Rose Boy

Source: SupChina (5/11/22)
‘Rose Boy’: How a death on campus changed LGBTQ education in Taiwan
The 22nd anniversary of the death of “Rose Boy” was commemorated in China, while the media coverage of an empowering song named after him attracted criticism for downplaying its progressive message.
By Nathan Wei

Illustration for SupChina by Derek Zheng

Welcome to our new China LGBTQ Column, a fortnightly round-up of news and stories related to the sexual and gender minority population in Greater China.

April 20 marked the 22nd anniversary of the death of Yeh Yung-chih (叶永志 Yè Yǒngzhì), also known as “Rose Boy” (méiguī shǎonián 玫瑰少年), an iconic figure in Chinese-speaking LGBTQ communities around the world.

On the morning of April 20, 2000, Yeh, who was at the time a junior high student in Taiwan, asked his teacher to go to the bathroom in the middle of a class. A few minutes later, he was found lying unconscious in a pool of blood on the bathroom floor. Yeh later died of head trauma at a local hospital at the age of 15. An investigation concluded it was an accident: as Yeh rushed back to the classroom, he slipped and fell head-first onto the wet floor in the bathroom.

Prior to his death, Yeh suffered verbal and physical bullying by schoolmates due to his non-conforming gender expression. Despite multiple complaints lodged by his mother, the school did nothing to improve the situation. Although there was no direct evidence connecting the incident to his past experience of being bullied, Yeh’s plight attracted a great deal of public attention and prompted local queer activists to advocate for more inclusive education on diverse sexuality and gender identities in school. Yeh’s mother, Chen Chun-ju (陈君汝 Chén Jūnrǔ), has also been participating in social activism proactively to seek justice for her son and to reach out to other youth. Continue reading

The rise of Chinese nonfiction

Source: Sixth Tone (3/16/22)
From Soundbites to Deep Dives: The Rise of Chinese Nonfiction
Dutch researcher Tabitha Speelman shares her observations on China’s nonfiction boom.
Interviewers: Xue Yongle, Fu Beimeng, and Xie Anran; editor: Kilian O’Donnell.

CSA-Printstock/iStock/VCG, reedited by Ding Yining/Sixth Tone.

As part of the Sixth Tone China Writing Contest, Sixth Tone is publishing interviews with contest judges in which they share their personal takes on the contest’s theme of “generations” and the value of nonfiction writing. To learn more about the contest, click here.

In 2017, the Dutch journalist Tabitha Speelman, then based in Beijing, started the Changpian newsletter. Her goal? To introduce China’s burgeoning nonfiction writing scene to readers around the world. An avid reader of Chinese media, she selected stories from a mix of traditional outlets and emerging WeMedia platforms. The idea was to reach beyond the soundbites that dominated international coverage of China and instead immerse China-watchers in longer narratives about human-interest topics and day-to-day life in the country.

Unlike English-language nonfiction, which is a far broader genre, Chinese nonfiction is a descendant of the country’s decades-old tradition of literary reporting. Speelman started Changpian at a time when this longform reporting tradition was being revived and repurposed for the social media era. Readers devoured real and dramatic stories from around China on platforms like microblogging site Weibo and messaging app WeChat, and major outlets soon started launching new sections dedicated to longform nonfiction writing. Continue reading

Class in China webinar series

Class in China – A series of webinars on the Peasants, the Middle Class and the Dominant Class
Marc Blecher, David Goodman, Yingjie Guo, Jean-Louis Rocca, Tony Saich and Beibei Tang have just published a co-authored two volume study of Class and the Communist Party of China.

Class and the Communist Party of China, 1921-1978: Revolution and Social Change
Class and the Communist Party of China, 1978-2021 : Reform and Market Socialism

In this series, the China Studies Centre will host webinars on the Peasantry, presented by Professor Yingjie Guo, Professor of Chinese Studies at the University of Sydney; on the Middle Class, presented by Professor Jean-Louis Rocca, Sciences Po, Paris; and David Goodman, Director of the China Studies Centre, University of Sydney. The webinars will be moderated by Professor Kam Louie FHKAH FAHA, former Dean of Arts at Hong Kong University.

The Peasant Class under the Impact of Industrialisation, Urbanisation, and Household Registration
Time: 5PM-6PM AEST
Date: Tuesday 3 May 2022

Between Dream and Nightmare in the Chinese Middle Class
Time: 5PM-6PM AEST
Date: Tuesday 10 May 2022

The Dominant Class after 1978: Elite Persistence and the Ironies of Social Change
Time: 5PM-6PM AEST
Date: Tuesday 17 May 2022

YANPING ZHANG | Centre Administrator
China Studies Centre, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences

Writing poetry in the workshop of the world

Source: Jacobin (4/26/22)
How China’s Labor Migrants Write Poetry in the Workshop of the World

The labor of hundreds of millions of rural-to-urban migrants has spurred China’s incredible levels of growth. This social transformation has birthed a tradition of migrant worker poetry, documenting the hardship of the workers behind China’s economic miracle.

A woman works in a textile factory in the Pearl River Delta industrial belt. (Qilai Shen / Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Time’s giant beak yawns     moonlight on the  machine / turns to rust . . . she sits in her seat / the products flowing by interlock with time     swallow it down     so quickly / she’s old now . . . for many years     she has stood guard / over the screws     one screw     another screw     turn to the left     turn to the right / fixing her dreams and her youth to a product     watching / her pallid youth     running always     from the rural backland / to a city on the seaboard     then to a store shelf in the US / exhaustion and workplace disease pile up in her lungs / stick in her throat     her period no longer on time / her coughing fierce . . . the machines around her / are shaking     she kneads her eyes red and swollen     then takes her self / and sticks it in between the products flowing by

Sticking your self, or what’s left of it, in between the products on the assembly line is the perfect image of alienation. A woman from the Chinese countryside is sucked into the factory workshop, becomes the lifeless export product she is made to assemble, and ends up thoroughly displaced and for sale. This chilling scene comes from Zheng Xiaoqiong’s “Woman Worker: Youth Fixed to a Seat,” the opening poem in Stories of Women Workers (Nügong ji, 2012). (This essay draws on my work on battler poetry since 2017. All translations are mine.) Continue reading

China sets aside push to spread wealth

Source: NYT (4/12/22)
China Sets Aside Push to Spread Wealth in Pivotal Year for Xi
Xi Jinping’s rhetoric about redistributing wealth was aimed partly at drumming up public support. But it unnerved entrepreneurs and posed a drag on growth.
By Keith Bradsher

Xi Jinping, China’s leader, is set to claim a third term in power later in the year. He has sought to portray China as more prosperous, powerful and stable under his rule.

Xi Jinping, China’s leader, is set to claim a third term in power later in the year. He has sought to portray China as more prosperous, powerful and stable under his rule. Credit…Kevin Frayer/Getty Images

BEIJING — For much of last year, China’s top leader, Xi Jinping, waged a fierce campaign to rein in private capital and narrow social inequalities. Regulators cracked down on tech giants and wealthy celebrities. Beijing demanded that tycoons give back to society. And the Communist Party promised that a new era of “common prosperity” was on the horizon.

Now, the Communist Party is putting its campaign on the back burner. In doing so, Beijing is tacitly acknowledging that Mr. Xi’s push to redistribute wealth has unnerved the private sector — a pillar of growth and job creation — at a time when China’s economic outlook is increasingly clouded.

To Beijing, ensuring the economy is stable and growing is paramount this year, an all too important one for Mr. Xi. As he prepares to claim a third five-year term later in the year, he has sought to portray China as more prosperous, powerful and stable under his rule. Officials have scrambled in recent months to try to reverse a slowdown in growth, made worse by surging global oil prices, uncertainty over the war in Ukraine and lockdowns in China to contain an unrelenting surge of coronavirus cases. Continue reading

Clickbait nationalism

Source: China Media Project (4/11/22)
Clickbait Nationalism Misses the Mark
The serious failings of Covid-19 responses in major cities like Changchun and Shanghai have deepened frustration online with influencers who continue, in the face of real suffering, to pander to China-can-do-no-wrong nationalism.
By Stella Chen

Image by Dan Nguyen available at under CC license.

As the lockdown in Shanghai enters its third week, first-hand accounts of the misery suffered by many of the city’s 26 million residents have fired across Chinese cyberspace. For many, the failings of the government response in China’s financial hub have called into question the country’s vaunted successes in dealing with the coronavirus pandemic. The failings have also deepened frustration online with those who continue, in the face of real suffering, to pander to China-can-do-no-wrong nationalism.

Two weeks ago, “Sai Lei Three Minutes” (赛雷三分钟), a popular Chinese blogger known for his mission to expose the alleged activities of “foreign hostile forces” working to smear China, posted to his 2.6 million followers on Weibo that he planned to release a video clip in which he had “baited” a journalist working for foreign media in China with a fake interview about conditions under Covid lockdown in the northern city of Changchun.

Sai Lei’s provocative Weibo post on March 29 included an image of his chat history on the WeChat messaging platform with a correspondent from Sveriges Radio, Sweden’s publicly funded radio broadcaster. The conversation showed Sai Lei impersonating a resident under lockdown in the city of Changchun, claiming to be unable to buy groceries. The Sveriges Radio journalist, understandably interested in the account of a source in the locked-down city, inquired about the situation and subsequently had a 24-minute conversation with Sai Lei, as shown by a “call duration” (童话时长) marker in the chat thread. Continue reading

Interview with Geremie Barmé (1)

Many thanks for posting Jeremy Goldkorn’s interview with Geremie Barmé. It sparkles with bons mots.

“. . . huge amounts of time and effort will be devoted to ferreting out every sign of change, every possibility of transformation, reform and opening up, every scintilla of difference that can be detected in the obsidian surface of Party control.”

” . . . the Tsar-like Putin in his glorious isolation at the end of his priapic white conference table.”

“A vast and majestic land is reduced to the sorry and pathetic scale of noxious self-regard.”

Marvelous, simply marvelous!

A. E. Clark

Interview with Geremie Barmé

Source: SupChina (4/8/22)
‘Ugh, here we are’ — Q&A with Geremie Barmé
We talked to renowned scholar Geremie R. Barmé about Shanghai under lockdown, Xi Jinping’s “empire of tedium,” nationalist thugs, and much more.

Illustration by Alex Santafé

Australian sinologist, author, translator, and filmmaker Geremie R. Barmé first went to China in 1974. He’s seen a thing or two. He’s written and edited a number of books on modern and traditional China, and held a variety of prestigious academic positions, most recently as the founding director of the Australian Centre on China in the World in Canberra. He is also an occasional contributor to SupChina, and an old friend of mine. Geremie is the founding editor of China Heritage, where he is currently publishing a series of his essays on “Xi Jinping’s Empire of Tedium.” We spoke by video call on April 7. This is an abridged, edited transcript of our conversation.

—Jeremy Goldkorn

Earlier this week, we published a translation of yours of a rant by a Shanghainese man captured on video, that circulated virally in China for a couple of days before being censored. The man looks to be in his late sixties or seventies, and he rails at quarantine workers in hazmat suits about the lockdowns in Shanghai, comparing them, unfavorably, with earlier periods of crisis in China’s 20th-century history.

Can you talk a little bit about why somebody would talk about the death of Máo Zédōng 毛泽东 and Dèng Xiǎopíng 邓小平 now, and compare it with the way he’s being treated in Shanghai in the lockdown?

Well, it’s a fairly typical way to frame things for people of that generation — he says he’s in his late 60s and he’s labeled as an ‘old man’. Guess we belong to the same era as I’m 67 myself and the way he puts things resonates with me, as much of my “China life” overlaps with aspects of his generation.

So, since he is of that vintage, it’s hardly surprising that hardline government control today immediately brings to mind other periods when the government has intervened in daily life in an outrageously invasive fashion. For example, the fellow starts off by mentioning sparrows. This is a reference to policies of the Great Leap Forward era of his youth when, since the nation was starving due to Mao’s botched “leap” in Communism, the call went up to eliminate sparrows and other pests that threatened already-depleted food stocks. Then he mentions other events, like the Cultural Revolution. He scoffs at the “Big Whites” in hazmat suits for trying to outdo the extremism of the Cultural Revolution, to put on a show of being more revolutionary than everyone else. Continue reading

Language of Covid Symposium

An online Covid-19 symposium at the University of Richmond

The University of Richmond will host a Covid-19 symposium on April 13 and 14, featuring addresses, expert panels, artistic screenings, and a performance exploring the ways the Covid-19 pandemic was lived, dealt with, and mitigated by various cultures and languages. Welcome to register and attend the event virtually or in person:

Gengsong Gao <>

Organ-harvesting news

Some thoughts on the implications of today’s frightening organ-harvesting news.

Evidence has been piling up for organ harvesting in China, including as part of the ongoing genocide in the Uyghur region — observations that healthy young men were taken away, never to return; airports setting up special human organ transport channels; wealthy foreigners strangely able to schedule fast transplants, and so on. It would make sense in terms of how Chinese authorities have been carrying out the genocide: detaining mass numbers of people, then transferring some to slavery, some to prisons, while many are unaccounted for. –One estimate says 25,000 Uyghurs a year are killed for their organs.

But, much of the evidence about organ harvesting has been circumstantial, and of course the regime denies everything, as usual. Now, a new study claims to have located a “smoking gun”, through meticulous research, that has yielded new evidence for how organs are harvested from healthy prisoners in China — who are kept alive until their heart is cut out.

The researchers themselves explained their research step by step on Twitter and here, and posted their article open access. Also, see this write-up in Haaretz, including on the significance of the new study in the wider context of what has been known about organ harvesting so far. Continue reading

Gender bending in fiction and real life

Source: SupChina (3/25/22)
Gender bending in China, in fiction and real life
We asked journalist and culture writer Jin Zhao all about Chinese queer radio plays and homoerotic fiction, genres that have a surprisingly large fan base in China.
By Jeremy Goldkorn

Illustration by Alex Santafé.

China is not a progressive country when it comes to LGBTQ rights and social acceptance. But it’s not all heteronormative: The country is, in some ways, surprisingly tolerant of non-binary ideas about gender, and one of the most vibrant and popular genres of Chinese fiction is danmei (耽美 dānměi), stories of gay male romances. To help us understand what is going on, I spoke to Jin Zhao. We talked last week by video chat. This is an abridged, edited transcript of our conversation.—Jeremy Goldkorn

You’ve recently written about danmei for SupChina. What is danmei? Who writes it and who reads it?

Danmei is a genre of fiction in China that features male protagonists, who over the course of the story will develop romantic or sexual relationships. It’s a kind of fiction that features a same-sex male romantic relationship. And…

But it’s not necessarily gay men who are the most avid consumers of it, right?

Not really. I mean, at least in China, they are most popular among women readers. Data from one of the most prominent websites that publishes danmei fiction, Jinjiang Literature City, indicates that 93% of their users are women. And they tend to be young women as well, because 84% of these readers are aged 18 to 35. So they are most likely young women in China who are reading these novels.


I think, from conversations that I had with these fans, these readers, most say that because they are unsatisfied with heterosexual romantic stories, romances, because the female characters are not portrayed as full human beings who go about doing things. Continue reading

Queer Chinese-Language Literature–cfp

Queer Chinese-Language Literature
Call for Book Chapters

In the past two decades, critical engagements with queer Chinese-language literature have brought attention to how non-normative desires, sexualities, and identities have been represented in literary forms. For example, Tze-lan Sang (2003) traces the history of queer women’s writings in modern China to investigate the role of modernity and globalisation in shaping queer women’s desires; Fran Martin (2003) analyses the rise to prominence of cultures of queer sexuality in Taiwan during the 1990s to demonstrate that dissident sexualities in non-Western contexts cannot be reduced to the homogenising force of globalisation. Recently, there has also been a proliferation of path-breaking monographs and edited collections on tongzhi literature, including Petrus Liu’s (2015) Queer Marxism in Two Chinas, Wai Siam-Hee’s (2015) From Amorous Histories to Sexual Histories: Tongzhi Writings and the Construction of Masculinities in Late Qing and Modern China(從豔史到性史:同志書寫與近現代中國的男性建構), Ta-wei Chi’s (2017) A Queer Invention in Taiwan: A History of Tongzhi Literature(同志文學史:台灣的發明),  Hongwei Bao’s (2020) Queer China: Lesbian and Gay Literature and Visual Culture Under Postsocialism, and Howard Chiang’s (2021) edited anthology Queer Taiwanese Literature: A Reader, among others. All these exciting works testify to a sustained scholarly interest in queer Chinese-language literature and the necessity of compiling a critical anthology on the topic. Continue reading

Divorce is down, but so are marriages

Source: NYT (3/23/22)
Divorce Is Down in China, but So Are Marriages
While officials say a new law has helped save marriages, the bigger challenge in the country’s demographic crisis is that fewer people are getting married in the first place.
By Alexandra Stevenson

A Chinese couple celebrating their wedding, outside the Forbidden City in Beijing.

A Chinese couple celebrating their wedding, outside the Forbidden City in Beijing. Credit…Kevin Frayer/Getty Images

HONG KONG — Faced with a soaring divorce rate, the ruling Communist Party in China introduced a rule last year to keep unhappy marriages together by forcing couples to undergo a 30-day “cooling off” period before finalizing a divorce.

The rule appears to have worked, according to government statistics released this week, which show a steep drop in divorce filings in 2021.

Local officials have hailed the new rule as a success in the country’s effort to grow families and curb a demographic crisis threatening China’s economy. But the party has a much bigger challenge to reckon with: Fewer and fewer Chinese citizens are getting married in the first place.

Along with the decline in the divorce rate, the number of marriage registrations plunged to a 36-year low in 2021. The fall in marriages has contributed to a plummet in birthrates, a worrying sign in China’s rapidly graying society and a phenomenon more familiar in countries like Japan and South Korea. Continue reading

Beating Japan at its own (video) game

Source: NYT (3/16/22)
Beating Japan at Its Own (Video) Game: A Smash Hit From China
Genshin Impact, a nearly picture-perfect reproduction of Japanese fantasy role-playing games, has raked in billions of dollars and sent shock waves through the world’s aging video game superpower
By Ben Dooley and Paul Mozur

An advertisement for Genshin Impact in the Akihabara district of Tokyo.

An advertisement for Genshin Impact in the Akihabara district of Tokyo. Credit…Noriko Hayashi for The New York Times

TOKYO — Genshin Impact, one of the world’s hottest mobile video games, has all the characteristics of a Japanese invention: giant robots; human-size swords; characters with huge eyes and spiky, rainbow-colored hair; and a puzzling fixation on women in maid outfits.

There’s just one catch: It’s Chinese.

Released in late 2020, the game is the first bona fide international smash hit for China’s video game industry. In its first year on the market, it raked in $2 billion, a record for mobile games, according to Sensor Tower, a firm that monitors mobile apps. And, unlike other popular Chinese games, it is believed to have generated most of its revenue from overseas.

The game’s success points to a shifting balance of power in the $200 billion-a-year global video game industry, which has long been dominated by Japan and the United States. Continue reading

How China’s feminists are supporting one another

Source: SupChina (3/8/22)
How China’s young feminists are embracing and supporting one another
Standing in front of muchroom pub in Chengdu, one feels a sense of openness. It all ties into the founders’ goals of fostering a community where people feel safe to speak honestly and freely.
By Wanqing Chen

Illustration for SupChina by Chelsea Feng

Two years ago, while mostly working and studying at home during the COVID-19 pandemic, Fēibái 飞白 and Zuǒyī 左一 witnessed a fresh current of online hostility toward women. The two friends came up with an idea to build a communal space for women, like a social agora. “We hoped to expand public discussions to offline spaces,” Feibai said. “At that time, I also attended some feminist events, but it felt like they were fighting a guerrilla war, since they never had a fixed venue where people could gather and raise people’s awareness of gender issues.”

In July 2020, Zuoyi and Feibai opened the pub muchroom in Chengdu (the bar’s name is lower-cased as a tribute to American author bell hooks). “There is a simple explanation for the name — it can be a communal space or a small, unassuming room where much happens,” Zuoyi said. “The pub allows us to have serious discussions, but it can also be used more casually.” Their goal is to eventually expand their community.

Like Feibai and Zuoyi, a growing number of young women across China are fostering their own feminist communities via online and offline activities. Take, for example, Echo Mao, a frequent visitor to muchroom, and Guō Zǎ 郭咋, a part-time waitress there. Continue reading