Meet the mystery woman who mastered IBM’s Chinese typewriter

Source: Fast Company (5/17/21)
Meet the mystery woman who mastered IBM’s 5,400-character Chinese typewriter
Lois Lew operated the improbable, ill-fated machine with aplomb in presentations from Manhattan to Shanghai. 70-plus years later, she’s telling her story.
By Thomas S. Mullaney

Meet the mystery woman who mastered IBM’s 5,400-character Chinese typewriter

[Photos: courtesy of IBM]

I had seen this woman before. Many times now. I was certain of it. But who was she? In a film from 1947, she’s operating an electric Chinese typewriter, the first of its kind, manufactured by IBM. Semi-circled by journalists, and a nervous-looking middle-aged Chinese man—Kao Chung-chin, the engineer who invented the machine—she radiates a smile as she pulls a sheet of paper from the device. Kao is biting his lip, his eyes darting back and forth intently between the crowd and the typist.

As soon as I saw that film, I began to riffle through my files. I’m a professor of Chinese history at Stanford University, and I was years into a book project on the history of modern Chinese information technology—and the Chinese typewriter specifically. By that point, I had amassed a large and still-growing body of source materials, including archival documents, historic photographs, and even antique machines. My office was becoming something of a private museum.

As I thought, I’d encountered the typist previously in my research, in glossy IBM brochures and on the cover of Chinese magazines. Who was she? Why did she appear so frequently, so prominently, in the history of IBM’s effort to electrify the Chinese language? Continue reading

Academics continue China research while targeted by China sanctions

Source:  University World News (6/2/21)
Academics continue China research – while targeted by China sanctions
By Yojana Sharma

After China targeted academics and a research centre in Europe for its first ever sanctions against foreign researchers in March 2021, many feared it would have a wider impact on academic research on China.

But speaking some weeks after the imposition of sanctions on 22 and 26 March, imposed in part due to their work on China’s Xinjiang region, researchers said their work has hardly been impacted by Chinese sanctions as it was already hampered previously by unofficial restrictions and harassment.

However, some feared that sanctions could be widened to more academics as part of much wider geopolitical tensions, affecting China-related research globally. It could also impact on other areas where China sees it has leverage, such as sending international students to universities.

In March China sanctioned Joanne Smith Finley, a reader in Chinese studies at Newcastle University in the United Kingdom, for what the Chinese foreign ministry called “maliciously spreading lies and information” about Xinjiang; Björn Jerdén, director of the Swedish National China Centre at the Swedish Institute of International Affairs in Stockholm; and Adrian Zenz, a German expert on Xinjiang who is currently senior fellow in China studies at the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation in the United States. Continue reading

Critical China Scholars statement on the “lab-leak” investigation (1)

This statement is truly unfortunate, not least since this group has made a few sensible interventions in the past. But this one is just plain wrong.

Above all, it suffers from the kind of myopic, US-only worldview that is sometimes found on the left. Everything is about the USA: Never mind all the other countries and all the other people around the world, who are demanding an investigation of Covid’s origins — because millions of people died around the world and we do not know why. The world needs to know.

Yet the Chinese government now says the investigation is “complete” even before it has even begun, just because they have set their Party line narrative and are imposing strict censorship, as usual, allowing no-one to ask all the unanswered questions.

Peter Ben Embarek, the leader of the recent WHO delegation, emphatically said their Wuhan visit was no investigation. Lots of scientists around the world have pointed out what remains to be done in the search for how Covid began. Even the WHO top director Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, apparently tired of the earlier strategy of flattering the Chinese regime for its ‘transparency’, now stated clearly and seriously that it is necessary to find this out, and as part of that, the lab leak hypothesis is still on. Continue reading

Sinophone Studies: The View from Taiwan and HK

EVENT: Sinophone Studies: The View from Taiwan and Hong Kong

What does it mean to research and teach Sinophone studies in Taiwan and Hong Kong? Join us for a conversation with Min-xu Zhan, a specialist in Sinophone Malaysian literature at National Chung Hsing University, and Alvin K. Wong, an expert in queer Hong Kong culture at the University of Hong Kong.

Organizer and Host: Howard Chiang (

Time: May 28, 2021 6pm in Pacific Time
Zoom Registration Link

Chloé Zhao and China: The Nomadland Moment

Source: The Film Quarterly (4/28/21)
Chloé Zhao and China: The Nomadland Moment
By Gina Marchetti


OSCAR SPECIAL. With the unprecedented success of Chloé Zhao and Nomadland at this week’s Oscars, Film Quarterly here offers a special Quorum edition: Gina Marchetti applies her expertise in Chinese cinema to decipher the influences lurking just under the surface of a film that may just be more Chinese than anyone realizes. In honor of the three Oscars that it won, Nomadland here gets three times the usual Quorum length.—B. Ruby Rich and Girish Shambu, editors of Film Quarterly and Quorum

The story of Su Min, an unhappily married former factory worker from Henan, who became an Internet sensation when she started posting videos of her solo road trip across the People’s Republic of China in a van, may seem like an unlikely way to open a conversation about Chloé Zhao’s US-set film, Nomadland (2020). However, there are similarities between Su Min and many of the women on the road in Zhao’s film that point to a way of looking at Nomadland that takes it outside of the American West. This perspective underscores its connections to a China which, visually and physically absent in the film, nevertheless structures its production, distribution, exhibition, and, arguably, much of its international critical acclaim.

As single, working-class women living frugally in order to have the freedom to live outside the confines of the traditional, patriarchal,  heterosexual family, either nuclear or multigenerational, Fern (Frances McDormand) and Su Min share common ground across continents. For Zhao, her film speaks beyond politics to a universal humanism that is prized by many in the film industry and can resonate with viewers in China:

I tried to focus on the human experience and things that I feel go beyond political statements to be more universal — the loss of a loved one, searching for home…I keep thinking about my family back in China — how would they feel about a cowboy in South Dakota, or a woman in her 60s living in America?…If I make it too specific to any issues, I know it’s going to create a barrier. They’d go, ‘That’s their problem.’

Continue reading

Chloe Zhao sought common ground in Oscars speech

Source: Nikkei Asia (4/27/21)
China-born Chloe Zhao sought common ground in Oscars speech
Considering ‘Nomadland’ as art made by humans rather than geopolitical actors
By AYNNE KOKAS and JEFFREY WASSERSTROM, Contributing writers

Chloe Zhao became the first Asian woman to win an Academy Award for best director on Sunday, crashing through one of Hollywood’s toughest barriers with her film “Nomadland.”   © AP

In her acceptance speech for the Best Director Oscar for “Nomadland,” Chloe Zhao recited the first verses of the San Zi Jing, a classic Confucian poem her father taught her.

Her reference evoked pan-Chineseness and the intimacy of family, while rejecting the patriotic education of the Chinese Communist Party. Her reference evoked a pride in the classics with wide appeal in some Chinese cultural contexts.

But even as Zhao’s speech expressed gratitude to her father, it fell far short of praising her motherland. And this is the challenge facing not just artists born in China, but anyone seeking to distribute media there — the space for ambiguous expression in the mainland has collapsed. Continue reading

Sino-Japanese Connections in Independent Film Cultures

To mark the launch of the journal of the Chinese Independent Cinema Observer, CIFA will hold an online event on May 15 (Saturday), in which Mr. Nonaka Akihiro, Prof. Tsuchiya Maasaki, and a transgenerational line-up of filmmakers—Feng Yan, Ji Dan, Hu Jie, Wu Wenguang, and Fang Manman—will participate in a special online forum (in Japanese and Chinese)

Date & Time: 15 May, 16:30 (Japan Time)/15:30 (Beijing Time)/8:30 (UK Time)
Languages: Launch Event: English/Chinese/Japanese; Forum: Japanese/Chinese

Please register for the event via the CIFA website:

After registration, you will receive a Zoom link 1 week in advance of the event.

You can download the inaugural issue “Sino-Japanese Connections in Independent Film Cultures (1989 – 2020)“ here:

CIFA also would like to cordially invite you for a photo exhibition entitled “Feng Yan’s Encounters (Japan, Documentary, Those People and Those Events)” for the contribution with the same name by Feng Yan for the inaugural issue:

Museum Representations of Chinese Diasporas

Dear colleagues,

Hope this email finds you well. I am pleased to inform you that the next Contemporary China Centre event/seminar coorganised with HOMELandS will be presented by Cangbai Wang. He will talk about his new book, Museum Representations of Chinese Diasporas, with guest discussant Yow Cheun Hoe (Nanyang Technological University, Singapore). You may register here and the Zoom link will be provided in due course.

How Wee Ng

About this Event

Book event: “Museum Representations of Chinese Diasporas: Migration Histories and the Cultural Heritage of the Homeland” (May 20, 2021)
Organised by Contemporary China Centre and HOMELandS (Hub on Migration, Exile, Language and Spaces) University of Westminster
*Zoom link will be sent out before the event

Museum Representations of Chinese Diasporas is the first book to analyse the recent upsurge in museums on Chinese diasporas in China. Examining heritage-making beyond the nation state, the book provides a much-needed, critical examination of China’s engagement with its diasporic communities. In this event, author Dr Cangbai Wang (University of Westminster, United Kingdom) will talk about his research findings with guest discussant Associate Professor Yow Cheun Hoe (Nanyang Technological University, Singapore). Continue reading

Transtopia in the Sinophone Pacific

Publication Announcement: Howard Chiang, Transtopia in the Sinophone Pacific (Columbia University Press, 2021).

As a broad category of identity, “transgender” has given life to a vibrant field of academic research since the 1990s. Yet the Western origins of the field have tended to limit its cross-cultural scope. Howard Chiang proposes a new paradigm for doing transgender history in which geopolitics assumes central importance. Defined as the antidote to transphobia, transtopia challenges a minoritarian view of transgender experience and makes room for the variability of transness on a historical continuum.

Against the backdrop of the Sinophone Pacific, Chiang argues that the concept of transgender identity must be rethought beyond a purely Western frame. At the same time, he challenges China-centrism in the study of East Asian gender and sexual configurations. Chiang brings Sinophone studies to bear on trans theory to deconstruct the ways in which sexual normativity and Chinese imperialism have been produced through one another. Grounded in an eclectic range of sources—from the archives of sexology to press reports of intersexuality, films about castration, and records of social activism—this book reorients anti-transphobic inquiry at the crossroads of area studies, medical humanities, and queer theory. Timely and provocative, Transtopia in the Sinophone Pacific highlights the urgency of interdisciplinary knowledge in debates over the promise and future of human diversity.

Statement of support for targeted academics

Below a new statement in support of all the scholars sanctioned by China, circulating as of this morning March 30. This one is truly international — Please sign.–Magnus Fiskesjö,

Dear All:

Members of the academic and research community are invited to express their solidarity with colleagues affected by the Chinese government’s recent sanctions by signing this statement. For questions about this statement, please contact

Please consider signing – thank you.

Support for targeted academics

Many people are coming out in support of Newcastle University social anthropologist Jo Smith Finley who’s just been sanctioned by the Chinese regime for … doing her research, and for voicing her opinion, on the oppression of the Uyghurs in China.

Chinese Sanctions on Newcastle academic ‘counter-productive,” BBC NEWS (March 26, 2021).

China imposes sanctions on UK MPs, lawyers and academic in Xinjiang row.” The Guardian (March 26, 2021).

Her university officially tweeted their support for her, together with Universities UK, and the Russell Group, which represents 24 leading UK universities. ( … though they stopped short of outright condemning the Chinese government’s outrage). Continue reading

Language Diversity in the Sinophone World review

MCLC Resource Center is pleased to announce publication of Ashley Liu’s review of Language Diversity in the Sinophone World, edited by Henning Klöter and Mårten Söderblom Saarela. The review appears below and at its online home: My thanks to Nicholas Kaldis, our literary studies book review editor, for ushering the review to publication.

Kirk A. Denton, editor

Language Diversity in the Sinophone World: Historical
Trajectories, Language Planning, and Multilingual Practices

Edited by Henning Klöter and Mårten Söderblom Saarela

Reviewed by Ashley Liu

MCLC Resource Center Publication (Copyright March, 2021)

Henning Klöter and Mårten Söderblom Saarela, eds. Language Diversity in the Sinophone World: Historical Trajectories, Language Planning, and Multilingual Practices London: Routledge, 2020. xv + 330 pp. ISBN: 9780367504519.

Language Diversity in the Sinophone World is a collection of studies on the language policies and practices in polities that “pursue official language policies on the use of one or more Sinitic languages,” which include the PRC, Hong Kong, Macao, Taiwan, and Singapore. Whereas the study of language policies and multilingualism in the Chinese-speaking world is not new, the unique contribution of this volume is its “intervention in the developing field of Sinophone studies” (1). Regarding the importance of this volume, Klöter and Saarela highlight the “paradox” that Sinophone studies place an inherent emphasis on language but rarely address issues of language policies and practices (1). The Sinophone world as constructed by Klöter and Saarela is significantly different from that characterized in existing Sinophone studies. Whereas existing Sinophone studies, following the vision of Shu-mei Shih, mainly involve postmodern, postcolonial, and postnational critiques and analyses of literature and cinema, Klöter and Saarela’s volume primarily relies on historical, linguistic, sociological, and quantitative approaches regarding language policies and practices. In doing so, they expand a domain previously dominated by scholars of literature and cinema to include historians, linguists, sociologists, language policy experts, and those who employ quantitative methods. As someone who belongs to the former category—the status quo in Sinophone studies—I evaluate this volume’s usefulness to literary and film studies. 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]

Backlash in China against Chloé Zhao

Still waiting to find out–and really would like to know–who is responsible for the censorship of the Filmmaker magazine article? Was it some American company or agent or film industry, which would be a brutal new sign of the Hollywood kowtowing to China … or was it selfcensorship, or a combination of all of the above? Or was it direct Chinese state intervention somehow? See here for a side by side comparison of the 8 year old censored Filmmaker paragraph mentioned by the NYT, on China as a place full of lies.–Magnus Fiskesjö <>

Source: NYT (3/6/21)
In China, a Backlash Against the Chinese-Born Director of ‘Nomadland’
Days after winning a Golden Globe for the film, Chloé Zhao was pilloried online for past remarks about China.
By Amy Qin and Amy Chang Chien

Chloé Zhao, the director of “Nomadland,” at the drive-in premiere of the film last year in Pasadena, Calif., last year. Credit…Amy Sussman/Getty Images

When Chloé Zhao won the Golden Globe for best director for her film “Nomadland” last Sunday, becoming the first Asian woman to receive that prize, Chinese state news outlets were jubilant. “The Pride of China!” read one headline, referring to Ms. Zhao, who was born in Beijing.

But the mood quickly shifted. Chinese online sleuths dug up a 2013 interview with an American film magazine in which Ms. Zhao criticized her native country, calling it a place “where there are lies everywhere.” And they zeroed in on another, more recent interview with an Australian website in which Ms. Zhao, who received much of her education in the United States and now lives there, was quoted as saying: “The U.S. is now my country, ultimately.”

The Australian site later added a note saying that it had misquoted Ms. Zhao, and that she had actually said “not my country.” But the damage was done. 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,

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