Being 21 during the Coronavirus

Source: China Channel, LARB (3/21/20)
Being Twenty-One During Coronavirus
Advice for students out of school, from Shi Tiesheng’s celebrated essay
By Nick Admussen

Shi Tiesheng (

Nick Admussen is an associate professor of Chinese Literature and Culture at Cornell University, where all classes were cancelled last Friday. He penned this letter, edited for publication, to his students before leaving his desk.

As cases of Covid-19 spread and we begin a period of social distancing, I want to give you my argument for continuing to do the two things university was designed for: to read and to write. Colleges often present themselves to students as a package excursion for youth: open quadrangles, energetic friends and lovers, deep conversation, light beer, live music, parties. It is that, and much more. Yet my colleagues and I didn’t become literature professors – we didn’t become literate – by going to class. We learned what we know in rooms that lacked conversation, friends, and open doors.

Today I’ve been rereading the Chinese writer Shi Tiesheng, a Beijing native who was assigned to rural labor during the Cultural Revolution, when at the age of 21 his spine was injured in an accident and he was rendered paraplegic. His 1991 essay ‘The Year of Being Twenty-One’, translated by Dave Haysom, records his struggles to come to terms with the new limits on his mobility and his future. In the essay, he watches carefully as the other patients in hospital respond to their own illnesses, and to the social and emotional sicknesses that constrain them. From his sickbed, Shi talks with a man with aphasia (“Bed Two”) who has lost all nouns. He remembers a seven-year old boy who fell off a truck and never walked again. And he tells of a pair of lovers pulled apart by an accident, and more. Their stories leap off the page, as if there is something bigger behind them, laboring to push its way through. Continue reading

Virus hits Europe harder than China (2)

Agree. And the NYT also is wrong that China has sobered up. It writes that “While China stumbled in the early going … it then addressed the crisis seriously.” (BTW, this way of talking about China as “it” is a sign that reveals a writer has not sufficiently grasped the fundamental, key distinction between the selfish regime, and China the country, people, culture). It isn’t true. See inter alia this evidence that “China” the regime is not sobering up, but instead continues to spread the virus by political default. Magnus Fiskesjö <>

Source: Kyodo News (3/19/20)
Wuhan’s virus patient numbers manipulated for Xi visit: local doctor

BEIJING – The number of novel coronavirus patients in Wuhan, the epicenter of China’s virus outbreak, was manipulated in time for President Xi Jinping’s visit last week, a local doctor told Kyodo News Thursday.

A number of symptomatic patients were abruptly released from quarantine early while a portion of testing was suspended, the doctor said.

China’s health authorities on Thursday reported no new cases of coronavirus infection in Wuhan, marking the first time for the city to have no instances of local transmission since the viral epidemic began late last year. Continue reading

Interview with Guo Yuhua

Source: China Channel, LARB (3/15/20)
Guo Yuhua: China’s Suffering Class
By Jonathan Chatwin
An anthropologist of China’s underclasses talks to Jonathan Chatwin

Guo Yuhua next to the Nujiang River (courtesy of the interviewee).

Guo Yuhua is Professor of Anthropology at Tsinghua University in Beijing. She has spent the majority of her career researching and writing about the lives of rural Chinese people. Her work The Narration of the Peasant: How Can ‘Suffering’ Become History? is based on oral histories collected during her research in Ji village in northern Shaanxi province. She has written: “one of the ways to defeat the hegemony of official texts and official discourse is to write the history of ordinary people, the history of the ‘sufferers’.”

Professor Guo is currently undertaking research on food safety and peasant workers suffering from pneumoconiosis, a lung disease which affects workers in coal mines, quarries and foundries. Guo’s books are banned in China. As part of the China Conversations series, Guo Yuhua spoke from Beijing with writer Jonathan Chatwin.

What is your memory of studying history at school?

My college life was in the 1980s, the era of reform and opening up; we were all enthusiastic that China had embarked on the road of modernization. My graduate major was folklore and social anthropology – studying culture and folk custom – and the relationship between tradition and modernity. I hoped to discover which factors affected the habits and mores in Chinese society, and why China had lagged behind the world for many years. That was the reason for my interest in history. Continue reading

Virus hits Europe harder than China (1)

In reply to the article from the NYT: While draconian measures in China like city-wide lockdowns may have controlled the spread of COVID-19, the government’s inability to trust medical professionals allowed the virus to spread and become what it is now. From ” Globally speaking, authoritarianism can limit pandemic control since it can limit the expertise and transparency required for good decisionmaking, to make the best use of resources, and to communicate status to the regional and global citizens.”

Anne Henochowicz <>

Virus hits Europe harder than China

Source: NYT (3/19/20)
Virus Hits Europe Harder Than China. Is That the Price of an Open Society?
阅读简体中文版 | 閱讀繁體中文版
The epidemic is now bigger in Europe, where governments aren’t used to giving harsh orders, and citizens aren’t used to following them.
By Richard Pérez-Peña

Patients arriving at a newly opened Covid-19 hospital wing in Rome on Thursday. Credit…Nadia Shira Cohen for The New York Times

The macabre milestones keep coming. By Wednesday, Europe had recorded more coronavirus cases and fatalities than China. On Thursday, Italy — by itself — passed China in reported deaths.

While China claims to have lowered its rate of new cases essentially to zero, Europe’s numbers grow faster each day — about 100,000 confirmed infections and 5,000 deaths in all so far — suggesting that the worst is yet to come.

So how is it that the new disease, Covid-19, has hit harder in Europe, which had weeks of warning that the epidemic was coming, than in China, where the virus originated and where there are twice as many people? Continue reading

Holding Beijing accountable is not racist

This Johns Hopkins colleague nailed it! — fwd by Magnus Fiskesjö <>

Source: The Journal of Political Risk 8, no. 3 (May 2020)
Holding Beijing Accountable For The Coronavirus Is Not Racist
By Ho-fung Hung, Johns Hopkins University

Digital generated image of macro view of the COVID-19 coronavirus. Getty Images/Andriy Onufriyenko

As the coronavirus global pandemic is unfolding and deteriorating, an age-old racial stereotype that associates contagious diseases with Asian/Chinese people reemerged. Reports about Asians being beaten up and accused of bringing the disease to the community are disheartening. The use of the phrase “sick man of Asia” in connection to the outbreak and calling the disease “Wuhan pneumonia” or “Chinese virus” invoked accusations of racism. We in higher education kept hearing episodes of Asian students harassed by comments from fellow students or faculty that associate them with the virus.

This racial association of contagious diseases often surfaces with epidemics in history. During the SARS epidemics of 2003, Western media was full of articles, images, and cartoons that explicitly characterized the diseases as an Asian one, as my research documented. In medieval Europe, the spread of epidemics like bubonic plagues often triggered harassment or even massacre of ethnic minorities such as Jewish people. Perennial as it is, this racial association is not only harmful but is also counterproductive to the effective containment of the disease. Epidemics know no ethnic boundary. They always spread beyond ethnic lines very quickly. The racial association of disease makes us overlook carriers who happen to be not among the stereotyped groups. We have to combat xenophobic racism at the time of an epidemic as hard as we can. Continue reading

Propaganda machine fires up

Source: Sup China (3/16/20)
Propaganda Machine Fires Up As COVID-19 ‘Passes Peak’ In China


SupChina illustration by Derek Zheng

Per the Economist (porous paywall), Xí Jìnpíng 习近平 “may find it hard to choose his moment to declare complete success. As people gradually get back to work, there is a risk that the virus may begin to spread more widely again in China.”

Nonetheless, the peak of the outbreak in China is “over,” according to China’s National Health Commission, Xinhua noted last Thursday (here in Chinese). Over the weekend, coronavirus infections and deaths outside of China began to outnumber those in China, according to official data, the Guardian reports.

The conspiracy theory that the virus did not originate in China — already encouraged by Chinese government officials, including top Chinese epidemiologist Zhōng Nánshān 钟南山, for more than a week now — is still being pushed. Continue reading

Journalists fight back

Source: NYT (3/14/20)
As China Cracks Down on Coronavirus Coverage, Journalists Fight Back
阅读简体中文版 | 閱讀繁體中文版
The Communist Party is trying to fill the airwaves with positive stories about its battle against the virus. Chinese reporters, buoyed by widespread calls for free speech, are resisting.
By Javier Hernndez

A screen at a shopping mall in Beijing showing China Central Television’s coverage of President Xi Jinping’s visit to Wuhan on Tuesday. Credit…Andy Wong/Associated Press

When Jacob Wang saw reports circulating online recently suggesting that life was getting better in Wuhan, the center of the coronavirus outbreak, he was irate.

Mr. Wang, a journalist for a state-run newspaper in China, knew that Wuhan was still in crisis — he had traveled there to chronicle the failures of the government firsthand. He took to social media to set the record straight, writing a damning post last month about sick patients struggling to get medical care amid a dysfunctional bureaucracy.

“People were left to die, and I am very angry about that,” Mr. Wang said in an interview. “I’m a journalist, but I’m also an ordinary human being.”

The Chinese government, eager to claim victory in what China’s leader, Xi Jinping, has described as a “people’s war” against the virus, is leading a sweeping campaign to purge the public sphere of dissent, censoring news reports, harassing citizen journalists and shutting down news sites.

[China Is Censoring Coronavirus Stories. These Citizens Are Fighting Back.]

Information about the coronavirus outbreak is not immune from Chinese censors. But more and more citizens are dodging censorship by creating a digital archive of deleted posts. They told us how. Continue reading

What the US can learn from Taiwan’s response

Source: US News and World Report (3/10/20)
What the U.S. Can Learn From Taiwan’s Response to Coronavirus
The island employs an aggressive, well-planned answer that employs analytics to minimize the spread of disease.
By Steve Sternberg

A mask-clad worker disinfects an area to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus in Xindian district in New Taipei City on March 9, 2020. - World health officials have warned that countries are not taking the coronavirus crisis seriously enough, as outbreaks surged across Europe and in the United States where medical workers sounded warnings over a "disturbing" lack of hospital preparedness. (Photo by Sam Yeh / AFP) (Photo by SAM YEH/AFP via Getty Images)

A mask-clad worker disinfects an area to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus in the Xindian district in New Taipei City on March 9, 2020. (SAM YEH/AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES)

WITH CONFLICTING AND AT times contradictory messages coming out of the White House, the Dow Jones Industrial Average seesawing and even the most basic supplies such as hand-sanitizer in short supply, the United States – a country with a history of helping other nations conquer pandemics – got off to an agonizingly slow start in trying to contain coronavirus.

Wondering what an aggressive pandemic response looks like? Look to Taiwan, says Dr. C. Jason Wang, director of Stanford University’s Center for Policy, Outcomes and Prevention. Following the 2003 SARS epidemic, Taiwan dramatically built up its public health infrastructure to launch an immediate response to the next crisis. Continue reading

How a dating app helped a generation come out

Source: NYT (3/5/20)
How a Dating App Helped a Generation of Chinese Come Out of the Closet
Blued, one of the biggest gay dating apps in the world, has succeeded because it plays by the ever-shifting rules for L.G.B.T.Q. China — bringing together a minority community without activism.
By Yi-Ling Liu

Credit…Illustration by Timo Lenzen

Like many gay Chinese growing up at the turn of the millennium, Duan Shuai began his long, deliberate process of coming out online. After school, he would visit the newly opened internet cafe in his hometown, Xinzhou, a small city in Shanxi Province bounded by a veil of mountains. He would pick a desktop facing away from the wall so that nobody could look over his shoulder. Then he’d go to QQ, the new instant-messaging service and online forum, and type in the Chinese word for “homosexual” — tongzhi, or comrade.

Offline, Duan had known for a long time that he was different — and he knew no one else like him. Even in grade school, while his male classmates talked about girls, he nursed a secret crush on a boy, a gregarious, basketball-playing class monitor. Online, he stumbled into a world where he finally felt he belonged, a place where gay people like himself sought kinship and connection. When he was 17, he watched “Lan Yu,” a 2001 Chinese film about a love affair between a male college student from northern China and a businessman in Beijing, based on a novel published online by an author known only as Beijing Comrade. Duan was moved by one scene in particular, in which the businessman brings his lover home for the Chinese New Year to share a customary hotpot meal with his family. He caught a glimpse into a future he never knew existed — a future that was perhaps within his reach too. Continue reading

The assault on indigenous peoples in northwest China must end

Posted by: Magnus Fiskesjo <>
Source: American Anthropological Association (2/26/20)
The Assault on Indigenous Peoples in Northwest China Must End

A decade after the protests that sparked the crackdown in the Uyghur Autonomous Region (Xinjiang), the Chinese government continues its campaign of eliminating and replacing the Indigenous cultural systems and societies in the Uyghur and Kazakh regions of Northwest China. The eradication of these Indigenous identities must come to an end immediately.

More than one million mostly Muslim Uyghurs and members of other Indigenous groups have been detained in heavily policed re-education camps, a system that former detainees have said was created to eliminate their language and cultural heritage. By detaining more than 10 percent of the adult population, these internment camps have introduced endemic family separation throughout Uyghur and Kazakh societies. In the most densely populated areas of the Uyghur homeland, as many as 70 percent of minority children under the age of five have been placed in state-run boarding schools. At the same time, the region itself has been transformed into a surveillance state never seen anywhere else. Such an assault constitutes a deep form of injustice and a broad violation of civil and human rights. Continue reading

A fairy tale ending

Source: China Media Project (1/27/20)

A Fairy Tale Ending

Featured Image of Xi Jinping by Thierry Ehrmann available at under CC license.

How do you ensure a story has a fairy tale ending? You write the ending yourself of course. In recent days, official state media in China have celebrated the publication of A Battle Against Epidemic: China Combatting Covid-19 in 2020, a book that compiles writing by official state media to paint a portrait of leadership resolve in the face of a major challenge.

So it seems that while we all wait to see how the Covid-19 fares in the rest of the world, the verdict is already out on the epidemic as a major show of resolve on the part of the Chinese Communist Party. The story has already been written.

According to the Xinhua News Agency release on the book, it “collectively reflects General Secretary Xi Jinping’s commitment to the people, his sense of mission, his far-reaching strategic vision and outstanding leadership as the leader of a major power.” Continue reading

Poems from a Wuhan nurse

Source: China Digital Times (2/21/20)
Posted by 

The following  collection was written by “Wei Shuiyin” (弱水吟, given name Long Qiaoling 龙巧玲), who has been serving as a nurse in one of the dozen makeshift fangcang hospitals set up in Wuhan to combat the COVID-19 coronavirus epidemic. Long is a usually based at Shandan County People’s Hospital in Gansu Province; since the outbreak of the , she has been fighting on the frontline of prevention and control along with her colleagues. When she received news that  was in urgent need of medical workers, she volunteered to go to  with a medical team. The original post of the collection, translated below, was deleted from WeChat but has been archived by CDT Chinese.

[Chinese originals]

Please Don’t Disturb

Please allow me to take off my protective clothes and mask
To remove the flesh of my body from its armor
Let me trust my own health
Let me breathe undisturbed
The slogans are yours
The praise is yours
The propaganda, the model workers, all yours
I am merely performing my duties
Acting on a healer’s conscience
Often, there’s no choice but to go to battle bare-chested
Without time to choose between life and death
Genuinely without any lofty ideals
Please, don’t decorate me in garlands
Don’t give me applause
Spare me recognition for work injury, martyrdom, or any other merits
I didn’t come to Wuhan to admire the cherry blossoms
And I didn’t come for the scenery, the reception of flattery
I just want to return home safe when the epidemic ends
Even if all that remains are my bones
I must bring myself home to my children and parents
I ask:
Who wants to carry a comrade’s ashes
Setting foot on the road home
Media, journalists
Please don’t disturb me again
What you call the actual facts, the data
I haven’t the time or the inclination to follow
Weary all day, all night
Rest, sleep
This is more important than your praise
I invite you to go look, if you are able
At those washed out homes
Does smoke rise from the chimneys
The cell phones drifting about the crematorium
Have their owners been found? Continue reading

Coronavirus weakens propaganda machine

Source: NYT (2/26/20)
Coronavirus Weakens China’s Powerful Propaganda Machine
Beijing is pushing tales of perseverance, but many young people are openly questioning the Communist Party’s message.
By Li Yuan

Credit: Jialun Deng

Exhausted medical workers with faces lined from hours of wearing goggles and surgical masks. Women with shaved heads, a gesture of devotion. Retirees who donate their life savings anonymously in government offices.

Beijing is tapping its old propaganda playbook as it battles the relentless coronavirus outbreak, the biggest challenge to its legitimacy in decades. State media is filling smartphones and airwaves with images and tales of unity and sacrifice aimed at uniting the people behind Beijing’s rule. It even briefly offered up cartoon mascots named Jiangshan Jiao and Hongqi Man, characters meant to stir patriotic feelings among the young during the crisis.

The problem for China’s leaders: This time, it isn’t working so well. Continue reading

Yan Lianke on the coronavirus and memory

Source: The Initium (2/21/20)
By 閻連科

2020年2月15日,武漢大雪,一位男士拿著雨傘在路上。 圖:Getty Images

2020年2月15日,武漢大雪,一位男士拿著雨傘在路上。圖:Getty Images






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