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A Talk for the American Center for Mongolian Studies

On November 13th at 8 A. M. EST, I will give a live talk about Batu Khan for the Virtual Speaker series of the American Center for Mongolian Studies in Ulan Batur. 


I am going to explore Batu Khan's character, the man who became a kingmaker, rather than Supreme Khan.


What led Batu Khan to create a plan with the Princess Sorghagtani to change the branch of the imperial house of the Mongol Empire? This was a momentous strategy that ultimately saved Europe from a Mongol invasion. Why was he getting fabulously wealthy? Why did he choose not to be Supreme Khan>


Tune in and find out. This is for the launch of my new book, Batu, Khan of the Golden Horde: The Mongol Khans Conquer Russia.  


Maps and illustrations, click on the menu on the Order Batu Khan, There is also a mini-podcast of me reading an introduction not covered in the book.


The video will be available on ACMS YouTube channel. I will post the link after the talk. 


Thanks very much to the ACMS for the invitation. I am hoping to tell a fabulous story, a little entertainment in the time of the healthcare emergency.

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The Golden Horde Is Great Television


This beautiful series tells the little-known story of the Russian princes attempting to throw off the Mongol yoke in Russia.


Berke Khan ruled the Golden Horde when he received word that Hulegu Khan was riding against him. The story opens as civil war broke out between him and Hulegu, the Il-khan of Persia.


Berke was the first of the Mongol Khans convert to Islam, and declared war on his cousin for riding against the Caliph of Baghdad, executing him and destroying the city of Baghdad, a center or art, commerce and culture. 


The female screenwriter for the sixteen hour-long episodes wrote a very fine palace drama, not intended as straight history. The costumes and sets have won awards, the casting and acting are brilliant. The screenwriter has imagined the love lives and the power plays of the main characters. Great viewing for a binge. Streaming on Amazon Prime.


Before Berke Khan, there was Batu Khan, who founded the Russian Khanate. For this story, how the Mongol Army brought Kievan Russia under its yoke for two centuries, you need my new book Batu, Khan of the Golden Horde: The Mongol Khans Conquer Russia.


The story has been lost to the West for seven centuries. It is available from Amazon and other booksellers, and on this website. My story is the prequel to the events in the series, two generations before, in the generation of the conquest.  


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China and Internet Governance at the U. N.

I am posting some musings by a digital security expert on the subject of China acceding to the post of leading the U. N. Agency that governs the internet. Too few people know what the arguments are, and this remains an arcane subject. Beijtlich breaks it down and tells why it should matter to Americans.


Years ago, I interviewed internet security expert Richard Bejtlich for my thriller The Blogger of Kashgar set in Xinjiang. He is the man who wrote the report that exposed the PLA's role in major internet breaches of American corporations. I began following him. This is an excerpt from Beijtlich's Tao Security Twitter feed. He is an expert on digital security, strategic thought, and military history.


Quick Thought on Internet Governance and Edward Snowden from Richard Beijtlich's Tao Security Blog


I am neither an Internet governance expert nor am I personally consumed by the issue. However, I wanted to point out a possible rhetorical inconsistency involving the Internet governance debate and another hot topic, theft of secret documents by insiders, namely Edward Snowden.


Let me set the stage. First, Internet governance.


Too often the Internet governance debate is reduced to the following. One side is characterized as "multi-stakeholder," consisting of various nongovernmental parties with overlapping agendas, like ICANN, IANA, IETF, etc. This side is often referred to as "the West" (thanks to the US, Canada, Europe, etc. being on this side), and is considered a proponent of an "open" Internet.


The other side aligns with state governments and made its presence felt at the monumental December 2012 ITU World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT) meeting. This side is often referred to as "the East" (thanks to Russia, China, the Middle East, etc.), and is considered a proponent of a "closed" or "controlled" Internet.

Continuing to set the stage, let me now mention theft of secret documents.


One of the critiques of Edward Snowden involves the following. He stole documents on his own accord, claiming he had the right to do so by the "egregious" nature of what he found (or was sent to find). Critics reply that "no one elected Edward Snowden," but that the programs he exposed were authorized by all three branches of the US government. Because that government is elected by the people, one could say the government is speaking on behalf of the people, while Snowden is acting only on his behalf.


Here's the problem.


If you believe that elected governments are the proper forum for expressing the wishes of their people, you should have a difficult time defending a "multi-stakeholder" model that puts groups like ICANN, IANA, IETF, etc. on equal footing (or even above) representatives of elected governments. If you believe in the primacy of the democratic system, you should also believe forums of elected representatives are the proper place to debate and decide Internet governance.


That chain of logic means Western democracies who support representative government should view government-centric bodies like the ITU in more favorable light than they do presently. After all, who created the UN? Where is the organization's headquarters? Who pays its bills?


You probably detect the "escape hatch" for the multi-stakeholder proponents: my use of the term "elected governments." If a regime was not properly elected by its people, it should not have the right to speak for them. This applies to governments such as those in the People's Republic of China. Depending on your view of the legitimacy of the Russian election process, it may or may not apply to Russia. You can extend the argument as necessary to other countries.


The bottom line is this: be careful promoting multi-stakeholder Internet governance at the expense of representation by elected governments, if you also feel that Edward Snowden has no right to contravene the decision of a properly elected American government.


PS: If you want to know more about the World  Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT), try reading Summary Report of the ITU-T World Conference on International Telecommunications by Robert Pepper and Chip Sharp.



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The Hot Chinese Art Market and Millennial Collectors: A Problem for Xi?

Xi's Millennial Problem

Decades into China's economic boom, the country's young artists are suddenly reckoning with a government that's switched gears.


At Sotheby's Hong Kong April sale, 40 percent of the buyers were under the age of 40. In New York, only 15 percent are under 40.


An infrastructure that no previous generation of Chinese artists had access to.


The best expert on the Chinese art scene, Barbara Pollack, breaks it all down.

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A BBC Documentary on Genghis Khan

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Here is the trailer for the BBC documentary. It asks the question, "How did a man born in the depths of Asia build an army and an empire that spanned the world? This was the first era of global history and the peace that Genghis Khan ushered in along the Silk Road was a model. He is remembered as a genius in war, but he promoted trade, and the empire was about business. The safety of travel and the code of laws was a hallmark of empire. Even Marco Polo could not have traveled to the court of the Chinese emperor Khubilai Khan had his grandfather not created the peace.

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Some Thoughts on the Rebuilding of Notre Dame

I am so pleased in regard to the announcement by French President Macron about the rebuilting of  Notre Dame. This reminds me of a similar rebuilding of a sacred shrine in Japan. This is an excerpt from an early novel I wrote after I lived in Japan. It is an illustration of the Buddhist concept of impermanence. 


     The shrine of the Sun Goddess, Amaterasu, the holiest of holy Shinto shrines, is in Ise, near Kyoto. It embodies a mystery which is typically Japanese. It takes time to walk there, through outer gates and the grounds of buildings, through a sacred grove of cypress trees, past a sacred river filled with sacred carp, until finally you reach the inner shrine, an elegant building made of cypress, which is torn down every twenty years and rebuilt accord to the same ancient architectural plan, by the same family which has done nothing but this from time immemorial, at least a thousand years. When you finally reach the inner shrine, your destination, it is empty, the classic example of empty space. The shrine is a mystery, nothing less than a place for the spirit to descend to earth.

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5G: The Battle for the Next Generation Technology

A quick animation defines 5G, for the reader who has yet to figure out why the U. S. and China, the world's two most important economies, are battling it out over who dominates the next generation of technology.

This animation explains 5G. Here is why consumers all over the world will want phones with the new technology. It is fast, and the internet world of things will be connected to it.

According to the BBC piece cited below, "In principle, controlling the technology that sits at the heart of vital communications networks gives Huawei the capacity to conduct espionage or disrupt communications during any future dispute, particularly as more things, from autonomous vehicles to domestic appliances, become connected to the internet."

Any reader of espionage fiction will immediately see the potential for spying, which is why countries are considering banning Huawei. As far as China goes, the battle for fair play on the global stage is illustrated by Huawei in a microcosm.

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New Chinese Sci-Fi Film To Have U. S. Release

Sci-fi is a new genre for Chinese film. "The Wandering Earth", set to open in U. S. theaters on February 8th, may score big with international audiences. This is, in no small part, because the script is written by a Hugo Award-winning Chinese author, the first of Chinese to win the prestigious award.

Judging from the trailer, this new film that will appeal to global audiences because of its fast pacing, stunning special effects and computer graphics, and well-choreographed action.

In space,action must be big and the film delivers the dance of the space ship against the vastness of space, the ballet of weightlessness in fighting scenes against opponents, and the wielding of super-weapons. All three elements are on visual display in the trailer. See for yourself by clicking above.
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Indian Film: Asia's Next Big Cultural Export?

China has been moving into Hollywood for years, partnering with American film studios with a view to export China's culture as soft power. The Hollywood formula has eluded the Chinese. What the U. S., is exporting is lifestyle, standard of living, and classic dramatic archetypes.

The Chinese government wants Chinese film to have the same cachet as Hollywood film. This has not been a success. The image of China has been difficult to export. The question is "Why?"

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Kevin Kwan and the Real Crazy Rich Asians

A sneak peek at the lifestyles of the women of imperial splendor. Lifestyles of the rich and Singaporean, with Kevin along for the ride.

An interview with Kevin will appear in my forthcoming work, "The Lamborghini and the Laogai: The Two Faces of China's Rise."  Read More 
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