Trevor Corson

Trevor Corson, a former managing editor of Transition, is the author of The Secret Life of Lobsters.

Recent Articles

Organ Rejection

I n the film John Q., Denzel Washington plays a working-class dad who holds a hospital emergency room at gunpoint to get a heart transplant for his nine-year-old son. The film's critique of health care in the United States is hard to miss: The poor lack the funds and often the insurance coverage needed for organ transplants. But there's also the unspoken, murkier theme of race, which raises some unsettling questions about our ability to prolong life. The surgeons, hospital officials, and happy heart recipients depicted in John Q. are all white; the hero and his family, denied the benefits of transplantation, are black. In real life, race and organ transplantation are seldom mentioned in the same breath, but actually a complex international history links the two. For starters, heart transplantation was born in the land of apartheid. In 1967, the surgeon Christiaan Barnard performed the world's first heart transplant in South Africa. The following year, he transplanted the heart of a...

China: The Engaging Question

Works Discussed in this Essay: The Paradox of China's Post-Mao Reforms , edited by Merle Goldman and Roderick MacFarquhar. Harvard University Press, 424 pages, $49.50. After the Propaganda State: Media, Politics and "Thought Work" in Reformed China , by Daniel C. Lynch. Stanford University Press, 424 pages, $49.50. About Face: A History of America's Curious Relationship with China, from Nixon to Clinton , by James Mann. Alfred A. Knopf, 433 pages, $30.00. A Great Wall: Six Presidents and China, an Investigative History , by Patrick Tyler. Perseus Books Group, 476 pages, $27.50. Alternate Civilities: Democracy and Culture in China and Taiwan , by Robert P. Weller. Westview Press, 192 pages, $60.00. Discovering Chinese Nationalism in China: Modernization, Identity, and International Relations , by Yongnian Zheng. Cambridge University Press, 272 pages, $64.95. My friend Liu, a film instructor in his 40s at the Communist Party's elite People's University, appeared one crisp Beijing...

Chinese Water Torture

M y fourth-grade research project on dams lacked data from the field until I got a lucky break: An uncle had connections at the Conowingo Dam. (He was in the concrete business; Conowingo is 435,000 cubic yards of concrete.) We drove down U.S. 1 to the Susquehanna River in Maryland and took an official tour. Deep in the dam's innards, I stood over an enormous sluiceway, spellbound by the whirling shaft of a turbine as big as a house. Every 60 seconds--the guide shouted--38 million gallons of water pass through the dam, generating electricity for a million and a half residential customers. The Conowingo opened in 1928, a year before the Great Depression began. Soon afterward, President Roosevelt was flinging public-works projects at the landscape like thunderclouds of cash; flushed with successes like the Conowingo, dam boosters crusaded to build bigger and bigger, blocking rivers nationwide. The United States dispatched hydrological engineers to China, too. Their mission: to bestow...

Bush Got One Right

T he dramas in April over the downed U.S. reconnaissance plane and the sale of arms to Taiwan have revealed a burgeoning American hawkishness toward China. Centrists have joined conservatives in blaming America for being soft on the Communists and weak in supporting democratic Taiwan. But this growing fashion for fulmination is misguided, for two reasons: First, Beijing isn't being belligerent out of the blue; and second, selling Taiwan our highest-tech weapons is more likely to hurt Taiwan's democracy than to help it. According to the expanding chorus of China hard-liners in Washington, the Bush administration performed a craven cave-in to bullying by an increasingly dangerous China when the United States expressed regret over the spy plane collision. Furthermore, according to these hard-liners, the administration executed an abject betrayal of democracy when it opted not to sell Aegis-class destroyers to Taiwan. In fact, however, both moves were smart. They were also defensible on...