Testing China’s shrinking LGBTQ space

Source: NYT (6/3/23)
With Rainbow Flags, 2 Students Test China’s Shrinking L.G.B.T.Q. Space
The students at an elite college in China found themselves on a collision course with the authorities amid a crackdown on gay and transgender expression.
By Nicole Hong and 

Two people sit back to back against a tree, their faces turned away from the camera, holding small rainbow flags close to the ground.

Karolyn Li and Christine Huang in Beijing. The two Tsinghua University students are fighting the education authorities in China over their right to display rainbow flags on campus. Credit…Gilles Sabrié for The New York Times

Karolyn Li still remembers reading the brochure from China’s prestigious Tsinghua University when she was in high school preparing to apply to college. It highlighted a graduate who had co-founded an L.G.B.T.Q. rights group, a suggestion of inclusivity on campus that surprised Ms. Li, who identifies as queer.

Ms. Li ended up enrolling at Tsinghua. Now a 21-year-old junior, Ms. Li sees the brochure as cruelly ironic. She and her friend, Christine Huang, a 23-year-old senior, have spent the past year locked in a losing battle against the university and the country’s education authorities over gay and transgender expression.

When the two women distributed rainbow flags on campus last year, and resisted school administrators who confronted them, the university issued a punishment that would stay on their permanent records. When they tried in March to place flowers outside the dorm of a transgender classmate who died by suicide, they were surrounded by security. When they posed with rainbow flags in a photo in May, a university employee ran over and said they were not allowed to post the images online. Continue reading

Youth unemployment

Source: NYT (5/19/23)
1 in 5 Young Chinese Is Jobless, and Millions More Are About to Graduate
The youth unemployment rate, which spiked during the pandemic, reached a record high this week, showing the perils of China’s uneven economic recovery.
By Claire Fu

Young job seekers crowd around a job booth.

A job fair in Fuyang, China, in March. High youth unemployment has been a dark stain on China’s economy for several years. Credit…CFOTO/Future Publishing, via Getty Images

Shu Xiang, 21, started looking for a job in February and still has had no luck. A financial management major at a college in Chengdu, China, Ms. Shu said she has received five responses to about 100 applications. Graduation is in a few weeks.

“I’m not so confident about finding a job,” she said. The only thing that makes her feel less anxious, she said, is knowing she’s not alone — most of her classmates were facing similar problems.

Ms. Shu is one of nearly 12 million Chinese expected to enter the job pool next month at a difficult time. The government reported this week that 20.4 percent of people ages 16 to 24 looking for a job were out of work in April. That is the highest level since China started announcing the statistic in 2018.

High youth unemployment has been a dark stain on China’s economy for several years, exacerbated by strict pandemic health restrictions limited travel, decimated small businesses and damaged consumer confidence. The government, facing rare public discontent as young professionals in major cities across China protested the “zero Covid” rules, abruptly announced in December that it would start easing the policies. But the youth jobless rate has remained high, even as the overall rate has ticked down two months in a row.

The Chinese government has introduced a set of policies meant to stimulate youth employment, including subsidies for small and midsize businesses that hire college graduates. State-owned enterprises have been directed to make more jobs available for those just starting out.

Overall, the Chinese economy is steadying itself more slowly and unevenly than many believed it would. Other reports released by Beijing this week showed an increase in retail sales and factory activity in April, but those numbers caused unease among economists and investors, who expected better results because the data was being compared to April 2022, when millions of people were effectively shut inside during a lockdown in Shanghai. China’s big tech companies, coming off a difficult year, are starting to show signs of a rebound, but for the most part their financial performances have not returned to prepandemic levels.

One problem, analysts said, is a mismatch between the jobs college graduates want and the jobs that are available.

In March, listings for jobs in tourism and in passenger and cargo transportation grew the fastest, according to Zhilian, a Chinese job searching site. Another sector with many available jobs is retail. Industries like construction, transportation and warehousing, which typically draw heavy interest from China’s vast population of migrant workers, have also picked up, Fu Linghui, a spokesman for the National Bureau of Statistics, said at a news conference this week.

College students, in robes, approach a domed building for a graduation ceremony.

Nearly 12 million college graduates are expected to enter the job market in China next month. Credit…Hou Yu/China News Service/Visual China Group, via Getty Images

Nie Riming, a researcher at the Shanghai Institute of Finance and Law, a research organization, said that young people with degrees in higher education were seeking jobs in technology, education and medicine.

“But these industries are exactly the ones that have been growing slow in China in the past several years,” Mr. Nie said. “Many industries not only did not grow, but also suffered from devastating blows.”

China has cracked down on its once-vibrant education and technology industries in the past several years. Hundreds of thousands of people have lost their jobs. and companies and investors have been left reeling. The tightened supervision has prompted concerns about further government intervention in the private sector, which in turn has led companies to reduce hiring.

While the industries that attract educated young people are shrinking, the number of college graduates has been increasing.

According to the Chinese Ministry of Education, 11.6 million college students are expected to graduate in June, an increase of 820,000 over last year.

Another way the Covid pandemic is still haunting young job seekers is that many students spent part of college in lockdown, living on campuses where their movement was highly restricted. They had fewer opportunities at internships or to gain the social experience that recruiters are looking for.

While China’s economy is expected to strengthen in the coming months, the recovery will remain tenuous until consumers are feeling confident enough again to make big-ticket purchases — which will, in turn, will prompt more companies to do more hiring.

Dong Yan, who works for a Beijing organization that holds regular job fairs, said that the number of companies inquiring about booths is still lower than before the pandemic.

“The economy is said to be recovering,” said Ms. Dong. “But I feel it’s going downward, because many people are now out of work or have been laid off by their companies.”

Claire Fu covers news in mainland China for The New York Times in Seoul. @fu_claire

A Model Opera at Lujiang Middle School

Source: China Media Project (3/3/23)
A Model Opera at Lujiang Middle School
Viral footage of a confrontation between a professor and a student reveals how individuals’ voices are erased and replaced with that of the Party, and how the collective voice of a billion people can still ring so hollow on the global stage.
By David Bandurski

Close-up of student Jiang Zhenfei (蒋振飞) in a short video posted last month to Chinese social media.

Afirestorm of controversy broke out online in China late last month after a short video clip went viral along with allegations that Chen Hongyou (陈宏友), an associate professor from Hefei Normal University, had made offensive off-the-cuff remarks ahead of a lecture at Lujiang Middle School (庐江中学) in Anhui province.

“The goal of academic study is to make money,” Professor Chen reportedly said. “Don’t talk about ideals and ambitions; money is power, money is everything.” He apparently added injury to insult by suggesting that academic performance brought opportunities for “gene optimization” (基因优化), meaning broader horizons in finding a mate. Chen’s own son had studied in the United States and found a foreign girlfriend there — so Chen’s future grandchildren would have better genes.

Chen’s crass remarks so infuriated one student that he leaped onto the stage and grabbed the microphone from the professor, shouting him down with Chinese Communist Party slogans. “There is only money in his eyes,” the student, Jiang Zhenfei (蒋振飞), shouted, “and so he says we study only to get rich! He reveres the foreign and panders to foreign powers!” (崇洋媚外).The student’s coup de grace was a bullet of Xi Jinping jargon fired point-blank at Professor Chen: “The goal of our study,” Jiang shouted after a smattering of applause, “is for the Great Rejuvenation of the Chinese nation!” Continue reading

Tsinghua students sue over pride flag case

Source: China Digital Times (2/27/23)
Tsinghua University Students Sue Ministry of Education over Rainbow Pride Flag Case
Posted by 

In a rare instance of a legal challenge to restrictions on LGBTQ+ rights, two Tsinghua University students filed a lawsuit last week against the Chinese Ministry of Education for refusing to consider their appeal against disciplinary action imposed after the students distributed 10 small rainbow pride flags on the Tsinghua campus in May of 2022, in advance of Pride Month.

Semaphor’s Diego Mendoza reported on the background to the recent lawsuit and the previous appeals made by the students:

The students, who only identified themselves as Huang and Li, said that while their disciplinary action has technically expired due to school regulations, they were committed to pursuing the lawsuit because “it’s still a fact that [they] were penalized for flying rainbow flags.”

[…] The students appealed the disciplinary action, first directly with the university, and then with the Beijing Municipal Education Commission, which upheld the university’s punishment in October.

The students finally appealed to the Ministry of Education which informed the two students in early February that they would not intervene because the issue was outside the scope of their administrative duties. [Source] Continue reading

China’s renegade philosopher Lu Xinghua

Source: The China Project (1/31/23)
The world according to Lu Xinghua, China’s renegade philosopher
Lu Xinghua is the sort of individual who complicates the outside world’s vision of China. He is a man of contradictions, an intellectual with brazen ideas who is disconnected from both mainstream politics and popular dissent. 
By Dylan Levi King

Illustration for The China Project by Derek Zheng

In a cramped but tidy workshop in Yiwu in 2013, a Frenchman in a rumpled blazer stands patiently before a table piled with sheets of green plastic. Men jostle around him, pointing out aspects of the production process and interpreting the remarks of the foreman. Patterns will be cut out of the sheets, they explain, and the millions of leaves will be sent out along with polyester petals to workers paid by the piece to turn them into flowers.

The employees of the factory, accustomed to wholesalers on junkets, would not have guessed that they were witnessing the first visit to the country of Jacques Rancière, one of the West’s earliest and most radical interpreters of Maoism, who had earned minor celebrityhood in China after his later work on the politics of aesthetics (and the aesthetics of politics) started to be translated in the early 2000s.

But was Rancière the central figure — or perhaps the target — of an elaborate prank? Prior to his trip to Yiwu, he toured shoe factories and carpet shops in Jiaxing, inspected banners with quotes from Wēn Jiābǎo 温家宝, and heard from export industry professionals on the state of affairs in the Yangtze River Delta. Or maybe the prank was on his devoted Chinese fans, who followed his itinerary closely, looking forward to news about lectures, book signings, and dialogue with local interlocutors — little of which would materialize. Commenters on Douban, and the Art-Ba-Ba forum, home to a thriving community of online art and theory gadflies, demanded to know why Rancière was being shown around like a foreign rug merchant rather than a legendary cultural theorist. Continue reading

Students pledge loyalty to Beijing before arriving abroad

Finally! Someone outside Sweden pays attention to the recent revelations about how Chinese students are forced to pledge loyalty to the regime, and do its bidding while abroad. Thanks to the brave Chinese scholars and students who alerted free independent media to these documents. And I hope every American and other Western academic who called foul about any scrutiny of PRC scholars, will read this — and also to read up on the National Intelligence Law in China that forces every citizen to spy for their country whether they agree or not. Don’t believe those who say Chinese are quiet/silent because of their “culture” … No, that is not why! Faced with the Chinese regime, our reaction cannot be to stick our head in the sand; we must understand where the Chinese are “coming from” — Communist rule.–Magnus Fiskesjö, nf42@cornell.edu

Source: Radio Free Asia (1/20/23)
Tens of thousands of students pledge loyalty to Beijing before arriving abroad
Two Swedish universities cut ties with the China Scholarship Council as media report sparks furor
By Yitong Wu and Chingman for RFA Cantonese, Hsia Hsiao-hwa for RFA Mandari

Tens of thousands of students pledge loyalty to Beijing before arriving abroad

Chinese students at the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm [shown], Lund University and the Karolinska Institute, among others, were found to have signed a document pledging loyalty to the Chinese Communist Party. Credit: AFP file photo

Tens of thousands of Chinese students studying overseas on government-backed scholarships are required to sign a document pledging loyalty to the ruling Communist Party, as well as putting up guarantors who could be forced to repay their funding should they break the agreement, before arriving at overseas universities, Radio Free Asia has learned.

Sweden’s Dagens Nyheter newspaper reported on Jan. 13 that 30 doctoral students arriving in the country had signed contracts pledging loyalty to their government while overseas, and requiring them to serve China’s interests during their stay.

A review of publicly available documents by Radio Free Asia found evidence that this practice has been going on quietly for more than a decade, with several versions of the contract and related regulations freely available online. Continue reading

Move to ban TikTok in schools

Source: The Conversation (1/18/23)
Dozens of US schools, universities move to ban TikTok
By (Professor of Management, University of North Carolina – Greensboro)

SUQIAN, CHINA – JANUARY 1, 2023 – Illustration: TikTok, a short video platform, Suqian, Jiangsu province, China, Jan 1, 2023. (Photo credit should read CFOTO/Future Publishing via Getty Images)

Disclosure statement: Nir Kshetri does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

A growing number of public schools and colleges in the U.S. are moving to ban TikTok – the popular Chinese-owned social media app that allows users to share short videos.

They are following the lead of the federal government and several states, that are banishing the social media app because authorities believe foreign governments – specifically China – could use the app to spy on Americans.

The app is created by ByteDance, which is based in China and has ties to the Chinese government.

The University of Oklahoma, Auburn University in Alabama and 26 public universities and colleges in Georgia have banned the app from campus Wi-Fi networks. Montana’s governor has asked the state’s university system to ban it. Continue reading

China overtakes US in scientific research output

Source: The Guardian (8/11/22)
China overtakes the US in scientific research output
Between 2018 and 2020 China published 23.4% of the world’s scientific papers, eclipsing the US

A child interacts with an installation at Yangzhou Science and Technology Museum

The Japanese report also found that Chinese research comprised 27.2% of the world’s top 1% most frequently cited papers. Photograph: Xinhua/Rex/Shutterstock

China has overtaken the US as the world leader in both scientific research output and “high impact” studies, according to a report published by Japan’s science and technology ministry.

The report, which was published by Japan’s National Institute of Science and Technology Policy (NISTP) on Tuesday, found that China now publishes the highest number of scientific research papers yearly, followed by the US and Germany.

The figures were based on yearly averages between 2018 and 2020, and drawn from data compiled by the analytics firm Clarivate.

The Japanese NISTP report also found that Chinese research comprised 27.2% of the world’s top 1% most frequently cited papers. The number of citations a research paper receives is a commonly used metric in academia. The more times a study is cited in subsequent papers by other researchers, the greater its “citation impact”. Continue reading

Govt boarding schools as a tool of genocide

Please note this upcoming public seminar that should be of burning interest to those angry and protesting similar crimes in Canada, the US, and other countries in the past. Learn about how these crimes are being committed today, now, against hundreds of thousands of ethnic-minority children in China–Magnus Fiskesjö <nf42@cornell.edu>

Government Boarding Schools as a Tool of Genocide in the 21st Century: Uyghur and Tibetan Family Separation
Tuesday, July 26, 2022 | 1:00–2:00 p.m. EDT

No registration required, watch via UHRP Facebook, Twitter or YouTube. For full links and more info, see: https://uhrp.org/event/boarding-schools/.

From July 24 to 29, Pope Francis is visiting Canada, when he will publicly apologize for the suffering and abuse in the Catholic boarding schools for Canada’s indigenous peoples, following his historic apology at the Vatican in April. In May 2022, the U.S. government released an unprecedented report on 53 burial sites at 408 boarding schools for Native American children across 37 states, operating between 1819 and 1969. These historic crimes are recognized as causing lifelong and generational trauma.

Now in the 21st Century, the Chinese government is operating a vast system of colonial boarding schools in Tibet, including at least 50 mandatory boarding preschools holding 100,000 Tibetan children, ages 4 to 6. The Chinese government is also operating mandatory boarding schools for Uyghur children as part of its genocidal policies, in a systematic effort to separate Uyghur children from their families, affecting an estimated 900,000 children. Please join us for a discussion of the implications of these crimes and the need for a policy response. Continue reading

CNKI’s Security Problem

Source: China Media Project (7/6/22)
CNKI’s Security Problem
A national security review of China’s leading academic research database, announced last month by cyberspace authorities, is not so much about sensitive content as about the potential sensitivities of public access.
By Stella Chen and David Bandurski

Image by Anonymous Account available at Flickr.com under CC license.

When China’s top internet control agency announced late last month that it would launch a security review of the country’s leading academic research database, China National Knowledge Infrastructure (CNKI), citing the need to protect “important data,” the reactions online were broadly of two types. While some wished to know exactly what kind of content concerned the authorities, many others cheered the action, noting how CNKI had drawn ire for many months over its skyrocketing subscription fees and its monopoly hold on the sector.

Both reactions were largely missing the point. The most recent action against CNKI is not about the sensitivity of certain types of data. Nor is it about the fair price for access to data. The issue for China’s authorities is about the abundant public access the CNKI database provides to an astonishing range of information. On the face of it, most of the information available through CNKI, drawn from thousands of periodical titles, is non-sensitive. Once made widely available to researchers, however, and once contextualized and interpreted, it can be revealing in ways that unsettle China’s leadership. Continue reading

New textbooks claim HK was not a British colony

Source: BBC News (6/15/22)
Hong Kong: New school books claim territory was not a British colony
By Frances Mao, BBC News

A woman carries the Chinese and Hong Kong flags while walking down Victoria Harbour in Hong Kong

IMAGE SOURCE,GETTY IMAGES: China has long said that Britain’s rule in Hong Kong did not usurp its sovereignty over the territory

New textbooks for Hong Kong schools will state the territory was never a British colony, local media report.

Instead, the books declare the British “only exercised colonial rule” in Hong Kong – a distinction drawn to highlight China’s claims of unbroken sovereignty.

China has always asserted it never gave up sovereignty and its surrender of Hong Kong to the British was due to unfair Opium War treaties in the 1800s.

The UK returned Hong Kong to China in 1997 after ruling for over 150 years.

During its rule, it referred to Hong Kong – a port with a deep harbour that grew into a booming city state, and one of the world’s leading financial centres – as a colony, as well as a dependent territory.

The United Kingdom governed the area from 1841 to 1941, and from 1945 to 1997, after which it was handed back to China. Continue reading

Xinjiang Police Files report

“Xinjiang Police Files: Images of horror outrage the world”, report München.

— this is an excellent ARD short film now translated into English, on the recent massive leak of grim photos of camp detainees, and other documents on the Xinjiang genocide, including further reconfirmation that Mr Xi Jinping himself personally is the chief leader instigating and driving the mass atrocities.  Includes discussion of the forensics of the photos and their authenticity, and the significance of this additional major leak of damning Chinese government files.

The film was earlier released In German:
Xinjiang Police Files – Bilder des Grauens empören die Welt. 24.05.2022 ∙ report MÜNCHEN ∙ Das Erste

More materials on the leak in this online bibliography (periodically updated) on the genocide in the Uyghur region (East Turkestan). There you find, for example, the BBC version:

Leaked data offers significant new insights into China’s Uyghur detention camps – John Sudworth,  BBC News, May 24, 2022. Continue reading

Teacher learns the limits of free expression

Source: The New Yorker (5/16/22)
A Teacher in China Learns the Limits of Free Expression
By Peter Hessler

Classroom warped by a fish eye lens

“Animal Farm” was taught in university courses. Many students identified with Benjamin, the donkey who is skeptical of the new farm but keeps his thoughts to himself. Illustration by Josh Cochran

At Chinese universities, when a student reports a professor for political wrongdoing, the verb that’s used to describe this action is jubao. It happens rarely, but the possibility is always there, because potential infractions are both undefined and extremely varied. A student might jubao a teacher for a comment about a sensitive historical event, or a remark that seems to contradict a Communist Party policy. Ambiguous statements about Xi Jinping, the President of China, are especially risky. In 2019, during a class at Chongqing Normal University, a literature professor named Tang Yun offhandedly described the language of one of Xi’s slogans as coarse. After students complained, Tang was demoted to a job in the library.

Other problems can involve class materials. In the fall of 2019, I started teaching at Sichuan University, in southwestern China, where I met a law-school teacher from another institution who had developed a syllabus with some sensitive content. The course included “Disturbing the Peace,” an Ai Weiwei documentary about the artist’s encounters with the Chinese judicial system. For two years, the teacher used the film in class without incident, but then, when he was partway through another semester, some students decided to jubao. Within a week, the teacher had been replaced with a substitute instructor. But the process can be slower, and much less predictable, if an initial complaint is made on social media, which was how it happened to me.

One evening in mid-December of 2019, I was about to leave my office for class when my wife, Leslie, called. A friend had just sent her a message copied from Twitter:

American writer and journalist Peter Hessler, under Chinese name Ho Wei . . . who moved to China with his family in Aug. 2019 to teach Non-fiction writing at Sichuan University, has possibly been reported for his behavior/speech.

The tweet was by a Chinese academic in the United States. She had included a blurry screenshot from Weibo, the Chinese version of Twitter. People in China often distribute such images, because original Weibo posts can be removed by censors, who have more trouble monitoring screenshots. Leslie’s friend said that the report was spreading quickly on Chinese social media. “I wanted to warn you before you started class,” Leslie told me. …  [READ THE WHOLE ARTICLE HERE]

Math textbooks controversy

Source: NYT (5/31/22)
Crude, Ugly and Pro-American? China Investigates Images in Math Textbooks.
The discovery of what some viewed as disturbing illustrations in books for elementary school students set off a national furor.
By Austin Ramzy

Illustrations in the fourth-grade math textbook that was published by People’s Education Press in China.

Illustrations in the fourth-grade math textbook that was published by People’s Education Press in China. Credit…CFOTO/Future Publishing, via Getty Images

HONG KONG — A little boy pulling up a girl’s dress. Another grabbing a classmate from behind, his hands across her chest. Bulges protruding from male students’ pants. Suspiciously pro-American images.

The illustrations can be found in a Chinese state-run publisher’s mathematics textbooks for elementary school students — books that have been used for years. They set off a furor in China after they were flagged on social media last week by angry commenters as crude, sexualized and anti-China.

The controversy has prompted the textbook publisher to apologize. China’s Ministry of Education at first said that it was ordering an inspection of illustrations in primary and secondary school textbooks. Then, on Monday, as anger spread online, the ministry announced a sweeping, nationwide investigation of all primary, secondary and university textbooks.

“The problems identified will be rectified immediately, and those responsible for violations of disciplines and regulations will be severely held accountable,” the ministry said on Monday. “There will be zero tolerance.” Continue reading

University press creates political review team

Source: China Media Project (3/8/22)
University Press Creates Political Review Team
In a further sign of political tightening in China ahead of the 20th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party this fall, the China Renmin University Press announced on February 23 that it is forming a Political Content Review Committee.
By David Bandurski

In open and democratic societies, the university press serves a special role in publishing academic work that has been reviewed by the scholarly community. Through books, journals and reference materials, university presses often help to ensure that research insights, including those that might be overlooked or underappreciated, are made accessible in order to broaden conversations within and across disciplines.

In China, this role is complicated and interrupted by the demands of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), which is keen to see works reviewed prior to publication not just for their intellectual value but also for their political fitness. As sensitivities in China intensify ahead of the 20th National Congress of the CCP this fall, one university press has announced that it is going the extra mile to ensure its political i’s are dotted and t’s are crossed.

On February 23, China Renmin University Press, an academic publishing house affiliated with Beijing’s Renmin University of China (RUC), which is known for its relative strength in the humanities and social sciences, announced that it was forming a Political Content Review Committee (政治内容审读委员会). The committee, which held its first training session after the formal inauguration of the group, will be tasked with reviewing the roughly 3,600 titles the press releases each year to ensure that they abide by what the CCP calls “political guidance” (政治导向), or “guidance of public opinion” (舆论导向) – essentially, the enforcement of control over facts and ideas to support the political stability of the regime. Continue reading