Depth of Field

11.16.18

Where Do Bicycles Go When They Die?

Ye Ming, Yan Cong & more from Yuanjin Photo
In this issue of Depth of Field: the dying art of tomb burials; bike graveyards; and a son’s 20,000 photos of his mother.

Viewpoint

08.23.18

It’s Too Easy to Wind up in a Chinese Psychiatric Hospital, and Far Too Hard to Get Out

Jerome A. Cohen & Chi Yin
Every day in China, hundreds of people are involuntarily confined in mental health facilities, some through their involvement in criminal cases, many more via the government’s civil commitment processes. Whether, how, and how long to detain the...

An American Lean-In Guru in China

John Corrigan
Wall Street Journal
Joy Chen got a glimpse of the limelight as a Los Angeles deputy mayor two decades ago, but it was nothing like the fame she has found in China urging women to forget what they’ve been taught about matrimony.

Books

04.24.18

Sold People

Johanna S. Ransmeier
Harvard University Press: A robust trade in human lives thrived throughout North China during the late Qing and Republican periods. Whether to acquire servants, slaves, concubines, or children―or dispose of unwanted household members―families at all levels of society addressed various domestic needs by participating in this market. Sold People brings into focus the complicit dynamic of human trafficking, including the social and legal networks that sustained it. Johanna Ransmeier reveals the extent to which the structure of the Chinese family not only influenced but encouraged the buying and selling of men, women, and children.For centuries, human trafficking had an ambiguous status in Chinese society. Prohibited in principle during the Qing period, it was nevertheless widely accepted as part of family life, despite the frequent involvement of criminals. In 1910, Qing reformers, hoping to usher China into the community of modern nations, officially abolished the trade. But police and other judicial officials found the new law extremely difficult to enforce. Industrialization, urbanization, and the development of modern transportation systems created a breeding ground for continued commerce in people. The Republican government that came to power after the 1911 revolution similarly struggled to root out the entrenched practice.Ransmeier draws from untapped archival sources to recreate the lived experience of human trafficking in turn-of-the-century North China. Not always a measure of last resort reserved for times of extreme hardship, the sale of people was a commonplace transaction that built and restructured families as often as it broke them apart.{chop}

Conversation

04.18.18

A Ban on Gay Content, Stopped in Its Tracks

Siodhbhra Parkin, Steven Jiang & more
On April 13, China’s major microblogging platform Sina Weibo announced that, in order to create “a sunny and harmonious” environment, it would remove videos and comics “with pornographic implications, promoting bloody violence, or related to...

Family Reunion 24 Years in the Making Captures Hearts in China

Joshua Berlinger and Jemima Barr
CNN
The extraordinary story of a married Chinese couple reuniting with their daughter nearly 24 years after she went missing has captured the hearts of millions across China.

Depth of Field

04.02.18

Slow Trains, Shrinking Boomtowns, and Men Who Know Ice

Ye Ming, Yan Cong & more from Yuanjin Photo
In this issue of Depth of Field, we take a ride on one of China’s slowest trains, meet the workers who cut the ice for Harbin’s winter festival, and follow two mentally disabled “sent-down youth” on a rare trip home to visit their families. Also:...

Books

03.16.18

Young China

Zak Dychtwald
St. Martin’s Press: The author of Young China: How the Restless Generation Will Change Their Country and the World, who is in his twenties and fluent in Chinese, examines the future of China through the lens of the jiu ling hou, the generation born after 1990.{node, 45751}A close-up look at the Chinese generation born after 1990 exploring through personal encounters how young Chinese feel about everything from money and sex to their government, the West, and China’s shifting role in the world―not to mention their love affair with food, karaoke, and travel. Set primarily in the eastern second-tier city of Suzhou and the budding western metropolis of Chengdu, the book charts the touchstone issues this young generation faces. From single-child pressure to test-taking madness and the frenzy to buy an apartment as a prerequisite to marriage, from one-night-stands to an evolving understanding of family, Young China offers a fascinating portrait of the generation who will define what it means to be Chinese in the modern era.{chop}

Excerpts

03.12.18

A Chinese Mayor-to-Be Tells His Story

Zak Dychtwald
When I lived with Tom in the city of Chengdu in 2015 and into 2016, he was a 23-year-old probationary member of the Chinese Communist Party, on his way to joining the organization’s nearly 90 million full members. He wanted to embark on a career in...

Depth of Field

02.20.18

When You Give a Kid a Camera

Ye Ming, Yan Cong & more from Yuanjin Photo
This dispatch of photojournalism from China cuts across a broad spectrum of society, from film screenings in Beijing for the visually impaired to an acrobatics school 200 miles south, in Puyang, Henan province, and from children in rural Sichuan to...

Who Owns Red Envelope Cash – Parents or Children? A Chinese Court Decides

Kinling Lo
South China Morning Post
Chinese internet users have been arguing about whether red envelopes – filled with cash and given as gifts during the Lunar New Year – should go to children or their parents, after a court published rulings on several cases.

Books

02.07.18

Leftover in China

Roseann Lake
Editor’s note: After we originally posted this video interview about Leftover in China, questions were brought to our attention about the book. We took the video down while we reviewed these concerns, and we determined that the interview is suitable to run on our book video platform.W. W. Norton & Company: Factory Girls meets The Vagina Monologues in this fascinating narrative on China’s single women—and why they could be the source of its economic future.Forty years ago, China enacted the one-child policy, only recently relaxed. Among many other unintended consequences, it resulted in both an enormous gender imbalance—with predictions of over 20 million more men than women of marriage age by 2020—and China’s first generations of only-daughters. Given the resources normally reserved for boys, these girls were pushed to study, excel in college, and succeed in careers, as if they were sons.Now living in an economic powerhouse, enough of these women have decided to postpone marriage, or not marry at all, spawning a label: “leftovers.” Unprecedentedly well-educated and goal-oriented, they struggle to find partners in a society where gender roles have not evolved as vigorously as society itself, and where new professional opportunities have made women less willing to compromise their careers or concede to marriage for the sake of being wed. Further complicating their search for a mate, the vast majority of China’s single men reside in and are tied to the rural areas where they were raised. This makes them geographically, economically, and educationally incompatible with city-dwelling “leftovers,” who also face difficulty in partnering with urban men, given urban men’s general preference for more dutiful, domesticated wives.Part critique of China’s paternalistic ideals, part playful portrait of the romantic travails of China’s trailblazing women and their well-meaning parents who are anxious to see their daughters snuggled into traditional wedlock, Leftover in China focuses on the lives of four individual women against a backdrop of colorful anecdotes, hundreds of interviews, and rigorous historical and demographic research to show how these “leftovers” are the linchpin to China’s future.{chop}

Books

01.26.18

A Village with My Name

Scott Tong
When journalist Scott Tong moved to Shanghai, his assignment was to start up the first full-time China bureau for Marketplace, the daily business and economics program on public radio stations across the United States. But for Tong, the move became much more—it offered the opportunity to reconnect with members of his extended family who had remained in China after his parents fled the communists six decades prior. By uncovering the stories of his family’s history, Tong discovered a new way to understand the defining moments of modern China and its long, interrupted quest to go global.A Village with My Name offers a unique perspective on the transitions in China through the eyes of regular people who have witnessed such epochal events as the toppling of the Qing monarchy, Japan’s occupation during World War II, exile of political prisoners to forced labor camps, mass death and famine during the Great Leap Forward, market reforms under Deng Xiaoping, and the dawn of the One Child Policy. Tong’s story focuses on five members of his family, who each offer a specific window on a changing country: a rare American-educated girl born in the closing days of the Qing Dynasty, a pioneer exchange student, an abandoned toddler from World War II who later rides the wave of China’s global export boom, a young professional climbing the ladder at a multinational company, and an orphan (the author’s daughter) adopted in the middle of a baby-selling scandal fueled by foreign money. Through their stories, Tong shows us China anew, visiting former prison labor camps on the Tibetan plateau and rural outposts along the Yangtze, exploring the Shanghai of the 1930s, and touring factories across the mainland.With curiosity and sensitivity, Tong explores the moments that have shaped China and its people, offering a compelling and deeply personal take on how China became what it is today. —University of Chicago Press{chop}

Features

12.20.17

Pickup Artists with Chinese Characteristics

Robert Foyle Hunwick & Wu Hao
“If you don’t teach her a lesson, someone else will,” Fei explained during his two-hour “Sexual Assertiveness” session, concluding a week-long tutorial offered by Puamap, a team of “professional” seduction artists, marketers, and makeover men. One...

Depth of Field

11.20.17

Fake Girlfriends, Chengdu Rappers, and a Chow Chow Making Bank

Ye Ming, Yan Cong & more from Yuanjin Photo
Lonely dog owners in Beijing and a rented girlfriend in Fujian; the last Oroqen hunters in Heilongjiang and homegrown hip hop in Chengdu; young Chinese in an Indian tech hub and Hong Kong apartments only slightly larger than coffins—these are some...

Excerpts

11.06.17

The Past Is a Foreign Country

Xiaolu Guo
On Wednesday, November 8, the Chinese-British writer Guo Xiaolu joined the Asia Society’s Isaac Stone Fish in a conversation about the difficulty of existing in both the Western and Chinese worlds.In this excerpt from Guo’s recently published memoir...

Other

10.31.17

Down from the Mountains (Reader-Friendly Version)

Max Duncan
At 14 years old, Wang Ying doesn’t want to be a mother. She scowls darkly as her younger brother and sister squabble in the corner while she does the housework. But she grudgingly cleans up after them and cooks them a potato stew, which they eat...

Video

10.31.17

Down From the Mountains

Max Duncan
At 14 years old, Wang Ying doesn’t want to be a mother. She scowls darkly as her younger brother and sister squabble in the corner while she does the housework. But she grudgingly cleans up after them and cooks them a potato stew, which they eat...

Viewpoint

06.05.17

China Has a New Domestic Violence Law. So Why Are Victims Still Often Unsafe?

Su Lin Han
In rural Hunan province, about two hours from the city of Changsha, a young woman named Zhang Meili married a violent man. According to local police, Zhang had trouble coping with her husband’s strong sexual appetite and he became jealous and...

Depth of Field

05.01.17

From the Inside Looking Out

Ye Ming, Yan Cong & more from Yuanjin Photo
Each March, Beijing hosts the “Two Sessions,” massive meetings of the National People’s Congress and the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference. Members of the two bodies of the nation’s legislature meet for a week in the Great Hall of...

Video

04.19.17

Trafficked into Wedlock

Yan Cong
When Buntha left Cambodia to marry a Chinese man, she did so for money, not for love.Thirty-two years old at the time, and never married, she had few opportunities to earn money for her family in her village in Kampong Cham, Cambodia. The China she...

Caixin Media

03.27.17

Expert Doubts Incentives Would Boost China’s Birth Rate

Proposed incentives for couples to have a second baby—including tax breaks and extra maternity leave—won’t lead to a significant spike in China’s birth rate, a renowned demographer said.Liang Zhongtang’s comments come amid growing concerns about the...

Depth of Field

02.16.17

Riding into the New Year

Yan Cong, Ye Ming & more from Yuanjin Photo
As preparations for the Chinese New Year got underway, Liang Yingfei set up a roadside studio and asked migrants traveling home by motorbike to stop for a quick photograph. While in Cambodia for the Angkor Photo Festival & Workshops, Jia...

Books

02.07.17

Shanghai Faithful

Jennifer Lin
Within the next decade, China could be home to more Christians than any other country in the world. Through the 150-year saga of a single family, this book vividly dramatizes the remarkable religious evolution of the world’s most populous nation. Shanghai Faithful is both a touching family memoir and a chronicle of the astonishing spread of Christianity in China. Five generations of the Lin family—buffeted by history’s crosscurrents and personal strife—bring to life an epoch that is still unfolding.A compelling cast—a poor fisherman, a doctor who treated opium addicts, an Ivy League-educated priest, and the charismatic preacher Watchman Nee—sets the book in motion. Veteran journalist Jennifer Lin takes readers from remote nineteenth-century mission outposts to the thriving house churches and cathedrals of today’s China. The Lin family—and the book’s central figure, the Reverend Lin Pu-chi—offer witness to China’s tumultuous past, up to and beyond the betrayals and madness of the Cultural Revolution, when the family’s resolute faith led to years of suffering. Forgiveness and redemption bring the story full circle. With its sweep of history and the intimacy of long-hidden family stories, Shanghai Faithful offers a fresh look at Christianity in China—past, present, and future. —Rowman & Littlefield{chop}

Depth of Field

01.17.17

House Calls on the Tibetan Plateau, Children of Divorce, Celebrity Secrets

Yan Cong, Ye Ming & more from Yuanjin Photo
In the final galleries of 2016, the publishing juggernaut Tencent again shows its leadership in the documentary photography space, but iFeng’s choice to publish a personal photo gallery by Zhou Xin is also worth a good look, especially since...

Meet the Ma Family: How Millennials are Changing the Way China Thinks About Money

Engen Tham and Adam Jourdan
Reuters
China's millennials - roughly those aged between 18 and 35 - are embracing debt like never before...

Caixin Media

12.05.16

‘Two-Child Policy’ Driving Mini Baby Boom in China

The number of children born in China this year is set to rise by 5.7 percent from 2015 as a result of the introduction of the country’s new two-child policy, according to the National Health and Family Planning Commission (NHFPC) Deputy Director...

Viewpoint

12.01.16

Why I’m Giving Away My Book in China

Mei Fong
After a decade covering Asia for The Wall Street Journal, I devoted three years of my life to researching and writing a book about China’s one-child policy, One Child: The Story of China’s Most Radical Experiment. This month, I’m giving away the...

Sinica Podcast

10.20.16

The Consequences of the One-Child Policy Will Be Felt for Generations

Kaiser Kuo, Jeremy Goldkorn & more from Sinica Podcast
The first day of 2016 marked the official end of China’s one-child policy, one of the most controversial and draconian approaches to population management in human history. The rules have not been abolished but modified, allowing all married Chinese...

China’s Marriage Rate is Plummeting Because More Women are Choosing Autonomy over Intimacy

Xuan Li
Quartz
One of the greatest fears of Chinese parents is coming true: China’s young people are turning away from marriage. The trend is also worrying the government

Born in the U.S., Raised in China: ’Satellite Babies’ Have a Hard Time Coming Home

Hansi Lo Wang
NPR
Studies show the arrangement can take a great emotional toll on both parents and children

Mother’s Killing of 4 Children Reveals Cracks in Anti-Poverty Drive

Li Rongde, Xiao Hui, Huang Ziyi, and...
Corruption, red tape has led to most vulnerable citizens receiving little help

Marriage Falls in China, Transforming Finances and Families

Amie Tsang and Zhang Tiantian
New York Times
The decline in marriages means a decline in the kind of spending China needs to drive economic growth.

Depth of Field

07.01.16

Tornados and Drag Queens

Ye Ming, Yan Cong & more from Yuanjin Photo
Being a photojournalist involves reacting to breaking news, a dedication to long-term projects, and everything in between. This month’s showcase of work by Chinese photographers published in Chinese media underscores this range of angles: from the...

Green Space

05.11.16

The Dark Side of Country Life

Michael Zhao
The last time we peeked at Lei Hu’s photo blog, Lei was giving us a cheery look at a China that we rarely get to see: the countryside and its beauty. But there’s a dark side to country life in China, as well, and a new blog post from Lei explores...

Depth of Field

04.29.16

April’s Best Chinese Photojournalism

Yan Cong, Ye Ming & more from Yuanjin Photo
Over the past few weeks, the publications Sina, Tencent, Caixin, China Youth Daily, and the publishing duo Sixth Tone/The Paper published photo stories on the intimate, the industrial, the private, and the political. Journalists Yan Cong and Ye Ming...

Media

04.15.16

A ‘Lost’ Daughter Speaks, and All of China Listens

A woman in her mid-40s cradled a scrap of blue cloth checkered with red. “Have you seen this before?” she asked. “Do you recognize this pattern?”I held it up to the light and noticed the cotton edges had frayed and tattered over years. “We already...

‘China’s Worst Policy Mistake’?

Nicholas D. Kristof from New York Review of Books
Perhaps no government policy anywhere in the world affected more people in a more intimate and brutal way than China’s one-child policy. In the West, there’s a tendency to approve of it as a necessary if overzealous effort to curb China’s population...

Yi Fuxian, Critic of China’s Birth Policy, Returns as an Invited Guest

Didi Kirsten Tatlow
New York Times
"I can go to Boao because the Chinese government isn’t against me anymore!"...

Lost in China’s Exploding Future

Ian Buruma from New York Review of Books
Chinese director Jia Zhangke’s new movie, Mountains May Depart, begins with a disco dance in a bleak mining town to the sounds of “Go West” by the Pet Shop Boys. It is the lunar New Year, 1999. Outside, the end of the millennium is celebrated in a...

Media

01.06.16

Is it Too Late for a ‘Two-Child Policy’?

Zhang Xiaoran from U.S.-China Dialogue
As of January 1, all married couples in China are now allowed to have a second child without penalty. When, in October, word spread that China’s government would end its longstanding one-child policy, Xiaoran Zhang posed the following questions to a...

Books

12.16.15

One Child

Mei Fong
When Communist Party leaders adopted the one-child policy in 1980, they hoped curbing birth-rates would help lift China’s poorest and increase the country’s global stature. But at what cost? Now, as China closes the book on the policy after more than three decades, it faces a population grown too old and too male, with a vastly diminished supply of young workers.Mei Fong has spent years documenting the policy’s repercussions on every sector of Chinese society. In One Child, she explores its true human impact, traveling across China to meet the people who live with its consequences. Their stories reveal a dystopian reality: unauthorized second children ignored by the state, only-children supporting aging parents and grandparents on their own, villages teeming with ineligible bachelors, and an ungoverned adoption market stretching across the globe. Fong tackles questions that have major implications for China’s future: whether its “Little Emperor” cohort will make for an entitled or risk-averse generation; how China will manage to support itself when one in every four people is over sixty-five years old; and above all, how much the one-child policy may end up hindering China’s growth.Weaving in Fong’s reflections on striving to become a mother herself, One Child offers a nuanced and candid report from the extremes of family planning. —Houghton Mifflin Harcourt{chop}

Media

11.13.15

The Real Reason for China’s Two-Child Policy: Millions of New Consumers

Two fictitious Chinese brothers are born in Tuanjiehu Maternity Hospital in the Chinese capital of Beijing. Let’s say the first was born already, in late 2015; his parents nickname him Laoda, meaning “oldest child.” That’s because they have hopes...

Caixin Media

11.10.15

Mao’s ‘Proud Poplar’: Yang Kaihui

Sheila Melvin
Yang Kaihui—who was killed 85 years ago this month—was the first of Mao Zedong’s three freely chosen wives. (Mao was forced by his parents to wed an older neighbor when he was just 14 but did not consider this a true marriage.) Yang’s dramatic, and...

Photo Zines That Explore Singapore’s Identity

Rena Silverman, photos by Sim Chi Yin
New York Times
In 1949, Sim Chi Yin’s grandfather, Shen Huansheng, a school principal and chief editor for the leftist Ipoh Daily newspaper, became a “Communist martyr.” A monument in Gaoshang with the inscription, “The tomb of martyr Shen Huansheng” proves it.

P&G Tripped Up by Its Assumptions About Diapers in China

Serena Ng and Laurie Burkitt
Wall Street Journal
Pampers diapers fall behind after aiming too low at the growing middle class.

Excerpts

03.16.15

The Education of Detained Chinese Feminist Li Tingting

Eric Fish
It is probably fair to say no woman has ever taken more flak for walking into a men’s room than Li Tingting. In the run-up to Women’s Day in 2012, the feminist college student was distressed by the one-to-one ratio of public restroom facilities for...

Culture

02.20.15

‘Still Not Married?’ A Graphic Guide to Surviving Chinese New Year

Roseann Lake
Maya Hong is a Beijing transplant from a small town outside of Harbin, the icy city not far from China’s border with Siberia. Though proud of her glacial origins and skilled at combating subzero temperatures, over the years Hong, 30, has had to add...

Parent Meddling Makes for Unmerry Marriages in China

Laurie Burkitt
Wall Street Journal
"Parental matchmaking is robustly correlated with lower marital harmony,” says a new World Bank report...

Media

02.05.15

Why Chinese Promote Confining New Mothers for a Month

Rachel Lu
HONG KONG—Giving birth is never easy, but for new Chinese mothers the month following a baby’s arrival is particularly fraught. Immediately after I became pregnant for the first time, I started to hear about zuoyuezi, or “sitting the month.” It’s a...

Sinica Podcast

10.17.14

China Daddy Issues

Kaiser Kuo, Jeremy Goldkorn & more from Sinica Podcast
We’ve all heard about the difficulty of finding good schools in China, and know first hand about the food and air safety problems. But what about the terrors of pedestrian crossings, the dilemmas of how much trust you should inculcate in your kids,...

Viewpoint

09.19.14

“Daddy’s ‘Friends’ Are Actually Plainclothes Cops”

Zeng Jinyan
[Updated March 18, 2015] The essay that follows was written by Zeng Jinyan, whose former partner, Hu Jia, has been prominently involved in activism around environmental issues, AIDS, and human rights in China over the past decade and a half and is a...

Sinica Podcast

08.08.14

In Memory of Jenkai Kuo

Kaiser Kuo, Jeremy Goldkorn & more from Sinica Podcast
This week on Sinica, Jeremy and David welcome back Kaiser to remember the life and lessons of his father, Jenkai Kuo (Guo Jingkai) (郭倞闓). He was an upstanding man who spent much of his life dedicated to his passions, none more important than his...

Sino-African Marriages in China: ‘Til Death Do Us Part’?

Eric Olander, Cobus van Staden & more
A marriage boom of sorts is underway in China, where a growing number of African men are tying the knot with Chinese women. While these new families are breaking long-held cultural stereotypes, they are also confronting a whole set of new challenges...