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.1Mtr Militia Women Training in How to Throw Hand Grenades Photo by Sha Fei/Courtesy of FotoFest tally ill. But it remains the case that no Chinese can challenge the government and win. Witness the 2004 case of a Chinese journalist who was imprisoned for 10 years for sharing with Western media outlets the details of a government memorandum on how the 15th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square crisis should be downplayed. And before western media outlets begin beating their chests about their relative enlightenment, note that Yahoo! helped the Chinese government track the journalist down. So while there are certainly some images of marginalized peoples, from Catholics to Tibetans, on display, none of the Chinese I spoke to at FotoFest was willing to comment on the recent crackdown in Tibet. This is not to imply the slightest criticism of any Chinese, artist or otherwise, but simply to note that these are the conditions under which Chinese artists work. It is also worth noting that Baldwin and Watriss did not seek the cooperation of the Chinese government in assembling this exhibition; they relied instead on a network of contacts they developed on various trips to China. The festival is augmented with more openly critical shows, such as the Houston Center for Photography’s concurrent Mined in China, which deals with the environmental and human costs of coal mining there, where approximately 6,000 miners a year die on the job. But such “special collaboration” exhibits are ancillary to FotoFest, and are not FotoFestproduced. These caveats aside, FotoFest 2008, Photography from China, 1934-2008, is a stupendous encyclopedia of Chinese cul ture and historynothing less than the biggest and most comprehensive display of Chinese photography ever assembled anywhere, according to Baldwin. The festival tells the stories of the Japanese invasion of the 1930s, with its stoking of Chinese patriotism, and the triumph of the Communists under Mao Zedong, and finally of China’s post-Mao “opening.” Collectively, FotoFest tells of China’s rush through history as it evolved in the span of 60 or so years from a cruelly poor, warlord-ruled peasant society to today’s post-bicycle world of material girls and boys. That’s a world in which China has emerged as an imposing regional power at the very least, with its eyes on both Taiwan and outer space. It’s also a world in which China has become a leading guarantor of American debt and a prominent purchaser of American dollars. Besides the crash course in Chinese history, there’s also a good deal of fascinating nuance. For me, the highlights are Ethnography, Photojournalism and Propaganda, 1934-1939 \(on display downtown in Allen Centers One and Independent Documentary Photography 1985-2008 \(in the Winter Street Studios galleries just northwest of The former’s photos are hung in the middle of busy business tower lobbies. 22 THE TEXAS OBSERVER APRIL 4, 2008