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Hu Jie, excavating Chinese history

Source: NYT (6/28/20)
Excavating Chinese History, One Harrowing Film at a Time
The work of Hu Jie, who has made more than 30 movies, is little known even in China. The release of “Spark” and “The Observer” should make him better known abroad.
By Ian Johnson

The filmmaker Hu Jie in “The Observer,” a documentary about Hu, directed by Rita Andreetti. Credit…Icarus Films

For more than 20 years, the filmmaker Hu Jie has been trawling the deep waters of Chinese history to create a series of harrowing documentaries about the early years of Communist Party rule.

Though Hu is largely unknown outside Chinese intellectual and foreign academic circles, two films, to be released on June 30, should increase the visibility of his work and help make it accessible to outsiders. “Spark” — a film that has undergone many iterations, alternations and expansions — reconstructs the fate of a group of young people who started an underground journal 60 years ago. And “The Observer,” a documentary about Hu by the Italian director Rita Andreetti, is at once a sympathetic portrait of the filmmaker and an introduction to his films.

Both are being distributed by Icarus Films as part of dGenerate Films’ collection of independent Chinese movies, curated by the American film producer Karin Chien. Their release — along with three other important Hu works that Icarus has released — makes it possible for audiences to see the sweep of his body of work. Continue reading

Li Zhensheng dies at 79

Source: NYT (6/25/20)
Li Zhensheng, Photographer of China’s Cultural Revolution, Dies at 79
With his camera and red arm band, Mr. Li captured the dark side of Mao’s revolution at great personal risk.
By Amy Qin

Li Zhensheng in a risky self portrait taken during China’s Cultural Revolution on July 17, 1967, when people were expected to put party before self. His photographs offer a rare visual testament to that tumultuous period in Chinese history.  Credit…Li Zhensheng/Contact Press Images

Li Zhensheng, a photographer who at great personal risk documented the dark side of Mao Zedong’s Cultural Revolution, producing powerful black-and-white images that remain a rare visual testament to the brutality of that tumultuous period, many of them not developed or seen for years, has died. He was 79.

His death was confirmed on Tuesday by Robert Pledge, a founder of Contact Press Images and editor of Mr. Li’s photo book “Red-Color News Soldier,” who said that Mr. Li had been hospitalized on Long Island. He lived in Queens. Further details, including the date of his death, were not released.

Mr. Li was a young photographer at a local newspaper in northeastern China when Mao started the Revolution in May 1966. Wearing a red arm band that said, “Red-Color News Soldier,” Mr. Li was given extraordinary access to official events. Continue reading

China targeting journalists in new push for influence

Source: The Guardian (6/24/20)
China targeting non-English-speaking journalists in new push for influence – study
Exclusive: International Federation of Journalists finds tours, control of infrastructure and provision of pro-China content part of escalating campaign
By Ben Doherty

 Uighur men dancing after Eid al-Fitr prayers, marking the end of Ramadan, outside the Id Kah mosque in Kashgar, in China’s western Xinjiang region

IFJ research found China has taken several groups of journalists from Muslim countries to ‘re-education’ camps in Xinjiang. Photograph: Greg Baker/AFP/Getty Images

China is attempting to use journalists from non-English speaking countries to promote its policies beyond its borders in a concerted new push for influence, a report by the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has found.

A survey of journalist unions across 58 countries found that through study tours, control of media infrastructure, and the provision of pro-Beijing content, China is “running an extensive and sophisticated long-term outreach campaign … [in] a strategic, long-term effort to reshape the global news landscape with a China-friendly global narrative”.

The IFJ report, The China Story: reshaping the world’s media, argues Beijing is also seeking to build control over messaging infrastructure – effectively the channels by which countries receive news – through foreign media acquisitions and large-scale telecommunications ventures. The report found the decade-long campaign “seems to be escalating”. Continue reading

Eclipse film review

Source: Taipei Times (6/25/20)
Movie Review: Eclipse
A 45-second classic television commercial is turned into a gripping and entertaining 83-minute thriller that addresses current social issues such as abuse in the military and transitional justice
By Han Cheung / Staff reporter

Kai Hsieh, left, and Kelvin Chi star in Eclipse. Photo courtesy of atmovies.com

It’s hard to know what to expect from a film that takes a popular 1990s “Iron Ox” (鐵牛運功散) herbal remedy television commercial and expands it to 83 minutes. There’s infinite room for imagination, as the commercial basically consists of a young military conscript calling his mother and telling her how effective the remedy is.

“Mom, it’s A-jung!” (媽! 我阿榮啦) he exclaims into the old-school payphone, the catchphrase serving as the Chinese title of Eclipse. He enthusiastically describes the medicine’s benefits, after which his father takes the phone and asks him to come home soon. The ad is still shown on television every now and then, giving rise to the running joke that A-jung is still stuck in military service over 20 years later and still hasn’t returned home. Continue reading

Citizen journalist charged for covid-19 reporting

Source: China Media Project (6/22/20)
CITIZEN JOURNALIST CHARGED FOR COVID-19 REPORTING
by 

Citizen Journalist Charged for Covid-19 Reporting

According to Chinese news reports and online posts, Shanghai-based citizen journalist Zhang Zhan (张展), who was arrested in May after posting a video criticizing the government’s epidemic response measures, was formally charged last Friday with the crime of “picking quarrels and provoking trouble” (寻衅滋事罪). This is a criminal charge often used in China against activists, dissidents and writers. Zhang is reportedly being held in the Pudong New District Detention Center (浦东新区看守所).

Sometime around February 1 this year, after the outbreak in Wuhan became public knowledge in China, Zhang travelled to Wuhan from Shanghai to report on the crisis. She filed a number stories through WeChat, YouTube and Twitter before becoming the fourth citizen journalist detained in Wuhan by authorities – following journalists Chen Qiushi (陈秋实), Fang Bin (方斌) and Li Zehua (李泽华).

Back in February, CMP documented and translated a speech Li Zehua gave to local police outside the door of the apartment where he was staying before turning himself in. “I’m not willing to disguise my voice, nor am I willing to shut my eyes and close my ears,” he said.

PLA site attacks Fang Fang’s diary

Source: China Media Project (6/23/20)
PLA Site Attacks “Bad Domestic Media”
by 

PLA Site Attacks “Bad Domestic Media”

On June 10, the website China Military (chinamil.com.cn), a news portal operated by the People’s Liberation Army, ran an attack piece on the author Fang Fang, whose diary documenting 74 days under quarantine in Wuhan during the coronavirus epidemic was recently published in both English and German editions. Fang Fang’s Diary, in English titled Wuhan Diary: Dispatches from a Quarantined City, is an insider’s account of events in the city of Wuhan, the epicenter in January this year of what would eventually become a global pandemic, and it offers details about the crisis and the official response that are highly embarrassing for China’s leaders.

The piece at China Military, “The Lightspeed Publication of “Fang Fang’s Diary” Will Only Expose the Truth About More Western “Pot Throwing, alleges that certain “bad domestic media,” principally Hu Shuli’s Caixin Media, are responsible for pushing Fang Fang’s account and making it a tool for critics of China in the West. Continue reading

Graphic novel on Tiananmen Massacre

Source: CNN (6/20/20)
Graphic novel on the Tiananmen Massacre shows medium’s power to capture history
Written by James Griffiths, CNNHong Kong

Credit: IDW Publishing

As a young man in Beijing in the 1980s, Lun Zhang felt like he was taking part in a new Chinese enlightenment.

The country was undergoing paramount leader Deng Xiaoping’s “Reform and Opening Up,” and previously sealed-off areas of knowledge, arts, and culture were becoming newly available.

People who had only years before been living in the stifling, hyper-Maoist orthodoxy of the Cultural Revolution, in which anything foreign or historical was deemed counter-revolutionary, could now listen to Wham!, hold intellectual salons in which people read Jean-Paul Sartre or Sigmund Freud, or even publish their own works, taking aim at previously sacred political targets.

“In those days, our thirst to read, learn and explore the outside world was insatiable,” Zhang writes in his new graphic novel, “Tiananmen 1989: Our Shattered Hopes.” Continue reading

US designates 4 more news organizations as foreign missions

Source: NYT (6/22/20)
U.S. Designates Four More Chinese News Organizations as Foreign Missions
The move brings to nine the total number of Chinese state-run news organizations that the State Department has designated with that label. China will most likely retaliate.
By Edward Wong

The headquarters of China Central Television in Beijing. The State Department classified the organization and three others operating in the United States as “foreign missions.” Credit…Nicolas Asfouri/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

WASHINGTON — The Trump administration announced on Monday that it was designating four more Chinese state-run media organizations that have operations in the United States as foreign missions, in a new round of restrictions likely to lead to some form of retaliation from China.

State Department officials said they were taking the action to make it clear to American citizens that the organizations are viewed by the U.S. government as propaganda organs for a foreign government. The groups will be asked to send to the department a complete roster of employees in the United States and a list of their real estate holdings.

David R. Stilwell, the assistant secretary for East Asia and the Pacific, declined to say in a telephone briefing with reporters what actions the United States might then take based on that information. Continue reading

On the 9th Reel China Biennial

MCLC Resource Center is pleased to announce publication of “Homecoming, Postsocialist Memory, and Subjects: On the 9th Reel China Biennial,” by Qi Wang. The essay, an overview of films screened at the 9th Reel China Biennial, held at NYU in November of 2019, can be read in its entirety at: https://u.osu.edu/mclc/online-series/qi-wang2/. Find a teaser below.

Kirk Denton, editor

Homecoming, Postsocialist Memory, and Subjects:
On the 9th Reel China Biennial

By Qi Wang


MCLC Resource Center Publication (Copyright June 2020)


The Reel China Biennial is an independent Chinese film and documentary screening series that was inaugurated in 2001. In November 2019, New York University hosted its 9th edition, co-curated by NYU professors Zhang Zhen (张真) and Angela Zito (司徒安) along with Wang Xiaolu (王小鲁), a leading critic of independent film in China (fig. 1).[1] As in the past, this most recent program is fresh and comprehensive. It showcases twelve films created after 2015. Among those, nine are from 2018, and six are of feature length, going over ninety minutes each.

24th Street (24号大街, dir. Pan Zhiqi 潘志琪, 2018), a nominee for the Best Documentary at the 55th Taipei Golden Horse Film Festival, observes the vagabond life of Su and Qin, a couple nearing retirement age who have lived together out of wedlock for over two decades (fig. 2). The two make a living by running makeshift restaurants to feed fellow migrant workers on construction sites, the latter a common sight in and near cities such as Hangzhou, where the first part of the film is set, due to the massive urbanization unfolding in China. Without a license and at the mercy of shifting conditions that range from weather and location to the police, the hardworking Su and Qin know distress and failure only too well. With their investment turning fruitless once again, they decide to return to their native Guizhou province and perhaps settle down there. . .  [read the whole essay]

New Studies in Socialist Performance

MCLC Resource Center is pleased to announce publication of Xiaomei Chen’s “New Studies in Socialist Performance: A Review Essay,” which reviews Staging Revolution: Artistry and Aesthetics in Model Beijing Opera during the Cultural Revolution, by Xing Fan, and Revolutionary Bodies: Chinese Dance and the Socialist Legacy, by Emily Wilcox. The review appears below and at its online home: https://u.osu.edu/mclc/book-reviews/xiaomei-chen/. My thanks to Jason McGrath, MCLC book review editor for media studies, for ushering the review to publication.

Kirk Denton, editor

New Studies in Socialist Performance: A Review Essay

Staging Revolution: Artistry and Aesthetics in Model Beijing Opera during the Cultural Revolution, by Xing Fan
Revolutionary Bodies: Chinese Dance and the Socialist Legacy, by Emily Wilcox


Reviewed by Xiaomei Chen
MCLC Resource Center Publication (Copyright June, 2020)


Xing Fan, Staging Revolution: Artistry and Aesthetics in Model Beijing Opera during the Cultural Revolution Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, 2018. 308 pp. ISBN: 978-988-8455-81-2 (cloth).

Emily Wilcox, Revolutionary Bodies: Chinese Dance and the Socialist Legacy Berkeley: University of California Press, 2018. 322 pp. ISBN: 9780520300576 (cloth).

This review essay examines two outstanding recent books in Chinese performance studies: Xing Fan’s monograph Staging Revolution: Artistry and Aesthetics in Model Peking Opera during the Cultural Revolution (Hong Kong University Press, 2018) and Emily Wilcox’s Revolutionary Bodies: Chinese Dance and the Socialist Legacy (University of California Press, 2019). Both books are substantial and significant contributions to theatre studies, contemporary Chinese literary and cultural studies, and comparative Asian theatre history, with a sharp focus on aesthetic traditions in the context of intellectual and political history.

Xing Fan’s Staging Revolution focuses on the complexities of the “revolutionary modern Peking opera” promoted during the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976), also widely known as “model theatre.” She is among the very few in English language scholarship to fully delve into the aesthetic features of Peking opera (jingju 京剧) in the modern period, with an emphasis on five major components of jingju arts: playwriting, acting, music, design, and directing. Staging Revolution expands the scope of Barbara Mittler’s remarkable book A Continuous Revolution: Making Sense of Cultural Revolution Culture (Harvard University East Asian Center, 2013) and Rosemary A. Roberts’s excellent study Maoist Model TheatreThe Semiotics of Gender and Sexuality in the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976) (Brill, 2010)With a comprehensive study of the artistry of model theatre, Fan’s Staging Revolution has raised to a new level the academic study of the model theatre, and by extension, the cultural legacy of the Cultural Revolution.

The scope of her book, moreover, reaches beyond the period of the Cultural Revolution. Her succinct narrative of jingju history and practice—from the late eighteenth century to the Yan’an period of the 1930s-40s and on to the high Maoist period before the Cultural Revolution—delineates a rich history of the sociological and ideological functions of jingju and its artistic heritage and development, with the latter being the most innovative contribution of Fan’s book. Continue reading

Online lit to see tighter regulation

Source: China Daily (6/19/20)
Publication of online literature to see tighter regulation

Serenade of Peaceful Joy (2020), a popular costume drama adapted from an online novel wirtten by Milan Lady. [Photo provided to chinadaily.com.cn]

Recently, the National Press and Publication Administration issued a notice on further strengthening the administration of online literature publication.

The notice requires regulating online literature, strengthening the management of online literature publication and guiding the work of related publishers.

It asks for putting a priority on social benefits, bringing more high-quality works to people and promoting the development of online literature in a healthy way.

According to the notice, online literature publishers must strictly implement their responsibilities as main platforms, improve content evaluation mechanisms for online literature, strengthen content assessment, and support the creation of new works. Continue reading

Shen Haobo poem

Shen Haobo
AMERICA RUSHES INTO THE STREETS
(Second version)

America holds down America
America oppresses America
America pleads with America
America ignores America
America kills America

America suffocates
America cries for America
America rushes into the streets
America fights against America
America burns America

America’s rocket shoots into the sky
America’s blacks rush into the streets
Remember that time?
We are all people
People massacre people

People fight and resist people
People pursue freedom
People thirst for equality
The battle is not up in the sky
Always has been down in the streets

June 1st, 2020
Translated by Martin Winter, June 2020

First version on my blog, see https://banianerguotoukeyihe.com/2020/06/03/america-rushes-into-the-streets-%e6%b2%88%e6%b5%a9%e6%b3%a2-shen-haobo/ Continue reading

China steps up moves to influence diaspora communities

Source: WSJ (6/8/20)
China Steps Up Moves to Influence Diaspora Communities
Countering the effort requires heightened vigilance by democratic countries, new report says
By Kate O’Keeffe

Chinese President Xi Jinping walks past applauding delegates at the National People’s Congress in Beijing on May 28. PHOTO: ROMAN PILIPEY/EPA/SHUTTERSTOCK

WASHINGTON—China is making fresh efforts to influence Chinese communities around the world to advance Beijing’s interests, requiring heightened vigilance from democratic countries, a new study says.

A unit in China’s ruling Communist Party known as the United Front Work Department [中共中央统一战线工作部] engages thousands of organizations to collect intelligence, encourage technology transfer, counter dissident movements and generate support for other Beijing objectives, said the report by the nonpartisan Australian Strategic Policy Institute. The department focuses its influence operations overseas on Chinese diaspora communities and foreign elites, the report said.

While Beijing has used the united front system for decades, President Xi Jinping renewed the department’s mission as part of a push to make China a global power.

In recent years it has turned to increasing its control over Chinese-language media abroad, funding research at prominent think tanks and using China’s popular WeChat messaging platform and other social media to censor, surveil and shape dialogue on policy issues, it said. Continue reading

Vigil: Hong on the Brink (1)

MCLC readers interested in Vigil: Hong Kong on the Brink, publication of which was previously announced on the list, may also find this podcast that Jeff Wasserstrom did at UCLA a few months ago as part of a roundtable with Bellette Lee (UCLA) and John Mok (UCI).  https://www.international.ucla.edu/ccs/article/209553

There is also an excerpt from Vigil available here: https://www.indexoncensorship.org/2020/06/was-hong-kongs-biggest-ever-protest-in-vain/

Warm regards,

Michael Berry <berry@humnet.ucla.edu>