Ecological Critique of Alienation in Recent Chinese SF

LECTURE: Ecological Critique of Alienation in Recent Chinese Science Fiction
Ban Wang
Register here
University of Kansas
March 4, 2021; 4:00 – 5:30 PM CST 2:00 – 3:30 PM PST

Capitalist industrialization, wrote Marx, “is a progress in the art, not only of robbing the worker, but of robbing the soil.” Robbing workers means alienated labor whereby workers have no say over their work and are exploited and exposed to health hazards. Robbing nature refers to the extraction of natural resources for capital accumulation and endless growth. In ecological ecology, humans are an integral part of nature and the alienation of nature is the flipside of the alienation of workers. This dual alienation may offer an insight into recent Chinese SF fiction. Chinese SF writers have explored environmental crises, alienation of labor, social disintegration, and technologically induced class disparity in the context of globalization, technological advances, and geopolitical competition. This talk will discuss critiques of these anti-ecological trends by Chen Qiufan, Hao Jingfang, and Liu Cixin. Continue reading

How China beat the virus and roared back

Source: NYT (2/5/21)
Power, Patriotism and 1.4 Billion People: How China Beat the Virus and Roared Back
阅读简体中文版 | 閱讀繁體中文版
By Steven Myers, Keith Bradsher, Sui-Lee Wee, and Chris Buckley

Ships on the Yangtze River in Wuhan, China, where the coronavirus was first detected in 2019. The Chinese government, which sputtered at the beginning of last year, is the only major economy that has returned to steady growth.

Ships on the Yangtze River in Wuhan, China, where the coronavirus was first detected in 2019. The Chinese government, which sputtered at the beginning of last year, is the only major economy that has returned to steady growth. Credit…Gilles Sabrié for The New York Times

The Chinese Communist Party reached deep into private business and the broader population to drive a recovery, an authoritarian approach that has emboldened its top leader, Xi Jinping.

The order came on the night of Jan. 12, days after a new outbreak of the coronavirus flared in Hebei, a province bordering Beijing. The Chinese government’s plan was bold and blunt: it needed to erect entire towns of prefabricated housing to quarantine people, a project that would start the next morning.

Part of the job fell to Wei Ye, the owner of a construction company, which would build and install 1,300 structures on commandeered farmland.

Everything — the contract, the plans, the orders for materials — was “all fixed in a few hours,” Mr. Wei said, adding that he and his employees worked exhaustively to meet the tight deadline.

“There is pressure, for sure,” he said, but he was “very honored” to do his part. Continue reading

How Beijing faced the outbreak

To view the slideshow of photos, click the title link below.–Kirk

Source: China File (2/4/21)
Running on Empty: How Beijing Faced the Outbreak
By Summer Sun, photographed by Dong Lin
Dong Lin photographed this project with support from the Abigail Cohen Fellowship in Documentary Photography. The fellowship is a joint initiative of Asia Society’s ChinaFile and Magnum Foundation.

A People’s Armed Police officer stands guard outside the entrance to the Forbidden City, in Tiananmen Square, January 24, 2020.

A People’s Armed Police officer stands guard outside the entrance to the Forbidden City, in Tiananmen Square, January 24, 2020.

Afew days before the Lunar New Year last year, I called my mother for some urgent advice. Since I live in Europe and was not traveling home for the celebration, I decided to host a dinner party at my apartment. My invitation list soon grew out of hand, ending up with 15 guests. There were vegetarians, vegans, and non-pork eaters, a difficult endeavor for any Chinese chef, let alone a novice. My mother helped me decide on some easy-to-make and filling recipes. Before hanging up, we briefly discussed the mysterious, pneumonia-like disease sickening people in central China, far away from where my parents live. Around that time, Zhong Nanshan, a prominent Chinese pulmonologist well-respected for his work during the SARS outbreak in 2003, publicly confirmed that the virus that would come to be known as COVID-19 spread from human to human. Still, given how little information the government had yielded on the extent of transmission, the outbreak remained obscure, if alarming. “Are you guys wearing masks?” I asked my mother. “I’ve started to, but your dad hasn’t. We still have some masks that he bought on Taobao years ago,” she said. “Who knows if they’re still good—you know your dad always buys whatever’s the cheapest.” Continue reading

China cancels New Year for millions of migrants

Source: NYT (1/28/21)
To Avoid an Outbreak, China Cancels Lunar New Year for Millions of Migrants
China has added restrictions, offered incentives and appealed to a sense of filial and national responsibility, in an effort to prevent about 300 million migrant workers from going home for the holiday.
By Javier C. Hernández and Alexandra Stevenson

Passengers boarding a train last week at Hankou Station in Wuhan, China. A year ago, the station was among the first places to be closed as the government tried to contain the world’s first coronavirus outbreak. Credit…Roman Pilipey/EPA, via Shutterstock

Every winter, Pang Qingguo, a fruit seller in northern China, makes the 800-mile trip to his ancestral home to celebrate the Lunar New Year, the biggest holiday of the year in China, with his family.

The coronavirus ruined the festivities last year, stranding Mr. Pang in the northern city of Tangshan, as many Chinese cities imposed lockdowns. Now, as China confronts a resurgence of the virus, the pandemic is set to spoil the holiday again, with the authorities announcing onerous quarantine and testing rules to dissuade migrant workers like Mr. Pang from traveling for the new year, which begins this year on Feb. 12.

Mr. Pang, who describes his home in the northeastern province of Heilongjiang as the “happiest place,” is anguished by the rules. He has taken to social media in recent days to express frustration about his situation and post photos of his 7-year-old daughter, whom he has not seen in more than a year. “Society is so cruel,” he wrote in one post. Continue reading

China’s efforts to show off its vaccines is backfiring

Source: NYT (1/25/21)
China Wanted to Show Off Its Vaccines. It’s Backfiring.
Delays, inconsistent data, spotty disclosures and the country’s attacks on Western rivals have marred its ambitious effort to portray itself as a leader in global health.
By Sui-Lee Wee

Brazilian indigenous people waiting in São Paulo to receive the vaccine from the Chinese company Sinovac. Brazilian officials have complained that Chinese companies have been slow to ship the doses and ingredients.

Brazilian indigenous people waiting in São Paulo to receive the vaccine from the Chinese company Sinovac. Brazilian officials have complained that Chinese companies have been slow to ship the doses and ingredients. Credit…Victor Moriyama for The New York Times

China’s coronavirus vaccines were supposed to deliver a geopolitical win that showcased the country’s scientific prowess and generosity. Instead, in some places, they have set off a backlash.

Officials in Brazil and Turkey have complained that Chinese companies have been slow to ship the doses and ingredients. Disclosures about the Chinese vaccines has been slow and spotty. The few announcements that have trickled out suggest that China’s vaccines, while considered effective, cannot stop the virus as well as those developed by Pfizer and Moderna, the American drugmakers.

In the Philippines, some lawmakers have criticized the government’s decision to purchase a vaccine made by a Chinese company called Sinovac. Officials in Malaysia and Singapore, which both ordered doses from Sinovac, have had to reassure their citizens that they would approve a vaccine only if it has been proven safe and effective. Continue reading

Shades of Green: Notes on China’s Eco-civilisation

The University of Sydney China Studies Centre is pleased to announce Shades of Green: Notes on China’s Eco-civilisation (edited by Olivier Krischer and Luigi Tomba, 2020), published with Made in China journal as the first in a new series of ‘Made in China Notebooks’.

Shades of Green: Notes on China’s Eco-civilisation
Edited by Olivier Krischer and Luigi Tomba

Is China the new champion of environmentalism? Are democratic models becoming obsolete? Is efficiency all we need to tackle this environmental crisis? Believing such questions to be flattening the debate and obscuring as much as they reveal, Shades of Green offers short reflections from the perspectives of 14 young scholars addressing the problem in compelling and original ways. They are exploring issues of language and policy interpretation, the complex nexus of social and environmental justice, case studies in rural revitalisation, precarious urban housing and hygiene impacts of city development, as well as the potential to address spiritual or indigenous questions to ecological challenges in the context of China today.

The PDF book is available on China Studies Centre website.

YANPING ZHANG | Events and Communications Officer
China Studies Centre

How Covid-19 slipped China’s grasp

Source: NYT (12/30/20)
阅读简体中文版 | 閱讀繁體中文版
Beijing acted against the coronavirus with stunning force, as its official narratives recount. But not before a political logjam had allowed a local outbreak to kindle a global pandemic.
By Chris BuckleyDavid D. KirkpatrickAmy Qin and 

Moving a Covid-19 victim in Wuhan, China, in February. Credit…CHINATOPIX, via Associated Press

Celebrated as the hero who helped uncover the SARS epidemic 17 years ago, Dr. Zhong Nanshan, now 84, was under orders to rush to Wuhan, a city in central China, and investigate a strange new coronavirus. His assistant photographed the doctor on the night train, eyes closed in thought, an image that would later rocket around China and burnish Dr. Zhong’s reputation as the nation’s medic riding to the rescue.

China’s official history now portrays Dr. Zhong’s trip as the cinematic turning point in an ultimately triumphant war against Covid-19, when he discovered the virus was spreading dangerously and sped to Beijing to sound the alarm. Four days later, on Jan. 23, China’s leader, Xi Jinping, sealed off Wuhan.

That lockdown was the first decisive step in saving China. But in a pandemic that has since claimed more than 1.7 million lives, it came too late to prevent the virus from spilling into the rest of the world.

The first alarm had actually sounded 25 days earlier, exactly a year ago, last Dec. 30. Even before then, Chinese doctors and scientists had been pushing for answers, yet officials in Wuhan and Beijing concealed the extent of infections or refused to act on warnings. Continue reading

Citizen journalist sentenced for Covid reporting

Source: NYT (12/28/20)
Chinese Citizen Journalist Sentenced to 4 Years for Covid Reporting
Zhang Zhan, a former lawyer, is the first known person to be tried for challenging the Chinese government’s narrative about the coronavirus pandemic.
By Vivian Wang

[See also: “She Chronicled China’s Crisis. Now She Is Accused of Spreading Lies.”]

The Shanghai Pudong New District People’s Court, where the citizen journalist Zhang Zhan was sentenced after reporting on the early days of the pandemic. Credit…Leo Ramirez/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

A Chinese court on Monday sentenced a citizen journalist who documented the early days of the coronavirus outbreak to four years in prison, sending a stark warning to those challenging the government’s official narrative of the pandemic.

Zhang Zhan, the 37-year-old citizen journalist, was the first known person to face trial for chronicling China’s outbreak. Ms. Zhang, a former lawyer, had traveled to Wuhan from her home in Shanghai in February, at the height of China’s outbreak, to see the toll from the virus in the city where it first emerged. For several months she shared videos that showed crowded hospitals and residents worrying about their incomes.

In China, the news media is tightly controlled by the state. Some citizen journalists try to offer more independent reporting, which they post on the internet and social media platforms. But their work is often censored and they are routinely punished. Continue reading

No negative news

Source: NYT (12/19/20)
No ‘Negative’ News: How China Censored the Coronavirus
Thousands of internal directives and reports reveal how Chinese officials stage-managed what appeared online in the early days of the outbreak.
By Raymond ZhongPaul Mozur, Jeff Kao and Aaron Krolik

Credit…Adam Maida for ProPublica

em>This article is copublished with ProPublica, the nonprofit investigative newsroom.

In the early hours of Feb. 7, China’s powerful internet censors experienced an unfamiliar and deeply unsettling sensation. They felt they were losing control.

The news was spreading quickly that Li Wenliang, a doctor who had warned about a strange new viral outbreak only to be threatened by the police and accused of peddling rumors, had died of Covid-19. Grief and fury coursed through social media. To people at home and abroad, Dr. Li’s death showed the terrible cost of the Chinese government’s instinct to suppress inconvenient information. Continue reading

Wuhan Lockdown Diary

Source: Words without Borders (May 2020)
Wuhan Lockdown Diary
Nonfiction by Guo Jing
Translated from Chinese by Hongwei Bao

Guo Jing, the first woman in China to win a gender discrimination case against a state-owned enterprise, chronicles daily life under the COVID-19 lockdown in Wuhan, China, in this excerpt from her Diary of the Wuhan Lockdown.

April 3, 2020

Yesterday, the Wuhan COVID-19 Epidemic Prevention and Control Headquarters issued a notice advising that the city lockdown needs to be continued. Many citizens left messages on the Chinanews social media account requesting government subsidies and calling for an end to the lockdown.

One person posted: “Give out some cash subsidies. I have not had any income for two months, and I still have to repay my mortgage.”

Another person posted: “For two months, I have not seen any government-subsidized vegetables. I can only buy them at a high price. Eggs are expensive, so are vegetables, and I have yet to find meat. The government provided a limited supply of subsidized meat, but it is mostly reserved for older people. I have lost more than ten thousand yuan (roughly 1,413 USD) in income. We cannot continue the lockdown like this. I will need to apply to leave Wuhan on April 8 so I can find a job elsewhere. Otherwise I will not be able to make ends meet this year.” Continue reading

Scandal dogs China’s ‘king of vaccines’

Source: NYT (12/7/20)
Scandal Dogs China’s ‘King of Vaccines,’ Partner to AstraZeneca
阅读简体中文版 | 閱讀繁體中文版
The British-Swedish drugmaker has joined with a huge Asian company to produce a Covid-19 vaccine in China, where shady reputations are common in the pharmaceutical industry.
By Sui-Lee Wee and Javier C. Hernández

As a government regulator sidled into a car, the Chinese pharmaceutical executive handed over a paper bag stuffed with $44,000 in cash.

The executive, Du Weimin, was eager to get his company’s vaccines approved, and he needed help. The official took the money and vowed to try his best, according to court documents from 2016.

Several months later, Mr. Du got the greenlight to begin clinical trials for two vaccines. They were ultimately approved, generating tens of millions of dollars in revenue.

The government official was jailed for taking bribes from Mr. Du and several other vaccine makers. Mr. Du was never charged. Instead, he built an empire. His company, Shenzhen Kangtai Biological Products, is one of China’s largest vaccine makers. And Mr. Du, dubbed the “king of vaccines,” is one of the richest men in China. Continue reading

China’s Greta Thunberg

Source: NYT (12/4/20)
Ignored and Ridiculed, She Wages a Lonesome Climate Crusade
In China, where any hint of protest is viewed with suspicion, one teenager is trying to draw attention to the dangers human development poses to the world.
By Steven Lee Myers

Ou Hongyi, a young climate activist, has been ostracized and questioned by the police in China for her actions. She calls climate change “the biggest existential crisis facing mankind.” Credit…Nicolas Asfouri/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Ou Hongyi stopped going to school after watching Al Gore in “An Inconvenient Truth,” the documentary on the looming climate catastrophe, on her 16th birthday.

Her parents, both university lecturers, didn’t approve, but she was determined to try to make a difference — all the more challenging in China, where people trying to make a difference often evoke suspicion. Or worse.

In the two years since, she has waged a lonely, often frustrating campaign to raise awareness of the perils of a warming planet. She has joined international “climate strikes,” planted trees in her hometown in southern China, Guilin, and mounted a flurry of one-woman protests.

Continue reading

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