Imperial China, Chs 5-8

These chapters focused on the rise of the Song dynasty, known in this period as the northern Song. Chapter 8 examined the Xi Xia to the northwest of the Song. Chapter 5 contained an interesting commentary on the limits of the Chinese emperor’s (huangdi) power. First, he was constrained by Confucian norms and the values… Continue reading Imperial China, Chs 5-8

Against alcohol

A review of Drink?: The New Science of Alcohol and Your Health by Professor David Nutt, with comments. N.B. all statistics are from the book unless otherwise indicated. The book mainly concerned itself with the United Kingdom, but I think the lessons are broadly applicable to other Western countries too. This useful little book provides… Continue reading Against alcohol

Imperial China, Chs 2-4: Liao hybrid government and ‘concavity vs convexity’

These chapters examine the Liao Empire (916-1125), a dynasty of warrior-nomads who were key players in Asian regional politics. There were lots of interesting details in these chapters, but it’s the Liao’s style of government that I’ll focus on here. The core problem faced by steppe-warriors who conquered parts of China in this era was… Continue reading Imperial China, Chs 2-4: Liao hybrid government and ‘concavity vs convexity’

F. W. Mote’s Imperial China, 900-1800. Ch1: ‘The Five Dynasties’

I’m going to blog my way through this book, reading a chapter at a time and then posting notes and observations. I have a strong interest in China, but I am not an expert on the country in this or any other period, so pointers and corrections are welcome (contact details are here). Mote sets… Continue reading F. W. Mote’s Imperial China, 900-1800. Ch1: ‘The Five Dynasties’

Agency

I’ve noticed that I have been trying to reconcile two particular ways of looking at the world, namely some kind of techno-futurist Marginal Revolution-ism that owes a lot to Peter Thiel (I’m all ears for an alternative name) and conservative Christianity. Perhaps my attempt at doing so below will be useful to others who identify… Continue reading Agency

Tech and optimism in China’s countryside

Book review: Blockchain Chicken Farm: And Other Stories of Tech in China’s Countryside by Xiaowei Wang (US/UK) Xiaowei Wang’s book overlaps with a few areas of interest for me: China, technology, and the countryside. It delivers some great firsthand reporting, although I often disagreed with Wang’s reflections on tech and neoliberalism. Much of the book… Continue reading Tech and optimism in China’s countryside

‘A Billion Voices: China’s Search for a Common Language’

This interesting little book by David Moser gives you the story of how the national Chinese language, Putonghua (普通话, ‘common speech’) came to be, and answers lots of interesting little questions about how that worked. The most important takeaway from the book is the fact that getting all Chinese to understand each other is a… Continue reading ‘A Billion Voices: China’s Search for a Common Language’

My favourite reads of 2020

Seeing like a State A book from the starter pack for every aspiring smart person of a particular stripe on Twitter… and it was actually really interesting. Two key arguments stuck with me: data isn’t everything, and people at the top don’t always know as much as those at the bottom. Mark Koyama highlights some… Continue reading My favourite reads of 2020