Fearing for my mother in Wuhan, Sinophobia in the US

Source: NYRB (April 6, 2020)
Fearing For My Mother in Wuhan, Facing a New Sinophobia in the US
Jiwei Xiao

From Zhao Liang’s Mask Series

Wuhan is far away. My annual trip to the city was long and exhausting, a pilgrimage. A fourteen-hour international flight would take me from Newark to an airport in Beijing or Shanghai, where I would wait another few hours before boarding a domestic flight to complete the journey. I went back again last June to visit my mother. The dusk gave way to night when the cab driver dropped me off under our big camphor trees. The scent of locust flowers filled the early summer air. The ceaseless noise of Wuhan streets became remote.

I had to walk my last fifty steps with my luggage in tow to reach the gate of the apartment building. The night, not yet too hot, had a fantastic unreality. In the dark I could see the white tips of gardenia flower buds on the tall bush in my mother’s half-abandoned front yard and the light pouring from her bedroom window to the balcony. I could even hear her low voice talking to someone and her shuffling steps. My heart beat a little faster when I buzzed the door. Continue reading

US intelligence concludes China misrepresented coronavirus deaths (4)

In the age of Trumpism, everything is possible. And, to those who did not know it, one of the most important roles of the intelligence apparatus is to deceive in order to create a “better” ground for its chiefs in their own propaganda efforts. So, let’s make America great again while slamming her competition.

Dan Ben-Canaan <canaan@inter.net.il>

Yu Kwang-chung essay “Dear Music”

MCLC Resource Center is pleased to announce publication of Sunny Tien and Ivan Wong’s translation of “Dear Music: Spare My Innocent Ears!,” by Yu Kwang-chung. The essay appears below and at its online home: https://u.osu.edu/mclc/online-series/dear-music/. My thanks to the translators for sharing their work with the MCLC community.

Kirk Denton, editor

Dear Music: Spare My Innocent Ears!

By Yu Kwang-chung 余光中[1]

Translated by Sunny Tien and Ivan Wong

MCLC Resource Center Publication (Copyright April 2020)

Once when the famous Chinese vocalist Xi Mude was traveling by taxi, popular music was playing loudly in the car. When she asked the driver to turn down the volume, he asked, “You don’t like music?” to which Xi Mude said, “No, I don’t like music.” It’s rather ironic for a vocalist to face such a question. First, there are many types of music. The prevalent loud noise that plagues Taiwan, though also called “music,” is not appreciated by true music lovers. Second, the beauty or quality of music is not determined by its volume. Some “aficionados” of popular music seem more interested in the machinery than the music itself. In the tight confines of a taxicab, such loud music is simply excessive. Further, music is not like air, to be taken in at every moment. Must music be forced upon us every time we enter a taxi? People with ceaseless tunes in their ears aren’t necessarily true lovers of music. Continue reading

US intelligence concludes China misrepresented coronavirus deaths (3)

In discussions about government accountability on these pages, mention of state actors other than the Chinese one is rare, so Wendy Larson’s comment is much welcome, akin to letting much needed air into the room. Her bringing the U.S. into the discussion, while still limited, at least moves us a little closer to an appreciation of our very complex (global) realities.

Given that China — what it is, how it acts, etc. — as a political entity  is constantly shaped by its relational interactions with the rest of the world, one wonders how such a neglect of others can have persisted for so long. I realize that this is a China-studies list but, surely, our disciplinary-area specialisms should not define us — or our concerns — so narrowly, lest we become that proverbial frog-in-the-well?

What seems to be sorely needed on these pages are richer, more internationalist, and, hence, more balanced perspectives. Otherwise this blog risks becoming at best a bastion of academic provincialism; at worst, an academic echo-chamber of the China-bashing industry of which the ‘free’ Western corporate media now specialises, and duly profits from. Cultural monotheists may not like it but comparative and contextualised studies are actually needed to make sense of human complexities. Even more so going into the future, I suspect. Continue reading

Quiet burials

Source: NYT (4/3/20)
China Pushes for Quiet Burials as Coronavirus Death Toll Is Questioned
Officials are ​trying to curb expressions of grief and control the narrative​ amid doubts about the official number of deaths in China.
By Amy Qin and 

Workers in protective suits screened visitors to the Biandanshan Cemetery in Wuhan on Tuesday. Credit…Hector Retamal/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Liu Pei’en held the small wooden box that contained his father’s remains. Only two months ago, he had helplessly clutched his father’s frail hand as the elderly man took his last breath, and the pain was still raw. He wept.

But there was little time, or space, for Mr. Liu to grieve. He said officials in the central Chinese city of Wuhan had insisted on accompanying him to the funeral home and were waiting anxiously nearby. Later, they followed him to the cemetery where they watched him bury his father, he said. Mr. Liu saw one of his minders taking photos of the funeral, which was over in 20 minutes.

“My father devoted his whole life to serving the country and the party,” Mr. Liu, 44, who works in finance, said by phone. “Only to be surveilled after his death.” Continue reading

US intelligence concludes China misrepresented coronavirus deaths (2)

I wonder if Tung-yi Kho has been reading the news. For the last several months, mainstream American newspaper, blogs, and journals have appropriately heaped criticism on the coronavirus response in the US, singling out Donald Trump and his gutting of expertise at every level of government (as well as his nepotism, most recently putting his unqualified son-in-law Jared Kushner in charge of virus response—Kushner’s first appearance has been widely criticized), the severely lacking health insurance system, the radical right’s rejection of scientific knowledge and their ability to influence the president, the failure to stockpile protective gear for hospitals and medical workers, the inability to test—which makes it very likely that the number of infected people are in fact much greater than those verified—and the overall incompetence and inability to take organized and concerted action. Every day I read twenty or so articles along these lines, in common publications such as the New York Times, the Washington Post, the New Yorker, the Los Angeles Times, the San Francisco Chronicle, and even the Wall Street Journal. They also come up on my google news feed with great regularity, and there I can see that even minor venues are publishing similar critiques. Articles on the coronavirus and the failures of the US government in addressing it are available free of charge at most major publications. In other words, no one is in the least distracted from the dire American response. Continue reading

Crows and Sparrows

MCLC Resource Center is pleased to announce publication of Christopher Rea’s translation of the script Crows and Sparrows (烏鴉與麻雀), the 1949 film directed by Zheng Junli 鄭君里. The translation includes many stills and an embedded version of the film that includes Rea’s subtitles. The translation’s can be read at:


Our thanks to Christopher Rea for sharing his work with the MCLC community.

Kirk Denton, MCLC

Concerns grow over disappeared whistleblower

Posted by: Magnus Fiskesjo <magnus.fiskesjo@cornell.edu>
Source: Radio Free Asia (3/30/20)
Concerns Grow Over Wuhan Doctor Amid Call For Return to Work

The front page of China's People magazine featuring Ai Fen (left, second from top), director of the Wuhan Central Hospital ER, as it initially appeared (L) and after it was deleted from its website and paper copies were removed from the shelves.

The front page of China’s People magazine featuring Ai Fen (left, second from top), director of the Wuhan Central Hospital ER, as it initially appeared (L) and after it was deleted from its website and paper copies were removed from the shelves.

Whistleblowing Wuhan doctor Ai Fen is currently incommunicado, believed detained after giving media interviews about her initial concerns over the coronavirus, according to an Australian media report.

“Just two weeks ago the head of Emergency at Wuhan Central Hospital went public, saying authorities had stopped her and her colleagues from warning the world,” flagship investigative show 60 Minutes Australia reported on Sunday.

“She has now disappeared, her whereabouts unknown,” the show reported, also tweeting photos of Ai. Continue reading

US intelligence concludes China misrepresented coronavirus deaths (1)

This is incredible and shameless and an attempt to distract from the fact that what’s happening now in the US represents a woeful failure of US intelligence, governance and public policy. It would be funny if the consequences weren’t so tragic.

The US administration had three whole months to prepare for what was to come, and did nothing. Now that the country has become the global epicenter of the pandemic, US intelligence accuses the Chinese government of falsifying numbers?

Charity, as they say, begins at home. Perhaps the discussion to be had (still) is why the US lacks public healthcare despite being the world’s wealthiest and most powerful nation since the end of WWII.

Tung-yi Kho <kho.tungyi@yahoo.com>

sources on spring festival couplets?

My name is Lesya, 爱丽丝 in Chinese. I live in Bologna, Italy where I’m finishing my studies. I’m attending graduate school, specializing in Far East Studies, so I’m also studying Chinese language and culture. The subject of my final thesis is , Spring Festival Couplets. My purpose is to give a deep analysis of the couplets from a social and anthropological point of view. I want to focus on the evolution of the couplets in an urban area, such as Beijing or Shanghai, then offer a comparison with a more rural area, such as Hakka regions of Fujian province. Unfortunately, I have had problems finding a lot of information about this subject in English. So I wonder if list members could suggest scholarly articles, books, or websites about Chinese Spring Festival, Chinese New Year Couplets, and other important celebrations that would be helpful for my work. Please contact me off-list at the email below.

Lesya Uhrak <olesya.uhrak@gmail.com>

US intelligence concludes China misrepresented coronavirus deaths

See also this report from Radio Free Asia cited in the article below: https://www.rfa.org/english/news/china/wuhan-deaths-03272020182846.html–Kirk

Source: Business Insider (4/1/20)
The US intelligence community has reportedly concluded that China intentionally misrepresented its coronavirus numbers
By Sonam Sheth and Isaac Scher

xi jinping

Chinese President Xi Jinping at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, on November 2, 2018. Thomas Peter/Getty

  • The US intelligence community has determined that the Chinese government concealed the extent of its coronavirus outbreak and gave false statistics to other countries, Bloomberg News reported, citing three US officials.
  • Officials transmitted a classified report of their findings to the White House last week.
  • Bloomberg described its sources as saying that the report’s main conclusion was that China’s public reporting of coronavirus cases was “intentionally incomplete” and that its numbers were fake.
  • China was the epicenter of the novel coronavirus outbreak until last week, when the US’s number of cases surpassed China’s.
  • US and other Western officials have repeatedly expressed skepticism about China’s numbers. Residents of Wuhan, where the outbreak originated, have also publicly doubted the government’s reporting.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

The US intelligence community has determined that the Chinese government concealed the extent of its coronavirus outbreak and gave false numbers of cases and deaths in the country, Bloomberg News reported on Wednesday, citing three US officials. Continue reading

Hard truths about China’s soft power

Source: The American Interest (3/30/20)
Hard Truths About China’s “Soft Power”
Is China’s brand of coercive “soft power” a contradiction in terms? A new edited volume helps cut through the morass.

Soft Power With Chinese Characteristics: China’s Campaign for Hearts and Minds
edited by Kingsley Edney, Stanley Rosen, and Ying Zhu
Routledge, 2020; 296 pages; priced from $155.00 (hardback) to $22.48 (six-month e-book rental)]

When opening Soft Power With Chinese Characteristics, a timely new volume that arrives amid a flood of COVID-19-fueled disinformation, it is important to notice the irony embedded in the title. The phrase “with Chinese characteristics” is used by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) whenever it borrows a Western idea or practice to utilize for its own purposes. For example, in the early 1980s, when Deng Xiaoping was introducing market forces into China’s dead-in-the-water planned economy, the new system was not described as “capitalism”—that term would have conceded far too much ground to the enemies of socialism. Rather it was dubbed “socialism with Chinese characteristics.”

This touch of Newspeak did not bother Deng’s free-market champions in the West; they knew what Deng meant, and many a capitalist smiled knowingly at his motto: “It doesn’t matter if a cat is black or white; if it catches mice, it’s a good cat.” But the phrase “with Chinese characteristics” is no longer so benign. For Deng, it was a way to camouflage the fact that he was moving the Chinese economy in the direction of capitalism. For today’s Communist rulers, by contrast, it is a way to camouflage policies that are profoundly anti-democratic. Continue reading

How China built a Twitter propaganda machine

Source: ProPublica (3/26/20)
How China Built a Twitter Propaganda Machine Then Let It Loose on Coronavirus
ProPublica analyzed thousands of fake and hijacked Twitter accounts to understand how covert Chinese propaganda spreads around the globe.
By Jeff Kao, ProPublica and Mia Shuang Li for ProPublica

Posts by Twitter accounts involved in an ongoing Chinese government influence campaign discovered by ProPublica. (Allen Tan/ProPublica)

ProPublica is a nonprofit newsroom that investigates abuses of power. Sign up to receive our biggest stories as soon as they’re published.

Kalen Keegan, a college student at the University of Nebraska Omaha, immediately noticed when her Twitter account unleashed a torrent of posts in Chinese. “My other account got hacked👍🏽,” the soccer player posted on a replacement account. The new author tweeting as @Kalenkayyy had strong views on geopolitics — all aligned with the Chinese Communist Party. It was obsessed with the protests in Hong Kong, offered uncritical praise of the Hong Kong police and accused demonstrators of fomenting a “color revolution” backed by an “anti-Chinese American conspiracy.”

As the coronavirus outbreak led to a lockdown of Wuhan and its surrounding cities in late January, the Hong Kong posts were suddenly deleted. The account continued to post relentlessly in Chinese, but it now focused on the burgeoning epidemic. About a month later, her Twitter profile began to change in other ways. The reference to her college disappeared and her headshot was replaced by a generic photo of two people kissing. By the end of the week, her Twitter transformation was complete. @Kalenkayyy was now a Chinese propaganda-posting zombie account belonging to someone purportedly named Kalun Tang.

Her new tagline? “When women arm themselves with softness, they are the strongest.”

Later, the account deleted more of its tweets and unfollowed all of its former friends. It is currently temporarily restricted by Twitter for unusual activity. . . [click here to read the long article in full]

HK Cinema MOOC


Hello from Hong Kong! We’ve been thinking about teaching across distances and disciplines for some time now and in these challenging times we are keen to offer you material and a little morale boost.

To accommodate your needs, and expand your menu of online teaching and learning options, we are offering Hong Kong Cinema through a Global Lens, the first MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) on Hong Kong cinema to be produced anywhere in the world, as a learner-paced course.  That means all six units open simultaneously on April 1, 2020.

Feel free to enjoy the entire course or pick and choose lessons to fit your own individual needs. Continue reading

Fail-safe system to track contagions failed

Source: NYT (3/29/20)
China Created a Fail-Safe System to Track Contagions. It Failed.
After SARS, Chinese health officials built an infectious disease reporting system to evade political meddling. But when the coronavirus emerged, so did fears of upsetting Beijing.
阅读简体中文版 | 閱讀繁體中文版
By Steven Lee Myers

Medical staff checking on a coronavirus patient at the Red Cross hospital in Wuhan, China, in early March. Credit…Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

The alarm system was ready. Scarred by the SARS epidemic that erupted in 2002, China had created an infectious disease reporting system that officials said was world-class: fast, thorough and, just as important, immune from meddling.

Hospitals could input patients’ details into a computer and instantly notify government health authorities in Beijing, where officers are trained to spot and smother contagious outbreaks before they spread.

After doctors in Wuhan began treating clusters of patients stricken with a mysterious pneumonia in December, the reporting was supposed to have been automatic. Instead, hospitals deferred to local health officials who, over a political aversion to sharing bad news, withheld information about cases from the national reporting system — keeping Beijing in the dark and delaying the response. Continue reading

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