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

Shanghai’s Quick Thinking Miss Moohina – 1940

Posted: February 28th, 2020 | No Comments »

Miss M. Moohina was a young Russian emigre woman who lived on Rue Maresca (Wuyuan Lu) in the French Concession. By day she worked as a clerk in an office in Shanghai. Some time around the Christmas holiday in 1940 four robbers burst in, tied her up, stole her diamond ring and her gold watch. They then wanted to open the office safe. But Miss Moohina was too canny for them – she fell into a supposed feint and lay still. Thinking there was no way they cold now get the combinatioin in any quick time the robbers took off. Miss Moohina saved her boss a few thousand dollars – hope the ring and watch were insured!

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Making It Count: Statistics and Statecraft in the Early People’s Republic of China

Posted: February 26th, 2020 | No Comments »

An ideal book for someone who writes popular Chinese history, but used to run a market research company in Shanghai!! Making it Count by Arunabh Ghosh…out this March….

In 1949, at the end of a long period of wars, one of the biggest challenges facing leaders of the new People’s Republic of China was how much they did not know. The government of one of the world’s largest nations was committed to fundamentally reengineering its society and economy via socialist planning while having almost no reliable statistical data about their own country. Making It Count is the history of efforts to resolve this “crisis in counting.” Drawing on a wealth of sources culled from China, India, and the United States, Arunabh Ghosh explores the choices made by political leaders, statisticians, academics, statistical workers, and even literary figures in attempts to know the nation through numbers.

Ghosh shows that early reliance on Soviet-inspired methods of exhaustive enumeration became increasingly untenable in China by the mid-1950s. Unprecedented and unexpected exchanges with Indian statisticians followed, as the Chinese sought to learn about the then-exciting new technology of random sampling. These developments were overtaken by the tumult of the Great Leap Forward (1958–61), when probabilistic and exhaustive methods were rejected and statistics was refashioned into an ethnographic enterprise. By acknowledging Soviet and Indian influences, Ghosh not only revises existing models of Cold War science but also globalizes wider developments in the history of statistics and data.

Anchored in debates about statistics and its relationship to state building, Making It Count offers fresh perspectives on China’s transition to socialism.

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An Earlier Reference to Wuhan as the ‘Chicago of China’ – 1893

Posted: February 25th, 2020 | No Comments »

In my article for CNNi on the history Wuhan I suggested that the earliest use of the term ‘China’s Chicago’ for was a 1900 piece on the city in Collier’s magazine. But, my thanks to blog reader “Mark S” who found this earlier mention in chapter 3 of vol. 2 of The Story of the China Inland Mission, by Mary Geraldine Guinness (and with an introduction by the missionary J Hudson Taylor, also Guinness’s father-in-law), dated 1893. One chapter is entitled “The Chicago of China” and Mark also notes, it is Wuchang rather than Hankow is given prominence whereas later references invariably refer largely to Hankow, where most of the city’s fopreign prescence was clustered.

Mary Geraldine Guinness
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From one-time Chinese capital to coronavirus epicenter, Wuhan has a long history that the West had forgotten – CNNi

Posted: February 24th, 2020 | No Comments »

I wrote a history of Wuhan looking at the city’s two centuries of interaction witb Europe, Japan and America for CNN International – click here

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Remembering when Wuhan was the ‘Chicago of China’

Posted: February 20th, 2020 | 1 Comment »

Thinking of Wuhan lately obviously and remembering that in the first half of the twentieth century it was invariably referred to in the American newspapers as the ‘Chicago of China’ – apt really being an inland entrepot, industry city with iron steel, stockyards, canning etc, population of around a million, a city of largely business rather than politics or culture.

I believe the first use of the term was by Collier’s magazine in 1900 in an article on China’s ‘boom town’ (then the three cities of Wuchang, Hankou and Hanyang that became known as Wuhan) that likened Wuhan to both Chicago and St Louis. Certainly by the late 1920s it was being regularly used as the articles below show….

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Wuhan and Viruses…from Dean Koontz to Unit 731

Posted: February 14th, 2020 | No Comments »

A piece by Kate Whitehead in the South China Morning Post noting the predictions of Dean Koontz and other virus-related issues in Wuhan, including me, briefly, on Japanese biological warfare remnants in the city from WW2….click here

he Hankow Bund, 1930s
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Remapping the Cultural and Linguistic Landscape of the Chinese in Britain – Feb 15 – University of Westminster

Posted: February 13th, 2020 | No Comments »

The Chinese in Britain is one of the fastest growing communities. It is estimated the total number of Chinese has reached 500,000 by 2015. Approximately two-thirds of Chinese in Britain were born outside UK, with the majority coming from Hong Kong, China and Southeast Asia. The past two decades has witnessed a steady rise in the number of people from mainland China, including professionals, skilled workers, investors and young people who come to study in UK’s schools and universities. There is an urgent need to document and conceptualise this important demographic and cultural shift, not only for a better understanding of the new development of Chinese communities in the UK but also for the benefit of Britain whose future is increasingly built upon its understanding of and relations with the rest of the world including China.

This conference is aimed at addressing this gap by bringing together researchers, Chinese language teachers, community leaders and policy makers to identify and examine the changing linguistic and cultural landscape of the Chinese in Britain. After the keynote speeches, the conference is organised around four sessions:

Session 1: Negotiating and articulating Chineseness in a changing Britain

Session 2: Speaking Chinese in multilingual London

Session 3: British Chinese as a Transnational Subject

Session 4: Theorising and doing British Chinese heritage

The conference is hosted by HOMELandS (Hub on Migration, Exiles, Languages and Spaces) in collaboration with the Contemporary China Centre of University of Westminster. It is supported by Language Acts and World Making Small Grant Scheme, AHRC Open World Research Initiative (OWRI).

With contributions from:

Freya Aitken-Turff, Eona Bell, Harriet Evans,Jing Huang, Paul Kendall, Denise Kwan,Jackie Jia Lou, Xiao Ma, How Wee Ng, Giulio Verdini, Natalie Vujasin, Gerda Wielander, Anne Witchard, Maggie Hoi Lam Wong, Yan Wu, Lini Xiao, Chen Yang, Diana Yeh, Vanessa Yim.

More details and tickets (free but need to rsvp) click here

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Did Japan really offer Portugal US$100 million for Macau in 1935?

Posted: February 11th, 2020 | No Comments »

My latest historical oddity for the South China Morning Post – click here

The Portuguese colony’s potential as a hub for transpacific flights came to light in the 1930s – as did a mystery bid to buy it outright…

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