Many see China’s economic rise and growing middle class as precursors to democratization, as was the case for its neighbors in South Korea and Taiwan. This transition has not yet materialized, and some would argue that it won’t – and shouldn’t.
Is Chinese democracy inevitable? Professor Daniel Bell believes it is not, and supports many aspects of the Chinese political system, in which top leaders are selected based on merit and electoral democracy functions at the local level. While a transition to full democracy may not be necessary, many problems remain, including corruption, lack of transparency and repression of freedoms of speech and the press. Can these issues be addressed within China’s current political structure? How can reforms be instituted in certain areas without the system collapsing entirely? And what can other nations learn from the strengths of Chinese political meritocracy?
This event will also be available via live stream.
Widely noted folklorist and science historian Adrienne Mayor brings to life the story of the world’s first experimental toxicologist. Her book The Poison King: The Life and Legend of Mithradates, Rome’s Deadliest Enemy examines the brilliant rebel leader who challenged Roman imperialism in the first century B.C. The teenage Mithradates inherited a wealthy Black Sea kingdom after his mother poisoned his father. He fled into exile but returned in triumph to become a ruler of intelligence and ambition determined to build an empire to rival Rome. His uncanny ability to elude capture and surge back after devastating losses unnerved the Romans, while his mastery of poisons allowed him to foil assassination attempts and eliminate rivals. Mayor, a research scholar in classics and the history and philosophy of science at Stanford University, will explore how poison and power can operate in tandem to change the course of history.
Stalin was the unchallenged dictator of the Soviet Union for so long that most historians have dismissed the officials surrounding him as mere yes-men and political window dressing. On Stalin’s Team overturns this view, revealing that behind Stalin was a group of loyal men who formed a remarkably effective team with him from the late 1920s until his death in 1953. Drawing on extensive original research, Sheila Fitzpatrick provides the first in-depth account of this inner circle and their families, vividly describing how these dedicated comrades-in-arms not only worked closely with Stalin, whom they both feared and admired, but also constituted his social circle.