• Xu Song for ChinaFile

    Surface Tension

    A Beijing Photographer at the Pool

    Xu Song

    “I never realized that so many Chinese people have tattoos,” says photographer Xu Song, who spent the summers of 2014, 2015, and 2016 photographing people at outdoor swimming pools in Beijing with his phone. “When the clothes come off, the secrets come out.” For Xu, pools provide “a summer outlet for the emotions” of the swimmers. Like the water that spills through them, Xu’s photographs both clarify and obscure his subjects, playing with surface and depth, forcing us to see the strangeness in... Read full story>>

  • Kevin Frayer—Getty Images

    Islamophobia in China

    A ChinaFile Conversation

    Ian Johnson, Kelly Hammond & more via ChinaFile Conversation

    Roughly 20 million Muslims live in China today; many of them live in the northwest region of Xinjiang, where the government is incarcerating an estimated one million Uighur Muslims. In recent weeks, news reports have emerged of the razing of mosques and other religious buildings across the region. In March, when 50 people were massacred at two mosques in New Zealand, many Chinese people voiced support for the shooter—in the words of one commentator—for his “heroic revenge.” What are the roots... Read full story>>

  • Kevin Zen—Getty Images

    Chinese and Africans are Having Totally Different Conversations About Their Relationship

    A China in the World Podcast

    Eric Olander, Cobus van Staden & more via China Africa Project

    Chinese news coverage and African and international reports are often starkly different from one another, even when discussing the same issues. With Chinese and African news consumers reading vastly different perspectives, what can be done to narrow the divide? Read full story>>

  • Wang Zhao—Pool/Getty Images

    Confused About China’s Belt and Road Agenda? You’re Not Alone.

    A China in Africa Podcast

    Eric Olander, Cobus van Staden & more via China Africa Project

    Thirty-seven foreign heads of state came to Beijing this week to take part in the second Belt and Road summit hosted by Chinese President Xi Jinping. Some leaders, like Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta, came with expectations to sign huge infrastructure loan deals, while others, including Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, asked for debt relief.But amid all of the deals and big announcements at the summit, the underlying message about what exactly the Belt and Road is and what it stand for is... Read full story>>

  • (China Photos/Getty Images)

    This Year, I Couldn’t Avoid May Fourth

    Taisu Zhang

    The one hundredth anniversary of the 1919 May Fourth Movement came and went last week much as one would have expected...For some, myself included, the anniversary evoked a set of more complicated emotions. For years, these complications have pushed me to mentally dance around the movement’s significance: On most May Fourth anniversaries, I have pointedly ignored the historical discussion bubbling up around me. Instead, I wished my friends “Happy Star Wars Day” (“May the Fourth be with you!”)... Read full story>>

  • Muyi Xiao for ChinaFile

    ChinaFile Presents: Hong Kong’s Relationship with Beijing, An Update

    ChinaFile hosted a conversation at the Asia Society on May 9, with veteran Hong Kong legislator and rule of law advocate Martin Lee, longtime journalist and media rights expert Mak Yin-ting, and democracy activist Nathan Law, moderated by ChinaFile Editor Susan Jakes. Read full story>>

  • The Costs of Conversation

    Obstacles to Peace Talks in Wartime

    Oriana Skylar Mastro

    After a war breaks out, what factors influence the warring parties’ decisions about whether to talk to their enemy, and when may their position on wartime diplomacy change? How do we get from only fighting to also talking? Oriana Skylar Mastro argues that states are primarily concerned with the strategic costs of conversation, and these costs need to be low before combatants are willing to engage in direct talks with their enemy. Specifically, Mastro writes, leaders look to two factors when... Read full story>>

  • (VCG/Getty Images)

    “记得第一次听说‘六四’……”——个人故事征集 // When Did You Learn About Tiananmen? A Call for Personal Stories

    我们希望能听到你的亲口讲述。如果事件发生时你年龄尚小(或者还没出生),你还记得你第一次是如何知道的吗?你当时在哪里?有怎样的感受?如果你是一个家长,而事件发生时你的孩子年龄尚小或还未出生,你后来是如何决定是否和孩子讲述这件事呢?是什么原因让你选择开口或不开口?你对你的决定有怎样的感受?// We want to hear your story, in your own voice. If you were too young to remember, how did you first learn about what happened at Tiananmen Square in 1989? Where were you? How did you feel? If you are a parent of a child who is too young to remember or who was born after Tiananmen, what choices have you made about discussing it with your child? Why did... Read full story>>

Recent Stories



Is This the End of Belt and Road, or Just the Beginning?

Nadège Rolland, Adrian Zenz & more
On April 25-27, China’s government will host the leaders of dozens of countries to celebrate the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), the signature foreign policy program of Xi Jinping. Since its founding in October 2013, the BRI now covers more than 150...

A Specter Is Haunting Xi’s China: ‘Mr. Democracy’

Ian Johnson from New York Review of Books
Something strange is happening in Xi Jinping’s China. This is supposed to be the perfect dictatorship, the most sustained period of authoritarianism since the Cultural Revolution ended more than 40 years ago, a period of such damning disappointment...



The Messy Truth About Social Credit

Shazeda Ahmed from Logic
Almost every day, I receive an email from Google Alerts about a new article on China’s “social credit system.” It is rare that I encounter an article that does not contain several factual errors and gross mischaracterizations. The social credit...



Finding a Voice

Lü Pin from Logic
When I started writing this article, Feminist Voices had been deleted for six months and ten days. Yes, I have been keeping track of the time: ten days, fifteen days, thirty days, sixty days, three months, six months. . . The first week after it...



What Does the Punishment of a Prominent Scholar Mean for Intellectual Freedom in China?

Donald Clarke, David Yeliang Xia & more
This week, Xu Zhangrun, a law professor at Beijing’s Tsinghua University who in recent months has penned a series of essays critical of policies of the Chinese Communist Party and of its leader, Xi Jinping, was banned from teaching, relieved of his...

Photography & Video

Depth of Field


Living by the Rivers

Ye Ming, Yan Cong & more from Yuanjin Photo
If the stories in this edition of Depth of Field share a common thread—apart from their distinguished photographic storytelling—it’s their interest in the flux and churn of life in China in 2019, where nothing seems fixed and pressure of constant...



What Chinese Charities Are Facing, in One Easy Chart

Earlier this year, the China-based organization NGOCN released the results of a survey to determine how friendly the policy environment is for non-governmental charity groups across China. NGOCN surveyed domestic Chinese non-profits in 10 cities,...




Making China Modern

Klaus Mühlhahn
Harvard University Press: It is tempting to attribute China’s recent ascendance to changes in political leadership and economic policy. Making China Modern teaches otherwise. Moving beyond the standard framework of Cold War competition and national resurgence, Klaus Mühlhahn situates 21st-century China in the nation’s long history of creative adaptation.In the mid-18th century, when the Qing Empire reached the height of its power, China dominated a third of the world’s population and managed its largest economy. But as the Opium Wars threatened the nation’s sovereignty from without and the Taiping Rebellion ripped apart its social fabric from within, China found itself verging on free fall. A network of family relations, economic interdependence, institutional innovation, and structures of governance allowed citizens to regain their footing in a convulsing world. In China’s drive to reclaim regional centrality, its leaders looked outward as well as inward, at industrial developments and international markets offering new ways to thrive.{chop}Excerpts:“Reform and Opening: China’s Turning Point,” Los Angeles Review of Books China Channel, February 7, 2019“Can Environmental Activism Succeed in China?,” Literary Hub, January 28, 2019



Haunted by Chaos

Sulmaan Wasif Khan
Harvard University Press: Before the Chinese Communist Party came to power, China lay broken and fragmented. Today, it is a force on the global stage, and yet its leaders have continued to be haunted by the past. Drawing on an array of sources, Sulmaan Wasif Khan chronicles the grand strategies that have sought not only to protect China from aggression but also to ensure it would never again experience the powerlessness of the late Qing and Republican eras.{node, 49171}The dramatic variations in China’s modern history have obscured the commonality of purpose that binds the country’s leaders. Analyzing the calculus behind their decision making, Khan explores how they wove diplomatic, military, and economic power together to keep a fragile country safe in a world they saw as hostile. Dangerous and shrewd, Mao Zedong made China whole and succeeded in keeping it so, while the caustic, impatient Deng Xiaoping dragged China into the modern world. Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao served as cautious custodians of the Deng legacy, but the powerful and deeply insecure Xi Jinping has shown an assertiveness that has raised both fear and hope across the globe.For all their considerable costs, China’s grand strategies have been largely successful. But the country faces great challenges today. Its population is aging, its government is undermined by corruption, its neighbors are arming out of concern over its growing power, and environmental degradation threatens catastrophe. A question Haunted by Chaos raises is whether China’s time-tested approach can respond to the looming threats of the 21st century.{chop}




The Costs of International Advocacy

Human Rights Watch
Even as it engages with U.N. human rights institutions, China has worked consistently and often aggressively to silence criticism of its human rights record before U.N. bodies and has taken actions aimed at weakening some of the central mechanisms...



China’s Social Credit System: A Big-Data Enabled Approach to Market Regulation with Broad Implications for Doing Business in China

Mirjam Meissner
Mirjam Meissner
Mercator Institute for China Studies
Under the catchphrase “Social Credit System,” China is currently implementing a new and highly innovative approach to monitoring, rating, and regulating the behavior of market participants. The Social Credit System will have significant impact on...