Rare protest in Guangzhou

Source: NYT (11/16/22)
Covid Lockdown Chaos Sets Off a Rare Protest in a Chinese City
Weary migrants thronged a street in the manufacturing hub of Guangzhou to protest food shortages and lengthy stay-at-home orders under China’s strict “zero-Covid” policy
By Chang Che and John Liu

Social media footage showed a large crowd confronting Covid workers in hazmat suits and tearing down fences installed as virus control measures in Guangzhou, China. It was unclear whether there were any casualties.CreditCredit…Video Obtained by Reuters

A lengthy lockdown and shortages of food prompted residents to take to the streets in China’s southern manufacturing hub of Guangzhou, a rare protest that reflected the growing public frustration with disruptions caused by the country’s Covid restrictions.

China maintains the world’s most stringent approach to Covid, a policy that relies heavily on mass lockdowns, quarantines and mandatory near-daily testing across the country. Whole regions and cities, including Shanghai, have been placed under strict lockdowns, derailing millions of people’s lives, forcing businesses to close and stirring public outrage.

The psychological toll of China’s “zero-Covid” policy is mounting. Earlier this month, a poorly managed outbreak in the world’s largest iPhone assembly complex in Zhengzhou led to a worker exodus and a delay in iPhone shipments around the world. Continue reading

Heat waves scorch China

Source: NYT (7/26/22)
Hotter, Longer and More Widespread Heat Waves Scorch China
By Vivian Wang

Shanghai, home to 26 million people, reached nearly 106 degrees Fahrenheit this month, tying its hottest day on record.

Shanghai, home to 26 million people, reached nearly 106 degrees Fahrenheit this month, tying its hottest day on record. Credit…Aly Song/Reuters

BEIJING — In western China, runoff from melting glaciers could overwhelm dams, officials have warned. In the southern metropolis of Guangzhou, the government has asked residents to use large appliances less so the electrical grid is not overwhelmed as the city battles its longest heat wave since 1951. In the coastal city of Fuzhou, temperatures exceeded 41 degrees Celsius, or nearly 106 degrees Fahrenheit, for an unprecedented three days in a row, state media reported.

More than 900 million Chinese, about 65 percent of the population, are living under some kind of heat warning. Temperatures have reached, or exceeded, the highs that have recently tormented parts of Europe and the United States. Between June and mid-July, officials across the country have issued more than 15,000 high-temperature warnings, including more than 2,000 predicting temperatures would exceed 104 degrees, according to state media. Seventy-one weather stations recorded their highest temperatures ever.

China has long suffered from extreme weather in summer, with heat waves accompanied by intense flooding. But the severity of these events has increased in recent years under the effects of global warming. Officials said the heat this year was likely to be more intense and more prolonged. It is expected to persist until at least the end of the month. Continue reading

Penguin eco-lit collection Vintage Earth

Source: Bruce-Humes.com (7/5/22)
Last Quarter of the Moon”: Re-launching as one of 8 novels in the “Eco-fiction” Genre
By Bruce Humes

As of July 7, 2022, Penguin is launching a collection of novels “to change the way we think about — and act upon — the most urgent story of our times: the climate crisis”:

Screen Shot 2022-07-05 at 8.40.39 PM

Vintage Earth series

” VINTAGE EARTH is a collection of novels to transform our relationship with the natural world. Each one is a work of creative activism, a blast of fresh air, a seed from which change can grow.
The books in this series reconnect us to the planet we inhabit and must protect.
Discover great writing on the most urgent story of our times. “

Two of the novels are translated from the Chinese. The Man with the Compound Eyes (複眼人 吳明益 著), translated by Darryl Sterk, and Last Quarter of the Moon (额尔古纳河右岸 迟子建 著), translated by me, Bruce Humes.

It’s nice to see translated Chinese writing highlighted for its topical content, and not simply because it is “about” China, and furthermore, to see it featured along with several other world-class works of fiction. Continue reading

Psychological scars of lockdown

Source: NYT (6/29/22)
‘Very Fragile’: Shanghai Wrestles With Psychological Scars of Lockdown
The lockdown fueled anxiety, fear and depression among the city’s residents. Experts have warned that the mental health impact of the confinement will be long-lasting.
By Vivian Wang

A temporary isolation center in Shanghai in April.

A temporary isolation center in Shanghai in April. Credit…The New York Times

BEIJING — June, for Shanghai, was supposed to be a time of triumph. After two months of strict lockdown, the authorities had declared the city’s recent coronavirus outbreak under control. Businesses and restaurants were finally reopening. State media trumpeted a return to normalcy, and on the first night of release, people milled in the streets, shouting, “Freedom!”

Julie Geng, a 25-year-old investment analyst in the city, could not bring herself to join. “I don’t think there’s anything worth celebrating,” she said. She had spent part of April confined in a centralized quarantine facility after testing positive and the feeling of powerlessness was still fresh.

“I feel there is no basic guarantee in life, and so much could change overnight,” she said. “It makes me feel very fragile.”

The lockdown had plunged Shanghai into chaos and suffering. Sealed in their homes, residents were unable to buy food, denied medical care or separated from their children. Social media overflowed with their fury and desperation. Now the worst is ostensibly over. But in this city of 25 million, many are just beginning to take stock of what they endured, what they lost and what they expect from the future. Continue reading

Voices of May

Source: China Digital Times (6/21/22)
VOICES OF MAY: “NO MORE IS THIS THE SHANGHAI WE ONCE KNEW”
Cindy Carter

“Voices of May” is the first in CDT’s monthly “Voices of …” series of viral audio-visual content from pandemic lockdowns in Shanghai and other Chinese cities. Inspired by the original audio-visual compilation “Voices of April,” which was the target of intense government and platform censorship, the “Voices of …” series seeks to circumvent censorship by amplifying the voices of Chinese citizens under various forms of lockdown and quarantine. CDT will continue to compile, translate, and publish these videos for as long as Chinese government censors seek to silence them.

Like the “Voices of April” video that inspired it, “Voices of May” begins with a summary of the month’s COVID case-count data and snippets of government press conferences, and segues into a series of audio and visual clips revealing the true experiences of Shanghai residents under lockdown. May’s content includes scenes of Shanghai residents being threatened by police for various minor infractions, students and householders objecting to “hard quarantine” measures such as metal fences or barbed wire, a peek inside a “refugee-camp-style” quarantine facility, a mother begging a hospital to treat her ill daughter, a retired professor denouncing “hygiene theatre,” and citizens wondering why they remain trapped at home despite the announced relaxation of Shanghai’s stringent citywide pandemic measures.

The eight-minute “Voices of May” video on CDT’s YouTube Channel features both Chinese and English subtitles.

Chinese telescope did not find alien signal

Source: NYT (6/18/22)
A Chinese Telescope Did Not Find an Alien Signal. The Search Continues
China’s astronomers have been initiated into the search for extraterrestrial intelligence with the kind of false alarm that others in the field have experienced for decades.
By Dennis Overbye

An aerial view of the FAST telescope in China’s Guizhou province. Astronomers there recently detected a signal that was mistaken for extraterrestrial intelligence.

An aerial view of the FAST telescope in China’s Guizhou province. Astronomers there recently detected a signal that was mistaken for extraterrestrial intelligence. Credit…Agence France-Presse, via National Astronomical Observator/Afp Via Getty Images

It was a project that launched a thousand interstellar dreams.

Fifty years ago, NASA published a fat, 253-page book titled, “Project Cyclops.” It summarized the results of a NASA workshop on how to detect alien civilizations. What was needed, the assembled group of astronomers, engineers and biologists concluded, was Cyclops, a vast array of radio telescopes with as many as a thousand 100-meter-diameter antennas. At the time, the project would have cost $10 billion. It could, the astronomers said, detect alien signals from as far away as 1,000 light-years.

The report kicked off with a quotation from the astronomer Frank Drake, now an emeritus professor at the University of California, Santa Cruz:

At this very minute, with almost absolute certainty, radio waves sent forth by other intelligent civilizations are falling on the earth. A telescope can be built that, pointed in the right place and tuned to the right frequency, could discover these waves. Someday, from somewhere out among the stars, will come the answers to many of the oldest, most important and most exciting questions mankind has asked.

The Cyclops report, long out of print but available online, would become a bible for a generation of astronomers drawn to the dream that science could answer existential questions.

“For the very first time, we had technology where we could do an experiment instead of asking priests and philosophers,” Jill Tarter, who read the report when she was a graduate student and who has devoted her life to the search for extraterrestrial intelligence, said in an interview a decade ago.

“Project Cyclops” summarized the results of a NASA workshop on how to detect alien civilizations.

“Project Cyclops” summarized the results of a NASA workshop on how to detect alien civilizations. Credit…NASA

I was reminded of Cyclops and the work it inspired this week when word flashed around the world that Chinese astronomers had detected a radio signal that had the characteristics of being from an extraterrestrial civilization — namely, it had a very narrow bandwidth at a frequency of 140.604 MHz, a precision nature doesn’t usually achieve on its own.

They made the detection using a giant new telescope called the Five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical radio Telescope, or FAST. The telescope was pointed in the direction of an exoplanet named Kepler 438 b, a rocky planet about 1.5 times the size of Earth that orbits in the so-called habitable zone of Kepler 438, a red dwarf star hundreds of light years from here, in the constellation Lyra. It has an estimated surface temperature of 37 degrees Fahrenheit, making it a candidate to harbor life. Continue reading

He Huaren (1958-2021)

Last week, I (belatedly) learned that Taiwan printmaker, illustrator, and bird expert He Huaren (何華仁) passed away in the week prior to Christmas 2021. MCLC Listserve members interested in (woodcut) printmaking and illustration will likely know of his work, and may have purchased books written by He or others, featuring his superb illustrations. He Huaren was also one of Taiwan’s most renowned birders and an activist for the preservation and protection of Taiwan’s bird and wildlife habitat; he was especially fond of raptors. Huaren was extremely generous, ever humble, had an outstanding sense of humor, and loved single malt scotch. Here are some sources on or by He Huaren.

何華仁(1958年-2021年12月18日): https://zh.wikipedia.org/wiki/何華仁
戰勝腦瘤 何華仁用繪本和版畫記錄台灣野鳥

蘋中人:刻在心上的鷹姿 何華仁
何華仁鳥版畫遺作 預計二月上市       中國時報

Nicholas Kaldis

Some seek exit during lockdown

Source: NYT (5/20/22)
As China Doubles Down on Lockdowns, Some Chinese Seek an Exit
Inquiries to immigration consultants have surged; social media users trade tips on how to get abroad. But the government aims to “strictly restrict nonessential exit activities.”
By Vivian Wang and Alexandra Stevenson

At Pudong International Airport in Shanghai last year. There are signs that China will continue to discourage overseas travel even once pandemic rules are relaxed.

At Pudong International Airport in Shanghai last year. There are signs that China will continue to discourage overseas travel even once pandemic rules are relaxed. Credit…Alex Plavevski/EPA, via Shutterstock

Clara Xie had long wondered whether she might leave China one day. She chafed at the country’s censorship regime, and as a lesbian, she wanted to live in a country more accepting of same-sex relationships. Still, the idea felt distant — she was young, and didn’t even know which country she would choose.

The coronavirus, and China’s stringent efforts to stop it, thrust the question to the front of her mind. Two years of travel restrictions have made it impossible for Ms. Xie, 25, to see her girlfriend, who lives in the United States. When Shanghai locked down in March, her work as a model, much of which was based there, dried up.

She is now working with an immigration lawyer to explore her options for leaving.

Ms. Xie is among a small but growing group of Chinese who are looking to the exits as China’s pandemic controls drag into their third year. Many are middle-class or wealthy Shanghai residents who have been trapped for nearly two months by a citywide lockdown that has battered the economy and limited access to food and medicine. Some, like Ms. Xie, have ties overseas and worry that China’s door to the world is closing. Others are disheartened by heightened government censorship and surveillance, which the pandemic has aggravated. Continue reading

Behind China’s new botanical garden

Source: Sixth Tone (5/2/22)
Behind China’s New Botanical Garden, a Decadeslong Struggle
Botanist Hu Xiansu spent his life trying to build China’s first national botanical garden. Now, 54 years after his death, he finally got his wish.
By Yang Yang

Visitors to the China National Botanical Garden, Beijing, April 22, 2022. VCG.

On April 18, 2022, the China National Botanical Garden officially opened its doors to the public — almost 80 years after it was first proposed. And while he didn’t live to see it happen, no one loomed larger over last month’s ceremony than Hu Xiansu, the man who spent his entire career trying to bring the garden to life.

Hu was born in 1894 in Nanchang, the capital of the central province of Jiangxi. His intellect stood out from an early age, winning him a coveted spot in an elite overseas exchange program. After graduating from the University of California, Berkeley in 1916 with a degree in Botany, Hu was named the vice-director of the Jiangxi Lushan Bureau of Forestry. Not long after, he became a professor of agricultural sciences at Southeast University in the eastern city of Nanjing, where he teamed with zoologist Bing Zhi to found the country’s first ever Department of Biology.

It was an impressive start to his academic career, but Hu wasn’t satisfied. In 1923, he returned to the United States for a Ph.D. program at Harvard University. Continue reading

Lockdown outrage tests limits

Source: NYT (4/27/22)
China’s Covid Lockdown Outrage Tests Limits of Triumphant Propaganda
Public anger and grief over the bungled lockdown in Shanghai is creating a credibility crisis for the country’s leader, Xi Jinping, and his zero Covid policies.
By Vivian WangPaul Mozur and Isabelle Qian

A banner reading “Persistence is victory!” at a makeshift hospital and quarantine facility in Shanghai earlier this month.

A banner reading “Persistence is victory!” at a makeshift hospital and quarantine facility in Shanghai earlier this month. Credit…Ding Ting/Xinhua, via Associated Press

Immediately after Beijing said it had detected a new coronavirus outbreak, officials hurried to assure residents there was no reason to panic. Food was plentiful, they said, and any lockdown measures would be smooth. But Evelyn Zheng, a freelance writer in the city, was not taking any chances.

Her relatives, who lived in Shanghai, were urging her to leave or stock up on food. She had spent weeks poring over social media posts from that city, which documented the chaos and anguish of the monthlong lockdown there. And when she went out to buy more food, it was clear many of her neighbors had the same idea: Some shelves were already cleaned out.

“At first, I was worried about Shanghai, because my family is there, and there was no good news from any of my friends,” Ms. Zheng said. “Now, Beijing is starting, too, and I don’t know when it will land on my head.”

Anger and anxiety over the Shanghai lockdown, now in its fourth week, has posed a rare challenge for China’s powerful propaganda apparatus, which is central to the Communist Party’s ability to stifle dissent. As the Omicron variant continues to spread across the country, officials have defended their use of widespread, heavy-handed lockdowns. They have pushed a triumphalist narrative of their Covid response, which says that only the Chinese government had the will to confront, and hold back, the virus. Continue reading

First Looks on Covid-19–cfp

Call for Submissions: First Looks on Covid-19

In 2021, as scholars caught medias reis in their writings about pandemics, Michael Berry and Bishnupriya Ghosh launched a project, “First Looks,” for constellating critical and creative works on the COVID-19 experience. The premise of the project was to constellate “field notes” on the pandemic for positionspolitics.org (an online portal of positions) on a rolling basis. Two years later, even as we mark the second anniversary of the March 2020 lockdowns and there are whispers of post-pandemic times, COVID-19 continues to emerge. In short, we remain in the eye of the storm: we characterize this “period” as the COVID-19 “interregnum,” so to speak, a gap or discontinuity with existing orders. “First Looks” attempts to capture the unsettlement of the period to ask: can the irresolution, the waiting, the vanishing certitudes of the interregnum be productive? In this spirit, we invite scholarly and creative “notes” on the pandemic as form anterior to settled argument. Continue reading

Interview with Geremie Barmé (1)

Many thanks for posting Jeremy Goldkorn’s interview with Geremie Barmé. It sparkles with bons mots.

“. . . huge amounts of time and effort will be devoted to ferreting out every sign of change, every possibility of transformation, reform and opening up, every scintilla of difference that can be detected in the obsidian surface of Party control.”

” . . . the Tsar-like Putin in his glorious isolation at the end of his priapic white conference table.”

“A vast and majestic land is reduced to the sorry and pathetic scale of noxious self-regard.”

Marvelous, simply marvelous!

A. E. Clark

Interview with Geremie Barmé

Source: SupChina (4/8/22)
‘Ugh, here we are’ — Q&A with Geremie Barmé
We talked to renowned scholar Geremie R. Barmé about Shanghai under lockdown, Xi Jinping’s “empire of tedium,” nationalist thugs, and much more.

Illustration by Alex Santafé

Australian sinologist, author, translator, and filmmaker Geremie R. Barmé first went to China in 1974. He’s seen a thing or two. He’s written and edited a number of books on modern and traditional China, and held a variety of prestigious academic positions, most recently as the founding director of the Australian Centre on China in the World in Canberra. He is also an occasional contributor to SupChina, and an old friend of mine. Geremie is the founding editor of China Heritage, where he is currently publishing a series of his essays on “Xi Jinping’s Empire of Tedium.” We spoke by video call on April 7. This is an abridged, edited transcript of our conversation.

—Jeremy Goldkorn


Earlier this week, we published a translation of yours of a rant by a Shanghainese man captured on video, that circulated virally in China for a couple of days before being censored. The man looks to be in his late sixties or seventies, and he rails at quarantine workers in hazmat suits about the lockdowns in Shanghai, comparing them, unfavorably, with earlier periods of crisis in China’s 20th-century history.

Can you talk a little bit about why somebody would talk about the death of Máo Zédōng 毛泽东 and Dèng Xiǎopíng 邓小平 now, and compare it with the way he’s being treated in Shanghai in the lockdown?

Well, it’s a fairly typical way to frame things for people of that generation — he says he’s in his late 60s and he’s labeled as an ‘old man’. Guess we belong to the same era as I’m 67 myself and the way he puts things resonates with me, as much of my “China life” overlaps with aspects of his generation.

So, since he is of that vintage, it’s hardly surprising that hardline government control today immediately brings to mind other periods when the government has intervened in daily life in an outrageously invasive fashion. For example, the fellow starts off by mentioning sparrows. This is a reference to policies of the Great Leap Forward era of his youth when, since the nation was starving due to Mao’s botched “leap” in Communism, the call went up to eliminate sparrows and other pests that threatened already-depleted food stocks. Then he mentions other events, like the Cultural Revolution. He scoffs at the “Big Whites” in hazmat suits for trying to outdo the extremism of the Cultural Revolution, to put on a show of being more revolutionary than everyone else. Continue reading

Language of Covid Symposium

An online Covid-19 symposium at the University of Richmond

The University of Richmond will host a Covid-19 symposium on April 13 and 14, featuring addresses, expert panels, artistic screenings, and a performance exploring the ways the Covid-19 pandemic was lived, dealt with, and mitigated by various cultures and languages. Welcome to register and attend the event virtually or in person:

https://as.richmond.edu/events/2022-llc-language-covid.html#more

Gengsong Gao <ggao@richmond.edu>

Shanghai seethes in Covid lockdown

Source: NYT (4/7/22)
Shanghai Seethes in Covid Lockdown, Posing Test to China’s Leadership
Residents in Shanghai, China’s most populous and cosmopolitan city, have responded to the government’s pursuit of zero Covid with a rare outpouring of criticism.
By Vivian Wang and Isabelle Niu

Workers in Shanghai during a lockdown last week.

Workers in Shanghai during a lockdown last week. Credit…Hector Retamal/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Parents have organized petitions, imploring the government not to separate children infected with the coronavirus from their families. Patients have demanded to speak with higher-ups about shoddy conditions at isolation facilities. Residents have confronted officials over containment policies that they see as unfair or inhumane, then shared recordings of those arguments online.

As the coronavirus races through Shanghai, in the city’s worst outbreak since the pandemic began, the authorities have deployed their usual hard-nosed playbook to try and stamp out transmission, no matter the cost. What has been different is the response: an outpouring of public dissatisfaction rarely seen in China since the chaotic early days of the pandemic, in Wuhan.

The crisis in Shanghai is shaping up to be more than just a public health challenge. It is also a political test of the zero tolerance approach at large, on which the Communist Party has staked its legitimacy.

For much of the past two years, the Chinese government has stifled most domestic criticism of its zero tolerance Covid strategy, through a mixture of censorship, arrests and success at keeping caseloads low. But in Shanghai, which has recorded more than 70,000 cases since March 1, that is proving more difficult. Continue reading