‘Spy’ balloon

Source: NYT (2/3/23)
China Says Suspected Spy Balloon Is a ‘Civilian Airship’ That Strayed Off Course
Beijing said the object, which had been seen flying over Montana, was used mainly for weather research. It was not immediately clear whether the explanation would satisfy the U.S.

An aerial view of the Pentagon building, nearby structures and highways dusted with snow.

While the Pentagon played down the potential value of the balloon for acquiring intelligence, the initial public reaction by Biden administration officials underscored how brittle and delicate relations with Beijing have become. Credit…Eva Hambach/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Beijing sought to defuse tensions with Washington on Friday over a Chinese high-altitude balloon that floated over the United States, expressing its regret over the incident, and saying that the balloon was for civilian research and had “deviated far from its planned course.”

The explanation from the Chinese Foreign Ministry came after Pentagon officials had said on Thursday that they had detected an “intelligence-gathering balloon, most certainly launched by the People’s Republic of China,” over the state that is home to about 150 intercontinental ballistic missile silos.

After initially telling a news conference that it had to check on the claims about the balloon, the Foreign Ministry said late on Friday in Beijing that it was an innocent mistake.

“The airship is from China. It is a civilian airship used for research, mainly meteorological, purposes,” an unidentified spokesperson for the ministry said in a statement on its website. “Affected by the Westerlies and with limited self-steering capability, the airship deviated far from its planned course. The Chinese side regrets the unintended entry of the airship into US airspace due to force majeure.” “Force majeure” refers to a violation caused by forces beyond a party’s control. Continue reading

Chinese Film: Realism and Convention: Open-Access Edition

The book Chinese Film: Realism and Convention from the Silent Era to the Digital Age, by Jason McGrath, is now available not just in paperback, hardcover, and ebook but also in an open-access online Manifold edition that includes well over one hundred extra features, including color versions of many of the book’s figures, extra figures beyond the sixty in the print edition, and more than eighty video clips showing all the film scenes discussed at any length in the book. The open-access edition will be available through academic publishing databases such as JSTOR and Project MUSE and also can be accessed directly at This is thanks to a Towards an Open Monograph Ecosystem (TOME) grant from the University of Minnesota Libraries and College of Liberal Arts and the work of the University of Minnesota Press. The Manifold edition makes the book available to students and scholars throughout the world at no cost.

Chinese Film: Realism and Convention from the Silent Era to the Digital Age is a history of mainland Chinese fiction film focusing on the various claims for cinematic realism made over a century of cinema in China. It describes a historical dialectics of realism and convention, in which realisms define themselves both through and in opposition to conventions of various sorts, whether those of indigenous Chinese drama, classical Hollywood cinema, melodrama, socialist realism, neorealism, or contemporary blockbuster cinema. The book not only traces a historical narrative of Chinese film history but also contributes to the theory of cinematic realism by parsing the differences between ontological, perceptual, fictional, social, prescriptive, and apophatic conceptions of realism as they played out in specific landmark films over the Republican, Maoist, and post-socialist eras.

Jason McGrath <>

Writer on death row

Source: Taipei Times (1/15/23)
Taiwan in Time: Writer on death row
Condemned for masterminding a kidnapping, award-winning author Tang Chen-huan’s first piece — a heart-rending letter to his young son — was published on Jan. 18, 1972
By Han Cheung / Staff reporter

The cover of The Confessions of A Death Row Inmate, published in 1975. Photo courtesy of National Central Library

Titled “Confessions of a Father on Death Row,” (一個死刑犯父親的心聲), Tang Chen-huan’s (唐震寰) literary debut was one of sorrow and regret.

It ran in the literary supplement of the China Daily News (中華日報) on Jan. 18, 1972, and marked the beginning of Tang’s literary career, which included several awards and a movie adaptation. He was the nation’s first inmate to pay taxes on book royalties.

The well-liked former junior high school teacher was condemned for kidnapping the children of a businessman who had cheated him out of a large sum of money. Although he returned the kids unharmed, such crimes were punishable by death during the Martial Law era.

“I wrote for nearly 20 hours a day, because I didn’t know if I would be dragged out and executed when the morning came,” he writes in a Xiangguang Magazine (香光莊嚴) article in 1996. “As long as I could still breathe, I wanted to write down all the words I wanted to say … I hoped that those in precarious situations, or those who sought revenge, could see me as an example and refrain from doing something they would regret forever.” Continue reading

How to Read Chinese Drama in Chinese


Patricia Sieber (The Ohio State University) is co-editor (together with Guo Yingde, Wenbo Chang, and Zhang Xiaohui) of a new book entitled How To Read Chinese Drama in Chinese: A Language Companion (Columbia University Press, 2023). Intended as a language textbook complementing How To Read Chinese Drama: A Guided Anthology (Columbia University Press, 2022), it is the first guided primer that focuses on traditional drama. Featuring excerpts from iconic traditional plays, individual chapters supply an English introduction, extensively annotated excerpts, a modern Chinese translation, bilingual cultural exercises, and a bilingual roster of dramatic conventions. The book is designed to be alternatively used as a textbook in the advanced modern Chinese or in the classical Chinee classroom, as a companion in a Chinese literature course for advanced learners and native speakers of Chinese, or as a springboard for deeper engagement with traditional Chinese theater for specialists and interested general readers alike.

China’s Covid tsunami recedes

Source: NYT (1/31/23)
China’s Covid Tsunami Recedes, Bringing Relief, Grief and Anxiety
Officials say an onslaught of infections has slowed, and many people seem eager to move on. But fresh flare-ups could bring more illness and deaths.
By Chris Buckley and 

A man and a woman walking on a sidewalk sipping on beverages are reflected in the window of a closed PCR testing booth.

A closed PCR testing booth sits idle in Shanghai. China’s Covid cases fell dramatically and case numbers peaked in December, according to Chinese public health officials. Credit…Alex Plavevski/EPA, via Shutterstock

When China abruptly abandoned “zero Covid,” accelerating an onslaught of infections and deaths, many feared a prolonged tide rippling from cities into villages. Now, two months later, the worst seems to have passed, and the government is eager to shift attention to economic recovery.

Doctors who were mobilized across China to treat a rush of Covid patients say in phone interviews that the number of patients they are now seeing has fallen. Towns and villages that had hunkered down under the surge of infections and funerals are stirring to life. Health officials have declared that Covid cases “already peaked in late December 2022.”

“Now the pandemic is already being forgotten from people’s minds,” Gao Xiaobin, a doctor on the outskirts of a small city in Anhui Province in eastern China, said by telephone. “Nobody is wearing masks anywhere. That’s all gone.”

The true toll of the outbreak is hard to delineate, with infections and deaths shrouded by censorship and poor data collection. Officially, China has reported nearly 79,000 confirmed Covid-related deaths that occurred in hospitals since Dec. 8. But researchers say that is a drastic undercount because it excludes deaths outside hospitals. Continue reading

Profiling the Tangping Attitude (1)

Question: What about bai lan 摆烂? And, perhaps also cite David Graeber’s book Bullshit Jobs: A Theory (2018). Graeber talks about it here (and on other occasions):

(London Real, Nov 9, 2015). It sure sounds a lot like tang ping, sometimes. And I’m sure he would have loved it (tang ping). And Marine Brossard’s article.

Magnus Fiskesjö <>

Profiling the Tangping Attitude

Source: Made in China (1/8/23)
Lying Flat: Profiling the Tangping Attitude

Featured Image: A man reading a book in the street in Paris, December 2021. PC: Hu Jiamin.

In October 2021 at a forum organised by the US–Asia Institute, China’s Ambassador to the United States, Qin Gang, updated his American audience about the situation in his country. China remained isolated from the world after closing its borders in March 2020 following the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic:

I know that due to COVID-19, many of you have not been able to go to China for a while, and you want to catch up with the latest. There are so many new things going on in my country, but where should I start? Well, maybe it’s a good idea to share with you some buzzwords in China, from which you will know what is going on in China, what the Chinese people are thinking about, and what they are doing. (Qin 2021)

One of these buzzwords was tangping (躺平, ‘lying flat’).

As I read about this concept for the first time in the spring of 2021, I immediately felt connected to the term as I had started lying flat after completing my PhD in Chinese Studies in 2018. My life in China from 2012 to 2015 had shifted my understanding of the world and undermined my ambition to become an academic. After receiving my PhD, I decided to quit my academic career as an act of rebellion against both the labour market and a system in which knowledge had become an instrument of domination. The unemployment benefits granted by the French Government allowed me to lie flat to ponder the world’s problems and attempt to imagine a new way of life beyond the capitalist imaginary. The emergence of the lying-flat attitude in China and the way it echoed my personal experience revealed the universality of the phenomenon among younger generations who struggle to cope with the disintegration of the meaning of life at this stage of late capitalism. Continue reading

Changpian 25

长篇 // Changpian // Longform

Welcome to the 25th 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 of Chinese politics. Feedback is very welcome ( or @tabithaspeelman). Back issues can be found here.

Welcome to another issue of this extremely unreliable newsletter. There might be more Changpian in 2023 (if you still wish to receive it), but this 25th edition was motivated by a dose of nostalgia. Breaking with my tendency to read either ‘everything or nothing’, it mostly includes some recent reads. For now, a happy 兔年! I very much hope the recent waves of the pandemic have not hit you and your loved ones too hard. (Since I have been dealing with long Covid these past years, on the off-chance it is needed, these books, or this review if you just want the research, might be helpful on longer-term symptoms. Feel free to contact me on this too.)

干货// Ganhuo // Dry Goods

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


Following events from faraway Europe, it seemed that as the extreme uncertainty and stress around China’s pandemic measures built up, so did a collective sense of living through something extraordinarily hard that should be remembered. From the Xi’an lockdown in early 2022, written about critically by the writer Jiang Xue when public opinion was still more divided on the measures, to the protests across cities and campuses in November, I saw more people expressing anger and frustration but also writing long messages recording what they had gone through. As one journalist in my timeline wrote on November 18, sharing an article on ‘养码’ or the practice of traveling to a low-risk area to regain a green health code that would (hopefully) allow you to go where you actually needed to be : “记录记录记录,就是不要忘记啊.” Continue reading

China’s displeasure with a bookseller follows him to US

Source: Wall Street Journal (1/28/23)
China’s Displeasure With a Bookseller Follows Him to Florida
Yu Miao was forced to close his Shanghai store. Now his wife is stuck in China.
By James T. Areddy

Troubles Yu Miao faced in China as a bookseller have followed him to Orlando, Fla., where his family now lives.

Troubles Yu Miao faced in China as a bookseller have followed him to Orlando, Fla., where his family now lives. JAMES T. AREDDY/THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

ORLANDO, Fla.—Yu Miao built Shanghai’s Jifeng Bookstore into a bastion of liberal thought, until it became a prime target in Chinese leader Xi Jinping ‘s assault on free speech.

Chinese displeasure with Mr. Yu has followed him to Florida, where he moved his family after authorities effectively forced the bookshop out of business in 2018. Now, even in the U.S., the 50-year-old Mr. Yu is facing consequences of his gambit to push against the limits of Chinese censorship.

In August, as his wife was finishing a trip back to Shanghai, local authorities told her they want Mr. Yu to return to China for questions about his U.S. online activity, and she can’t leave the country until he does, the family says.

The family’s predicament illustrates key warnings from Washington about Mr. Xi’s authoritarian methods: that China is determined to extend its controls on domestic dissent into the U.S. and that the regime uses travel bans to gain leverage over critics.

Like his wife, Xie Fang, 51, and their three children studying in the U.S., Mr. Yu remains a Chinese citizen, and he says he fears prosecution should he return to the country. Continue reading


Chinese Literature, Essays Articles Reviews (CLEAR) v. 44 (Dec. 2022)


Yi ZHENG, “Definition by Comparison? Yun and dhvani: A New Perspective on the Old Question, ‘Why Compare?’”
David McCRAW, “Dwelling on Place in Du Fu’s Late Verses”
Chen ZHANG, “Poetry as Everyday Life in Lu You’s Late Years”
Karin MYHRE, “Borrowed Voices and Double Vision in Du Renjie’s ‘A Country Bumpkin Does Not Know Theater’”
Alexander C. WILLE, “Disnarration in Late Imperial Chinese Fiction”
Aude LUCAS, “Dreams Caused by Desire in Xiaoshuo and Biji of the High Qing”
Binbin YANG, “Anchoring Identities in Yangzhou: Xú Deyin (1681–after 1760) and the Re-Invention of the Huizhou Legacy”
Keru CAI, “Maxim Gorky in China: 1920s Commentary and Shen Congwen’s ‘Three Men and One Woman’”
Wenjin CUI, “‘Usefulness without Use,’ Or, the Power of the Virtual: Lu Xun on the Vital Efficacy of Literature”

Kidder SMITH, “Interdependence of words, texts from early China”

Huiwen Helen ZHANG, “Upon the Eagle Mound: Hauge’s Cathay”

William H. NIENHAUSER, Jr., “Qu Yuan and Company: A Note on Translating the Chuci
YIM Tsz-kit, “Worlding Classic Chinese Novels: Translation, Adaptation, and Affective Network in the Age of Global China”
Christopher LUPKE, “The Moral and Metaphysical Ubiquity of Xiao (Filiality) in Late Imperial Fiction”


Further details at:

New World Orderings review

MCLC Resource Center is pleased to announce publication of Kelly A. Hammond’s review of New World Orderings: China and the Global South, edited by Lisa Rofel and Carlos Rojas. The review appears below and at its online home here: My thanks to Nicholas Kaldis, MCLC book review editor for literary studies, for ushering the review to publication.

Kirk Denton, MCLC

New World Orderings:
China and the Global South

Edited by Lisa Rofel and Carlos Rojas

Reviewed by Kelly A. Hammond

MCLC Resource Center Publication (Copyright January, 2023)

Lisa Rofel and Carlos Rojas, eds. New World Orderings: China and the Global South Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2022. vii + 268 pp. ISBN 9781478019015 (paper).

This interdisciplinary volume—New World Orderings: China and the Global South, edited by Lisa Rofel and Carlos Rojas—has a lot to offer. By focusing on circulations of global capital and challenges posed by China and the Global South to the neoliberal world order, the combined efforts of the twelve contributors deemphasize state-level diplomacy in favor of an approach that emphasizes “globalization from below” (96). In doing so, the book concentrates mostly on movements of individuals, non-state actors, and economic intermediaries in and out of the People’s Republic of China (PRC), and around and throughout the Global South. The chapters focus both on migrations and diasporas, and on cultural and economic interactions, to paint a variegated picture of the lives and experiences of both citizens of the PRC and peoples of the Global South who interact and deal with China and Chinese people on their own terms. The actors in this book—be they African women trying to eke out a living in Guangzhou, or the Chinese traders trying to make it in Johannesburg—are all active agents in the ongoing efforts to displace—or at least disrupt—traditional flows of capital. Continue reading

Hou Family Fellowships in Taiwan Studies

The Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies at Harvard University is pleased to announce the 2023-2024 competition for the Hou Family Fellowships in Taiwan Studies.

The Hou Family Fellowships in Taiwan Studies sponsors one Postdoctoral Fellow and one Predoctoral Fellow to join the Fairbank Center to pursue Taiwan-focused research in humanities and social sciences for six to twelve months between August 1, 2023, and July 31, 2024. Affiliation for the full academic year is encouraged. Fellows are expected to reside in the Greater Boston area for the duration of the fellowship.

The Hou Family Fellows will have the opportunity to engage with the Fairbank Center’s interdisciplinary community of scholars and will have access to Harvard’s world-class libraries and other resources.

In addition to maintaining their own research agenda, the Hou Family Fellows will contribute to the Fairbank Center community in ways that could include the following:

  • Presenting research to the Center’s Taiwan Studies Workshop series, or to other Fairbank Center events and audiences,
  • Participating in professional development and community building activities.

Continue reading

Whose New Year Is It Anyway? (1)

It’s actually not just about Chinese and Koreans! In Sydney, the city renamed the whole thing Lunar New Year. In Sweden, I contributed to getting the Asia-related museums in Stockholm change the name of the holiday the same way, to “lunar” — to block the Chinese embassy’s attempt to monopolize and politicize the holiday. Hopefully many other places are doing the same.

Are there other examples from around the world?

Magnus Fiskesjö <>

Into the Light

NEW PUBLICATION: 《在幽昏中显影:港中对话中国独立纪录片2014-2020》 (Into the Light: Discovering Chinese Documentary Film in Hong Kong 2014-2020), co-edited by Zeng Jinyan, Wen Hai, Ying Liang, Li Tiecheng and Cheung Tit-leung

Amazon Kindle link:
Google Play link:
House of Pele Press website (where educators and libraries can purchase a licensed copy of the book):

Here is a bit of introduction to this title:

This book discusses the independent films screened, produced, and distributed by the Chinese Independent Documentary Lab (Hong Kong) from 2014 to 2020, in conversations between directors, scholars and audiences. This collection has chosen to discuss the relatively well documented independent documentaries in the three screening sections of Rebel China, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and Desiring China. The book also includes 18 post-screening discussion texts or director interviews on issues on the survivors’ testimonies of Jiabiangou Rightist Labour Camp, Uyghur and Tibetan issues, the three self-churches, the underground intellectuals, former senior government officials, and workers’ resistance. Continue reading

Whose New Year Is It Anyway?

Source: Language Log (1/23/23)
Whose New Year is it anyway?
From Alex Baumans

The struggle for cultural priority, supremacy, and naming between China and Korea is perennial:  fishing nets, printing with metal movable type, kimchi….  Now it’s over the lunar new year that is currently being celebrated.

NewJeans’ Danielle apologizes for calling the ‘Lunar New Year’ ‘Chinese New Year’
By Yaki-Jones, allkpop (1/21/23)

Chinese netizens terrorize the Instagrams of Korean celebrities who gave lunar new year greetings, including IVE’s Wonyoung and CL
By Yaki-Jones, allkpop (1/22/23)

Might be better to avoid the orthological controversy altogether and just refer to it as the Lunar New Year. Continue reading