Jonathan Spence lectures online

Jonathan Spence is giving several lectures this month on China. These are available on the BBC’s Web site here: Chinese Vistas.

The first lecture is on Confucius, the second on Sino-UK relations over time, and the third is on Sino-US relations over time.

Excellent! Thanks for the heads up.
Oooh… and it’s the Reith Lectures.

What took you so long to post it Cranky? The link will be dead in a day or two, no?

If it were not for the BBC radio, I’d be (more of ) a nutjob.

I start the morning with a coffee while my 'puter sputters to life, then …

Perhaps I’m being too elitist - if I could get into betel-nut chewing, I could happily hang out with my in-laws.

J. Spence, the man in question, - heard him speak in the flesh - a very interesting chap. I have five of his books, of which I would recommend three. The last one I bought “God’s Chinese Son” was below par.

Thanks, cranky.

You always post such interesting links about China and the Chinese language.

Thanks, and please keep on posting these links.

Just listened to the third show. Interesting enough, but Spense holds back his punches. Actually, he has no punch, dare I say he is limp-wristed. His commentary screams a lack of experience living next door to Chinese, and working for one. How much time has Spense actually spent in China? He may be a great scholar and all that but if it came down to a choice between Lord Lucan and J.S. for a modern take on China, I’d be going with the drunken Irish bastard.

I haven’t listened yet, but I agree with what you are saying. I read magazine articles and opinion pieces about China and I think - what culture/nation/civilization are you talking about? It seems that there are few people who know what they are talking about and many of those who do show restraint to the point of self-censorship. It’s not enough to be an academic; you need experience on the ground. (I think people like Peter Hessler have as much and more to say than figures like Spence.) And even scholars make glaring errors, like Spence when he said Chiang Kai-shek was “personally incorruptable” (I believe those were his words) and ‘unknowable.’

Many “China experts” read books, get some degrees and then fly to Shanghai or Beijing every now and then where they are shuttled to the Hilton, do the French Concession/Hutong tour, eat Beijing kao ya/xiaolongbao and think; culture! Brilliant! Must remember to write some glowing article. Many others are bought off (to see how, read The China Fantasy by James Mann).

If China is really emerging as a “power,” it is going to need a few cold, hard assessments; never mind whose feathers will get ruffled.


I just finished listening to the third one. It’s interesting enough.

I thought it was unbelievable when he said, "… I have had one or two fairly cross telephone calls from Chinese parents saying, ‘Why are you letting my daughter do Chinese (studies)’ - at Yale - ‘when there’s so much else to study?’

My god. They do it there too - and at places like Yale, no less. Unreal. I’ve heard that the military has a parent hotline here, but that could be inaccurate. It’s probably true, though. I can just imagine: “You made my son do push ups? Don’t you know who I am?” etc.

If you get a chance, pick up “In Search of Modern China” by Dr. Jonathan D. Spence. A really good read and has enlightened my perspective of Chinese history. I just caught a great interview on CNN. Catch it if you get a chance.

A THICK book and not a light read. A standard text in university level Chinese history courses.