Li Rui dies at 101

Source: NYT (2/15/19)
Li Rui, a Mao Confidant Who Turned Party Critic, Dies at 101
By Ian Johnson

Li Rui, who died on Saturday at 101, “saw himself as a conscience of the revolution and the party,” said Roderick MacFarquhar, the late Harvard scholar of Chinese history. “But he had grave doubts about the system he spent his life serving.” Creditvia Nanyang Li

BEIJING — Li Rui, who over nearly four decades went from being one of Mao Zedong’s personal secretaries in the 1950s to a Communist Party critic, revisionist historian and standard-bearer for liberal values in China, died in Beijing on Saturday. He was 101.

The cause of death was organ failure, brought on by a lung inflammation and cancer of the digestive tract, according to his daughter, Li Nanyang, who spoke with doctors at the Beijing hospital where Mr. Li had been receiving treatment. 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

New report on mass arrests in Xinjiang

New report from the Uyghur Human Rights Project on the mass arrests of academics, cultural figures, artists, and others in Xinjiang.

The summary says: the Persecution of the Intellectuals in the Uyghur Region Continues:

• 338 Uyghur intellectuals interned, imprisoned or forcibly disappeared since April 2017
• Persecution of teachers, scholars and artists constitutes an attempt to erase Uyghur culture
• Students, lecturers, poets, musicians and media professionals known to be taken away
• 21 staff of Xinjiang University in internment camps
• International scholarly exchange with China cannot be justified until they are released. Continue reading

Pig Cage squeals discontent with the government

Source: SCMP (1/30/19)
Chinese grindcore band with pig for a lead singer, Pig Cage squeals discontent with the government
Pig Cage, a grindcore band from Inner Mongolia, uses pig sounds instead of human vocals. The band’s creator, Maihem, says he didn’t like the sound of his own voice, so he decided to use a porcine substitute
By Lauren James

Pig Cage is a Chinese grindcore band with a difference: its lead singer is a pig. Photo: AFP

Squeals and grunts are part of every metal band’s musical lexicon, and now one act from China is hogging the limelight with a novel approach. Meaty blast beats, muddy breakdowns and oinking vocals are elements that are not exactly unusual to grindcore – an extreme branch of the metal genre – but there’s a twist in the tail: this particular band is fronted by a pig. The name? Pig Cage.

The man behind Pig Cage is a graphic designer and musician, known only as Maihem (which he pronounces “ma-heem”), who expresses his disgruntlement with the Chinese government by sampling a splenetic swine on his album “Screaming Pig in China”. Pig Cage’s “lyrics” may be indistinguishable, but the sentiment is clear: Maihem has an abattoir’s worth of axes to grind.

“I hate the government but I love my country,” he says, over the phone. “I use metaphors in my music to express my ideas about wanting to change the government through presenting two opposite sides: sometimes I am the butcher, but sometimes I am also the victim.”

He continues: “There is lots of unfairness and adversity in China … Most of time I feel disappointed about myself and life; I would rather be a pig.”

Continue reading

Can China turn nowhere into the center of the world economy

Source: NYT (1/30/19)
Can China Turn the Middle of Nowhere Into the Center of the World Economy?
In the barely inhabited steppes of Central Asia, it is establishing the next foothold in its trillion-dollar campaign to transform global infrastructure.
By BEN MAUK, Photographs and Video by ANDREA FRAZZETTA

Nunur, a farmer and taxi driver whose family fled from China’s Xinjiang region into Kazakhstan when he was a child. Andrea Frazzetta/Institute, for The New York Times

The Eurasian Pole of Inaccessibility is a striking name for an absence. It is the point farthest from a sea or ocean on the planet. Located in China just east of the border with Kazakhstan, the pole gets you a good distance from harbors and coastlines — at least 1,550 miles in any direction — into an expanse of white steppe and blue-beige mountain that is among the least populated places on earth. Here, among some of the last surviving pastoral nomads in Central Asia, nestled between two branches of the Tian Shan range on the edge of Kazakhstan, the largest infrastructure project in the history of the world is growing.

About 80 miles from the Pole of Inaccessibility, just across the border in Kazakhstan, is a village called Khorgos. It has spent most of its existence on the obscure periphery of international affairs, and its official population is just 908. But over the last few years, it has become an important node of the global economy. It is part of an initiative known informally as the new Silk Road, a China-led effort to build a vast cephalopodic network of highways, railroads and overseas shipping routes, supported by hundreds of new plants, pipelines and company towns in dozens of countries. Ultimately, the Belt and Road Initiative, or B.R.I., as the project is more formally known, will link China’s coastal factories and rising consumer class with Central, Southeast and South Asia; with the Gulf States and the Middle East; with Africa; and with Russia and all of Europe, all by way of a lattice of land and sea routes whose collective ambition boggles the mind. Continue reading

Wang Qishan’s ‘a devil and a demon’ story

Source: NPR (1/29/19)
Analysis: Why A Chinese Leader Told The Story Of ‘A Devil And A Demon’
By Pallavi Gogoi

Chinese Vice President Wang Qishan speaks at the World Economic Forum annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland. His message: The U.S. shouldn’t expect too much from China when it comes to cracking down on intellectual property theft. Arnd Wiegmann/Reuters

China’s Vice President Wang Qishan likes parables. He offers tales from ancient China when he wants to make a point.

I discovered that last week at the World Economic Forum at Davos, Switzerland, where Wang spoke and I listened intently on the translation headsets provided by the forum.

“In Chinese history, there was a story of a devil and a demon,” Wang said. He prefaced this by saying it’s a story he would often narrate to his former colleagues at the central bank where he oversaw financial supervision. Continue reading

Xi’s China is steamrolling its own history

Source: Foreign Policy (1/29/19)
Xi’s China Is Steamrolling Its Own History
The Chinese Communist Party sees the past as a resource to be plundered by the present.

A boy wearing the costume of a Qing emperor prepares to pose for photographs at a park near the Forbidden City in Beijing on Jan. 1. (Wang Zhao/AFP/Getty Images)

A boy wearing the costume of a Qing emperor prepares to pose for photographs at a park near the Forbidden City in Beijing on Jan. 1. (Wang Zhao/AFP/Getty Images)

Chinese President Xi Jinping is directing a vast ideological war across multiple theaters—politics, culture, ethics, economy, strategy, and foreign relations. Among its most intense flashpoints is historiography, particularly of China’s last empire, the Qing, which ruled from 1636 to 1912. Historians, whether foreign or domestic, who resist Xi’s determination to design a past that serves his ideology have been targeted repeatedly by state propaganda organs. A new editorial suggests that this attack on Qing specialists is escalating.

Xi has a powerful weapon at his disposal. In 2003, 10 years before his assumption of power, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) initiated an ambitious project dedicated to Qing history. It was granted headquarters in the Zhongguancun district of Beijing, next to China’s leading technology companies. Its budget—never definitively quantified but clearly stratospheric as far as historiographical enterprises go—supported a threefold mission: Continue reading

Death sentence for a life of service

Source: Art of Life in Chinese Central Asia (1/22/19)
A Death Sentence For a Life of Service
By Amy Anderson

Note: This article written by Amy Anderson is based on interviews with Tashpolat Tiyip’s friends, students and relatives. Their identities cannot be revealed due to obvious reasons. 

Sometime after he disappeared in 2017,  Tashpolat Tiyip, the president of Xinjiang University, was sentenced to death in a secret trial.  The Chinese state has provided no justification for this horrifying violation of human rights. Like hundreds of other Uyghur intellectuals, it has simply taken his life away. Drawing on interviews with Tiyip’s students and relatives, this article tells the story of his life and demonstrates the grotesque absurdity of the Chinese totalitarian state. A man who has dedicated his life to furthering the vision of the state and his people appears to have been sentenced to death for this effort.

A Geographer with a Dream

Tashpolat Tiyip, born in 1958, came of age during the infamous Cultural Revolution during his teenage years. Upon his graduation from high school in 1975, he was asked to join the “Down to the Countryside Movement” and worked as a Red October tractor driver in the fields of Nilka County, in Ili Prefecture.  After six months of saving his salary he was able to buy an Uyghur-Chinese dictionary. According to one of his relatives, every evening he would memorize at least 50 new Chinese words, which he would repeat over and over again while he was driving the tractor in the field from dawn to dusk.  His favorite thing to do after work was to sit beside the Ili River. From a young age he dreamed of becoming a geographer and exploring the physical landscape of the Uyghur homeland. He had faith in a better future as he studied Chinese and enjoyed the sunset over the Heavenly Mountains. Continue reading

How the US and China can avoid war

Source: Harper’s Magazine (1/22/19)
What China Threat? How the United States and China can avoid war
By Kishore Mahbubani

Discussed in this essay:

Destined for War: Can America and China Escape Thucydides’s Trap?, by Graham Allison. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 400 pages. $16.99.
Red Flags: Why Xi’s China Is in Jeopardy, by George Magnus. Yale University Press. 248 pages. $26.
Asia’s Reckoning: China, Japan, and the Fate of U.S. Power in the Pacific Century, by Richard McGregor. Viking. 432 pages. $18.
Rethinking China’s Rise: A Liberal Critique, by Xu Jilin. Translated by David Ownby. Cambridge University Press. 248 pages. $99.99.


Within about fifteen years, China’s economy will surpass America’s and become the largest in the world. As this moment approaches, meanwhile, a consensus has formed in Washington that China poses a significant threat to American interests and well-­being. General Joseph Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS), has said that “China probably poses the greatest threat to our nation by about 2025.” The summary of America’s 2018 National Defense Strategy claims that China and Russia are “revisionist powers” seeking to “shape a world consistent with their authoritarian model—gaining veto authority over other nations’ economic, diplomatic, and security decisions.” Christopher Wray, the FBI director, has said, “One of the things we’re trying to do is view the China threat as not just a whole-­of-­government threat, but a whole-­of-­society threat . . . and I think it’s going to take a whole-­of-­society response by us.” So widespread is this notion that when Donald Trump launched his trade war against China, in January 2018, he received support even from moderate figures such as Democratic senator Chuck Schumer. Continue reading

Writer Yang Hengjun disappears in China

Source: NYT (1/23/19)
Chinese-Australian Writer Yang Hengjun Disappears in China
By Damien Cave and Chris Buckley

Yang Hengjun in San Diego in 2012. Credit: Weican Meng

SYDNEY, Australia — A well-known writer and former Chinese official with Australian citizenship flew from New York to China on Friday despite warnings from friends who told him it was too dangerous.

Now, he is missing and appears to have been detained by the Chinese authorities.

The writer, Yang Hengjun, did not answer his Chinese cellphone despite repeated attempts to reach him on Tuesday and Wednesday. Nor did he answer messages on WeChat, the popular Chinese social media service. 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

Leave No Dark Corner

Leave No Dark Corner, an Australian documentary about the Social Credit system, aired last September. In case other list members missed it then as I did, I’d like to commend it to your attention. It’s well made, despite resorting to a couple of “re-enactments” along with its riveting interviews. The half-hour film focuses on three people: a young professional who, with her cadre husband, thinks the social credit system will do wonderful things for the Chinese people; Liu Hu, the Chongqing journalist whose career was terminated  by the system; and Tahir Hamut, a Uyghur refugee who describes how the system works in Xinjiang.

A. E. Clark <>

Deers vs Horses

Source: Sup China (1/9/19)
‘Deers’ Vs. ‘Horses’: Old And New Marxist Groups Wage Ideological Battle At Peking University

One Marxist student group is backed by the Party. The other’s WeChat account is blocked.

This poster, written in traditional Chinese, reads: “A deer will not transform into a horse; a wrong will not transform into a right” (鹿不变成马,错不变成对 lù bù biànchéng mǎ, cuò bù biànchéng duì)

“Wherever Yue and Gu are, that’s where I will be,” Zhan Zhenzhen 展振振, a Marxist at Peking University, told SupChina in November. “Wherever they stand, that’s where my brightest prospects lie.”

It seems that Zhan has now indeed joined his classmates Yue Xin 岳昕, Gu Jiayue 顾佳悦, and a half-dozen other missing Marxist student activists. According to a VOA report (in Chinese), Zhan was detained in Changsha, Hunan on January 2 after participating in celebrations for the 125th anniversary of Mao Zedong’s birth a week before, held in Mao’s hometown of Shaoshan, Hunan. On January 4, Peking University announced Zhan had “dropped out school,” a statement that clashes with rumors circulating on PKU forums that he was in fact expelled, under the pretext of missing two weeks of class. Either way, we have no way of knowing: sources close to Zhan report that he has been unreachable since December 26. Continue reading

Open letter to democratic Taiwan

Source: Taipei Times (1/9/19)
Open letter to democratic Taiwan

We the undersigned scholars, former government and military officials, and other friends of Taiwan who have witnessed and admired Taiwan’s transition to democracy for many decades wish to express to the people of Taiwan our sense of urgency to maintain unity and continuity at this critical moment in Taiwan’s history.

It is obvious that during the past two years, the People’s Republic of China has left no stone unturned in its attempts to squeeze Taiwan’s international space, threaten it with a buildup of military power and make it appear as if Taiwan’s only future lies in integration with an authoritarian China.

This pressure culminated on Wednesday last week with a speech by Chinese President and Chinese Communist Party General Secretary Xi Jinping (習近平), telling the Taiwanese people that “the Taiwan question” was a Chinese internal affair, that unification under China’s “one country, two systems” principle was the only option for the future and Taiwan independence was a “dead end.” Continue reading