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Maura Elizabeth Cunningham's Articles

The Road to Sleeping Dragon: Learning China from the Ground Up – A Q&A with Author Michael Meyer

Michael Meyer’s 2008 debut book, The Last Days of Old Beijing: Life in the Vanishing Backstreets of a City Transformed, recounted his time spent living in the crowded hutong alleyways of China’s capital during the run-up to that year’s Olympics. In 2015, he published In Manchuria: A Village Called Wasteland and the Transformation of Rural China, which picked up Meyer’s story as he moved to his wife’s hometown in the countryside and immersed himself in the history of the country’s northeast region. In a new book, The Road to Sleeping Dragon: Learning China from the Ground Up, Meyer circles back to his first days in China, when he arrived in 1995 as a 23-year-old Peace Corps volunteer who couldn’t use chopsticks, spoke no Chinese, and “knew little about the country beyond the Great Wall, pandas, one billion people, fortune cookies, and the indelible image of a man standing in front of a tank.” The Road to Sleeping Dragon follows Meyer as he finds his footi ...

Interview with Qin Gao, Author of Welfare, Work, and Poverty: Social Assistance in China

Official state media reports in China frequently speak of how the Communist Party-led government has “lifted 700 million people out of poverty” since implementing economic reforms in the late 1970s. Yet there are still millions of people in the country who struggle to maintain long-term employment and constantly teeter on the edge of a financial cliff. Dibao, or the Minimum Livelihood Guarantee, is a government program intended to help its recipients step back from the edge of that cliff. By distributing cash payments to those who qualify, Dibao is meant to provide China’s poorest citizens with the funds to cover their basic expenses during periods of un- or under-employment. First implemented in Shanghai in 1993, Dibao was expanded to all urban areas in 1999 but has only been available to rural residents since 2007; there are now approximately 60 million people receiving welfare payments through the program. AAS Member Qin Gao, a professor at the Columbia University School of Social Work ...

The Politics of Compassion: An Interview with Bin Xu

After a devastating earthquake hit China’s southwestern Sichuan Province on May 12, 2008, thousands of volunteers left their homes in other parts of the country and traveled to Sichuan to help victims of the quake. This outpouring of assistance surprised many Chinese, who for years had lamented about a perceived moral vacuum and lack of compassion in their society. As Emory University sociologist Bin Xu explains in his new book, The Politics of Compassion: The Sichuan Earthquake and Civic Engagement in China (Stanford University Press), the 2008 earthquake threw a spotlight on civic engagement in the country, bringing non-governmental organizations and social networks that had previously been little-known onto the national stage. Xu has spent years investigating the dimensions of this civic engagement, first joining the volunteers as a participant-observer and subsequently conducting interviews with those who stepped forward to assist in Sichuan’s recovery from the earthquake. In The Politi ...

Meet the Future JAS Editor: A Q&A with Vinayak Chaturvedi

Earlier this year, the Association for Asian Studies began the search for a new Journal of Asian Studies editor, as current editor Jeff Wasserstrom’s second five-year term will conclude in June 2018. The search committee interviewed several applicants and from the finalists selected Vinayak Chaturvedi, associate professor of South Asian history at the University of California, Irvine. Dr. Chaturvedi earned his Ph.D. at the University of Cambridge in 2001. He is the author of Peasant Pasts: History and Memory in Western India (University of California Press, 2007), as well as numerous academic articles, and editor of Mapping Subaltern Studies and the Postcolonial (Verso, 2012). He is currently finishing a book on a history of ideas of Vinayak Damodar Savarkar—the intellectual founder of Hindu nationalism.  Dr. Chaturvedi will become “JAS editor-in-training” in early 2018 and will officially take the reins of the journal on July 1, 2018. A week later, he will chair a special JAS&nb ...

Shaken Authority: An Interview with Christian Sorace

In the early afternoon of May 12, 2008, a devastating 7.9-magnitude earthquake ruptured the countryside of China’s southwestern Sichuan Province. More than 85,000 people died, including at least 5,000 children killed when their schools collapsed—victims of corruption on the part of local officials and building contractors, who had skimmed from the top of building funds and erected shoddy “tofu-dregs schoolhouses” that stood no chance against the earthquake’s might. In the first weeks following the quake, parents staged protests and called on the government to punish those deemed responsible for their children’s deaths. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) quickly moved to silence the outcries and control the narrative about the earthquake. Government propaganda and news stories steered attention away from the manmade disaster (renhuo) caused by corruption and focused instead on the natural disaster (tianzai) of the earthquake and the CCP’s leadership in rescue and recon ...

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