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

Books@Wilson logoDancing On Bones Book Cover
Books@Wilson logoDancing On Bones Book Cover

Overview

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.

About the Author

Katie Stallard-Blanchette

Katie Stallard

Global Fellow;
Senior Editor of China and Global Affairs, the New Statesman
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The Center for Korean History and Public Policy was established in 2015 with the generous support of the Hyundai Motor Company and the Korea Foundation to provide a coherent, long-term platform for improving historical understanding of Korea and informing the public policy debate on the Korean peninsula in the United States and beyond.  Read more

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The History and Public Policy Program makes public the primary source record of 20th and 21st century international history from repositories around the world, facilitates scholarship based on those records, and uses these materials to provide context for classroom, public, and policy debates on global affairs.  Read more