Rethinking Socialist Theaters of Reform review

MCLC Resource Center is pleased to announce publication of Rosemary Roberts’s review of Rethinking Chinese Socialist Theaters of Reform: Performance Practice and Debate in the Mao Era, edited by Xiaomei Chen, Tarryn Li-min Chun, and Siyuan Liu. The review appears below and at its online home: My thanks to MCLC media studies book review editor, Jason McGrath, for ushering the review to publication.

Kirk Denton, MCLC

Rethinking Chinese Socialist Theaters of Reform:
Performance Practice and Debate in the Mao Era

Edited by Xiaomei Chen, Tarryn Li-min Chun, Siyuan Liu

Reviewed by Rosemary Roberts

MCLC Resource Center Publication (Copyright January, 2022)

Xiaomei Chen, Tarryn Li-min Chun, and Siyuan Liu, eds., Rethinking Chinese Socialist Theaters of Reform: Performance Practice and Debate in the Mao Era Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2021. 320pp. ISBN: 978-0-472-12851-8 (Hardcover). $80.00

This book brings together research by ten scholars of Chinese theater of the socialist period focusing on theater reform in the years from the late 1940s to early 1970s. The editors have done an excellent job in designing the collection so that the in-depth case studies work together as a series to demonstrate vividly that far from this being a period of ideological unity in which the Party exercised nationwide hegemonic control over the theater world, it was a complex period marked by significant disparities: between the more controllable cities and the out-of-reach countryside; between state funded troupes and those reliant on ticket sales for survival; between political intentions and aesthetic aspirations. Further contributing to the complexity of the situation, theater practitioners personally committed to the socialist cause and who had been prominent in theater reform efforts during the Republican era took up appointments in the Party bureaucracy to help guide the creation of a new socialist culture and found themselves continuously negotiating between artistic integrity and political imperatives in their continuing pursuit of theater reform. Continue reading

How Xi is staging the Olympics on his terms

Source: NYT (1/22/22)
China’s Games: How Xi Jinping Is Staging the Olympics on His Terms
From Beijing’s unexpected bid through the coronavirus pandemic, China has managed to fulfill its promises and cow its critics.
By Steven Lee Meyers, Keith Bradsher, and Taria Panja

Xi Jinping, China’s leader. Mr. Xi put his personal prestige on the line when China bid to host the 2022 Winter Games, and the country has come through on its promises. Credit…Kevin Frayer/Getty Images

When the International Olympic Committee met seven years ago to choose a host for the 2022 Winter Games, China’s leader, Xi Jinping, sent a short video message that helped tip the scale in a close, controversial vote.

China had limited experience with winter sports. Little snow falls in the distant hills where outdoor events would take place. Pollution was so dense at times that it was known as the “Airpocalypse.”

Mr. Xi pledged to resolve all of this, putting his personal prestige on what seemed then like an audacious bid. “We will deliver every promise we made,” he told the Olympic delegates meeting in Malaysia’s capital, Kuala Lumpur. Continue reading

Two Early Films by Mou Tun-fei



I Didn’t Dare Tell You / Bugan gen ni jiang, 78 minutes, Taiwan, 1969. Mandarin with English subtitles.

The End of the Track / Pao Dao Zhongdian, 90 minutes, Taiwan, 1970. Mandarin with English subtitles.

Recently discovered by the Taiwan Film & Audiovisual Institute, I Didn’t Dare Tell You and The End of the Track debuted at the 2018 Taiwan International Documentary Festival and have since toured the world. Encompassing a wide affective spectrum—from repressed yearning to mournful regrets, from abusive love to homoerotic desire—they represent the tabooed initiation of a visionary director whose versatile career has yet to be fully appreciated.

This virtual series was curated and coordinated by Harvard University’s East Asian Film & Media Working Group.

For more information on each film, as well as virtual screening information, visit

Report from a quarantine room in China, Jan. 2022

A Report from the Quarantine Room in China in Jan 2022
By Martin Woesler <>

If you want to go to China, which is almost Corona-free, you will be bloodied over several times: Only direct flights are allowed, these cost ten to twenty times as much and are fully booked for months. Finally I get a return ticket for January 4 from Frankfurt to Shanghai. Only those who prove shortly before departure that they have no corona in their blood or lungs receive the coveted green code on their cell phone.

Where could I get my blood drawn and analyzed within 24 hours? I asked at the Chinese Consulate, who referred me to their list of recognized laboratories. I checked the list, which only says “Medical facilities in North Rhine-Westphalia” for my state. Finally, I found what I was looking for at the MVZ Düsseldorf: $ 200 in fees, and the result would be on my cell phone within 5 hours, I was promised, but it came after 11 hours.

After being away for two years due to Corona, I am now to return to China with its No-Corona strategy, while in the United States and Europe the infection figures are exploding with the Omikron variant. In China, Tianjin goes into lockdown because of 2 Omikron cases. Continue reading

China looks to Western classics

Source: SupChina (1/13/22)
China looks to the Western classics
By Chang Che

Illustration for SupChina by Alex Santafé

As American universities reevaluate the role of Western classical education, Latin and Greek courses are proliferating in China, where students see the Classics as a wellspring of wisdom that remains relevant regardless of hemisphere.

A block east of Tiananmen Square, in a classroom last July, Chinese school children were singing the nursery rhyme “Old McDonald Had a Farm” in Latin: “Donatus est agricola, Eia, Eia, Oh!” The students, aged 11 to 17, were taking an introductory Latin class with Leopold Leeb, a professor of literature at the prestigious Renmin University.

Every weekday during the summer, from nine a.m. to noon, Leeb holds a public class in a marble white church just a stone’s throw away from Beijing’s central government. On the day I attended, Leeb had given each student a Roman name. There was a Gaius, a Flavius, a Monica, and two sisters, Amata and Augusta. The sisters came from Changping, a two-and-a-half-hour train ride away. They sat in the front row and took naps during the 10-minute breaks.

In the halls of China’s elite universities, Leopold Leeb is sometimes known as “the legendary Austrian.” His friends affectionately call him “Leizi” — Lei from his Chinese name Léi Lìbó 雷立柏, and  (子) an ancient honorific reserved for esteemed Chinese intellectuals, as in Confucius (孔子 Kǒngzǐ), Mencius (孟子 Mèngzǐ), and Lao Tzu (老子 Lǎozǐ). For Leeb, a pioneer of Classics education (the study of Greco-Roman antiquity) in China, the sobriquet is apt: Leeb’s textbooks and dictionaries form a rite of passage for nearly all Chinese who wish to embark on Western Classical study. He has written several monographs on Greek and Roman history, 13 Classics dictionaries, nine textbooks, and over two dozen comparative works, giving Chinese readers access to Western ideas and texts. At 54 with no family and no hobbies, he displays an almost religious devotion to his work. “Obviously,” one colleague wrote of him recently, Leeb is “more concerned about China’s yesterday, today, and tomorrow than many Chinese.” Continue reading

China’s growing menace hardens Taiwan’s identity

Source: NYT (1/19/22)
‘We Are Taiwanese’: China’s Growing Menace Hardens Island’s Identity
阅读简体中文版 | 閱讀繁體中文版
More than ever, Taiwan defines itself by its democratic values. Beijing’s military and diplomatic threats only reinforce the island’s separateness.
By Amy Qin and Amy Chang Chien

Li Yuan-hsin, right, with her husband and daughter at a day care center in Chiayi, Taiwan. Ms. Li is among the more than 60 percent of the island’s people who identify as solely Taiwanese. Credit…Lam Yik Fei for The New York Times

CHIAYI, Taiwan — When Li Yuan-hsin, a 36-year-old high school teacher, travels abroad, people often assume she is Chinese.

No, she tells them. She is Taiwanese.

To her, the distinction is important. China may be the land of her ancestors, but Taiwan is where she was born and raised, a home she defines as much by its verdant mountains and bustling night markets as by its robust democracy. In high school, she had planted a little blue flag on her desk to show support for her preferred political candidate; since then, she has voted in every presidential election.

“I love this island,” Ms. Li said in an interview. “I love the freedom here.”

Well over 90 percent of Taiwan’s people trace their roots to mainland China, but more than ever, they are embracing an identity that is distinct from that of their Communist-ruled neighbor. Beijing’s strident authoritarianism — and its claim over Taiwan — has only solidified the island’s identity, now central to a dispute that has turned the Taiwan Strait into one of Asia’s biggest potential flash points. Continue reading

Chinese Literature and Culture in the Age of Global Capitalism review

MCLC Resource Center is pleased to announce publication of Aoife Cantrill’s review of Chinese Literature and Culture in the Age of Global Capitalism: Renaissance or Rehabilitation?, by Wang Xiaoping. The review appears below and at its online home: My thanks to Nicholas Kaldis, MCLC literary studies book review editor, for ushering the review to publication.

Kirk A. Denton, MCLC

Chinese Literature and Culture in the Age of
Global Capitalism: Renaissance or Rehabilitation?

By Wang Xiaoping

Reviewed by Aoife Cantrill

MCLC Resource Center Publication (Copyright January, 2022)

Wang Xiaoping, Chinese Literature and Culture in the Age of Global Capitalism: Renaissance or Rehabilitation? Leiden and Boston: Brill, 2021. xii + 376 pp. ISBN 978-90-04-46119-2 (E-Book: PDF); ISBN 978-90-04-46118-5 (Hardback).

Rarely when assessing a book do reviewers encourage readers to begin with the final chapters. In the case of Wang Xiaoping’s Chinese Literature and Culture in the Age of Global Capitalism: Renaissance or Rehabilitation?, however, this reviewer would recommend doing so.[1] Chapters eight to ten and the volume’s conclusion provide a convincing distillation of the book’s critical thrust, by way of a concise rundown of the cultural-political debates that have occupied Chinese literary intellectuals from the turn of the twenty-first century. In these closing chapters, Wang contextualizes his contribution alongside the discussions of the New Left and New Right during the 1990s, as well as more recent commentary exemplified by Zhang Xudong’s 2015 treatise on China’s cultural direction, Cultural Identity in the Era of Globalization (全球化时代的文化认同).[2] These debates are animated by now-familiar questions that accompany any study placing China in the “global” perspective: the significance of “modernity”; China’s superiority, inferiority, or proximity to the West; and what is meant by “postsocialism.” Wang’s work considers these questions anew, answering them with reference to “the renaissance of China’s socialist culture” (348), identified in the title of his conclusion. Continue reading


Call for papers: Asiascape: Digital Asia Anniversary Issue
The Shape of the Asiascape: Ten Years of Digital Asia Research

The peer-reviewed academic journal Asiascape: Digital Asia (DIAS) is now inviting contributions for its 2023 anniversary special issue, “The Shape of the Asiascape: Ten Years of Digital Asia Research”. This anniversary issue will take stock of advances and trends in research about digital Asia. It asks what a decade of Asiascape research has revealed about dynamics in the region and its varied digital societies. Are there national or regional Internets that form an ‘Asiascape’, and how do they differ from the ‘global’ Internet? Does ‘digital Asia’ truly exist, and if so: in what guises? By revisiting the current state-of-the-field, the short (4,000-word) contributions to this special issue will examine the multi-disciplinary, regional, and transnational concerns that have shaped Asiascape’s diverse research programmes. Collectively, they will ask how digital Asia features in contemporary discussions, whether in a mainstream, scholarly, or tech journalism context. Looking forward, the contributions will identify potential blindspots in the scholarship and propose ways forward for the next decade of multi- and interdisciplinary digital Asia research. Continue reading

China’s births hit historic low

Source: NYT (1/17/22)
China’s Births Hit Historic Low, Barely Outpacing Death Rate
China’s population, the world’s largest at 1.4 billion, may soon start shrinking, according to new data. Some experts say it already has.
By Steven Lee Myers and Alexandra Stevenson

A newborn at a hospital in Danzhai, China, last year.

A newborn at a hospital in Danzhai, China, last year.Credit…Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

China’s birthrate plummeted for a fifth straight year in 2021, bringing the world’s most populous country closer to the potentially seismic moment when its population will begin to shrink.

The precipitous decline has hastened a looming demographic crisis that economists and demographers warn could reshape the country’s economic vitality and even its political stability. The drop in births continued despite the government’s relaxing of its notorious “one child” policy beginning in 2016 and, last year, the rules that limited families to two children.

The number of births fell to 10.6 million in 2021, compared with 12 million the year before, the National Bureau of Statistics reported on Monday. That was the lowest number since the Communist Party founded the People’s Republic of China in 1949. It is fewer even than in 1961, when the Great Leap Forward, Mao Zedong’s economic policy, resulted in widespread famine and death. Continue reading

Animation as a Way of Seeing

[Online Lecture] Animation as a Way of Seeing: The Afterlife of Chinese Painting and Calligraphy, organized by University of Hong Kong, University Museum and Art Gallery
University of Hong Kong – Lecture Series on Contemporary and Modern Chinese Art, University Museum and Art Gallery (2022/3)

Event Details

UMAG Lecture Series (2022/3): Re-examining Modernity and Contemporaneity through Chinese Art
Animation as a Way of Seeing: The Afterlife of Chinese Painting and Calligraphy

Date: Thursday 31 March 2022
Time: 2:00–3:00pm HKT (7:00–8:00am BST / 30 March 11:00pm–31 March 0:00am PDT)

This lecture traces the afterlife of Chinese painting and calligraphy on the animation screen. We will bring into the critical spotlight Xu Bing’s 2012 animated video, “The Character of Characters” (Hanzi de xingge), which remediates Zhao Mengfu (1254–1322)’s painting and calligraphy. The new possibilities afforded by calligraphic animation are negotiated through a series of oscillations between image and text, spatiality and temporality, and diegetic and nondiegetic conventions. The dialogue that takes place between shu (books, written characters, and the act of writing) and the computer enables us to seek, pinpoint, and scrutinize a powerful intermedial creativity and its implications in an age of global media mix. We will pose a counter-historical question: has animation, as a way of seeing, always been with us, even before animation was invented? Continue reading

Battler Poetry lecture

“China’s Battler Poetry and the Hypertranslatability Of Zheng Xiaoqiong”

The University of Chicago’s Center for East Asian Studies presents a virtual lecture featuring Leiden University’s Maghiel van Crevel, Professor of Chinese language and literature, on Thursday, February 3rd at 12 pm US Central Time.


Coming from a place where poetry is a firmly rooted social practice, China’s battler poetry (dagong shige) highlights the cruelty of precarious labor regimes spawned by global capitalism. So it makes sense that there is plenty of foreign interest in this writing. Yet, this interest has overwhelmingly focused on just two authors, Zheng Xiaoqiong (b. 1980) and Xu Lizhi (1990–2014). Xu Lizhi’s high visibility was triggered by his suicide, and the low visibility of other authors than Zheng and Xu is explained in part by the natural delay of national canon formation in translation. But this does not make Zheng Xiaoqiong’s ubiquity in foreign work on China’s battler poetry any less remarkable. What explains the hypertranslatability of Zheng Xiaoqiong?

Professor van Crevel’s research draws on ethnographic fieldwork, as documented in Walk on the Wild Side: Snapshots of the Chinese Poetry Scene.

This lecture will take place via Zoom.  Click HERE to register.

Posted by: Connie Yip

Taiwan same-sex couple first to adopt child

Source: The Guardian (1/13/22)
Same-sex couple become first in Taiwan to legally adopt child
Wang Chen-wei and Chen Chun-ju sign papers after ruling allows Chen to register as parent alongside Wang
By Helen Davidson in Taipei

Wang Chen-wei, centre left, and his husband, Chen Chun-ju, holding their daughter after signing adoption papers in Taipei.

Wang Chen-wei, centre left, and his husband, Chen Chun-ju, holding their daughter after signing adoption papers in Taipei. Photograph: Daniel Ceng/The Guardian

A married same-sex couple have become the first in Taiwan to legally adopt a child neither of them are related to, after they challenged local laws in court.

Wang Chen-wei, Chen Chun-ju, and their daughter, nicknamed Joujou, were surrounded by press at the Taipei household registration office, as the couple formally signed adoption paperwork after a long battle. Clutching Joujou, her face hidden behind a hoodie, face mask and sunglasses, Wang and Chen told of their bittersweet victory.

“I have everything now. I am married and just like heterosexual couples, we can have our own children,” Wang said. “But we were born to have and enjoy all of this, we are not a charity case. We shouldn’t have had to fight for it.”

Taiwan legalised same-sex marriage in 2019, becoming the first jurisdiction in Asia to do so, but did not remove all inequalities for LGBTQI people. Full legislation rather than an amendment was passed. It includes a provision that allows someone to adopt a spouse’s biological child, but says nothing about adoption rights if neither partner is the biological parent. The provision does not exist in other marriage laws. Continue reading

Diary goes viral during new lockdown

Source: The Guardian (1/12/22)
Woman’s diary goes viral as lockdown in China forces her to stay with blind date
Wang went for dinner at date’s house in Zhengzhou when Covid forced thousands into quarantine
By Vincent Ni

Volunteers wearing PPE spray disinfectant in Zhengzhou, China.

Volunteers wearing PPE spray disinfectant in Zhengzhou, China. Photograph: VCG/Getty

A Chinese woman has become an overnight sensation after she posted video diaries documenting her life after being stuck at a blind date’s house.

Wang went for dinner on Sunday at her blind date’s residence in the central Chinese city of Zhengzhou, where a recent outbreak of Covid cases sent thousands into quarantine in parts of the city. As she was finishing her meal, the area was put under lockdown.

She was unable to leave her date’s house as result, she told the Shanghai-based news outlet the Paper this week, saying she had gone to the city for a week-long trip to meet potential suitors from the southern province of Guangdong.

Wang quickly shared the bizarre experience with friends on social media. “I’m getting old now, my family introduced me to 10 matches … The fifth date wanted to show off his cooking skills and invited me over to his house for dinner,” said Wang in one of the videos. Continue reading

Interview with Rose Luqiu about WeChat

Source: Global Voices (11/29/21)
An interview with media scholar Rose Luqiu about WeChat and techno-nationalism
Her research explains Chinese diaspora’s unwavering loyalty to WeChat
By Oiwan Lam

WeChat censorship. Image created by Oiwan Lam.

Rose Luqiu Luwei, a veteran journalist and director of the International Journalism Studies Master’s program at the Baptist University of Hong Kong, recently published a research paper, analyzing how WeChat is used in Chinese government censorship campaigns. The paper, entitled “Loyalty to WeChat beyond national borders: a perspective of media system dependency theory on techno-nationalism” provides a multi-disciplinary analysis on why the Chinese diaspora is loyal to WeChat — a key arm in the Chinese censorship system.

Co-authored by professor Kang Yi, a political scientist, the research addresses how the Chinese government’s policies and WeChat, the most influential new media and communication tool used among mainland and overseas Chinese communities, mediate the Chinese diaspora’s interaction with the local and settlement in host societies. The researchers refer to such overarching techno-political force as “techno-nationalism” which often influences users’ habits, opinions, and behaviors.

Global Voices East Asia editor, Oiwan Lam, interviewed Rose Luqiu on her five-year-long research process and the challenges of techno-nationalism. The interview was conducted in Cantonese via video chat and transcribed into English.

Continue reading

Pirates and Publishes book talk

[ONLINE BOOK TALK]: Pirates and Publishers by Prof. Fei-Hsien Wang

In Pirates and Publishers, Fei-Hsien Wang reveals the unknown social and cultural history of copyright in China from the 1890s through the 1950s, a time of profound sociopolitical changes. Developing multiple ways for articulating their understanding of copyright, Chinese authors, booksellers, and publishers played a crucial role in its growth and eventual institutionalization in China.

On Friday January 21, 2022, please join the online book talk hosted by UBC’s Centre for Chinese Research. The event will feature discussions with Dr. Fei-Hsien Wang on her newly published book— Pirates and Publishers: A Social History of Copyright in Modern China. The book is available for orders here.

Dr. Wang will give a book talk on the history of copyright, and how it was negotiated and protected by authors, publishers, and the state in late imperial and modern China. She will be joined by discussants Jiaqi Yao and Haoyue Li, both Ph.D. Candidates at the UBC Department of Asian Studies. This talk will also be moderated by Dr. Renren Yang, from UBC’s Department of Asian Studies.

Zoom registration page:

Posted by: Renren Yang