China’s Selfie Obsession

Source: The New Yorker (Dec 18 and 25, 2017)
China’s Selfie Obsession
Meitu’s apps are changing what it means to be beautiful in the most populous country on earth.
By Jiayang Fan

Illustration by Ji Lee

HoneyCC likes to say that she scarcely remembers the last time someone called her by her given name, Lin Chuchu. She took her online name from a 2003 movie starring Jessica Alba, about an aspiring hip-hop dancer and choreographer named Honey who catches her break after a music-video director sees a clip of her performing. Something similar happened for HoneyCC, who also trained in hip-hop dance, as well as in jazz and Chinese folk styles, and was equally determined to be discovered.

After an injury cut short her dancing career, a few years ago, she and some friends set up an advertising business. Many of her clients were social-media companies, and her work for them led to an observation about the sector’s development: first there was the text-based service Weibo, the largest social-media network in China at the time; then people started posting images. “But a single picture can only say so much,” she told me recently. “To really communicate a message, you need a video.” Continue reading

Low-end population

Source: Sup China (12/1/17)
We are all low-end population
By Jeremy Goldkorn

This week, for a few days, you could go to Chinese websites and buy hoodies emblazoned with the characters 低端人口 dī duān rénkǒu — literally, “low-end population.” This refers to migrant workers and the displaced lumpenproletariat who comprise the underclass of cities like Beijing.

low end hoodie.jpg large

The low-end population was the talk of China’s capital this week, as intellectuals and petite bourgeoisie alike found themselves shocked by the swift and thorough purge of tens of thousands of migrants who work in factories, deliver food and online purchases, and operate informal businesses of every kind.

The purge is part of a long-term plan to reduce the population of Beijing, develop the economies of surrounding areas, reduce traffic congestion, and clean up the center of the city. All of these aims make sense. But what was shocking was that the Beijing authorities used a deadly fire on November 18 that killed 19 people as a reason for harsh safety inspections, and evictions with just a couple of days’ notice. Outrage on the internet was suppressed with very thorough censorship. Continue reading

Evictions reach tens of thousands

Source: Sup China (11/30/17)
Beijing evictions reach into the tens of thousands, destroying livelihoods of migrants
By Lucas Niewenhuis

Despite an unusual backlash from some state media and even cautionary words from Beijing party chief Cai Qi 蔡奇 in response to the hurried en masse evictions, it is being widely reported that tens of thousands have now seen their livelihoods and futures in the Chinese capital destroyed in the past two weeks. The workers, who lived on the outskirts of Beijing and did not hold Beijing hukou (户口; household registration), are being forced to return to their hometowns in other provinces.

  • The New York Times describes (paywall) the areas affected as “reminiscent of war zones, with entire city blocks demolished,” and captures a chorus of voices wondering why their government has made them “abruptly homeless in midwinter.”
  • An unnamed city official, when asked whether the campaign was really intended to drive out the “low-end population” (低端人口 dīduān rénkǒu), responded (in Chinese) that it was “irresponsible” to use the phrase, and insisted, “there is no saying like ‘low-end population’” (没有“低端人口”一说).
  • The official’s statement has now become a reality on the Chinese internet, as that phrase, Reuters correspondent Philip Wen reports on Twitter, has been blocked on both WeChat and Weibo. “China’s underclass have become the unmentionables,” he concludes.

Continue reading

Asiascape: Digital Asia 2018–cfp

CfP: 3rd Asiascape: Digital Asia Conference

List members may be interested in the 3rd Asiascape: Digital Asia (DIAS) conference, which will be held at the Leiden University Institute for Area Studies and the International Institute for Asian Studies on 29 May 2018. The conference will cover Asian contexts in general, but submissions dealing specifically with China are very welcome. The theme will be ‘Rethinking Communities in the Age of the Digital’, and promising contributions may be included in a special issue of the academic journal Asiascape: Digital Asia (Brill). Please see the official call for papers for detailed information.

Deadline for abstracts: 1 February 2018.

Submission: via the conference submission dropbox.

Please note that the event follows the 16th Chinese Internet Research Conference (CIRC) in Leiden (22-23 May 2018) and the annual meeting of the International Communications Association (ICA) in Prague (24-28 May 2018); potential contributors might find these related events worth attending as well.

Florian Schneider <>

Angels Wear White

Source: Global Times (11/26/17)
Award-winning Chinese film sparks discussion by tackling aftermath of child molestation

Promotional material for Angels Wear White Photo: IC

Premiering in the Chinese mainland on Friday, award-winning Chinese film Angels Wear White ignited widespread discussion on China’s social media platforms as the film’s debut came on the heels of reports of child abuse at a Beijing kindergarten.

Directed by Chinese director Vivian Qu, the modern noir film focuses on Mia, a teenager who becomes the sole witness to the sexual assault of two young schoolgirls by a middle-aged man, and Wen, one of the victims of the assault, as they try to free themselves from increasingly harrowing circumstances. Continue reading

Ali Pay

Source: What’s On Weibo (11/17/17)
Man Named ‘Ali Pay’ (Zhi Fu Bao) Becomes Online Hit
Will the real Ali Pay please stand up?
By Manya Koetse

A man whose real name is the same as China’s biggest online payment platform has become a social media hit. The man’s small business named ‘Alipay’s Shop’ even accepts Alipay as a way to pay.

“My name is Pay, Ali Pay,” a man tells reporters in a video that is currently going viral on Chinese social media. ‘Ali Pay’ or Zhifu Bao’s name has become the source of much banter on Weibo.

The actual Chinese name of the overnight online celebrity is Zhi FuBao (支付宝), which is the Chinese name for the country’s leading mobile and online payment platform.

The brand ‘Zhifubao’ literally means ‘payment treasure.’ Outside of China, Zhifubao is known by its English name ‘Alipay.’ Zhi Fubao is a 56-year-old shopkeeper from Yinan county in Shandong province, and the fact that his uncommon name is the same as a world-famous brand is just pure coincidence.

Besides that it is pronounced the same way, Zhi Fubao’s name is also written with the same three characters. ‘Zhi’ (支, ‘drawing money’) is his family name, ‘Fu’ (付, ‘paying’) is the generation name (known as zibei), and ‘Bao’ (宝 ‘jewel’ or ‘treasure’) is his given name. . .  [read the whole article here]

Interview with Miao Xiaotian

Source: China Film Insider (11/17/17)
CFI Interview: Miao Xiaotian, President of China Film Co-production Corporation

Miao Xiaotian and Janet Yang at 2016 U.S.-China Film Summit. (Photo by Ryan Miller/Capture Imaging)

As China grows into the world’s largest film market, an increasing number of filmmakers entertain the idea of adding Chinese elements in their films or even co-producing films with China in hopes of attracting a global audience (while also enjoying the possible commercial rewards.) If you are a filmmaker who is exploring the possibilities in this area, China Film Co-production Corporation is a key organization that you must work with.

Founded in 1979, China Film Co-Production Corporation (CFCC) is solely authorized by the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television (SAPPRFT) to administer affairs relating to Chinese-foreign film co-productions. Continue reading

Everyday farm scenes taking screens by storm

Source: SCMP (11/12/17)
Films of Everyday Farm Scenes in China May Not Be Blue Planet But They Are Taking Screens by Storm
Ducks waddle, corn dries, eels give catchers the slip: live-streams of such scenes are a big deal for online broadcasting in China. And for the villagers filming them, it’s not just about fun, but money, too

They could be film stars: ducks on a highway in Yangzhou, China. File Photo

An uprising is underway in rural China and this very 21st century peasant revolution will definitely be televised.

In its vanguard are hard-working sons of the soil like Li Bo, a farmer in the northeast of the country who has discovered a new and unexpected furrow to plough thanks to a concerted push into the countryside by China’s online broadcasting industry.

The 41-year-old farmer from Wuchang village has unearthed a talent for movie direction, and all he needs is an eye for a story, a bit of imagination and his trusty smartphone. Continue reading

Carrico on Springer, Cambridge

Find below Kevin Carrico’s excellent essay comparing and reflecting on the responses to censorship by Cambridge and Springer–A. E. Clark <>

Source: China Policy Institute: Analysis (11/8/17)
A Tale of Two Publishers: Is censorship the new normal?
Written by Kevin Carrico

On August 18th of this year, news broke that Cambridge University Press was censoring over 300 articles from China Quarterly on its Chinese website. The deletions were requested by Beijing, based on indiscriminate keyword searches like “Tibet,” “Tiananmen,” and “Taiwan.” Media attention rapidly focused in on this censorship, academics penned open letters, and outrage spread quickly, engulfing Facebook, Twitter, and academic mailing lists with calls to boycott Cambridge University Press. Then, on August 21st, as these calls reached a crescendo three very long days later, Cambridge suddenly announced that it was reversing its decision, and would no longer comply with Beijing’s censorship requests. Continue reading

Cornell Contemporary China Initiative

Hi everyone,

Cornell’s Contemporary China Initiative, a weekly lecture organized and hosted by professor Robin McNeal, is now in its third year, and has accumulated a substantial number of digitized, hour-long talks that may be useful to list members.

At the CCCI repository, there are talks by Sebastian Veg (on intellectuals in the contemporary public sphere), Magnus Fiskejö (on the show trials of Hong Kong booksellers), Paola Iovene (on the trope of ), Wendy Su (on the PRC film industry and Chinese soft power), Yiyun Li (on her book Dear Friend, migration, and language), Leta Hong Fincher (on leftover women 剩女), Carlos Rojas (on 马华文学), myself (on literary copies, prose poetry and imitation architecture) and a lot lot more. Other talks range from economics to power politics, but I’ve already gone on too long. The full archive resides here:


Nick Admussen  <>

A literary award for plagiarists

Source: Sup China (11/1/17)
A literary award for plagiarists
By Jiayun Feng

“I thought this was something from the Onion at first. But I’m glad to know it is real news.”

“A well-deserved prize for such a despicable plagiarist. We need more awards of this kind in various fields.”

From Weibo (in Chinese)

On November 1, the first Firestone Literary Awards (燧石文学奖 suìshíwénxuéjiǎng) took place in Beijing. A crowd of Chinese authors showed up at the ceremony, where a list of awards was announced, including Best Short Story, Best Novel, and the one that stole the whole show — the White Lotus Award, a special prize dedicated to “awarding” plagiarized works. The phrase white lotus (白莲花 báiliánhuā) is internet slang that refers to someone, usually a woman, who pretends to be sweet and innocent while engaged in manipulation and scheming. Continue reading

Tech titans at Tsinghua

Source: Sup China (10/30/17)
Tech titans at Tsinghua, as internet controls ratchet up, again
By Jeremy Goldkorn, Editor-in-Chief

On the weekend, Tsinghua University — established in Beijing in 1911 and sometimes called China’s MIT — held the annual advisory board meeting of its School of Economics and Management.

  • In a story titled “Opening up of China means win-win cooperation for world: President Xi,” Xinhua News Agency reports that President Xi Jinping spoke at the meeting. Attendees included Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, Apple’s Tim Cook, former U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, and the Blackstone Group’s Stephen Schwarzman.
  • Xinhua’s Chinese-language article on the meeting was the top story on all central state news websites.
  • In his speech, Xi focused on the importance of education and cultivating talent, but he also emphasized that China was open for business.

At around the same time that Mark Zuckerberg — whose Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp services are blocked in China — was listening to Xi talk about the benefits of China’s openness, the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) released two new sets of rules: Continue reading

Day and Night sets new record for crime shows

Source: China Daily (10/13/17)
Hit online drama sets new record for domestic crime shows
By Li Wenrui

Hit online drama sets new record for domestic crime shows

Day and Night, an online crime drama, broadcast the finale on Oct 11. [Photo provided to]

As Chinese viewers spend more time on video websites, network dramas are booming both in quantity and in quality.

The year looks like the golden time for domestic crime shows. Audience taste has shifted from time-travelling heroines with embroidered garments to rigorous-thinking detectives tracking serial killers.

Well-made internet series sprung up like mushrooms after the screening of summer blockbusters. Day and NightBurning IceLine Walker II are three of the most popular ones recently released on video sites Youku, iQiyi, and QQ Live respectively.

Audience-oriented scripts, broad online exposure, and handpicked cast help network crime shows gain a strong viewership.

Day and Night, widely reckoned as the best crime drama of the year, got a total of 24.6 billion hits online by this Thursday. Continue reading

Online lit readers number 350 million

Source: China Daily (10/24/17)
Online literature readers number 350 million in China
By Li Hongrui

Online literature readers number 350 million in China

Film adaptation of online literature Once Upon a Time. [Photo/Mtime]

On the subways in Beijing, most people stare at their smartphones. Some play video games or watch TV dramas, while some choose to read.

Online novels are popular among these readers. In fact, more people are becoming registered users on online literature websites or smartphone applications.

The total number of online literature websites users increased to 352 million by the end of June 2017, according to the latest report from China Internet Network Information Center. This shows half of all netizens are online literature readers. Continue reading

Observations on censorship from Critical Asian Studies

Interesting and disturbing observations on recent Chinese censorship from the journal Critical Asian Studies director, editors, and authors, who (strangely) cite Lenin(!) as an opponent of censorship:

–Posted by Magnus Fiskesjö,

Source: CRITICAL ASIAN STUDIES VOL. 49, NO. 4 (2017), 479–480
Director and editors’ note on censorship

We recently were informed that two articles previously published in Critical Asian Studies have been republished in China without the permission of the authors, CAS, or our publisher, Taylor & Francis. Moreover, both of these unauthorized versions were severely edited of any material that might be deemed politically sensitive in the People’s Republic of China. The two articles are Claudia Pozzana and Alessandro Russo’s “China’s New Order and Past Disorders: A Dialogue Starting from Wang Hui’s Analysis,” Critical Asian Studies 38:3 (September 2006), pages 329–351, and “Continuity/Discontinuity: China’s Place in the Contemporary World,” Critical Asian Studies 43:2 (June 2011), pages 261–284. Pozzana and Russo’s 2006 article was censored and reprinted in 区域 [Remapping], Volume 4 (2015), edited by Wang Hui and published by the Social Sciences Academic Press of China [Zhonguo Shehui Kexue Xueshu Chubenshe] for the Tsinghua Institute of Advanced Studies. Their 2011 article appears in an unauthorized form in Understanding China’s Vision: Wang Hui’s Academic Thought and Commentary [Lijie Zhongguo de Shiye: Wang Hui Xueshu Sixiang Pinglunji], edited by Zhang Xiang and published by the Oriental Press [Dongfang Chubanshe] in 2014. Continue reading