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Dancing on Bones

History and Power in China, Russia and North Korea

Katie Stallard



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Oxford University Press
24 October 2022
History didn't end. Democracy didn't triumph. America's leading role in the world is no longer assured. Instead, autocrats and populist strongmen are on the rise, and the global order established after 1945 is under attack. This is the phenomenon Katie Stallard tackles in Dancing on Bones, as she examines how the leaders of China, Russia, and North Korea manipulate the past to serve the present and secure the future of authoritarian rule.

Russia has annexed Crimea, started a war in eastern Ukraine, and repeatedly massed troops on its borders. China has stepped up war games near Taiwan and militarized the South China Sea, while North Korea has resumed missile testing and blood-curdling threats against the United States. These three states consistently top lists of threats to US and European security, and yet the leaders of all three insist that it is their country that is threatened, rewriting history and exploiting the memory of the wars of the last century to justify their actions and shore up popular support. Since coming to power, Xi Jinping has almost doubled the length of China's World War II, Vladimir Putin has elevated the memory of the Great Patriotic War to the status of a national religion, and Kim Jong Un has invested vast sums in rebuilding war museums in his impoverished state, while those who try to challenge the official version of history are silenced and jailed. But this didn't start with Putin, Xi, and Kim, and it won't end with them.

Drawing on first-hand, on-the-ground reporting, Dancing on Bones argues that if we want to understand where these three nuclear powers are heading, we must understand the stories they are telling their citizens about the past.
Imprint:   Oxford University Press
Country of Publication:   United States
Dimensions:   Height: 159mm,  Width: 241mm,  Spine: 27mm
Weight:   544g
ISBN:   9780197575352
ISBN 10:   0197575358
Pages:   320
Publication Date:  
Audience:   General/trade ,  ELT Advanced
Format:   Hardback
Publisher's Status:   Active
Introduction Chapter 1: Myth Chapter 2: Victory Chapter 3: Enemies Chapter 4: Memory Chapter 5: Victims Chapter 6: Truth Chapter 7: Lies Chapter 8: Control Chapter 9: Heroes Chapter 10: Patriots Conclusion: Power Notes Bibliography

Katie Stallard is Senior Editor, China and Global Affairs, at the New Statesman magazine and a non-resident Global Fellow at the Wilson Center in Washington, DC. She was previously based in Russia and China as a foreign correspondent for Sky News, where she reported extensively from across both countries, as well as North Korea, South Korea, Myanmar, Japan, Georgia, and Ukraine, and covered conflicts and natural disasters around the world. She broadcast under sniper fire from ISIS-linked militants in the Philippines, from Crimea as Russian forces annexed the peninsula, and from the front lines of the subsequent war in eastern Ukraine. As well as the New Statesman and Sky News, her writing has been published in outlets including Foreign Policy, The National Interest, The Diplomat, and the East Asia Forum.

Reviews for Dancing on Bones: History and Power in China, Russia and North Korea

Dancing on Bones is a compelling testament to the power of history and myth in global politics. Fast-paced and insightful, Stallard's book skillfully unfolds the narratives that legitimize and drive the leaders of China, Russia, and North Korea. A must-read for anyone who wants to understand how America's competitors think. * Peter Martin, author of China's Civilian Army: The Making of Wolf Warrior Diplomacy * When I first arrived in England some thirty years ago, I was surprised to find that the history of the People's Republic of China, as taught at Oxford, was quite different from what we were taught at school. This book helped me to better understand why and how authoritarian leaders want to control the history of their nations. Interweaving interviews and personal stories of those challenging the official narrative and fighting for the right to preserve individual memory, this book delivers a powerful antidote to the stereotypes and caricatures that so often dominate coverage of these countries. Deeply reported and drawing on extensive research, the result is a nuanced and compelling account that sheds light on these consequential global powers. * Lijia Zhang, author of Lotus and Socialism is Great! * Through impeccable research and exhaustive reporting, Katie Stallard details how three modern-day autocrats have co-opted and corrupted-and often outright fabricated-history in their efforts to stay in power and try to gain the upper geopolitical hand. To understand how Putin, Xi, and Kim operate in the present, Stallard expertly shows how they are weaponizing the past. Essential reading. * Anna Fifield, author of The Great Successor: The Divinely Perfect Destiny of Brilliant Comrade Kim Jong Un and former Beijing bureau chief for The Washington Post * A beguiling and disturbing journey into how a new generation of authoritarian leaders distort the past to dominate the present. A powerful mix of reportage and analysis. * Peter Pomerantsev, Senior Fellow at the SNF Agora Institute, Johns Hopkins University * An engaging account of how leaders in China, Russia and North Korea and remolded, re-tooled and retrofitted postwar history to turn it into an unforgiving bulwark of support for today's regimes. Its value lies not just in illuminating how this happened, but why it matters for the rest of the world, as the powerful and aggrieved nationalism constructed on this new historical foundation spills out into the rest of the world. * Richard McGregor, author of The Party: The Secret World of China's Communist Rulers *

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