Transnational Repression event

Note the double China connection in the below upcoming event on Transnational Repression, with Rushan Abbas, the Uyghur activist (who will present her film In Search of My Sister, at Cornell cinema the evening before), and Prof. Sean Roberts, longtime writer on Uyghur issues, including on transnational repression and on how the Chinese regime has been copying, adopting, and expanding US war-on-terror rhetoric and practices. This is an in-person event but will likely be recorded and made available afterwards./ Magnus Fiskesjö,

Panel on Transnational Repression
Biotechnology Building, G10, Central Campus, Cornell university
Thursday, April 25, 2024 at 4:30pm to 6:00pm

Governments engage in transnational repression when they reach across borders to silence dissidents living abroad. Tactics for transnational repression include assassinations, abductions, threats, and direct action against dissidents’ families and friends living within the repressive government’s territory. This panel will focus on this global phenomenon and its local consequences for students and faculty members at Cornell, U.S. campuses more broadly, and other communities around the world. It will include the voices of dissidents affected by transnational repression as well as scholars and experts working in the field.

This is a panel discussion following the April 24 documentary In Search of My Sister screening. The film chronicles Rushan Abbas’s relentless pursuit of truth and justice. Continue reading

Rethinking Cold War Culture and History in Taiwan

Rethinking Cold War Culture and History in Taiwan
2024 UCLA-NTNU Taiwan Studies Initiative Conference
Friday, April 19, 2024 – Saturday, April 20, 2024

Rethinking Cold War Culture and History in Taiwan

Image Credit: 作者 (Photographer):余如季 (Yu Ru-ji)。《蚵女》拍攝現場採訪照 (Interview Photo from the filming of “Oyster Girl”)。典藏者:余立。數位物件典藏者:中央研究院數位文化中心、國家電影及視聽文化中心。創用CC 姓名標示-非商業性-相同方式分享 3.0台灣(CC BY-NC-SA 3.0 TW)。發佈於《開放博物館》[](2024/02/06瀏覽)

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Organized by Shu-mei Shih (Irving and Jean Stone Chair in the Humanities and Professor of Comparative Literature, Asian Languages and Cultures, and Asian American Studies, UCLA) and Faye Qiyu Lu (Department of Asian Languages and Cultures, UCLA), the Rethinking Cold War Culture and History in Taiwan conference is presented as part of the UCLA-NTNU Taiwan Studies Initiative, a partnership of UCLA and National Taiwan Normal University (NTNU) that aims to create research synergies to promote cutting-edge research in Taiwan studies.

Over the past decades between the “old” and the “new” Cold Wars, the (in)significance of Taiwan in world culture and history has often been determined by ideological assumptions that are overly simplistic. Yet not only have approaches to Taiwan studies in Taiwan experienced drastic changes (from area studies to postcolonial to settler colonial critiques), the positionality of Taiwan has also demonstrated unique potential for relational comparisons with the world. This conference examines ways of rethinking Cold War culture and history in Taiwan as well as the implications of the global Cold War culture and history for Taiwan studies from interdisciplinary and transhistorical perspectives. How do philosophical thought, literary and cultural productions, and geopolitical relations intersect when we situate Taiwan in the global Cold War? What does “being human” mean in Cold War Taiwan, taking into consideration Sinophone and transpacific entanglements? How is Cold War cultural politics negotiated in the developments of literary, cinematic, and media genres? What does the practice of rethinking Cold War culture and history in Taiwan do to better our understanding of Taiwan, China, and the world at the current moment with the formation of what may be called the Second Cold War? Continue reading

Emigres are creating an alternative China

Source: NYT (2/23/24)
Émigrés Are Creating an Alternative China, One Bookstore at a Time
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From Thailand to America, Chinese denied a safe public space for discussion in their home country have found hope in diaspora communities.
By Li Yuan (Reporting from Tokyo; Taipei, Taiwan; and Chiang Mai, Thailand)

“What matters is not what you oppose but what kind of life you desire,” said Anne Jieping Zhang, the owner of bookstores in Taipei and Chiang Mai, Thailand. Credit…Simon Simard for The New York Times

On a rainy Saturday afternoon in central Tokyo, 50 or so Chinese people packed into a gray, nondescript office that doubles as a bookstore. They came for a seminar about Qiu Jin, a Chinese feminist poet and revolutionary who was beheaded more than a century ago for conspiring to overthrow the Qing dynasty.

Like them, Ms. Qiu had lived as an immigrant in Japan. The lecture’s title, “Rebuilding China in Tokyo,” said as much about the aspirations of the people in the room as it did about Ms. Qiu’s life.

Public discussions like this one used to be common in big cities in China but have increasingly been stifled over the past decade. The Chinese public is discouraged from organizing and participating in civic activities.

In the past year, a new type of Chinese public life has emerged — outside China’s borders in places like Japan.

“With so many Chinese relocating to Japan,” said Li Jinxing, a human rights lawyer who organized the event in January, “there’s a need for a place where people can vent, share their grievances, then think about what to do next.” Mr. Li himself moved to Tokyo from Beijing last September over concerns for his safety. “People like us have a mission to drive the transformation of China,” he said. Continue reading

Hillenbrand interview

Source: China Digital Times (2/14/24)
Interview: Margaret Hillenbrand on Her Books “On the Edge” (2023) and “Negative Exposures” (2020).
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Margaret Hillenbrand, professor of Modern Chinese Literature and Culture at the University of Oxford, joined CDT to discuss her two latest books: “On the Edge: Feeling Precarious in China” (2023) and “Negative Exposures: Knowing What Not to Know in Contemporary China” (2020).

On the Edge” examines antagonistic cultural forms generated in response to the expulsion of hundreds of millions of China’s precariat from mainstream society, effectively condemning them to “zombie citizenship,” which Hillenbrand describes as “a state of exile from the shelter of the law.” The book covers a kaleidoscopic range of art: assembly line poetry, shit-eating livestreams (literally) on short video apps, and documentaries on trash, to offer but a sampling. Our conversation focuses on two forms: delegated performances, in which charismatic artists recruit vulnerable workers to participate in staged site-specific installations that often include degrading, even sadistic, elements; and “suicide shows,” in which workers stage dramatic protests on high-rise edifices and tower cranes to demand their unpaid wages. The first half of the interview is a wide-ranging discussion on the dark feelings generated by the “cliff-edge” of precarity and expulsion, and the potentially socially transformative powers of abrasive behavior, despite its obvious destructive potential.

The second half of the conversation focuses on “Negative Exposures,” a study of the relationship between “photo-forms”—photographs and their remediated renderings in other media—and “public secrecy” in China. The book makes a dramatic challenge to popular narratives of an “amnesiac China” forgetful of its traumatic past, proposing instead that the silences of the past are, at least in part, conspiratorial. (For more on “amnesia,” see CDT’s recent discussion with Perry Link on Liu Xiabo.) While readily acknowledging the state-engineered project to silence the past, Hillenbrand argues that photo-forms capture “the paradox of things that are fully known but are totally unacknowledgeable.” Silence about China’s past, in Hillenbrand’s telling, is part therapeutic, exculpatory, and self-interested—not so much a product of forgetting but rather, at least in part, of active choice. Our discussion of “Negative Exposures” focuses on photo-forms related to Bian Zhongyun, former vice-principal at an elite girls’ school in Beijing and the victim of the capital’s first recorded murder by Red Guards on August 5, 1966. In 2014, Song Binbin, daughter of a founding father of the Chinese Communist Party and former lead Red Guard at Bian’s school, stood before a bronze bust of Bian erected on the campus they once shared and tearfully apologized for her role in the vice-principal’s death. We discuss whether Song’s controversial apology “created ripples of sound” that have punctured public secrecy in China, or whether the silence of the past continues to hold. Continue reading

Beijing Westerns and Indigenous Opacity talk

Online Talk: Dr. Robin Visser – Beijing Westerns and Indigenous Opacity in Ecoliterature of Southwest China
Mar 7, 2024, 6-7:30pm CST (7-8:30pm EST)
Virtual event held on Zoom.

Please register to attend.


Indigenous knowledge of local ecosystems often challenges settler-colonial cosmologies that naturalize resource extraction and the relocation of nomadic, hunting, foraging, or fishing peoples. In this talk, I present findings from my book, Questioning Borders: Ecoliteratures of China and Taiwan (Columbia UP, 2023), which analyzes relations among humans, animals, ecosystems, and the cosmos in literary works by Han and non-Han Indigenous writers of China and Taiwan. I compare “root-seeking” novels by Beijing writers, set in China’s “exotic” southwest, with literature by Wa and Nuosu Yi Indigenes from Yunnan and Sichuan provinces. I argue that Beijing westerns appropriate “peripheral” Indigenous ecological perspectives to critique Maoist destruction of the environment and the undermining of Han neo-Confucian values to strengthen the “center” of the nation-state. Indigenous accounts, on the other hand, manifest what Edouard Glissant has called “opacity,” refusing colonial epistemes by centering the border as a place of home, heritage, and everyday humanity, though under great duress from climate change.

Speaker Bio

Robin Visser is Professor and Associate Chair of the Department of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Her book, Questioning Borders: Ecoliteratures of China and Taiwan (Columbia University Press, 2023), compares contemporary literature on the environment by Han Chinese and non-Han ethnic minority writers. Her book Cities Surround the Countryside: Urban Aesthetics in Postsocialist China (Duke University Press, 2010), translated into Russian (Academic Studies Press, 2022), analyzes Chinese urban planning, fiction, cinema, art, architecture, and intellectual debates at the turn of the 21st century.

Posted by: Faye Xiao

Genetics journal retracts 19 papers from China

The new announcement described below, of the retraction of multiple articles involving scientist’s abuse of ethnic minority people in China, comes right after Nature published a damning review of how slow the retraction process has often been, despite some scientists’ and editors’ recent awakening to the abuse:

“Unethical studies on Chinese minority groups are being retracted — but not fast enough, critics say. Campaigners who want scrutiny of biometrics research on Uyghurs, Tibetans and other groups are frustrated by slow progress.” By Dyani Lewis. Nature 625, 650-654 (2024). [24 January 2024 ].

See below for the latest batch of retractments of such abusive studies, mostly by scientists targeting Tibetans and Uyghurs; the scientists themselves being mostly Chinese and sometimes joined by Western collaborators, all of whom are now waking up to the absence of ethics in Chinese science in the era of China’s genocidal policies against Tibetans and Uyghurs.

Magnus Fiskesjö <>

Source: The Guardian (2/14/24)
Genetics journal retracts 18 papers from China due to human rights concerns
Researchers used samples from populations deemed by experts and campaigners to be vulnerable to exploitation, including Uyghurs and Tibetans
By Amy Hawkins, Senior China correspondent

A genetics journal from a leading scientific publisher has retracted 18 papers from China, in what is thought to be the biggest mass retraction of academic research due to concerns about human rights.

The articles were published in Molecular Genetics & Genomic Medicine (MGGM), a genetics journal published by the US academic publishing company Wiley. The papers were retracted this week after an agreement between the journal’s editor in chief, Suzanne Hart, and the publishing company. In a review process that took over two years, investigators found “inconsistencies” between the research and the consent documentation provided by researchers. Continue reading


Source: NYT (2/4/24)
Welcome to ‘Dalifornia,’ an Oasis for China’s Drifters and Dreamers
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Young Chinese are flocking to the picturesque mountain town of Dali to escape the cutthroat competition and suffocating political environment of the country’s megacities.
Photographs by Gilles Sabrié. Written by Vivian Wang

People hold hands and dance in a courtyard. Mountains and storm clouds loom in the background.

Embracing one’s inner child, in Dali. Li Xiaoxue, center, moved there in August, after returning to China from Los Angeles. Ms. Li said Dali’s diversity and open-minded culture reminded her of California.

To find the dance circle in the bed-and-breakfast’s courtyard, drive north from the bedsheet factory converted into a crafts market, toward the vegan canteen urging diners to “walk barefoot in the soil and bathe in the sunshine.” If you see the unmanned craft beer bar where customers pay on the honor system, you’ve gone too far.

Welcome to the Chinese mountain city of Dali, also sometimes known as Dalifornia, an oasis for China’s disaffected, drifting or just plain curious.

The city’s nickname is a homage to California, and the easy-living, tree-hugging, sun-soaked stereotypes it evokes. It is also a nod to the influx of tech employees who have flocked there since the rise of remote work during the pandemic, to code amid the picturesque surroundings, nestled between snow-capped, 10,000-foot peaks in southwest China, on the shores of glistening Erhai Lake.

The area has long been a hub for backpackers and artists, who were lured by its cheap rents and idyllic old town, where ancient city gates and white-walled courtyard homes point to the history of the Bai ethnic minority, who have lived there for thousands of years. Continue reading


Source: China Digital Times (1/18/24)
Word of the Week: “U-LOCK” (U型锁, U-XÍNGSUǑ)
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This month, there have been a number of incidents—some major and some minor—that illustrate the “U-lock” mentality, a phrase that is sometimes used as shorthand to describe vitriolic xenophobic (particularly anti-Japanese) sentiment. “U-lock” refers to a U-shaped metal bicycle lock used to attack the Chinese owner of a Japanese-made car during the 2012 anti-Japanese protests in Xi’an. Ever since, Chinese internet users have used the term “U-lock” to refer to knee-jerk, xenophobic sentiment with the potential to incite real-world violence.

The “U-lock” mentality was on display in some of the rejoicing and Schadenfreude on Chinese social media after a destructive magnitude 7.6 earthquake struck western Japan on New Year’s Day of this year. Some nationalist commenters even claimed that the earthquake was “retribution” for past Japanese transgressions, from the conquest of Asia during WWII, up to and including last September’s initial release of treated nuclear wastewater from the damaged Fukushima nuclear power plant.

Just a week after the earthquake came the Nanning Metro “rising sun/folding fan” flap, set in motion by a nationalistic Douyin vlogger who complained that a colorful new advertisement on the Nanning metro system resembled the controversial former “rising sun” flag of the Imperial Japanese Army. Nanning Metro quickly backed down, deleting the offending imagery and promising to improve its oversight of future advertising, but a look at the entirety of the advertisement revealed that the image was not a Japanese rising sun at all, but a traditional Chinese folding fan. Some online observers chalked the incident up to nationalist trolls attempting to whip up anti-Japanese sentiment through deliberate misrepresentation or intentional misdirection (指鹿为马, zhǐlùwéimǎ, literally “pointing at a deer and calling it a horse.”) Others characterized it as an example of “porcelain bumping” (碰瓷, pèngcí)—in other words, creating a sham scenario to fool the unwary and advance one’s own agenda. (The term was coined, noted David Bandurski, “to describe a technique used by fraudsters who would wait with delicate porcelain vessels outside busy markets and demand payment when these shattered, ostensibly due to the carelessness of others.”) Continue reading

Island in Between

Island in Between, directed by S. Leo Chiang, has been shortlisted for an Oscar in the “documentary short film” category. The film can be viewed on the New York Times Youtube site:

Here’s a synopsis:

The rural Taiwanese outer islands of Kinmen sit merely 2 miles off the coast of China. Kinmen attracts tourists for its remains from the 1949 Chinese Civil War. It also marks the frontline for Taiwan in its escalating tension with China. Filmmaker S. Leo Chiang weaves lyrical vignettes of tourist visits and local life with his own narrative as someone negotiating ambivalent personal bonds to Taiwan, China, and the US, ISLAND IN BETWEEN explores the uneasy peace in these islands, and contemplates Taiwan’s uncertain future.

Chine: les influenceurs de la colonisation

Excellent new film on the ongoing Chinese colonization of genocided areas:
Chine: les influenceurs de la colonisation [English subtitles]
Arte / Sources, France 2023.
Disponible: 15 dec. 2023 to 29 Nov. 2026

Also available on Youtube:

This new 15 minute ARTE film is about Chinese colonizer-influencers in Xinjiang, hired by the State to promote colonization of ethnic- cleansed areas under the military-industrial Bingtuan complex (XPCC), the main tool of state settler colonialism in Xinjiang kicking in higher gears during this phase of the genocide.

It’s a lot like what Nazi Europe would have been like, had the Nazis won WWII. Or indeed, Israelis in a future fully cleansed Gaza, with an ocean view,” as one extremist settler leader recently memorably promoted it.

(I was just interviewed by the RFA to comment on the ARTE film. The interview may first come out in Uyghur, but I can send the link later. The main point: this is all part of a logical sequence of genocide – camps, mass destruction of separated families, forced labor or prison for split up parents and children’s Gulag for the kids. Down to how the belongings of the evicted and detained Uyghur owners of the land, now in the camps, or dead, shows up on Chinese ebay:


Magnus Fiskesjö,

Xinjiang’s Ominous ‘Looking Back Project’

Source: (12/30/23)
回头看工程 — Xinjiang’s Ominous “Looking Back Project”
By Bruce Humes

Uyghur poet’s memoir recalls the Xinjiang administration’s retrospective hunt for unPC content in textbooks once commissioned, edited and published by the state:

Following the Urumchi incident in 2009, the regional government had initiated the Looking Back Project. The Propaganda Department organized special groups to go over Uyghur-language books, newspapers, journals, films, television shows, and recordings from the 1980s to the present. These groups were tasked with identifying any materials that contained ethnic separatist themes or religious extremist content.

. . .  Several years later, as one result of these investigations, half a dozen Uyghur intellectuals and officials were arrested for editing Uyghur literature textbooks for grades one through eleven. The textbooks had been used in schools for over a decade before the “problem” with them was discovered in 2016.  

Word spread that similar “problems” had been found in nearly all Uyghur historical novels, and that they would soon be banned. The government had even banned a popular historical novel by Seypidin Ezizi, the highest-ranking Uyghur official in the history of the Chinese Communist Party. If the work of such a trusted party veteran could be banned, there was little question what the future held for other Uyghur writers.

(Excerpted from Waiting to be Arrested at Night by Tahir Hamut Izgil, translated by Joshua  Freeman)

The Yi of Southwest China

Source: (12/14/23)
The Yi (彝族) of Southwest China: Transmission of their Written and Performed Literature, Old and New
By Bruce Hume

A World History of Chinese Literature

Professor Mark Bender has brought to my attention the recent launch of the 422-page A World of Chinese Literature, which contains his short but fascinating article entitled Yi Literature: Traditional and Contemporary. It is an introduction to the “history, content and transmission of traditional and contemporary Yi traditions of written and performed literature.” The Yi people (彝族) of southwest China number around 9 million, and speak a language that is part of the Tibeto-Burman family of languages that are widely spoken in southwest China, Myanmar, northeast India, and other parts of the Himalayas.

Only a handful of non-Han peoples in China possess what he terms “fully workable” writing systems, mainly the Tibetans, Uyghurs, Kazakhs, Mongolians, Manchu, Korean, Dai and the Yi. The Naxi and Shui employ “less-versatile scripts” used mostly in rituals and divination, and there exist bodies of writing in the epic and ritual literature of the Zhuang, Yao, Dong, Bai that use versions of Chinese characters (often for their sound value).

According to Bender, the most widely circulated works of traditional Yi literature are epics and narrative poems collected in the 1950s and 1960s and published in Chinese translation. They included Meige: Yi Epic (梅葛: 彝族史诗), the status of which Matthew Walsh documented in a Yunnan village — including a video complete with song — back in 2017 (Under Threat).

Chamu (查姆): A modern Chinese paperback rendition of an Yi creation story.

Bender also details the backstory to the Origins of the Yi, which has come down to us thanks to a bimo (毕摩) who stashed one version of it in a cave during the chaotic Cultural Revolution. This reminds me of a similar tale about a hand-copied version of the Kyrgyz Epic of Manas, that was also buried during the Cultural Revolution to save it from destruction by over-zealous Red Guards, and not unearthed until 2014.

Grasping the real significance of centuries-old oral literature that has been textualized — and translated in the process — is no easy task. Bender reminds us:

The pastiche of genealogies and sketches of origin stories [such as “Origins of the Yi”] — all in verse — are difficult to link together without the understanding that the assemblage is not made to be read but rather performed in ritual contexts. In fact, many of the texts seem to assume the primary listener is the soul of the dead being guided to the land of the ancestors. The lyrics may provide a sort of comfort by giving rationale for the inevitability of death, often using images from nature. Fieldwork reveals that bimo regularly recite the origins of local clans along with origins of the sky, earth, and its inhabitants as part of funerals, weddings, rituals for casting out negative forces, the recalling of wandering souls of children, etc.

Mongolian production cancelled in China (1)

This follows the real slap in the face that is the Gengis Khan exhibition in Nantes right now — an exhibition which took six years to prepare without Beijing, after the Chinese had in the same way tried to forbid the use of “empire” in relation with either the Xiongnu or the Mongols in the exhibition and the catalogue. As it is, with objects from all over the world, including private collections, the exhibition is a feast, including heretical maps – one delightfully showing “the silk roads in the time of the Mongols.”

Brigitte Duzan <>

Mongolian production cancelled in China

Source: (12/12/23)
“Tamgagui Tur”: Mongolian Theatrical Production Abruptly Cancelled in China
By Bruce Humes

The Mongol Khan: Banned in China, live in London (Photo: Katja Ogrin)

After completing a record-breaking 151 sell-out performances at the Mongolian State Academic Theatre in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, a planned run of performances in Inner Mongolia’s Hohhot were abruptly cancelled by the Chinese authorities in September 2023.

Not to be deterred, the stage production, entitled The Mongol Khan for British audiences, began a two–week run at the London Coliseum (Nov-Dec 2023). The Mongolian original is known as Tamgagui Tur, literally “State without a Seal,” and the Chinese adaptation (失传玉玺) means “The Lost Seal.”

Set some two millennia ago in the early days of the Xiongnu Empire, the fictionalized story — a tragedy — depicts the heroic Archug Khan’s struggles to build a lasting dynasty by ensuring his heir is legitimate and worthy of his throne.

According to a report (失传玉玺) by Anand Tumurtogoo, on the eve of the performance in Hohhot, the Chinese side suddenly informed the cast and crew that they were to be moved 300 kilometers away to Ordos for the show. Just before the first performance was to begin there, the power supply was reportedly interrupted, and in the end, the show did not proceed.

“The terms ‘Xiongnu Empire’ (匈奴帝国) and ‘Khan’ (可汗) seem to have aroused the concern of the Communist Party of China,” said a spokeswoman for the theater group, according to Tumurtogoo’s report.

For a review of the London performance, see here.