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Edmund Backhouse in the Long View of History

A Sinica Podcast

Kaiser Kuo & David Moser via Sinica Podcast

Edmund Backhouse, the 20th century Sinologist, long-time Beijing resident, and occasional con-artist, is perhaps best known for his incendiary memoirs, which not only distorted Western understanding of Chinese history for more than 50 years, but also included what in retrospect can only be seen as patently fictitious stories of erotic encounters between the British Baronet and the Empress Dowager Cixi.

Feng Li—Getty Images

Are the Good Times Over for China and Africa?

A China in Africa Podcast

via China Africa Project

One of the prevailing media narratives of China’s recent economic turmoil is the effect that it could have on emerging markets, particularly in Africa. Now that the Chinese economy is showing real signs of slowing, the story goes, Beijing will soon pull back on the billions of dollars in investments and purchases that it makes from commodity-exporting African markets.While there is no question that China’s demand for iron ore, petroleum, and other raw materials will inevitably be reduced as demand in the P.R.C. slows, it nonetheless remains highly speculative as to just how severe the impact might be in Africa. What so much of the reporting, largely from the West, seems to overlook is just...

Bai XiaoYan—courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics

In Zhang Yimou’s ‘Coming Home’ History is Muted But Not Silent

Eva Shan Chou

Coming Home, directed by the celebrated Zhang Yimou and released in the U.S. last week, begins as a man escapes a labor camp in China’s northwest and tries to return home. But he is captured when he and his wife attempt to meet, after their daughter turns him in in exchange for the promise of the lead role in the ballet The Red Detachment of Women. The rest of the movie takes place three years later, in 1976, after the Cultural Revolution has ended. The man, Lu Yanshi, is politically rehabilitated and allowed to return home, but his wife no longer recognizes him. The movie then follows his successive stratagems, aided by his daughter, to rouse her memory; eventually, he accepts a role that...

Alex Wong—Getty Images

U.S. Presidential Candidates on China

Use Our New Tracking Tool to Keep Up on Who Said What About China

As American primary season gets into full swing, China has already become a target for candidates in both parties, a phenomenon that continues a pattern established in the past U.S. presidential elections. This year, 54 percent of Americans held an unfavorable view of China, compared with 29 percent in 2006, according to the Pew Research Center and only 38 percent hold a favorable view, down from 51 percent just four years ago. And yet, as in past years, the candidates’ comments on China are not confined to attacks.This tracker, maintained by ChinaFile’s staff and interns, keeps you up to date on what the current candidates are saying about China, and where and when they say it. We’ll be...

Philippe Lopez—AFP/Getty Images

The Future of Autonomy in Hong Kong

A ChinaFile Conversation

via ChinaFile Conversation

Yesterday, the governing board of Hong Kong University, one of the territory’s most esteemed institutions of higher education, voted to reject the promotion of Johannes Chan, a former law school dean, over the objections of the faculty and students who recommended him for a top administrative post. Chan specializes in constitutional law and his law school colleague Benny Tai was a leader of last year’s pro-democracy demonstrations. Chan’s supporters say the rejection was politically motivated, that those who voted against him were acting under the influence of China’s leaders in Beijing and that the move is a sign of the erosion of independence and academic freedom in Hong Kong. We asked...

Adam Berry—Getty Images

‘I Try to Talk Less’: A Conversation with Ai Weiwei and Liao Yiwu

Ian Johnson

In late July, Chinese authorities renewed travel privileges for conceptual artist and political activist Ai Weiwei, ending a five-year prohibition following his arrest in 2011. He promptly flew to Munich and then Berlin, where he has accepted a three-year guest professorship at the city’s University of the Arts.After arriving in Germany, Ai gave two interviews that aroused some controversy, telling the Süddeutsche Zeitung and Die Zeit that repression in China is bad but not as bad as in the past—defensible positions, especially if comparing today’s China to the Cultural Revolution or the period immediately after the 1989 Tiananmen massacre, but still surprising to some who had come to...

Courtesy badiucao

When Chinese Internet Users Call Xi Jinping Daddy

New Entries in the Grass Mud Horse Lexicon

Anne Henochowicz

Internet censorship in China has inspired the invention of a menagerie of online creatures: the river crab, the elephant of truth, the monkey-snake. Each beast’s name plays on a word or phrase that has at some point angered Chinese Internet users, often because it has originated in a piece of state propaganda. The river crab, or héxiè, is the embodiment of the doctrine of “harmony” (héxié), promulgated by former president Hu Jintao. The elephant of truth (zhēn xiàng) is a shy creature who must be coaxed to reveal the truth of a matter (zhēnxiàng) when there is an official cover-up. A monkey-snake (hóu shé) is a mouthpiece (hóushé) for the Chinese Communist Party.The most notorious of these...


Recent Stories



Xi Jinping’s Message to America

Taisu Zhang, Graham Webster, Orville Schell, David Shambaugh, Andrew J. Nathan, Kevin Rudd, Winston Lord, Bonnie S. Glaser, Yaqiu Wang, Vincent Zhu
China’s President Xi Jinping addressed an audience of more than 700 American businesspeople in Seattle on Tuesday evening on the first stop on his first state visit to the United States. Regular ChinaFile Contributors who watched the speech offer...



Meet China’s Salman Rushdie

Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian
On a warm late afternoon in June, I sat with Perhat Tursun as he slowly exhaled a puff of smoke from a blue cigarette with shiny gold trim. Arrayed on the pale lace tablecloth before us was an assortment of nuts, sunflower seeds, and wine. The...

Two Way Street


New Chinese Book Says the U.S.-China ‘Feast on Power’ is Winding Down

Yanmei Xie
At a time of heightened tensions between the U.S. and China, it comes as little surprise that a new and important book on the bilateral relations, published by a think tank affiliated with the Chinese Foreign Ministry, should have the foreboding...

Photography and Video



A Miner’s China Dream

Sim Chi Yin
Over the four years I have known him, He Quangui, a gold miner from Shaanxi, has told me many times he wants to travel with me back to Beijing. It’s not just me he wants to visit. He dreams of going to the Chinese leadership’s compound, Zhongnanhai...

Photo Gallery


On the Kang: A Chinese Family Album

Gilles Sabrié
In rural northern China, the kang is the heart of the home. The two meter wide brick platforms, heated beneath by a coal, wood, straw, or corn cob fire, are hearth, family bed, and living room all rolled into one. Especially during the winter when...




China’s Disruptors

Edward Tse
In September 2014, Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba raised $25 billion in the world’s biggest-ever initial public offering. Since then, millions of investors and managers worldwide have pondered a fundamental question: What’s really going on with the new wave of China’s disruptors?Alibaba wasn’t an outlier—it’s one of a rising tide of thriving Chinese companies, mostly but not exclusively in the technology sector. Overnight, its founder, Jack Ma, appeared on the same magazine covers as American entrepreneurial icons like Mark Zuckerberg. Ma was quickly followed by the founders of other previously little-known companies, such as Baidu, Tencent, and Xiaomi.Over the past two decades, an unprecedented burst of entrepreneurialism has transformed China’s economy from a closed, impoverished, state-run system into a major power in global business. As products in China become more and more sophisticated, and as its companies embrace domestically developed technology, we will increasingly see Chinese goods setting global standards. Meanwhile, companies in the rest of the world wonder how they can access the fast-rising incomes of China’s 1.3 billion consumers.Now Edward Tse, a leading global strategy consultant, reveals how China got to this point, and what the country’s rise means for the United States and the rest of the world. Tse has spent more than twenty years working with senior Chinese executives, learning firsthand how China’s most powerful companies operate. He’s an expert on how private firms are thriving in what is still, officially, a communist country. His book draws on exclusive interviews and case studies to explore questions such as:What drives China’s entrepreneurs? Personal fame and fortune—or a quest for national pride and communal achievement?How do these companies grow so quickly? In 2005, Lenovo sold just one category of products (personal computers) in one market, China. Today, not only is it the world’s largest PC seller; it is also the world’s third-largest smartphone seller.How does Chinese culture shape the strategies and tactics of these business leaders? Can outsiders copy what the Chinese are doing?Can capitalists really thrive within a communist system? How does Tencent’s Pony Ma serve as a member of China’s parliament while running a company that dominates online games and messaging?What impact will China have on the rest of the world as its private companies enter new markets, acquire foreign businesses, and threaten established firms in countless industries?As Tse concludes: “I believe that as a consequence of the opening driven by China’s entrepreneurs, the push to invest in science, research, and development, and the new freedoms that people are enjoying across the country, China has embarked on a renaissance that could rival its greatest era in history—the Tang dynasty. These entrepreneurs are the front line in China’s intense hunger for success. They will have an even more remarkable impact on the global economy in the future, through the rest of this decade and beyond.” —Portfolio/Penguin{chop}



Meeting China Halfway

Lyle J. Goldstein
Though a U.S.–China conflict is far from inevitable, major tensions are building in the Asia-Pacific region. These strains are the result of historical enmity, cultural divergence, and deep ideological estrangement, not to mention apprehensions fueled by geopolitical competition and the closely related "security dilemma." Despite worrying signs of intensifying rivalry between Washington and Beijing, few observers have provided concrete paradigms to lead this troubled relationship away from disaster. Meeting China Halfway: How to Defuse the Emerging US-China Rivalry is dramatically different from any other book about U.S.-China relations. Lyle J. Goldstein's explicit focus in almost every chapter is on laying bare both U.S. and Chinese perceptions of where their interests clash and proposing new paths to ease bilateral tensions through compromise. Each chapter contains a “cooperation spiral”―the opposite of an escalation spiral―to illustrate the policy proposals. Goldstein not only parses findings from the latest American scholarship but also breaks new ground by analyzing hundreds of Chinese-language sources, including military publications, never before evaluated by Western experts. Goldstein makes one hundred policy proposals over the course of this book, not because these are the only solutions to arresting the alarming course toward conflict, but rather to inaugurate a genuine debate regarding cooperative policy solutions to the most vexing problems in U.S.-China relations. ―Georgetown University Press {chop}




Censorship and Conscience

PEN International

In this report, PEN American Center (PEN) examines how foreign authors in particular are navigating the heavily censored Chinese book industry. China is one of the largest book publishing markets in the world, with total revenue projected to exceed $16 billion in 2015 and a...



Revising U.S. Grand Strategy Toward China

Council on Foreign Relations

China represents and will remain the most significant competitor to the United States for decades to come. As such, the need for a more coherent U.S. response to increasing Chinese power is long overdue. Because the American effort to “integrate” China into the liberal...

ChinaFile Presents



Weighing Mao’s Legacy in China Today

Roderick MacFarquhar, Susan Shirk, Orville Schell, Andrew G. Walder
At the May 21 Asia Society event ChinaFile Presents: Does Xi Jinping Represent a Return to the Politics of the Mao Era?, a discussion of author Andrew Walder’s new book, China Under Mao: A Revolution Derailed, sparked a lively debate about the...



Evan Osnos: China’s ‘Age of Ambition’

Evan Osnos, Orville Schell
New Yorker correspondent Evan Osnos discusses his new book, Age of Ambition: Chasing Fortune, Truth, and Faith in the New China, with Orville Schell, Arthur Ross Director of Asia Society's Center on U.S.-China Relations.{chop} ...



On “Strange Stones,” a Discussion with Peter Hessler

Peter Hessler, Michael Meyer, Susan Jakes
On May 21st at the Asia Society in New York City, Peter Hessler, author of the recently published Strange Stones: Dispatches from East and West, discussed his book and a decade of writing about China and elsewhere with author, Michael Meyer and...

Around the Web

Artist Ai Weiwei Discovers Hidden 'Listening Devices' in Beijing Studio

"When I found these bugs, I had a strange feeling," he said......


Youyou Tu: How Mao’s Challenge to Malaria Pioneer Led to Nobel Prize

Tasked in 1969 with finding a cure for malaria, China’s first laureate in medicine looked to nature and traditional medicine....


Seven Dead, 223 Injured as Tornadoes Brought by Typhoon Mujigae Ravage China’s Guangdong Province

Mujigae was the strongest typhoon to make landfall in at least six decades....

South China Morning Post

China Box Office: 'Lost in Hong Kong' Surges Past $200 Million

The film will soon surpass its predecessor, 'Lost in Thailand', which grossed $208 million in 2012, the most ever for a Chinese film at the time......

Hollywood Reporter

A Painting of China’s First Lady, Before a Rise to Stardom

On the exhibition notes, the painting of Peng Liyuan by Jin Shangyi is identified only as “a well-known singer.”...

New York Times

China’s Middle-Class Dreams in Peril

Smaller cities on the cusp of China’s transformation toward consumer-driven growth struggle to overcome ill effects of previous economic model....

Wall Street Journal