My life is running away

Source: China Channel, LARB (10/23/20)
My Life of Running Away
The doctor who exposed an HIV scandal in China reflects on a life of exile 
By Gao Yaojie and Mengyu Dong (translator)

Dr Gao in 2007

Translator’s note: In the mid 1990s, while in her eighties, Dr Gao Yaojie uncovered a network of unsanitary blood collection and sales that eventually led to a devastating HIV outbreak in central China. As she gained international influence, the Chinese authorities briefly recognized her work before harassing her and putting her under house arrest. In 2009, Gao Yaojie left China and settled in New York with help from friends and volunteers. She has since published three books detailing her research on the AIDS epidemic. Gao wrote this short memoir about these experiences in the spring of 2020, just as the outbreak of the coronavirus hit the US. It was published on September 5 by Initium Media (paywall) and is translated here for the first time in English. – Mengyu Dong

I am 93 years old. I’ve had to run away from many things throughout my life. I ran from Shandong to Henan. I ran from one part of Henan to the next, where I lived through the tough times of my prime years. It didn’t stop in Henan. When I was an 82-year-old fighting against the AIDS epidemic, I had to run away from my country. For more than a decade, I’ve lived in New York in exile, by myself. Now with America as the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak, there’s nowhere left for me to run. I am old and sick. What can I do?

Running Away from the Eighth Route Army

I was born in Cao County, Shandong Province in December 1927. My family was wealthy and lived in a mansion. With more than 70 mu [12 acres] of land, our wealth was well-noted in Southwest Shandong. You can check the records of Cao County. I was my mother’s first child. Father married her after the passing of his previous wife, who gave him two daughters. The Gao Family wanted my mother to have a boy. But I was another girl, a disappointment in a traditional society that preferred sons. In order for my mother give birth to boys, they made her stop nursing me and hired a wet nurse. This gave me chronic stomach issues. I was thinner and weaker than other children of my age. Fortunately, I learned medicine and worked in healthcare, which helped me achieve longevity. Continue reading

Independent films about the 2020 pandemic

The 2nd Red Bird Student Film Festival
Time: October 1-November 1, 2020
Location: Online

When the 2020 pandemic suspended mainstream filmmaking activities around the world due to social distancing rules, about 15 students from the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology were making independent films in different parts of the globe: Wuhan, Kunming, Shijiazhuang, Guangzhou, Hong Kong, Seoul, and London.

Each student established a one-man’s studio and made a documentary film about the impact of the pandemic. As amateurs, they audaciously engaged in “extreme filmmaking,” that is, filmmaking under extreme conditions: pandemic, no funding, no professional equipment, no teammates. They started shooting in early February and kept tracking the pandemic week by week until June or September. They made 15 films in total, including documentaries, fictional documentaries, animated documentaries, and stop-motion animation. The lengths of their films vary: animated films are around 6-8 minutes and live-action films 10-20 minutes, with the exception of a feature-length documentary about Wuhan lockdown.

These films epitomize the Humanities’ take on the 2020 pandemic. To watch these films and cast your vote for the best three films (deadline: November 1, 2020), please click: Continue reading


On Qing () and Jing () in Chinese Literature: A Discourse on Ecocriticism
Date: September, 2020

We are seeking contributions to an edited volume focusing on the concepts of qing (情) and jing (境) throughout Chinese literature, with a special emphasis on modern and contemporary Chinese literature, by examining the environmental and ecological dimensions of such notions. This volume sets out to explore the concepts of qing (情) and jing (境) in Chinese literature from an ecocritical perspective.

In The Ecocriticism Reader, Cheryll Glotfelty defines Ecocriticism as “the study of the relationship between literature and the physical environment,” whereas Lawrence Buell defines ecocriticism as a “study of the relationship between literature and the environment conducted in a spirit of commitment to environmentalist praxis.”

The two concepts of qing and jing may be analyzed on different temporal and semantic coordinates. First, as duly pointed out by Cai and Wu (2019), qing 情 has been identified at the core of Chinese thinking about literature, such that “lyrical tradition” becomes an encompassing concept for many to distinguish Chinese literary tradition from its Western counterpart. The concepts of qing and jing may indeed be analyzed as two separate semantic identities or as part of a whole semantic unit: qingjing literature (情境文学, situated literature). Moreover, the two concepts may be analyzed in a diachronic perspective, by providing a reinterpretation of classical Chinese literary concepts, namely qing and jing, through a contemporary and ecocritic lens; they may also be analyzed in a synchronic perspective by focusing on modern and contemporary Chinese literature, in particular nature writing, ecofiction, and environmental literature. Continue reading

China pledges to be carbon neutral by 2060

Source: NYT (9/23/20)
China’s Pledge to Be Carbon Neutral by 2060: What it Means
Under international pressure to do more to address global warming, Xi Jinping made a surprise commitment to drastically reduce emissions. Now comes the hard part.
By Steven Lee Myers

A coal processing plant in Hejin, China, in November. Credit…Sam Mcneil/Associated Press

Environmentalists have welcomed the pledge by China’s leader, Xi Jinping, to speed up reductions in emissions in the world’s top-polluting nation and reach carbon neutrality by 2060.

The ambitious goal, which surprised many experts, could help significantly slow global warming. They warned, however, that Mr. Xi had offered almost no detail, raising doubts about the viability of targets that remain years in the future.

Here’s what to know about the pledge: Continue reading

China promotes its vaccines to win friends

Source: NYT (9/11/20)
From Asia to Africa, China Promotes Its Vaccines to Win Friends
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With pledges of a coronavirus vaccine, China is on a charm offensive to repair strained diplomatic ties and bolster engagement with other countries.
By Sui-Lee Wee

Paulo Roberto Oliveira, a volunteer, receiving a Covid-19 vaccine produced by the Chinese company Sinovac Biotech at a hospital in Porto Alegre, Brazil, last month. Credit…Silvio Avila/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

The Philippines will have quick access to a Chinese coronavirus vaccine. Latin American and Caribbean nations will receive $1 billion in loans to buy the medicine. Bangladesh will get over 100,000 free doses from a Chinese company.

Never mind that China is still most likely months away from mass producing a vaccine that is safe for public use. The country is using the prospect of the drug’s discovery in a charm offensive aimed at repairing damaged ties and bringing friends closer in regions China deems vital to its interests.

Take, for example, Indonesia, which has long been wary of Beijing. China’s leader, Xi Jinping, assured the nation’s president, Joko Widodo, in a call last week: “China takes seriously Indonesia’s concerns and needs in vaccine cooperation.” Continue reading

China locks down Xinjiang to fight Covid-19

Source: NYT (8/25/20)
China Locks Down Xinjiang to Fight Covid-19, Angering Residents
The restrictions, which remain even after new coronavirus infections subsided, have ruined livelihoods and damaged Beijing’s efforts to project harmony in the troubled region.
By Javier Hernández

A medical worker conducting a coronavirus test in Urumqi, the capital of the Chinese region of Xinjiang, in a photo distributed by state media. Credit…China News Service, via Reuters

First came the notices that Chinese officials had declared a “wartime” state. Then the authorities started going door to door, sealing off apartments and warning residents to stay inside.

The Chinese government in recent weeks has imposed a sweeping lockdown across the Xinjiang region in western China, penning in millions of people as part of what officials describe as an effort to fight a resurgence of the coronavirus.

But with the outbreak in Xinjiang seemingly under control and the restrictions still in place more than a month after the outbreak there began, many residents are lashing out and accusing the government of acting too harshly.

“There are no cases here,” Daisy Luo, 26, a fruit seller who lives in northern Xinjiang, said in an interview. “The controls are too strict.”

Ms. Luo, who said she has lost at least $1,400 in sales because of the lockdown, took to social media this week to protest the restrictions, saying she felt abandoned. “It’s useless to have opinions,” she said. “People dare not speak.” Continue reading

China has been vaccinating essential workers since July 22

Source: SupChina (8/24/20)
China has been vaccinating essential workers since July 22
China, under an emergency use authorization, has vaccinated an unspecified number of essential workers outside of clinical trials since July 22, a top health official revealed. At the same time, clinical trials for China’s four COVID-19 vaccine candidates are expanding overseas.
By Lucas Niewenhuis

a medical worker

An unspecified number of essential workers, like medical professionals and civil servants, have received experimental COVID-19 vaccines in China over the past month, a top health official said. Photo of a hospital worker in Brazil by Tchelo Figueredo / Latin America News Agency via REUTERS.

China is on track to lead the world in development and rollout of a coronavirus vaccine. Four vaccines developed by three Chinese companies — one from CanSino Biologics, another from Sinovac Biotech, and two vaccine candidates from Sinopharm — are in Phase 3 trials, the final and largest phase of human testing before approval for public use.

But, it turns out, China didn’t wait for final approval to start vaccinating significant numbers of its citizens, beyond those officially enrolled in clinical trials.

  • For over a month, since July 22, China has been secretly vaccinating essential workers under an “emergency access program,” Zhèng Zhōngwěi 郑忠伟, director of the science and technology development center of the National Health Commission, revealed over the weekend.
  • The revelation gives China the “dubious honor of the first nation to roll out an experimental coronavirus vaccine for public use,” the Washington Post points out, as a much-criticized Russian announcement of a premature vaccine rollout was only revealed earlier this month.
  • It had been reported earlier in July that some Chinese state-owned companies were “selectively testing their vaccines on small pools of people,” which was already unconventional, but Zheng’s announcement appears to indicate a wider program.

Continue reading

Ai Weiwei’s portrait of Wuhan’s covid lockdown

Source: NYT (8/21/20)
From Ai Weiwei, a Portrait of Wuhan’s Draconian Covid Lockdown
Ai said the documentary film “Coronation,” which he directed remotely from Europe, “is trying to reflect what ordinary Chinese people went through.”
By Ian Johnson

In Ai Weiwei’s “Coronation,” an I.C.U. team consults on a case in a hospital in Wuhan, China. Credit…Ai Weiwei Studios

LONDON — In January, the Chinese city of Wuhan became the first in the world to undergo a lockdown to fight the coronavirus pandemic. In many ways this crucial period remains a mystery, with few images escaping the censors’ grasp.

A new film by the Chinese artist and activist Ai Weiwei helps fill in some of that missing history. Although now living in Europe, Ai remotely directed dozens of volunteers across China to create “Coronation,” a portrait of Wuhan’s draconian lockdown — and of a country able to mobilize huge resources, if at great human cost.

“The audience has to understand that this is about China,” Ai said in a telephone interview from Portugal. “Yes, it’s about the corona lockdown, but it is trying to reflect what ordinary Chinese people went through.” Continue reading

China uses quarantines as cover to detain dissidents

Source: NYT (7/30/20)
China Uses Quarantines as Cover to Detain Dissidents, Activists Say
Critics of the government said they were held in rooms with barred windows and denied permission to contact their families, all in the name of public health.
By Sui-Lee Wee

After his release from prison, Wang Quanzhang, a human rights lawyer, was quarantined for weeks before being allowed to see his wife, Li Wenzu, and their son. “The real purpose was to shut me up,” he said. Credit…Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

On the day of his release from prison, Wang Quanzhang, one of China’s most prominent human rights lawyers, thought he was finally free.

After being held for nearly five years on charges of subversion of state power, Mr. Wang was escorted by the police to an apartment building in the eastern city of Jinan. There, he was given a room with iron bars on the windows. Twenty police officers stood guard outside. His mobile phone was confiscated, and his use of it was later restricted and monitored.

Mr. Wang was effectively under temporary house arrest, but the authorities had another name for it: quarantine.

Rights activists say the coronavirus has given the Chinese authorities a new pretext for detaining dissidents. Summary quarantines — often imposed just after detainees, like Mr. Wang, had cleared a previous one — are the latest way to silence dissent, part of a broader campaign under China’s top leader, Xi Jinping, to stamp out activism through arrests, detentions and harsher internet controls, activists say. Continue reading

Pandemic Asia

Special Issue: Pandemic Asia, Part I (Table of Contents)
The Asia-Pacific Journal, Volume 18 | Issue 14 | Number 1 (July 11, 2020)

Jeff Kingston, Editor of this special issue, assembled a team of contributors from all over the region and is grateful for their working on a tight deadline to assess the pandemic in Asia as of July 2020. In editing this volume he received valuable editorial assistance from Laney Bahan, guidance from Mark Selden and production processing assistance from Joelle Tapas, Hannah LaTourette and Yayoi Koizumi who shepherded the manuscripts from submission to publication with patience and acuity.


  1. Jeff Kingston – Introduction
  2. Michael Bartos – Modern Pandemics

East Asia and the Pacific

  1. Michael Bartos – Australia and the Rhythm of the Covid-19 Epidemic
  2. David Moser – A Fearful Asymmetry: Covid-19 and America’s Information Deficit with China
  3. Anonymous – Social Media and China’s Coronavirus Outbreak
  4. Simon Cartledge – So What? Hong Kong’s Covid-19 Success Won’t be Why It Remembers 2020
  5. Brian Hioe – “Asia’s Orphan” During the COVID-19 Pandemic
  6. Ian Rowen – Crafting the Taiwan Model for COVID-19: An Exceptional State in Pandemic Territory
  7. S. Nathan Park – Fostering Trust in Government During a Pandemic: The Case of South Korea
  8. Azby Brown – Information as the Key: Evaluating Japan’s Response to COVID-19
  9. Togo Kazuhiko – The First Phase of Japan’s Response to COVID-19 Continue reading

Xu Zhangrun seized

Source: NYT (7/6/20)
Seized by the Police, an Outspoken Chinese Professor Sees Fears Come True
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Xu Zhangrun, who has long taught law at the prestigious Tsinghua University, is one of the few academics in China who have harshly criticized the ruling Communist Party.

Xu Zhangrun, a law professor in China who was detained by the police in Beijing on Monday. Credit…The New York Times

The Chinese law professor had stored a few pairs of underwear and a toothbrush in a small bag, close at hand for the day when the police detained him for his unsparing criticism of the Communist Party under Xi Jinping.

That day appears to have arrived.

On Monday morning, the police showed up in force at the home of the scholar, Xu Zhangrun, in northern Beijing and took him away, according to three friends. He was detained on an accusation of consorting with prostitutes, according to Geng Xiaonan, a friend who said she had spoken to the scholar’s wife and students.

“It’s just the kind of vile slander that they use against someone they want to silence,” said Ms. Geng, a businesswoman involved in film and publishing. Continue reading

Beijing coronavirus outbreak ‘extremely severe

Source: The Guardian (6/16/20)
Beijing coronavirus outbreak: travel restricted to tackle ‘extremely severe’ situation
Restrictions on travel to and from China capital brought in as neighbourhoods sealed off and venues close
By  in Beijing and 

An epidemic control worker directs people at a coronavirus testing station in Beijing, China, as authorities tackle the most significant outbreak in the country since February.

An epidemic control worker directs people at a coronavirus testing station in Beijing, China, as authorities tackle the most significant outbreak in the country since February. Photograph: Kevin Frayer/Getty Images

Authorities in Beijing have described the city’s coronavirus outbreak as “extremely severe” as dozens more cases emerged and travel from the city was curtailed.

Additional neighbourhoods were fenced off on Tuesday, with security checkpoints set up at residential compounds, and high-risk people – such as close contacts of people who test positive – prevented from leaving the city.

“The epidemic situation in the capital is extremely severe,” Beijing city spokesman Xu Hejian warned at a press conference. “Right now we have to take strict measures to stop the spread of Covid-19.” Continue reading

Geopolitics in a Post-Pandemic World

Geopolitics in a Post-Pandemic World
US-China co-operation and rivalry, and what it means for Australia

How are the US and China handling the COVID-19 situation? What are the impacts of these decisions domestically, and particularly for Australia’s relationship with the two states?

The COVID-19 outbreak is fundamentally reshaping the global strategic landscape. Although the global crisis requires international cooperation, we’re seeing US-China tensions rise with coronavirus blame strategies and discussions of economic decoupling. How will the balance of power shift, and what is the world going to look like on the other side of the pandemic?

Facilitated by Bill Birtles, ABC’s China correspondent, this discussion will analyse COVID developments in Australia, China and the US, and the socio-economic impacts. Our panel includes scholars specialising in political science, Asia-Pacific security, and government and international relations. Continue reading

Amnesia nation

Source: NYT (5/27/20)
Amnesia Nation: Why China Has Forgotten Its Coronavirus Outbreak
A 2009 novel predicted the Chinese people would forget a traumatic crisis. The puzzle, says its author, is how it happened so fast.
By Li Yuan

Chan Koonchung in Hong Kong. The protagonist of his latest novel is the spirit of a boy killed in the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown.

Chan Koonchung in Hong Kong. The protagonist of his latest novel is the spirit of a boy killed in the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown. Credit…Lam Yik Fei for The New York Times

How quickly can a whole nation forget about a catastrophe?

In Chan Koonchung’s 2009 dystopian novel “The Fat Years,” China endures a huge, fictional crisis. Two years later, nobody seems to remember it.

In reality, Mr. Chan realized, it took less than two months for many people in China to leave behind their anger and despair over the coronavirus crisis and the government’s bungled response. Today, they believe China triumphed over the outbreak.

“It’s like nothing had happened,” Mr. Chan said in an interview. “I’m dumbfounded. How could they make a U-turn so fast?”

Mr. Chan wrote “The Fat Years” as a cautionary tale. Today, it seems all too real. A disaster brings suffering and death. Collective amnesia sets in. The Communist Party emerges stronger than ever. Continue reading

Kindness to animals?

A friend asked: has any Communist leader in China ever been seen in public showing kindness to an animal. Not sure of the answer. Seems one has to go back to Buddhist emperors doing the fangsheng thing

although that is mostly a kind of hypocrisy, of course.

There is one obvious “branding” reason Chinese Communist leaders do not have pets like lapdogs or cats: such animals were long associated with bourgeois habits and this political tradition is still strong. Also includes bourgeois wastefulness in wasting food on a pet when it could go to the Poor, hypocritically speaking. So, for a leader to hold a dog or a cat and suggest it was his, or even petting a different dog, would probably NOT look good politically.

Does anyone have a better theory, or better observations?


Magnus Fiskesjö