Detention camps turn to forced labor

Source: NYT (12/16/18)
China’s Detention Camps for Muslims Turn to Forced Labor
阅读简体中文版 | 閱讀繁體中文版
By Chris Buckley and Austin Ramzy

Chinese state television showed Muslims attending classes on how to be law-abiding citizens. Evidence is emerging that detainees are also being forced to take jobs in new factories.

KASHGAR, China — Muslim inmates from internment camps in far western China hunched over sewing machines, in row after row. They were among hundreds of thousands who had been detained and spent month after month renouncing their religious convictions. Now the government was showing them on television as models of repentance, earning good pay — and political salvation — as factory workers.

China’s ruling Communist Party has said in a surge of upbeat propaganda that a sprawling network of camps in the Xinjiang region is providing job training and putting detainees on production lines for their own good, offering an escape from poverty, backwardness and the temptations of radical Islam. Continue reading

Wanda to build theme park in Yan’an

Source: SCMP (12/14/18)
Wanda to build a US$1.74 billion theme park in the cradle of the Chinese Communist revolution to cash in on ‘red tourism’
The investment is the second major push by Wang Jianlin’s company to hew to the government’s preferred agenda
By Zheng Yangpeng

A group of visitors to the Jinggang mountains in Jiangxi province, considered the birthplace of the People’s Liberation Army on July 13, 2018. Many tours make it mandatory for visitors to dress up in Red Army uniforms. Photo: SCMP/ Josephine Ma 

Wanda Group, the property and theme park conglomerate built by former People’s Liberation Army officer Wang Jianlin, will spend 12 billion yuan (US$1.74 billion) to build a theme park in the Communist Party’s revolutionary birthplace Yan’an to cash in on the growing trend of so-called “red tourism”.

The theme park, in the loess plateau of Shaanxi province near Gansu and Shanxi, will feature shopping malls, indoor parks, theatres and hotels built in the style of the 1930s when the prefectural city was used as the headquarters of the Communist Party. The project, measuring 1.26 square kilometres in size, will begin construction in the first quarter of 2019 for completion by the first half of 2021 in time for the ruling party’s centenary celebration, Wanda said. Continue reading

Lu Guang shows China’s dark side

Source: NYT (12/8/18)
A Photographer Goes Missing in China
Lu Guang’s images have shown the world China’s dark side.
阅读简体中文版 | 閱讀繁體中文版
By Robert Y. Pledge (Robert Pledge is an editor, curator and co-founder of Contact Press Images, a photojournalism agency.)

A factory worker in Wuhai City, Inner Mongolia, in 2005. Due to a lack of environmental safety standards they would get ill after one or two years on the job.CreditCreditPhotographs by Lu Guang/Contact Press Images

For five weeks, the world has had no idea where Lu Guang is.

Lu Guang is an internationally acclaimed photographer from China, and he has been my friend for more than 15 years. I’m proud that the agency I co-founded represents and distributes his work. We first met in Beijing in 2002. He was already a well-known and widely awarded documentary photographer in his country, and he would soon win a slew of international awards, including some of the world’s most prestigious. Continue reading

Michigan to close Confucius Institute

Source: Caixin Live (12/11/18)
University of Michigan to Close Confucius Institute
By Tanner Brown

The University of Michigan said Monday it will not renew its agreement with the Confucius Institute when the partnership expires in 2019.

The university cast the reasoning as a desire to expand its own internal China-focused programs.

“This transition is driven by a desire to more broadly include the work of exploring and studying Chinese visual and performing arts within U-M’s regular academic and cultural units,” said James Holloway, vice provost for global engagement and interdisciplinary academic affairs, according to a university announcement.

Confucius Institutes, which are affiliated with China’s Ministry of Education, have provoked concerns about political influence on the universities where they are hosted. Several in the U.S. have closed amid such concerns.

By the end of last year, 525 Confucius Institutes and 1,113 Confucius Classrooms had been established in 138 countries and regions in the 14 years since the first one was opened in Seoul, South Korea.

Make China marxist again (1)

If Marxism is this malleable, it’s meaningless. I wonder if this went to press before the authors had time to mention the irony of freezing Marxist groups at universities and arresting/disappearing avowed Marxist student activists involved in organizing workers at Jasic. The absence of these recent developments deserves at least an addendum on Dissent‘s website.

Anne Henochowicz 何安妮

Conducting research in Xinjiang

See below: “I came to the conclusion that not only was my proposed study unfeasible, but also that it would be ethically indefensible for me to continue pursuing ethnographic research in [Xinjiang] for the foreseeable future.” –Magnus Fiskesjö <>

Source:, Asia Now Blog (12/12/18)
Change of Plans: Conducting Research in Xinjiang
By Elise Anderson

A slogan painted on a wall in a Turpan neighborhood, which reads in Uyghur: “Loving the homeland and Xinjiang; unity—making contributions; working hard; helping one another; opening up; progressing.” This and all other photos by the author, June 2018

In April 2018, the China and Inner Asia Council of the Association for Asian Studies awarded me a Small Grant to travel to Ürümchi (Urumqi, Wulumuqi), Xinjiang, China, to conduct a two-week feasibility study on the topic of “Gender and Music in Uyghur Society.” I planned to draw on my extensive connections in the region to conduct preliminary interviews and participant-observation, as well as to collect written and audio/visual resources, all with the goal of eliciting themes related to how gendered social expectations impact music-making and other forms of cultural production for members of the Uyghur minority. I envisioned this trip as marking the start of my first post-Ph.D. project. Continue reading

Subverting human rights

Insightful below, about how the Chinese regime is already working hard to subvert human rights and to supplant the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Note how similar its basic program of nationalism and incommensurable differences is to those of Trump, Orban, and all the others who dread the sharing of a common humanity with other humans.

I am not sure if Le Monde’s editors set the misleading headline here (which replaces the article’s key observation with an editorial question mark) — but,

In any case, on this day, the 70th anniversary of the UDHR, it is worth remembering the Chinese co-drafter of the Declaration, P C Chang, who as one of six core drafters worked hard to ensure the declaration became truly universal. See the new biography by Hans Ingvar Roth, P. C. Chang and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, U. Pennsylvania press, 2018 (

–Magnus Fiskesjö <>

Source: Le Monde Diplomatique (12/10/18)
Will China dare challenge the UDHR?
by Katrin Kinzelbach

Xi Jinping arriving in Paris for the UN Climate Change Conference. COP

On 10 December the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) turns 70. The seminal document laid the foundations for a global normative order, but for how much longer will this last? The UDHR has some powerful enemies, including the People’s Republic of China.

Of course it has influential supporters, among them Germany’s president. Last week Frank-Walter Steinmeier praised the declaration in a speech at Sichuan University in Chengdu, China. He called it a ‘milestone and [an] auspicious moment from the past’ and said: ‘My urgent advice is that we cannot undermine or abandon what we have agreed together. We live in an era of interconnectedness and mutual dependence. We need this joint basis more urgently than ever, partly because I am afraid that we would not manage to achieve something like this again today.’ Continue reading

Make China marxist again

Source: Dissent (Fall 2018)
Make China Marxist Again
Under Xi Jinping, the Chinese Communist Party has reembraced Marx. But Xi’s state Marxism is a top-down attempt to unify the population behind a nationalist ideology, not to inspire class struggle.
By Timothy Cheek and David Ownby

Scene from the talk show Marx Got It Right, which broadcasts Friday nights on China Central Television (CCTV)

Marxism-Leninism has no beauty, nor is there anything mysterious about it. It is only extremely useful.-—Mao Zedong, Yan’an, 1942

On the bicentennial of Marx’s birth last May, President Xi Jinping called on members of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to return to the study of the socialist sage. “We commemorate Marx in order to pay tribute to the greatest thinker in the history of mankind,” Xi said, “and also to declare our firm belief in the scientific truth of Marxism.” Party members are required to study selections of Marx’s works, particularly The Communist Manifesto. The public gets its dose as well, among other things via a television talk show, Marx Got It Right (Makesi shi duide). The renewed embrace of Marxism has also been a key element in the rollout of “Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era,” which was added to China’s constitution following last year’s 19th Communist Party Congress. 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

Chinese influence and American interest

Source: Hoover Institution (11/29/18)
Chinese Influence & American Interests: Promoting Constructive Vigilance
Edited by Larry Diamond

[This is a summary of a long report that can be found here]

For three and a half decades following the end of the Maoist era, China adhered to Deng Xiaoping’s policies of “reform and opening to the outside world” and “peaceful development.” After Deng retired as paramount leader, these principles continued to guide China’s international behavior in the leadership eras of Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao. Admonishing Chinese to “keep your heads down and bide your time,” these Party leaders sought to emphasize that China’s rapid economic development and its accession to “great power” status need not be threatening to either the existing global order or the interests of its Asian neighbors. However, since Party general secretary Xi Jinping came to power in 2012, the situation has changed. Under his leadership, China has significantly expanded the more assertive set of policies initiated by his predecessor Hu Jintao. These policies not only seek to redefine China’s place in the world as a global player, but they also have put forward the notion of a “China option” that is claimed to be a more efficient developmental model than liberal democracy. Continue reading

Where is photographer Lu Guang

Source: SCMP (11/29/18)
Where is China’s missing photographer Lu Guang? Hong Kong press club calls for answers
Foreign Correspondents’ Club is ‘deeply concerned’ over award-winning documentary photographer’s disappearance. Last heard from on November 3 in troubled Xinjiang region.
By Nectar Gan

Hong Kong’s Foreign Correspondents’ Club has added its voice to the clamour calling for answers after Chinese documentary photographer Lu Guang went missing while on a business trip to Xinjiang, on November 3. Photo: handout

Hong Kong’s Foreign Correspondents’ Club has called on Chinese authorities to confirm the whereabouts of missing award-winning Chinese photojournalist Lu Guang, saying it is “deeply concerned” over his disappearance from China’s western Xinjiang region.

Lu, internationally acclaimed for his gripping photos of the dire consequences of environmental pollution, drug addiction and Aids in China, has been missing for weeks after visiting the troubled region to meet other photographers. Continue reading

latest on Gui Minhai

My two latest publications on the case of the kidnapped Hong Kong bookseller Gui Minhai:

“Calling the deer a horse: The CCP’s ham-fisted drive to control discourse in Sweden.” Interview with Jichang Lulu, Sinopsis: China in Context and Perspective [Prague, The Czech Republic], 28 november 2018.

Also, in Swedish, “We have to get better at seeing thru the Chinese propaganda machine”):

“Vi måste bli bättre på att genomskåda den kinesiska propagandamaskinen.” Journalisten, 27 november 2018.

Both publications, the interview and the article, discuss the latest developments in the case of Gui Minhai, as well as the Chinese embassy in Sweden campaign to obscure the issue of our kidnapped citizen by way of disinformation, smearing, etc., and how Chinese state propaganda works — so that we can successfully resist it.

Comments always welcome.

Magnus Fiskesjö <>

Statement by Concerned Scholars on mass detentions

Fwd by Magnus Fiskesjö <>


Statement by Concerned Scholars on China’s Mass Detention of Turkic Minorities

Scholars from around the world have signed on to a statement forcefully condemning the mass internment of Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslim minorities in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) of China.


Statement by Concerned Scholars on China’s Mass Detention of Turkic Minorities
November 26, 2018

As concerned scholars who study China, the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR), Central Asia, and other related regions of the world, we issue this statement to highlight our concerns and to call the international community to action in relation to the mass human rights abuses and deliberate attacks on indigenous cultures presently taking place in China’s XUAR.  The signatories to this statement are united in viewing the present situation in this region of China as one of significant international concern. This situation must be addressed to prevent setting negative future precedents regarding the acceptability of any state’s complete repression of a segment of its population, especially on the basis of ethnicity or religion. Continue reading

Great Transformation exhibit

There’s been a lot of media attention in China to the recently-opened Great Transformation (伟大的变革) exhibit at the National Museum of China and to Xi Jinping’s visit to it earlier this month. See, for example, this vacuous piece from the China Daily: The SCMP’s take is more interesting.–Kirk

Source: SCMP (11/16/18)
What does ‘opening up’ exhibition giving credit to SOEs and Xi Jinping say to China’s private firms?
By Amanda Lee
Deng Xiaoping, who began reforms that transformed the economy, marginalised in displays marking their 40th anniversary. Beijing continues to send mixed messages about support for ailing private sector, which contributed two-thirds of China’s growth last year

State-owned enterprises are much more prominent than the private sector and President Xi Jinping far more visible than Deng Xiaoping in a special exhibition marking 40 years since China’s reform and opening up, stressing the Communist Party’s role in the economy even as Xi courts private firms to help stabilise growth during the trade war with the United States.

The exhibition, at the National Museum of China in Beijing, devotes half of a display about Chinese leaders to the achievements of Xi, who took office in 2012 yet receives more emphasis than former paramount leader Deng – under whom China began its economic transformation in 1978 – and his successors. Continue reading

Taiwan’s political landscape change overnight

Source: Sup China (11/24/18)
Taiwan’s Political Landscape Changes Overnight
Taiwan’s ‘midterms’ give the ruling DPP a slap in the face and disappoint LGBT activists
By Chris Taylor

Tsai Ing-wen

On Saturday, the people of Taiwan headed to the polls to cast ballots for nearly 11,000 officials, in local elections — think mid-terms — and essentially repainted the map of Taiwan blue from green, or from ruling party Democratic Progressive Party (民進黨 mínjìndǎng) broadly pro-independence to the more China-friendly Nationalist, or Kuomindang (國民黨 guómíndǎng).

Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文 Cài Yīngwén) resigned as DPP party chairperson at around 9:15 p.m. Taiwan time. Rumors were circulating that her cabinet would follow suit, after a series of decisive electoral defeats island-wide. Continue reading