There’s a lot in Dan Wang’s 2020 review of China
, but particularly handy is one reason why cultural creation matters to the political livelihood of a nation, which is mostly a squishy thing:
This lack of compelling cultural creations matters for many reasons. One of them is that people who’ve never been able to make a visit cannot really visualize the life of an ordinary Chinese person, only the dystopia that has become the way that most foreigners think about the country. The propaganda department has not only failed to directly create globally-appealing culture, it has regulated private creative efforts out of existence. For all of Xi’s hopes to “tell China’s story well,” the Chinese regime seems congenitally incapable of allowing good stories about itself to be told, because of its obsession with exercising total control.
Of course, it’s important to keep in mind that art and cultural work are worthwhile in and of themselves, regardless of political effect.
He always explains where a few common tropes of Chinese cuisine come from:
Beijing’s imperial cuisine is the only Chinese cuisine that I consider to be dumb. It wasn’t until I moved to Beijing that I realized how many of the unfortunate facts of Chinese cooking are the creation of local traditions: the dreadful “brown sauce,” the excessive use of starch, and the compulsive need to fry. Peking duck is fine every once in a while, but it’s far too much fuss and expense for something of medium tastiness. There are so few redeeming dishes in imperial cuisine that I wonder if it has been yet another cruel trick pulled by the eunuchs to hoodwink the emperor, depriving him of culinary pleasures for sport.
I actually like frying and starch, but it does indeed come up a bit much, at least in Chinese cooking that makes it to the US.