New leaks on internments

Source: Sup China (2/17/20)
New Leaks Show How China Targeted Muslims For Internment

SupChina illustration by Derek Zheng

A new leak of documents from the Chinese government provides further details of the Chinese government’s vast system of surveillance and detainment in Xinjiang. The “Karakax list” is the third major such leak of government documents.

Like the two previous leaks, to the New York Times and the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), the Karakax list confirms the culturally abusive nature of policing and detention in Xinjiang, and contradicts claims by Chinese authorities that the “re-education” facilities are targeted at rooting out “separatism” or “extremism.”

The new document shows 311 case files from Karakax County in southwestern Xinjiang, where 98% of the residents identify as Uyghur, a mostly Muslim ethnic minority. The Financial Times, one of more than a dozen outlets that was shown the paper ahead of its publication today, verified its authenticity and explains what it shows us: Continue reading

Dionysus on the Other Shore

Fusini, Letizia. Dionysus on the Other Shore: Gao Xingjian’s Theatre of the Tragic. Leiden: Brill, 2020.

In Dionysus on the Other Shore, Letizia Fusini argues that throughout his early exile years (late 1980s-1990s), Gao Xingjian gradually moved away from Absurdist Drama to develop a dramaturgical system with tragic characteristics. Drawing on a range of contemporary theories of tragedy, this book reconfigures some of the key tropes of Gao’s post-1987 theater as varied articulations of the Dionysian sparagmos mechanism. They are the dismemberment of the dramatic self, the usage of constricted spaces, the divisive nature of gender relations, and the agony of verbal language. Through a text-based analysis of seven plays, the author ultimately aims to show that in Gao’s theater, tragedy is an ongoing and mostly subtextual dynamism generated by an interplay of psychic forces concurrently cohesive and divisive. Continue reading

Xu Zhiyong detained

Source: NYT (2/17/20)
China Detains Activist Who Accused Xi of Coronavirus Cover-Up
Xu Zhiyong, a prominent Chinese legal activist, went silent over the weekend. His girlfriend, Li Qiaochu, a social activist, has gone missing.
By Javier C. Hernández

Xu Zhiyong in Beijing in 2009.

Xu Zhiyong in Beijing in 2009. Credit…Greg Baker/Associated Press

He portrayed China’s leader, Xi Jinping, as hungry for power. He accused Mr. Xi of trying to cover up the coronavirus outbreak in central China. In one of his most daring writings, he urged Mr. Xi to resign, saying, “You’re just not smart enough.”

Then, over the weekend, Xu Zhiyong, a prominent Chinese legal activist, went silent. The authorities in the southern city of Guangzhou detained him on Saturday, according to Mr. Xu’s friends, after he spent nearly two months in hiding. His girlfriend, Li Qiaochu, a social activist, went missing on Sunday, Mr. Xu’s friends said.

The activist is the latest critic to be caught up in Mr. Xi’s far-reaching efforts to limit dissent in China. The crackdown, which has ensnared scores of activists, lawyers, journalists and intellectuals, is likely to intensify as the ruling Communist Party comes under broad attack for its handling of the coronavirus outbreak, one of its biggest political challenges in years. Continue reading

Sensible Politics

William A. Callahan, Sensible Politics: Visualizing International Relations (Oxford University Press, 2020).
Discount code ASFLYQ6: so paperback is $19.57

Book abstract:

Visual images are everywhere in international politics. But how are we to understand them? In Sensible Politics, William A. Callahan uses his expertise in theory and filmmaking to explore not only what visuals mean, but also how visuals can viscerally move and connect us in “affective communities of sense.”

The book’s rich analysis of visual images (photographs, film, art) and visual artifacts (maps, veils, walls, gardens, cyberspace) shows how critical scholarship needs to push beyond issues of identity and security to appreciate the creative politics of social-ordering and world-ordering. Continue reading

Sinophone Literature in the Global South–cfp

Call for Papers: Sun Yat-sen Journal of Humanities (ISSN: 1024-3631)
Special Issue: Sinophone Literature in the Global South

Guest Editors:

Min-xu Zhan, Assistant Professor of the Graduate Institute of Taiwan Literature and Transnational Cultural Studies, National Chung Hsing University, Taiwan
Chia-rong Wu, Senior Lecturer of the Global, Cultural and Language Studies, The University of Canterbury, New Zealand

The discourse of Sinophone literature is two-fold in the network of the Global South. First, it is common to see in traditional Chinese history such expressions as “southern barbarians” and “South Seas,” both of which have long been employed to imagine and portray the Chinese south. From a Chinese perspective, Sinophone literature in the Global South refers to the literary production of the South beyond mainland China. To be more specific, the field includes Sinophone writing produced in the southern regions, including Southeast Asia, Hong Kong, Macao, and Taiwan. In recent years, the horizon of the Chinese literary study has been expanded in response to world Chinese literature and Sinophone literature within the framework of the Global South. Current scholarship not only recognizes the geographical distinctiveness between the north and south in Chinese literary production, but it also highlights the unique features of the literary south with respect to the colonial history, multiethnic exchange, and cultural practices of the local community. Continue reading

Moulding the Socialist Subject

Xiaoning Lu, Moulding the Socialist Subject: Cinema and Chinese Modernity (1949-1966) (Leiden: Brill 2020)
Series: Ideas, History, and Modern China, Volume: 22
Hardback ISBN: 978-90-04-42351-0 Publication Date: 03 Feb 2020
E-Book  ISBN:  978-90-04-42352-7  Publication Date: 30 Jan 2020

What role did cinema play in the Chinese Communist Party’s political project of shaping ideal socialist citizens in the early People’s Republic? In Moulding the Socialist Subject, Xiaoning Lu deploys case studies from popular film genres, movie star culture and rural film exhibition practices to argue that Chinese cinema in 1949–1966, at once an important political instrument, an enjoyable yet instructive form of entertainment, and a specific manifestation of the socialist society of the spectacle, was an everyday site where the moulding of the new socialist person unfolded. While painting a broad picture of Chinese socialist cinema, Lu credits the human agency of film professionals, whose self-reflexivity and individual adaptability played an intrinsic role in the Party’s political project. Continue reading

Five demands

Posted by: Magnus Fiskesjö <>
Source: Chinascope (2/12/20)
Public Opinion: Intellectuals in China Started Raising Their “Five Demands”

The night of February 6, 2020, saw the death of Dr. Li Wenliang, a Wuhan physician who alerted others about novel coronavirus a month ago. He then contracted the virus when working on the front-line treating patients. There was an outcry among intellectuals within the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) establishment. They cried out for freedom of speech.

Citizen News, a social diversity advocate news outlet based in Hong Kong, published an open letter signed by leading Chinese intellectuals with five demands:

  1. The Designation of February 6 as National Freedom of Speech Day (Dr. Li Wenliang Day).
  2. Starting now, fully implement the Chinese people’s right to freedom of speech granted by Article 35 of the Constitution.
  3. Starting now, no political forces or state machine should infringe on the Chinese people when they form associations or communicate among each other. The state organs must immediately stop censoring or blocking the content of social media.
  4. Grant equal rights to citizens in Wuhan city and Hubei province, the epicenter of the coronavirus. All coronavirus patients should be able to receive timely, proper, and effective treatment.
  5. Call for the National People’s Congress to convene an emergency assembly to discuss how to protect citizens’ freedom of speech and do not allow any police force to stop the planned meeting (China holds the National People’s Congress in early March every year).

Continue reading

Drawing from Life

Drawing from Life: Sketching and Socialist Realism in the People’s Republic of China
By Christine I. Ho
University of California Press, 2020.

Drawing from Life explores revolutionary drawing and sketching in the early People’s Republic of China (1949–1965) in order to discover how artists created a national form of socialist realism. Tracing the development of seminal works by the major painters Xu Beihong, Wang Shikuo, Li Keran, Li Xiongcai, Dong Xiwen, and Fu Baoshi, author Christine I. Ho reconstructs how artists grappled with the representational politics of a nascent socialist art. The divergent approaches, styles, and genres presented in this study reveal an art world that is both heterogeneous and cosmopolitan. Through a history of artistic practices in pursuit of Maoist cultural ambitions—to forge new registers of experience, new structures of feeling, and new aesthetic communities—this original book argues that socialist Chinese art presents a critical, alternative vision for global modernism.

Christine I. Ho is Assistant Professor of East Asian Art at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Continue reading

Translating reform era fiction

Source: China Channel, LARB (2/12/20)
Translating Reform Era Fiction
Kevin McGeary talks to the translator of Empires of Dust by Jiang Zilong

Set in the fictional village of Guojiadian, Jiang Zilong’s Empires of Dust is a seven-hundred page tome that chronicles the rise and fall of Guo Cunxian, who transforms from impoverished peasant to formidable businessman. Described by the South China Morning Post as being “as epic, grandiose, ambitious, complex and turbulent as China itself,” this is the tenth novel by Jiang, who is often described as the father of China’s ‘reform literature,’ literature dealing with the reform and opening period after 1978. I caught up with co-translator Christopher Payne to discuss the novel, and the work involved in rendering it into English.

Of all the characters, Guo Cunxian goes through the biggest trajectory, from rejecting the sexual advances of Sister Liu to habitually committing infidelity, from eking out a living making coffins to becoming powerful and corrupt. Does he represent both the heroic and reprehensible qualities that made China’s economic boom possible?

Guo has very humble roots. His family did not participate in the Communist revolution – so no Red history to claim as their own – nor did they join up with the Party to become cadres or other revolutionary workers after 1949. They were the quintessential poor peasant family. This earthiness set Guo’s moral compass: he was the good family man, the good son who led his family after the death of his father. Indeed, his motive for departing Guojiadian in the first instance is to earn money to send back to his mother and younger brother. He does embody the heroic qualities of China’s economic miracle – the initiative, the drive, the thirst to bring wealth to his town, yet it is that very same wealth and power that destroys his moral compass. He loses his earthiness. It’s rather tragic. So yes, I think he does represent what has been both heroic and reprehensible about the dramatic changes China has endured over the course of the reform era. Continue reading

What history teaches about the coronavirus

Posted by: Wah Guan Lim <>
Source: The Diplomat (2/12/20)
What History Teaches About the Coronavirus Emergency
Lessons of transparency and transnational cooperation from the 1910-11 Manchurian Plague are still relevant to China and the world today.
By Wayne Soon and Ja Ian Chong

Accounts about the disease started sporadically. Somewhere in China people were getting sick in unusual numbers. Then press reports started appearing. Large numbers of people were getting seriously ill along main transport axes. News of deaths soon followed. In a few months 60,000 people would die before the disease came under control. This was not Wuhan in December 2019 and January 2020; it was northeastern China from late 1910 to early 1911. The Manchurian Plague, as the incident came to be known, was the first instance of modern techniques being applied to a public health crisis in China. Lessons of transparency and transnational cooperation from that event more than a century ago are still relevant to China and the world today. Continue reading

Xu Zhangrun ‘Viral Alarm’

Source: China File (2/10/20)
Viral Alarm: When Fury Overcomes Fear
An Essay by Xu Zhangrun, Translated and Annotated by Geremie R. Barmé

Kevin Frayer—Getty Images

Translator’s Note

My thanks to Warren Sun who read over the draft translation of this essay and offered a number of insightful suggestions and to two other unnamed friends who helped me rid the text of various infelicities. I blame my obduracy for those that remain. For more essays by Xu Zhangrun in English, and for an account of his persecution by Tsinghua University, see the Xu Zhangrun Archive published by China Heritage.—Geremie Barmé. Subheadings have been added by the translator. The rule of Xi Jinping is officially hailed as China’s “New Era.“

Translator’s Introduction

In July 2018, the Tsinghua University professor Xu Zhangrun published an unsparing critique of the Chinese Communist Party and its Chairman of Everything, Xi Jinping. Xu warned of the dangers of one-man rule, a sycophantic bureaucracy, putting politics ahead of professionalism and the myriad other problems that the system would encounter if it rejected further reforms. That philippic was one of a cycle of works that Xu wrote during a year in which he alerted his readers to pressing issues related to China’s momentous struggle with modernity, the state of the nation under Xi Jinping and the mixed prospects for its future. Those essays will be published in a collection titled Six Chapters from the 2018 Year of the Dog by Hong Kong City University Press in May this year.

Although he was demoted by Tsinghua University in March 2019 and banned from teaching, writing and publishing, Xu has remained defiant. His latest polemical work—“When Fury Overcomes Fear”—translated below, appeared online on February 4, 2020 as the coronavirus epidemic swept China and infections overseas sparked concern around the world. Continue reading

Read China–cfp

Call for papers: Practices of Reading in the People’s Republic of China
Freiburg (Germany), Dec. 9-11, 2020

Research into literary and intellectual life typically focuses on analyses of texts and their production. The reader, practices of reading and the meanings and interpretations that (ordinary) readers arrive at very often are missing from the picture. This conference aims at filling this gap in research by focusing on practices of reading in the People’s Republic of China.

The conference “Practices of Reading in the People’s Republic of China” is hosted by the ERC-funded project ‘The Politics of Reading in the People’s Republic of China (READCHINA)’. READCHINA investigates into the politics and practices of reading in the People’s Republic of China (PRC), their interpretation and their impact on social and intellectual change. The main objective is a reinvestigation of literary history, intellectual history and cultural policy of the PRC from the perspective of the ordinary reader, who time and again aimed at testing or transgressing the boundaries of the rigid system. READCHINA includes research on fictional figures in popular literature; audiences of entertainment Internet fiction; organized forms and participants’ responses at rituals of collective reading participants; anonymous bookstore frequenters; and second-hand book readers and dealers. We explore reading as a tactic of common readers from the grassroots. Continue reading

Urban Horror

Urban Horror Urban Horror: Neoliberal Post-Socialism and the Limits of Visibility
By Erin Huang
Duke University Press, 2020

In Urban Horror, Erin Y. Huang theorizes the economic, cultural, and political conditions of neoliberal post-socialist China. Drawing on Marxist phenomenology, geography, and aesthetics from Engels and Merleau-Ponty to Lefebvre and Rancière, Huang traces the emergence and mediation of what she calls urban horror—a sociopolitical public affect that exceeds comprehension and provides the grounds for possible future revolutionary dissent. She shows how documentaries, blockbuster feature films, and video art from China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan made between the 1990s and the present rehearse and communicate urban horror. In these films urban horror circulates through myriad urban spaces characterized by the creation of speculative crises, shifting temporalities, and dystopic environments inhospitable to the human body. The cinematic image and the aesthetics of urban horror in neoliberal post-socialist China lay the groundwork for the future to such an extent, Huang contends, that the seeds of dissent at the heart of urban horror make it possible to imagine new forms of resistance. Continue reading

Ming Qing Studies 2019

Ming Qing Studies 2019
edited by Paolo Santangelo
Sapienza University of Rome

We are glad to inform you that Ming Qing Studies 2019 was issued in November 2019 by WriteUp Site ( and

MING QING STUDIES is an annual publication focused on late imperial China and the broader geo-cultural area of East Asia during the premodern and modern period. Its scope is to provide a forum for scholars from a variety of fields seeking to bridge the gap between ‘oriental’ and western knowledge. Articles may concern any discipline, including sociology, literature, psychology, anthropology, history, geography, linguistics, semiotics, political science, and philosophy. Contributions by young and post-graduated scholars are particularly welcome. Continue reading

New strain of resistance

Source: SCMP (2/10/20)
A new strain of resistance? How the coronavirus crisis is changing Hong Kong’s protest movement
Hard-core activists back off but contagion helping to maintain momentum of city’s anti-government movement. Mass strikes threat as new unions emerge ready to wreak havoc during this crisis, or the next.
By Natalie Wong and Tony Cheung

Hard-core activists back off but coronavirus helping to maintain momentum of city’s anti-government movement. Illustration: Lau Ka-kuen

Hard-core activists back off but coronavirus helping to maintain momentum of city’s anti-government movement. Illustration: Lau Ka-kuen

When about 9,000 medical workers went on strike for five days early this month, it signalled not only their dissatisfaction with the Hong Kong government’s handling of the new coronavirus outbreak, but also a change in the city’s protest movement.

After more than eight months of anti-government street marches, violence and vandalism, with riot police responding by firing tear gas and other crowd-dispersal weapons, the health crisis led to protests being called off.

New police tactics since the new year, with officers intervening earlier at demonstrations to end violence and arrest protesters, also had the effect of keeping protesters away. Continue reading