Charlie Hore

Lust, Caution

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Director: Ang Lee; Release date: 4 January

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon; The Hulk; Brokeback Mountain: Taiwanese director Ang Lee isn't one for getting stuck in a rut. His new film is once again quite unlike anything he's done before.

Lust, Caution takes place in China during the Second World War, but the actual events of the war are a faint backdrop to a tangle of loyalties, obsessions and pretences among a small group of the westernised middle classes. It's a psychological thriller, powered by both beautiful taut direction and compelling performances.

Reporting the Chinese Revolution

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Eds: Baruch Hirson and Arthur J Knodel, Pluto, £19.99

The Chinese Revolution of 1927 was a critical turning point in the history of the 20th century, and yet surprisingly little has been written about it. This new book gives an intriguing perspective on some of the major actors.

Rayna Prohme was a young American who went to China in 1925, and became a journalist and newspaper editor for Guomindang, the nationalist party. In 1926 she moved to Wuhan where she worked in particular with Mikhail Borodin, Stalin's main envoy to China.

African Perspectives on China in Africa

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Firoze Manji and Stephen Marks (editors), Fahamu, £11.95

In November 2006 almost every African head of state attended the largest international summit meeting ever held in Beijing. The event highlighted just how important Africa has become to China's future economic growth - something that the Western media is only just starting to wake up to.

A Leap Forward?

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Review of "Shanghai Dreams", Director: Wang Xiaoshuai

In the mid-1960s fears of nuclear war led China's government to relocate strategic factories deep into China's interior. The building of this Third Front uprooted hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of workers from China's eastern cities, forcing them to make new lives far from home. In theory most workers were "volunteers" (unlike the "Red Guards" deported from the cities at the same time), but in practice it was almost impossible not to volunteer.

Dismantling China

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Review of 'The Great Wall', Julia Lovell, Atlantic £19.95

The Great Wall of China is popularly seen as one of the world's oldest monuments, the only human artefact that can be seen from the moon. This new history debunks the myths, and offers a very different history of the walls that have marked the shifting borders of China.

The Great Leap Forward

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Review of 'The Changing Face of China', John Gittings, Oxford University Press £18.99

The first edition of this book (published as China Changes Face) came out just weeks after the June 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre in Beijing. At the time it was one of the best explanations of where the mass movement of 1989 came from, detailing both the growing demands for political reform and the failure of the 1980s economic reforms to deliver on their promises.

The Great Dictator

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Review of 'Generalissimo Chiang Kai-Shek and the China He Lost', Jonathan Fenby, The Free Press £9.95

The evil that men do doesn't always live on after them. Chiang Kai-Shek, who was the dictator of China for 20 years before 1949, is pretty much forgotten today. We now know so much about the crimes of Maoism that they overshadow the fact that the revolution of 1949 was massively popular. This new book usefully reminds us why that was, and just how vicious, corrupt and murderous the pre-1949 regime was.

Music Made for Dancing

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Review of 'Soweto Blues', Gwen Ansell, Continuum £14.99

Jazz outside the US has always seemed a poor relation. However good individual musicians may be, Swedish, Dutch or British jazz bands have historically tried to sound as 'American' as possible, and all the fundamental innovations in jazz styles have come from the US. Django Reinhardt apart, it's difficult to name a single really influential jazz musician who isn't American.

The exception to this is South Africa, where jazz grew up in fundamentally different ways.

When Worlds Collide

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Review of 'One China, Many Paths', editor Chaohua Wang, Verso, £20

After the repression of the 1989 'Tiananmen Square' movement, it seemed that China's rulers had shut down any public expression of critical or dissident ideas. This collection of essays and interviews shows the revival of a 'new left' in China, which has largely escaped from the clutches of Maoism, and which sees both anti-globalisation and anti-imperialism as crucial reference points.

In Backalleys and Palaces Alike

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Review of 'The Land Where the Blues Began', Alan Lomax, The New Press £19.95

The blues of the Mississippi Delta, together with its close neighbour, gospel music, has been at the heart of western popular music for the last 70 years, and the well shows no signs of running dry. From the 1930s swing bands, through rock and roll, soul and on to rap and house music, black American rhythms and sensibilities have provided much of the soundtracks of our lives. Alan Lomax's indispensable book provides one of the best accounts of the richness and diversity of that tradition.

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