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Father Ladany watched this charade with sardonic detachment: he would probably agree that what Ezra Pound said regarding the writing of poetry should also apply to the recording of history—it is extremely important that it be written, but it is a matter of indifference who writes it.
To the man-in-the-street, such a prerequisite may appear like elementary common sense, but once you leave the street level, and enter the loftier spheres of academe, common sense is not so common any longer, and it remains an interesting fact that, during the Maoist era, a majority of leading “China Experts” hardly knew any Chinese.The Art of Interpreting Nonexistent Inscriptions Written in Invisible Ink on a Blank Page Simon Leys The New York Review of Books OCTOBER 11, 1990 ISSUE The Communist Party of China and Marxism, 1921–1985: A Self Portrait by Laszlo Ladany, foreword by Robert Elegant Hoover Institution Press, 588 pp., .95 1.In any debate, you really know that you have won when you find your opponents beginning to appropriate your ideas, in the sincere belief that they themselves just invented them.What made China News Analysis so infuriatingly indispensable was the very simple and original principle on which it was run (true originality is usually simple): all the information selected and examined in China News Analysis was drawn exclusively from official Chinese sources (press and radio).This austere rule sometimes deprived Ladany’s newsletter of the life and color that could have been provided by less orthodox sources, but it enabled him to build his devastating conclusions on unimpeachable grounds.In the press, the size, type, and color of headlines, as well as the position and composition of photos and illustrations are all matters of considerable import; actually they obey complex laws, as precise and strict as the iconographic rules that govern the location, garb, color, and symbolic attributes of the figures of angels, archangels, saints, and patriarchs in the decoration of a Byzantine basilica.
To find one’s way in this maze, ingenuity and astuteness are not enough; one also needs a vast amount of experience.
This situation can afford a subtle satisfaction; I think the feeling must be quite familiar to Father Ladany, the Jesuit priest and scholar based in Hong Kong who for many years published the weekly China News Analysis.
Far away from the crude limelights of the media circus, he has enjoyed three decades of illustrious anonymity: all “China watchers” used to read his newsletter with avidity; many stole from it—but generally they took great pains never to acknowledge their indebtedness or to mention his name.
Communist Chinese politics are a lugubrious merry-go-round (as I have pointed out many times already), and in order to appreciate fully the déjà-vu quality of its latest convolutions, you would need to have watched it revolve for half a century.
The main problem with many of our politicians and pundits is that their memories are too short, thus forever preventing them from putting events and personalities in a true historical perspective.
Attention: un intellectuel peut ne pas en cacher un autre !