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Michael Tomasky on the Hope for Political Discourse, in The New York Review of Books

Until yesterday afternoon, I was going to write about Peter Hessler's immensely intriguing article about "The Great Wall of China," which, it should come as no surprise to anyone by now, is a Western construct. There is no "Great Wall." There are walls, here and there, but they are not continuous. What most people think of as "The Great Wall" is properly known as "The Ming Wall," because it was built by that late-medieval dynasty to protect Beijing, where the Ming emperors were installed in the Forbidden City (the Ming carried Chinese xenophobia to new and startling heights).

There is no body of academic scholars anywhere devoted to studying the Ming Wall. It has been left to amateurs, the most eminent of which - unbeknownst to many of the Chinese who also study the wall - is an American, David Spindler. Spindler, in the mid-Nineties was awarded a Master's Degree from Beijing University for his work on an ancient Chinese philosopher, Dong Zhongshu; after that, he went through Harvard Law and then worked for McKinsey & Company in Beijing. Now he just walks the wall. Quixotists will want to know about him. (Mr Hessler's piece is not on-line.)

Then, however, I read Michael Tomasky's piece in the current New York Review.

Michael Tomasky on the Hope for Political Discourse, in The New York Review of Books.


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