Five ways China’s past has shaped its present

Source: BBC (4/20/18)
Five ways China’s past has shaped its present
By Prof Rana Mitter, University of Oxford

To understand today’s headlines about China’s approach to issues such as trade, foreign policy or internet censorship, turn to its past.

The country is perhaps more aware of its own history than any other major society on earth. That remembering is certainly partial – events like Mao’s Cultural Revolution are still very difficult to discuss within China itself. But it is striking how many echoes of the past can be found in its present.


China remembers a time when it was forced to trade against its will. Today it regards Western efforts to open its markets as a reminder of that unhappy period. Continue reading

A migrant worker’s struggle

BBC Capital (4/17/18)
‘I hadn’t been home for three years’: One migrant’s struggle
China is home to nearly 300 million migrant workers who must leave the countryside for difficult, dangerous jobs in the big city.

Guo Jie, a migrant worker in Shanghai, makes a living by loading enormous stacks of polystyrene foam boxes on her bike, pedalling around Shanghai to re-sell them to wholesalers.

Unwieldly, dangerous and by her own admission a bit scary, it’s a job that proves a challenge to navigate busy roads. It also hints at the struggles the nearly 300 million rural migrant workers face in China. As their country undergoes rapid development, many people from rural communities must leave home behind to look for jobs in the city, where there are more opportunities. Continue reading

Contacts, Collisions, Conjunctions

International Conference: Contacts, Collisions, Conjunctions: May 9-10, 2018, HKU

The Society of Fellows in the Humanities at the University of Hong Kong invites you to their Inaugural Annual Conference: Contacts, Collisions, Conjunctions, to be held on May 9-10, 2018. We are delighted to welcome our keynote speakers: Joseph Auner (Tufts University), Rey Chow (Duke University), François Cusset (University of Nanterre) andLeela Gandhi (Brown University)​.

Please join us in Room 4.36, Faculty of Arts, Run Run Shaw Tower, Centennial Campus, HKU. All are  welcome.

Please register using the following link:

Conference program ( Continue reading

China’s changing sex lives

Source: Sixth Tone (4/17/18)
More Open, More Anxious: China’s Changing Sex Lives
Young people are having sex earlier and earlier, but performance anxiety is on the rise.
By Pan Suiming

[Pan Suiming is a professor emeritus and the honorary director of the Institute for Research on Sexuality and Gender at Renmin University of China in Beijing. This article is part of a series on gender and sexuality in China. Previous articles can be found here.]

Many people think of China as a sexually repressed society. While this is true to some extent, the results of four nationwide surveys I led between 2000 and 2015 show that young Chinese people are becoming increasingly open about sex.

During those 15 years, the average age at which Chinese people reported having their first sexual encounter trended steadily downward. In 2000, sexually active men under age 30 lost their virginity at 22.6 years old on average. For women in the same group, the average was 21.7 years old. By 2015, these ages had dropped to 19.5 for men and 20.4 for women. These figures are highly significant: In just 15 years, men had their first sexual encounter a full three years earlier, and the age for women dropped by nearly a year and a half. Continue reading

KFLC china-related program

Dear List Members,

The 71st annual KFLC conference is taking place on the campus of the University of Kentucky in the next couple of days, from April 19th to 21st.

Please check out the following program for the East Asian Studies sessions and join us if you are able!

Thursday, April 19, 2018 – 9:00am to 12:00pm
From Mao to Now
Patterson Office Tower, 18th Floor, Room A
Thursday, April 19, 2018 – 9:00am to 12:00pm
Organized by: Liang Luo, University of Kentucky ; Masamichi Inoue, University of Kentucky
Chaired by: Melody Yunzi Li, Transylvania University

9:00: Things Lost and Found in Digitally Performing “The Legend of the White Snake”
Liang Luo, University of Kentucky
9:30: Young Taiwan and the Spirit of Protest: National Identity and Political Action Among Taiwanese College Students
Bridget Nicholas, University of Kentucky
10:00: Marginalized Female Characters in Geling Yan’s Novels
Xiaoyang Li, University of Canterbury
10:30: Coffee Break
11:00: Running Away From Mao-ti in Contemporary China
Miao Dou, Washington University in St. Louis
11:30: Home-Building in Mao-Era—The Dialectic between Politics and Family in Yan Geling’s The Criminal Lu Yanshi
Melody Yunzi Li, Transylvania University Continue reading

Posthumanism in Modern Chinese Culture–cfp reminder

Call for Papers: Posthumanism in Modern Chinese Culture
September 29th-30th, 2018, University of New Hampshire

Keynote Speaker: Xudong Zhang (Professor of Comparative Literature and East Asian Studies, New York University)

As with other modern cultures, China in the 20th and 21st century faces the fundamental challenge of re-defining what it means to be human under the changed historical situation. Humanism has unsurprisingly gained wide currency along the way. Humanist discourse not only played a crucial part in launching the New Culture Movement in early 20th century and in re-orienting the intellectual culture in the post-Mao era of 1980s, it also functions as a general underlying principle for many cultural productions and intellectual discussions in modern China.

On the other hand, however, the re-definition of the human has also taken a direction that might be characterized as a posthumanist approach, in the sense that it questions the rationalist premise of humanism and challenges the humanist division between human and animal, and between nature and culture. Posthumanism has never acquired the same level of discursive coherence and prominence as humanism, and sometimes even expresses itself in humanist terms. Despite this fact, however, it has nevertheless persisted as a significant intellectual trend, finding its spokesman in some of the most prominent modern Chinese minds, including Lu Xun. With the rapidly changing social and technological conditions in recent years, in particular, posthumanism has come to assume an increasingly important role in contemporary Chinese culture. Continue reading

Taiwan, Asia’s bastion of free speech

Source: NYT (3/14/18)
Asia’s Bastion of Free Speech? Move Aside, Hong Kong, It’s Taiwan Now.
查看简体中文版  | 查看繁體中文版

A view of Taipei, the capital of Taiwan, which has emerged as one of Asia’s most vibrant democracies, drawing the political dissidents and rights groups that once naturally gravitated to Hong Kong. CreditLam Yik Fei for The New York Times

TAIPEI, Taiwan — For decades under British rule and after its handover to China, Hong Kong was a bastion of free speech in the Chinese-speaking world. International media and rights groups established their headquarters there, and it served as a haven for political fugitives, from Tiananmen student leaders to Edward Snowden.

In recent years, however, as Beijing has tightened its grip on the former colony, Hong Kong has been increasingly supplanted by Taiwan, a self-governing island that has emerged as one of Asia’s most vibrant democracies. Taiwan now draws the sorts of dissidents, rights groups and events that once naturally gravitated to Hong Kong. Continue reading

First gay-ish film widely released

Source: Sixth Tone (4/16/18)
First Gay-ish Film Widely Released in China
Despite suspected cuts from media regulators, advocates see ‘Looking for Rohmer’ as an important step toward LGBT acceptance.
By Qian Zhecheng

A promotional poster for the recently released film ‘Looking for Rohmer.’

Gay cinemagoers in China are finding “Looking for Rohmer” a bit of a letdown.

Long heralded on Chinese social media as the first gay-themed film to be approved for nationwide release, “Looking for Rohmer” — also known by its prerelease title, “Seek McCartney” — premiered on Friday to mixed reviews. When Sixth Tone’s reporter attended a Shanghai screening on Friday evening, the only three other viewers in the theater were all gay men.

After the final credits, a 35-year-old consultant told Sixth Tone that “Looking for Rohmer” was more arthouse film than “gay film.” He declined to give his name for fear of publicly revealing his sexuality. Continue reading

Qingdao Wanda Film Studio

Source: China Film Insider (4/16/18)
Qingdao Wanda Film Studio Opens April 28

After years of preparation, the Wanda Film Metropolis will formally open on April 28. Jason Wei handles marketing for the hotel portion of the project. Nick Zhang is in charge of marketing for the Wanda Studios portion of the project. I met with them last week at the site for a preview of what will be revealed at the opening.

The commercial part of the project includes a large retail mall, three separate amusement parks (theme park, water park, movie theme park, all indoors for year round operation), at least 6 separate hotels, two large exhibition centers, a large marina and a massive number of condos. Nothing except the condos have formally opened for business.

The movie studio project is being conducted under the heading of Wanda Studios Qingdao (青岛万达影视产业园)which operates separately from the commercial portions of the Film Metropolis. You can check out the studio complex on their website at Continue reading

Everyday politics in the Ming

Source: Aeon (4/11/18)
Everyday politics
Imperial Chinese conscription shows how ordinary people exercise influential political skills, even in a repressive state
By Michael Szonyi

It’s easy to make the mistake of thinking that because people in the past didn’t live in democracies, they must have faced fewer political choices and had fewer political skills than we do. It is true that imperial subjects did not choose their emperors in democratic elections. But if we think about politics in a broader sense – as encompassing all of the diverse interactions between a state, its agents and its population – we soon realise that ordinary people in the past operated in complex political arenas, and often developed sophisticated political skills. Historians can sometimes reconstruct these skills even for ordinary people in the distant past. Continue reading

Chinese architecture struggles to find its identity

Source: LARB China Channel (4/16/18)
Essence and Form: Chinese Architecture Struggles to Find its Identity
By Matt Turner

When Xi Jinping called for an end to “weird buildings” in a 2014 speech, journalists raced to point out their favorite offenders, from showpieces of contemporary architecture like Beijing’s massive CCTV tower or the Olympic “Bird’s Nest” Stadium, to less known (but no less striking) examples: buildings shaped like coins, sages, various teapots, and even the USS Enterprise. In comparison to these architectural oddities, Xi praised traditional Chinese architecture and the values it inspires (primarily loyalty to the state). Continue reading

Weibo reverses gay content ban (1)

Source: Sup China (4/16/18)
Weibo revokes ban on homosexual content after uproar
By Jiayun Feng, Jeremy Goldkorn

A rare piece of good news for freedom of expression in China: Sina Weibo, confronting a colossal backlash from the public following its ban on homosexual content issued last Friday, announced today that it had reversed the decision, limiting the cleanup campaign to only pornographic and violent comics and games.

“We won’t target gay content anymore in this cleanup of games and anime,” the Weibo administration announced (in Chinese) on April 16, a mere three days after the initial ban was issued. “Instead, we’ll focus on content with pornographic and violent themes. Thank you for your discussions and suggestions.”

The reversal constituted a rare case in the history of Weibo, one of the biggest and most popular social media platforms in China: It is highly unusual to lift censorship of a certain topic in direct response to user feedback. The decision also marked an unprecedented triumph for the gay community in China. Continue reading

Orientalism Forty Years on–cfp

HONG KONG STUDIES—Issue 3 (Spring 2019) Call for Papers—Special Section on Orientalism Forty Years on; and General Research Papers

The first bilingual and interdisciplinary academic journal on Hong Kong, Hong Kong Studies (Chinese University Press), is now accepting articles for Issue 3 (scheduled for publication in Spring 2019), which will comprise both general research articles on Hong Kong and a special section on Edward Said’s Orientalism. Continue reading

Taiwan Studies Workshop–cfp reminder

sponsored by Chiang Ching-kuo Foundation for International Scholarly Exchange and Harvard University
DATE: October 12-13, 2018
PLACE: University of California, Davis
ELIGIBILITY: Assistant professors, PhD students, and independent scholars in North America and Europe
THEME:“Ecologizing Taiwan: Nature, Society, Culture”

Inspired by Felix Guattari’s Three Ecologies, this workshop extends the definition of ecology to encompass social relations and human subjectivity, as well as environmental concerns. With Taiwan as the focus either in itself or within a comparative framework, papers are invited to examine the human, non-human, and post-human Sinosphere as well as the earth. Other topics that study Taiwan from humanistic or social scientific perspectives are welcome too. 

FUNDING: Funding for economy-class airfares and hotel accommodations for two nights will be provided for speakers.

SUBMISSION DEADLINE: May 1, 2018. Please send the title of the paper and an abstract of 100-120 words to: David Der-wei Wang at and Michelle Yeh at

INVITATIONS will be sent out by May 31, 2018.