NüVoices Podcast #75: Dancing on Bones book launch, a conversation with Katie Stallard

This week, journalist and former foreign correspondent Katie Stallard joins the NüVoices podcast in a special, live stream recording to celebrate the launch of her new book Dancing on Bones: History and Power in China, Russia and North Korea. 

Katie discusses her writing and research process, the significance and perspectives of WWII within these three authoritarian countries, and her analysis of Russia’s current invasion of Ukraine. Weaving together historical context and 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.” Joanna Chiu, NüVoices founder and board member, moderates this conversation. Tune in below to catch the live stream version of this podcast!

About Katie:
Katie Stallard is a senior editor at the New Statesman magazine where I write about China and global affairs, and the author of Dancing on Bones: History and Power in China, Russia, and North Korea – forthcoming with Oxford University Press in May 2022. She is also a non-resident global fellow at the Wilson Center in Washington, DC, and have written for publications including Foreign Policy, The National Interest, The Diplomat, and The Asan Forum, and appeared as an analyst for multiple media outlets.

Previously based in Russia and China as a foreign correspondent for Sky News, she has reported from more than twenty countries to date, covering conflicts, natural disasters, and some of the world’s most repressive regimes.

About Joanna:
Joanna Chiu is a senior reporter covering national and foreign stories for the Toronto Star and the author of China Unbound: A New World Disorder.

“Doggedly reported and fiercely argued,” according to Publishers Weekly, the book details China’s rapid international rise, and the ways Western nations have contributed to a state of global disorder. China Unbound is a finalist for the Writers’ Trust Shaughnessy Cohen Prize for Political Writing. Chiu previously served as bureau chief of the Star Vancouver.

As a globally-recognized authority on China, Chiu is a regular commentator for international broadcast media. She was previously based in Beijing as a foreign correspondent, including for Agence France Presse (AFP) and Deutsche Presse-Agentur (DPA) specializing in coverage of Chinese politics, economy and legal affairs.

About Dancing on Bones:
“History didn’t end. Democracy didn’t triumph. America’s leading role in the world is no longer assured. Instead, authoritarian rule is on the rise, and the global order established after 1945 is under attack. This is the phenomenon Katie Stallard tackles in Dancing on Bones, probing the version of history that leaders in China, Russia, and North Korea teach their citizens.

These three states consistently top the list of threats to the global order and US national security. All are governed by autocratic regimes. All have nuclear weapons and believe that the era of American hegemony is fading. All three share a sense of historical grievance, rooted in the wars of the last century – specifically World War II and the Korean War – that their leaders exploit to shore up popular support at home and fuel increasingly aggressive foreign policy. Decades after the real guns fell silent, these wars rage on in China, Russia, and North Korea, reimagined in popular media, public memorials, and patriotic education campaigns. This is not history as it was, but as the current rulers need it to be. Since coming to power in China, Xi Jinping has almost doubled the length of the war with Japan, Vladimir Putin has brought back bombastic military parades through Red Square, and Kim Jong Un has invested vast sums in rebuilding war museums in his impoverished state, while historians who try to challenge the official line are silenced and jailed. But this didn’t start with the current leaders and it won’t end with them.

Drawing on first-hand, on-the-ground reporting, Dancing on Bones is the story of how the leaders of China, Russia, and North Korea manipulate the past to serve the present and secure the future of authoritarian rule. 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.”

Katie’s recommendations and self-care tips:
China’s Good War, by Rana Mitter – “A timely insight into how memories and ideas about the second world war play a hugely important role in conceptualizations about the past and the present in contemporary China.”—Peter Frankopan, The Spectator

Private Truths Public Lies, Timur Kuran – “Private Truths, Public Lies uses its theoretical argument to illuminate an array of puzzling social phenomena. They include the unexpected fall of communism, the paucity, until recently, of open opposition to affirmative action in the United States, and the durability of the beliefs that have sustained India’s caste system.” —From Harvard University Press

As for self-care, Katie says get outside when you need to take a break from writing or concentrating on a long project. If you’re agonizing over every sentence and hitting a wall, get up and get moving outside.