“History doesn’t repeat itself, but it does rhyme.”
— Mark Twain

Talking Macao, WW2, Jewish Refugees & my book Strangers on the Praia with RTHK’s Hong Kong Heritage show

Posted: August 6th, 2020 | No Comments »

An unusually long and deep interview on my researched-novella Strangers on the Praia with Annemarie Evans, the host of the long-running RTHK radio show Hong Kong Heritage….click here to listen to the podcast.

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Destination Peking Sneak Peek – Coming November 2020

Posted: August 4th, 2020 | No Comments »

Destination Peking, the second volume of my Destination… series (Destination Shanghai came out in November 2018) is finished and with the editor. First cut of the cover here….should be on the shelves/online/in the post by November 2020…

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Royal Asiatic Society Shanghai – Building Russian Shanghai with Katya Knyazeva – via zoom 6/8/20

Posted: August 4th, 2020 | No Comments »

Anyone with an interest in old Shanghai is not going to want to miss this…

The onion domes of the Orthodox Cathedral in central Shanghai serve as a tangible reminder of the once-numerous exile community, but there is more to the Russian heritage than the two surviving churches. The image of the Astrid Apartments, designed by a Russian architect, adorns nearly every book about Shanghai architecture. The Russians also created two out of three surviving synagogues, close to half the buildings on Yongfu Road and the city’s largest historic complex – the Sino-Soviet Friendship Hall, as well as dozens of public buildings, apartment houses, villas and lane compounds. This talk introduces the Russian architectural legacy in Shanghai and attaches names, faces and stylistic character to a variety of famous buildings and a few mysterious outliers.


About the SpeakerKatya Knyazeva, from Novosibirsk, Russia, is a historian and a journalist with a focus on urban form, heritage preservation and the Russian diaspora in Shanghai. She is the author of the two-volume history and photographic atlas Shanghai Old Town: Topography of a Phantom City (Suzhou Creek Press, 2015 and 2018). Her articles on history and architecture appear in international media and in her blog avezink.livejournal.com. Katya is presently a research fellow at the University of Eastern Piedmont, Italy.

If you have any problems signing up online, just send us an email at bookings@royalasiaticsociety.org.cn and we will add you to the list.

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Revolution Goes East – Imperial Japan and Soviet Communism

Posted: August 2nd, 2020 | No Comments »

Tatiana Linkhoeva’s Revolution Goes East does not concern itself with China specifically but has obvious overlaps for anyone interested in the subject….

Revolution Goes East is an intellectual history that applies a novel global perspective to the classic story of the rise of communism and the various reactions it provoked in Imperial Japan. Tatiana Linkhoeva demonstrates how contemporary discussions of the Russian Revolution, its containment, and the issue of imperialism played a fundamental role in shaping Japan’s imperial society and state. In this bold approach, Linkhoeva explores attitudes toward the Soviet Union and the communist movement among the Japanese military and politicians, as well as interwar leftist and rightist intellectuals and activists. Her book draws on extensive research in both published and archival documents, including memoirs, newspaper and journal articles, political pamphlets, and Comintern archives. Revolution Goes East presents us with a compelling argument that the interwar Japanese Left replicated the Orientalist outlook of Marxism-Leninism in its relationship with the rest of Asia, and that this proved to be its undoing. Furthermore, Linkhoeva shows that Japanese imperial anticommunism was based on geopolitical interests for the stability of the empire rather than on fear of communist ideology. Thanks to generous funding from New York University and its participation in TOME (Toward an Open Monograph Ecosystem), the ebook editions of this book are available as Open Access (OA) volumes, available from Cornell Open (cornellopen.org) and other Open Access repositories.

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Spies and Scholars: Chinese Secrets and Imperial Russia’s Quest for World Power

Posted: July 31st, 2020 | No Comments »

Interesting new book – Spies and Scholars – from Gregory Afinogenov….

From the seventeenth to the nineteenth century, the Russian Empire made concerted efforts to collect information about China. It bribed Chinese porcelain-makers to give up trade secrets, sent Buddhist monks to Mongolia on intelligence-gathering missions, and trained students at its Orthodox mission in Beijing to spy on their hosts. From diplomatic offices to guard posts on the Chinese frontier, Russians were producing knowledge everywhere, not only at elite institutions like the Academy of Sciences in St. Petersburg. But that information was secret, not destined for wide circulation.

Gregory Afinogenov distinguishes between the kinds of knowledge Russia sought over the years and argues that they changed with the shifting aims of the state and its perceived place in the world. In the seventeenth century, Russian bureaucrats were focused on China and the forbidding Siberian frontier. They relied more on spies, including Jesuit scholars stationed in China. In the early nineteenth century, the geopolitical challenge shifted to Europe: rivalry with Britain drove the Russians to stake their prestige on public-facing intellectual work, and knowledge of the East was embedded in the academy. None of these institutional configurations was especially effective in delivering strategic or commercial advantages. But various knowledge regimes did have their consequences. Knowledge filtered through Russian espionage and publication found its way to Europe, informing the encounter between China and Western empires.

Based on extensive archival research in Russia and beyond, Spies and Scholars breaks down long-accepted assumptions about the connection between knowledge regimes and imperial power and excavates an intellectual legacy largely neglected by historians.

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Shanghai Jewish Refugees Arrive in Israel

Posted: July 29th, 2020 | No Comments »

Came across this interesting photo the other day of Jewish refugees with various torah scrolls from Shanghai arriving in Israel around 1949 to the newly independent State of Israel…

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RAS Beijing Zoom – Robert Hart & China’s Globalization: The Ultimate In-Betweener of the Chinese Maritime Customs Service with Prof. Hans van de Ven – 29/7/20

Posted: July 27th, 2020 | No Comments »

WHAT: RASBJ Zoom talk followed by QA
WHEN: July 29, 19:00-20:00 Beijing Standard Time
MORE ABOUT THE EVENT:  Robert Hart became Inspector General of the Chinese Maritime Customs Service in 1863 and led it until shortly before his death in 1911. Under his leadership, the Service grew into an efficient and admired customs collection agency critical to Qing finances. But he did much else, including lighting the China coast, training the Qing’s diplomats, and purchasing a navy. Hart figures in China’s history textbooks today, but he is forgotten in the UK and Ireland. His greatest achievement was building a space where all could trade and interact regardless of national, ethnic, or religious background at a time that the UK and the Qing were often at war and when diplomatic relations were always difficult. In this talk, Prof. Hans van de Ven will discuss what we can learn from the life and experience of this legendary figure.

MORE ABOUT THE SPEAKER:  Professor Hans van de Ven is a Professor of Modern Chinese History at the University of Cambridge and a Fellow of the British Academy. He was educated first at Leiden University and received his PhD from Harvard University. Professor van de Ven has written extensively on the early history of the Chinese Communist Party, the history of the military and warfare in China, the Maritime Customs Service, and globalisation and modern China. His books include From Friend to Comrade: The Founding of the Chinese Communist Party, 1920–1927; War and Nationalism in China: 1925–1945; Breaking with the Past: The Maritime Customs Service and the Global Origins of Modernity in China; and the most recent China at War: Triumph and Tragedy in the Emergence of the New China 1937-1952.
 
HOW TO JOIN THIS EVENT: This event is free and exclusively for members of RASBJ and of other RAS branches. If you’d like to join RASBJ in order to attend this event, please add MembershipRASBJ on Wechat or email membership.ras.bj@gmail.com and arrange payment no later than July 27.

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Old Shanghai’s Argentina Club…

Posted: July 25th, 2020 | No Comments »

My thanks to Katya Knyazeva for finding a photograph of the entrance to the Argentina Club, one of 1940s Shanghai’s most notorious joints on the Avenue Haig (Jiangsu Lu).

The Argentina was the biggest of several openly fascist sympathetic nightclubs in Shanghai. The place was managed by Leo Fleischer, a White Russian who believed the Nazis would smash Stalin and return the country to the Tsar. With strong Japanese contacts, Fleischer came to Shanghai via Harbin in 1940 to open the Argentina Nightclub in the Badlands (which you can take a tour of here), where Gestapo officers from the German Consulate wore their uniforms openly.

The joint was staffed by Fleischer’s White Russian cronies from Harbin and Dalian, and attracted a mixed crowd of Japanese, Italians and Germans, along with their sympathizers. The club had a large-scale Spanish-themed illegal roulette operation, in keeping with the clientele’s passion for Generalissimo Franco in Madrid. The roulette wheels were rigged, and the Argentina also had a floor of Macanese-imported slot machines (courtesy of Jose Bothelo). 

They paid huge bribes to the Japanese, and when the Japanese cracked down on the Badlands casinos, the Argentina never closed its doors, while Fleischer secured a neutral Portuguese passport to prevent himself from being busted.

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