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01.13.15

‘Where’s Our Unity March?’ China Wants to Know

BETHANY ALLEN-EBRAHIMIAN & RACHEL LU

The January 7 terrorist attack on satirical French newspaper Charlie Hebdo that left 12 dead has mostly inspired unity in the West, but the massive march held in its aftermath is spurring controversy, and even some disdain, in China. While the massacre’s assault on free speech brought up to 1.6 million to a January 11 march in Paris, according to French officials the largest demonstration in French history, it’s inspired little such solidarity in China. That’s true even though—and perhaps because—China itself suffered...

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01.13.15

This Culture Has Not Yet Been Rated

BETHANY ALLEN-EBRAHIMIAN

It all started with plunging necklines. After the sudden withdrawal and subsequent sanitizing of a popular Chinese show, viewers in China have renewed longstanding calls to strip government censors of their power, using one simple solution: a ratings system for television and film. Shortly after its December 21 premier, the series Empress of China rose to swift popularity on the shoulders of beautiful women in expensive period costumes featuring abundant décolletage. But the series was yanked from airwaves shortly after its debut,...

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01.08.15

What Will Happen to Uber in China?

TEA LEAF NATION

Ride-sharing app Uber has expanded around the world at a blistering pace, launching in a new city every one or two days. At first glance, China would appear the ideal fit for the Silicon Valley startup. Most urban residents in the world’s second-largest economy rely on...

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12.08.14

On First Annual Constitution Day, China’s Most Censored Word Was ‘Constitution’

BETHANY ALLEN-EBRAHIMIAN

On December 4, China’s first annual Constitution Day, Communist Party mouthpiece People’s Daily posted the complete text of the Chinese constitution to its Weibo microblogging account, accompanied by the upbeat hashtag: “Let’s all read the Constitution!” The easy-to-...

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12.08.14

Happy Friday, Zhou Yongkang

ALEXA OLESEN

Eight minutes after midnight on Friday, the axe fell on Zhou Yongkang: a terse news release from state-run Xinhua news agency said that China’s former security czar Zhou had been expelled from the Chinese Communist Party, his case handed over to China’s top prosecutor’s...

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12.05.14

Repeat After Me: Taiwan’s Recent Elections Had Nothing to Do With Hong Kong

BETHANY ALLEN-EBRAHIMIAN

If China was in fact the invisible candidate in Taiwan’s local elections, it just lost in a landslide. On November 28, voters on the self-governing island, which mainland China considers a renegade province, selected candidates for over 11,000 village- and local-level positions...

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11.20.14

The Invisible Candidate in Taiwan’s Elections

Almost 80 percent of Taiwan, an island of 23 million off the coast of China, is expected to head to the polls November 29 to vote in local elections with more than 11,000 seats up for grabs. Voters will choose candidates ranging from mayors in Taiwan's six biggest cities to low-...

Media

11.12.14

“Having a Second Kid Isn’t as Simple as Adding Another Pair of Chopsticks”

ALEXA OLESEN

When China loosened its family planning rules a year ago in November, allowing more couples to have a second child, it was big news. It marked the biggest reform of China's strict family planning rules—which limited most urban couples to one child and rural families to two if...

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10.29.14

Foot Spas, Steamed Buns, and Midday Drinking

It may not be Monty Python’s famous “Ministry of Silly Walks,” but it’s close.The Office of Forbidding Midday Alcohol Consumption, a local government initiative in China’s southern Henan province which seeks to reduce alcohol consumption at government-funded lunches, is...

Media

10.29.14

A Talking Heads Video: China Strikes Back

ORVILLE SCHELL

In the first episode of the new VICE News series Talking Heads, Orville Schell, the Arthur Ross Director of the Center on U.S.-China Relations at Asia Society, and publisher of ChinaFile, discusses his New York Review of Books essay, "China Strikes Back." In September, Schell...

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10.21.14

Chinese Doubt Their Own Soft Power Venture

On September 27, Chinese Vice Premier Liu Yandong read aloud a letter written by President Xi Jinping at a ceremony in Beijing celebrating the tenth anniversary of the Confucius Institute (CI) program, an international chain of academic centers embedded in partner schools abroad...

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10.24.14

Hong Kong Documentary Explores the Roots of Dissent

LA FRANCES HUI

To many observers, Hong Kong’s “Umbrella Movement”—thousands of students and other citizens in the streets demanding to choose their own political leaders—seemed to unfurl, fully formed, out of nowhere. Residents of the former colony were supposed to care more about...

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10.23.14

Pandas Were Monsters

ALEXA OLESEN

"Rich Chinese are literally eating this exotic mammal into extinction," read a recent Global Post expose of the devastating trade in the pangolin, a scaly anteater that Chinese consider a delicacy. According to the Post, the adorable animals (which one columnist described as "a...

Media

10.01.14

They Can Take Our Freedom, But They Will Never Take Our Instagram

BETHANY ALLEN-EBRAHIMIAN

When thousands of Hong Kong protesters clashed with police on Sunday, September 28, many residents of the city immediately took to the photo-sharing platform Instagram. There, they uploaded images of police violence and demonstrations that shocked the world: smoky cascades of...

Media

10.01.14

Media Portrays Hong Kong Protests as Either Inspiring or Dangerous

RACHEL LU

The second and third days of mass protests to demand broader democracy in Hong Kong ended with none of the violence and confrontation seen on September 28. Thousands of protesters continued to gather on the streets of the city’s busiest shopping and financial districts, sitting...

Media

09.25.14

An Internet Where Nobody Says Anything

DAVID WERTIME

Here is what a court in Urumqi, the capital of China’s western Xinjiang region, concludes Ilham Tohti, a balding, thick-set, 44-year-old professor, did: “Using ‘Uighur Online’ as a platform, and taking advantage of his role as a university professor,” Ilham “spread...

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09.12.14

A New Definition of Chinese Patriotism

RACHEL LU

China’s ruling Communist Party has a message for Chinese citizens: You are for us, or you are against us.That’s the takeaway from a widely discussed September 10 opinion piece in pro-party tabloid Global Times, in which Chen Xiankui, a professor at the School of Marxism at...

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

09.10.14

iPhone 6: Designed in California, Leaked in China

DAVID WERTIME

China’s cyberspace is bursting with anticipation for the iPhone 6—never mind that it promises to cost more than most citizens make in a month. Apple, the U.S.-based company that designs and sells the iPhone, had scheduled a major announcement about its latest and greatest...

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09.02.14

Anti-Vice Click-Bait Spawns Popular Govt. Social Media Feed

ALEXA OLESEN

The Chinese government institution with the biggest social media following goes to...the nationwide anti-vice campaign called "Strike the four blacks, Eliminate the four harms." Da Sihei, Chu Sihai in Mandarin, the four blacks and four harms are: workshops that make counterfeit...

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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...

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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...

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04.25.14

Bieliebers They Are Not—Chinese Outraged by Singer’s Tokyo Shrine Visit

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

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

03.01.14

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

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...

Media

03.03.14

‘Enemies of Humanity’ — China Debates Who’s to Blame For the Kunming Attack

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...

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02.21.14

How the Internet and Social Media Are Transforming China

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...

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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...

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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

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 Pilgrimage Site?

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...

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11.25.13

Former Committee to Protect Journalists Honoree Says Bloomberg Chief Should Not Chair Press Freedom Dinner

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...

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01.31.14

Closing Time? China’s Social Media Crackdown Has Hit Weibo Hard

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...

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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...

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11.22.13

Farewell, Everyman: Chinese React to Ambassador Locke’s Departure

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...

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11.14.13

Westerners Aren’t the Only Ones Flummoxed by China’s Reform Plans

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...

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11.07.13

After Party Headquarters Explosions, Netizens Debate Value of Violence

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...

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10.11.13

How Social Media Complicates the Role of China’s Rights Lawyers

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 Sacrifice Even More

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,...

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09.11.13

Amid Scandals, Can China’s New Organ Transplant System Work?

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...

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09.06.13

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

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: Its Corruption Watchdog

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...

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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 Performance Wins Fans

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...

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08.14.13

Don’t Dream Big—Four Vignettes on Social Mobility in Modern China

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...