Zhiwuzhi, a small bit of shelter

Source: NYRB (5/9/19)
China: A Small Bit of Shelter
By Ian Johnson

Chen Hongguo lecturing on King Lear, China, 2018

Chen Hongguo lecturing on King Lear at Zhiwuzhi, an arts and culture space in Xi’an, Shaanxi province, China, 2018. Sim Chi Yin/Magnum Photos

At night, a spotlight illuminates four huge characters on the front of the Great Temple of Promoting Goodness in Xi’an, the capital of Shaanxi province in northwestern China: mi zang zong feng, “The Esoteric Repository of the Faith’s Traditions.” Twelve centuries ago, during China’s Tang dynasty, the temple was a center for spreading foreign ideas. Buddhist missionaries from India lived there, translating texts from Sanskrit into Chinese and advising emperors on their faith’s new ideas about life and society.

Today the temple is a tourist site. During the day visitors snap selfies and pray for good fortune; in the evening, it is dark except for the spot-lit characters. Across the street, though, the third-floor windows of a nondescript commercial building burn brightly, lighting up a sign with five English words: “I Know I Know Nothing.”

In Chinese, this Socratic paradox is rendered as Zhiwuzhi, which is the official name of what has become China’s liveliest public forum. An arts and culture space, Zhiwuzhi offers at least one lecture a day and a dozen reading groups, and it broadcasts its events on Chinese and foreign video websites like Youku and YouTube. Continue reading

Cornell should suspend its China projects

My piece about Cornell U. and China, from last week–Magnus Fiskesjö, nf42@cornell.edu

Source: The Cornell Daily Sun (8/27/19)
Cornell Should Suspend Its China Projects
By Magnus Fiskesjö

The massive scale of the Chinese atrocities in Xinjiang has become quite clear. Cornell should suspend all projects involving Chinese counterparts and undertake a transparent review to see if any ought to be terminated because they are aiding these atrocities.

Since 2017, the Chinese government has carried out a mass terror campaign in the northwestern province of Xinjiang, targeting millions of ethnic-minority people and forcing them to give up their culture and religion. Those who refuse are sent to brainwashing camps, where they are tormented into denying their ethnic identity and everyday faith and told to stop speaking their own language.

As I have argued elsewhere, this campaign is effectively a program of genocide. It includes a massive effort to break up families, with children confiscated and cut off from both their families and their culture. This is a mass trauma that will linger for generations. Then there is the mass detention of indigenous cultural icons, which is why the campaign is also called a “cultural genocide.” Continue reading

What China experts have to do to get on Beijing’s ‘whitelist’

Source: Washington Post (9/5/19)
What China experts have to do to get on Beijing’s visa ‘whitelist’
By Isaac Stone Fish

Chinese leader Xi Jinping speaks during the unveiling of the Communist Party's new Politburo Standing Committee in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing in 2017. (Qilai Shen/Bloomberg)

Chinese leader Xi Jinping speaks during the unveiling of the Communist Party’s new Politburo Standing Committee in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing in 2017. (Qilai Shen/Bloomberg)

“I call it a ‘whitelist,’” the Chinese government official told me. Beijing, he explained, wanted to reward academics, scholars and business people who spoke positively about the U.S.-China relationship, promoted engagement and overlooked Chinese human rights abuses. “We don’t want people critical of China” visiting China, said the official, who asked to speak anonymously when I met him in New York in August. So Chinese officials in the United States are creating a list of China-watchers whom they will reward with multiple-entry visas. I asked him to share the list, and he replied that it was confidential; he did say, though, that those who “signed the open letter” in The Post would certainly be viewed favorably. Continue reading

HK rally to kick off class boycott

Source: SCMP (9/2/19)
Thousands attend Hong Kong rally to kick off university class boycott
Sit-in at Chinese University draws an estimated 30,000 at start of two-week strike. School pupils at separate event in Central demand the government listen to protesters’ demands
By Gigi Choy, Victor Ting, Sum Lok-kei, Jeffie Lam

Protesters fill the University Mall in Sha Tin. Photo: Sam Tsang

Protesters fill the University Mall in Sha Tin. Photo: Sam Tsang

Thousands of students held a rally on Monday to kick off a two-week class boycott at 11 tertiary institutions across Hong Kong, warning of more radical action if the government ignores their demands related to the now-abandoned extradition bill.

That came hours after more than 1,000 secondary school pupils, many skipping classes, attended a separate rally to send a defiant message that months of civil unrest would not recede with the start of the new term.

At the older students’ protest, held at Chinese University (CUHK), a sea of black-clad people flooded the University Mall, a large open space on the Sha Tin campus. Many wore face masks and hard hats. Continue reading

HK Cinema through a Global Lens MOOC


Registration is now open for the seventh offering of Hong Kong Cinema through a Global Lens, the first MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) on Hong Kong cinema to be produced anywhere in the world.  The online course starts on September 17, 2019. Enjoy the conversation on Hong Kong cinema with internationally-recognized film studies scholars Professor Gina Marchetti and Dr. Aaron Han Joon Magnan-Park from the HKU Department of Comparative Literature and Dr. Stacilee Ford from the HKU Department of History and American Studies Program with the creative assistance of HKU TELI (Technology-Enriched Learning Initiative).

The edX platform hosts Hong Kong Cinema through a Global Lens, which is free of charge on the Internet. Lively and student-centered, this MOOC is appropriate for secondary, tertiary, and lifelong learners from all corners of the globe, who have a good command of the English language. Teachers are welcome and encouraged to adapt various modules and materials for their own classroom or e-learning needs. The course explores globalization through Hong Kong cinema featuring crisp analyses of the actors and filmmakers whose lives and films connect the local Hong Kong scene to global histories, events, and trends. Throughout the six-week course, students will encounter stars including Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan, and Maggie Cheung as well as award-winning directors such as John Woo, Mabel Cheung, Andrew Lau, and Wong Kar Wai. Continue reading

Australia to tackle foreign interference at universities

Source: BBC News (8/28/19)
Australia to tackle foreign interference at universities

Students walk down the main thoroughfare of the University of New South Wales in Sydney.

GETTY IMAGES: Australia says it needs to deal with foreign interference in its universities

Australia is to formally investigate foreign interference in its universities amid rising concerns about Chinese influence on campuses. The push follows reports of students and staff “self-censoring” on sensitive political issues such as the pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong.

Universities had also increasingly been targeted by state-sponsored cyber attacks, the government said.

It announced an intelligence taskforce on Wednesday to combat such threats.

“Universities must act to protect the valuable information they hold where it is in the national interest to do so,” Education Minister Dan Tehan said in a national address. Continue reading

Xiaonao clampdown

Source: Sixth Tone (8/21/19)
Guideline Clamps Down on ‘Xiaonao’ at Chinese Schools
The country’s top education, judicial, and law enforcement officials have identified seven behaviors of aggrieved parents seeking compensation that will now be prohibited on school property.
By Cai Xuejiao

Parents wait for their children to get out of class at a school in Dongyang, Zhejiang province, Aug. 13, 2013. IC)

Chinese authorities issued a guideline Tuesday aiming to crack down on acts they say cause illegal disturbances at schools.

The guideline — jointly issued by five national agencies, including the Ministry of Education, the Supreme People’s Court, and the Ministry of Public Security — lists seven forms of xiaonao, or violence against school staff, that sometimes surface when there are safety issues or accidents on campus. The rules appear to be directed at aggrieved parents who feel they or their child has suffered an injustice, and so take their case to campus in an effort to gain visibility and increase their chances of receiving favorable compensation.

“Because of xiaonao, schools are overburdened with responsibilities and pressures, with some even refraining from holding physical education classes, offering extracurricular activities, or being critical of students,” Deng Chuanhuai, director of the Ministry of Education’s policy and regulation division, said during a press conference Tuesday. “This is not conducive to students’ development of the concept of rule of law, or to their awareness of rules more generally.” Continue reading

Where Chinese students in the US get their news

Source: The New Yorker (8/19/19)
The “Post-Truth” Publication Where Chinese Students in America Get Their News
By Han Zhang

The online publication College Daily brings Chinese students living in the U.S. news with nationalistic undertones, delivered in a stream of memes and Internet-speak.Illustration by Jon Han

On a Monday morning in February, members of the staff of College Daily, an online Chinese-language publication for Chinese students living in North America, gathered in their office, in Times Square, for an editorial meeting. Guan Tong, the editorial director of the New York bureau, reviewed traffic numbers from the previous week. Staring at her MacBook, she seemed satisfied with what she saw. A piece by College Daily’s founder, Lin Guoyu, about the blockbuster Chinese movie “The Wandering Earth,” had garnered more than a million page views; its headline was “Of Course, Only Chinese People Can Save Planet Earth.” The healthy numbers came as a surprise: it was Lunar New Year, which tends to be a slow week for College Daily. “No need to worry about low traffic during Lunar New Year anymore,” Guan said cheerily. Continue reading

In Defense of the Yenching Academy

Source: Sup China (8/9/19)
In Defense Of The Yenching Academy
The FBI’s unfair targeting of my classmates, and NPR’s suggestive and narrow reporting on the issue, have tarred the reputation of Yenching. Can cross-border academic exchange survive strategic competition?

Late last week, NPR reported that the FBI had questioned at least five American graduates of the Yenching Academy, an English-language master’s program Beijing founded five years ago to replicate the soft-power successes of the West’s Rhodes and Marshall scholarships. I spent the last year at Yenching, and will be returning in September to complete my second year. Although I have become accustomed to the Trump administration’s “whole of government” effort to combat Chinese espionage and influence, for the first time it felt personal. Continue reading

A New Zealand university and Chinese censorship

Source: The Spinoff (8/3/19)
We must speak out on AUT, China and threats to academic freedom
Jacob Edmond | Guest writer


The AUT vice-chancellor denies that a Tiananmen Square commemoration was cancelled at the request of the Chinese embassy, but the emails released are enough to send a severe chill through New Zealand’s universities, writes Jacob Edmond

Auckland has a long and proud history of remembering the victims of the June 4, 1989 crackdown on student protests across China. Unfortunately, as the recent actions of Auckland University of Technology have underscored, the city’s universities have a more mixed record.

It is perhaps not that widely known, but one of the relatively few and earliest permanent memorials to the victims of June 4 stands in central Auckland. The memorial was unveiled on 17 September 1989 on the grounds of St Andrew’s First Presbyterian Church on Alten Rd. The initial plan had been to place the stone within the grounds of the University of Auckland. But when the University of Auckland authorities refused permission, St Andrew’s offered a home, and the stone stands there to this day. Continue reading

Yenching Academy grads questioned by FBI

Source: NPR (8/1/19)
American Graduates Of China’s Yenching Academy Are Being Questioned By The FBI
By Emily Feng

People cycle past a building at Peking University in Beijing in 2016. The university hosts Yenching Academy, a prestigious graduate studies program. Thomas Peter/Reuters

A sudden knock at one’s door. An unexpected call to meet off campus. Surreptitious visits to family members.

American graduates of the prestigious Yenching Academy, a one- to two-year master’s degree program housed at Beijing’s elite Peking University, are being approached and questioned by the FBI about the time they spent in China. In the last two years, at least five Yenching graduates have been approached by agents to gather intelligence on the program and to ascertain whether they have been co-opted by Chinese espionage efforts.

Brian Kim is one of them. Five months ago, Kim received a call from an unfamiliar number. “It was a person who claimed to be an FBI agent, and I immediately thought it was a scam call,” Kim recalls. Continue reading

Asia at the World’s Fairs

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

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

Xu Zhangrun vs. Tsinghua

Source: China Heritage (7/10/19)
The Case for Humanity Over Bastardy: Xu Zhangrun vs. Tsinghua University, Voices of Protest and Resistance (XXIX)
Geremie R. Barmé

Making a Case for Humanity Over Banditry 《人間不是匪幫》, published by Oxford University Press, is a selection of commentaries, essays, reviews and memoirs written by Xu Zhangrun between September 2012 and February 2019. Many of the chapters have previously appeared online, while some were composed following the publication of the author’s controversial July 2018 essay ‘Imminent Fears, Immediate Hopes’ 我們當下的恐懼與期待 (China Heritage, 1 August 2018). Although the ninety essays contained in Xu’s new book range over many topics, they reflect an abiding theme in the author’s thinking: humanity and decency, as opposed to the hypocrisy and lawlessness of one-party autocracy.

Below, we first pause to introduce the Introduction of Professor Xu’s book by offering an essay from the collection itself. ‘A Life at the Lectern’ 一輩子站講台 originally appeared in March 2016 and, unbeknownst to its author at the time, it would be something of an envoi to his previous life since, due to his increasingly outspoken criticisms of the Chinese Communist Party dating from that year, he would eventually be banned from his beloved career as a university lecturer. From late 2018, he was cautioned against all forms of public engagement and, from March 2019 further explicitly banned by ‘special investigators’ assigned to his ‘case’ at Tsinghua University from publishing, be it on Mainland China, in Hong Kong, Taiwan or elsewhere. His response to such interdictions has been that of unswerving recalcitrance and although Xu’s fate alerted people both in- and outside China to the increasingly blighted intellectual landscape of the People’s Republic, his work as well as the voices of his supporters have been a warning and a clarion call to all those who oppose and who are willing to resist Communist Party dominion…. [continue reading]

A language under attack (6)

Thanks. I don’t hate Germany, or the German language, nor China or the Chinese language. Or any language.

I understand your reaction, and would like you to hear me out on this. I made a comparison which I think is very much valid: If your country organizes mass oppression on the scale of what the Chinese regime is doing now, a Hitlerian scale, it will, unfortunately and unavoidably, make a deep stain on its reputation which it will take a very long time to remove.

The Nazis did this to Rilke’s German, and the current Chinese regime is doing this to Lu Xun’s Chinese. There are other examples, of course (don’t expect a Saami person to love Swedish literature), but the Nazi comparison is apt.

As you know, the Chinese regime is carrying out a massive genocidal campaign to destroy indigenous identities, including by prohibiting native languages, and imposing Chinese at the point of a gun. Continue reading