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08.27.14

A ‘School Bus and a Ferrari’

TEA LEAF NATION & DAVID WERTIME

Communication between China and the United States can often resemble ships passing in the night—or planes passing through international airspace. But when it comes to this particularly fraught bilateral relationship, perhaps metaphors are best avoided. On August 22, after a...

Media

08.07.14

Beards and Muslim Headscarves Banned From Buses In One...

TEA LEAF NATION & ALEXA OLESEN

A city in China’s remote western Xinjiang region has temporarily banned men with beards and women with Muslim headscarves from taking public buses. The extreme security measure—to be implemented for the duration of a sports competition slated to kick off in northern Xinjiang...

Media

08.06.14

The Bizarre Fixation on a 23-Year-Old Woman

TEA LEAF NATION

On August 4, a 6.5-magnitude earthquake viciously struck Ludian County, a township in the southwest province of Yunnan, with a death toll surpassing 400. The news swiftly hit Chinese headlines, and images of the devastation circulated widely on Weibo, China’s massive...

Media

07.30.14

Paper Tiger

TEA LEAF NATION, ISAAC STONE FISH & more

For 10 months, the fate of Zhou Yongkang existed in a space of plausible deniability. Respected Western media outlets had reported that the 71-year-old Zhou, a retired official who served as China's much-feared domestic security czar from 2007 to 2012, was being investigated for...

Media

07.30.14

Say It Ain’t So, Zhou

TEA LEAF NATION & DAVID WERTIME

It was an exchange perfectly tailored for modern Chinese politics: alternately unscripted and cagey, chummy but laced with a hint of menace. At a Beijing press conference following a Chinese Communist Party meeting in early March, a reporter for Hong Kong-based South China...

Media

07.22.14

All Hail ‘Fatty Kim the Third’

TEA LEAF NATION & DAVID WERTIME

It’s North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un as the world has never seen him. In a three-minute clip that has accumulated over 200,000 views after its early July posting on Chinese video site Tudou, a crudely photoshopped Kim dances on the street, on a baseball diamond, and...

Media

07.21.14

Everybody Hates Rui

TEA LEAF NATION

He may be widely reviled in his home country, but oh, what a resume: The son of an author and screenwriter; a graduate of the prestigious China Foreign Affairs University; a Yale World Fellow; and state-run China Central Television (CCTV)’s best-known bilingual business...

Media

07.08.14

Changing the Chinese Embassy’s Address to Liu Xiaobo...

TEA LEAF NATION & ISAAC STONE FISH

I rarely agree with the Chinese Embassy in Washington, but an amendment making its way through Congress has made me unlikely bedfellows with Beijing’s Washington diplomats.Representative Frank Wolf (R-Va.) has sponsored an amendment to rename the street on which the Chinese...

Media

05.23.14

“What’s Been Done to My Beautiful Homeland?”

TEA LEAF NATION & ALEXA OLESEN

Nigel Maiti, an ethnically Uighur host for Chinese state broadcaster CCTV, is a well-known and popular entertainer with more than 1 million followers on the social media site Sina Weibo. After 31 were killed by a coordinated bomb and truck attack at an open air market in Urumqi...

Media

05.13.14

Why Are There No Credit Scores in China?

TEA LEAF NATION & RACHEL LU

Few would dispute that Chinese society suffers from a serious trust problem. After surviving crafty scams and shoddy products for years, Chinese people have become guarded with strangers and cautious in business dealings. Given all that, it would be tempting to celebrate the fact...

Media

04.28.14

A Guide to Social Class in Modern China

TEA LEAF NATION & RACHEL LU

Class is a sensitive word in China. Marxist-Leninist rhetoric like “class enemies,” “class conflict,” and “class struggle” are rarely seen in the country’s media these days, but since China began its market reforms in 1979, stratification has emerged in a society...

Media

04.25.14

Bieliebers They Are Not—Chinese Outraged by Singer’...

TEA LEAF NATION

Justin Bieber has once again displayed his talent for seemingly effortless international gaffes. The twenty-year-old Canadian pop princeling, who last year wrote “hopefully she would have been a Belieber” in the guestbook on his visit to the Anne Frank House, has now posted a...

Media

04.02.14

The Future of Democracy in Hong Kong

THE EDITORS

Veteran Hong Kong political leaders Anson Chan and Martin Lee describe some of the core values—such as freedom of the press—that they seek to maintain as Beijing asserts greater control over the territory seventeen years after Britain handed it back to China on the condition...

Media

03.21.14

“We’ll Know It When We’re There”

JONATHAN LANDRETH

Martin Johnson (not his real name), is a co-founder of the China-based Internet freedom advocacy collective GreatFire.org. On the condition that he not be photographed, he gave the following interview to ChinaFile at an outdoor cafe in Manhattan.Jonathan Landreth: You've been in...

Media

03.28.14

Ang Lee and Zhang Yimou Talk Movies

JONATHAN LANDRETH

Ang Lee, the Oscar-winning American film director with Taiwan roots, and Zhang Yimou, the storied veteran of mainland Chinese moviemaking, joined together on March 27 at Cooper Union in New York in a discussion billed “Chinese Film, Chinese Confidence” by Zhang’s backer,...

Media

03.25.14

China, We Fear You

TEA LEAF NATION

On March 18, thousands of students began a sit-in of Taiwan’s Legislative Yuan in the capital, Taipei, a historic first that has paralyzed the island’s lawmaking body. Students have amassed to protest an attempt by the Kuomintang, the island’s ruling party, to push through...

Media

03.26.14

A Wrinkle to Those Hot Chinese Tech IPOs

TEA LEAF NATION & RACHEL LU

Investors, ready your wallets. In the past week, Sina Weibo, China’s massive microblogging platform with 280 million users, and Alibaba, the operator of China’s largest online marketplace which generated $1.84 billion in revenue in the fourth quarter of 2013 alone, have...

Features

03.21.14

Punching a Hole in the Great Firewall

JEFF SOUTH

In January, when the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists published its exposé of the use of offshore tax havens by Chinese politicians and business moguls, the Chinese government blocked access to the consortium’s website and to news articles about the report...

Media

03.17.14

‘Self-Media’ Pushes and Beijing Pushes Back

TEA LEAF NATION & ALEXA OLESEN

Michelle Song, twenty-four, studies international relations at Beijing’s prestigious Peking University and lives in a dormitory, so she doesn’t watch television regularly and doesn’t subscribe to newspapers. But this has not hampered her ability to keep up with the...

Media

03.03.14

‘Enemies of Humanity’ — China Debates Who’s to...

TEA LEAF NATION, RACHEL LU & more

It’s already being called “3.01,” or “three oh one,” a date that will likely burn in China’s collective memory for years to come. According to Xinhua, China’s state news agency, on the evening of March 1, around 9:00 p.m. Beijing time, ten or more uniformed...

Media

02.26.14

China, LinkedIn Would Like to Add You to Its Network

TEA LEAF NATION & DAVID WERTIME

LinkedIn is now aiming its bow for the rocky shoals that have claimed Facebook, Twitter, Google, and even eBay: the Chinese market. On February 24, LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner announced the launch of LinkedIn’s Chinese-language site, still in beta, meaning it is a test edition...

Media

03.01.14

China’s Oscar Challenge

JONATHAN LANDRETH

On January 3, the film critics of The New York Times published their Oscar nominations wish list. Many of their wishes came true and on Sunday night, March 2, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will broadcast its annual celebration of Hollywood and bestow golden...

Media

02.19.14

Chinese Netizens (Still) Love ‘House of Cards’

TEA LEAF NATION & DAVID WERTIME

“Everyone in China who works on this level pays who they need to pay.” Mild spoiler alert: These are the words of the fictitious Xander Feng, an influential Chinese billionaire on the Netflix series "House of Cards," a show that follows the machinations of U.S. Representative...

Media

02.14.14

A Kapital Idea

MATTHEW NIEDERHAUSER & DAVID M. BARREDA

Matthew Neiderhauser is a photographer and artist whose work is influenced by his studies in anthropology. He lived in Beijing for six years and recently returned to the United States. His pictorial book Sound Kapital, published in 2009, documented Beijing’s underground punk...

Media

02.21.14

How the Internet and Social Media Are Transforming...

SHAZEDA AHMED

“The Internet has radically transformed China,” said Emily Parker, author of the book Now I Know Who My Comrades Are: Voices from the Internet Underground, in a public discussion at Asia Society in New York on February 19.Talking about the Internet’s rise in China, Parker...

Media

12.19.13

Chinese Admiral to U.S. Navy: ‘We Will Block You’

TEA LEAF NATION & LIZ CARTER

On December 5, the U.S. missile-carrying cruiser Cowpens almost collided with a Chinese ship in international waters. The Cowpens was observing the maiden voyage of China’s new aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, when a vessel accompanying it cut across the Cowpens’ bow less than...

Media

02.07.14

Why Chinese Media Is Going Soft on Sochi

TEA LEAF NATION & RACHEL LU

Ready or not, Putingrad (aka Sochi) is now on prime time. The opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics will take place in the subtropical Russian resort town on February 7. In the Twittersphere, Western journalists and visitors have assailed Sochi’s ill-preparedness—from...

Media

12.06.13

China’s Viral, Nationalist Screed Against Western...

TEA LEAF NATION & RACHEL LU

“You are nothing without your motherland.” It’s a trite phrase, one that seems unlikely to stir the blood of even the most dyed-in-the-wool nationalist—but it has found recent currency in China. An essay with that title has been making the rounds on the Chinese Internet...

Media

12.04.13

Chinese Chortle at U.S. Request to Scrap Controversial...

TEA LEAF NATION & RACHEL LU

The United States wants China to pull back from its gambit to try to rewrite the East China Sea’s status quo, but the Chinese are having none of it. On December 2, the U.S. State Department said China’s newly-declared air defense identification zone (ADIZ), a California-sized...

Media

12.11.13

Pollution Has ‘Five Surprising Benefits,’ says...

TEA LEAF NATION & DAVID WERTIME

Polluted air is a fact of life for many Chinese citizens, and it’s currently smothering parts of the country—but that’s not all bad, according to one state media outlet’s widely-ridiculed attempt at positive spin. A recent bout of noxious smog has hit China hard: in the...

Media

01.23.14

Out of the Dark Room

SHARRON LOVELL

Photographers document China’s breakneck development in fractions of a second every single day. Yet the work of Chinese photojournalists remains largely unseen outside their homeland. Of the thousands of images of the country illustrating the pages of international websites,...

Media

02.13.14

Did President Xi’s Dumpling Outing Create a...

TEA LEAF NATION

Beijing, China—It’s well after lunch and Liu Fengju still hasn’t gotten her food. The sixty-seven-year-old wife of a retired railway worker came to Beijing to spend Spring Festival, the annual seven-day Chinese New Year celebration, with her niece. Wearing brown-colored...

Media

11.25.13

Former Committee to Protect Journalists Honoree Says...

EMILY BRILL

A prominent Hong Kong-based journalist has called on Daniel Doctoroff, Chief Executive Officer of Bloomberg L.P., to step down from his role as chairman of the Committee to Protect Journalists’ (CPJ) annual International Press Freedom Awards dinner on Tuesday in New York...

Media

01.31.14

Closing Time? China’s Social Media Crackdown Has Hit...

TEA LEAF NATION & DAVID WERTIME

Findings by East China Normal University (ECNU), a research university in Shanghai, commissioned by respected U.K. outlet The Telegraph and released January 30, lodges concrete data behind what frequent users and analysts of Chinese social media have felt for months. To wit: Sina...

Media

01.10.14

Shaq in China: A Love Story

TEA LEAF NATION

At seven-foot-one, roughly 350 pounds, and with a smile that’s been featured on everything from cereal boxes to CD album covers, Shaquille O’Neal isn’t particularly hard to recognize. And yet there I stood at the airport arrival gate in Chongqing, a city of 30 million...

Media

11.22.13

Farewell, Everyman: Chinese React to Ambassador Locke...

TEA LEAF NATION & LIZ CARTER

Chinese are waving goodbye to the frustratingly normal U.S. Ambassador to Beijing, Gary Locke, who announced on November 20 that he will be leaving his post in early 2014. Over 300,000 netizens discussed Locke’s resignation on Sina Weibo, the Twitter-like platform where...

Media

11.14.13

Westerners Aren’t the Only Ones Flummoxed by China’...

TEA LEAF NATION & DAVID WERTIME

After the Third Plenum, a high-level meeting to discuss China’s future, ended on November 12, Beijing released a major document likely to affect many of its 1.3 billion citizens’ lives for years. Western media responded to the 5,000-plus character document, called the Plenum...

Media

11.07.13

After Party Headquarters Explosions, Netizens Debate...

TEA LEAF NATION & DAVID WERTIME

On the morning of November 6, an unknown assailant or group of assailants reportedly detonated several bombs outside the front door of the provincial government headquarters of Taiyuan, the capital of Northern China’s Shanxi province. China’s state-run Xinhua news agency...

Media

11.06.13

Sex Ed Videos Go Viral

TEA LEAF NATION & LIZ CARTER

A collection of sex education videos have just gone, ahem, viral on the Chinese Internet. On October 29, a three-person team calling itself the “Nutcracker Studio” released three one-minute clips addressing tough topics in childhood sex education, such as “Where Do Babies...

Media

11.01.13

Apologies for a Horrific Past

TEA LEAF NATION

On October 9, a farmer named Zhang Jinying appeared on the television show Please Forgive Me, a program usually dedicated to public apologies by unfaithful husbands and wayward sons. But the sixty-one-year-old Zhang’s apology had a depth and a historical weight rarely seen on...

Media

10.23.13

How to Say “Truthiness” in Chinese

TEA LEAF NATION & DAVID WERTIME

“Official rumors” is more than just an oxymoron. The phrase—pronounced guanyao—has become a useful weapon in Chinese Internet users’ linguistic guerrilla warfare against government censorship. That battle has intensified during a government-led crackdown on “online...

Media

10.11.13

How Social Media Complicates the Role of China’s...

TEA LEAF NATION

Xia Junfeng was once unknown, but his 2009 arrest for the murder of security officers—who, he alleged, had savagely beaten him—made him a symbolic figure in a national debate about human rights and reform in China. Yet many wonder whether this notoriety did more harm than...

Media

10.07.13

Just How Free Is Shanghai’s New Free Trade Zone?

TEA LEAF NATION

This article is adapted, with updates, from the September 20 article “China’s New Free Trade Zone: Silver Bullet or Stopgap Measure?“Two weeks after taking office in March 2013, China’s Premier Li Keqiang announced that Shanghai, the country’s financial capital, would...

Media

09.30.13

China Watches “Breaking Bad”

TEA LEAF NATION

Why do millions of Chinese care about a fictitious New Mexico meth cook? The soon-to-be-concluded television drama series Breaking Bad, which depicts embattled high school chemistry teacher Walter White’s transformation into a crystal methamphetamine kingpin, has already become...

Media

09.13.13

Chinese Professor Mocked for Suggesting Elderly...

TEA LEAF NATION

China’s age of retirement has long been a subject of controversy, as the country’s aging population and slowing economic growth have made caring for the elderly an increasingly daunting task. Recently, Yang Yansui, a professor at China’s prestigious Tsinghua University,...

Media

09.11.13

Amid Scandals, Can China’s New Organ Transplant...

TEA LEAF NATION

The now oft-derided Chinese Red Cross once again found itself in hot water in July, when it was reported that some branches have asked organ transplant hospitals to pay 100,000 RMB ($16,300) for each successful organ donation organized by them. In August, the People’s Daily...

Media

09.06.13

Follow the Money: Who Benefits from China’s One-Child...

TEA LEAF NATION

When debating China’s one-child policy, China’s domestic media and observers overseas mostly focus on its impact on the population structure or incidences of inhumanity involved in the implementation of the policy (such as forced abortion). Almost unmentioned is the fact that...

Media

08.27.13

The Surprise Loser of China’s Trial of the Century:...

RACHEL LU & TEA LEAF NATION

It seems like everybody has something to gain from Show Trial 2.0, a.k.a. the semi-live tweeting of fallen politician Bo Xilai’s day in court.Bo Xilai the showman takes a bow with a flourish; Gu Kailai, the scorned wife, exacts sweet revenge; Chinese leader Xi Jinping appears...

Media

08.27.13

China’s Original Social Media: Bathroom Graffiti

TEA LEAF NATION

The men’s room in the passenger station in Qujing, Yunnan province will be familiar to anyone who has answered the call of nature in one of China’s provincial bus stations. Dim fluorescent lights give a clinical blue pallor to the bleary-eyed, fidgety travelers waiting their...

Media

08.22.13

You Can’t Handle the Truth: Bo Xilai’s Courtroom...

TEA LEAF NATION & RACHEL LU

A show trial this is not. But is a twist ending in the major blockbuster “The Life of Bo Xilai” in the offing?The long-awaited trial of Bo Xilai, once a rising star in the Chinese Communist Party, took place Thursday morning, but instead of the promised live broadcast, the...

Media

08.14.13

Don’t Dream Big—Four Vignettes on Social Mobility...

TEA LEAF NATION & RACHEL LU

The New York Times recently ran an article that detailed the struggles of three young college women from low-income backgrounds, raising questions about whether education remains the “great equalizer” in America. How does the picture look in China, where education has been...

Media

08.08.13

Chinese State Media: Online Critics “Incite Political...

TEA LEAF NATION

While the Internet has become the site of almost constant political arguments in China, few articles have generated as much debate as a recent piece by blogger Wang Xiaoshi. On August 1, Xinhua News Agency, a state-run media outlet, posted Wang’s article, entitled “If China...

Media

07.02.13

American History, Through Chinese Eyes

TEA LEAF NATION

White male privilege, genocide against Native Americans, slavery and subsequent racial oppression, exploitation of immigrants and laborers, repression of women and homosexuals, and environmental destruction—teaching American cultural history through a post-modern lens is hardly...

Media

07.29.13

On “Wealth and Power”

THE EDITORS

Authors Orville Schell, Arthur Ross Director of the Center on U.S.-China Relations at Asia Society, and John Delury, Assistant Professor of East Asian Studies at Yonsei University in South Korea, joined Jonathan Spence, Professor of History at Yale University, in conversation at...

Media

07.10.13

Old Photo of Tiananmen Square Has Netizens Asking “...

TEA LEAF NATION & RACHEL LU

A rare old color photo of Tiananmen Square was posted on Weibo, China’s Twitter, and it was commented on hundreds of times as Internet users mused about the past and present of China’s most recognizable landmark.Here are the three things that stand out in this photo:{...

Media

07.15.13

A Rite of Passage to Nowhere

YING ZHU & FRANCES HISGEN

Tiny Times, a Chinese feature film set in contemporary Shanghai, made headline news on its opening day in late June by knocking the Hollywood blockbuster Man of Steel from its perch atop the domestic box-office and breaking the opening-day record for a Chinese-language 2D release...

Media

07.10.13

Australian PM’s Online Musings Have Chinese Wondering...

TEA LEAF NATION

On July 9, Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd posted on a social media site about a phone conversation with Chinese President Xi Jinping. The twist? The message was written in Chinese on the immensely popular Chinese microblogging platform Sina Weibo. Rudd wrote:Yesterday I...

Media

08.12.13

Is Support for Transgender Rights Increasing in China?

TEA LEAF NATION

In the last few weeks of July, the story of a young transgender couple who transitioned together, which had previously gone viral in the Western media, trended on Sina Weibo, China’s popular microblogging platform. Although some Chinese netizens were puzzled by the story, many...

Media

07.17.13

A Minority in the Middle Kingdom: My Experience Being...

TEA LEAF NATION

In the 1996 China edition of the Lonely Planet guidebook, a text box aside comment from a street interview provided some interesting conversation fodder: “…there is no racism in China because there are no black people,” a Chinese woman was reported to have said. This became...

Media

06.28.13

A Character Battle Between China’s Government and its...

DAVID WERTIME & TEA LEAF NATION

The horse is out of the barn. Now that China’s social Web has given every citizen the ability to publish for a wide audience—a privilege once reserved for the government—state publications and Web users there continue to wrangle over who best grasps the Zeitgeist. Just...