Meng Lang passes away

I’m sad to share the news that Meng Lang passed away on Dec. 12 from lung cancer. I’m grateful that I had the chance to meet him in 2016 and to work with him on translating some of his poetry that he wrote in tribute to Liu Xiaobo. Just this February he published an anthology of poetry in Liu Xiaobo’s memory, The Contemporary (同时代人:刘晓波纪念诗集). He did brilliant, brave work as long as he was able.中国/20181212-中国异议诗人孟浪病逝香港

Anne Henochowicz 何安妮

Graffiti artists to go on trial

Source: SCMP (12/13/18)
China’s ‘Banksy’ and associate go on trial for defacing city walls with graffiti
Pair charged with ‘provoking trouble’ after spray painting more than 10 walls in south China city. One defendant said he wanted his work to be seen by more people
By Alice Yan

Two graffiti artists went on trial last week for decorating the walls of a south China city. Photo:

Two graffiti artists went on trial in southern China last week charged with “provoking trouble” after an evening of spray painting walls failed to impress the local police.

The male defendants, neither of whom was named, appeared in court in Zhaoqing, Guangdong province on Friday in the first trial of its kind, Beijing Youth News reported on Thursday.

One was identified as a 20-year-old university student who was quoted as saying he had a passion for graffiti and wanted his work to be seen by more people. Continue reading

Animation that deconstructs itself

Source: Association for Chinese Animation Studies (12/14/18)
The Animation that Deconstructs Itself—Liu Jian’s Piercing I and Have a Nice Day
By Yiman Wang

Liu Jian, a Nanjing-based animator and director with a background in painting, has single-handedly launched the genre of black humor adult animation in China, and further catapulted it into the international limelight with two feature-length works, Piercing I (2010) and Have a Nice Day (2018). Produced by the Le Joy Animation Studio, which was founded by Liu in 2007, both works are a testament to what Liu calls “One person’s animation film” (yigeren de donghua dianying).[1] Breaking away from the industry convention of collective assembly work, Liu was individually responsible for the script, drawings, animation, editing, music selection, and many other aspects of making and marketing these films. Have a Nice Day took four years to make. During this period, Liu worked ten hours a day and drew forty-four thousand cells; the finished film is composed of eight hundred shots. His artisanal and auteurist approach ensures that the films carry his trademark black humor, cartoonish minimalist aesthetics, and absurdist narrative. 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

Vintage movie magazines

Source: CNN (12/9/18)
Vintage Chinese movie magazines capture a glamorous bygone era
By Oscar Holland, CNN

Credit: Paul Fonoroff / University of California, Berkeley

If Hollywood’s golden era can be understood through magazines like Silver Screen and Photoplay, then China’s early film industry can also be viewed through the most popular movie publications of their day.

For film critic and historian, Paul Fonoroff, this means studying the elaborate, colorful pages of titles like Movie Weekly, Silver Flower Monthly and the supremely popular Chin-Chin Screen. Continue reading

The April 3rd Incident review

Source: SCMP (11/29/18)
Yu Hua’s short stories portray disturbing personal and political realities of modern China
The April 3rd incident cements the Chinese author’s position as a literary enfant terrible, mixing techniques and times to weave narratives that are more fantasy than fiction
By James Kidd

The April 3rd Incident
by Yu Hua
[Translated by Allan H. Barr]

The April 3rd Incident collects recent short stories by China’s literary enfant terrible.

Yu Hua’s reputation owes much to his experiments with avant-garde techniques (sudden leaps in time or perspective, unholy clashes of comedy and tragedy), his relish of violence and the scatological (toilets both sumptuous and rudimentary proliferate in his inter­national breakthrough, Brothers, 2005), and how such devices drive the political intent of his writing: the jagged edges of Yu’s fiction reflect “realities of modern Chinese society [that] are even more fantastical than fiction”. 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

Changpian 21

Source: Changpian 21 (12/9/18)
长篇 // Changpian // Longform
By Tabitha Speelman

Welcome to the 21st edition of Changpian, a selection of feature and opinion writing in Chinese. With other resources devoted to the many interesting sound bites on Chinese social media, this newsletter focuses 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 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.

I’m glad to return to the newsletter from a new location and after a break that was longer than planned. Welcome also to new readers, who found Changpian despite the lack of updates! From now on it should be back to about once a month. Continue reading


CFP (General Issues) – Prism: Theory and Modern Chinese Literature
// Seeking Contributions for General Issues //

A general issue appears in March, and its submission deadline is April 1 of the preceding year.

If you have any questions regarding your submission, please send email to

Prism: Theory and Modern Chinese Literature presents cutting-edge research on modern literary production, dissemination, and reception in China and beyond. It also publishes works that study the shaping influence of traditional literature and culture on modern and contemporary China. Prism actively promotes scholarly investigations from interdisciplinary and cross-cultural perspectives, and it encourages integration of theoretical inquiry with empirical research. The journal strives to foster in-depth dialogues between Western and Chinese literary theories that illuminate both the unique features of each interlocutor and their shared insights into issues of universal interest. Prism is a new incarnation of Journal of Modern Literature in Chinese (JMLC), founded in 1997 by the Centre for Humanities Research of Lingnan University. For submission guidelines and a more detailed description of Prism, visit Continue reading

Book translations 2018

The Paper Republic folk have come up with their end-of-year list again and it’s a bumper one: thirty novels or other book-length works ranging from classics to contemporary literature, scifi to short stories, and a beautiful graphic memoir (Rao Pingru), as well as six poetry collections and assorted children’s and YA books.And some of last year’s books have won or been listed for prestigious prizes: Remains of Life by Wu He, tr. Michael Berry (Columbia University Press), 2017, was shortlisted for the Best Translated Book Award 2018. Notes of a Crocodile, Qiu Miaojin, tr. Bonnie Huie (New York Review Books), was longlisted for the 2018 PEN Translation Prize and won the 2018 Lucien Stryk Asian Translation Prize.The Stolen Bicycle, by Wu Ming-yi, tr. Darryl Sterk (Text Publishing Company), was longlisted for The Man Booker International Prize.

Click Roll-call of Book Translations from Chinese in 2018 for the full list.

many thanks,

Nicky Harman <>

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