theditionofThe United States and China, Cambridge,MA:HarvardUniversityPress,1983,p.470). Speakingofhisownhistoricalwriting,JonathanSpencelikenshimselfto his father'sterrier.Keeningafterarabbitinaharehole,thedograpidlydugupa pileofdirtbehindit.Ofhisownpileofhistoricalwriting,thelearnedprofessor acknowledgesthatsomeachievementhasbeenmade."Wedowhatwecanatthe timewecandoit."Withoutapologyordefensiveness,Spencematter-of-factly states,"[A]llofuswillbesuperseded"(prefacetoJonathanD.Spence'sChinese Roundabout: Essays in History and Culture[NewYork:W.W.Norton,1992]). RichardBaumreminiscesabouthimself: Blessedwithaninquisitivenature,outstandingrolemodels,richopportunities, andabundantgoodfortuneasayoungman,Ibecamepowerfullydrawntothe lureofcontemporaryChina....Afterthreedecadesofeconomicreformand globalengagementhavemadeChina'spoliticalandsocialrealityfarmore accessible--andfarlessbizarre--thantheywereinMao'stime,thePeople's Republicremainsformeaprofoundpuzzle.Everchanging,everfascinating,and everfrustrating,itcompelsmyattentionevenasitstubbornlydefies comprehension.Icannotlookaway.(p.291) Asacivilization,ChinahasalwaysbeenachallengetoWestern--toall other--civilizations.WhenwethinkofChinaasanation-state,eitherthecommunistortheso-calledfreeChinainTaiwan,wemaymissthepointorwemaybe askingthewrongquestionsofChinaandthingsChinese.China'sinfluenceinEast AsiaandelsewherethroughtheChinesediasporahadnotbeenasintentionally mission-mindedasWesternChristianity.China'sinfluencehasbeenessentially 80 ChinaReviewInternational:Vol.17,No.1,2010 egocentric,concentratingonbeingitself,andlettingotherswhowishtolearn cometoitinatributaryfashion,bringinggiftsandhomage.Itisaself-satisfied andproudculture,evenarrogant,andcertainlynotwithoutasenseofsuperiority. Chinaisperplexingtooutsiders.Oncecommunist,itisnowturningcapitalistat breakneckpaceandwithavengeance.Itis,asLucianPyesoaptlysaid,"acivilizationpretendingtobeanation-state."AslongasweviewChinaasanationora geopoliticalentityrapidlyrisingeconomically,ifnotmilitarily,andnotasa r eligious-culturalpeoplewitharichmulti-millennialtraditiondespitedynastic andpolitychanges,wewillalwaysremain,alongwithRichardBaumandothers, "PekingToms." FranklinJ.Woo Franklin J. Woo (retired) was a chaplain and lecturer in religion, Chung Chi College, the Chinese University of Hong

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China Review InternationalUniversity of Hawai'I Press

Published: Mar 1, 2010

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