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May 31, 2010

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Richard J


The central government’s control does not extend beyond the walls of Zhongnanhai. The people below just don’t listen.

Even I've heard of a certain genuine Chinese saying that seems to express this rather more succintly...

ajay

"Heaven is high up and the Tsar is far away" is what they used to say in Russia...

Richard J

That's also claimed (by Wikipedia) to be a Chinese saying. I wonder who came up with it first, or whether it's a case of independent invention.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tian_Gao_Huang-di_Yuan

jamie

The Chinese version usually gets translated as "the mountains are high and the emperor is far away". The difference between that and what the official was saying is really perspective, ie it's usually spoken by people on he other side of the mountains rather than from Zhongnanhai.

ajay

Incidentally, remind me what the position is in UK law on evidence obtained under torture?

jamie

Off the top of my head, I think it's only legal if the Foreign Secretary doesn't tell anyone.

Richard J

Broadly, as far as I can tell, the last government kept trying to get it allowed, only to have every stage of the judiciary tell them to fuck off, in only slightly more polite language.

(This is completely OT, but is there anything layman-suitable on the social history of China? I've read a couple of pop-history books lately (Jonathan Keay's and Jonathan Fenby's) and both of them really seemed to suffer from the limitations of a top-down approach to understanding China, more so than most other countries I've looked at.)

ejh

There's also one relating to the Highlands that I recall from reading Prebble, but I damned if I remember what it is.

jamie

"This is completely OT, but is there anything layman-suitable on the social history of China?"

I've not read the Keay book: I thought the Fenby one surprisingly alright. His book on Chiang Kai Shek's pretty good too.

I think it's difficult to produce anything beyond a survey because the subject is so large. You'd need to take a kind of Braudelian approach and reduce the whole into themes: progress, industry, what have you. I'd say take what bits interest you from what you've already read and pursue them.

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