Wealth and Power: Intellectuals in China


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This week, while Kaiser is vacationing on the Carolina coast, we are running a March 2014 interview with Orville Schell and David Moser. Orville is the Arthur Ross Director of the Center on U.S.-China Relations at Asia Society in New York and formerly served as dean of the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism. The discussion in this episode centers on the book co-authored by Schell and John Delury, Wealth and Power: China’s Long March to the Twenty-First Century, and the role of select members of the Chinese intelligentsia in the formation of modern China.

What to listen for on this week’s Sinica Podcast:

7:56: Orville opens the discussion describing how he and John Delury arrived at Wealth and Power as the title for their book: “For us, to try to sense what was the main current flowing through Chinese history — it was in fact, we concluded, this desire to see China great again. To become a country of consequence, and ‘wealth’ and ‘power’ really described it. And it was something that almost everybody in some form or [another] — whether nationalist, communist, dynastic, anarchist, Christian — they all understood that aspect, and I think that was a tremendously important, animating impulse that got us to the present.”

25:21: Orville recalls sitting in the front row at a summit held between Jiang Zemin and Bill Clinton, the dialogue of which is included in Wealth and Power: “I was sitting right there during [the summit], in the front row, watching Jiang Zemin with ‘Bubba,’ the master of repartee, and trying to imitate him. It was quite touching, he did quite well. And looking back on it, there isn’t a snowball’s chance in hell that Hu Jintao or Xi Jinping would risk such a wager.”

41:56: Jeremy asks Orville about his placement of Liu Xiaobo at the end of his book, and what Liu’s question is for China and China’s future. He responds candidly: “I think the question that he poses for China, and indeed all of us, is: What’s the real goal? For him, the real goal is not to simply be wealthy and powerful…and I think also what’s lurking in the back of his critique is something that the leaders now sort of see but are quite surprised by. Namely that getting wealthy and getting powerful doesn’t, as everybody thought for these 170 years, create ipso facto respect. And that is what is really wanted. That’s why there’s such an incredible fixation on soft power.”


Orville: Now I Know Who My Comrades Are: Voices From the Internet Underground, by Emily Parker, and Age of Ambition: Chasing Fortune, Truth, and Faith in the New China, by Evan Osnos.

David: Marketing Dictatorship: Propaganda and Thought Work in Contemporary China, by Anne-Marie Brady.

Jeremy: The blog East by Southeast.   

Kaiser: The Chinese Enlightenment: Intellectuals and the Legacy of the May Fourth Movement of 1919, by Vera Schwarcz.