Jiang Zemin dies at 96

Source: NYT (11/30/22)
Jiang Zemin, Leader Who Guided China Into Global Market, Dies at 96
阅读简体中文版 | 閱讀繁體中文版
Mr. Jiang, a wily and garrulous politician, presided over a decade of meteoric economic growth in the post-Tiananmen era.
By Chris Buckley and Michael Wines

Jiang Zemin in Hong Kong in 1998. As China’s leader, Mr. Jiang amassed influence that endured long past his formal retirement, giving him a major say in picking the current leader, Xi Jinping.

Jiang Zemin in Hong Kong in 1998. As China’s leader, Mr. Jiang amassed influence that endured long past his formal retirement, giving him a major say in picking the current leader, Xi Jinping. Credit…Robyn Beck/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Jiang Zemin, the Shanghai Communist kingpin who was handpicked to lead China after the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests and presided over a decade of meteoric economic growth, died on Wednesday in Shangau. He was 96.

A Communist Party announcement issued by Chinese state media said the cause was leukemia and multiple organ failure.

His death and the memorial ceremonies to follow come at a delicate moment in China, where the ruling party is confronting a wave of widespread protests against its pandemic controls, a nationwide surge of political opposition unseen since the Tiananmen movement of Mr. Jiang’s time.

Mr. Jiang was president of China for a decade from 1993. In the eyes of many foreign politicians, Mr. Jiang was the garrulous, disarming exception to the mold of stiff, unsmiling Chinese leaders. He was the Communist who would quote Lincoln, proclaim his love for Hollywood films and burst into songs like “Love Me Tender.”

Less enthralled Chinese called him a “flowerpot,” likening him to a frivolous ornament, and mocking his quirky vanities. In his later years young fans celebrated him, tongue-in-cheek, with the nickname “toad.” But Mr. Jiang’s unexpected rise and quirks led others to underestimate him, and over 13 years as Communist Party general secretary he matured into a wily politician who vanquished a succession of rivals. Continue reading

Beijing strikes softer tone

Source: The China Project (11/29/22)
Beijing strikes a softer tone as it clamps down on COVID lockdown protests
In a press briefing today, Chinese authorities blamed frustrations at its COVID-zero policy on poor local management. Meanwhile, police are moving to identify people who attended the protests.
By Nadya Yeh

Police cars patrol a street in an area where a message that circulated online called on people to gather for a protest against COVID-zero restrictions in Beijing, on November 29, 2022. REUTERS/Thomas Peter.

Beijing struck a softer tone at a briefing on its COVID-zero policy today, while giving a slight nod to the frustrations against the country’s tough pandemic restrictions that erupted into nationwide protests over the weekend.

  • China’s National Health Commission (NHC) vowed (in Chinese) to increase vaccination rates among the elderly, while also urging local governments to avoid excessive responses to COVID lockdowns.
  • “The problems recently reflected by the masses are not primarily about pandemic prevention and control per se,” said Chéng Yǒuquán 程有全, a senior official with the NHC per the Wall Street Journal, but rather that people were dissatisfied by poor local management of pandemic controls.
  • State-run tabloid Global Times published an article highlighting the press briefing, stating that control measures “should be lifted in a timely manner” to “reduce the impact of the epidemic on people’s lives.”

Continue reading

Protests in China Today roundtable

Protests in China Today: Perspectives from the Left

Join us for a Roundtable Discussion and Q&A featuring scholars of China from Greater NY and beyond.

11/30 (Wed), 3:30 PM – 5:00 PM (EST) On Zoom

Registration Required

While everyone interested in the current developments in China is welcome to participate in this event – if you have security concerns, we encourage you to rename your Zoom profile and remove any icons when entering the room.

This roundtable is co-sponsored by The Critical China Scholars Collective and the Central New York Humanities Corridor from an award by the Mellon Foundation.

Proud, scared and conflicted

Source: NYT (11/29/22)
Proud, Scared and Conflicted. What the China Protesters Told Me.
In more than a dozen interviews, young people explained how the events of the past few days became what one called a “tipping point.”
By Li Yuan

A protest in Shanghai on Sunday drew crowds and a heavy police presence.

A protest in Shanghai on Sunday drew crowds and a heavy police presence. Credit…The New York Times

They went to their first demonstrations. They chanted their first protest slogans. They had their first encounters with the police.

Then they went home, shivering in disbelief at how they had challenged the most powerful authoritarian government in the world and the most iron-fisted leader China has seen in decades.

Young Chinese are protesting the country’s harsh “zero-Covid” policy and even urging its top leader, Xi Jinping, to step down. It’s something China hasn’t seen since 1989, when the ruling Communist Party brutally cracked down on the pro-democracy demonstrators, mostly college students. No matter what happens in the days and weeks ahead, the young protesters presented a new threat to the rule of Mr. Xi, who has eliminated his political opponents and cracked down on any voice that challenges his rule.

Such public dissent was unimaginable until a few days ago. These same young people, when they mentioned Mr. Xi online, used euphemisms like “X,” “he” or “that person,” afraid to even utter the president’s name. They put up with whatever the government put them through: harsh pandemic restrictions, high unemployment rates, fewer books available to read, movies to watch and games to play.

Then something cracked. Continue reading

China’s creative acts of protest

Source: NYT (11/28/22)
Memes, Puns and Blank Sheets of Paper: China’s Creative Acts of Protest
In a country where the authorities have little tolerance for open dissent, demonstrators against Covid restrictions have turned to more subtle methods.
By Chang Che and Amy Chang Chien

A paper placed on a wall during a protest in Shanghai on Sunday read “I didn’t say anything.”

A paper placed on a wall during a protest in Shanghai on Sunday read “I didn’t say anything.” Credit…Hector Retamal/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

In Shanghai, a vigil grew into a street protest where many held blank sheets of white paper in a symbol of tacit defiance.

In Beijing, students at Tsinghua University raised signs showing a math equation devised by the Russian physicist Alexander Friedmann, whose surname in Chinese is a homonym for “free man.”

And on China’s suppressed internet, where positive messages abound and negative ones are scrubbed, protesters resorted to irony: They posted walls of text filled with the Chinese characters for “yes,” “good” and “correct” to signal their discontent while evading censors.

These messages — elusive, creative and often ironic — were among many that captured the tone of protests across China this past weekend, as fury over lockdown measures nearly three years into the pandemic has rapidly developed into one of the boldest displays of dissent against the Chinese authorities in years. Continue reading

Chinese ‘police stations’ in the US

Source: The Guardian (11/17/22)
FBI director ‘very concerned’ by reports of secret Chinese police stations in US
Christopher Wray says the FBI is investigating the existence of stations in New York, which could violate sovereignty
By Reuters

Christopher Wray

Christopher Wray said the FBI was looking into the legal parameters of Chinese ‘police stations’ in the US Photograph: Michael McCoy/Reuters

The United States is deeply concerned about the Chinese government setting up unauthorised “police stations” in US cities to possibly pursue influence operations, FBI director Christopher Wray has said.

“I’m very concerned about this. We are aware of the existence of these stations,” Wray told a US Senate homeland security and governmental affairs committee hearing, acknowledging the FBI’s investigative work on the issue but declining to give details.

“But to me, it is outrageous to think that the Chinese police would attempt to set up shop, you know, in New York, let’s say, without proper coordination. It violates sovereignty and circumvents standard judicial and law enforcement cooperation processes.”

Wray, asked by Republican Senator Rick Scott if such stations violated US law, said the FBI was “looking into the legal parameters”. Continue reading

Rare protest in Guangzhou

Source: NYT (11/16/22)
Covid Lockdown Chaos Sets Off a Rare Protest in a Chinese City
Weary migrants thronged a street in the manufacturing hub of Guangzhou to protest food shortages and lengthy stay-at-home orders under China’s strict “zero-Covid” policy
By Chang Che and John Liu

Social media footage showed a large crowd confronting Covid workers in hazmat suits and tearing down fences installed as virus control measures in Guangzhou, China. It was unclear whether there were any casualties.CreditCredit…Video Obtained by Reuters

A lengthy lockdown and shortages of food prompted residents to take to the streets in China’s southern manufacturing hub of Guangzhou, a rare protest that reflected the growing public frustration with disruptions caused by the country’s Covid restrictions.

China maintains the world’s most stringent approach to Covid, a policy that relies heavily on mass lockdowns, quarantines and mandatory near-daily testing across the country. Whole regions and cities, including Shanghai, have been placed under strict lockdowns, derailing millions of people’s lives, forcing businesses to close and stirring public outrage.

The psychological toll of China’s “zero-Covid” policy is mounting. Earlier this month, a poorly managed outbreak in the world’s largest iPhone assembly complex in Zhengzhou led to a worker exodus and a delay in iPhone shipments around the world. Continue reading

Censors delete article on Hu Jintao

Source: China Digital Times (10/25/22)
Censors Delete History Journal Article on Hu Jintao after Exit from Party Congress
By Alexander Boyd

On Saturday, October 22, Xi Jinping’s predecessor Hu Jintao was unceremoniously escorted out of the closing of the 20th Party Congress in front of the domestic and international press. Hu’s highly unusual exit, a major departure from the strict political choreography characteristic of Party Congresses past, left observers across the world questioning what, exactly, had happened. In an English-language tweet, official state news agency Xinhua claimed: “When he [Hu Jintao] was not feeling well during the session, his staff, for his health, accompanied him to a room next to the meeting venue for a rest. Now, he is much better.” There was no accompanying Chinese-language report and no other Chinese outlets ran pieces on Hu’s removal. China Central Television, the state-run broadcaster, included a clip of Hu attending the Party Congress in an evening broadcast but did not mention his exit. CDT has re-published a video, in Chinese, from Singapore’s CNA (Channel NewsAsia) showing the circumstances of his exit:

Continue reading

Biden-Xi meeting

Source: The Guardian (11/14/22)
Joe Biden decries China’s ‘coercive and aggressive actions’ toward Taiwan
US leader also raises human rights concerns at first in-person meeting with Xi Jinping since taking office
By Justin McCurry

The Chinese president, Xi Jinping (left), with his US counterpart, Joe Biden, on the sidelines of the G20 leaders' summit in Bali

Xi Jinping (left) with Joe Biden at the G20 in Bali on Tuesday. The meeting was seen as an attempt to reduce tensions over Taiwan and trade that have sent US-China ties to their lowest level in decades. Photograph: Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

Joe Biden has objected to China’s “coercive and increasingly aggressive actions” toward Taiwan and raised human rights concerns during his first in-person meeting with Xi Jinping since the US president took office, the White House said.

Biden and Xi met on Monday at a luxury resort hotel in Bali, Indonesia, where they are attending the G20 summit.

The meeting, which lasted more than three hours, was seen as an attempt to reduce tensions over Taiwan and trade that have sent US-China ties to their lowest level in decades.

In a statement, the White House said Biden told Xi that the US would “continue to compete vigorously” with China, but that “competition should not veer into conflict”.

The leaders also agreed that “a nuclear war should never be fought” and couldn’t be won, “and underscored their opposition to the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons in Ukraine”. Continue reading

Patriotic blockbuster

Source: The China Project (11/11/22)
‘Home Coming’ and the evolution of the Chinese patriotic blockbuster
Rao Xiaozhi’s evacuation drama is a blend of Party discourse with popular entertainment, targeted at overseas Chinese.
By Amarsanaa Battulga

Still from Home Coming.

Among the patriotic tentpoles that have now become a staple of the Chinese film industry, there has emerged a certain sub-genre in recent years: the evacuation blockbuster. This includes bombastic action titles such as Wolf Warrior 2 and Operation Red Sea, whose storylines are inspired by the real-life evacuation of Chinese citizens from civil war-beset foreign countries.

The latest addition to this list, Home Coming, offers a slightly different take on this formula. Its protagonists are not elite special forces, but unarmed diplomats, and its politics are relatively subtler and targeted at a special group: overseas Chinese.

Continue reading

Bao Tong dies at 90

Source: The Guardian (11/9/22)
Bao Tong, former top aide of Chinese leader Zhao Ziyang, dies at 90
Senior Communist party official jailed over Tiananmen democracy movement became one of party’s most vociferous critics
By Verna Yu

Bao Tong with a portrait of Zhao, which he kept in his living room, in 2015.

Bao Tong with a portrait of Zhao, which he kept in his living room, in 2015. Photograph: Kim Kyung-Hoon/Reuters

Bao Tong, the most senior Chinese Communist party official jailed over the Tiananmen pro-democracy movement, has died four days after his 90th birthday.

The former top aide of the reformist leader Zhao Ziyang, a sympathiser of the student-led movement that was crushed by the military in 1989, died early on Wednesday morning in Beijing, his son Bao Pu said in a brief Twitter post.

His daughter Bao Jian said in another post that “he was still full of hope for this land”. She quoted him as saying on his 90th birthday on Saturday: “Man has a minor historical existence in the world … whether I turn 90 or not is insignificant, but what is important is that we strive for today and the future … and to do what we can, should and must do.”

The dissident journalist Gao Yu, a close friend of Bao’s, said in a post that he had died of Myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS), a type of rare blood cancer. Gao, who is under constant police surveillance, said she hoped she would be allowed to attend Bao’s funeral on 15 November, although she was barred from attending Bao’s wife’s funeral in August. The funeral is likely to be a highly sensitive event, which dissidents and activists would be barred from attending. Continue reading

The Good Journalist

Source: China Media Project (11/8/22)
The Good Journalist
Media across China are commemorating the country’s official Journalists’ Day today, celebrating the role of the reporter. But in today’s China, what separates the good from the bad?
By CMP Stafff

A Chinese television reporter working on the streets of Guangzhou. Image by DZB0715 available at Wikimedia Commons under CC license.

Today is the 23rd annual China Journalists’ Day. And in a nod of respect to the profession, the hashtag for a special themed page was pinned to the top of the hot searches roster on the popular Weibo platform: “#GoodJournalistsTellGoodStories” (#好记者讲好故事).

If you are a journalist working in China today, what does it mean to tell a “good story”?

In an address to top officials in charge of ideology in August 2013, Xi Jinping, the country’s top leader, said that “telling China’s story well” was essential to shaping a favorable global image of China — what the Chinese Communist Party calls “external propaganda work.” The phrase has since come to describe more broadly the fundamental mission of the Chinese journalist in the New Era, whether at home or abroad. Continue reading

Taiwan’s Bomb Shelters

Source: NYT (11/6/22)
Taiwan’s Bomb Shelters: ‘A Space for Life. And a Space for Death.’
Preparing for war over hundreds of years has left a mark on the island, with its hundreds of bomb shelters. Some are being turned into cultural oases.
By Damien Cave and Amy Chang Chien

A bunker that has been converted into a temple in Keelung, Taiwan.

A bunker that has been converted into a temple in Keelung, Taiwan. Credit…Lam Yik Fei for The New York Times

KEELUNG, Taiwan — Visitors to Keelung, a mountainous port city on Taiwan’s northern coast, might reasonably think that the white wall at the back of Shi Hui-hua’s breakfast shop is, well, a wall. Only a few air vents suggest that there might be something on the other side.

“It’s a bomb shelter,” said Ms. Shi, 53, as she waited for the morning rush. “Because we’re Keelung people, we know these kinds of places.”

“It’s a space for life,” she added. “And a space for death.”

All over her street and many more in Keelung — which suffered its first foreign attack, by the Dutch, in 1642 — the landscape has been carved up for protection. Kitchens connect to underground passageways that tunnel into the sandstone. Rusty gates at the ends of alleys lead to dark maws that are filled with memories of war, and sometimes trash or bats — or an altar or restaurant annex.

There are nearly 700 bomb shelters in this city of 360,000 people, leading officials to declare that Keelung has a higher density of places to hide than anywhere else in heavily fortified Taiwan. And for a loosely organized band of urban planners, artists and history lovers, Keelung’s bomb shelters have become a canvas — for creative urban renewal and civil defense.

Some of these havens have been recast as cultural spaces. But these subterranean spaces are not just cool relics; on a self-governed island that China considers lost property it plans to reclaim, they are also vital infrastructure. Continue reading

Chairman Mao’s Good Reader

We are happy to share with you our most recent online publication in which Lena Henningsen dives into the Lei Feng cult from a history of reading perspective:

READCHINA Intervention 03:
Chairman Mao’s Good Reader: Mise en abyme in The Diary of Lei Feng

Lei Feng is commonly known in China as a model soldier. To “learn from Lei Feng” meant to mold one’s own behavior on that of the model, to embody his spirit and do good oneself to the point of self-abandonment and self-sacrifice. Oftentimes, in visual media Lei Feng carries a rifle over his shoulder—and holds a copy of Mao Zedong’s Selected Works in his arm as his ideological weapon of sorts. This Intervention shows that reading figures prominently in the Lei Feng cult. The trope of reading is particularly powerful, as it creates a mise en abyme effect: The reading act represented in the narrative finds a mirror in the reading act of the diary reader; the narrative depicts a text which mirrors itself in the text that the reader of the diary holds in his or her hands.

Read it here (PDF to download): https://readchina.github.io/interventions/LeiFeng.html

Five Firm Grasps

Source: China Media Project (10/23/22)
Five Firm Grasps for the World
In a new buzzword emerging from the 20th National Congress of the CCP, Xi Jinping is front and center, and the whole world is encompassed by his visionary ideas.
By CMP Staff

On the front page of the Chinese Communist Party’s flagship newspaper yesterday, a new buzzword was born. Introducing the “Five Firm Grasps” (五个牢牢把握). Appearing in a prominent headline to the right of the masthead in the People’s Daily, the phrase was meant to condense the “spirit” of the 20th National Congress of the CCP, conveying to Party members the essentials they were meant to take away.

Those essentials are the need to:

Firmly grasp the major significance of the work of the past 5 years and the great transformation of the 10 years of the New Era (要牢牢把握过去5年工作和新时代10年伟大变革的重大意义)

Firmly grasp the world view and methodology of the Thought of Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for the New Era (牢牢把握新时代中国特色社会主义思想的世界观和方法论)

Firmly grasp the mission and task of promoting the great rejuvenation of the Chinese people through Chinese-style modernization (牢牢把握以中国式现代化推进中华民族伟大复兴的使命任务)

Firmly grasp the important demand of leading a great social revolution through a great self-revolution (牢牢把握以伟大自我革命引领伟大社会革命的重要要求)

Firmly grasp unity and struggle as the requirements of the times (牢牢把握团结奋斗的时代要求) Continue reading