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IN THE CAMPS

CHINA'S HIGH-TECH PENAL COLONY

A book full of harrowing revelations of systematic injustice in China and the disturbing involvement of its foreign enablers.

A professor of international studies offers more chilling evidence of the “smart” camps in northwestern China, designed to restrict, punish, and ultimately exterminate the Indigenous population.

Byler, who managed to visit the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region under strict surveillance and has friends who were “disappeared,” draws on dozens of interviews with Kazakh, Uyghur, and Hui former detainees, camp workers, and system technicians to tell their horrific stories. The author first grounds readers in an evenhanded history of the region, noting the relative autonomy that the Uyghurs used to enjoy in the south; this began to change in the 1990s as China shifted toward an export-driven market economy. The Uyghurs, who are Muslim, protested the unequal economic system, and their unrest was marked as “terrorism” by the Han authorities. Byler draws on extensive ethnographic research in Xinjiang and Kazakhstan between 2011 and 2020, revealing that Chinese authorities have placed as many as 1.5 million Uyghurs, Kazakhs, and Hui into a system of “reeducation” camps since 2017. One young student from the University of Washington tried to visit her family in China and endured months of dehumanizing treatment. An Uzbek teacher of Chinese was enlisted to teach groups of the “uneducated,” though she quickly realized that they were Muslim like her and imprisoned for no reason other than their religion. She spoke of feeling “two-faced” at having to play both roles at the same time and laments the toll it took on her health—as it did other of Byler’s subjects. American firms are complicit: The author emphasizes that the technology used in “smart” surveillance systems used to contain and transform Muslim populations in northwest China are gleaned from Silicon Valley face-recognition tools perfected and exported by companies like Megvii, with deep connections to Microsoft, taking these systems of control to new levels of scale and intensity.

A book full of harrowing revelations of systematic injustice in China and the disturbing involvement of its foreign enablers.

Pub Date: Oct. 12, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-7359136-2-9

Page Count: 150

Publisher: Columbia Global Reports

Review Posted Online: Aug. 12, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2021

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GENGHIS KHAN AND THE MAKING OF THE MODERN WORLD

A horde-pleaser, well-written and full of surprises.

“The Mongols swept across the globe as conquerors,” writes the appreciative pop anthropologist-historian Weatherford (The History of Money, 1997, etc.), “but also as civilization’s unrivaled cultural carriers.”

No business-secrets fluffery here, though Weatherford does credit Genghis Khan and company for seeking “not merely to conquer the world but to impose a global order based on free trade, a single international law, and a universal alphabet with which to write all the languages of the world.” Not that the world was necessarily appreciative: the Mongols were renowned for, well, intemperance in war and peace, even if Weatherford does go rather lightly on the atrocities-and-butchery front. Instead, he accentuates the positive changes the Mongols, led by a visionary Genghis Khan, brought to the vast territories they conquered, if ever so briefly: the use of carpets, noodles, tea, playing cards, lemons, carrots, fabrics, and even a few words, including the cheer hurray. (Oh, yes, and flame throwers, too.) Why, then, has history remembered Genghis and his comrades so ungenerously? Whereas Geoffrey Chaucer considered him “so excellent a lord in all things,” Genghis is a byword for all that is savage and terrible; the word “Mongol” figures, thanks to the pseudoscientific racism of the 19th century, as the root of “mongoloid,” a condition attributed to genetic throwbacks to seed sown by Mongol invaders during their decades of ravaging Europe. (Bad science, that, but Dr. Down’s son himself argued that imbeciles “derived from an earlier form of the Mongol stock and should be considered more ‘pre-human, rather than human.’ ”) Weatherford’s lively analysis restores the Mongols’ reputation, and it takes some wonderful learned detours—into, for instance, the history of the so-called Secret History of the Mongols, which the Nazis raced to translate in the hope that it would help them conquer Russia, as only the Mongols had succeeded in doing.

A horde-pleaser, well-written and full of surprises.

Pub Date: March 2, 2004

ISBN: 0-609-61062-7

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2003

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THE DEVIL'S BEST TRICK

HOW THE FACE OF EVIL DISAPPEARED

A compelling journey into the heart of darkness with an articulate, capable guide.

An investigation of evil and how it manifests in our society.

As an acclaimed journalist, Sullivan, author of Graveyard of the Pacific, Dead Wrong, and other books, thought of himself as a man of reason and intelligence, with a good dose of cynicism. Then, when covering the wars that tore apart Yugoslavia, he confronted too many atrocities to believe that nothing was behind them. The author sensed the presence of evil and began to research the origin of it, which led him to the fundamental figure of malignity. While researching the book, Sullivan brushed against inexplicable, personal incidents—e.g., a weird threat from a well-dressed stranger, an ominous letter in his mailbox, the dream image of a black dog. The author shows how Christianity gave the Devil a personification, a central role, and a name. Sullivan looks at the theologians who wrestled with the conflict between the persistence of evil and the presence of an omnipotent God, finding that none of them reached a satisfying conclusion. He also studies a number of serial killers and murders, as well as accounts of a carefully documented, nightmarish exorcism that lasted four months in Iowa in 1928. Yet somehow, writes Sullivan, the Devil has been able to convince everyone that he does not exist, so is “able to hide in plain sight because of the cover we all give him with our fear, our denial, our rationalization, [and] our deluded sense of enlightenment.” The author believes that the Devil is real, but, he adds, each of us is responsible for our own decisions. This is not an easy book to read, and some parts are profoundly disturbing. Sullivan offers crucial insights, but timid readers should think carefully before entering its dark labyrinth.

A compelling journey into the heart of darkness with an articulate, capable guide.

Pub Date: May 14, 2024

ISBN: 9780802119131

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Atlantic Monthly

Review Posted Online: Jan. 19, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2024

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