A diplomatic bow to Xi Jinping

Source: China Media Project (8/3/20)

A Diplomatic Bow to Xi Jinping

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi. Image by the Austrian Foreign Ministry, available at under CC license.

China faces a growing list of setbacks internationally that might suggest its turn in diplomacy away from a more “cautious and passive” approach in favour of active assertiveness is backfiring. Nevertheless, China’s top diplomat, Wang Yi (王毅), declares in the latest edition of the official Seeking Truth journal that his country’s new model of diplomacy is not just an unqualified success but an historically significant contribution to international relations.

In the florid language of a true devotee, Wang credits Xi Jinping with “the vision and sagacity of a great strategist” in sussing out the complexities facing the world, and crafting “comprehensive” long-term solutions in a tidy package now to be called “Xi Jinping Thought on Diplomacy.”

But reading Wang’s language in Seeking Truth in order to better understand the substance of Xi Jinping Thought on Diplomacy would be to miss the point. Wang’s article, which we must assume is the full text, or very nearly the full text, of his speech last month to commemorate the opening of a new “Research Center on Xi Jinping Thought on Diplomacy,” is really not about China and its relations with the rest of the world so much as grandiose visions of Xi Jinping and his seemingly unassailable position at the “core” of power. Continue reading

Changpian 23

长篇 // Changpian // Longform

Welcome to the 23nd edition of Changpian, a selection of feature and opinion writing in Chinese. 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.

Hi all, I hope this finds you well. In this Changpian, which I’m excited to get back to, some Chinese-language stories and debates to read, watch or listen to wherever you are during this pandemic. As mentioned below, the non-fiction publishing trend that first inspired this newsletter has slowed down. But some of the platforms founded at its height are still around — one, 真实故事计划, recently celebrated its 4th anniversary and currently has a non-fiction writing contest going on. The jury is impressive and the deadline is end of August.

干货// Ganhuo // Dry Goods

In this section I highlight any themes that stood out in my recent reading.

Podcast society

2019 was described as the “爆发之年” for podcast making in mainland China at a podcast festival I attended in Shanghai last November. The number of new shows had exploded, although participants agreed that the podcast still occupies a niche in the Chinese content market and that it is difficult to earn money making them. A low-budget talk show format is the norm. (For more on the market, see this report and an interview with two former journalists who started influential podcasting company JustPod.) Continue reading

Being a Chinese student in the US

Source: BBC News (8/3/20)
Being a Chinese student in the US: ‘Neither the US nor China wants us’
BBC Chinese Service, Washington

American and Chinese flags painted on cracked wall background

The US-China relationship is now at one of it lowest points in years. GETTY IMAGES

Stranded abroad by the coronavirus pandemic and squeezed by political tensions, Chinese students in the United States are rethinking their host and home countries.

Eight years ago, Shizheng Tie, then aged 13, moved alone from China to rural Ohio for one sole purpose: education. She once had a budding American dream, but now she says she is facing hostility in that country.

“As a Chinese living in the US, I am very scared now,” she says. Tie, now a senior student at Johns Hopkins University, describes America as “anti-China” and “chaotic”.

Some 360,000 Chinese students are currently enrolled in schools in the US. In the past months, they have experienced two historical events – a global pandemic and unprecedented tensions between the US and China, which have reshaped their views of the two nations. Continue reading

HK dismissal petition

Posted by Magnus Fiskesjö,
[HKSAAF] Invitation for Signing a Statement on the sudden dismissal of Shiu Ka-chun of the Hong Kong Baptist University and Benny Tai of the University of Hong Kong

Dear all,

We would like to invite you to kindly consider being a co-signatory of the following statement regarding the dismissals of Mr. Benny Tai of the University of Hong Kong and Mr. Shiu Ka-chun of the Hong Kong Baptist University.  The Chinese version will be placed at the top, followed by the English one. The statement will be sent to the press. If you want to sign, please click the links below. Thanks for your time.

*   Chinese Version:
*   English Version:

Best regards,

Scholars’ Alliance for Academic Freedom Continue reading

The thinkers behind Xi’s hard line

The Chinese academics’ “Carl Schmitt moment” discussed in this article is not the only parallel and similarity between Hitler’s 1930s Germany and today’s ultranationalist and imperialist China. For one thing, now as then, many who fled did so because they could see their own once-decent colleagues willingly duped by the Party. It’s fundamentally the same “seductive lure of authoritarianism” discussed in the same newspaper by Anne Applebaum–Magnus Fiskesjö,

Source: NYT (8/2/20)
‘Clean Up This Mess’: The Chinese Thinkers Behind Xi’s Hard Line
阅读简体中文版 | 閱讀繁體中文版
Chinese academics have been honing the Communist Party’s authoritarian response in Hong Kong, rejecting the liberal ideas of their youth.
By Chris Buckley

Tian Feilong, a Chinese intellectual in favor of Hong Kong’s new national security law, in Beijing. As a graduate student, he attended a traditionally more liberal university. Credit…Giulia Marchi for The New York Times

HONG KONG — When Tian Feilong first arrived in Hong Kong as demands for free elections were on the rise, he said he felt sympathetic toward a society that seemed to reflect the liberal political ideas he had studied as a graduate student in Beijing.

Then, as the calls escalated into protests across Hong Kong in 2014, he increasingly embraced Chinese warnings that freedom could go too far, threatening national unity. He became an ardent critic of the demonstrations, and six years later he is a staunch defender of the sweeping national security law that China has imposed on the former British colony.

Mr. Tian has joined a tide of Chinese scholars who have turned against Western-inspired ideas that once flowed in China’s universities, instead promoting the proudly authoritarian worldview ascendant under Xi Jinping, the Communist Party leader. This cadre of Chinese intellectuals serve as champions, even official advisers, defending and honing the party’s hardening policies, including the rollout of the security law in Hong Kong. Continue reading

Must fiction from China be penned in Mandarin

Source: (8/1/20)
Contemporary Fiction from China: Must it Be Penned in Mandarin?
By Bruce Humes

A few years back I posted a piece entitled A Resounding “Yes” to Mother-tongue Literature — but for Whom and about What?

In this context, “mother-tongue” referred to indigenous languages other than Mandarin. This topic may be of interest to potential readers who perceive “Chinese literature” as encompassing writing in Tibetan, Uyghur, Mongolian, as well as oral literature (口述文学) for peoples who do not have a script widely used in the PRC, such as the Evenki, Zhuang and many others.

In my essay, I posed this question: Who is going to write in their native language — or read what is written for that matter — if they cannot receive a decent education in it?

In this context, “mother-tongue” referred to indigenous languages other than Mandarin. This topic may be of interest to Paper Republicans who perceive “Chinese literature” as encompassing writing in Tibetan, Uyghur, Mongolian, as well as oral literature (口述文学) for peoples who do not have a script widely used in the PRC, such as the Evenki, Zhuang and many others. Continue reading

Chinese Animation Studies inaugural conference–cfp

Call for Papers: The Inaugural Conference of the Association for Chinese Animation Studies, Zoom, Spring 2021

The inaugural conference of the Association for Chinese Animation Studies (ACAS), originally scheduled to be held at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology in May 2020, is highly likely to be conducted virtually via Zoom from Feb to May in 2021. The virtual panels will be scheduled on weekends when we are free from teaching and classes. There will be one or two panels every weekend and the entire conference will last for a semester from Feb to May in 2021. Without the constraints of a location-specific conference, we can increase the scale of the Zoom conference by including more speakers hailing from all over the world.

If you are interested in presenting your work at our Zoom conference, please submit your paper title, abstract (in 250 words), and a bio of yourself (in 250 words) to before September 1, 2020. For your email subject, please write “ACAS Zoom Conference Submission.” ACAS is open to different paper topics, so long as they are related to China. To get a sense of what kind of papers we are interested in, please take a look at the original conference program <> Applicants will be notified of our decision of acceptance on October 1, 2020. Continue reading

Beijing cracks down on HK

Source: NYT (7/31/20)
With Security Law as a Cudgel, Beijing Cracks Down on Hong Kong
The spirit and the letter of the new law has been used to crush Hong Kong’s opposition. In the latest blow to the pro-democracy movement, the government postponed an election, citing the coronavirus.
By Keith Bradsher, Elaine Yu and Steven Lee Myers

The Chinese government has used the national security law to crush Hong Kong’s pro-democracy opposition with a ferocity that has surprised even some pro-Beijing officials in the territory. Credit…Lam Yik Fei for The New York Times

BEIJING — For weeks, as Beijing quickly drafted and imposed a stringent new national security law for Hong Kong, many in the territory feared the rules would be used to intimidate the opposition, but hoped they would not presage a broad crackdown.

Now those hopes have been dashed. Brushing aside international criticism and sanctions, the Chinese government has used the letter and spirit of the law to crush Hong Kong’s pro-democracy opposition with surprising ferocity.

In the last week alone, the authorities have ousted a tenured law professor at the University of Hong Kong who has been a key figure in the city’s democracy movement, and arrested four young activists on suspicion that they expressed support online for independence. They have also barred a dozen candidates from running for the legislature, using opposition to the security law as new ground for disqualification. Continue reading

Lee Teng-hui dies at 97

Source: BBC News (7/31/20)
Lee Teng-hui: Taiwan’s ‘father of democracy’ dies

Lee Teng-hui

Lee won Taiwan’s first presidential vote by a landslide

Former Taiwanese President Lee Teng-hui, considered the “father of Taiwan’s democracy”, has died at the age of 97. He served as president of Taiwan, from 1988 to 2000.

Lee was credited with ending autocratic rule in favour of pluralism and democracy – but was also a controversial figure.

His attempts to delink the island from China sparked tensions with Beijing, which sees Taiwan as part of its territory to be reunited one day. Continue reading

China is replacing ethnic minority languages with Mandarin

Source: The Hill (7/29/20)
China is replacing languages of ethnic minorities with Mandarin

China is replacing languages of ethnic minorities with Mandarin

© Getty Images

China has been carrying out propaganda that it cares for its minority communities, putting forth this perspective at various international forums, such as the United Nations Human Rights Council and the council’s Universal Periodic Review Working Group, and in white papers issued periodically.

In its September 2019 white paper, “Seeking Happiness for People: 70 Years of Progress on Human Rights in China,” Beijing claimed that it has effectively guaranteed ethnic minority rights in administering state affairs, with representation of all 55 ethnic minority groups in the National People’s Congress and the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference.

It also claimed that it fully protects the freedom of ethnic minorities to use and develop their spoken and written languages, and that the state protects by law the legitimate use of spoken and written languages of ethnic minorities in the areas of administration and judiciary, press and publishing, radio, film and television, and culture and education. China claims to have established a database for the endangered languages of ethnic minority groups, and has initiated a program for protecting China’s language resources. Continue reading

China uses quarantines as cover to detain dissidents

Source: NYT (7/30/20)
China Uses Quarantines as Cover to Detain Dissidents, Activists Say
Critics of the government said they were held in rooms with barred windows and denied permission to contact their families, all in the name of public health.
By Sui-Lee Wee

After his release from prison, Wang Quanzhang, a human rights lawyer, was quarantined for weeks before being allowed to see his wife, Li Wenzu, and their son. “The real purpose was to shut me up,” he said. Credit…Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

On the day of his release from prison, Wang Quanzhang, one of China’s most prominent human rights lawyers, thought he was finally free.

After being held for nearly five years on charges of subversion of state power, Mr. Wang was escorted by the police to an apartment building in the eastern city of Jinan. There, he was given a room with iron bars on the windows. Twenty police officers stood guard outside. His mobile phone was confiscated, and his use of it was later restricted and monitored.

Mr. Wang was effectively under temporary house arrest, but the authorities had another name for it: quarantine.

Rights activists say the coronavirus has given the Chinese authorities a new pretext for detaining dissidents. Summary quarantines — often imposed just after detainees, like Mr. Wang, had cleared a previous one — are the latest way to silence dissent, part of a broader campaign under China’s top leader, Xi Jinping, to stamp out activism through arrests, detentions and harsher internet controls, activists say. Continue reading

HK tycoon pitches new city idea to Ireland

Source: The Guardian (7/28/20)
Hong Kong property tycoon pitches new city idea to Ireland
Ivan Ko hopes to find site between Dublin and Belfast to host 50,000 fellow Hongkongers
By Rory Carroll, Ireland correspondent

View from Castlecoe Hill looking north towards Dundalk. Ko said Ireland’s attractions included is low population density.

View from Castlecoe Hill looking north towards Dundalk. Ko said Ireland’s attractions included its low population density. Photograph: Christopher Briggs/Alamy Stock Photo

A Hong Kong property tycoon wants to build a city in Ireland to host 50,000 emigrants from the semi-autonomous city.

Ivan Ko, the founder of the Victoria Harbour Group (VHG), an international charter city investment company, hopes to find a 50 sq km site between Dublin and Belfast to create a new city, named Nextpolis, from scratch.

Ko has pitched the plan, which would include schools that teach in Cantonese, to Irish officials, arguing it would fit the government’s stated desire to develop regions outside the capital. Continue reading

Chinese Literature Today 9.1

Chinese Literature Today 9 (1) is now available online and can be accessed for free:

Below is the table of contents of this new issue (with hyperlinks):

Editor’s Note, by Ping Zhu

REIMAGINING HUMANITY: Focus on Science Fiction

Letter to My Daughter,” by Liu Cixin, translated by Jesse Field
The Affair: The First of the Hamlet Trilogy,” by Isaac (Shuntang) Hsu, translated by Tze-lan Deborah Sang and Isaac (Shuntang) Hsu
Floating Life: Beloved Wife, Part 2,” by Dung Kai-cheung, translated by Andrea Lingenfelter


The City as the Protagonist,” by Xu Zechen, translated by Xu Shiyan
Our Ferocious Self-Doubt: An Interview with Xu Zechen,” by Zhang Yanmei, translated by Yingying Huang
I Persist, I Believe, and I Shall Save: On Xu Zechen’s Fiction,” by Fan Yingchun, translated by Yingying Huang
Brothers,” by Xu Zechen, translated by Natascha Bruce Continue reading

Virtual kidnapping scam (1)

The piece on virtual kidnappings is very interesting. The BBC could also have mentioned that these scams have been going on since at least 2017 and much written about, from multiple countries.

But, most reports fail to discuss the most striking aspect, here too mentioned just in passing: The victims take it as believable that their own Chinese embassy/consulate/police/authorities would do this to them.

And of course they are right, it IS believable, because the Chinese authorities do these things all the time! (kidnapping you, forcing relatives to help work on you, etc.). And they know that even in a foreign country, you are not safe from the Chinese government.

I guess ransom payment from relatives are not commonly done officially (what’s extracted is usually — your silence, political compliance), but then the Chinese police and government are so thoroughly corrupt that the victims are probably justified in believing that part, too.

Magnus Fiskesjö <>

Virtual kidnapping scam

Source: BBC News (7/27/20)
Chinese students in Australia targeted in virtual kidnapping scam

Police-supplied image of a woman bound and gagged in a staged kidnap

NSW POLICE: Pictures of the staged kidnappings were provided to police

Chinese students in Sydney are being targeted in a kidnapping scam forcing them to pay massive ransoms to fraudsters, Australian police say.

In many cases, blackmailed students were forced to stage their own kidnapping and send video proof to relatives in China to obtain funds.

Eight “virtual kidnappings” have been reported this year, including one where a A$2m (£1.1m;$1.43m) ransom was paid.

Victims had believed they or their loved ones were in danger, police said. Continue reading