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.

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Purdue president responds to Chinese student’s harassment

There’s been an important statement from Purdue University’s president regarding harassment of Chinese students by pro-regime ultranationalist students: reacting to the recent ProPublica report on such harassment, Purdue University President Mitch Daniels sent a message to Purdue students, faculty and staff:

My comment on his statement, also posted on Twitter:

Good. Just one thing: Don’t blame just the Chinese pro-regime harassers, on our campuses. They’re often instigated by the regime, via their nearest consulate. Those officers need to be told off, and closely monitored for violations.

Also, Chinese “education” consular officers should not be allowed to infiltrate and dominate on-campus Chinese student associations for spying purposes, like they have long been doing, with impunity, all over.

The failure to stop the long-running ultranationalist pro-regime political harassment of Chinese students, is a great betrayal of all those Chinese students who thought they’d be enjoying some freedom of speech, and thought, for a while.

Magnus Fiskesjö, nf42@cornell.edu

At Home with External Propaganda

Source: China Media Project (12/8/21)
At Home with External Propaganda
The Battle at Lake Changjin, hailed inside China as a film transforming the production value and appeal of films that tow the CCP line, may have broken domestic box office records this year. But the struggle for global audiences will be far more difficult to win. And China may not be listening.
By Stella Chen and David Bandurski

Battle of Lake Changjin

The Battle at Lake Changjin (长津湖), the Chinese war epic that recently became the country’s top-grossing film of all time, tells the story of self-sacrificing volunteer soldiers who bravely take on American troops at the Battle of Chosin Reservoir during the Korean War. Commissioned by the Central Propaganda Department with a budget of over 200 million dollars, the film has been praised inside China as a milestone both for China’s film industry and for the telling of the “China story.”

But while The Battle at Lake Changjin may have been a domestic success, earning more than 895 million dollars by the end of November, it has seriously misfired internationally, and the self-congratulatory tone of much coverage inside China points to the continued myopia of the country’s media system when it comes to crafting stories the rest of the world can relate to.

Earlier this week, the Economic Daily, a central newspaper run by the State Council, hailed the fact that in a period of 10 days following its first screening in Hong Kong on November 11, The Battle at Lake Changjin had brought in more than 10 million Hong Kong dollars in ticket sales. Not only this, said the paper, but the film, which in mainland China had prompted emotional tributes, including a wave of frozen potato eating, had “continued to heat up overseas,” showing in Singapore, the United States and Canada. Continue reading

Even on US campuses, China cracks down on students who speak out

Source: ProPublica (11/30/21)
Even on U.S. Campuses, China Cracks Down on Students Who Speak Out
By Sebastian Rotella, photography by Haruka Sakaguchi, special to ProPublica

Students and scholars from China who criticize the regime in Beijing can face quick retaliation from fellow students and Chinese officials who harass their families back home. U.S. universities rarely intervene.

The campus of Brandeis University. An online panel sponsored by the school about atrocities against Uyghurs was disrupted last year.

On the bucolic campus of Purdue University in Indiana, deep in America’s heartland and 7,000 miles from his home in China, Zhihao Kong thought he could finally express himself.

In a rush of adrenaline last year, the graduate student posted an open letter on a dissident website praising the heroism of the students killed in the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989.

The blowback, he said, was fast and frightening. His parents called from China, crying. Officers of the Ministry of State Security, the feared civilian spy agency, had warned them about his activism in the United States.

“They told us to make you stop or we are all in trouble,” his parents said.

Then other Chinese students at Purdue began hounding him, calling him a CIA agent and threatening to report him to the embassy and the MSS. Continue reading

Badiucao show goes on

Source: NYT (11/12/21)
The Show Goes On, Even After China Tried to Shut It Down
An Italian city rejected a request from the Chinese Embassy in Rome to cancel an exhibition by Badiucao, an artist who has been described as the Chinese Banksy.
By Elisabetta Povoledo

Badiucao in front of one of his works, “Carrie Lam,” a portrait of Hong Kong’s chief executive, at Santa Giulia Museum in Brescia, Italy. Credit…Alessandro Grassani for The New York Times

BRESCIA, Italy — With a week to go before his first solo exhibition, the Chinese-Australian artist Badiucao was in head-down work mode: installing the show during the day, and sharpening hundreds of pencils with a knife at night.

Set closely together, the pencils — 3,724 in all — were part of an installation in the show “China Is (Not) Near,” which opens Saturday in the municipal museum of Brescia, an industrial city in the northern Italian region of Lombardy.

After a decade building an online following as a political cartoonist by lambasting China, whether for its censorship (and Western complicity in it), its treatment of the Uyghur minority, or the crackdown in Hong Kong, Badiucao said he was keen to show work in a traditional institutional setting.

He wasn’t always so forthcoming. Until not so long ago, Badiucao had been so concerned about reprisals from the Chinese government that he had kept his identity a secret, eliciting comparisons to the British street artist Banksy. He revealed his face in a 2019 documentary, and now says that he’s found safety in exposure, though he still prefers to use his artist name. Continue reading

“Fragile” music video (1)

As a follow-up to my Oct. 22 post, see below, for an excellent write-up by Chris Horton in The Atlantic, on the hit song “Fragile” (or Glass Heart 玻璃心) by Namewee and Kimberley Chen, now at 27 million views already, not just 26m … that was yesterday.How refreshing this is! Just like Kimberley Chen says here: “it is not censored, it is not limited, it is not bullshit.”–Magnus Fiskesjö <nf42@cornell.edu>

ps. The song again:

Earlier I recommended this discussion. And this is PRICELESS: Namewee responding to China netizens’ comments on Weibo (May 16, 2021, before the song was released):

What a guy! The man has both a spine, and a heart! Such a contrast to all the cowardly censors, spiteful propagandists, and petty trolls in China.

Also see this, very revealing report about how Kimberley was treated in China, as a would-be Tencent talent (her phone confiscated for months, room camera surveillance by pervert staff, and on and on, “This is China”).

Source: The Atlantic (11/9/21)
The World Is Fed Up With China’s Belligerence: Democracies are no longer as worried as they once were about offending a fragile Beijing.
By Chris Horton

In Chinese-speaking communities beyond the reach of Beijing’s censorship regime, the song “Fragile” has been an unexpected hit. With more than 26 million views on YouTube since dropping in mid-October, the satirical love song to Chinese nationalism has topped the site’s charts for Taiwan and Hong Kong, its lyrics mocking Chinese Communist Party rhetoric about Taiwan while also taking aim at Xi Jinping and Chinese censors. Continue reading

“Fragile” music video

This new music video “Fragile” is something else!

“It might Break Your Pinky Heart” by Namewee 黃明志 Ft.Kimberley Chen 陳芳語【Fragile 玻璃心】@鬼才做音樂 2021 Ghosician. Premiered Oct 15, 2021.

  • A nice writeup:

Malaysian rapper Namewee breaks the hearts of mainland Chinese ‘little pinks’ – Namewee and Kimberly Chen’s music is now banned in China.” Written by Oiwan Lam, Global Voices, 19 October 2021.

The Chinese lyrics are fantastic, the English translation a little bit halting, but you get it. (Can’t read the Malay subtitles). The lyrics even mentions the camps and the forced confessions — and are otherwise chock full of allusions to things like the pro-Chinese govt trolls’ disgusting “NMSL” curse, “Your Mom Is Dead.” Also the apples and pineapples, referring to the Chinese regime’s weaponizing of Taiwan fruits; etc. etc. Every sentence politically loaded, while at the same time it can all be read like it’s about complaining about an impossibly thin-skinned and abusive-domineering boyfriend, with a “heart of glass”, always angry and always smashing something, yet always insisting “You Belong to Me.”

In the end, the main thing may be how the Chinese regime is proving the singer-songwriter Namewee 100% right — by censoring him and Kimberley! These massively popular Chinese-language singers are now banned in China. Simply out of spite. Ha — their song just passed beyond ten million views now on Youtube.

I confess I watched it twice.

Magnus Fiskesjö, nf42@cornell.edu

Chinese student visas for US at pre-pandemic levels

Source: SupChina (8/24/21)
U.S. granted Chinese student visas at pre-pandemic levels in June
The U.S. issued nearly 34,000 F1 visas in June for Chinese students, about the same level as 2019. It’s not yet clear if the total number of Chinese students for the fall semester will be higher or lower than before the pandemic.
By Lucas Niewenhuis

An education expo in Beijing

An education expo in Beijing in 2018. Photo from Oriental Image via Reuters Connect.

For the approximately 370,000 Chinese students attending school in the U.S., the summer of 2020 was marked by a series of towering hurdles:

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Chinese influence in higher education

Another example of corrupting Chinese influence in higher education, in democratic countries — this time from Switzerland:

A tweet cost him his doctorate: The extent of China’s influence on Swiss universities

A Swiss Ph.D. student tweeted critically about China. Afterward, his professor at the University of St. Gallen wanted nothing more to do with him, worried that her own ability to get a visa would be at risk. Larissa Rhyn, Katrin Büchenbacher (text); Christoph Fischer (illustrations) Neue Zürcher Zeitung, August 4, 2021.

See linked article for multiple illustrations.

posted by: Magnus Fiskesjö, nf42@cornell.edu

Chinese Heritage in the Indian Ocean

The University of Sydney China Studies Centre
Chinese Heritage in the Indian Ocean : A Cultural Anthropological Perspective
Date: Friday 13 August 2021
Time: 12:00 pm–1:00 pm AEST

Location: Online
REGISTRATION ESSENTIAL

About this event

Organised by the Department of Chinese Studies in collaboration with the China Studies Centre ‘Language, Literature, Culture and Education’ cluster, The Australian Society for Asian Humanities and the Faculty of Art, Design & Architecture at UNSW.

Early overseas Chinese communities and their legacies are often disconnected from and overshadowed by grand historiographic narratives that attempt to legitimise China’s footprint in the world today. Drawing on the strength of a museological project commissioned by the Foshan municipal government, Guangdong, on the Cantonese societies in the Southwest Indian Ocean, this talk will unveil with anthropological evidence how during the late 19th and early 20th centuries Chinese migrants established themselves along the western coast of the Indian Ocean (i.e. the Mascarene Islands, Madagascar, Tanzania and Mozambique) and how varieties of Chinese heritage in this particular region are being rediscovered and re-evaluated for the present-day political and economic needs. It offers an alternative and bottom-up view of the role culture plays in China’s global strategy, distinct from the official tones of cultural diplomacy and people-to-people exchange.

About the speaker: Xuefei Shi is a postdoctoral researcher in the ERC-project TransOcean at Chr. Michelsen Institute (CMI), Norway, and currently an affiliated researcher at the Department of Chinese Studies, USYD. His research looks into the mobilities of Chinese fishermen and fishing communities in the Indian Ocean, in particular Madagascar. With a Ph.D. in development studies from Radboud University, the Netherlands, he has extensive fieldwork experience in East Africa in the past decade. Continue reading

Fudan’s storm in Budapest (1)

Nice article, But, it’s dubious that “Shanghai’s Fudan University is one of China’s leading universities, ranked 70th in the world and third in mainland China according to the 2021 Times World University Rankings, after Tsinghua University and Peking University.”

That’s only if you believe the Times rankings, which are deeply flawed. We should not circulate such rankings, which ignore the key factor of academic freedom, which must obviously be a factor in ranking global universities. Fudan, Tsinghua, Beijing U, etc. suffer heavy censorship as they are policed by the Communist party (which admits this and promotes this state of affairs), so these universities of course don’t belong at the top.

There is now a better alternative … the new global Academic Freedom Index (AFi). We should use that, and avoid the flawed rankings from Times Higher Education, QS rankings, and the Academic Ranking of World Universities (aka Shanghai), etc. which fail to take these primary basics into account.

For more on this, see f.ex.: “Why university rankings must include academic freedom.” Robert Quinn, Janika Spannagel and Ilyas Saliba, University world news, 11 March 2021.

And: “Free Universities: Putting the Academic Freedom Index Into Action.” By Katrin Kinzelbach, Ilyas Saliba, Janika Spannagel, and Robert Quinn. Global Public Policy Institute (GPPi), 26 Mar 2020.

ps. We should also do more to prevent our own universities from becoming anything like Fudan, Tsinghua, Beijing U. For some ideas, see f.ex.: “Academic freedom is paramount for universities. They can do more to protect it from China’s interference.” By Yun Jiang. The Conversation, June 30, 2021.

Magnus Fiskesjö <nf42@cornell.edu>

Fudan’s storm in Budapest

Source: China Media Project (7/13/21)
Fudan’s Storm in Budapest
As plans by Shanghai’s Fudan University for a new international campus in Budapest’s ninth district meet staunch local opposition, with fears the project is a Trojan horse, it is unclear what lessons the university’s efforts in Hungary will have for the global future of Chinese higher education.
By Fulop Zsofia

Among the 23 sub-districts of Budapest, the ninth district, Ferencváros, has been called a “rustbelt” – a former industrial area now in decline that is awaiting revitalization. But for me, a resident here, Ferencváros is a vibrant place. Not far from the center of Budapest, it edges up to the Danube. The central area has beautiful old buildings, museums, universities, and one of Budapest’s largest and oldest markets. The place teems with young people, bars and a rich nightlife. The residential area on the outside of the district is equally rich in character, and the building I live in, named for the Hungarian poet Attila József, is green and flowery, drawing together a tapestry of young parents, pets and older retired people.

If you open up Google Maps and scan across the ninth district, you will notice certain changes: several streets here have suddenly had their names changed. On June 2, four streets along the Danube in the ninth district underwent sudden name changes. You can now find “Dalai Lama Road,” “Uyghur Martyrs Road,” “Liberate Hong Kong Road” (a reference to the slogan used during the 2019 protests in Hong Kong) and “Bishop Xie Shiguang Road” (referring to a bishop of the underground Roman Catholic Church in China who died in 2005). Continue reading

Nobelists decry China’s censorship attempts

Source: Science (7/27/21)
Nobelists decry Chinese government’s censorship attempts at the Nobel Summit
By Rodrigo Pérez Ortega

The Chinese Embassy in Washington, D.C., wanted to prevent Nobel laureate Yuan Lee, a Taiwanese chemist seen here in 2003, from speaking at a high-profile conference. RICKY CHUNG/SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST VIA GETTY IMAGES

More than 100 Nobel laureates have signed a statement expressing outrage after the Chinese government intended to “bully the scientific community” earlier this year with attempts to censor two Nobel laureates during the Nobel Prize Summit, organized by the U.S. National Academy of Sciences (NAS) and the Nobel Foundation in April.

The statement alleges that staffers at the Chinese embassy in Washington, D.C., phoned NAS officials in March, and again in early April before the summit, to insist that two scheduled speakers, the Dalai Lama and Yuan Lee—a Taiwanese chemist who was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1986 for his work on chemical kinetics—be disinvited and not allowed to speak. An email with the same demand was received by NAS on 25 April, 1 day before the start of the summit. On all three occasions, NAS said no.

William Kearney, a NAS spokesperson, confirmed to Science that the Chinese embassy pressured NAS to remove both speakers from the agenda, “which of course, we did not do,” he says. Continue reading

Taiwan-born Li Kotomi nabs Akutagawa Prize

Source: The Asahi Shimbun (7/15/21)
Taiwan-born novelist Li Kotomi nabs Akutagawa Prize
By SATOSHI YAMAZAKI/ Staff Writer

Photo/Illutration

Li Kotomi speaks to reporters on July 14 after winning the prestigious Akutagawa literary prize. (Yoshihisa Uehara) 

Li Kotomi from Taiwan was awarded the prestigious Akutagawa Prize on July 14 for her Japanese-language novel “Higanbana ga Saku Shima” (The island where red spider lilies bloom).

Li, 31, became the second novelist whose native language is not Japanese to receive the honor following Yang Yi, who won the literary prize in 2008 for her novel “Toki ga Nijimu Asa” (Morning when time bleeds).

Mai Ishizawa, 41, also received the prize for her novel “Kai ni Tsuzuku Basho nite” (At places adjacent to shells) the same day.

Li, who also goes by the name Li Qinfeng, was born in Taiwan in 1989. Her novel is a fable that depicts an imaginary island to pose questions about gender equality.

Drawn in by the lure of the Japanese language, Li came to Japan in 2013 after graduating from National Taiwan University. She made her debut as a novelist in 2017 with her first work written in Japanese. Continue reading

Science journal editor quits over China boycott article

Source: The Guardian (6/30/21)
Science journal editor says he quit over China boycott article
David Curtis says publisher of Annals of Human Genetics blocked call for protest at treatment of Uyghurs
Matthew Weaver, The Guardian

A Chinese flag flying over a mosque in the Xinjiang region. Photograph: Greg Baker/AFP via Getty Images

The editor of a long-established academic journal has said he resigned after his publisher vetoed a call to boycott Chinese science in protest at Beijing’s treatment of Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities in Xinjiang.

Prof David Curtis, from University College London’s Genetics Institute, says his resignation as editor-in-chief of the Annals of Human Genetics is an issue of freedom of speech in the face of the science community’s increasing dependence on China.

The Annals was one of five prestigious academic journals, including the Lancet, the BMJ and the Journal of the American Medical Association (Jama), that refused to publish an article [pdf] suggesting that academic journals should take a stance against China’s human rights violations in Xinjiang.

The journals involved have defended rejecting the piece and claimed that a boycott against China would be unfair and counterproductive. They have also denied being unduly deferential to China. But both the Annals publisher, Wiley, and the Lancet did suggest that publication of the letter could pose difficulties for their respective offices in China, the authors claim.

Curtis co-authored the article but said he was prevented from publishing it in his own magazine. He handed in his notice last September in protest and then stood down with immediate effect after rejecting submissions from Chinese academics. Only now has he revealed his reasons for quitting. Continue reading