Chinese sports machine

Source: NYT (7/29/21)
The Chinese Sports Machine’s Single Goal: The Most Golds, at Any Cost
China relies on a system that puts tens of thousands of children in government-run training schools. Many of the young athletes are funneled into less prominent sports that Beijing hopes to dominate.
By Hannah Beech

Hou Zhihui of China won weight lifting gold in the women’s 49-kilogram division in Tokyo and shattered three Olympic records, part of a fearsome Chinese squad that aimed to sweep every weight class it was contesting.

Hou Zhihui of China won weight lifting gold in the women’s 49-kilogram division in Tokyo and shattered three Olympic records, part of a fearsome Chinese squad that aimed to sweep every weight class it was contesting. Credit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

TOKYO — Six days a week since she was 12 years old, with only a few days of time away each year, Hou Zhihui has been driven by one mission: heaving more than double her body weight into the air.

On Saturday, at the Tokyo Olympics, Hou’s dedication — sequestered from her family, dogged by near constant pain — paid off. She won gold in the 49-kilogram division and shattered three Olympic records, part of a fearsome Chinese women’s weight lifting squad that aimed to sweep every weight class it was contesting.

“The Chinese weight lifting team is very cohesive, and the support from the entire team is very good,” Hou, 24, said after winning gold. “The only thing we athletes think about is focusing on training.”

China’s sports assembly line is designed for one purpose: churning out gold medals for the glory of the nation. Silver and bronze barely count. By fielding 413 athletes in Tokyo, its largest ever delegation, China aims to land at the top of the gold medal count — even if the Chinese public is increasingly wary of the sacrifices made by individual athletes.

“We must resolutely ensure we are first in gold medals,” Gou Zhongwen, the head of the Chinese Olympic Committee, said on the eve of the Tokyo Olympics. Continue reading

Latest target of HK crackdown: children’s books

Source: NYT (7/22/21)
The Latest Target of Hong Kong’s Crackdown: Children’s Books
A story that portrayed the police as wolves helped lead to the arrests of five leaders of a speech therapists’ union.
By Austin Ramzy and Tiffany May

A hooded suspect led by a police officer during the arrests of five leaders of a speech therapists’ union in Hong Kong on Thursday. Credit…Vincent Yu/Associated Press

HONG KONG — The fluffy white sheep were constantly harassed by wolves, who tore down their houses, ate their food and even sprayed poison gas. It became too much, and 12 sheep who had tried to defend their village were forced to flee by boat. But they were captured and sent to prison.

That story was told in a children’s book published last year in Hong Kong. The sheep represented 12 activists arrested at sea while trying to escape to Taiwan. The wolves were the Hong Kong police.

On Thursday, the police arrested five leaders of the group behind the book, a speech therapists’ union, accusing them of instilling hatred of the government in children.

With the arrests, the authorities expanded, to the most elementary level of printed materials, a crackdown on political speech aimed at stamping out the dissent expressed during mass protests in 2019. Continue reading

What China scholars can do about Xinjiang crisis

Source: University of Westminster Contemporary China Blog (7/21/21)
What China Studies Scholars Can Do about the Xinjiang Crisis
By Guldana Salimjan

In 2019, at a dinner conversation with several established China scholars, I mentioned that it is dangerous for me to return to China and do further research because of the dire situation in Xinjiang. A professor from China was puzzled, ‘Why is that? I go back to my field site every year!’ I sighed but quickly explained to her, ‘Because right now the government has campaigns targeting Turkic Muslim people, and I am from one of these communities.’ She still expressed disbelief and continued, ‘But you are not Uyghur—they are outrageous.’ I was utterly shocked this time and my mind went blank. A friend and colleague overheard us and intervened, which prompted the professor to defend her remarks: ‘normal Chinese people’ think that Uyghurs ‘are outrageous,’ she added. She offered the excuse that because she conducted fieldwork in eastern China and predominantly Han areas, her knowledge of Xinjiang was based on the ideas of people there. This, she thought, justified her bigoted pronouncements that Uyghurs ‘are outrageous’ and not ‘normal Chinese people.’ In the end, she deferred by saying that she was actually not very informed about Xinjiang and was simply quoting her interlocutors’ opinions. Continue reading

Jin Xing, transgender star

Source: NYT (7/16/21)
She’s One of China’s Biggest Stars. She’s Also Transgender.
阅读简体中文版 | 閱讀繁體中文版
Jin Xing, the first person in China to openly undergo transition surgery, is a household name. But she says she’s no standard-bearer for the L.G.B.T.Q. community.
By Vivian Wang and Joy Dong

“Stick whatever label on me, male or female, I’m still a very luminous person,” says Jin Xing, a well-known Chinese television personality. Credit…Gilles Sabrié for The New York Times

Jin Xing, a 53-year-old television host often called China’s Oprah Winfrey, holds strong views about what it means to be a woman. She has hounded female guests to hurry up and get married, and she has pressed others to give birth. When it comes to men, she has recommended that women act helpless to get their way.

That might not be so unusual in China, where traditional gender norms are still deeply embedded, especially among older people. Except Ms. Jin is no typical Chinese star.

As China’s first — and even today, only — major transgender celebrity, Ms. Jin is in many ways regarded as a progressive icon. She underwent transition surgery in 1995, the first person in the country to do so openly. She went on to host one of China’s most popular talk shows, even as stigmas against L.G.B.T.Q. people remained — and still remain — widespread.

China’s best-known personalities appeared on her program, “The Jin Xing Show.” Brad Pitt once bumbled through some Mandarin with her to promote a film. Continue reading

Ketamine and the return of the party-state

Source: Palladium (6/23/21)
Ketamine and the Return of the Party-State

Yiran Ding/Shanghai

The riot cops marched in and arranged themselves around the dance floor in a well-practiced formation. As they approached me and my friends, I could feel my pulse quicken. The police came to a halt within spitting distance, taking in the entire scene. I knew they had a clear view of the mounds of ketamine on the table in front of me.

It wasn’t mine, I swear. But I didn’t want to have to explain that while sitting in a tiger chair at a Public Security Bureau detention center. Fortunately, it never came to that: they glanced around and then walked out. The man across the table from me went back to work dividing lines with his Agricultural Bank of China debit card. The six-fingered Uzbek dancer got back up on the bar and undressed to a Eurobeat remix of a Mongolian folk song. Faces bent to the table.

I saw this scene replayed across China many times in the early 2000s, from provincial capitals to backwater towns. The nightlife ran on ketamine. If it wasn’t being openly displayed on club tables beside the fruit platters and bottle service jugs of Qoo and Red Label, then it was cut into neat lines and stashed in an ashtray. It appeared in Qzone photo albums, staged beside pink straws and stacks of red hundred-yuan notes. Continue reading

The Han Supremacy

Source: Time Magazine (7/12/21)
The Han supremacy
Beijing’s Ominous Campaign to Define What It Means to Be Chinese

PHOTOGRAPH BY KHADIJA FARAH FOR TIME: Gulzira Auelkhan, a survivor of the notorious “re-education centers” in Xinjiang, China

IN JULY 2017, GULZIRA AUELKHAN’S father fell ill. So she made the short hop from her village in the windswept Kazakhstan countryside into her native China to care for him. Upon arrival in the western province of Xinjiang, however, she was arrested, for no given reason. No charges were ever brought, but she spent the next 15 months being ferried between five different prison camps with barbed wire and watchtowers, during which she was interrogated 19 times and tortured with electric batons. Her interrogators had no clear explanation for her detention. “Once they asked me, ‘Do you have a TV in Kazakhstan?’” says Auelkhan, 42. “‘In which case your ideology has been corrupted.’”

Auelkhan, an ethnic Kazakh Muslim who grew up speaking a Turkic dialect, was forced to learn Mandarin Chinese, salute the Chinese flag and sing songs exulting the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) beneath photos of President Xi Jinping. “We all had to eat pork, and I was forced to burn a Koran and a prayer mat,” she says. “There was to be no more praying.” Afterward, she was sent to a labor camp for two months, where she sewed gloves until she says her neck ached and her eyes turned bloodshot. Continue reading

Women filmmakers

Source: NYT (7/14/21)
China’s Women Filmmakers Are Embracing Their Stories. Moviegoers Are Loving It.
China has many talented female directors, but few have seen runaway box office success. That changed with two recent movies, “Hi, Mom” and “Sister.”
By Amy Qin and Amy Chang Chien

A display for “Hi, Mom” outside a cinema in Beijing. It is the top-grossing film in China this year.Credit…Greg Baker/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Two of the biggest films in China this year were neither chest-thumping odes to patriotism nor slapstick buddy comedies. They featured no superheroes or intricately choreographed car chase scenes.

Instead, they were thoughtful explorations of issues that are familiar to millions of women in China today, like the constant struggle between family obligations and career ambitions or the complicated bond between a mother and a daughter.

The two films, “Hi, Mom” and “Sister,” are part of a wave of movies made by female directors that are challenging the notion of what it takes to conquer China’s vaunted film market — now the world’s largest. And while each film is distinct, together they stand out for what they represent: a rejection of the one-dimensional female roles often seen in commercial Chinese movies, like the lovelorn maiden or the “flower vase,” a derogatory Chinese term for a pretty face.

“The new breed of women’s films are more subtle, nuanced, and realistic,” said Ying Zhu, a scholar of Chinese film and author of the forthcoming book “Hollywood in China: Behind the Scenes of the World’s Largest Market.”

Continue reading

China’s bitter youths embrace Mao

Source: NYT (7/8/21)
‘Who Are Our Enemies?’ China’s Bitter Youths Embrace Mao.
The chairman’s call for struggle and violence against capitalists is winning over a new audience of young people frustrated with long work hours and dwindling opportunities.
By Li Yuan

Credit…Xinmei Liu

They read him in libraries and on subways. They organized online book clubs devoted to his works. They uploaded hours of audio and video, spreading the gospel of his revolutionary thinking.

Chairman Mao is making a comeback among China’s Generation Z. The Communist Party’s supreme leader, whose decades of nonstop political campaigns cost millions of lives, is inspiring and comforting disaffected people born long after his death in 1976. To them, Mao Zedong is a hero who speaks to their despair as struggling nobodies.

In a modern China grappling with widening social inequality, Mao’s words provide justification for the anger many young people feel toward a business class they see as exploitative. They want to follow in his footsteps and change Chinese society — and some have even talked about violence against the capitalist class if necessary.

The Mao fad lays bare the paradoxical reality facing the party, which celebrated the centenary of its founding last week. Under President Xi Jinping, the party has made itself central to nearly every aspect of Chinese life. It claims credit for the economic progress the country has made and tells the Chinese people to be grateful. Continue reading

Decoding China Tech Corporate Gibberish

Source: China Narrative 52 (7/5/21)
Trained, Tamed, Coined: Decoding China Tech Corporate Gibberish

Photo by Akson on Unsplash.

Greetings from Chinarrative!

Our previous newsletters featured the stories of employees trapped in the grueling “996” work culture of China’s booming tech industry. In this issue, we learn about a common gripe of newcomers to the sector — its overwhelming tide of meaningless corporate jargon, known in Chinese as heihua (“黑话”).

While the topic is lighthearted, it illuminates important ways that the Asian nation’s tech giants operate. In recent years, these firms have increasingly used their dominant market positions to project their corporate values, invoking their supposedly unique ways of thinking to justify their supremacy.

Like their counterparts in Silicon Valley, the ideological posturing of Chinese internet firms serves several purposes. It buttresses their claims of working for the greater social good and dilutes their reputation for ruthless profit-seeking. It helps them to attract employees seeking meaningful work, not just a salary. And it strengthens ties within the organizations by popularizing language that outsiders can’t understand.

But the strategy has a darker side as well. It can be used to justify long hours and inefficient work practices. It reflects the rising cognitive barriers to entry in China’s tech industry. And it popularizes empty, vague or counterintuitive terminology.

The story below, which originally appeared on the Chinese nonfiction platform Renwu, shows how Chinese tech firms have become hotbeds of gibberish. Some of the terms they use are made up and lack clear definitions; others imbue existing words with new meanings. Don’t worry if the corporate dialect leaves you scratching your head; in most cases, that’s exactly what it’s supposed to do. Continue reading

More on “lying flat”

Be sure to watch the video of Zhang Xinmin singing “Lying Flat is the Kingly Way” at the end of the article–Kirk

Source: NYT (7/3/21)
These Chinese Millennials Are ‘Chilling,’ and Beijing Isn’t Happy
Young people in China have set off a nascent counterculture movement that involves lying down and doing as little as possible.
By Elsie Chen

Luo Huazhong, who popularized the idea of adopting a more relaxed approach to life, taking a break in Jiande, China. Credit…Qilai Shen for The New York Times

Five years ago, Luo Huazhong discovered that he enjoyed doing nothing. He quit his job as a factory worker in China, biked 1,300 miles from Sichuan Province to Tibet and decided he could get by on odd jobs and $60 a month from his savings. He called his new lifestyle “lying flat.”

“I have been chilling,” Mr. Luo, 31, wrote in a blog post in April, describing his way of life. “I don’t feel like there’s anything wrong.”

He titled his post “Lying Flat Is Justice,” attaching a photo of himself lying on his bed in a dark room with the curtains drawn. Before long, the post was being celebrated by Chinese millennials as an anti-consumerist manifesto. “Lying flat” went viral and has since become a broader statement about Chinese society.

A generation ago, the route to success in China was to work hard, get married and have children. The country’s authoritarianism was seen as a fair trade-off as millions were lifted out of poverty. But with employees working longer hours and housing prices rising faster than incomes, many young Chinese fear they will be the first generation not to do better than their parents. Continue reading

Bulldozing Uyghur culture (2)

About companies complicit in Chinese slavery: I don’t know of an updated website listing all of them. Apart from those A. E. Clark listed, the website of The Coalition to End Forced Labour in the Uyghur Region also has a lot of information. If anyone knows of better websites for this purpose of tracking companies that are complicit in the Chinese genocide by way of forced labor, or if you create one, please post here or let me know?

I sure would like to see more follow-up. For example, the appropriation of Uyghur women’s hair, including for sale as hair extensions in US stores, has not been followed up on (as far as I know it goes on as before? and hair fashion people have said nothing about it).

The bibliography I have created and keep updating periodically online, has a wealth if items on specific companies (but isn’t complete).

Also, I’ve kept a thread running with updates on forced labor/slavery on the list H-Slavery, the latest instalment is here.

As you see there, there’s multiple references to the investigative work of Laura T. Murphy, who is a leader in the field of tracking these companies and the forced labor programs in China (including on topics such as Skecher shoes, and the solar panels industry). She is a Professor of Human Rights and Contemporary Slavery at the Helena Kennedy Centre for International Justice, Sheffield Hallam University, UK, and testified at the recent Uyghur Tribunal (Prof. Murphy starts at 24:20- with follow-up questions from Tribunal members).


Magnus Fiskesjö <> Continue reading

Surreal tourist spot

Source: Insider (6/29/21)
Photos show China’s most surreal tourist spot— a fake Instagram-worthy town full of pretend farmers and phony fishermen

A boat crosses Xiapu's harbor, which appears golden at sunset.

Xiapu County is a small town in the southern Chinese Fujian province. It’s also a photography hot spot.  ReLvXing/ Weibo

  • With breathtaking seasides and bucolic farmland, Xiapu County in southern China is picture-perfect.
  • The catch? Most of these photos are staged by teams of tour guides angling for a quick buck.
  • Angry reviewers complained that Xiapu is nothing more than a staging area for a rural photo shoot.
  • Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories

Xiapu County in Fujian province is almost a little too picture-perfect.

An idyllic sunrise dawns over Xiapu County, a rural town in Fujian, China. From Xiapu’s beaches, you can see a lone fisherman rowing his boat toward the endless horizon. And venturing deeper into the county, you might catch strains of a buffalo lowing and spot chickens scurrying about the lush farmland.

Photos of these scenic spots in the county abound on Weibo, the Chinese version of Twitter.

The catch? Most of them are manufactured. Continue reading

Soccer player Li Ying comes out

Source: SupChina (6/25/21)
Soccer player Li Ying becomes first high-profile Chinese athlete to come out
Li Ying, a member of the Chinese women’s national soccer team, has made history as the first high-profile Chinese athlete to come out as a lesbian.
By Jiayun Feng

li ying

Li Ying and her girlfriend, Chen Leilei.

Lǐ Yǐng 李影, a member of the Chinese women’s national soccer team, has made history as the first high-profile Chinese athlete to come out as a lesbian.

On Tuesday, the 28-year-old soccer star, who currently plays forward for Shandong Ladies in the Chinese Women’s Super League, revealed on Weibo that she had a girlfriend and that they had been together for a year. “All of my affection comes from you and belongs to you,” Li wrote in a post (in Chinese) marking the one-year anniversary of their relationship, which was accompanied by two photos showing the couple celebrating the special occasion together.

Li’s girlfriend, Chén Lěilěi 陈蕾蕾, a “micro-influencer” with over 360,000 followers on Weibo, also shared a heartfelt message, writing (in Chinese), “One year together. Feels like it’s been forever.”

For LGBT+ individuals in China, where homosexuality remains stigmatized, declaring their sexual identification in public is still a difficult step that can result in discrimination, abuse, and even violence. And that’s why the majority of LGBT+ citizens in China opt to stay in the closet — about 95%, according to a 2016 survey by the United Nation Development Program. Continue reading

Red tourism flourishes ahead of centennial

Source: NYT (6/25/21)
‘Red Tourism’ Flourishes in China Ahead of Party Centennial
New and improved attractions dedicated to the Communist Party’s history, or a sanitized version of it, are drawing crowds.
By Sui-Lee Wee and Elsie Chen; Photographs by Gilles Sabrié

Tourists inspecting a sculpture in the Yan’an area, where Mao Zedong and other Chinese Communist Party leaders were based for years.

Tourists inspecting a sculpture in the Yan’an area, where Mao Zedong and other Chinese Communist Party leaders were based for years.

The group of tourists, dressed in replica Red Army costumes, stood in front of a red hammer-and-sickle billboard. With their right fists raised, they pledged their allegiance to the Chinese Communist Party.

“Be ready at all times to sacrifice my all for the party and the people, and never betray the party,” they recited, standing proudly next to a giant statue of Mao Zedong in the northern city of Yan’an, the base of the revolution until 1948. Then, they shuffled off before another group came to do the same.

Mass swearing-in ceremonies aren’t typical group tour activities, but this is “red tourism” in China, where thousands of people flock to places like Yan’an to absorb the official version of the party’s history. At these sites, schoolchildren are told how the Red Army, later renamed the People’s Liberation Army, was created. Tourists gaze at an ensemble of chairs used by Xi Jinping, China’s leader, and other guests when they visited Mao’s home. Retirees take selfies with flower-adorned statues of Mao and Zhu De, the Red Army commander. Continue reading

The Web of Meaning

I am pleased to announce the publication of my new book: The Web of Meaning: The Internet in a Changing Chinese Society (University of Toronto Press, 2021).


Taking off at the height of China’s socio-economic reforms in the mid-1990s, the Internet developed alongside the twists and turns of the country’s rapid transformation. Central to many aspects of social change, the Internet has played an indispensable role in the decentralization of political communication, the expansion of the market, and the stratification of society in China.

Through three empirical cases – online privacy, cyber-nationalism, and the network market – this book traces how different social actors engage in negotiation of the practices, social relations, and power structures that define these evolving institutions in Chinese society. Examining rich user-generated social media data with innovative methods such as semantic network analysis and topic modelling, The Web of Meaning provides a solid empirical base to critique for critiquing the power relationships that are embedded in the very fabric of Chinese society. Continue reading