This week, Kaiser Kuo and David Moser are delighted to host Jeremiah Jenne, Director at The Hutong, Beijing’s premier cultural exchange center, for a conversation that picks apart this country's obsession with "Chinese characteristics" and asks whether this is empty rhetoric, or something that actually matters. In the process, we wade back to Imperial efforts to reconcile the "essence" of China with "practical" Western technologies and ideas (中体西用).

Have your own thoughts? Share them in the comments section below, or write to us at And remember, to subscribe to the Sinica show through RSS, just open up iTunes, click on the "Advanced" menu and select the option "Subscribe to Podcast". When prompted, copy the URL into the box. If you'd like to download this mp3 directly from our site you can also grab it as a standalone mp3 file. Enjoy!
 said on
August 17, 2014
The stand alone mp3 link isn't working. Just a small typo.

Here is the correct address if anyone else would like to download:

I listen every week!

Kind regards,
 said on
August 20, 2014
Excellent as always, but this is one of the best
 said on
August 22, 2014
I am also totally into the Deng series, but it seems like only foreign China-watchers and Chinese over 50 are watching, as an informal poll of my Chinese colleagues (all 40 and under) has not turned up 1 person who has watched or is interested in this series
 said on
August 26, 2014
There's been a run of great episodes, this one, however, did further an impression that has been sneaking up on me for a while: China and the US are actually extremely close in many ways. That, indeed, the two nations and people are fundamentally one and the same in key aspects. And that identifying those key aspects would help illuminate how China and the US are actually different, and what indeed is 'essential' to each.

I further suspect that both what is shared and what is different constitute 'becomings', processes, and the like. Common dynamics comprised of size, details of historical context, new beginnings, the sheer fact of being human and so on, that produce much that is very alike and much that is very different. I note this because I don't feel I heard it.

All of this is to say that the while the discussion was somewhat interesting it seemed all over the place to me and lacking any really decent central concept/s to organise insight around. An excellent example of what I'm seeking was your discussion with Orville Schell (an admittedly high bar) and the notion that recent Chinese history has been driven by a 'primary desire to see the nation great again'. Here we have a concept that helps organise much, and place what might otherwise be puzzling.

I'd also like to add - thinking back to your podcast history - that more of Japan and less of India - or perhaps more of both - would help to place China with greater clarity. While you've turned me around on the import and interest India holds for China and China watchers, I'd still like you to talk with much more depth on Japan and what it can tell us about this thing called 'China'. How about a triangulation of China via a more intent focus on the US and Japan (with India and 'the West' present as further angles of reflection)?

And yes, I realise you're not discussing what is actually essential/the same/different about China, but rather the ongoing obsession with the notion by China itself. My points still stand. In any case, I may be guilty of distracted listening. I'll have another listen and see if it seems more cohesive second time around.
 said on
August 27, 2014
Another listen and I see you actually did mention the excellent Orville Schell podcast. So, yes, guilty of distracted listening first time round. That said, my feelings remain unchanged about this discussion lacking key conceptual organisation/hangers to drive deeper insight and links. To borrow Jeremiah/David's term (?) it was a bit of a hodge-podge. I know you're likely to view this with distaste, Kaiser, but one possibility might have been to bring in one of those 'other' historians and some discussion of representation and image at work in China today.
Mark Lesson Studied