The journalist Du Bin, right, with the activist Ye Haiyan in Hong Kong in 2013. Credit…Zeng Jinyan, via Associated Press
As China intensified its clampdown on independent reporting, the authorities detained a journalist who recently worked on books that were critical of Communism and the Chinese Communist Party, the journalist’s friends and family said on Friday.
The journalist, Du Bin, 48, was detained on Wednesday by police officers in Beijing, said his sister, Du Jirong. Police officers told Ms. Du on Thursday that her brother had been placed under administrative detention for “picking quarrels and provoking trouble.” The vaguely worded offense is one that the government often uses to quell activism and discussion of social and political issues.
Friends of Mr. Du, who has worked as a freelance photographer for The New York Times, say they believe his detention may have been connected to several of his recent book projects. Continue reading →
Ming Qing Studies is an annual publication focused on late imperial China and the broader geo-cultural area of East Asia during the premodern and modern period. Its scope is to provide a forum for scholars from a variety of fields seeking to bridge the gap between ‘oriental’ and western knowledge. Articles may concern any discipline, including sociology, literature, psychology, anthropology, history, geography, linguistics, semiotics, political science, and philosophy. Contributions by young and post-graduated scholars are particularly welcome. Continue reading →
Featuring Jie Li’s latest book, Utopian Ruins: A Memorial Museum of the Mao Era (Duke University Press, December 2020), this talk traces the creation, preservation, and elision of memories about China’s Mao era by envisioning a virtual museum that reckons with both its utopian yearnings and its cataclysmic reverberations. Li proposes a critical framework for understanding the documentation and transmission of the socialist past that mediates between nostalgia and trauma, anticipation and retrospection, propaganda and testimony. Assembling Utopian Ruins like a memorial exhibit, Li explores how corporeal traces, archival documents, camera images, and material relics serve as commemorative media. Prison writings and police files reveal the infrastructure of state surveillance and testify to revolutionary ideals and violence, victimhood and complicity. Photojournalism from the Great Leap Forward and documentaries from the Cultural Revolution promoted faith in communist miracles while excluding darker realities, whereas Mao memorabilia collections, factory ruins, and memorials at trauma sites remind audiences of the Chinese Revolution’s unrealized dreams and staggering losses. Continue reading →
In Utopian Ruins Jie Li traces the creation, preservation, and elision of memories about China’s Mao era by envisioning a virtual museum that reckons with both its utopian yearnings and its cataclysmic reverberations. Li proposes a critical framework for understanding the documentation and transmission of the socialist past that mediates between nostalgia and trauma, anticipation and retrospection, propaganda and testimony. Assembling each chapter like a memorial exhibit, Li explores how corporeal traces, archival documents, camera images, and material relics serve as commemorative media. Prison writings and police files reveal the infrastructure of state surveillance and testify to revolutionary ideals and violence, victimhood and complicity. Photojournalism from the Great Leap Forward and documentaries from the Cultural Revolution promoted faith in communist miracles while excluding darker realities, whereas Mao memorabilia collections, factory ruins, and memorials at trauma sites remind audiences of the Chinese Revolution’s unrealized dreams and staggering losses. Continue reading →
Don’t miss part one of this series of reviews on Tibet’s experiences in the Mao era, part of a fortnight at the China Channel reminding readers of the horrors that Tibet underwent during the Chinese and Cultural Revolutions. Last week Robert Barnett and Susan Chen talked to Tsering Woeser, who also presented a number of her father Tsering Dorje’s photographs from the era.
Li Jianglin is the daughter of CCP officials. She moved to New York in the 1980s, became a librarian, got to know some Tibetan people in Queens, and eventually set out to write a book about what happened in Lhasa in 1959. Unlike Benno Weiner, Li Jianglin has no time for United Front dialectics – her book is an open polemic. She tells us: “This book will document and show that Mao had active plans from very early on to impose his policies throughout Tibet despite the promises of the ‘Seventeen-Point Agreement’ [that guaranteed Tibetan self-rule within the PRC], even though he was aware that this would entail bloodshed. His explicitly stated view was that he welcomed Tibetan unrest and rebellion – and even hoped it would increase in scale – as it would provide him with an opportunity to ‘pacify’ the region with his armies.” Li Jianglin has a librarian’s command of Chinese-language sources. To cut through the tangle of conflicting claims about what took place, she reads from official histories, classified CCP communications, PLA memoirs, propaganda pronouncements, plus a host of published memoirs by Tibetans in exile, and supplements the story with interviews of survivors. Continue reading →
Everybody knows that bad things happened when the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) marched into Tibet in 1952, but for a long time it has been hard to say exactly what. 2020 is a good year to ponder the fate of the Land of Snows under Maoism. The People’s Republic of China (PRC) is on the march again: the concentration camps in Xinjiang are operating in full swing, dozens are reported dead in clashes along the Sino-Indian border in the Himalaya, and the free enclave of Hong Kong has been brought to heel by China’s security apparatus. Meanwhile, a series of important new memoirs and histories have come out on Tibet, clarifying parts of the story little-understood before today. Below are reviews of two of them, with a further two reviews to follow tomorrow.
Benno Weiner’s study is based on Maoist-period archival documents from a small county on the high-altitude prairie of the northern Tibetan plateau, in what the Tibetans call Amdo and the Chinese call Qinghai province. This in itself is quite a feat – only one other Western historian has ever got access to a Communist-period archive in the Tibetan regions (Melvyn Goldstein, On the Cultural Revolution in Tibet). Given how things are going in the PRC right now, it may be many years before another such book is written. The archive, and Weiner’s book, covers a roughly ten-year period between the first Communist arrival in northern Tibet in 1949, and the final pacification of the Tibetan uprising in 1959.
Weiner’s interest is in the details of state- and nation-building in nomadic Tibet, and particularly in the ideology of the United Front – the organization tasked with persuading influential members of society to ally with the Communist cause. (Today, among other things, the United Front manages religious figures within China, runs the Confucius Institutes abroad, and conducts influence-campaigns among Chinese diaspora communities world-wide.) In Weiner’s telling, before the Communists arrived, the fragmented chiefdoms of the Tibetan plateau had operated under an imperial “hub-and-spoke” political logic, in which non-Chinese elites rendered nominal allegiance to successive Chinese states, in exchange for official recognition and local autonomy. Continue reading →
I absolutely agree. To me, the most striking thing about that White Paper is its sly attempt to suggest there is no coherence to the Uyghur nation, that it is just a mishmash (and only accidentally Muslim). The implication is that in contrast, “the Chinese” is no mishmash — which is of course what China is: a mishmash mix of many different kinds of people, artificially re-presented as a unity. But a mishmash, if there ever was one.
The White Paper seems to signal China’s new rejection of diversity, on the path to embracing the kind of racist policies embodied in that old slogan, “Ein Volk, ein Reich, ein Führer.” Like the Nazis, the Chinese Communist Party regime is now bulldozing every trace of Uyghur historical integrity and continuity, even places like precious shrines, and even the ancient graveyard of Sultanim, in the old city of Hotan – a historical cemetery which goes back to at least 960AD, but was paved over and made into a parking area, in 2019 – clearly a heinous crime, committed by the Chinese authorities, in this very spirit.
In the face of the paralysis of international bodies such as UNESCO and ICOMOS, a new heritage organization has just been announced, Our World Heritage. It will hopefully help sound the alarm, and call out these crimes against Uyghur heritage and world heritage.
The scourge of Western scientists and science writers falling for the politicized Chinese practice of appropriating any cultural achievement on their imperial map, as the achievement of the Chinese nation which did not exist or had not yet conquered that place in antiquity, is ongoing. For some good pointers about this, see this Twitter thread today, by James Millward (@JimMillward).
He starts with the New York Times article the other day (by science writer Katherine Kornei @KatherineKornei ), miswriting early horse riding in Chinese colonial Xinjiang as if it took place in China: “Mistake is saying that Xinjiang in 350 BCE was ‘China’: it wasn’t politically, and it wasn’t culturally.”
“This is just like saying that a site in Scandanavia, say, was “Roman” when it lay 1700 km outside the Roman frontiers and dates from 150 years before the founding of Rome. Such a cultural and political attribution is plain wrong.”
See Millward’s thread for more examples (f.ex. how megalomaniac Chinese state media even claim that “China invented skiing” because skis have been spotted in non-Chinese rock art — way outside of the Chinese imperial conquests even in their own time).
We need scientists and China scholars to stop colluding in Chinese imperialism and colonialism. Especially while today’s Chinese regime is razing the cultural heritage of the peoples of the Uyghur region, as part of their massive, ongoing genocide – see for example:
Header: Crowd accusing Samding Dorje Phagmo in the courtyard of her house in Lhasa, 1966 (Tsering Dorje, courtesy of Tsering Woeser)
Tsering Woeser presents her father’s photographs of Tibetan struggle sessions
In her new book Forbidden Memory: Tibet During the Cultural Revolution, the Tibetan essayist and poet Tsering Woeser dissects the impact of China’s Cultural Revolution on Lhasa, her birthplace, five decades ago. This photo essay features 18 of the more than 300 photos in the book, accompanied by Woeser’s comments (translated by Susan Chen); these are based on her interviews with Tibetans and Chinese in Lhasa who lived through the events shown in the photos. All of the photos were taken by Woeser’s father, Tsering Dorje (1937-91), who was a PLA officer and photographer serving in Lhasa in the early 1960s. His photos, which came to light only after his death, are the only known visual records of the struggle sessions, humiliation parades, and mass rallies staged during the Cultural Revolution in Tibet. For our previously published interview with Tsering Woeser about her book and her father’s photographs, please read here. – Robbie Barnett
Horse skeletons from M012K2 at Shirenzigou. Credit…Jian Ma
The advent of horseback riding transformed our ancestors’ lives, irrevocably changing how they migrated, fought wars and traded. Now, researchers have found the oldest direct evidence of horseback riding in China, which could help unlock the historical timeline of how the civilization was affected by a newfound ability to get around on four legs.
While neighboring civilizations — such as those in the area now known as Mongolia — had been riding since roughly 1200 B.C., the timing and details of the rise of horsemanship in China have long remained murky, said William Taylor, an archaeologist at the University of Colorado Museum of Natural History in Boulder.
But the new study to which he contributed, published last month in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, suggests that mounted equestrianism in China goes back as far as 350 B.C. That is consistent with the belief that horseback riding enhanced Chinese military might and contributed to the formation of the first unified empire during the Qin dynasty in the 3rd century B.C., and also helped catalyze the Silk Road trading route through China. Continue reading →
“Lady (Mulan).” 18th century, British Museum. Public domain image via Wikimedia.
Mulan is not originally a story about a patriotic Chinese woman. It is not a story about self-sacrifice to defend one’s country. It is not a thrilling tale of martial valor. It is, rather, a commentary on the fruitlessness of war against people who are more like oneself than different, delivered in the voice of a woman who does her familial duty out of necessity and then chucks her medals and goes home—a war-weary expression of truth to power.
Perhaps because of the barriers to actually seeing the new Mulan remake (thanks to the pandemic and Disney’s steep charge of $30 plus a subscription fee to its streaming service), commentary about the new film has been trickling out over a few weeks. The most recent controversy, first on Twitter and then in the New York Timesand other publications, is over the credits: Disney thanks security and political authorities in Turfan (Turpan), Xinjiang, for facilitating their filming in the Uyghur Autonomous Region. Disney filmed part of Mulan amidst Turfan’s desert scenery well after it was clear that just around the corner were multiple concentration camps inflicting “transformation through education” upon Uyghurs and other Xinjiang indigenous peoples. Hundreds of such camps have been built across the Uyghur region starting in 2017 and were well-reported by the time Disney started filming in 2018. Had Disney staff consulted Baidu Maps while scouting film sites, they might have seen grey tiles blacking out certain places from view: blank spaces that we now know mark the sites of camps. Having now just seen the film, I’ve been thinking about the Mulan tradition in light of Xi Jinping’s assimilationist policies and trends in China today: the atrocities in Xinjiang; CCP efforts to limit Mongolian language in schools in the Mongolian Autonomous Region, just as it has restricted Uyghur in the Uyghur Autonomous Region and Tibetan in the Tibetan Autonomous Region; pressure to reduce Cantonese use in Guangdong and denigrate it in Hong Kong; the further repression of Hong Kong democracy and near elimination of promised autonomy, accompanied by egregious police violence which the Disney Mulan actress Yifei Crystal Liu publicly supported on Weibo a year ago.Continue reading →
MCLC Resource Center is pleased to announce publication of Kristin Stapleton’s review of Gu Hongming’s Eccentric Chinese Odyssey, by Chunmei Du. The review appears below and at its online home: https://u.osu.edu/mclc/book-reviews/kristin-stapleton/. My thanks to Nicholas Kaldis, MCLC literary studies book review editor, for ushering the review to publication.
Kirk Denton, editor
Gu Hongming’s Eccentric Chinese Odyssey
By Chunmei Du
Reviewed by Kristin Stapleton
MCLC Resource Center Publication (Copyright October, 2020)
Gu Hongming 辜鴻銘—the notorious Qing loyalist who spoke out for bound feet and against democracy in the midst of the May Fourth movement—was at the center of a set of cross-cultural conversations among Chinese, European, and American intellectuals during and after World War I, Chunmei Du shows in this engaging biography. She notes that he was “the first principal Chinese spokesman of Confucianism to the Western world” (p. 49), promoting it as a universal solution to the global problems of industrialization and endemic conflict. At the same time, though, Gu displayed a most un-Confucian love of shocking and provoking his fellow humans. Du’s goal is to help us understand the influences that produced such a paradoxical character. In the end, as Du acknowledges, Gu Hongming stubbornly defies analysis. Still, her account of his life is fascinating, particularly for what it reveals about global currents of thought in the early twentieth century. Continue reading →
Jiefang Ribao is included in WiseSearch (https://wisesearch6.wisers.net/) from Wisers in Hong Kong starting from the issues August 2000 onwards. Many libraries subscribe to this database.
You can also try the 全国报刊索引 (https://www.cnbksy.com). They have indexed 解放日报(上海) 1955-2019 (but I am not sure how complete the index is). You can order individual articles for scanning. Some libraries offer to cover this for their readers.
I am scheduled to give a talk “at NYU” this coming Friday, Oct 9, on “socialist hot noise” (loudspeakers and open air cinema in Maoist China). I hope some of you can attend. Find a link and info below. Many thanks.–Jie Li
Abstract: Excavating a media history of loudspeakers and open-air cinema in Maoist China, this talk proposes a new conceptual framework of “socialist hot noise” to describe a participatory sociothermic affect and a synergy between body and electricity that soldered scattered populations into the “revolutionary masses.” Drawing on archives, gazetteers, memoirs, and oral histories, the first half examines the state-sponsored development of loudspeaker networks as well as grassroots listening experiences and practices, from broadcast rallies to rooftop broadcasting, from labor competitions to quasi-karaoke, from enhancing the Mao cult to engendering violence and terror. The second half discusses open-air cinema as a “hot noise of attractions” that generated revolutionary energy through “cinematic liturgies” led by mobile projectionists before, during, and after screenings. I argue that Maoist cinema was a “physical and spirit medium,” whose improvised and impoverished infrastructure contributed to the Mao “cult,” converted skeptics of communist “miracles,” and “exorcized” class enemies. The conclusion addresses the revival of loudspeakers and open-air cinema in a postsocialist media ecology. Continue reading →