This week on Sinica, Kaiser is live at the Princeton US-China Coalition Global Governance Forum, where he speaks with Gao Yutong (Tony Gao) about the wunderkind entrepreneur's experience as a Chinese student in the U.S. from age 16 to his present 23. Gao is the founder and CEO of Easy Transfer, which Chinese students use to pay their college tuition from Chinese bank accounts without all the hassle, paperwork, and expensive fees. He was named last year to the Forbes 30 Under 30 Asia list.
Gao talks about his time amidst the cornfields (in his sophomore year of high school, he attended an all-boys Catholic boarding school in Lincoln, Nebraska), his stint as president of the Chinese Students and Scholars Association at the University of Southern California, and how students from China might prepare themselves better for the experience of study in the U.S.
If you like this episode, be sure to check out — or re-listen — to another recent episode: The Chinese student experience in America, with Siqi Tu and Eric Fish.
Gao: A recommendation for college students to pick the thing they like most. Also, to take the advice of Jack Ma: “When you are 20 to 30 years old, you should follow a good boss [and] join a good company to learn how to do things properly. When you are 30 to 40 years old, if you want to do something yourself, just do it. You still can afford to lose, to fail. When you're 40 to 50 years old, my suggestion is you should do things you are good at. When you are 50 to 60 years old, spend time training and developing young people, the next generation. When you are over 60 years old, you better stay with your grandchildren."
Kaiser: The podcast of the UPenn Center for the Study of Contemporary China, specifically, the recent episode with Damien Ma on China’s political economy.
This week's podcast was recorded live on March 13 at The Bookworm in Beijing as part of the Bookworm Literary Festival, which is why you'll notice the prolonged and decidedly rambunctious audience pop at the start of the show. No matter where Sinica goes, it'll always be most enthusiastically received in the city where it began.
The entire episode is a hoot, as SupChina Asia managing editor Anthony Tao sat in for Kaiser and Jeremy to talk music with longtime jazz musicians David Moser (no stranger to Sinica listeners) and Jess Meider.
Moser is associate dean of Yenching Academy at Peking University, but his true passion is jazz. He studied music as an undergrad in the U.S. before moving to China, where he happened upon a band at a place called Maxim’s in 1993. You’ll need to listen to get the story. Other highlights include his explaining of swing (11:25), retelling of particular adventures translating for Wynton Marsalis and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra (22:30 mark), and what makes for good jazz (31:45 — including a Charles Mingus anecdote, featuring one of the three times we had to press the bleep button on him).
Jess Meider has spent more than two decades singing in China, and can still be seen (and heard) around Beijing. She was previously the resident jazz artist at East Shore Jazz Club and booker/resident artist at Chao Hotel. She’s worked with Cui Jian, the father of Chinese rock ‘n’ roll, and voiced a part in his movie Blue Sky Bones. She talks about that experience just before the 19-minute mark. Also listen to what she has to say about playing with Chinese musicians (30-minute mark) and her thoughts on the future of jazz in China (39:45).
Be sure to stick around for the musical performance at the end.
David: The young Chinese jazz pianist A Bu 阿布 (real name Dai Liang 戴梁), who is a prodigy. “Very modest and unassuming, but the future of Chinese jazz right there,” Moser says. “He grew up listening to it.” Check out videos of him playing here and here.
Jess: Contemporary jazz vocalist Cécile McLorin Salvant, who is relatively new on the scene but is amazing. (She won a Grammy last year for her album Dreams and Daggers; here she is singing You’re My Thrill from that album.)
Anthony: Three recommendations:
3. The Bookworm Literary Festival: May we all spread the lore of The Bookworm and the Bookworm Literary Festival ever far and forever. It is truly special.
This week on Sinica, Kaiser chats with Christopher Rea and Bruce Rusk, both professors at the University of British Columbia, about their translation of Book of Swindles: Selections from a Late Ming Collection (骗经 piànjīng), by Zhang Yingyu 张应俞. Anyone who has lived in China in recent decades will understand intuitively why a podcast ostensibly about current affairs in China would want to talk about a 16th-century book. However, for anyone who doubts the relevance for today's China, we believe it all will become painfully clear as you listen.
Bruce Rusk: The Big Con: The Story of the Confidence Man. Written by David Maurer, a professor of linguistics who spent the 1930s hanging out with a legion of con artists to learn their languages and tricks, the book is one of the most colorful, well researched, and entertaining works of criminology that has ever existed.
Christopher Rea: Slapping the Table in Amazement: A Ming Dynasty Story Collection. Originally written by Ling Mengchu 凌濛初 (1580–1644) and translated by Shuhui Yang and Yunqin Yang, the book is full of fantastic tales that collectively present a broad picture of traditional Chinese society during that period of time.
Kaiser: The Oculus Rift, a virtual reality headset that blew Kaiser away.
The dominant narrative in the U.S. about China’s relationship with the small northeastern neighbor is relentlessly one-sided. For decades, American officials have referenced Mao Zedong’s famous (though slightly mistranslated) description that North Korea and China are as close as “lips and teeth.” This perception has continued to recent times, such as when President Donald Trump insisted in July last year that if only China put a “heavy move” on the country, it could “end this nonsense once and for all!”
But could it? What is the relationship, really, between China and North Korea, and how has it changed in recent years? Has China — or any country, for that matter — ever played a decisive role in North Korea foreign policy?
To answer these questions, and bring context to current tensions in Northeast Asia, we welcome Ma Zhao, an associate professor of modern Chinese history and culture at Washington University in St. Louis, and John Delury, an associate professor of Chinese studies at Yonsei University in South Korea. Ma Zhao has written Runaway Wives, Urban Crimes, and Survival Tactics in Wartime Beijing, 1937-1949, and is working on a new book called Seditious Voices in Revolutionary China, 1950 to 1953. John has become a go-to citation for media seeking commentary in the most recent busy year of North Korea news, and co-authored (with Orville Schell, who we interviewed last week) an excellent book titled Wealth and Power: China's Long March to the Twenty-first Century.
Please note that this episode was recorded on March 24, a few days before the world learned that Kim Jong-un had traveled to Beijing to meet with Xi Jinping.
Ma Zhao: Two books: A Misunderstood Friendship: Mao Zedong, Kim Il-sung, and Sinonorth Korean Relations, 1949-1976, by Zhihua Shen and Yafeng Xia, and Seditious Voices in Revolutionary China, 1950 to 1953, Ma Zhao’s own book that is “in the pipeline.”
John: Deng Xiaoping’s famous interview with the Italian journalist Oriana Fallaci, possibly the most frank and interesting interview that a leader of the Communist Party of China will ever give. Of particular note: Deng’s comments that “life tenure of cadres in leading posts” was an “institutional defect.”
Kaiser: The really well organized and high-caliber Association for Asian Studies annual conference.