Asia at the World’s Fairs

Announcing the launching of
Asia at the World’s Fairs: An Online Exhibition of Cultural Exchange
Presented by the Center for the Study of Asia, Pardee School of Global Studies
Curated by Catherine Vance Yeh

Beginning with the earliest international exhibition at London’s “Crystal Palace” in 1851, “world’s fairs” became a prominent stage for the presentation of peoples and cultures of Asia to a world audience. With its rich, vibrant and diverse histories and cultures, Asia as represented at these universal expositions provided many fairgoers with their first encounter with Asia and helped shape their understanding of the world. Taking place during a time of widespread colonialism, the notion of the world presented at these fairs had many complex layers of meaning. In many cases, indigenous arts and crafts were selected and showcased by their colonial administrators. Yet, many Asian countries chose to actively confront the asymmetry of power in their relationship to the West by presenting in these exhibitions their own image of their country and culture. These expositions served as a grand stage that displayed a complex history of conflicts, contradictions, and engagement of Asia with the world. Continue reading

Science and the May Fourth

Source: Sup China (4/24/19)
Protesting In The Name Of Science: The Legacy Of China’s May Fourth Movement
By YANGYANG CHENG

A hundred years after the rally for “Mr. Science” and “Mr. Democracy,” can the pursuit of scientific truth bring political freedom?

When I bade goodbye to my family in China in the summer of 2009, I proudly declared that I was going to America to study science — and be free. Always hesitant about her daughter’s choice of science over a more “feminine” discipline, my mother was nevertheless more concerned about my second objective. “What do you mean by ‘being free’? What will you do when you are ‘free’?”

“Focus on your profession,” my mother warned. “Don’t talk about politics. Don’t participate in politics. Don’t ever join street demonstrations, not even for the spectacle.” Continue reading

Penalty for maligning a building’s fengshui

Source: NYT (4/11/19)
In China, a $30,000 Penalty for Maligning a Building’s Feng Shui
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By Javier C. Hernández and Albee Zhang

The Wangjing SOHO developed by SOHO China in Beijing. CreditImaginechina, via Associated Press

BEIJING — A Chinese court has ordered a media company to pay nearly $30,000 to a real estate developer after it published an article that suggested a flashy building in Beijing violated the ancient laws of feng shui and would bring misfortune to its occupants.

The Chaoyang District People’s Court in Beijing ruled on Wednesday that the media company, Zhuhai Shengun Internet Technology, had damaged the reputation of the building’s developers, SOHO China, one of the largest real estate companies in China. Continue reading

China’s hi-tech war on its Muslim minority

Source: The Guardian (4/11/19)
China’s hi-tech war on its Muslim minority
Smartphones and the internet gave the Uighurs a sense of their own identity – but now the Chinese state is using technology to strip them of it.
By Darren Byler

In mid-2017, Alim, a Uighur man in his 20s, returned to China from studying abroad. As soon as he landed back in the country, he was pulled off the plane by police officers. He was told his trip abroad meant that he was now under suspicion of being “unsafe”. The police administered what they call a “health check”, which involved collecting several types of biometric data, including DNA, blood type, fingerprints, voice recordings and face scans – a process that all adults in the Uighur autonomous region of Xinjiang, in north-west China, are expected to undergo.

After his “health check”, Alim was transported to one of the hundreds of detention centres that dot north-west China. These centres have become an important part of what Xi Jinping’s government calls the “people’s war on terror”, a campaign launched in 2014, which focuses on Xinjiang, a region with a population of roughly 25 million people, just under half of whom are Uighur Muslims. As part of this campaign, the Chinese government has come to treat almost all expressions of Uighur Islamic faith as signs of potential religious extremism and ethnic separatism. Since 2017 alone, more than 1 million Turkic Muslims, including Uighurs, Kazakhs, Kyrgyz and others, have moved through detention centres. Continue reading

China’s Thousandfold Guantánamos

My new article on Xinjiang, which includes criticism of Cornell and other universities, over the Xinjiang human rights catastrophe, and China relations.–Magnus Fiskesjö

Source: Inside Higher Education (April 8, 2019)
China’s Thousandfold Guantánamos.
With China’s assault on scores of leading academics and intellectuals, business as usual is no longer possible, writes Magnus Fiskesjö.

PHOTO COURTESY OF LISA ROSS: The Uighur scholar Rahile Dawut conducting ethnographic research.

The recent mass arrests of scores of leading academics and intellectuals in western China is one of many indications that the Chinese regime’s current campaign against the native Uighur, Kazakh and other peoples is already a genocide. It is now clearly engaged in “acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such,” as defined in the 1948 international Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.

The Uighur Human Rights Project recently counted 386 targeted academics, artists and other prominent intellectuals as having been arrested by the regime. They probably are all, if still alive, in the concentration camps in the Xinjiang region, built there since 2017. Continue reading

HK battles Beijing as dreams for culture soar

Source: Taipei Times (4/3/19)
Hong Kong battles Beijing as dreams for culture soar
By AFP, HONG KONG

Hong Kong artist Kacey Wong plays the accordion inside a red mobile prison artwork called The Patriot, a performance art project protesting against the National Anthem Law, at his studio in Hong Kong.Wong’s work is a protest in a city struggling to square its vast cultural ambitions with an increasingly assertive Beijing. Photo: AFP

At a sunny Hong Kong art studio Kacey Wong gazes out through the bars of a cage, painted communist red — his work a protest in a city struggling to square its vast cultural ambitions with an increasingly assertive Beijing.

Better known for its high-end commercial galleries — and glamorous fairs like last month’s Art Basel — Hong Kong is striving to turn itself into a cultural heavyweight through a spate of new multimillion-dollar public art spaces.

But local artists warn Beijing’s growing influence is creating a climate of fear that is stifling creativity and threatens the nascent grassroots art scene Hong Kong says it wants to enrich. Continue reading

Replica of Peony Pavilion to appear in Stratford

Source: Global Times (3/14/19)
Replica of Chinese Peony Pavilion to appear in Shakespeare’s hometown
By Xinhua

The Peony Pavilion is a masterpiece by Chinese playwright Tang Xianzu (1550-1616) from the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). A replica of the pavilion, based on pictures recorded in ancient books of the play, will appear in Shakespeare’s hometown.

Four hundred years ago, when William Shakespeare was writing his sonnets with a quill, Tang Xianzu was recording verses with a brush nearly 6,000 kilometers away.

China and Britain have hosted a series of events to commemorate Shakespeare and Tang. Among the cultural exchange contracts signed, a replica of British playwright William Shakespeare’s family house will be built in Tang’s hometown in Fuzhou, East China’s Jiangxi Province, while Fuzhou will help build the replica of the Peony Pavilion, the historical site where Tang’s story took place, in Shakespeare’s hometown. Continue reading

“Wuhouci” Tibetan community of Chengdu

Source: High Peaks Pure Earth (2/25/19)
“Wuhouci” The Tibetan Community of Chengdu – Guest Post and Poetry Translation
By Lowell Cook

Photo taken in Wuhouci, Chengdu (Photo credit: Nina Robyn and Drolma Dondrup)

“The Tibetan Community of Chengdu” – An Introduction by Lowell Cook*

There are a number of Tibetan communities outside of the indigenous Tibetan lands and the community of Wuhouci is one of the most vibrant. Wuhouci is a neighborhood in the city of Chengdu, the capital of the Sichuan province, and has earned a name for itself as Chengdu’s Tibetan quarter.

With Sichuan encompassing large parts of Kham and Amdo, Chengdu acts as one of the major centers for Tibetans from these regions to access certain goods and medical care, find work and attend language schools or universities, and even spend their winters. It is said that at any given time, there are around 300,000 Tibetans in Chengdu. When you think about the overall Tibetan population (roughly 6 million), this is a sizable number. Yet, when you consider the entire population of Chengdu (over 14 million), it becomes clear that they are still very much a minority. Continue reading

1.5 million Muslims in camps

Source: SupChina (3/13/19)
1.5 Million Muslims Are In China’s Camps — Scholar
By LUCAS NIEWENHUIS

Adrian Zenz is a researcher at the European School of Culture and Theology in Korntal, Germany. Last year, he played a pivotal role in documenting the massive expansion of detention facilities in China’s Xinjiang region — what the government calls “vocational training centers,” but which function as political indoctrination camps. Zenz’s groundbreaking research estimating that as many as 1 million Muslims had disappeared into the facilities was published in the Jamestown China Brief, and then in the peer-reviewed journal Central Asian Survey. Continue reading

Locking up his fellow Muslims

Source: NYT (3/2/19)
He Needed a Job. China Gave Him One: Locking Up His Fellow Muslims
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China’s vast detention program for Muslims has required more and more police officers. And recruits are coming from the very ethnic groups that are being suppressed.
By Austin Ramzy

Baimurat, who lives in Kazakhstan, says he helped deliver hundreds of fellow Muslims to an indoctrination camp in China’s Xinjiang region. “I came to regret ever coming back to China,” he said. “That choice led me into doing such awful things.” Credit Emile Ducke for The New York Times

ALMATY, Kazakhstan — The businesses he started had failed, and he had a wife and two children to support. So when the authorities in China’s far western Xinjiang region offered him a job with the auxiliary police, Baimurat welcomed the good pay and benefits.

For months, he stood at roadside checkpoints, looking for people on the government’s blacklist, usually from Muslim ethnic minorities. As a Kazakh Muslim himself, he sometimes felt uncomfortable about his work, but he needed the money.

Then he was asked to help bring 600 handcuffed people to a new facility — and was stunned by what he saw. Officials called it a job training center, but it was basically a prison, with toilets and beds behind bars. One detainee was an acquaintance he barely recognized because he had lost so much weight. Continue reading

Li Xueqin dies at 85

Source: NYT (3/1/19)
Li Xueqin, Key Historian in China’s Embrace of Antiquity, Dies at 85
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By Ian Johnson

Li Xueqin, one of China’s leading historians, in an undated photo. Credit: Tsinghua University

BEIJING — Li Xueqin, whose political savvy and intellectual brilliance helped shift the field of Chinese history toward emphasizing the wonders of the country’s past, a traditionalist approach in line with the Communist government’s efforts to identify itself with ancient China, died on Feb. 24 in Beijing. He was 85.

His death was confirmed by a government obituary. The official newspaper Guangming Daily paid tribute to him in an article headlined, “A Lifelong Pursuit of History; He Also Wrote Himself Into the History Books.”

That was hardly an exaggeration. For more than 20 years Mr. Li was deputy director and then director of the Institute of History, part of the Chinese Academy of Social Science — positions of unusual influence in a country that has alternately gloried in its history and rejected it as a burden. Continue reading

Forbidden City at night

Source: NYT (1/20/19)
The Forbidden City Offers a Rare Nighttime Glimpse of China’s Imperial Past
By Claire Fu

A light show greeted visitors at the Meridian Gate of the Forbidden City in Beijing on Tuesday.CreditGilles Sabrié for The New York Times

BEIJING — The Forbidden City has not really been forbidden to the public for decades, except in one respect. It was closed at night to all but the privileged few — until this week.

For the first time since 1925, when the former home of the emperors of the Ming and Qing dynasties became a museum, the Forbidden City has opened its doors to the public at night for two days this week, allowing visitors the chance to see its palaces and temples bathed in ethereal lights. 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

Uyghur philanthropist sentence to death for unsanctioned Hajj

This piece dates from late November of last year, but still bears disseminating.–Kirk

Source: Radio Free Asia (11/21/18)
Xinjiang Authorities Sentence Uyghur Philanthropist to Death For Unsanctioned Hajj
By Gulchehra Hoja

Abdughapar Abdurusul in an undated photo.

Abdughapar Abdurusul in an undated photo. Photo courtesy of Abdusattar Abdurusul

Authorities in northwest China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) have sentenced a prominent Uyghur businessman and philanthropist to death for taking an unsanctioned Muslim holy pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia, according to his brother.

Abdughapar Abdurusul, of Bakyol district in Ili Kazakh (in Chinese, Yili Hasake) Autonomous Prefecture’s Ghulja (Yining) city, “was arrested in July or August,” his brother Abdusattar Abdurusul recently told RFA’s Uyghur Service, citing Abdughapar’s Kazakh business partners living in Kazakhstan’s Almaty city. Continue reading