Changpian no. 22

长篇 // Changpian // Longform

Welcome to the 22nd edition of Changpian, a selection of feature and opinion writing in Chinese. With other resources devoted to the many interesting sound bites from Chinese social media, this newsletter focuses instead on some of the wealth of longer writing that is produced in Chinese, both in traditional news media and on platforms like WeChat.

Changpian includes any nonfiction writing, from stories and investigations to interviews and blog posts, that I found worth my time — and that you might like as well. It aims to be relevant to an understanding of Chinese society today, covering topics in and outside the news cycle.

The selection is put together by me, Tabitha Speelman, a Dutch researcher currently based in Shanghai. Feedback is very welcome ( or @tabithaspeelman). Back issues can be found here. Continue reading

Greater Bay Area plan

Source: SCMP (2/18/19)
China’s State Council reveals details of ‘Greater Bay Area’ plan to turn Hong Kong and 10 neighbouring cities into economic hub
Years in the making, scheme embodies President Xi Jinping’s ambition to build innovation and finance powerhouse to rival Silicon Valley and Tokyo Bay Area
By Tony Cheung and He Huifeng

Hong Kong is positioned as the international finance, shipping and trade centre under the bay area plan. Photo: EPA-EFE

Hong Kong is positioned as the international finance, shipping and trade centre under the bay area plan. Photo: EPA-EFE

A cluster of world-class cities for work, life and leisure forms the central vision of the “Greater Bay Area” finally unveiled by the Chinese government late on Monday, laying out a road map to what it hailed as the new era of opening up.

Coming 40 years after the 1978 opening up of China, the State Council published a document setting out an ambitious plan to transform 11 cities around the Pearl River Delta into a thriving global centre of technology, innovation and economic vibrancy

The blueprint identified five “strategic orientations” that include closer integration between the mainland, Hong Kong and Macau while upholding the governing principle of “one country, two systems”. Continue reading

Dam collapse that China kept secret

Source: OZY (2/17/19)
By Justin Higginbottom

Banqiao Dam after the catastrophe.

Workers stood along the top of Banqiao Dam, some 150 feet above the valley’s floor, desperately trying to repair its crest as rain from Typhoon Nina fell for a third straight day. After battering Taiwan, the storm had moved inland where it was expected to dissipate, but Nina turned north instead, reaching the Huai River basin on Aug. 5, 1975, where a cold front blocked its progression. Parked in place, the typhoon generated more than a year’s worth of rain in 24 hours.

By the time night fell on Aug. 8, as many as 65 area dams had collapsed. But despite the fact that water levels at the Banqiao Dam had far exceeded a safe capacity, and a number of sluice gates for controlling water flow were clogged with silt, authorities felt confident they’d skirt disaster. After all, the Soviet-designed dam had been built to survive a typhoon — a once-every-1,000-year occurrence that could dump 11 inches of rain per day. Unfortunately, Typhoon Nina would prove to be a once-every-2,000-year storm, bearing down with enough force to cause the world’s deadliest infrastructure failure ever. Continue reading

Guo Xuebo’s “Mongolia” synopsis

Source: (2/17/19)
Synopsis: “Moŋgoliya,” A Contemporary Novel of Strip Mining, Quests for the Altaic Soul and Social Justice
By Bruce Humes

Moŋgoliya《蒙古里亚》 郭雪波 著
Original novel in Chinese by Guo Xuebo
Synopsis by Bruce Humes

A tale of ruthless ecological exploitation,
a 20th-century European explorer’s fascination with Altaic culture
& epiphany in today’s Inner Mongolia

Guo Xuebo, author of “Moŋgoliya”

This semi-autobiographical novel comprises three parallel narratives that eventually intersect in 21st-century Inner Mongolia: A spiritual journey, in which the author — ostensibly the narrator — seeks his Shamanic roots, long obscured in post-1949, officially atheist China; vignettes from the Xinjiang and Mongolian adventures of Henning Haslund-Christensen, born to a Danish missionary family in 1896, explorer and real-life author of the anthropological masterpiece Men and Gods in Mongolia; and the tribulations of Teelee Yesu, a fictional modern-day Mongolian herdsman, seemingly the village idiot, whose very survival is threatened by the encroaching desert and coal mine truckers running roughshod over his tiny tract of pastureland.

Motifs interwoven throughout the tale include the affinities between the peoples of Europe and the Mongols, despite the sedentary lifestyle of the former and nomadic ways of the latter; the fusion of Shamanism and Buddhism over the centuries; two different quests, the narrator’s for the origins of his soul, and the foreign adventurer’s for the essence of steppe culture; and the exploitation and degradation of the grasslands by political powers over the centuries — first the Manchu, then the Japanese and Han — that is in stark contrast to the Mongolian veneration of Nature as sacred and endowed with sentient spirits. Continue reading

Xi Xi Newman Prize activities

Hong Kong writer and poet Xi Xi will be coming to the University of Oklahoma (Norman, OK) to receive the 6th Newman Prize for Chinese Literature. Below is the list of public events during the Newman Festival on March 7-8, 2019.

Thursday (03/07)  3:00pm-4:30pm, Newman Symposium, with Xi Xi, Ho Fuk Yan, Tammy Ho, Jennifer Feeley, Man-fung Yip, Ping Zhu, and Jonathan Stalling
Location: JJ Rhyne Room, Zarrow Hall

Thursday (03/07)  6:30pm-9:30pm, Debut screening: Birds of Passage 候鸟, a documentary based on Xi Xi, with the co-director Ho Fuk Yan and the postproduction director Steven Pang
Location: Gaylord 2020

Friday (03/08)  9:30am-10:30am, Poetry Reading and Discussion with Xi Xi, Tammy Ho, and Jennifer Feeley
Location: JJ Rhyne Room, Zarrow Hall

Please find more details in the attached 2019 Newman Festival flyer.

Li Rui dies at 101

Source: NYT (2/15/19)
Li Rui, a Mao Confidant Who Turned Party Critic, Dies at 101
By Ian Johnson

Li Rui, who died on Saturday at 101, “saw himself as a conscience of the revolution and the party,” said Roderick MacFarquhar, the late Harvard scholar of Chinese history. “But he had grave doubts about the system he spent his life serving.” Creditvia Nanyang Li

BEIJING — Li Rui, who over nearly four decades went from being one of Mao Zedong’s personal secretaries in the 1950s to a Communist Party critic, revisionist historian and standard-bearer for liberal values in China, died in Beijing on Saturday. He was 101.

The cause of death was organ failure, brought on by a lung inflammation and cancer of the digestive tract, according to his daughter, Li Nanyang, who spoke with doctors at the Beijing hospital where Mr. Li had been receiving treatment. Continue reading

Xu Zhimo poem gets music video

The video mentioned in the piece below can be viewed here: — Kirk

Source: China Daily (2/14/19)
Classic poem gets music video
By Chen Nan | China Daily

Members of the Choir of King’s College, Cambridge perform under the baton of Stephen Cleobury, music director and conductor of the choir. [Photo provided to China Daily]

A new music video for the song Second Farewell to Cambridge, adapted from Chinese poet Xu Zhimo’s famous composition, has been released by the King’s College Record Label to mark Lunar New Year.

It was shot on location at King’s College, Cambridge, the place Xu portrayed in his poem, which was set to music by English composer John Rutter in the summer of 2018. It was performed by the Choir of King’s College, Cambridge, under the baton of Stephen Cleobury, music director of the choir and features a performance by Chinese tenor Wang Bo. Continue reading

Dawn of the little red phone

Source: China Media Project (2/13/19)
By David Bandurski

The Dawn of the Little Red Phone

On January 25, all seven members of China’s elite Politburo Standing Committee, including President Xi Jinping, gathered at the headquarters of the flagship People’s Daily newspaper to underline the importance of “convergence media” and digital media development as a means of strengthening the Party’s dominance of ideas and information.

Xi Jinping told those present that the Party “must utilise the fruits of the information revolution to promote deep development of convergence media.” The objective was to “build up mainstream public opinion” — meaning, of course, Party-led public opinion — and to “consolidate the shared ideological foundation underpinning the concerted efforts of the entire Party and all the Chinese people.”

As we wrote at the time, Xi’s stilted and jargon-filled speech was essentially about the Party finding new ways to reengineer its dominance over the realm of ideas in the face of dramatic changes to the media environment brought on by the digital revolution. But what exactly does this mean in practice? How can, and how will, the Party leverage digital technology to re-program propaganda in the 21st century? Continue reading

West Kowloon Cultural District position

Head, Learning and Participation (Performing Arts)
Apply on or before:24/02/2019
Working Location: Kowloon (WKCDA Project Site Office)

Reporting to Artistic Director, Performing Arts, the Head, Learning and Participation (Performing Arts) will be responsible for designing and delivering a diverse and innovative roster of programmes, driving broad creative engagement and impact for the West Kowloon Cultural District (WKCD) across a wide range of communities. The Head will oversee all Learning and Participation (L&P) programmes across WKCD, including the newly opened Xiqu Centre and Freespace to be open in 2019, as well as in local Hong Kong communities. The Head will continue developing the L&P vision and mission and lead a team to implement the strategies and programmes to deliver the vision and mission. S/ he will work collaboratively across the organisation, in particular with the artistic team heads (xiqu, dance, theatre, music and outdoor), as well as the digital, marketing and development teams in the organisation. Continue reading

Connecting the Dots through Guo Baochang

Connecting the Dots Through Guo Baochang 郭宝昌: A Symposium at the U of Chicago

Dear List Members,

If you are in the Chicago area please join us for this event:

Connecting the Dots Through Guo Baochang 郭宝昌:
Contemporary Chinese Opera, Film, TV
University of Chicago, February 21-23, 2019

This 3-day program, February 21-23, 2019, will investigate the relationship between Peking Opera, film, and TV in the oeuvre of Guo Baochang’s work as a renowned Chinese director.  The program includes two evening screenings with Q&A/panel discussions, and a two-day symposium with leading scholars on the interrelationship between contemporary Chinese opera, film, and TV. Details at

Paola Iovene <>


New Book: Race in Routledge’s New Critical Idiom series
Race, by Martin Orkin and Alexa Alice Joubin. London: Routledge, 2019;  252 pages. ISBN: 9781138904699

For 20% discount, enter code FLR40

Can Chinese intellectuals in the diaspora be themselves first and a Chinese subject second? Gao Xingjian poses this question in his dramatic works and theory of “cold literature.” Conversely, Julia Kristeva describes her experience of feeling like an ape under the gaze of the other during her visit to China in her book, About Chinese Women (1978). How does racialized thinking inform Japanese and Chinese mythologies, Sun Yat-sen’s republican revolution, performative discourses of “yellow peril” and “yellow fever,” and the relationship between Taiwanese women and their Southeast Asian maids? Continue reading

Avant-garde Poetry in the Chinese Literary Scene–cfp

RMMLA 2019 Call for Papers
Avant-garde Poetry in the Chinese Literary Scene

A number of related literary-historical terms are often used interchangeably when discussing Chinese poetry written over the course of the past century. These include “experimental” and “modern/modernist” in the early 20thcentury, giving way to unofficial/official and “avant-garde” in the late 20thcentury and beyond. In this panel, we are inviting in-depth discussion specifically of the Avant-garde as a concept and practice in Chinese poetry over this period, both in terms of how it relates to other related concepts within China, and as it functions in the context of a world literary standard or style. We especially welcome contributions from the field of literary studies, linguistics, sociology, and intellectual history. Continue reading

Dartmouth South-South Forum–cfp

The Dartmouth South-South Forum’s First Annual Workshop (August 12-16, 2019) welcomes submissions in English as well as in Chinese. The theme of this year’s workshop is “Home Lost.” Enclosed please find the CFP in five conference languages including Chinese. Abstract submission is due on March 1, 2019.

Miya Xie <>

Oregon lecturer position

Lecturer of Chinese Literature

The University of Oregon’s East Asian Languages and Literatures Department invites applicants for a Lecturer position in Chinese Literature to begin in fall of 2019.  The area of specialization is modern Chinese literature. The workload includes 6 courses per year, graduate student advising, and some service. Required is a PhD in Chinese literature or related field in hand by time of appointment, native or near-native fluency in English as well as Chinese, and evidence of Chinese language teaching experience.  Preference will be given to candidates who can teach both lower and upper division courses in literature and popular culture and advise PhD students. Candidates must apply online with application review to begin on 03/06/19.  Please see  for the complete position announcement and application instructions.  UO is an EO/AA/Veterans/Disability institution committed to cultural diversity.

Roy Chan 陳江北
Associate Professor, Chinese
University of Oregon