The Horse That Leaps Through Clouds: A Tale of Espionage, the Silk Road, and the Rise of Modern China

The Horse That Leaps Through Clouds: A Tale of Espionage, the Silk Road, and the Rise of Modern China

Eric Enno Tamm

Language: English

Pages: 512

ISBN: 158243817X

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


On July 6, 1906, Baron Gustaf Mannerheim boarded the midnight train from St. Petersburg, charged by Tsar Nicholas II to secretly collect intelligence on the Qing Dynasty’s sweeping reforms that were radically transforming China. One of the last Tsarist secret agents, Mannerheim chronicled almost every facet of China’s modernization, from education reform and foreign investment to Tibet’s struggle for independence.

On July 6, 2006, writer Eric Enno Tamm boards that same train, intent on following in Mannerheim’s footsteps. Initially banned from China, Tamm devises a cover and retraces Mannerheim’s route across the Silk Road, discovering both eerie similarities and seismic differences between the Middle Kingdoms of a century ago and today.

Along the way, Tamm offers piercing insights into China’s past that raise troubling questions about its future. Can the Communist Party truly open China to the outside world yet keep Western ideas such as democracy and freedom at bay, just as Qing officials mistakenly believed? What can reform during the late Qing Dynasty teach us about the spectacular transformation of China today? As Confucius once wrote, “Study the past if you would divine the future,” and that is precisely what Tamm does in The Horse That Leaps Through Clouds.

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however, is the fact that authorities are also listening to the vox populi. Officials monitor feedback on government websites, listen to chatter in the blogosphere and use polling and focus groups to gauge public opinion. Yuan insisted this sensitivity isn’t rooted in altruism; rather, he explained, the Party is simply trying to find “technical solutions” to maintain and strengthen its rule. I’ve come to think of this as “technotarianism”: technology becomes the primary tool to destroy or weaken

and eating the dishes were emptied and we hastened to bid our host goodnight in fear and trembling lest there should be any more mutton fat.” In the morning, they called on Colonel Alexeyeff, the district commander—“a typical, petty official, afraid above all things of accepting responsibility for anything”—and moved to a more spacious caravanserai where they began to carefully sort and pack their supplies and equipment into cases, which would be loaded on packhorses. Mannerheim and Pelliot

his beat-up, beige-coloured Volga. Aidai, my eighteen-year-old translator, jumped in the back. “Kurmanjan Datka was my great-great-grandmother,” Sardarbek began as we raced out of Osh. He held up four thick fingers. “Fourth generation,” he said laying on the horn as we passed a car. We hurtled over a bumpy country road through parched golden hillocks rising gently above the Gulcha River. Here and there, small farming hamlets of mud-brick bungalows were tucked along the embankment. We swerved

paramilitary agro-industrial corporation runs its owns towns, cities, judiciary, prison labour camps, public security apparatus, newspapers, hospitals and universities. The corps’s divisions and regiments have been set up on the margins of troubled borderlands and along strategic transportation arteries in Xinjiang. It consists of 2.5 million members, 88 percent of whom are Han Chinese. It has jurisdiction over 740,000 hectares, or 48 percent of Xinjiang’s landmass. It’s an economic powerhouse,

examinations once took place. Linda and I went searching for this lonely relic the next day. We found the tumbledown structure tucked in the dreary block of institutional buildings that make up Lanzhou Hospital No. 2. It was easy to spot. Its swooping gabled roof of wooden beams and clay tiles looked whimsical in contrast to the hospital’s austere modernism. A vine-covered trellis led us to a locked red door. A sign said it was built in 1875. The hall was now covered in dust and soot. A patch of

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