Changpian no. 22

长篇 // Changpian // Longform

Welcome to the 22nd edition of Changpian, a selection of feature and opinion writing in Chinese. With other resources devoted to the many interesting sound bites from Chinese social media, this newsletter focuses instead on some of the wealth of longer writing that is produced in Chinese, both in traditional news media and on platforms like WeChat.

Changpian includes any nonfiction writing, from stories and investigations to interviews and blog posts, that I found worth my time — and that you might like as well. It aims to be relevant to an understanding of Chinese society today, covering topics in and outside the news cycle.

The selection is put together by me, Tabitha Speelman, a Dutch researcher currently based in Shanghai. Feedback is very welcome ( or @tabithaspeelman). Back issues can be found here. Continue reading

Dawn of the little red phone

Source: China Media Project (2/13/19)
By David Bandurski

The Dawn of the Little Red Phone

On January 25, all seven members of China’s elite Politburo Standing Committee, including President Xi Jinping, gathered at the headquarters of the flagship People’s Daily newspaper to underline the importance of “convergence media” and digital media development as a means of strengthening the Party’s dominance of ideas and information.

Xi Jinping told those present that the Party “must utilise the fruits of the information revolution to promote deep development of convergence media.” The objective was to “build up mainstream public opinion” — meaning, of course, Party-led public opinion — and to “consolidate the shared ideological foundation underpinning the concerted efforts of the entire Party and all the Chinese people.”

As we wrote at the time, Xi’s stilted and jargon-filled speech was essentially about the Party finding new ways to reengineer its dominance over the realm of ideas in the face of dramatic changes to the media environment brought on by the digital revolution. But what exactly does this mean in practice? How can, and how will, the Party leverage digital technology to re-program propaganda in the 21st century? Continue reading

Chinese Parents video game

Source: NYT (2/12/19)
In China, This Video Game Lets You Be a Tiger Mom or a Driven Dad
Mete out love and discipline. Set ambitious goals. Endure a teenager’s first dates. Fans say the game Chinese Parents is a surprisingly poignant exercise in role reversal.
By Carolyn Zhang and Raymond Zhong

As in real life, maintaining appearances is important in the game Chinese Parents. If your child misbehaves in front of your relatives, you may get upset about “losing face.”CreditCreditMoyuwan Games

SHANGHAI — You want your children to do well in school. You want them to have nice friends and interesting hobbies and to not go out with creeps. You may even want them to be happy.

But in this computer game, you can always start over with a new digital child if things don’t work out as planned.

A new game in China puts players in control of those most fearsome of characters: Mom and Dad. The mission? Raise a son or daughter from cradle to college.

In a nation of famously demanding, scolding and, yes, sometimes loving mothers and fathers, the game, Chinese Parents, is a hit. Since its release in September, it has found a huge audience on Steam, an online marketplace run by the American game maker Valve Corporation. There are no official figures for how many people have downloaded the game, but it has provoked heated discussion online, while earning tens of thousands of reviews. Continue reading

Spring festival gala a “huge success”

Source: Sup China (2/6/19)
CCTV Claims This Year’s Spring Festival Gala Was A Huge Success — I Call It BS

Chinese state broadcaster CCTV released a report on the morning of February 6 summarizing how the 2019 Spring Festival Gala performed in terms of viewership and audience response.

The report gives the official narrative of this year’s rendition of the show, which began in 1983 and has often been the world’s biggest television event by audience numbers. To absolutely no one’s surprise, but in apparent contradiction to much of the snark about it on Chinese social media, the 2019 gala was allegedly “record-breaking” and has received overwhelmingly positive feedback.

According to the report (in Chinese), the show attracted a staggering 1.17 billion viewers across the globe. That’s up around 4 percent compared with the 2016 gala, which had 1.13 billion viewers. Meanwhile, CCTV noted that around 96.98 percent of all the online comments about the show are positive, which made this year’s gala one of the most well received editions in recent years. Continue reading

Animation in China review

Sorry, there was a problem with the previous posting of this announcement. This one is correct. MCLC and MCLC Resource Center are pleased to announce publication of Li Guo’s review of Animation in China: History, Aesthetics, Media (Routledge 2016), by Sean Macdonald. The review appears below and at its online home: My thanks to Jason McGrath, MCLC media studies book review editor, for ushering the review to publication.

Kirk A. Denton, editor

Animation in China:
History, Aesthetics, Media

By Sean Macdonald

Reviewed by Li Guo
MCLC Resource Center Publication (Copyright February, 2019)

Sean Macdonald. Animation in China: History, Aesthetics, Media. London: Routledge, 2016. 252pp. ISBN: 9781138938809 (Hardback $155), ISBN: 9781138094789 (Paperback $49.95), ISBN: 9781315675435 (eBook $24.98)

In the introduction to his ground-breaking monograph Animation in China: History, Aesthetics, Media, Sean Macdonald describes his approach as an examination of “a quasi-official corpus produced during a key period of PRC film and cultural history, from the 1950s to the 1980s” and conducting “a reading of the historically mainstream animation produced at the Shanghai Animation Film Studio (or SAFS)” (2). Prior to Macdonald’s book, Rolf Giesen’s study Chinese Animation, A History and Filmography, 1922-2012 had provided a chronological overview of China’s animation industry and works.[1] Macdonald deepens our understanding of the national narrative of animation in the People’s Republic of China by shifting focus to the specific processes through which China’s state interventions in animation production can be problematized and historicized. To explicate the contexts for the “official, canonical, national history of China’s animation,” Macdonald begins with the story of SAFS, tracing its connections back to film production in the Sino-Japanese War period. The book re-contextualizes the national history of animation within transnational animation history while simultaneously reflecting on animation itself as “a nation-building industry” (2). Continue reading

Reality show slammed for gender stereotypes

Source: Sixth Tone (1/30/19)
Chinese Reality Show Slammed for Reinforcing Gender Stereotypes
“My Little One” preaches the importance of marriage and traditional gender roles to the single female celebrities starring in the program.
By Li You

A screenshot from the reality TV program “My Little One” shows celebrity actress Yuan Shanshan with two dogs.

A reality television show has become the target of feminist fury after portraying several Chinese celebrities as spinsters and urging them to get married.

Though “My Little One” was intended to give viewers a peek into the personal lives of celebrities, it has largely devolved into preaching to its female stars about outmoded gender roles. Since the premiere of the second season on Jan. 5 on state-owned Hunan Satellite TV, the show casts a spotlight on TV personality Wu Xin, swimmer Fu Yuanhui, trampoline gymnast He Wenna, and actress Yuan Shanshan for remaining single. Continue reading

Technicity, Mediality, and the Stakes of Experience–cfp

Call for Papers: “Technically Yours”: Technicity, Mediality, and the Stakes of Experience

An international conference organized by the Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures of National Taiwan University, Taipei, Taiwan, to be held October 18-20, 2019

Abstracts submission deadline: February 22, 2019
Conference website: <>

Keynote Speaker:

Martin E. Jay (Emeritus Professor, Department of History, University of California, Berkeley, USA)

Plenary Speakers:

Eyal Amiran (Professor, Department of Comparative Literature + Department of Film and Media Studies, University of California, Irvine, USA)

Bernard Dionysius Geoghegan (Senior Lecturer, Department of Digital Humanities, King’s College London, UK)

Kate Marshall (Associate Professor, Department of English, University of Notre Dame, USA)

I. In a co-authored monograph, media theorist Alexander Galloway retells the story of how Hermes kills the hundred-eyed, all-vigilant Argus: the arch-messenger just keeps talking and talking on end, about the invention of the reed pipe, and slowly the giant’s eyes close out of fatigue. “Argus,” as Galloway has it, “was bored to death by the most boring thing of all, tales about technology.”[1] Continue reading

In all things, the chairman rules

Source: China Media Project (1/19/19)
By Qian Gang

In All Things, the Chairman Rules

In recent days, the above image of a roadside propaganda billboard in China proclaiming that “all” work, actions and major business must follow Chinese President Xi Jinping has made the rounds on the internet.

The three lines in the slogan on the billboard, each of which begins with “all,” in fact form what has been called “The Three Alls” (三个一切). The full phrase could be translated as follows:

All major matters are decided by Chairman Xi Jinping; all work must be responsible to Chairman Xi Jinping; all actions must heed the direction of Chairman Xi Jinping.


Continue reading

A censor for every 1000 videos

Source: China Media Project (1/13/19)

A censor for every 1,000 videos please

One prominent aspect of media control in the Xi Jinping era has been its growing brazenness. No longer is censorship quite so shrouded in secrecy as it once was. Rather, it is announced openly as a matter of social and political necessity, and as the legal obligation of every company seeking to profit from the potentially lucrative digital space.

A pair of binding documents released this past week by the China Netcasting Services Association (中国网络视听节目服务协会) are a great case in point. They openly set out the “content review” standards expected of companies providing online video services, including the removal of content that “attacks on our country’s political or legal systems”, and “content that damages the national image.” One of the documents even specifies that companies expand their internal censorship teams as business grows and changes, and that they keep at least one “content review” employee on staff for every 1,000 new videos posted to their platform each day. Continue reading

China enjoys increased book sales

Source: China Daily (1/11/19)
China enjoys more bookstores, increasing sales
By Xinhua | Updated: 2019-01-11 08:18

[Photo provided to]

China had 225,000 bookstores and sales outlets for books at the end of 2018, a 4.3-percent increase from the previous year, according to an annual report on the country’s bookstore industry released Tuesday.

Issued by China’s Books and Periodicals Distribution Association, the report showed that the total sales revenue of publications in China reached 370.4 billion yuan (about $54.1 billion) last year, up 5.9 percent year on year, while 158 billion yuan was from retail, which enjoyed an 11.3-percent growth.

Private bookstores played a significant part in the development, as 85 of the over 160 popular Sisyphe Bookstore chain as of October last year were opened in 2018 alone, and Yanjiyou, another popular brand, opened another 53 bookstores from January to November last year, according to an article on Wednesday’s People’s Daily. Continue reading

WeChat exposes

Source: China Media Project (1/5/19)

WeChat Exposes

This round-up of Chinese Media stories, which covers the holiday period, offers us an encouraging glimpse of how social media platforms, including the super-platform WeChat, can potentially provide an avenue for writers and journalists to expose malfeasance — something we have seen far less in China under Xi Jinping than we did prior to 2012.

First, we have an expose by “Ding Xiang Yisheng” (丁香医生) that alleges that Quanjian, a company marketing various drug regimens, including cancer treatments, has cheated unsuspecting customers, mostly the poor. This follows another big WeChat story earlier in 2018 about tainted vaccines making it onto the Chinese market. Both of these stories, says one media expert, are cases of “knight-errant journalists” (新闻游侠) who were formerly with traditional media, such as newspapers, finding a way to pursue stories in the tougher media environment of the “new era.”

We’re not holding our breath — after all, our other stories here are mostly about tighter controls. But the “Ding Xiang Yisheng” is important to note. Continue reading

Top reality show of 2018: Dunk of China

Source: The World of Chinese (12/27/18)
Top Reality Show of 2018: Dunk of China
The smash-hit variety show combined basketball with pop culture to lure millions into watching
By Eduardo Baptista (苏昂)

As 2019 approaches, so does the usual array of lists and round-ups for the dwindling year. In the spirit of variety, The World of Chinese has endeavored to chronicle the countdowns that others don’t. Try elsewhere (or, indeed, everywhere) for your everyday 2018 listicles—here you will find the stories, characters and pratfalls that the rest of the English-language media has largely overlooked.

“A basketball variety show?” recalls Zhu Mingzhen, a 22-year old finalist in the first season of Dunk of China, a web-based reality series which aired on between August 25 and November 1. “It sounded like a scam to me.”

The pairing of judges [and singers] Jay Chou and Li Yifeng, though, along with CBA star Guo Ai Lun and revered Taiwanese-American NBA player Jeremy Lin would earn Dunk of China an 8.4 rating on Douban for its first season. Zhu reckons Chou and Li’s participation “converted a lot of Chinese girls into basketball fans.” Continue reading

Nonfiction stories of 2018

Source: Sup China (12/25/18)
Chinese Corner: Best Of 2018 — The Nonfiction Stories That Captured China’s Reading Public

This year, SupChina launched a new weekly column called “Chinese Corner,” where we introduce and review interesting nonfiction writing from the Chinese internet. A little more than six months into its existence, we’ve built a solid collection of impressive investigative pieces, thought-provoking commentaries, and emotion-filled personal essays that chronicle some of the biggest events in 2018 and illuminate how the public reacted to them.

We’ve selected our favorite articles from the past six months and broken them down into categories. Just scrolling through the topics provides a good sense of what Chinese people read and discussed in 2018 (sometimes quite different from what overseas media focus on — though this generally applies more to educated, middle-class Chinese). If you read Chinese yourself, we think these are among the most interesting essays from the past year to help you understand what is on the Chinese public’s mind heading into 2019.

Happy reading!

Zhang Haichao

Best profile writing:

Continue reading

Inside China global propaganda campaign

Source: The Guardian (12/7/18)
Inside China’s audacious global propaganda campaign
Beijing is buying up media outlets and training scores of foreign journalists to ‘tell China’s story well’ – as part of a worldwide propaganda campaign of astonishing scope and ambition.
By Louisa Lim and Julia Bergin

China Central Television’s headquarters (right) in Beijing.

China Central Television’s headquarters (right) in Beijing. Photograph: Ed Jones/AFP/Getty Images

As they sifted through resumes, the team recruiting for the new London hub of China’s state-run broadcaster had an enviable problem: far, far too many candidates. Almost 6,000 people were applying for just 90 jobs “reporting the news from a Chinese perspective”. Even the simple task of reading through the heap of applications would take almost two months.

For western journalists, demoralised by endless budget cuts, China Global Television Network presents an enticing prospect, offering competitive salaries to work in state-of-the-art purpose-built studios in Chiswick, west London. CGTN – as the international arm of China Central Television (CCTV) was rebranded in 2016 – is the most high-profile component of China’s rapid media expansion across the world, whose goal, in the words of President Xi Jinping, is to “tell China’s story well”. In practice, telling China’s story well looks a lot like serving the ideological aims of the state. Continue reading

Gaokao public outcry (1)

Unmentioned by this article, but essential to understanding it, is the fact that since 1985 the gaokao has not been a uniform national exam.  Zhejiang’s license to customize the exam for Zhejiang students dates from 2003. Wikipedia says that 16 provinces and municipalities customize their exams.

This is doubtless a complex matter which I am not qualified to judge, but it seems to me that varying the questions (as well as the grading protocols) from province to province compromises a national exam’s ability to ration access to the best universities based on merit.

A. E. Clark <>