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Chinese Whispers: Politics and language – decoding the CCP
All political parties have weaknesses for jargon and buzzwords, and the Chinese Communist Party more than most. It's why Party documents – whether they be speeches, Resolutions or reports – can be hard going. Sentences like the following (from the Resolution adopted at the Sixth Plenum) abound:
‘All Party members should uphold historical materialism and adopt a rational outlook on the Party’s history.’
‘We need to strengthen our consciousness of the need to maintain political integrity, think in big-picture terms, follow the leadership core, and keep in alignment with the central Party leadership’
In other words, full of platitudes and dense Marxist terminology.
So what is, then, the purpose of official Party documents? Can they ever reveal division within the Party, or say anything new at all? And throughout the fusty rhetoric, who is the audience, who are these words designed for?
On this episode, Cindy is joined by two guests expert at reading the Communist tea leaves. In this wide ranging – and slightly longer than usual – Chinese Whispers, they discuss the power of political language and how the Chinese Communist Party makes the most of it, why it’s important to control the historical narrative, and exactly what, if anything, does Xi Jinping Thought entail.
Her guests are Professor Rana Mitter, a historian of China at the University of Oxford and author of numerous books, the latest being China’s Good War; and Bill Bishop, who curates the newsletter Sinocism. Bill’s newsletter is a must-have round up of the most important political and economic China news, in your inbox four times a week. Very much worth every penny, and frequently featuring translated Party documents and Chinese articles.
To continue the conversation, they also mention a couple of past episodes of Chinese Whispers:
Cindy interviews the exiled Professor Sun Peidong about the witch hunt against her at a top Shanghai University: https://www.spectator.co.uk/podcast/healing-the-cancer-of-the-cultural-revolution.
Cindy discusses just why Taiwan is so important to China with Rana and analyst Jessica Drun: https://www.spectator.co.uk/podcast/why-does-china-care-about-taiwan-.
You can also find Cindy's review of Jing Tsu's Kingdom of Characters here: https://www.spectator.co.uk/article/the-great-chinese-puzzle-how-to-adapt-the-language-to-modern-communication-technologies.
Spectator Out Loud: Nick Moar, Tanya Gold, Cindy Yu
On this week's episode, we'll hear from Nick Moar on Twitter’s decision to suspend Politics for All.
Next, Tanya Gold on the importance of chicken soup. And finally, Cindy Yu who has reviewed The Kingdom of Characters, a book on Chinese language.
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How bad was President Biden’s first year?
Freddy Gray and Lionel Shriver discuss Joe Biden's first year at the helm of the United States, and whether he is capable of tackling the challenges poised by Vladimir Putin, rampant inflation and his own capacity for gaffes.
The Edition: The collapse
In this week’s episode: Will the Red Wall crush Boris Johnson?
In this week’s Spectator, our political editor James Forsyth and our deputy political editor Katy Balls report on the plot to oust the Prime Minister by Red Wall MPs, and No.10’s battle to save Boris. They join the podcast to give their up to date diagnosis. (00:43)
Also this week: How to save the BBC?
This week Nadine Dorries announced that she is planning a licence fee freeze. In the Spectator this week Paul Wood, a veteran journalist of the BBC writes about his love-hate relationship with the broadcaster. He joins the podcast now along with Domonic Minghella, writer, producer and former showrunner of the BBC’s Robin Hood. (14:45)
And finally: Is it moral to do good with bad money?
The Sackler family - whose fortune was built on getting thousands of Americans addicted to OxyContin, contributing to the country’s devastating opioid crisis - are now returning to philanthropy in the UK. But should their ill-gotten money be accepted for good causes? That’s the question Sam Leith and Matthew Parris have both asked for the Spectator’s website and magazine respectively. They both join the podcast to continue their moral musings. (28:07)
Hosted by Lara Prendergast and William Moore
Produced by Sam Holmes
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Listen to Lara's food podcast Table Talk:
The Book Club: Bacon in Moscow
In this week's Book Club podcast, my guest is the gallerist James Birch - whose new book Bacon In Moscow describes how he achieved the seemingly impossible: taking an exhibition of Francis Bacon's work to Moscow in the late 1980s. James tells me how he negotiated between the volatile artist and the implacable Soviet bureaucracy with the help of a suave but menacing KGB middleman; and how, along the way, he nearly acquired an original Francis Bacon painting and nearly acquired a Russian wife.
Table Talk: with Ed Smith
Ed Smith is a food writer and chef who started his acclaimed blog Rocket and Squash while he was working as a solicitor. On today’s podcast, he tells Liv and Lara about how his passion for good food started, why he left the world of law, the changing nature of the London food scene, and the ingredients for the perfect restaurant review. Since 2017, he has authored On the Side and The Borough Market Cookbook, and his latest book, Crave: Recipes Arranged by Flavour, to Suit Your Mood and Appetite, was published last May.