Saturday, October 23, 2004

The Globe & Mail Rising

This Saturday's Globe & Mail is recommended reading, particularly for my American friends who have grown weary/frantic over electioneering bafflegab. To you weary souls I say: muster up your remaining energy and head for the nearest boxy book superstore (or independent international newspaper outlet) and dole out the bucks for a truly unique collection of news and perspectives.

I haven't yet checked the website, but the newspaper proper is devoted, almost exclusively, to China Rising: The Birth of a Superpower. (Wup - just did, and the site pales in contrast to the paper.) In this issue, the attempted breadth of G&M's coverage is impressive to the point of foolhardiness - Editor-in-chief Edward Greenspon is demonstrating the sort of gumption one wishes was a seasonal force of habit among newspaper publishers.

This is the first time I've ever been excited by a newspaper issue, so forgive me if I slip into unrestrained loopiness. At this point, I've read about 60% of the articles, and glanced through the rest of it. I expect to return to another 20% by tomorrow. The portion that completely captured my attention was the Globe Review. John Barber desperately tries to summarize the explosion of architectural Goliaths, rising up in Beijing and Shanghai, where the high priests of po-mo (Rem Koolhaas, Paul Andreu, et al) have found a new congregation of believers, happy to pony up the dough. He calls it Instant Modernity. To which I can only say: whatever happened to Feng Shui?

Alright, that was too glib to qualify as a bon mot, but it does contain a kernel of legitimate concern. Modernist liberations are fine and dandy affairs, typically provoking a wild flurry of exciting, artistic activity, but when tradition is tossed out the window, it's difficult to discern between the bathwater of constrictive repression and the baby of form, concept, and productive discipline. In an article entitled Frogs, live sex and dead cats, Marcus Gee summarizes just such an artistic maelstrom, which is producing all manner of weirdness. Could it surprise anyone to learn there is a sexual revolution in China that makes the one we experienced in North America look like an afternoon tea party? New money - astonishing, entirely unexpected amounts of it - is transforming a culture very much the way it did in North America. The difference: it's happening at an unprecedented speed, in an ancient culture intimately familiar with unimaginable tyranny. What, finally will the new tradition look like? What will the new China look like?

These thoughts and more are percolating away, thanks to this issue, and I expect to return to a few (hopefully with greater acuity). I think the only thing I would have like to have seen addressed is China's increasing appetite for oil. This is surely going to introduce a whole new edge to Mid-East difficulties. How is China likely to assert itself in this volatile arena?

That's it for now, though. The rest of you: buy the paper, and blog, baby - blog!

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