How to survive as a woman at a Chinese banquet

Source: NYT (11/30/19)
How to Survive as a Woman at a Chinese Banquet
Important: Always know when you’re “the girl.”
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By Yan Ge

[Ms. Yan is the author of 13 books, including, most recently, “The Chilli Bean Paste Clan.”]

Credit…Lisk Feng

A Chinese banquet can be many things, but it is never a gastronomic occasion.

It is more like a sport, one in which the primary goal is to drink a toast with each individual sitting around the table, in a rigid successive order, starting with the most prominent and proceeding clockwise. If that sounds straightforward, it isn’t: Bear in mind that everyone at the table is playing the same game simultaneously, which means just as you’ve homed in on your target and are ready to make your move, he could be raising a toast to another guest, who could very well be looking to drink with someone else.

Other rules: Make sure to turn the shot of baijiu bottoms up with every encounter; say flattering words in your toast, but nothing too flowery; appear cordial and personable; smile, but avoid inappropriate body contact. Finally, while you’re busy circling the table, don’t forget to eat. Continue reading

Qian Haifeng captures China’s slow trains

Source: SCMP (11/29/19)
Blue-collar photographer’s slice-of-life photos aboard China’s slow trains capture a side of country forgotten amid the fanfare over high-speed progress
China’s high-speed trains are a gleaming testament to its rise, but in the shadows is another world, one documented by a hotel worker with a second-hand Nikon. Qian Haifeng set out to see country on the cheap, and began photographing his fellow passengers. His images have won him national and international recognition
By Thomas Bird

Photographer Qian Haifeng. Photo: Thomas Bird

Photographer Qian Haifeng. Photo: Thomas Bird

Edging the banks of mighty Lake Tai and bisected by the fabled Grand Canal, Wuxi in eastern China has been a favoured place of trade since antiquity. Wedged between economic heavyweights Suzhou and Changzhou in Jiangsu province, the manu­facturing hub has awoken from its post-socialist slumber and is now known more for software and solar panels than silk and rice.

The Wuxi Grand Hotel looms large over the city’s Binhu district, where, in a 20th-floor Japanese restaurant, appears the hotel’s long-serving electrician, Qian Haifeng. The 52-year-old is sporting brown worker over­­alls and big black boots. He is a little hard of hearing but a boyish energy projects the character of someone much younger.

“Sorry to bring you all the way up here,” Qian says in Mandarin lilted with the local Jiangnan dialect. “I usually eat in cheap noodle shops on the street but I’m not allowed to leave the hotel while on duty. At least up here you get a good view of Wuxi.” Continue reading

Parents of HK protesters come to the front lines

Source: NYT (11/19/19)
Parents of Besieged Hong Kong Protesters Come to the Front Lines
The parents of young people under siege at a university emerged as a call for compromise.
By Tiffany May and 

Teachers and relatives waited for student protesters to surrender at Hong Kong Polytechnic University on Tuesday. Credit…Thomas Peter/Reuters

HONG KONG — One mother fell to her knees before riot police officers and begged for her daughter’s release. Another promised she would boil soup for a trapped son before he made a desperate escape across police lines. From a distance, a father got his first glimpse of his son in days — as the son was led away in handcuffs.

As the police siege of Hong Kong Polytechnic University trapped more than 1,000 pro-democracy protesters this week, another group entangled in the city’s crisis has turned conspicuously outspoken: their parents.

The voices of mothers and fathers, racked by fear and anger, emerged as a call for compromise in the standoff on the campus, where on Tuesday several dozen holdouts remained. Continue reading

More than 70% of divorces in China are initiated by women

Source: Sup China (11/13/19)
More Than 70 Percent Of Divorces In China Are Initiated By Women

Disrupting long-held assumptions that Chinese women tend to endure unhappy marriages due to societal expectations and economic pressures, a recent speech given by Zhōu Qiáng 周强, president of the Supreme People’s Court, revealed that over 70 percent of divorces in China are initiated by women.

Zhou, China’s highest-ranking judge, made the striking revelation on November 6, in a speech (in Chinese) at Beijing’s Tsinghua University. Commenting on the topic of China’s overall divorce rate, which has been rising continuously since 2002, Zhou said that roughly 74 percent of the divorces handled by Chinese courts were filed by women. He also pointed out that contrary to the popular belief that most couples start to unravel at the seven-year mark, Chinese marriages are inclined to fall apart as soon as three years after the wedding. Continue reading

Why Chinese rappers don’t fight the power

Posted by Magnus Fiskesjö <>
Source: BBC (11/6/19)
Why Chinese rappers don’t fight the power
Many of China’s best-known rappers have decided to voice their politics, but in contrast to rap’s anti-establishment roots, these artists are asserting a distinctly nationalist tone.
By Yi-Ling Liu. BBC Music

The Higher Brothers are one of a new breed of Chinese hip-hop acts eyeing international success (Credit; Getty Images)

In 2015, Chinese hip-hop group Higher Brothers learned something the hard way: be very careful when your songs turn political.

The source of controversy was an anti-Uber song. “I don’t write political hip-hop,” spat out by the group’s rapper Melo. “But if any politicians try to shut me up, I’ll cut off their heads and lay them at their corpses’ feet. This time it’s Uber that’s investigated. Next time it will be you.” It led to the song being blocked by Chinese censors, and Melo called in for questioning by the local Public Security Bureau.

Since then, Higher Brothers have garnered widespread success both at home and abroad, partly thanks to landing their first American tour to promote their album Journey To The West. Alongside many of China’s rising crop of hip-hop artists, they’ve stormed onto both the local and global stage – and largely steered clear of politics. Continue reading

The Xinjiang Papers

Source: NYT (11/16/19)
THE XINJIANG PAPERS: ‘Absolutely No Mercy’: Leaked Files Expose How China Organized Mass Detentions of Muslims
More than 400 pages of internal Chinese documents provide an unprecedented inside look at the crackdown on ethnic minorities in the Xinjiang region.

HONG KONG — The students booked their tickets home at the end of the semester, hoping for a relaxing break after exams and a summer of happy reunions with family in China’s far west.

Instead, they would soon be told that their parents were gone, relatives had vanished and neighbors were missing — all of them locked up in an expanding network of detention camps built to hold Muslim ethnic minorities.
The authorities in the Xinjiang region worried the situation was a powder keg. And so they prepared.

The leadership distributed a classified directive advising local officials to corner returning students as soon as they arrived and keep them quiet. It included a chillingly bureaucratic guide for how to handle their anguished questions, beginning with the most obvious: Where is my family?

They’re in a training school set up by the government,” the prescribed answer began. If pressed, officials were to tell students that their relatives were not criminals — yet could not leave these “schools.” Continue reading

LGBTQ+ Rights and the Struggle for Democracy in HK

Roundtable: ‘LGBTQ+ Rights and the Struggle for Democracy in Hong Kong’
Date: 25 Nov 2019
Time: 18:00-19:30
Venue: Room UG05, 309 Regent Street, W1B 2GW, University of Westminster, London
ALL ARE WELCOME but registration is required here.

Photo credit: Hong Kong Pride 2018 (with permission from Dr Daniel Conway)


Hong Kong has been gripped by widespread protests and demands for greater democracy in recent months.  While studies have begun to address the engagement of other marginalized groups such as women and ethnic minority in social movements and protest, the roles that lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer plus (LGBTQ+) people play in non-LGBTQ+ specific politics have been given little academic attention. This invisibilization of LGBTQ+ people in wider social movement raises many questions. This roundtable will begin to explore the level of engagement of LGBTQ+ people in the movement for democracy in Hong Kong, pose questions about the intersections between LGBTQ+ rights and democracy and social justice, and ask whether these rights are articulated  in intersectional terms, or whether LGBTQ+ communities and rights are being overlooked or in the current protests in Hong Kong. We will also discuss comparisons with LGBTQ+ people and rights discourses in other struggles for democracy and social justice.

Speakers: Dr Suen Yiu Tung (Chinese University of Hong Kong), Eliz Wong (London School of Economics and Political Science) and Dr Daniel Conway (University of Westminster) Continue reading

The Bookworm to close

Source: SCMP (11/5/19)
The Bookworm, a centre of literary life in Beijing, to close, unable to renew its lease amid crackdown on ‘illegal structures’
A cafe, a community centre, a place for lively discussion and for authors to meet their readers, The Bookworm has survived for 17 years in the Chinese capital. Co-founder says it is a victim of clean-up by city planners, and won’t speculate on a political motive; patrons take to social media to voice their sadness.
By Elaine Yau

David Cantalupo, co-founder of The Bookworm, takes a phone call at the bookstore in Beijing on Tuesday as customers look on. The store, a cornerstone of the expatriate literary community in the Chinese capital, announced it would close on November 11 having been unable to renew its lease. Photo: Simon Song

David Cantalupo, co-founder of The Bookworm, takes a phone call at the bookstore in Beijing on Tuesday as customers look on. The store, a cornerstone of the expatriate literary community in the Chinese capital, announced it would close on November 11 having been unable to renew its lease. Photo: Simon Song

Book lovers in Beijing have been left saddened by the impending closure of a cornerstone of the city’s expatriate community.

The Bookworm, a bookshop in the shopping hub of Sanlitun that is beloved by expatriates and locals alike, announced on Tuesday that it would close on November 11.

Its general manager, David Cantalupo, told the Post he was very sad that they had been unable to secure an extension on their lease. Continue reading

Potemkin Xinjiang

Source: Globe and Mail (11/4/19)
‘Like a movie’: In Xinjiang, new evidence that China stages prayers, street scenes for visiting delegations

People walking past a mosque in Urumqi, the regional capital of Xinjiang, on Sept. 11, 2019. HECTOR RETAMAL/AFP/GETTY IMAGES

One day last October, eight local officials entered Zumuret Dawut’s home in Urumqi, the regional capital of northwestern China’s Xinjiang region. They came to ask her elderly father to pray – and they promised to pay.

They said, “We will give you 20 renminbi for each time you pray,” Ms. Dawut recalled in an interview. “You will need to pray five times tomorrow. So we will give you 100 renminbi” – about $18.50.

Her 79-year-old father was puzzled. He had long since stopped attending the local mosque out of fear the authorities would see his religious observance as a sign of radicalization and place him in an indoctrination centre, as the government has done with hundreds of thousands of Muslims in the region. The mosque was considered closed. Continue reading

Professors, beware

Source: NYT (11/1/19)
Professors, Beware. A ‘Student Information Officer’ Might Be Watching
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By Javier C. Hernández

You Shengdong, a professor, was fired by a university in China last year after students reported him for questioning a political slogan favored by Xi Jinping, the country’s leader. Credit: Jeenah Moon for The New York Times

CHENGDU, China — With a neon-red backpack and white Adidas shoes, he looks like any other undergraduate on the campus of Sichuan University in southwestern China.

But Peng Wei, a 21-year-old chemistry major, has a special mission: He is both student and spy.

Mr. Peng is one of a growing number of “student information officers” who keep tabs on their professors’ ideological views. They are there to help root out teachers who show any sign of disloyalty to President Xi Jinping and the ruling Communist Party.

“It’s our duty to make sure that the learning environment is pure,” Mr. Peng said, “and that professors are following the rules.” Continue reading

Making political mythology

Source: China Media Project (10/24/19)

Making Political Mythology

For generations in China, the status of self-effacing soldier Lei Feng as the pre-eminent model of the ideal citizen has seemed unassailable. The myth of Lei Feng has been dusted off and recycled periodically over the decades, the last peak coming in 2013 to mark fifty years since Mao Zedong’s formal launch of the “Learn from Comrade Lei Feng” campaign — which came in 1963 with the widespread publication of the hero’s greatly embellished diary.

The tales and imagery surrounding this hero of the people, with overwrought messages of self-sacrifice, seem absurdly theatrical today. Lei Feng weeps as he resolves to donate his mooncakes during Autumn Festival to a hospital where those injured in the struggle to build a socialist society are recuperating. We are told how, with devoted hands-on study, he teaches himself how best to throw a hand grenade — without any apparent recognition on the part of myth-makers or military commanders of the total folly this involves. He takes smiling joy in basic acts like shoveling manure and darning his own socks. Continue reading

Made in China 4.3

Dear Colleagues,

I am glad to announce the publication of the latest issue of the Made in China Journal. You can download the pdf for free at this link:

Below you can find the editorial:

Bless You, Prison: Experiences of Detention in China

‘Bless you prison, bless you for being in my life. For there, lying upon the rotting prison straw, I came to realise that the object of life is not prosperity as we are made to believe, but the maturity of the human soul.’–Aleksandr I. Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago 1918–1956

With these words, Soviet star dissident Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn exalted the transformative role of the gulag—where he had been imprisoned for eight years—in reconfiguring his soul. Just like his account of life in the labour camps played a fundamental role in shaping public perceptions of the Soviet labour camps, our views of the Chinese detention system are also widely shaped by the writings and testimonies of former political prisoners, whether victims of the mass campaigns of the Mao era or more recent crackdowns against dissident voices. Reading these accounts, detention easily assumes the tragic connotations of martyrdom, and detainees come to be surrounded by a halo of heroism. But what about those uncountable prisoners who are detained for common crimes or less-noble causes? What about the reality of murderers, thieves, drug addicts, and prostitutes? Is prison a blessing for them too? Continue reading

China sharpens hacking to hound its minorities

Source: NYT (10/22/19)
China Sharpens Hacking to Hound Its Minorities, Far and Wide
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By Nicole Perlroth, Kate Conger, Paul Mozur

Uighur teenagers on their phones in Kashgar in China’s Xinjiang region. Chinese hackers have secretly monitored the cellphones of Uighurs and Tibetans around the globe. Credit: Gilles Sabrié for The New York Times

SAN FRANCISCO — China’s state-sponsored hackers have drastically changed how they operate over the last three years, substituting selectivity for what had been a scattershot approach to their targets and showing a new determination by Beijing to push its surveillance state beyond its borders.

The government has poured considerable resources into the change, which is part of a reorganization of the national People’s Liberation Army that President Xi Jinping initiated in 2016, security researchers and intelligence officials said.

China’s hackers have since built up a new arsenal of techniques, such as elaborate hacks of iPhone and Android software, pushing them beyond email attacks and the other, more basic tactics that they had previously employed. Continue reading

Chinese Individualisation and Confucian Revival

Lecture Title: “Chinese individualisation and Confucian revival: Parental actions in emerging Confucian education”
Speaker: Dr Canglong Wang (University of Hull)
Date: 6 Nov 2019 Wednesday
Time: 6-730pm
Venue: Room 152, 309 Regent Street, University of Westminster W1B 2HW


The current research on the individualisation of Chinese society in relation to the recent Confucian revival has remained a relatively unexplored topic. This talk offers a theoretically informed analysis of interview data with parents involved in a Confucian school, and contributes to offering insight into the scholarly gaps in both theory and evidence by exploring how the parental actors arise as critical individuals in the emerging domain of Confucian education, their disembedding actions from the mainstream state school system, and the paradox of regaining ‘safety’ in struggling to return. Continue reading