“Sister” tackles male gender preference

Source: Sixth Tone (4/8/21)
Hit Film Tackles Male Gender Preference in Chinese Families
“Sister” has emerged as an unexpected holiday hit, surpassing Hollywood heavyweight “Godzilla vs. Kong.”
By Chen Qi’an

A still frame from the Chinese blockbuster film “Sister.” From Douban

A still frame from the Chinese blockbuster film “Sister.” From Douban

A new Chinese movie is casting a spotlight on a long-debated question: Should personal values be prioritized over traditional family values?

The family drama “Sister” [我的姐姐] which topped the domestic box office during the recent Qingming Festival holiday, tells the story of An Ran, a young woman who is suddenly faced with having to take care of her 6-year-old brother after their parents die in an accident. The movie follows An’s trajectory as she struggles to balance her own life choices while becoming her brother’s caretaker.

The movie, starring popular actor Zhang Zifeng as the titular character, has so far raked in over 500 million yuan ($76 million), outperforming Hollywood hit “Godzilla vs. Kong,” according to ticketing platform Maoyan. On review site Douban, “Sister” has scored 7.2 out of 10. Continue reading

Countering Xinjiang backlash with a musical

Source: NYT (4/5/21)
China Tries to Counter Xinjiang Backlash With … a Musical?
The movie is part of Beijing’s wide-ranging new propaganda campaign to push back on sanctions and criticism of its oppression of the Uyghurs.
By Amy Qin

A Chinese government propaganda sign with slogans reading “Forever following the Party” and “China’s ethnicities, one family” in Aksu, Xinjiang, last month. Credit…Ng Han Guan/Associated Press

In one scene, Uyghur women are seen dancing in a rousing Bollywood style face-off with a group of Uyghur men. In another, a Kazakh man serenades a group of friends with a traditional two-stringed lute while sitting in a yurt.

Welcome to “The Wings of Songs,” a state-backed musical that is the latest addition to China’s propaganda campaign to defend its policies in Xinjiang. The campaign has intensified in recent weeks as Western politicians and rights groups have accused Beijing of subjecting Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities in Xinjiang to forced labor and genocide.

The film, which debuted in Chinese cinemas last week, offers a glimpse of the alternate vision of Xinjiang that China’s ruling Communist Party is pushing to audiences at home and abroad. Far from being oppressed, the musical seems to say, the Uyghurs and other minorities are singing and dancing happily in colorful dress, a flashy take on a tired Chinese stereotype about the region’s minorities that Uyghur rights activists quickly denounced. Continue reading

Manhua Modernity review

Source: Association for Chinese Animation Studies (3/31/21)
Review: John A. Crespi, Manhua Modernity: Chinese Culture and the Pictorial Turn (University of California Press, 2020) 198 pp.
By Jeremy E. Taylor

John A. Crespi’s Manhua Modernity: Chinese Culture and the Pictorial Turn represents an important contribution to the study of print and visual cultures in mid-twentieth-century China. Given the prominence of Republican Shanghai in Crespi’s narrative, this book might also be seen as part of a broader attempt to re-assess the place of this city in the story of modern Chinese print and visual cultures—a trend that is evident in other recent monographs, such as Pedith Chan’s The Making of a Modern Art World (2017) and Paul Bevan’s “Intoxicating Shanghai:” An Urban Montage (2020). Like such scholarship, Crespi’s book challenges what he refers to as the “anti-urban bias” (27) inherent in some earlier work in the field. Yet Manhua Modernity goes much further than this, providing a new set of methodologies for “horizontally reading” pictorial magazines. Indeed, Crespi should be congratulated for his methodological and conceptual ambition, for he seeks not simply to re-assess the evolution of manhua per se, but also to demonstrate the potential contribution of such a re-assessment to fields such as “pictorial studies” and visual cultures. Manhua Modernity contextualizes the manhua form (even as it takes issue with some of the existing literature on the topic) and updates an earlier fascination with images as stand-alone objects. Crespi’s approach also helps to free the history of manhua from a “nation-centered narrative” (34), as per Bi Keguan’s much cited work on the topic and seeks to bring the very notion of “manhua”—a term that Crespi refuses to italicize—into the mainstream of Chinese cultural history. Continue reading

Disgust at China’s state-sponsored ‘Uyghurface’ (1)

“The worst Uyghurface cosplay you ever did see” —

More on the racist use of dressed-up Uyghurface (= like ‘Blackface’) by official Chinese representatives, dancing around as fake, “happy” Uyghur people — in New Zealand: See today’s Twitter thread by Catherine Churchman, @C_M_Churchman.

Incredibly, among those naively playing along are both the mayor of the city of Auckland, Phil Goff, and, more incredibly, New Zealand’s Race Relations Commissioner Meng Foon. Or is it knowingly — thus a NZ ‘race relations commissioner’ playing along with the racist mockery of the victims of China’s genocide in Xinjiang?

Magnus Fiskesjö <nf42@cornell.edu>

Forced Confessions

Dear all — I’d like to mention my new article which came out yesterday:

Forced Confessions as Identity Conversion in China’s Concentration Camps.” Monde chinois 2020/2 (N° 62), 28-43. (not open access, unfortunately abstract only)

What I propose is that the entire Xinjiang camps system is set up to enforced a daily ritual self-denial, used to accomplish an involuntary ethnic identity “conversion” which is the purpose of the camps. While the method is fundamentally the same as in the forced confessions in mainland China, in the brainwashing of captured Falungong sect members, etc. — in Xinjiang it’s turned into a tool of genocide: to erase ethnic identities by turning people into Chinese parrots.

I’m building on my earlier work on the Chinese forced confessions (not in Xinjiang): “The Return of the Show Trial: China’s Televised ‘Confessions.'” Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus 15.13.1 (June 25, 2017).  (open access)
–In these Chinese confessions, broadcast on Chinese TV, it is not the ethnic identity of the victims that is assaulted, as in the Xinjiang camps, but rather the victim’s professional and personal identity, as lawyers, journalists, writers, and the like. Continue reading

In Memory of Fou Ts’ong

MCLC Resource Center is pleased to announce publication of Guangchen Chen’s tribute to Fou Ts’ong (1934-2020), “The Sufferings and Greatness of a Vulnerable Artist: In Memory of Fou Ts’ong.” To read the whole essay, which includes images and video clips, click here. A teaser appears below. My thanks to Guangchen Chen for sharing with us his memories of Fou Ts’ong.

Kirk Denton, editor

The Sufferings and Greatness of a Vulnerable Artist:
In Memory of Fou Ts’ong

By Guangchen Chen


MCLC Resource Center Publication (Copyright March 2021)


Fu Ts’ong program note from a performance in New York in the 1965-66 season.

As if 2020 were not bad enough: about a week before Christmas, I received an email from the pianist Patsy Toh; I assumed it was her usual kind holiday greetings. Instead, it was to inform me that both she and her husband and musical partner Fou Ts’ong 傅聰 tested positive of COVID-19. Patsy seemed to be doing OK and was out of hospital already. Ts’ong would stay on for a few more days, and was expected back home for Christmas. I was shocked, knowing how reclusive they were. And I was worried: Ts’ong was 86 and a lifelong lover of pipe smoking. But I was also hopeful, because he had, until recently, always been bursting with vitality and had weathered one challenge after another through his dramatic life. But 2020 proved, right up to the end, deadly: he passed away on December 28.

Fou Ts’ong was a pianist of rare musical sensitivity and formidable cultural sophistication. Born in Shanghai in 1934, he was raised in an atmosphere steeped in learning, both East and West. He was tutored at home by his father, the eminent translator of French literature and art critic Fu Lei 傅雷,[1] who spent his formative years in Europe. Fou Ts’ong grew up in the company of old recordings made by Wilhelm Furtwängler, Edwin Fischer, and the Capet Quartet, among others. With relatively scant formal training, he debuted with the Shanghai Symphony at the age of 17. In 1953, he won the third prize at the George Enescu Competition in Romania, and then the third prize and best mazurka performance at the 1955 Chopin Competition in Poland. Subsequently, he had an international performing career that spanned almost six decades. But what distinguished him as a unique artist was his ability to combine the aesthetics of two distinctively different traditions—the Chinese and the European. Furthermore, he and his family were victims of Mao Zedong’s communism, and the pain he suffered his whole adult life can be heard in a palpable way in his music. [continue reading]

Trump as you’ve never seen him before (1)

Interesting piece. Two supplements are needed, though.

1.Some of the attraction to Trump in China comes because, not in spite of, his readiness to oppose Beijing.

2.Countless images of Mao were produced less because he was “an artistic muse” than because he was Chairman of the Communist Party of China.

Perry Link <eplink@ucr.edu>

Trump as you’ve never seen him before

Source: NYT (3/12/21)
Trump as You’ve Never Seen Him Before
A furniture maker and decorator in China created a stir — and inspired copycats — by casting a ceramic sculpture of the former president in a meditative pose that evokes the Buddha.
By Steven Lee Myers

A cast of “Trump, the Buddha of Knowing of the Western Paradise,” by the Chinese sculptor Hong Jinshi. The artwork, as well as countless imitations, can be purchased on the e-commerce site Taobao. Credit…Xiaoya

There is no shortage of merchandise in China devoted to the former president of the United States, Donald J. Trump. There are commemorative coinstoilet brushes and cat toys; countless figurines, including updated versions of Mount Rushmore, plus all those flags, bumper stickers and hats from campaigns past and future. (Does anyone still believe all that “Make America Great Again” stuff was really made in America?)

Enter the Trump Buddha.

A furniture maker and decorator in southern China has cast a sculpture of Mr. Trump in ceramic whiteware, his legs crossed and hands serenely resting in his lap. He is draped in a monk’s robes, his head is lowered and his eyes are closed, as if in meditative repose, an emotional state not typically associated with the 45th president of the United States.

The artist calls it “Trump, the Buddha of Knowing of the Western Paradise.” Continue reading

Global racism, Chinese racism and genocide

My new podcast interview on Chinese and global racism:

Conversation with Dr. Magnus Fiskesjö: Impact of Chinese Racism.” Voice of East Turkistan. March 4, 2021.

It’s based on my online article:

Racism with Chinese Characteristics: How China’s imperial legacy underpins state racism and violence in Xinjiang.” Magnus Fiskesjö. China Channel, Los Angeles Review of Books, January 22, 2021.

ps. for those who speak Uyghur: A similar interview translated into the Uyghur, published January 29, 2021, on Radio Free Asia’s Uyghur service.

Magnus Fiskesjö <nf42@cornell.edu>

China’s scheme to transfer Uighurs into work

Source: BBC News (3/2/21)
‘If the others go I’ll go’: Inside China’s scheme to transfer Uighurs into work
By John Sudworth, BBC News, Beijing

A still from the state media report, showing Buzaynap

Buzaynap, 19, appeared in a 2017 state media report on labour transfer

China’s policy of transferring hundreds of thousands of Uighurs and other ethnic minorities in Xinjiang to new jobs often far from home is leading to a thinning out of their populations, according to a high-level Chinese study seen by the BBC.

The government denies that it is attempting to alter the demographics of its far-western region and says the job transfers are designed to raise incomes and alleviate chronic rural unemployment and poverty.

But our evidence suggests that – alongside the re-education camps built across Xinjiang in recent years – the policy involves a high risk of coercion and is similarly designed to assimilate minorities by changing their lifestyles and thinking.

The study, which was meant for the eyes of senior officials but accidentally placed online, forms part of a BBC investigation based on propaganda reports, interviews, and visits to factories across China.

And we ask questions about the possible connections between transferred Uighur labour and two major western brands, as international concern mounts over the extent to which it is already ingrained in global supply chains. Continue reading

Disgust at China’s state-sponsore ‘Uyghurface’

Fascinating article copied below, on elected officials in New Zealand going along with Chinese state propaganda using “Uyghurface” Han Chinese enactments to try to project a happy face and twist back China’s image, so deeply tarnished in the wake of the recent, unending flood of revelations about the genocide Xinjiang (East Turkistan). A few things to keep in mind:

–“Uyghurface” is very much like the loathed “Blackface” in the US: At their core, both are enactments that obviously represent the moves by dominant supremacist elites to enact and sadistically enjoy their own secret wish of a smiling, obedient slave figure — in the current Chinese case, this is the fantasy “happy dancing Uyghur,” which contrasts with the stark reality of the ongoing genocide, with its massive racial profiling and extralegal internment; mass slavery; the decapitation of their people’s entire cultural elites; bulldozing of their history (cemeteries, pilgrimage sites, mosques), forced assimilation, including by way of the mass confiscation of children for Chinese-only state rearing; the mass prevention of births of new indigenes, and more (cf. my bibliography; or The Xinjiang Documentation Project).

— “Uyghurface,” the term newly coined, is of course also of great scholarly interest as a variety of “Cultural Appropriation” – here, Jason Baird Jackson’s new article “On Cultural Appropriation” (Journal of Folklore Research, Vol. 58, No. 1, 2021 • doi:10.2979/jfolkrese.58.1.04) is of great interest: Jackson impressively takes on the entire problem of “cultural appropriation” and usefully points out that as cultural borrowing, it is something common in human history, and as such it’s by no means always evil — yet it certainly can be evil and offensive, especially in situations of, precisely, systematic inequality and domination expressed in mockery and humiliation — such as in the situation of the Uyghurs, right now.

— There is also an important geopolitical context here. The small country of New Zealand is currently heavily targeted, as low-hanging fruit, by the Chinese regime’s state propaganda apparatus and by its United Front, which attempts “elite capture,” as in this act: making local elites buy into, obey, and promote the Chinese regime’s agenda. This “Uyghurface” incident is but one of many expressions of this. The Chinese regime actually won a major victory just recently, when it got the NZ government to berate neighboring Australia (!) for the current standoff in Aussie-Chinese relations, even though it’s clearly and entirely about Chinese political and economic intimidation unfairly piled on Australia as punishment (wine and other trade boycotts, etc. etc.), after its government dared criticize China’s atrocities in Xinjiang, and also for leading the world in demanding an open international inquiry into the origins of the Covid pandemic. (Thank you Australia; I am on my third box of 12 bottles of nice Australian wines now, since all this started).

–Magnus Fiskesjö, nf42@cornell.edu

Source: Newsroom (2/26/21)
Disgust at China’s State-Sponsored “Uyghurface” in Wellington
As further reports of torture and systemic rape emerge from Xinjiang, the PRC’s propaganda machine is hard at work in New Zealand. Laura Walters looks at why a Chinese New Year performance in Wellington was more than just cultural appropriation
By Laura Walters

Wellington Mayor Andy Foster is the latest New Zealand politician to be used as a propaganda tool in China’s campaign against Uyghur Muslims. Photo: Facebook

State-sponsored appropriation of Uyghur culture has been labelled “disgusting” and “disrespectful” by those whose families and communities are being persecuted by the Chinese Communist Party. Continue reading

Spring festival gala criticism

Source: SupChina (2/11/21)
Once again, blackface and single-shaming jokes are featured at the CCTV Spring Festival Gala
Chinese state broadcaster CCTV’s annual Spring Festival Gala (春晚 chūnwǎn) comes in for withering criticism nearly every year for poor taste, sexism, and other issues. This year is no different.
By Jiayun Feng

Chinese state broadcaster CCTV’s annual Spring Festival Gala (春晚 chūnwǎn) comes in for withering criticism nearly every year for poor taste, sexism, and other issues. This year is no different:

Perpetual misfiring on Africa and blackface

Five minutes into the gala, a group of Chinese actors adorned in blackface makeup and stereotypical African tribal garments appeared on the stage, dancing joyfully in a segment that also featured flamenco performers, belly dancers, and women dressed like Cleopatra in ancient Egypt.

Continue reading

Li Ziqi sets subscriber record

Source: SCMP (2/3/21)
Chinese internet star Li Ziqi sets Guinness World Record for YouTube subscribers with rural lifestyle show
Li’s videos show her in rural Sichuan, doing farm chores, growing and gathering food, and cooking it. Her videos have gained almost three million subscribers since July, and she set off the recent kimchi storm.
By  in Shenzhen

Chinese vlogger Li Ziqi shot to fame on YouTube with her rural lifestyle videos. Photo: Li Ziqi/YouTube

Chinese vlogger Li Ziqi shot to fame on YouTube with her rural lifestyle videos. Photo: Li Ziqi/YouTube

Chinese internet culinary sensation Li Ziqi has set a record for “Most subscribers for a Chinese-language channel on YouTube”, Guinness World Records announced on Weibo, China’s Twitter-like service on Tuesday night.

She was listed in the records in July with 11.4 million subscribers and had gone up to 14.1 million by the end of January, the post said.

“The poetic and idyllic lifestyle and the exquisite traditional Chinese culture shown in Li’s videos have attracted fans from all over the world, with many YouTubers commenting in praise,” the post said. “The culture that her videos conveyed is travelling further.”

Continue reading

Uighur camp detainees allege systematic rape

Source: BBC News (2/2/21)
‘Their goal is to destroy everyone’: Uighur camp detainees allege systematic rape
By Matthew Hill, David Campanale and Joel Gunter, BBC News

Women in China’s “re-education” camps for Uighurs have been systematically raped, sexually abused, and tortured, according to detailed new accounts obtained by the BBC. You may find some of the details in this story distressing.

Tursunay Ziawudun spent nine months inside China's network of internment camps

Tursunay Ziawudun spent nine months inside China’s network of internment campsBBC

The men always wore masks, Tursunay Ziawudun said, even though there was no pandemic then.

They wore suits, she said, not police uniforms.

Sometime after midnight, they came to the cells to select the women they wanted and took them down the corridor to a “black room”, where there were no surveillance cameras.

Several nights, Ziawudun said, they took her.

“Perhaps this is the most unforgettable scar on me forever,” she said.

“I don’t even want these words to spill from my mouth.”

Tursunay Ziawudun spent nine months inside China’s vast and secretive system of internment camps in the Xinjiang region. According to independent estimates, more than a million men and women have been detained in the sprawling network of camps, which China says exist for the “re-education” of the Uighurs and other minorities. Continue reading

Worker deaths put big tech under scrutiny

Source: NYT (2/1/21)
Worker Deaths Put Big Tech in China Under Scrutiny
阅读简体中文版閱讀繁體中文版
The deaths of two young employees of Pinduoduo, an e-commerce platform, have reignited longstanding concerns about working conditions at internet giants.
By Vivian Wang

A 2018 shift at the Shanghai headquarters of Pinduoduo, an e-commerce platform that is facing an investigation and a boycott over its working conditions. Credit…ChinaTopix, via Associated Press

It was 1:30 a.m. just days before the new year, and the 22-year-old employee of Pinduoduo, a Chinese e-commerce company, was leaving after a long day of work. Suddenly, she clutched her stomach and collapsed. Her co-workers rushed her to a hospital, but six hours later, she died.

Less than two weeks later, a young Pinduoduo worker leaped to his death during a brief visit to his parents. The next day, a third employee said he had been fired after criticizing Pinduoduo’s work culture.

The day after that, a delivery driver for another technology company set himself on fire, demanding unpaid wages. “I want my blood and sweat money,” he said in a video shared widely on Chinese social media in recent weeks.

The string of deaths and protests has reopened a national debate around the power of China’s biggest technology companies and the expectations they impose on their employees, at a time when internet giants around the world are under fierce scrutiny. Continue reading