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Tea Leaf Nation

Tea Leaf Nation is a channel on ForeignPolicy.com that decodes Chinese media—mainstream, social, local, special interest—to illuminate the country from within.

Last Updated: February 10, 2016

Media

02.14.17

Surprise Findings: China’s Youth Are Getting Less Nationalistic, Not More

Anyone who’s spent any length of time following Western press coverage of China is familiar with the notion that China’s leaders are obligated to look tough in order to appease a rising nationalism. Much has been written about the online activities...

Media

01.28.17

China’s Feminists Go to Washington

Kim Wall
Zhang Ling was dressed like a revolutionary from the Spanish Civil War. With a long braid emerging from a scarlet beret and clad in trousers a color she described as “communist red,” Zhang had driven her Honda from her home in upstate New York the...

Media

01.19.17

The U.S. Media’s Unfortunate Obsession with One Beijing Rag

David Wertime
On January 11, during his confirmation hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, U.S. Secretary of State nominee Rex Tillerson raised eyebrows in Washington when he said, “We’re going to have to send China a clear signal that first the...

Viewpoint

12.09.16

I Think That Chinese Official Really Liked Me!

David Wertime & James Palmer
“Friendship” is everywhere in China, at least when it comes to dealing with foreigners. International societies are friendship associations. The stores once accessible only to foreign currency holders were called Friendship Stores. Provincial cities...

Viewpoint

11.29.16

The Anti-Mainland Bigotry of Hong Kong’s Democracy Movement

Taisu Zhang
Given the political earthquake that occurred on November 8, the recent political and constitutional crisis in Hong Kong now seems comparatively diminished in significance. At the time, however, it was widely seen as—and continues to be—a major...

Media

11.07.16

Why Chinese Elites Endorse Hillary Clinton

Isaac Stone Fish
The United States, China’s largest trading partner but also its greatest geopolitical rival, faces an election that threatens domestic instability. A Donald Trump victory would confirm to many Chinese the inherent weakness of American democracy. A...

Features

10.19.16

Why Newly Elected Hong Kong Legislators Cursed and Protested—At Their Own Swearing-In

There’s a bit of a nanny state in the city of Hong Kong. The government is quick to issue advice and admonitions about all matter of hazards—high ocean waves, food waste, incense burning during the annual grave-sweeping festival. One night in late...

Media

09.29.16

How to Fix China’s Crooked Congress

Thomas Kellogg
Nearly four years into Chinese President Xi Jinping’s anti-corruption campaign, Chinese citizens could be forgiven if their eyes glaze over at the news of yet another high official’s fall from grace. But even the most jaded likely could not ignore...

Media

09.23.16

In China, Organic Food Is Gaining Ground

Wan Li, a young Beijing professional in her late 20s, is at her desk when her cell phone rings. She picks up. “North entrance?” She confirms. “I’ll be right out.” An electric delivery scooter has just pulled up to Wan’s office with her order of...

Media

09.14.16

The Chinese Democratic Experiment that Never Was

David Wertime
Protesters in southern China are up in arms. They feel that Beijing’s promises that they’d be able to vote for their own local leaders have been honored in the breach. They’re outraged at the show of force in the face of peaceful protest, and...

Media

08.25.16

China Analysts Should Talk to Each Other, Not at Each Other

Scott Kennedy
On August 12, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) issued its annual report card on China’s economy and gave the country mixed grades, finding that its “economic transition will continue to be complex, challenging, and potentially bumpy.” In...

Media

08.17.16

How the Philippines Can Win in the South China Sea

The Philippine Islands has a problem. It has international law on its side in its quarrel with China over maritime territory, but no policeman walking his beat to enforce the law. That means that, despite an international court’s findings, the...

American Unrest Proves China Got the Internet Right

Ran Jijun
Beijing has been criticized for its Great Firewall and online censorship. Now it's looking prescient...

Why Chinese Netizens Cheer Trump

Zak Dychtwald
To online 'Trump Guards,' the U.S. race pits a corrupt official against a plain-spoken outsider...

I Broadcast Myself on the Chinese Web for Two Weeks

Viola Rothschild
In the process, I learned why Chinese millennials can't seem to unplug from the live-streaming craze...

China’s Web Users Find NYSE Shutdown Hilarious

Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian
Within 30 minutes of the NYSE shutdown, the word spread on the Chinese Internet, and jokes came pouring in on China’s Twitter-like microblogging platform Weibo.

The Revolution Will Not Be Instagrammed

Alexa Olesen
Mainland Chinese felt no effects from the protests roiling Hong Kong—until Beijing pulled the plug on another social network.

Mapping the Four C's of Chinese Wealth

Warner Brown
Live in a city near China's coast, and in a capital. (Coal doesn't hurt.)...

China’s Silly War on Starbucks Lattes

Rachel Lu
A C.C.T.V. investigation into Starbucks’ jacked-up prices in Mainland China has backfired, prompting many netizens to ask why the television station doesn’t cover more widespread and egregious injustices.

Online Furor as Prosecutors Recommend ‘Leniency’ for Chinese Rail Boss

Liz Carter
Over the past 24 hours, the most viral post on Sina Weibo, has been a revelation that prosecutors advised that Liu Zhijun be given a “lenient sentence,” despite his admitted accumulation of 374 houses and over US$100...

Chinese Hold Online Protest Against Child Predators, Say #GetARoomWithMe Instead

Lotus Yuen
In response to a recent alleged rape, Chinese citizens have waged a unique form of protest online, using memes and social networking to further a cause to draw attention and comment on the issue. 

WeChat War Escalates, Becomes Showdown Between Government And Internet Users

Rachel Lu
Most Internet users believe that China’s three state-owned telecom operators are pushing for the introdction of a fee scheme to popular messaging app WeChat because their core SMS and voice business are threatened by the app. 

Online Poll Shows Overwhelming Support For End to China’s One-Child Policy

David Wertime
Out of 30,006 votes cast, 71.7% support abrogating the one-child policy, and only 28.3% want to keep it. The poll was conducted after a study by the China Development Research Foundation emerged, recommending an abolition of the...

Staying Out of Trouble Before the 18th Party Congress

Jan Cao
As Beijing enters extreme lock-down prior to the 18th National Party Congress (十八大 or “shi ba da” in Chinese), social media users have invented a new coded reference–“Sparta”–to talk about this otherwise censored topic on Sina...

Chinese Blogging Superstar’s Strange But Effective Rant Against Over-Construction

Liz Carter and David Wertime
Although Chinese authorities have since said they would back down from the proposed project, Li’s angry and vivid description of Chinese government remains relevant–and, for that matter, unblocked by Chinese censors. Weaving political commentary,...

Chinese Netizens Debate the Merits of Owning a Luxury Car

Rachel Lu
One couple asks if they can own a BMW on a combined income of $2,100 a month.

Censorship Reaching 1,000 Miles Exposed on China’s Twitter

Yueran Zhang
Netizens exposing public servants' taste for expensive timepieces has sparked an online and newspaper crackdown.  On October 9, Wang Keqin (@王克勤), an Economic Observer (@经济观察报) reporter posted on Sina Weibo, China’s Twitter, that...