Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Some We Lost in 2009

It was sad to hear this week about the death of John W Powell, the former editor of the China Weekly Review started by his father JB. That reminded me that a few other people of interest to anyone reading this blog also died this year and are worthy of remembering (I'm also a great lover of reading obituaries!)

Brian Power (1918-2008) - the author of the excellent Ford of Heaven about his childhood in pre-war, treaty port Tientsin (Tianjin). Click here to read full obituary.

Hua Guofeng (1921-2008) - Mao's immediate successor as Chairman of the CCP after apparently being deemed to be the next main man by Mao himself from his death bed. Rarely mentioned these days when the official and simplistic notion of transition from Mao to Deng to Jiang to Hu in seemless fashion is pushed pretty hard and swallowed by most. It was of course far more complicated and Machiavellian than that. Click here to read full obituary.

Ian Fraser (1920-2008) - remembering those that faught in the war in the Far East, too often the forgotten war, is important. Fraser won a VC for leading a midget sub attack on Japanese battleships near Singapore as part of Operation Zipper, designed to take Malaya and Singapore back from the Japanese. Fraser's mission was better than any real life thriller. Click here to read the full story.

Xue Jin (1923-2008) - Xue was one of the last directors to have experienced the old Shanghai film studio system from before the revolution - but only just. Heavily influenced by Soviet cinema Xue made films protraying the 'New China' throughout the 1950s and then the classic Red Detachment of Women in 1961. He suffered mixed fortunes in the Cultural REvoltuion - arrested for a time, then working with Jiang Qing and later accused of being her lapdog. He carried on making films through to the late 1990s including The Opium War in 1989 which despite the prerequisites of the Chinese censor and official history was surprisingly even handed.
Click here to read full obituary.

General Xiao Ke (1907-2008) - the last surviving commander from the Long March who made it to over 100.He saw the struggles of the 1930s and 40s up close - click here to read the full obituary.

Finally- I'll just mention that this year history writing, and particularly the history of the working class, lost a great champion this year in Studs Terkel (1912-1008) who, though as far as I know never wrote a word on China, must surely have influenced anyone trying to approach history from below.

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