Xi’s China: The Illusion of Change

Ian Johnson

SeongJoon Cho/Bloomberg/Getty Images

Chinese president Xi Jinping has been credited with a vigorous foreign policy, economic reforms, and a crackdown on corruption. But his primary goal is to recreate the early years of Communist rule in the 1950s when, according to official mythology, the party was clean, officials upright, and the populace content. Returning to this imagined past means strengthening, not weakening party control.

The Man Who Shaped Tomorrow

Martin Filler

The Metropolitan Museum of Art/Art Resource, NY

Though he is little known to the American public today, the silversmith and industrial designer Peter Muller-Munk was among the most innovative twentieth-century American designers. Now, an illuminating new exhibition traces his evolution from craftsman of precious objects to stylist of household appliances like refrigerators and vacuum cleaners, was part of a broader midcentury shift from high-end exclusivity to mass-market practicality.

Yale: The Power of Speech

David Cole

Shannon Stapleton/Reuters/Corbis

Most of what has transpired at Yale and other colleges reflects the best traditions of the First Amendment: students of color and others have been organizing politically and speaking out in packed rallies. They are using the First Amendment to stand up, communicate their experiences, and demand equal justice. That’s exactly how the First Amendment should work.

Burma: How Much Change?

Christian Caryl

Lynn Bo Bo/epa/Corbis

“Change” is a word that crops up in many conversations in Burma these days. After decades of struggle Aung San Suu Kyi has achieved her greatest triumph—her NLD appears to have won an overwhelming 80 percent of parliamentary seats—one can only hope that she will wield her mandate to the best effect, and that she can successfully overcome the obstacles that stand in the way of the transformation her voters want.

From Mumbai to Paris

Ahmed Rashid

Christophe Licoppe/Corbis

Much of the ISIS playbook in Paris—the meticulous planning, the selection of soft targets, the multiple simultaneous attacks by different teams used to create a sense of chaos in the streets, the mayhem created—was inspired by the extremist group LET’s attack in Mumbai in 2008. LET’s most important innovation in jihadi warfare is the use of mass attacks on civilian targets.

Paris: The War ISIS Wants

Scott Atran and Nafees Hamid

AP Photo

As our own interviews with ISIS recruits in Europe and captured ISIS fighters in Iraq have shown, simply treating the Islamic State as a form of “terrorism” or “violent extremism” masks the menace. Dismissing the group as “nihilistic” reflects a dangerous avoidance of trying to comprehend, and deal with, its profoundly alluring mission to change and save the world.

My Friend Robert Rauschenberg

Robert Hughes

Art © Robert Rauschenberg Foundation/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY

Rauschenberg’s references to other media aren’t just tricks. They’re an integral part of the way he connects the language of his images to that of a wider world. Around 1962, Rauschenberg began to use not things but the images of things. By reusing silk-screened images from one painting to the next, it let him use repetition and counterpoint across a series of works in a way that wasn’t possible, or not easily possible, if he had been using things themselves. In doing this, he was adapting to the great central fact of American communication, its takeover by the imagery of television.

The New Beyond

Priyamvada Natarajan


Several exciting discoveries in the cosmos, including close-up photos of Pluto by the New Horizons space probe and new evidence for water flows on Mars, are helping us reframe many age-old questions. Is there life elsewhere? Are we alone? These questions have finally leaped from popular speculation to the realm of scientific scrutiny.

How Could You Like That Book?

Tim Parks

Gianni Dagli Orti/Art Resource

I rarely spend much time wondering why others do not enjoy the books I like. On the other hand I do spend endless hours mulling over the mystery of what others like. Again and again the question arises: How can they? Could this be the function, then, or at least one important function of fiction: to make us aware of our differences? To have our contrasting positions emerge in response to these highly complex cultural artifacts?

Egypt: Why Putin Needs the FBI

Amy Knight

Alexey Druginyn/Ria Novosti/Kremlin Pool/epa/Corbis

Putin has justified Russia’s military involvement in Syria by saying that it is better to fight terrorists abroad rather than in Russia. But the apparent bombing of Flight 9268 may cause Russians to believe that the air campaign in Syria has actually turned them into new targets of extremist groups in the Middle East.