China’s costly drive to erase extreme poverty (2)

In response to Lily Lee’s query, my impression is that the NYT as well as much of the rest of the media and political establishment in the US has been awakened to what the CCP is about. Just a few years ago a NYT editorial could go along with the CCP’s racist labelling of the entire Uyghur people as ‘terrorists’. Now, they would not do that, in particular as their own reporters have been filing long series of blow by blow reports, thus filling in not just the public, but their own editors, too, on the enormity of the mass atrocities perpetrated by the CCP over the last several years since 2017; on the trampling of the freedom of speech (on Corona, etc,), and so on. But the NYT will still try to produce “objective” reports, and these efforts can sometimes seem awkward.

Also, in the US as elsewhere, there are large pockets of committed China lobbyists and “friends”, not least the Walmarts and such businesses (Apple and some others are said to have lobbied strenuously against forced labor legislation, just recently), and the Kissinger style “China experts” who right now must be struggling behind the scenes, to try to influence the incoming new administration. 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

China to outlaw ‘mukbang’ videos

Source: Sixth Tone (12/22/20)
In Anti-Food Waste Push, China to Outlaw Binge-Eating ‘Mukbang’ Videos
New draft law also proposes that restaurants should remind diners not to over-order.
By Li You

People Visual

Videos of people eating absurd amounts of food may soon be illegal in China, according to draft legislation that’s expected to turn President Xi Jinping’s campaign against food waste into law.

The draft law proposes, among other measures, that media content producers who promote overeating be given hefty fines of up to 100,000 yuan ($15,300) and have their business operations suspended. The document was submitted Tuesday for review by the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, China’s top legislative body, the state-run China News Service reported.

Binge-eating, or mukbang, videos were a popular form of online entertainment until Xi’s call to reduce food waste in August put the category in the authorities’ crosshairs. State media criticized such videos, an industry body announced a ban on them, and they mostly disappeared from Chinese sites. And in the wake of Xi’s comments, many local catering associations announced limits on how many dishes could be served during group meals. Continue reading

Chinese songs that say ‘me too’

Source: SupChina (12/16/20)
Chinese songs that say ‘Me Too’
A powerful, heartbreaking anthem, the song explicitly highlights the pervasive problem of violence against women in China.
By Jiayun Feng

Few opening lines in Mandopop history pack the same punch like “Our names are not Xiao Juan / The alias is our last defense.”

The story of women facing physical and psychological abuse is not an easy one to swallow, and Tán Wéiwéi 谭维维, a Chinese singer who is known for her outspokenness on social justice issues, doesn’t sweeten any of the details in her latest single, “Xiao Juan” (小娟 xiǎojuān).

A powerful, heartbreaking anthem, the song explicitly highlights the pervasive problem of violence against women in China. Singing from the perspective of Xiao Juan, a common pseudonym used in Chinese media for unidentified or anonymous survivors of domestic abuse, Tan reckons with the unfair treatment of the victims and the lack of repercussions for their perpetrators, all while telling specific tales of women being assaulted by “fists, gasoline, and sulfuric acid.” 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

Journalist who documented CCP history is detained

Source: NYT (12/18/20)
Chinese Journalist Who Documented Communist History Is Detained in Beijing
阅读简体中文版 | 閱讀繁體中文版
Friends of Du Bin said that his detention might have been related to book projects critical of the history of Communism and China’s Communist Party.
By Amy Qin

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

The Evolution of the Chinese Internet

Dear colleagues,

I am delighted to announce the publication of my book, The Evolution of the Chinese Internet: Creative Visibility in the Digital Public (Stanford University Press, 2020).


Despite widespread consensus that China’s digital revolution was sure to bring about massive democratic reforms, such changes have not come to pass. While scholars and policy makers alternate between predicting change and disparaging a stubbornly authoritarian regime, in this book Shaohua Guo demonstrates how this dichotomy misses the far more complex reality. The Evolution of the Chinese Internet traces the emergence and maturation of one of the most creative digital cultures in the world through four major technological platforms: the bulletin board system, the blog, the microblog, and WeChat. Guo transcends typical binaries of freedom and control, to argue that Chinese Internet culture displays a uniquely sophisticated interplay between multiple extremes, and that its vibrancy is dependent on these complex negotiations. In contrast to the flourishing of research findings on what is made invisible online, this book examines the driving mechanisms that grant visibility to particular kinds of user-generated content. Offering a systematic account of how and why an ingenious Internet culture has been able to thrive, Guo highlights the pivotal roles that media institutions, technological platforms, and creative practices of Chinese netizens have played in shaping culture on- and offline. Continue reading

Fanfiction is entering and upsetting the mainstream

Source: RadII China (12/9/20)
Chinese Fanfiction is Entering Into (and Upsetting) the Mainstream
By Gladys Mac

Header image: “Reunion: The Sound of the Providence”

Earlier this year, two popular TV dramas centered around tomb raiding were released in China. In April, Candle in the Tomb: The Lost Caverns premiered on major streaming platform Tencent Video; later in the summer and fall, two seasons of Reunion: The Sound of the Providence came out on rival sites Youku and iQIYI.

Both series are adaptations of successful online novels, and are credited with starting the Chinese tomb raiding story craze that is still ongoing. Peculiarly, both online novels began serialization in 2006, and both of them have an overlapping character, Chubby Wang. Given these similarities, it’s natural to wonder whether one of these authors plagiarized the other.

But it wasn’t plagiarism — the two series are the result of fanfiction.

Chinese fanfiction has been in the spotlight this year thanks to the huge AO3 scandal involving The Untamed star Xiao Zhan and certain sections of his fanbase, but this is just one indicator of how popular fanfiction has become in the country — and how it is beginning to spill over into the mainstream. Continue reading

How to ‘disappear’ on Happiness Avenue

Source: BBC News (11/25/20)
How to ‘disappear’ on Happiness Avenue in Beijing
By Vincent Ni and Yitsing Wang, BBC World Service

Mr Deng and several participants crouch to avoid being caught by a surveillance camera.

Mr. Deng and several participants crouch to avoid being caught by a surveillance camera

On a busy Monday afternoon in late October, a line of people in reflective vests stood on Happiness Avenue, in downtown Beijing. Moving slowly and carefully along the pavement, some crouched, others tilted their heads towards the ground, as curious onlookers snapped photos.

It was a performance staged by the artist Deng Yufeng, who was trying to demonstrate how difficult it was to dodge CCTV cameras in the Chinese capital.

As governments and companies around the world boost their investments in security networks, hundreds of millions more surveillance cameras are expected to be installed in 2021 – and most of them will be in China, according to industry analysts IHS Markit. Continue reading

Red convergence

Source: China Media Project (11/23/20)

color overlay of iphone image by barnimages, available at under CC license.

Anyone could be forgiven for entirely ignoring last week’s China New Media Conference (中国新媒体大会), held over two days in the city of Changsha. Attended by propaganda officials, journalists, internet company representatives and communications scholars from across China, the event dealt with the insipid theme, hardly enlivened by official news releases, of “media convergence.”

How could this conference possibly be relevant outside the drab echo chamber of elite Chinese politics and communication, much less outside China? Beyond the usual parade of official news in Chinese, only Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post paid the event any heed at all.

But hold on just a minute. This year’s conference, which opened with an address from Xu Lian (徐麟), director of the State Council Information Office and a deputy propaganda minister, was an illuminating and deeply important look at media policy in China – with implications domestically and internationally. It essentially outlined how the Chinese Communist Party intends to leverage transformations in global communication, both at home and abroad (though the latter is more implied), to sustain the regime and increase its influence internationally. Continue reading

How Steve Bannon and Guo Wengui created a right-wing sensation

Source: NYT (11/20/20)
How Steve Bannon and a Chinese Billionaire Created a Right-Wing Coronavirus Media Sensation
阅读简体中文版 | 閱讀繁體中文版
Increasingly allied, the American far right and members of the Chinese diaspora tapped into social media to give a Hong Kong researcher a vast audience for peddling unsubstantiated pandemic claims.
By Amy QinVivian Wang and Danny Hakim

Dr. Li-Meng Yan’s interview on Tucker Carlson’s show in September racked up at least 8.8 million views online. Facebook and Instagram flagged it as false information. Credit…Fox News

Dr. Li-Meng Yan wanted to remain anonymous. It was mid-January, and Dr. Yan, a researcher in Hong Kong, had been hearing rumors about a dangerous new virus in mainland China that the government was playing down. Terrified for her personal safety and career, she reached out to her favorite Chinese YouTube host, known for criticizing the Chinese government.

Within days, the host was telling his 100,000 followers that the coronavirus had been deliberately released by the Chinese Communist Party. He wouldn’t name the whistle-blower, he said, because officials could make the person “disappear.”

By September, Dr. Yan had abandoned caution. She appeared in the United States on Fox News making the unsubstantiated claim to millions that the coronavirus was a bio-weapon manufactured by China.

Overnight, Dr. Yan became a right-wing media sensation, with top advisers to President Trump and conservative pundits hailing her as a hero. Nearly as quickly, her interview was labeled on social media as containing “false information,” while scientists rejected her research as a polemic dressed up in jargon. Continue reading

Facial Recognition, by Alice Liang

From the poetry podcast “The Slowdown”: (October 26, 2020). 501: Facial Recognition

Facial Recognition
by Alice Liang

Read an automated transcript.
After Sasha Stiles

In China these days,
they recognize a face
with a single hair.
The city streets lined
with one camera
for every ten heads.

Most of the time,
I can’t even recall
my own reflection
in a mirror, so I have
to say I’m impressed
by the city’s sweep. Continue reading

Are feminism and housewifery incompatible

Source: SupChina (10/28/20)
Are feminism and housewifery incompatible? Chinese internet debates comments by education activist
The controversy erupted earlier this week when a clip of the interview began circulating on Weibo. Speaking to a reporter from the Red Star News, Zhāng Guìméi 张桂梅, an outspoken activist for the rights of girls to receive an education, shared a story of how she rejected a sizable donation from a former student because she was a stay-at-home mom by choice.
By Jiayun Feng

chinese housewives

Chinese housewives

A recent interview with Zhāng Guìméi 张桂梅, an outspoken activist for the rights of girls to receive an education, has led to a significant number of people across Chinese social media debating the economics and social implications of women being full-time housewives — a hot-button issue that has become increasingly contentious as feminism makes notable strides in the country.

The controversy erupted earlier this week when a clip of the interview (in Chinese) began circulating on Weibo. Speaking to a reporter from the Red Star News, a digital news platform created by the Chengdu Economic Daily, Zhang, who has been providing free education to low-income students in Yunnan as a high school principal for more than 40 years, shared a story of how she rejected a sizable donation from a former student because she was a stay-at-home mom by choice. Continue reading

China blocks website after complaints about fan fiction story

Source: NPR (10/28/20)
China Blocks Website After Complaints About Fan Fiction Story On A Celebrity
By Emily Feng

A beloved fan fiction website in China has gone dark after some readers protested a story about a famous actor — and government censorship intervened.


Our next story is about a celebrity you might not have heard of, but certainly everyone in China has. His name is Xiao Zhan. At the height of his popularity, Xiao was not just an actor. He was a corporate powerhouse whose brand endorsement could move millions of dollars in sales.


UNIDENTIFIED SINGER: (Singing) Love makes the whole world go ’round.

SHAPIRO: This is an Estee Lauder lipstick commercial he starred in. As soon as it aired, that lipstick sold out in China in under an hour. But then he gets cancelled. He becomes persona non grata, loses endorsement deals, temporarily disappears from the public eye. But not for anything he did himself. NPR’s Emily Feng brings us the story. Continue reading

The erasure of Mesut Özil

Source: NYT (10/26/20)
The Erasure of Mesut Özil
A year ago, he was one of the Premier League’s highest-paid players. Now, after angering China and refusing a pay cut, he has simply vanished.
By Rory Smith and Tariq Panja


Mesut Özil

LONDON — Everything started with a tweet. Mesut Özil knew the risks, in December last year, when he decided to offer a startling, public denunciation both of China’s treatment of the Uighurs, a largely Muslim minority in the region of Xinjiang, and the complicit silence of the international community.

Friends and advisers had warned Özil, the Arsenal midfielder, that there would be consequences. He would have to write off China as a market. His six million followers on Weibo, the country’s largest social network, would disappear. His fan club there — with as many as 50,000 signed-up members — would go, too. He would never play in China. He might become too toxic even for any club with Chinese owners, or sponsors eager to do business there.

Özil knew this was not fearmongering. He was aware of China’s furious response — both institutionally and organically — to a tweet by Daryl Morey, the general manager of the N.B.A.’s Houston Rockets, only a few weeks earlier. Yet Özil was adamant. He had been growing increasingly outraged by the situation in Xinjiang for months, watching documentaries, consuming news reports. He believed it was his duty, he told his advisers, not so much to highlight the issue but to pressure Muslim-majority nations — including Turkey, whose president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, had served as best man at Özil’s wedding — to intercede.

And so he pressed send. Continue reading