How China Escaped Shock Therapy review

Source: London Review of Books 43, 20 (21 October 2021)
The Scissors Gap
By Rebecca E. Karl

How China Escaped Shock Therapy: The Market Reform Debate by Isabella Weber. Routledge, 358 pp., £29.99, May, 978 1 03 200849 3

In July 1978, Hu Qiaomu, a sociologist who was working in Deng Xiaoping’s Political Research Office, issued a dire report on the Chinese peasantry. Hu wasn’t known as a supporter of radical reform, but he nevertheless called for something to be done to mitigate the effects of the socialist industrialisation programme. Over the previous three decades China’s agricultural sector had been systematically underdeveloped in comparison to its industrial sector, resulting in what became known as the ‘scissors gap’. The prices the state paid peasants for their produce were so low that relief from rural poverty was systemically impossible. As younger – and bolder – intellectuals than Hu graduated from their rural re-education locations and took up academic and political positions in major cities, a debate began over the best way to lift the peasantry, then still 80 per cent of the Chinese population, out of poverty. Economic restructuring was clearly in order. Within a few years, the debate had spread beyond intellectual circles in China, and was engaging economists and policymakers in Eastern and Western Europe, as well as the US. The market, they determined, would rescue the Chinese people. Continue reading

The Battle at Lake Changjin

Source: Asia Times (10/11/21)
China’s winter warriors rout US Marines, UK’s MI6
Beijing’s macho nationalism bears fruit as epic Korean War movie sets course to be top global film of 2021

Chinese President Xi Jinping, besieged by crises from China Evergrande to power outages, may take some comfort in recent news: A human wave of enthusiastic citizens is storming his nation’s cinemas.

The historical blockbuster Chinese are watching in record numbers is state-funded Korean War epic Battle at Lake Changjin. Its popularity suggests that Beijing’s drive to inculcate patriotism and machismo is bearing fruit.

Making the story even sweeter for Beijing mandarins, it is based on the true story of a torrid Chinese victory over America’s premier troops.

The December 1950 struggle around the high-altitude Lake Changjin – known in the West as Chosin Reservoir – was fought in one of the harshest battlescapes imaginable. Amid rugged mountain terrain, in sub-zero temperatures, an under-equipped Chinese Army Group forced a division of top-tier US Marines to retreat from North Korea.

And it is not just the US Marine Corps that has fallen to the film’s sword. It has also taken out Britain’s secret intelligence service, MI6. Box office receipts for Battle at Lake Changjin outdid those for the massively anticipated but long-delayed new 007 film, No Time to Die. Continue reading

Journalist detained after criticizing Korean war film

Source: NYT (10/8/21)
Chinese Journalist Detained After Criticizing Government-Sponsored Blockbuster
The police arrested Luo Changping on Thursday, two days after he questioned China’s role in the Korean War, the subject of China’s box office hit “The Battle at Lake Changjin.”
By Steven Lee Myers and Amy Chang Chien

“The Battle at Lake Changjin,” which recounts a brutal American defeat in the Korean War, has dominated the box office in China on its opening week. Credit…Getty Images/Getty Images

Luo Changping built a reputation as a muckraking journalist in China, a place where few dare pursue the calling, until he was forced out of the industry in 2014. Now a businessman, he has run afoul of the authorities again, this time over a critique spurred by a blockbuster movie about the Korean War.

The police detained Mr. Luo, 40, on Thursday, two days after he posted commentary on social media questioning China’s role in the war. The conflict is the subject of a new film, “The Battle at Lake Changjin,” that has dominated the box office over the seven-day holiday known as Golden Week.

The film, sponsored by the government, depicts an against-all-odds American defeat in a battle known in the United States as the Battle of Chosin Reservoir. Mr. Luo’s crime was to question the legal justification of China’s intervention when North Korea’s troops were on the verge of defeat after invading the South. Continue reading

Three persecuted professors

This note on three of among the hundreds of prominent Uyghur academics and intellectuals targeted by China’s government as it decapitates, decimates and exterminates Uyghur culture: Gheyratjan Osman, 63, a respected professor of Uyghur language and literature at Xinjiang University; Uyghur actor Qeyum Muhammad, an associate professor at the Xinjiang Arts Institute; and Tursunjan Nurmamat, a Uyghur research scientist who was working at Tongji University in Shanghai. See below. Needless to say, this is all part of the genocide in process. –Magnus Fiskesjö,

Source: Chinese Human Rights Defenders (10/5/21)
Urgent Actions Needed to Stop Cultural Rights Violations Against Uyghurs

(Chinese Human Rights Defenders, October 5, 2021) – Details have emerged from three cases of persecuted professors from the Uyghur region that underscore how Beijing is trying to disappear and silence the leading Uyghur minds. The mass detention of peaceful intellectuals demonstrates the hidden human rights atrocity beneath the Chinese government’s absurd narrative that its suppression is necessary for “fighting terrorism.” Given the numerous known deaths in custody in Xinjiang and the Chinese government’s track record mistreatment of prisoners of conscience in prison, the international community must speak out and take strong actions with a renewed sense of urgency.

According to Rights Defense NetworkGheyratjan Osman, 63, a respected professor of Uyghur language and literature at Xinjiang University, was taken away in 2018 and sentenced to 10-years for “separatism”, although the legal details of his case remain unclear. Radio Free Asia confirmed the outlines of his case with three employees at Xinjiang University, but these individuals said they could not divulge more since the case is treated as a “state secret”.

Gheyratjan Osman

Gheyratjan Osman was apparently jailed on the grounds that he “rejected national culture”, attended a seminar on Turkic studies in Turkey in 2008, and gave “excessive” praise of Uyghur culture in his writings, which “inculcated separatist ideology in generations of Uyghur students,” according to the Chinese government as RFA reported.

Gheyratjan Osman has published more than 30 books and 200 scholarly articles on Uyghur language, literature, and folklore, including Research on Ancient Uyghur LiteratureHistory of Classical Uyghur Literature, and the influential Uyghurs in the East and the West. Continue reading

Filming the Individual and the Collective

MCLC Resource Center is pleased to announce publication of “Filming the Individual and the Collective: The 2019 Pro-democracy Movement in Hong Kong Independent Documentaries,” by Judith Pernin. Find a teaser below. For the entire essay, go to: Our thanks to Judith Pernin for sharing her important work with the MCLC community.

Kirk Denton, MCLC

Filming the Individual and the Collective:
The 2019 Pro-democracy Movement in Hong Kong Independent Documentaries

By Judith Pernin[*]

MCLC Resource Center Publication (Copyright October 2021)


Between June and December 2019, Hong Kong became the stage of large-scale pro-democracy protests, during which participants elaborated original strategies, along with slogans, posters, songs, videos, and documentaries. This outpouring of political creativity during social movements has many parallels in the world, and, in Hong Kong, was preceded by the 2014 Umbrella movement. The seventy-nine-day occupation inspired around thirty independent documentaries, an unprecedented number of productions for Hong Kong. Fueled by ongoing social discontent, the reconfiguration of the local documentary scene, and the convenience of social media and online platforms, audiovisual records of the 2019 protests are both diverse and ubiquitous. As in 2014, live broadcasts, investigative reports, visual manifestos, personal diaries, and documentary films reported on the movement and their actors. These media also express personal views on Hong Kong and circulate ideas and inspire mobilization locally and abroad. However, given the evolution of Hong Kong’s political situation and the shifting of local protest strategies, one could expect marked differences in the filmic treatment of the 2019 protests. The Umbrella movement was followed by 5 years of “abeyance” amid strong rebuffs against the pro-democracy movement (Lee et al. 2019). When opposition to the proposed extradition bill erupted massively on the streets in June 2019, protests and their actors had already drastically changed. Furthermore, during the half-year of the 2019 pro-democracy movement, protest modes kept on evolving, constantly adjusting to escalating police tactics and government reactions. What kind of documentaries have been produced on the 2019 movement, and how do these documentaries translate the evolution of protest modes and Hong Kong’s rapidly changing political context?


Scholars of Asian documentary cinema (Park 2015; Nornes 2007) have studied the influence of specific political environments on protest modes, filmmaking practices, and representations, influences that are also found in documentaries made on the Umbrella movement (Pernin 2020). Before examining recent productions on the 2019 protests, it is important to review the visual culture from which these new productions emerged. Despite the dominance of Hong Kong’s commercial cinema, an unprecedented number of individual and collective independent documentaries were produced on the 2014 occupation and its aftermath. Using observational techniques, young filmmakers in particular have depicted a plethora of complex characters—at once political heroes and vulnerable young people—such as the well-known activists Joshua Wong 黃之鋒, Yau Wai-ching 游蕙禎, and Edward Leung Tin-kei 梁天琦 who appear alongside ordinary protesters and citizens.[1] Their streetwise, on-the-ground politics, and emotional turmoil are subtly exposed through first-person direct narration or by the subjective voiceover of the filmmaker-participant.[2] Apart from depicting confrontations with police, these films give much space to discussions, arguments, speeches, and various forms of public address among protesters, mirroring Hongkongers’ desire for a voice through democratic processes. This tapestry of characters from distinct local cultures and subcultures, gender identities, religions, educational backgrounds, and political leanings reconfigures the image of the righteous model protesters often projected in the media, deepening our understanding of Hong Kong’s diverse society through personal stories. Close to their protagonists, the filmmakers are also able to translate their changing state of mind, from hope in the early days of the movement to despair after the clearing of occupied sites, which are often depicted as micro-utopias. What grew in the void left by this largely ineffective movement was a feeling of doom, but also the hope to take to the streets again, though in a different way, as illustrated by a couple of documentaries reflecting on the aftermath of the Umbrella movement.[3] Reviewing the breaks and continuities between 2014 and 2019 in Hong Kong documentaries, this essay is also informed by the growing scholarship on the creative practices of protests in Hong Kong in the fields of music, slogans, and visual arts (Veg 2016; Wong 2019; Veg 2020). . . [READ THE WHOLE ESSAY]


HKU on the frontline of a battle for democracy

Source: CNN (9/18/21)
One of Asia’s most prestigious universities is on the frontline of a battle for democracy
By CNN staff


Hong Kong (CNN)Students and lecturers at Hong Kong‘s most prestigious university returned from summer break this month to a very different institution.

The Democracy Wall at the University of Hong Kong (better known as HKU) — a pinboard where students once shared political thoughts — is gone. The student union, which once advocated for students, is all but defunct, with four of its members facing charges of advocating terrorism.

Although many students and academics were happy to be back on campus — many for the first time since the start of the pandemic — a political chill hangs over the university that some staff say is influencing how they teach.

While the Hong Kong government told CNN the city’s universities “continue to enjoy academic freedom,” four current HKU staff who spoke with CNN on condition of anonymity said they are more cautious about what they say in class, afraid that their own students could report them to authorities.

The self-censorship began after June last year when Beijing imposed a controversial and sweeping national security law on the city. Since then, more than 140 people have been arrested under the law, including activists, journalists, politicians and educators, and, of those, 85 have been charged. Continue reading

New developments on Xinjiang genocide

Several major new developments as regards the ongoing Chinese genocide against the Uyghur people.

1) A major conference held in Newcastle, England was held 1-3 Sept, 2021, “The #Xinjiang Crisis: Genocide, Crimes Against Humanity, Justice” – full set of session recordings now available as online videos, here. ( … my own paper, on the cultural destruction, was in panel 5).

2) The Uyghur Tribunal concluded its 2nd and final round of hearings in London September 10-13 and has also published the entire hearings online.

The Tribunal is a private pro-bono initiative to interview witnesses (survivors, experts, and more) and accumulate documentation, as an encouragement to world governments who have largely failed to go from expressing “concern” to action against China. The tribunal will publish its conclusions in December. A summary report on the tribunal (and China’s government lashing out against it) is here.

3) Meanwhile, right at the same time, the UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet released a momentous 2 sentences statement declaring that (after 4 years of trying), she is giving up on her efforts to send an inspection team to China. Continue reading

Xi tells tycoons to share wealth

Source: NYT (9/7/21)
Warning of Income Gap, Xi Tells China’s Tycoons to Share Wealth
阅读简体中文版 | 閱讀繁體中文版
As the country’s leader prepares for a likely third term, he is promising “common prosperity” to lift farmers and working families into the middle class.
By Chris BuckleyAlexandra Stevenson and 

Xi Jinping has declared that China’s Communist Party will work toward “common prosperity,” and he has pressed businesses and entrepreneurs to give back more to society. Credit…Ju Peng/Xinhua, via Associated Press

Four decades ago, Deng Xiaoping declared that China would “let some people get rich first” in its race for growth. Now, Xi Jinping has put China’s tycoons on notice that it is time for them to share more wealth with the rest of the country.

Mr. Xi says the Communist Party will pursue “common prosperity,” pressing businesses and entrepreneurs to help narrow the stubborn wealth gap that could hold back the country’s rise and erode public confidence in the leadership. Supporters say China’s next phase of growth demands the shift.

“A powerful China should also be a fair and just China,” Yao Yang, a professor of economics at Peking University who endorses the shift in priorities, said by email. “China is one of the worst countries in terms of redistribution, despite being a socialist country. Public spending is overly concentrated in cities, elite schools and so on.” Continue reading

HK film censorship bill

Source: Nikkei Asia (9/1/21)
Hong Kong film censorship bill takes page from mainland script
Amendment up for debate on Wednesday would add to national security law pressure

A shot from the Hong Kong protest documentary “Revolution of Our Times”: The film’s director says no cinema in the city will be willing to show it. (Image courtesy of “Revolution of Our Times” team)

HONG KONG — A film censorship amendment due for debate in Hong Kong’s legislature on Wednesday is poised to further squeeze local artists already feeling the pressure from the Beijing-imposed national security law.

The bill, submitted by the government, would alter the existing film censorship law to establish a new mechanism to prohibit films “that would be contrary to the interests of national security,” according to the legislation’s preamble. Its passage would continue rolling back freedoms that once helped the city earn the nickname “Hollywood of the Far East,” creating a censorship environment ever closer to that on the mainland.

As it is, many Hong Kong filmmakers are simply giving up on screening movies with controversial themes.

Mok Kwan-ling, a director and video journalist, told Nikkei Asia that she has no chance of publicly showing her latest film featuring a young couple who met during the protests that swept the city in 2019. She rejected the government censor’s demands in June to make 14 cuts as well as change the title “Jap-uk” — which literally means to “tidy up the house” in Cantonese. The name comes from a scene where the girl rushes to her boyfriend’s house to clean up after he is arrested, before the police can search his room. The official English title is “Far From Home.” Continue reading

Spies for hire

Source: NYT (8/26/21)
Spies for Hire: China’s New Breed of Hackers Blends Espionage and Entrepreneurship
阅读简体中文版 | 閱讀繁體中文版
The state security ministry is recruiting from a vast pool of private-sector hackers who often have their own agendas and sometimes use their access for commercial cybercrime, experts say.
By Paul Mozur and Chris Buckley

China has changed its tactics since cyberhacking responsibilities were transfered to the Ministry of State Security from the People’s Liberation Army. Credit…Alex Plavevski/EPA, via Shutterstock

China’s buzzy high-tech companies don’t usually recruit Cambodian speakers, so the job ads for three well-paid positions with those language skills stood out. The ad, seeking writers of research reports, was placed by an internet security start-up in China’s tropical island-province of Hainan.

That start-up was more than it seemed, according to American law enforcement. Hainan Xiandun Technology was part of a web of front companies controlled by China’s secretive state security ministry, according to a federal indictment from May. They hacked computers from the United States to Cambodia to Saudi Arabia, seeking sensitive government data as well as less-obvious spy stuff, like details of a New Jersey company’s fire-suppression system, according to prosecutors.

The accusations appear to reflect an increasingly aggressive campaign by Chinese government hackers and a pronounced shift in their tactics: China’s premier spy agency is increasingly reaching beyond its own ranks to recruit from a vast pool of private-sector talent. Continue reading

China peddles conspiracy theories (1)

The researcher Gilles Demaneuf has compiled a useful list of “Some basic errors commonly repeated in relation to Covid-19 origins.”

This is handy because even now, the media continue to perpetuate misunderstandings and misinformation on Covid origins, including those intentionally spread by the Chinese government as part of its efforts to deflect attention from its actions.

As for why misinformation continues, one supposes it has to do both with (a), the complexity of the issues and the science; and above all, (b), how we are living the aftermath of how major media outlets and some researchers (despite the absence of scientific evidence either way) went along with the Chinese government’s tabooing and blocking of the lab related hypotheses as “conspiracies,” — and are now scrambling to walk that back, and deflect questions about how they could possibly have succumbed: the media without factchecking themselves, and the scientists presuming to pronounce on science even without evidence.

The most stunning by far, is Danish food scientist Ben Embarek, back in February-March the chair of the defunct Chinese-select WHO scientific committee, who now says his committee’s condemnation of a lab leak possibility as “extremely unlikely” was forced on him and his colleagues by the Chinese authorities — and that, shamefully, they gave in. The full history of this major un-scientific/propaganda debacle of the 21st century remains to be written, by those investigating fake news and factchecking failures and propaganda victories, especially in the US and perhaps especially by those scholars in Science and Technology Studies, etc. who study science in social context.

But at least, as we all know, it soon came to an end, after more scientists stepped forward — and, the WHO director general himself stepped forward and reconfirmed the obvious, that the lab hypothesis remains possible and must be a continued focus — even as this now meets bitter obstruction from the Chinese government.

Magnus Fiskesjö <>

China peddles conspiracy theories

Source: NYT (8/25/21)
Rejecting Covid Inquiry, China Peddles Conspiracy Theories Blaming the U.S.
阅读简体中文版 | 閱讀繁體中文版
A new wave of disinformation follows President Biden’s order for the United States to investigate the origin of the pandemic, including the possibility of a lab leak in Wuhan.
By Austin Ramzy and 

A lab at Fort Detrick in Maryland. Beijing is peddling groundless theories that the United States is the source of the coronavirus. Credit…Andrew Harnik/Associated Press

When a conspiracy theory started circulating in China suggesting that the coronavirus escaped from an American military lab, it had largely stayed on the fringe. Now, the ruling Communist Party has propelled the idea firmly into the mainstream.

This week, a Chinese foreign ministry spokesman repeatedly used an official podium to elevate unproven ideas that the coronavirus may have first leaked from a research facility in Fort Detrick, Md. A Communist Party publication, the Global Times, started an online petition in July calling for that lab to be investigated and said it gathered more than 25 million signatures.

Officials and state media have promoted a rap song by a patriotic Chinese hip-hop group that touted the same claim, with the lyrics: “How many plots came out of your labs? How many dead bodies hanging a tag?”

Beijing is peddling groundless theories that the United States may be the true source of the coronavirus, as it pushes back against efforts to investigate the pandemic’s origins in China. The disinformation campaign started last year, but Beijing has raised the volume in recent weeks, reflecting its anxiety about being blamed for the pandemic that has killed millions globally. Continue reading

Chinese influence in higher education

Another example of corrupting Chinese influence in higher education, in democratic countries — this time from Switzerland:

A tweet cost him his doctorate: The extent of China’s influence on Swiss universities

A Swiss Ph.D. student tweeted critically about China. Afterward, his professor at the University of St. Gallen wanted nothing more to do with him, worried that her own ability to get a visa would be at risk. Larissa Rhyn, Katrin Büchenbacher (text); Christoph Fischer (illustrations) Neue Zürcher Zeitung, August 4, 2021.

See linked article for multiple illustrations.

posted by: Magnus Fiskesjö,

Fudan’s storm in Budapest (1)

Nice article, But, it’s dubious that “Shanghai’s Fudan University is one of China’s leading universities, ranked 70th in the world and third in mainland China according to the 2021 Times World University Rankings, after Tsinghua University and Peking University.”

That’s only if you believe the Times rankings, which are deeply flawed. We should not circulate such rankings, which ignore the key factor of academic freedom, which must obviously be a factor in ranking global universities. Fudan, Tsinghua, Beijing U, etc. suffer heavy censorship as they are policed by the Communist party (which admits this and promotes this state of affairs), so these universities of course don’t belong at the top.

There is now a better alternative … the new global Academic Freedom Index (AFi). We should use that, and avoid the flawed rankings from Times Higher Education, QS rankings, and the Academic Ranking of World Universities (aka Shanghai), etc. which fail to take these primary basics into account.

For more on this, see f.ex.: “Why university rankings must include academic freedom.” Robert Quinn, Janika Spannagel and Ilyas Saliba, University world news, 11 March 2021.

And: “Free Universities: Putting the Academic Freedom Index Into Action.” By Katrin Kinzelbach, Ilyas Saliba, Janika Spannagel, and Robert Quinn. Global Public Policy Institute (GPPi), 26 Mar 2020.

ps. We should also do more to prevent our own universities from becoming anything like Fudan, Tsinghua, Beijing U. For some ideas, see f.ex.: “Academic freedom is paramount for universities. They can do more to protect it from China’s interference.” By Yun Jiang. The Conversation, June 30, 2021.

Magnus Fiskesjö <>

Fudan’s storm in Budapest

Source: China Media Project (7/13/21)
Fudan’s Storm in Budapest
As plans by Shanghai’s Fudan University for a new international campus in Budapest’s ninth district meet staunch local opposition, with fears the project is a Trojan horse, it is unclear what lessons the university’s efforts in Hungary will have for the global future of Chinese higher education.
By Fulop Zsofia

Among the 23 sub-districts of Budapest, the ninth district, Ferencváros, has been called a “rustbelt” – a former industrial area now in decline that is awaiting revitalization. But for me, a resident here, Ferencváros is a vibrant place. Not far from the center of Budapest, it edges up to the Danube. The central area has beautiful old buildings, museums, universities, and one of Budapest’s largest and oldest markets. The place teems with young people, bars and a rich nightlife. The residential area on the outside of the district is equally rich in character, and the building I live in, named for the Hungarian poet Attila József, is green and flowery, drawing together a tapestry of young parents, pets and older retired people.

If you open up Google Maps and scan across the ninth district, you will notice certain changes: several streets here have suddenly had their names changed. On June 2, four streets along the Danube in the ninth district underwent sudden name changes. You can now find “Dalai Lama Road,” “Uyghur Martyrs Road,” “Liberate Hong Kong Road” (a reference to the slogan used during the 2019 protests in Hong Kong) and “Bishop Xie Shiguang Road” (referring to a bishop of the underground Roman Catholic Church in China who died in 2005). Continue reading