In China, Despair for Cause of Democracy after Nobel Laureate’s Death

New York Times
Now, the ruling Communist Party’s feverish attempts to erase Mr. Liu Xiaobo’s legacy have raised fears that Mr. Xi will intensify his campaign against activists pushing for ideas like freedom of speech and religion.

Sinica Podcast

07.19.17

Guo Wengui: The Extraordinary Tale of a Chinese Billionaire Turned Dissident

Kaiser Kuo, Jeremy Goldkorn & more
The life and times of Chinese billionaire Guo Wengui reads much like an epic play, so it is fitting that we have included with this podcast a dramatis personæ to explain the many characters in Guo’s story. Scroll to the bottom, below the...

China Attacks Tycoon Guo for Client Leaks at HNA Group: Xinhua

Reuters
Exiled Chinese tycoon Guo Wengui is suspected of obtaining confidential client data of aviation-to-financial services conglomerate HNA from air traffic control and airline staff, the official Xinhua news agency reported, citing Chinese police.

Books

06.28.17

No Wall Too High

Erling Hoh
“It was impossible. All of China was a prison in those days.”Mao Zedong’s labor reform camps, known as the laogai, were notoriously brutal. Modeled on the Soviet Gulag, they subjected their inmates to backbreaking labor, malnutrition, and vindictive wardens. They were thought to be impossible to escape—but one man did.Xu Hongci was a bright young student at the Shanghai No. 1 Medical College, spending his days studying to be a professor and going to the movies with his girlfriend. He was also an idealistic and loyal member of the Communist Party and was generally liked and well respected. But when Mao delivered his famous February 1957 speech inviting “a hundred schools of thought [to] contend,” an earnest Xu Hongci responded by posting a criticism of the Party—a near-fatal misstep. He soon found himself a victim of the Anti-Rightist Campaign, condemned to spend the next 14 years in the laogai.Xu Hongci became one of the roughly 550,000 Chinese unjustly imprisoned after the spring of 1957, and despite the horrific conditions and terrible odds, he was determined to escape. He failed three times before finally succeeding, in 1972, in what was an amazing and arduous triumph.Originally published in Hong Kong, Xu Hongci’s remarkable memoir recounts his life from childhood through his final prison break. After discovering his story in a Hong Kong library, the journalist Erling Hoh tracked down the original manuscript and compiled this condensed translation, which includes background on this turbulent period, an epilogue that follows Xu Hongci up to his death, and Xu Hongci’s own drawings and maps. Both a historical narrative and an exhilarating prison-break thriller, No Wall Too High tells the unique story of a man who insisted on freedom—even under the most treacherous circumstances. —Farrar, Straus and Giroux{chop}

The Dark Side of China’s National Renewal

Jamil Anderlini
Financial Times
The race-based ideas of the country’s leaders have unwelcome historical echoes.

World Asia China Cranks Up Heat on Exiled Tycoon Guo Wengui

Wall Street Journal
Beijing airs allegations involving whistleblowing businessman living in New York as subordinates are tried for fraud in unusually open proceedings.

Xi Jinping Is ‘Putting the House in Order.’ or Is China Facing Destabilizing Changes?

Washington Post
Instead of political instability, recent political science research suggests that Xi’s reforms are on track to repair an undisciplined CCP and strengthen China’s fragmented government.

Sinica Podcast

05.12.17

What It Takes to Be a Good China-Watcher

Kaiser Kuo & Bill Bishop from Sinica Podcast
China-watching isn’t what it used to be. Not too long ago, the field of international China studies was dominated by a few male Westerners with an encyclopedic knowledge of China, but with surprisingly little experience living in the country or...

U.S. Reps, Dalai Lama Take Aim at China Sore Spot Tibet

Katy Daigle, Ashwini Bhatia 
Washington Post
As President Donald Trump appears to be warming to China, a bipartisan group from the U.S. House of Representatives took aim Wednesday at one of Beijing’s sore spots: Tibet.

Books

05.08.17

The Souls of China

Ian Johnson
From journalist Ian Johnson, a revelatory portrait of religion in China today—its history, the spiritual traditions of its Eastern and Western faiths, and the ways in which it is influencing China’s future.The Souls of China tells the story of one of the world’s great spiritual revivals. Following a century of violent anti-religious campaigns, China is now filled with new temples, churches, and mosques—as well as cults, sects, and politicians trying to harness religion for their own ends. Driving this explosion of faith is uncertainty over what it means to be Chinese and how to live an ethical life in a country that discarded traditional morality a century ago and is searching for new guideposts.Johnson first visited China in 1984. In the 1990s, he helped run a charity to rebuild Daoist temples, and in 2001 he won a Pulitzer Prize for his coverage of the suppression of the Falun Gong spiritual movement. While researching this book, he lived for extended periods with underground church members, rural Daoists, and Buddhist pilgrims. Along the way, he learned esoteric meditation techniques, visited a nonagenarian Confucian sage, and befriended government propagandists as they fashioned a remarkable embrace of traditional values. He has distilled these experiences into a cycle of festivals, births, deaths, detentions, and struggle—a great awakening of faith that is shaping the soul of the world’s newest superpower. —Pantheon{chop}

Sinica Podcast

04.24.17

Chris Buckley: The China Journalist’s China Journalist

Chris Buckley, Jeremy Goldkorn & more from Sinica Podcast
Chris Buckley is a highly regarded and very resourceful correspondent based in Beijing for The New York Times. He has worked as a researcher and journalist in China since 1998, including a stint at Reuters, and is one of the few working China...

China Reshuffles 84 Corps-Level Military Units

Xinhua
China announced Tuesday a military reshuffle with 84 corps-level units newly adjusted or established, a move hailed by President Xi Jinping as another major step in strengthening the country’s armed forces.

Why Does China Pretend to Be a Democracy?

Washington Post
Why does China still call itself a democracy? Making this claim allows Beijing to legitimize its own actions—and, in the case of its views on the U.S. missile attacks, the Syrian government’s— as representing the will of the people.

Books

04.05.17

China’s Crony Capitalism

Minxin Pei
When Deng Xiaoping launched China on the path to economic reform in the late 1970s, he vowed to build “socialism with Chinese characteristics.” More than three decades later, China’s efforts to modernize have yielded something very different from the working people’s paradise Deng envisioned: an incipient kleptocracy, characterized by endemic corruption, soaring income inequality, and growing social tensions. China’s Crony Capitalism traces the origins of China’s present-day troubles to the series of incomplete reforms from the post-Tiananmen era that decentralized the control of public property without clarifying its ownership.Beginning in the 1990s, changes in the control and ownership rights of state-owned assets allowed well-connected government officials and businessmen to amass huge fortunes through the systematic looting of state-owned property—in particular land, natural resources, and assets in state-run enterprises. Mustering compelling evidence from over two hundred corruption cases involving government and law enforcement officials, private businessmen, and organized crime members, Minxin Pei shows how collusion among elites has spawned an illicit market for power inside the party-state, in which bribes and official appointments are surreptitiously but routinely traded. This system of crony capitalism has created a legacy of criminality and entrenched privilege that will make any movement toward democracy difficult and disorderly.Rejecting conventional platitudes about the resilience of Chinese Communist Party rule, Pei gathers unambiguous evidence that beneath China’s facade of ever-expanding prosperity and power lies a Leninist state in an advanced stage of decay. —Harvard University Press{chop}

The New York Times vs. the ‘Great Firewall’ of China

Craig S. Smith
New York Times
The problem in China is that you never really know who is behind such decisions. Chinese bureaucracy is like a series of Chinese boxes that are harder and harder to open as you move toward the center.

China Just Held Its National People’s Congress. Here Are Three Key Points.

Lynette Ong
Washington Post
For decades, China’s “Two Sessions” (lianghui) each spring have offered a glimpse into the policies and priorities of China’s Communist Party (CCP).

Xi Jinping: The Illusion of Greatness

Ian Johnson from New York Review of Books
Politics is always about pomp and pageantry, but as pure, stultifying ritual few occasions can compare to the convening of the Chinese parliament, the National People’s Congress, which ended this week. No matter what is happening in China or the...

Who’s up, down and out at China’s Congress?

Carrie Gracie
BBC
China’s National People's Congress is largely a rubber stamp for policy but it is still closely watched for indications of who is on the rise or on the way out in Beijing...

Books

03.08.17

The Killing Wind

Tan Hecheng, translated by Stacy Mosher and Guo Jian
Over the course of 66 days in 1967, more than 4,000 “class enemies”—including young children and the elderly—were murdered in Daoxian, a county in China’s Hunan province. The killings spread to surrounding counties, resulting in a combined death toll of more than 9,000. Commonly known as the Daoxian massacre, the killings were one of many acts of so-called mass dictatorship and armed factional conflict that rocked China during the Cultural Revolution. However, in spite of the scope and brutality of the killings, there are few detailed accounts of mass killings in China’s countryside during the Cultural Revolution’s most tumultuous years.Years after the massacre, journalist Tan Hecheng was sent to Daoxian to report on an official investigation into the killings. Tan was prevented from publishing his findings in China, but in 2010, he published the Chinese edition of The Killing Wind in Hong Kong. Tan’s first-hand investigation of the atrocities, accumulated over the course of more than 20 years, blends his research with the recollections of survivors to provide a vivid account exploring how and why the massacre took place and describing its aftermath. Dispelling the heroic aura of class struggle, Tan reveals that most of the Daoxian massacre’s victims were hard-working, peaceful members of the rural middle class blacklisted as landlords or rich peasants. Tan also describes how political pressure and brainwashing turned ordinary people into heartless killing machines.More than a catalog of horrors, The Killing Wind is also a poignant meditation on memory, moral culpability, and the failure of the Chinese government to come to terms with the crimes of the Maoist era. By painting a detailed portrait of this massacre, Tan makes a broader argument about the long-term consequences of the Cultural Revolution, one of the most violent political movements of the twentieth century. A compelling testament to the victims and survivors of the Daoxian massacre, The Killing Wind is a monument to historical truth—one that fills an immense gap in our understanding of the Mao era, the Cultural Revolution, and the status of truth in contemporary China. —Oxford University Press{chop}

Jostling Contenders for Party Elite Play It Safe at China Parliament

Philip Wen and Christian Shepherd
Reuters
Avoiding controversial questions and sticking closely to the script, three leading candidates jostling for a spot on the Communist Party’s apex of power made rare public appearances on the sidelines of China’s annual meeting of parliament on Monday.

Ordinary Citizens Are Hoping to Make a Difference at China’s Biggest Political Meet-Up

Charlie Campbell
Time
China’s “two sessions” kicks off this week, bringing together all of the movers and shakers from the top echelons of government for the nation’s two big annual political shindigs.

How the Communist Party Guided China to Success

New York Times
One of Sebastian Heilmann’s major works is a comprehensive guide to how China is governed, now updated and translated into English as China’s Political System. This is a wide-ranging examination of how the system works—how it guides the economy,...

Books

02.16.17

Chinese Theology

Chloë Starr
In this groundbreaking and authoritative study, Chloë Starr explores key writings of Chinese Christian intellectuals, from philosophical dialogues of the late imperial era to micro-blogs of pastors in the 21st century. Through a series of close textual readings, she sheds new light on such central issues in Chinese theology as Christian identity and the evolving question of how Christians should relate to society and state.Reading these texts in their socio-political and traditional literary contexts, Starr opens a new conversation about the nature of Chinese theology and the challenge it offers to a broad understanding of how theology is created and contextualized. Concentrating on those theologians who have engaged most actively with their cultural and political milieus, Starr argues throughout her readings, as she examines how Chinese literary traditions and reading patterns have shaped Chinese theology, that text is as important as context. —Yale University Press{chop}

Chinese Students in the U.S. Are Using “Inclusion” and “Diversity” to Oppose a Dalai Lama Graduation Speech

Josh Horwitz
Quartz
On Feb. 2, the University of California, San Diego formally announced that the Dalai Lama would make a keynote speech at the June commencement ceremony. The announcement triggered outrage among Chinese students who view the exiled Tibetan spiritual...

China, the Party-Corporate Complex

Yi-Zheng Lian
New York Times
In December, 15 years after China’s accession to the World Trade Organization, the European Union, the United States and Japan formally refused to grant Beijing the coveted label, denying it important concessions on tariffs and other trade...

China: The Struggle at the Top

Andrew J. Nathan from New York Review of Books
The Chinese were gloating over the flaws of the American political system long before the election of Donald J. Trump. Coming from an obsessively orderly system, they were again and again baffled by an institutional setup that flips control from...

Books

02.01.17

Unlikely Partners

Julian Gewirtz
Unlikely Partners recounts the story of how Chinese politicians and intellectuals looked beyond their country’s borders for economic guidance at a key crossroads in the nation’s tumultuous 20th century. Julian Gewirtz offers a dramatic tale of competition for influence between reformers and hardline conservatives during the Deng Xiaoping era, bringing to light China’s productive exchanges with the West.When Mao Zedong died in 1976, his successors seized the opportunity to reassess the wisdom of China’s rigid commitment to Marxist doctrine. With Deng Xiaoping’s blessing, China’s economic gurus scoured the globe for fresh ideas that would put China on the path to domestic prosperity and ultimately global economic power. Leading foreign economists accepted invitations to visit China to share their expertise, while Chinese delegations traveled to the United States, Hungary, Great Britain, West Germany, Brazil, and other countries to examine new ideas. Chinese economists partnered with an array of brilliant thinkers, including Nobel Prize winners, World Bank officials, battle-scarred veterans of Eastern Europe’s economic struggles, and blunt-speaking free-market fundamentalists.Nevertheless, the push from China’s senior leadership to implement economic reforms did not go unchallenged, nor has the Chinese government been eager to publicize its engagement with Western-style innovations. Even today, Chinese Communists decry dangerous Western influences and officially maintain that China’s economic reinvention was the Chinese Communist Party’s achievement alone. Unlikely Partners sets forth the truer story, which has continuing relevance for China’s complex and far-reaching relationship with the West. —Harvard University Press{chop}

China Corruption Prosecutions Drop for First Time in Five Years

Hudson Lockett
Financial Times
Fall of 20% in party officials handed to courts marks change of tack in campaign

China Swings back at Golf, Shutting down 111 Courses

Normaan Merchant
Associated Press
China has launched a renewed crackdown on golf, closing 111 courses in an effort to conserve water and land, and telling members of the ruling Communist Party to stay off the links.

How China’s Liberals Are Feeling the Trump Effect

Wang Lixiong
Washington Post
With the presidential election of Donald Trump, a man whose grasp of both democratic concepts and ethical norms is questionable, we have been forced to ask some hard new questions

Sinica Podcast

01.13.17

Can the Vatican and China Get Along?

Jeremy Goldkorn, Kaiser Kuo & more from Sinica Podcast
Ian Johnson is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who has lived in Beijing and Taiwan for more than half of the past 30 years, writing for The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The New York Review of Books, and other publications. He has...

China’s Hidden Massacres: An Interview with Tan Hecheng

Ian Johnson from New York Review of Books
Tan Hecheng might seem an unlikely person to expose one of the most shocking crimes of the Chinese Communist Party. A congenial 67-year-old who spent most of his life in southern Hunan province away from the seats of power, Tan is no dissident. In...

Books

01.04.17

The Oxford Illustrated History of Modern China

Jeffrey N. Wasserstrom
This lavishly illustrated volume explores the history of China during a period of dramatic shifts and surprising transformations, from the founding of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1912) through to the present day.The Oxford Illustrated History of Modern China promises to be essential reading for anyone who wants to understand this rising superpower on the verge of what promises to be the “Chinese century,” introducing readers to important but often overlooked events in China’s past, such as the bloody Taiping Civil War (1850-1864), which had a death toll far higher than the roughly contemporaneous American Civil War. It also helps readers see more familiar landmarks in Chinese history in new ways, such as the Opium War (1839-1842), the Boxer Uprising of 1900, the rise to power of the Chinese Communist Party in 1949, and the Tiananmen protests and Beijing Massacre of 1989.This is one of the first major efforts—and in many ways the most ambitious to date—to come to terms with the broad sweep of modern Chinese history, taking readers from the origins of modern China right up through the dramatic events of the last few years (the Beijing Games, the financial crisis, and China’s rise to global economic pre-eminence) which have so fundamentally altered Western views of China and China’s place in the world. —Oxford University Press{chop}

A Good Year for Xi Jinping— But Trouble is Heading His Way

Tom Phillips
Guardian
After domestic victories in 2016, China’s president must deal with a worsening economy and Trump in the White House

Xi’s Power Play Foreshadows Historic Transformation of How China is Ruled

Jeremy Page and Lingling Wei
Wall Street Journal
Party insiders say president wants to remain in office after his second term, breaking succession conventions

How George Michael’s Wham! Baffled Communist China and Inspired its Youth

Simon Denyer
Washington Post
It was a culture shock to rival the best of them: the coiffured hair and exuberant dancing of British pop stars, and the Communist Party’s dour uniformity

These Three Major China Themes Will Be Pivotal in 2017

Aidan Yao
South China Morning Post
China’s economic growth target, the depreciation of the yuan and a looming change in several senior Communist Party positions will be important factors

Taiwan is Both Exhilarated and Unnerved by Trump’s China’s Remarks

Javier Hernandez and Amy Qin
New York Times
What does it mean for one’s homeland to be put on the table by Mr. Trump, in negotiations with China’s leaders, who are not known for making concessions easily?

China’s Digital Dictatorship

Economist
Turn the spotlight on the rulers, not the ruled: Instead of rating citizens, the government should be allowing them to assess the way it rules

For China’s State Media, Trump Victory Can’t Cure the ‘American Disease’

Chris Buckley
New York Times
China’s ruling elite seems to be consoling itself with the idea that Trump will take charge of a country staggering into decline and disunion

China Universities Must Become Communist Party 'Strongholds', Says Xi Jinping

Tom Phillips
Guardian
All teachers must be ‘staunch supporters’ of party governance, says president in what experts called an effort to reassert control

China’s Second Most Powerful Man Warns of Dissent and Corruption in the CCP

Zheping Huang
Quartz
Tough talk on corruption is not unheard of from Wang, but his harsh manner and candid rundown of the party’s problems mean the speech was given great importance

“We Have a Fake Election”: China Disrupts Local Campaigns

Javier Hernandez
New York Times
Local elections are democratic in name only. The party picks its preferred candidates and leaves no room for an upset

With Odes to Military March, China Puts Nationalism into Overdrive

Javier Hernandez
New York Times
President Xi has been making the case for a “new long march,” using the anniversary to rally the public and warn against creeping complacency

China Revives “Comrade” in Drive for Communist Party Discipline

Lucy Hornby
Financial Times
Anti-corruption watchdog orders return of outmoded greeting now embraced by gay men

China is Also Going to the Polls. But You’d Barely Know It.

Simon Denyer
Washington Post
Between August and December, China is holding staggered local elections all across the country – an exercise in “grass-roots democracy” on a daunting scale

Provincial Party Shake-up Paves Way for Leadership Changes

Lin Yunshi
About half of China's provincial party committees have changed top ranks...

Conversation

11.07.16

The Chinese Communist Party, with Xi Jinping at the Core

Bo Zhiyue & Kerry Brown
In late October, the Chinese Communist Party anointed Xi Jinping as a “core leader.” While the position doesn’t come with any formal responsibilities, its symbolism is important. According to The New York Times, it shows that senior Party officials...

In Xi’s China, Everything Old is New Again

Julian Gewirtz and Jeff Wasserstrom
Foreign Policy
Eighty years after the end of the Long March, a Communist leader asks for another one. What is he really seeking?

Xi Jinping is China’s “Core” Leader: Here’s What That Means

Chris Buckley
New York Times
President Xi got a lift when the CCP give him the title of "Core" Leader last week. But what does that mean for Mr. Xi and China’s political future?...

Conversation

10.27.16

What Does Xi Jinping’s Top-Down Leadership Mean for Innovation in China?

Matthias Stepan, Anna Ahlers & more
One of the hallmarks of Xi Jinping’s leadership has been a centralization of power across a whole range of areas of domestic politics. This week, the Chinese Communist Party’s leadership meets in Beijing for the sixth plenary session of its 18th...

China’s Communist Party Declares Xi Jinping ‘Core’ Leader

Chris Buckley
New York Times
The term suggests Mr. Xi has already joined the same revered league as Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping before a big shake-up in the party’s top ranks next year

China’s 6th Plenum Begins With a Focus on Intra-Party Discipline: What to Expect

Ankit Panda
Diplomat
The highlight of China’s 2016 political calendar, the Sixth Plenum of the 18th Party Congress of the Chinese Communist Party, kicked off on Monday

Researcher Uncovers How Victims of China’s Cultural Revolution Really Died

Violet Law
Los Angeles Times
Her persistence has pierced the official silence enforced by the Chinese government. As time goes on, families of those who died are more willing to open up

China Lags Behind in Rule of Law Ranking

Josh Chin
WSJ: China Real Time Report
A new global ranking finds China is making limited progress

Party Time in China: The Riddle of Xi

Dexter Roberts
Bloomberg
The prospect of the Party Congress in fall 2017 is already roiling politics.

How the Party’s Absolute Power Undermines its Efforts to Strengthen China’s Rule of Law

Cary Huang
South China Morning Post
While Chinese leaders support the need for a credible legal system, it is their iron-clad grip that is the stumbling block to its development

The Race to China’s 19th Party Congress

Jonathan Brookfield
Diplomat
Next fall, China’s leaders will kick off the 19th Party Congress. Start your engines.

Xi Jinping Reminds China’s State Companies of Who’s the Boss

Emily Feng
New York Times
In an unusual meeting that ended on Tuesday, President Xi Jinping announced that the Chinese Communist Party had the ultimate say over state companies

China Anti-Corruption Campaign Backfires

Hudson Lockett
Financial Times
Xi Jinping drive to cleanse Communist party of graft tarnishes its image