Racism and Orientalism (1)

Dear colleagues,

Hope you’ve been well.

Due to overwhelming public response, the Contemporary China Centre is pleased to announce the moving of the event “Racism and Orientalism: An online roundtable on racialised discourse on COVID-19” on 30 Apr to a bigger hosting platform and more tickets are now available on Eventbrite.

Kind regards

How Wee
Contemporary China Centre
School of Humanities
University of Westminster

A Message Held to the Flame

Source: Paper Republic (4/23/20)
A Message Held to the Flame, by A Yi 阿乙: 《我们所处的人的环境
Translated by Dylan Levi King

We are delighted to introduce this week’s essay on coronavirus in China, especially written for us by A Yi and translated by Dylan Levi King.

I lack the knowledge and scientific expertise to offer any opinion on the new coronavirus epidemic. I have been watching the numbers, trying to grasp what experts are saying, and observing the responses of various governments, but none of that has allowed me to form a clear, coherent conclusion. In my birthplace of Jiangxi, only one death has so far been attributed to a case of pneumonia related to the coronavirus. In Fujian, too, the death toll stands at one. I don’t know whether those low numbers are due to particularly effective local efforts to fight the virus, the epidemic striking those two provinces with diminished ferocity, or a combination of both factors. Someday, I am sure, objective conclusions will be reached on the epidemic. Continue reading

China imposes new limits as virus fears return

Source: NYT (4/23/20)
China Imposes New Limits as Coronavirus Fears Return
阅读简体中文版 | 閱讀繁體中文版
Some northern cities have reported fresh cases and put restrictions on movement, a sign of how hard it will be for China to fully recover from the outbreak.
By Paul Mozur and Steven Lee Myers

A checkpoint in the Chinese city  Suifenhe, across the border from Russia, on Tuesday. Credit…Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Chinese officials have imposed new limits on movement in some northern parts of the country following a spate of new coronavirus infections, in a sign of how difficult it will be to fully recover from an outbreak that virtually paralyzed the country.

The restrictions imposed over the past week include the city of Harbin, a city of 10 million in northeastern China where a number of new infections have been reported. Other cities in the region have also imposed restrictions, which include preventing outsiders from visiting other neighborhoods and warning residents to stay away from high-risk areas.

The new limits came after the authorities reported dozens of new infections, according to Chinese state media, all of which experts said were linked to the return of Chinese nationals from Russia and the United States. Though the numbers officially disclosed have been modest so far, it is not clear that the spread has been entirely contained. Continue reading

Interview with Yuan Ling

Source: NY Review of Books (3/24/20)
‘Everyone Is Isolated’: An Interview with Yuan Ling
By Ian Johnson

Zhao Junxia. Yuan Ling in Xinjiang helping harvest corn at a family he interviewed for his book Silent Children, undated

Yuan Ling is a border-crosser: between village and city, academia and journalism, mainstream and underground—a writer who is sometimes censored but usually measured (or ambiguous) enough to be published in China.

His concern for China’s marginalized members of society is directly related to his personal biography. Born in 1973, he grew up in an impoverished mountainous region of Shaanxi province. With a mother who was illiterate, a father who was a local doctor, Yuan’s upbringing gave him an outsider’s perspective on Chinese society—and a desire to penetrate more deeply into questions of injustice and exclusion than was possible with his first profession, journalism.

He tested into university in the provincial capital, Xi’an, and then worked for some of China’s best-known media, including CaixinPhoenix WeeklySina, and Beijing News. It was while at Beijing News in 2003 that he wrote one of the first investigative articles on how the reckless use of steroids on sufferers of an earlier Chinese epidemic, SARS, had led to chronic health problems for thousands of people. Other long-form journalistic work delved into topics as varied as the revival of opium planting, problems at the Three Gorges Dam, and the physical abuse of women at a notorious labor camp. Continue reading

What the great pandemic novels teach us

Although not focused on China, this piece by Turkish writer Orhan Pamuk on Western literary representations of pandemic, is quite relevant, I think, to list members.–Kirk

Source: NYT (4/23/20)
What the Great Pandemic Novels Teach Us
People have always responded to epidemics by spreading rumor and false information and portraying the disease as foreign and brought in with malicious intent.
By Orhan Pamuk

Quaker Solomon Eagle, who “prophesied evil tidings” during the Great Plague of London in 1665. Engraving from Daniel Defoe’s “A Journal of the Plague Year.”

Quaker Solomon Eagle, who “prophesied evil tidings” during the Great Plague of London in 1665. Engraving from Daniel Defoe’s “A Journal of the Plague Year.” Credit…Davenport after Cruikshank/SSPL, via Getty Images

ISTANBUL — For the past four years I have been writing a historical novel set in 1901 during what is known as the third plague pandemic, an outbreak of bubonic plague that killed millions of people in Asia but not very many in Europe. Over the last two months, friends and family, editors and journalists who know the subject of that novel, “Nights of Plague,” have been asking me a barrage of questions about pandemics.

They are most curious about similarities between the current coronavirus pandemic and the historical outbreaks of plague and cholera. There is an overabundance of similarities. Throughout human and literary history what makes pandemics alike is not mere commonality of germs and viruses but that our initial responses were always the same. Continue reading

Under cover of coronavirus, HK cracks down on protest movement

Source: NYT (4/21/20)
Under Cover of Coronavirus, Hong Kong Cracks Down on Protest Movement
The antigovernment demonstrations that shook the Chinese territory last year have eased since the coronavirus outbreak, but a spate of arrests and Beijing’s assertive rhetoric could revive them.
By Austin Ramzy and Elaine Yu

Carrie Lam, Hong Kong’s chief executive, during a news conference on Tuesday. Most of the questions she faced were about Beijing’s actions. Credit…Vincent Yu/Associated Press

HONG KONG — As the world has been engulfed by the coronavirus pandemic, the authorities in Hong Kong have arrested prominent pro-democracy figures in politics, civil society and the media, waging a broad crackdown on the demonstrations that convulsed the city last year.

The government’s campaign is in tandem with recent efforts by mainland China’s central government, itself a core target of antigovernment demonstrators, to assert more stridently what it perceives as its right to intervene in the affairs of the semiautonomous Chinese territory.

These moves have raised concerns in Hong Kong that China’s ruling Communist Party is pressing for restrictions that would curb the protests, which were among the biggest challenges for China’s leader, Xi Jinping. Many fear that such restrictions, which could include a widely contested national security law, would accelerate the erosion of civil liberties in Hong Kong, a former British colony that enjoys freedoms unseen on the mainland. Continue reading

Taiwan reports no new cases

Posted by: Joseph Allen <jrallen@umn.edu>
Source: NPR (4/14/20)
Taiwan Reports No New Coronavirus Cases, Adding To Success In Fighting Pandemic
By Bill Chappell

Cheerleaders wore face masks as Taiwan recently prepared for the the first professional baseball league game of the season. The island has emerged as a success story in containing coronavirus, avoiding the need for a strict lockdown. Ann Wang/REUTERS

Taiwan reported no new coronavirus cases on Tuesday, marking the first time authorities there have reported zero new cases in more than a month. It’s also the latest achievement for a health system that first acted to prevent the spread of COVID-19 back in December.

Taiwan, with a population of around 23 million, has just 393 confirmed COVID-19 cases; six people have died from the disease.

The last time Taiwan’s Central Epidemic Command Center announced no new cases was on March 9 – 36 days ago.

Taiwan has won praise for keeping the coronavirus under control despite its close links with China. Millions of people travel between the island and the mainland every year — including 2.7 million visitors from the mainland last year. Continue reading

Excerpts from Fang Fang’s Wuhan Diary

Source: NYT (4/14/20)
She Kept a Diary of China’s Epidemic. Now She Faces a Political Storm.
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“If authors have any responsibilities in the face of disaster, the greatest of them is to bear witness.” Here are excerpts from the author Fang Fang’s controversial chronicle of life and death in Wuhan.

Fishing by the Yangtze River in Wuhan, China, on Monday. Credit…Roman Pilipey/EPA, via Shutterstock

As Wuhan was engulfed by the coronavirus, the Chinese author Fang Fang worked late into the night, writing a daily chronicle of life and death in her home city that gave rise to a global pandemic.

Her online diary, though sometimes censored, became vital reading for tens of millions of Chinese readers — a plain-spoken, spontaneous view into Wuhan residents’ fears, frustrations and hopes during their 11 weeks under lockdown in their homes.

Her account has recently drawn bitter condemnation from zealous Chinese nationalists who have called plans to publish a translation in English an effort to malign the government and undermine the heroic image of Wuhan.

Fang Fang, who uses her pen name rather than her birth name, Wang Fang, said that she did not want to be cast as either a cheerleader for the government, or as a reflexively embittered critic. She called herself a witness, highlighting the bravery of doctors, street cleaners and neighbors helping neighbors, while vowing to hold to account officials who let the virus spread. Continue reading

Fang Fang’s Wuhan Diary translations

Source: Bruce-Humes.com (4/10/20)
Fang Fang’s Wuhan Diary: Dissed for ‘Washing Dirty Linen’ before Foreign Eyes
By Bruce Humes

German edition launch date: June 4, 2020 (六四)


It was bad enough that author Fang Fang (方方) has regularly posted her popular Wuhan Diary (武汉日记) on China’s social media, offering her personal — and not occasionally, critical — comments on the effects of the deadly epidemic during the lockdown, penned at Ground Zero. Reports The Diplomat (Conscience of Wuhan):

. . . each entry in Fang’s Wuhan Diary has been consistently deleted by Beijing’s censors within an hour or so of it being posted on Fang’s social media page. Yet each post has gone viral before being struck down, being shared by millions of WeChatters within China and abroad.

But now there is even worse news for the ongoing global PR campaign to position China’s anti-Covid-19 strategy, specifically its vacuum-sealed lockdown of Wuhan, as successful, heroic and a model for the rest of the world. Reports China’s Global Times (Publication of Wuhan diary in English):

Now some people are wondering if Fang received a certain amount of money from overseas to let the book be published for some reasons. 


And it appears to be true. HarperCollins Publishers has announced the launch of Wuhan Diary: Dispatches from a Quarantined City, translated by Michael Berry, for end June 2020. Continue reading

China’s Wailing Wall

Source: NYT (4/13/20)
China’s ‘Wailing Wall’: Digital Elegies for a Coronavirus Martyr
By Li Yuan and produced by Rumsey Taylor

Jialun Deng

THEY COME TO SAY “good morning” and “good night.” They tell him that spring has arrived and that the cherry blossoms are blooming. They share that they are falling in love, falling out of love or getting divorced. They send him photos of fried chicken drumsticks, his favorite snack.

They whisper that they miss him.

Li Wenliang, a doctor in the Chinese city of Wuhan, died of the coronavirus on Feb. 6 at the age of 34. More than a month before that, he went online to warn friends of the strange and deadly virus rampaging through his hospital, only to be threatened by government authorities. He became a hero in China when his warnings proved true, then a martyr when he died.

After his passing, people began to gather, virtually, at his last post on Weibo, the Chinese social media platform. In the comments section, they grieve and seek solace. Some call it China’s Wailing Wall, a reference to the Western Wall in Jerusalem where people leave written prayers in the cracks.

@小兔子的大耳朵A: 李医生,天堂是什么样子的

@小兔子的大耳朵A: Dr. Li, what is heaven like?

Continue reading

The planet can’t afford a coronavirus feud

Source: The New Republic (4/9/20)
The Planet Can’t Afford a Coronavirus Feud
The United States and China, despite current tensions, have to work together on fighting global warming. It’s the only way.

Nicolas Asfouri/AFP/Getty Images

It could have been an opportunity to set aside differences and work together. Instead, the coronavirus outbreak has further strained relations between the United States and China. In the past few months, the world has been treated to senseless squabbling over xenophobic virus-origin theorieswhat to call the virus, and which leader’s initially dismissive response to the outbreak was more reckless.

The two states’ inability to join in battle against the coronavirus doesn’t augur particularly well for a future beyond the pandemic. And there will be a future, however great the ravages of the virus. But it will be a future marked by a graver, more enduring crisis—planetary warming. Even more than the emergency we face today, the outcome of the climate crisis will depend on U.S.-Chinese collaboration. Continue reading

Access to free resources

Dear Chinese scholars,

We’ve been working with vendors supplying Chinese language e-resources to seek free full access to their databases through June to support online teaching and research in coping with the COVID-19 pandemic. We are glad to share that we have prepared a list of over 100 databases with generous support from a variety of vendors and publishers.

We have also been communicating with vendors and asking for flexible pricing models to address our unique needs, such as tier-based or user size-based models. We’d like to encourage you to ask your library to advocate for flexible pricing models when contacting the vendors so that more libraries could afford the needed resources.

We are grateful to the vendors and publishers for understanding the impact of the current global COVID-19 pandemic on our community and making content available and accessible during this challenging time. We hope these resources will facilitate your teaching and research. Wish you, your family, and students stay healthy and safe.

Best wishes,

Yao Chen
East Asian Studies Librarian at UC Santa Barbara
Secretary (2018-2021), Council on East Asian Libraries
Chair (2020-2022), Committee for Information Exchange, Society for Chinese Studies Librarians

Chengzhi Wang
Chinese Studies Librarian at Columbia University
Chair (2020-2023), Committee on Chinese Materials, Council on East Asian Libraries

Why virus cases have spiked in HK, Singapore and Taiwan

Source: NYT (4/9/20)
Why Coronavirus Cases Have Spiked in Hong Kong, Singapore and Taiwan
阅读简体中文版 | 閱讀繁體中文版
By K.K. Rebecca Lai

Hong Kong, Singapore and Taiwan — once heralded for early successes in battling the pandemic — are now confronting a new wave of coronavirus cases, largely fueled by infections coming from elsewhere. Singapore is also seeing a rise in local transmissions, with more than 400 new cases in the past week that have been linked to migrant worker dormitories.

The first confirmed cases in all three places were connected to people who had traveled to Wuhan, China, where the pandemic began, followed by small clusters of cases among residents with no travel history. Despite their proximity to mainland China, however, they had all managed to keep their case counts low for weeks, through vigilant monitoring and early intervention.

None of these places had a single day with more than 10 new cases until March, even as the coronavirus spread around the world.

That changed in the past two weeks, as both Hong Kong and Singapore saw new cases in the double digits for consecutive days, with the bulk attributed to those who have traveled from abroad. Singapore’s numbers are now triple-digits, with large clusters of cases linked to dorms for migrant workers. Continue reading

Fang Fang, the conscience of Wuhan

Source: The Diplomat (3/23/20)
Fang Fang: The ‘Conscience of Wuhan’ Amid Coronavirus Quarantine
The party’s ill-governance of the deadly virus has given birth to a new critical voice: Fang Fang’s Wuhan Diary.
By Hemant Adlakha

Fang Fang: The ‘Conscience of Wuhan’ Amid Coronavirus Quarantine

In this Jan. 28, 2020, file photo, people wearing face masks walk down a deserted street in Wuhan in central China’s Hubei province. Credit: AP Photo/Arek Rataj, File

Fang Fang is definitely not the most famous living writer in China, but she is revered by hundreds and thousands of Chinese as the literary voice of COVID19-stricken China. Even before the outbreak, Fang had published widely in different genres and won several literary awards, including China’s most prestigious Lu Xun Literary Prize in 2010. Until recently, she served as vice president of the Hubei Writer’s Association. Having spent her early and late childhood during the tumultuous Great Leap Forward years and adolescent years in the cataclysmic decade of the Cultural Revolution (1966-76), she worked as a porter for four years to support her family before entering Wuhan University to study literature in her early 20s in the 1970s.

Fang Fang’s early works, mostly short stories, concentrated mainly on poor Wuhanese – from urban factory workers to the city’s middle-class intellectuals – part of China’s “new realism” literature. Born into a literati family in 1955, she inherited the legacy of the May Fourth socialist realism and her own experiences of a struggling life made her remain committed to social consciousness. According to well-known Chinese literary critic Han Shaogong, “the secret of Fang Fang’s success is that she can capture the complexities of an ever-changing life without losing its thread.” Continue reading

The truth is the most effective vaccine

Source: China Channel, LARB (4/3/20)
‘The Truth is the Most Effective Vaccine’
By Joan Judge
How the coronavirus pandemic exposes the suppression of information in China, and the real people’s war.

Header: Covid-19 outbreak map. (Wikicommons)

As the coronavirus pandemic escalates globally, and as we grapple with the missteps of our own leadership in the Western world, some are echoing the World Health Organization’s praise of the Wuhan lockdown as a model for the planet. At such a moment it is imperative to bear in mind the human cost of China’s belated and aggressive approach to the outbreak: both loss of life and the brutal repression of public-minded critique.

President Xi Jinping has declared this approach a “People’s War.” Desperate to deflect percolating anger and frustration over the local government’s delayed response to the virus, the central government’s subsequent draconian policies, and the over 3000 (recorded) deaths, Xi unimaginatively turned to familiar tactics of Maoist mass mobilization. Official media have glorified heroic medical personnel in the spirit of labor models of the 1950s and 1960s. They have gone so far as to post a video of a team of female medics having their heads shaved as they selflessly prepared to serve at the virus’s epicenter. Slogans are ubiquitous, galvanizing people to fight the People’s War by altering their behavior. “Those who gather together are shameless;” banners warn, “those who play mahjong are daredevils.” Continue reading