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



The Separation Between Mosque and State

Alice Y. Su
Driving through the Linxia Hui Autonomous Prefecture in Gansu province, in China’s northwest, minarets puncture the sky every few minutes. Many rise out of mosques that resemble Daoist temples, their details a blend of traditional Chinese and...

Sinica Podcast


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...

Delia Davin Obituary

John Gittings
A pioneer of Chinese women’s studies who avoided the stereotypes offered by the communist regime and its critics

Police Recover 300 Million Yuan Worth of Stolen Sichuan Relics

Teng Jing Xuan
The two-year operation ends with 70 arrests and breakup of 10 criminal gangs



Let One Hundred Panthers Bloom

Eveline Chao
“Chairman Mao says that death comes to all of us, but it varies in its significance: to die for the reactionary is lighter than a feather; to die for the revolution is heavier than Mount Tai.” So wrote Huey P. Newton, founder of the Black Panther...

Discoveries May Rewrite History of China’s Terracotta Warriors

Ann Williams
National Geographic
Finds at the famous tomb complex point to influences from abroad and a blood-soaked succession after the death of China's first emperor...



The Red Guard Generation and Political Activism in China

Guobin Yang
Raised to be “flowers of the nation,” the first generation born after the founding of the People’s Republic of China was united in its political outlook and ambitions. Its members embraced the Cultural Revolution of 1966 but soon split into warring factions. Guobin Yang investigates the causes of this fracture and argues that Chinese youth engaged in an imaginary revolution from 1966 to 1968, enacting a political mythology that encouraged violence as a way to prove one’s revolutionary credentials. This same competitive dynamic would later turn the Red Guard against the communist government.Throughout the 1970s, the majority of Red Guard youth were sent to work in rural villages. These relocated revolutionaries developed an appreciation for the values of ordinary life, and an underground cultural movement was born. Rejecting idolatry, their new form of resistance marked a distinct reversal of Red Guard radicalism and signaled a new era of enlightenment, culminating in the Democracy Wall movement of the late 1970s and, finally, the Tiananmen protest of 1989. Yang completes his significant recasting of Red Guard activism with a chapter on the politics of history and memory, arguing that contemporary memories of the Cultural Revolution are factionalized along the lines of political division that formed 50 years before. —Columbia University Press{chop}



The Age of Irreverence

Christopher Rea
The Age of Irreverence tells the story of why China’s entry into the modern age was not just traumatic, but uproarious. As the Qing dynasty slumped toward extinction, prominent writers compiled jokes into collections they called “histories of laughter.” In the first years of the Republic, novelists, essayists, and illustrators alike used humorous allegories to make veiled critiques of the new government. But, again and again, political and cultural discussion erupted into invective, as critics gleefully jeered and derided rivals in public. Farceurs drew followings in the popular press, promoting a culture of practical joking and buffoonery. Eventually, these various expressions of hilarity proved so offensive to high-brow writers that they launched a concerted campaign to transform the tone of public discourse, hoping to displace the old forms of mirth with a new one they called youmo (humor).Christopher Rea argues that this period—from the 1890s to the 1930s—transformed how Chinese people thought and talked about what is funny. Focusing on five cultural expressions of laughter—jokes, play, mockery, farce, and humor—he reveals the textures of comedy that were a part of everyday life during modern China’s first “age of irreverence.” This new history of laughter not only offers an unprecedented and up-close look at a neglected facet of Chinese cultural modernity, but also reveals its lasting legacy in the Chinese language of the comic today and its implications for our understanding of humor as a part of human culture. —University of California Press{chop}



Is the Growing Pessimism About China Warranted?

David Shambaugh, David M. Lampton & more from Washington Quarterly
There are few more consequential questions in world affairs than China’s uncertain future trajectory. Assumptions of a reformist China integrated into the international community have given way in recent years to serious concerns about the nation’s...

Fate Catches Up to a Cultural Revolution Museum in China

Didi Kirsten Tatlow
New York Times
The museum was covered up and shut down in the spring, a few weeks before the 50th anniversary of the start of the Cultural Revolution.

‘Botched’ Repair to China’s Great Wall Inspires Outrage

Chris Buckley and Adam Wu
New York Times
The shoddy paving over of a stretch of the Wall criticized for effacing the ancient monument

Depth of Field


African Migrants in Guangzhou, Forgetting, Family Planning’s Fate, and More...

Yan Cong, Ye Ming & more from Yuanjin Photo
Photographing the aftermath of catastrophic events is challenging—one that photographer Mu Li handles with creativity and grace looking back at the chemical explosion in Tianjin that damaged as many as 17,000 homes August 12, 2015. Another challenge...



Mao the Man, Mao the God

Sergey Radchenko
Mao Zedong was dying a slow, agonizing death. Diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) in July 1974, he gradually lost control of his motor functions. His gait was unsure. He slurred his speech and panted heavily. The decline was...

The People in Retreat

Ian Johnson from New York Review of Books
Ai Xiaoming is one of China’s leading documentary filmmakers and political activists. Since 2004, she has made more than two dozen films, many of them long, gritty documentaries that detail citizen activism or uncover whitewashed historical events...



What Can We Expect from China at the G20?

Sophie Richardson, Joanna Lewis & more
On September 4-5, heads of the world’s major economies will meet in the southeastern city of Hangzhou for the G20 summit. The meeting represents “the most significant gathering of world leaders in China’s history,” according to The New York Times...

Sinica Podcast


What Is Cultural About the Cultural Revolution? Creativity Amid Destruction

Kaiser Kuo, Jeremy Goldkorn & more from Sinica Podcast
This year marked the 50th anniversary of the beginning of the Cultural Revolution, a chaotic decade of Chinese history made infamous in the West through books such as Wild Swans and Life and Death in Shanghai, which describe in horrific detail the...



Why an Elite Chinese Student Decided Not to Join the Communist Party

Alec Ash
“Wish Lanterns” follows the lives of six Chinese born between 1985 and 1990 as they grow up, go to school, and pursue their aspirations. Millennials are a transformational generation in China, heralding key societal and cultural shifts, and they are...



What Would China Look Like Today Had Zhao Ziyang Survived?

Julian B. Gewirtz, David Shambaugh & more
Almost 500 previously unpublished documents about Zhao Ziyang, the bold reformer who served as China’s premier (1980-1987) and Communist Party general secretary (1987-1989), were smuggled out of China and published in late July by the Chinese...



Zhao Ziyang’s Legacy

David Shambaugh
It is difficult to say with any certainty how China would have evolved had Zhao Ziyang not been overthrown in 1989. The ostensible cause of his purge was his refusal to endorse martial law and authorize the use of force to suppress the Tiananmen...

Who Is Kim Jong-un?

Andrew J. Nathan from New York Review of Books
The pudgy cheeks and flaring hairdo of North Korea’s young ruler Kim Jong-un, his bromance with tattooed and pierced former basketball star Dennis Rodman, his boy-on-a-lark grin at missile firings, combine incongruously with the regime’s pledge to...



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...



You Ask How Deeply I Love You

Anna Beth Keim
“Back when I was a soldier on Kinmen, around 1975, the water demons still sometimes killed people,” Xu Shifu (Master Xu) said. The laugh-lines at the corners of his eyes were not visible now, even in the white fluorescent light shining down from the...

Sinica Podcast


The Street of Eternal Happiness

Kaiser Kuo, Jeremy Goldkorn & more from Sinica Podcast
Rob Schmitz, China correspondent for Marketplace, has been living in China on and off since 1995. He is the author of Street of Eternal Happiness: Big City Dreams Along a Shanghai Road, a book about the people living and working on Changle Lu in...

Depth of Field


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...



John Birch

Terry Lautz
John Birch was better known in death than life. Shot and killed by Communists in China in 1945, he posthumously became the namesake for a right-wing organization whose influence is still visible in today’s Tea Party. This is the remarkable story of who he actually was: an American missionary-turned-soldier who wanted to save China, but instead became a victim. Terry Lautz, a longtime scholar of U.S.-China relations, has investigated archives, spoken with three of Birch’s brothers, found letters written to the women he loved, and visited sites in China where he lived and died. The result, John Birch: A Life, is the first authoritative biography of this fascinating figure whose name was appropriated for a political cause.Raised as a Baptist fundamentalist, Birch became a missionary to China prior to America’s entry into the Second World War. After Pearl Harbor, he volunteered for the U.S. Army in China, served with Claire Chennault, Commander of the famed Flying Tigers, and operated behind enemy lines as an intelligence officer. He planned to resume his missionary work after the war, but was killed in a dispute with Communist troops just days after Japan’s surrender. During the heyday of the Cold War in the 1950s, Robert Welch, a retired businessman from Boston, chose Birch as the figurehead for the John Birch Society, believing that his death was evidence of conspiracy at the highest levels of government. The Birch Society became one of the most polarizing organizations of its time, and the name of John Birch became synonymous with right-wing extremism.Cutting through the layers of mythology surrounding Birch, Lautz deftly presents his life and his afterlife, placing him not only in the context of anti-communism but in the longstanding American quest to shape China’s destiny. —Oxford University Press{chop}

China’s Great Wall of Confrontation

Andrew Browne
Wall Street Journal
History under review—a reflection of dynastic weakness....



Tibetan Environmentalists in China

Liu Jianqiang
This book weaves together the life stories of five extraordinary contemporary Tibetans involved in environmental protection (as well as a host of secondary characters): Tashi Dorje, a well-known and celebrated environmentalist; Karma Samdrup, a philanthropist, businessman, and environmentalist; Rinchen Samdrup, Karma’s brother, another extraordinary environmentalist; Gendun, a painter, historian, and researcher from Amdo; and Musuo, a Tibetan from the Dechin area of northwest Yunnan who founded the Khawakarpo Culture Society.In the politically fraught and ever-worsening situation for Tibetans within China today, it is often said that the only possible path for a better solution will be through a change in the way that the majority Chinese society thinks about and understands Tibetans, their aspirations, histories, and desires. This book provides the first such account by drawing readers in with beautiful narrative prose and fascinating stories, and then using their attention to demystify Tibetans, cultivating in the reader a sense of empathy as well as facts upon which to rebuild an intercultural understanding. It is the first work that seriously aims to let the Chinese public understand Tibetans as both products of an admirable culture and as complex individuals negotiating religious ideals, economic change, and sociopolitical constraints. In short it opens up a whole new way of understanding Tibet. —Rowman & Littlefield/Lexington Books {chop}



Street of Eternal Happiness

Rob Schmitz
Modern Shanghai: a global city in the midst of a renaissance, where dreamers arrive each day to partake in a mad torrent of capital, ideas, and opportunity. Marketplace’s Rob Schmitz is one of them. He immerses himself in his neighborhood, forging deep relationships with ordinary people who see in the city’s sleek skyline a brighter future and a chance to rewrite their destinies. There’s Zhao, whose path from factory floor to shopkeeper is sidetracked by her desperate measures to ensure a better future for her sons. Down the street lives Auntie Fu, a fervent capitalist forever trying to improve herself with religion and get-rich-quick schemes while keeping her skeptical husband at bay. Up a flight of stairs, musician and café owner CK sets up shop to attract young dreamers like himself, but learns he’s searching for something more. As Schmitz becomes more involved in their lives, he makes surprising discoveries which untangle the complexities of modern China: A mysterious box of letters that serve as a portal to a family’s—and country’s—dark past, and an abandoned neighborhood where fates have been violently altered by unchecked power and greed.A tale of 21st century China, Street of Eternal Happiness profiles China’s distinct generations through multifaceted characters who illuminate an enlightening, humorous, and at times heartrending journey along the winding road to the Chinese Dream. Each story adds another layer of humanity and texture to modern China, a tapestry also woven with Schmitz’s insight as a foreign correspondent. The result is an intimate and surprising portrait that dispenses with the tired stereotypes of a country we think we know, immersing us instead in the vivid stories of the people who make up one of the world’s most captivating cities. —Crown Publishers {chop}



A War of Words Over the South China Sea

Edward Friedman, Feng Zhang & more
Beginning earlier this year, four-star Admiral Harry Harris, the U.S. Navy’s top commander in the Pacific, has spoken out in speeches, interviews, private meetings, and testimony to Congress urging that the U.S. take more aggressive action against...

Sinica Podcast


50 Years of Work on U.S.-China Relations

Kaiser Kuo & Jeremy Goldkorn from Sinica Podcast
In this week’s episode of Sinica, we are proud to announce that we’re joining forces with SupChina. We’re also delighted that our first episode with our new partner is a conversation with President Stephen Orlins and Vice President Jan Berris of the...

Online Outrage Over Racist Chinese Ad Says a Lot About How China and the West React to Racism

Eric Olander, Cobus van Staden & more
The company behind the racist Chinese laundry detergent ad that sparked widespread online outrage around the world issued a half-hearted apology for the uproar it caused. Actually, it was one of those “we’re sorry if anyone was offended” kind of...

Depth of Field


Families, Weddings, and Beekeepers

Ye Ming, Yan Cong & more from Yuanjin Photo
This month’s Depth of Field column brings the stories of Chinese adoption; the marriage ceremony of Hu Mingliang and Sun Wenlin, a gay couple who filed the first civil rights marriage lawsuit to be accepted by a Chinese court (they lost); beekeepers...

China’s Craft Breweries Find They May Have a 5,000-Year-Old Relative

Austin Ramzy
New York Times
Pottery vessels discovered in Shaanxi Province might be the first direct evidence of a beer-brewing operation.



“It’s Time for Us To Set a New Political Agenda for Hong Kong”

Jonathan Landreth, Susan Jakes & more
Last month, midway through a whirlwind tour of United States universities, Hong Kong democracy activist Joshua Wong took a break for a crab cake and mac-and-cheese lunch at a Manhattan brasserie. Wong, 19, came to international prominence during the...



Backward Thinking about Orientalism and Chinese Characters

David Moser
For those of us who teach and research the Chinese language, it is often difficult to describe how the Chinese characters function in conveying meaning and sound, and it’s always a particular challenge to explain how the writing system differs from...



My Uncle Was a Red Guard in the Cultural Revolution—He Isn’t Sorry

Lishui is the nickname for my uncle, a farmer who has lived all his life in the suburbs of Tianjin, a big city in northeastern China. Whenever people talk about Lishui, my mother’s older brother, they always say: “Lishui is a nice guy, honest,...



Escalation in the South China Sea

Julian G. Ku, M. Taylor Fravel & more
International tensions are rising over the shipping lanes and land formations in the South China Sea. Last week, the People’s Liberation Army Air Force scrambled fighter jets in response to a U.S. Navy ship sailing near the disputed Fiery Cross Reef...

How the Cultural Revolution Changed China Forever

James Griffiths
Frank Dikotter, author of The Cultural Revolution: A People's History, discusses the turning point in modern Chinese history...

Who Is Xi?

Andrew J. Nathan from New York Review of Books
More than halfway through his five-year term as president of China and general secretary of the Chinese Communist Party—expected to be the first of at least two—Xi Jinping’s widening crackdown on civil society and promotion of a cult of personality...

Sinica Podcast


The Cultural Revolution at Fifty

Kaiser Kuo, David Moser & more from Sinica Podcast
Fifty years ago, Mao Zedong launched the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, inaugurating a decade of political turmoil with his calls for young people to “bombard the headquarters.” In this special live edition of our podcast recorded at The...

Controversy Sparked Online by ‘Red Songs’ at Concert in Beijing

Nectar Gan
South China Morning Post
Music from the turbulent period of the Cultural Revolution was featured prominently at event at the Great Hall of the People.

A Revolutionary Discovery in China

Ian Johnson from New York Review of Books
1.As Beijing prepared to host the 2008 Olympics, a small drama was unfolding in Hong Kong. Two years earlier, middlemen had come into possession of a batch of waterlogged manuscripts that had been unearthed by tomb robbers in south-central China...



Fifty Years Later, How Is the Cultural Revolution Still Present in Life in China?

Guobin Yang, Federico Pachetti & more
Fifty years ago this May 16, Chinese Communist Party leader Mao Zedong launched the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, a chaotic, terrifying, and often deadly decade-long campaign to “purify” C.C.P. ideology and reassert his political dominance...



A Newly Translated Book Revisits Japan and China’s Wartime History

Karen Ma
Award-winning screenwriter and author Geling Yan has written more than 20 novels and short story collections about China, many adapted to film or TV, including Coming Home and The Flowers of War, both of which became feature films directed by Zhang...

If Mao Had Been a Hermit

Perry Link from New York Review of Books
At the annual meeting of BookExpo America that was held in New York last May, to which most leading U.S. publishers sent representatives, state-sponsored Chinese publishers were named “guests of honor.” Commercially speaking, this made sense. China’...

Reality Show Singer Breaks China's Cultural Revolution Taboo

Tom Phillips
Yang Le sings of how he lost his father in Mao’s crackdown on perceived enemies 50 years ago.



German President Joachim Gauck’s Speech at Tongji University in Shanghai

from Der Bundespräsident
On Wednesday, March 23, German President Joachim Gauck addressed an audience of university students in Shanghai. Among many views not typically aired in public in China, Gauck, a former Luterhan minister and anti-communist organizer, told the crowd...



Cracks in Xi Jinping’s Fortress?

Andrew J. Nathan, Rana Mitter & more
Two remarkable documents emerged from China last week—the essay “A Thousand Yes-Men Cannot Equal One Honest Advisor,” which appeared on the website of the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, and an open letter calling for Xi Jinping’s...



Taiwan’s New Direction

Eric Fish from Asia Blog
In January, Taiwan’s voters handed the traditionally pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) a landslide victory, giving it control of both the parliament and presidency for the first time ever. The victory came at the expense of the...



What’s Driving the Current Storm of Chinese Censorship?

David Schlesinger, Anne Henochowicz & more
The latest lightning flashes on China’s shifting media horizon this month took the form of the banishment from social media of a real estate tycoon who voiced support for constructive criticism, the firing of an editor at a newspaper that appeared...

China: The Benefits of Persecution?

Jonathan Mirsky from New York Review of Books
During decades of reading and reviewing books on China I have learned a great deal, even from those I didn’t like. Only a few have surprised me. Mao’s Lost Children is such a book, and those like me who believe that the Mao period was bad for China...

Some Facts for Donald Trump about the Great Wall of China

Ishaan Tharoor
Washington Post
Donald Trump invoked the Great Wall of China when justifying the feasibility of his plan to erect a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.



A Looming Crisis for China’s Legal System

Jerome A. Cohen
In China, politics continues to control law. The current leadership has rejected many of the universal legal values that China accepted—at least in principle—under communist rule in some earlier eras. Today, for example, to talk freely about...

What Is the I Ching?

Eliot Weinberger from New York Review of Books
The I Ching has served for thousands of years as a philosophical taxonomy of the universe, a guide to an ethical life, a manual for rulers, and an oracle of one’s personal future and the future of the state. It was an organizing principle or...

China Maintains Respect, and a Museum, for a U.S. General

Jane Perlez
New York Times
A museum dedicated to General Stilwell opened where more than 20 years ago where the general lived and worked.



The Diplomacy of Migration

Meredith Oyen
During the Cold War, both Chinese and American officials employed a wide range of migration policies and practices to pursue legitimacy, security, and prestige. They focused on allowing or restricting immigration, assigning refugee status, facilitating student exchanges, and enforcing deportations. The Diplomacy of Migration focuses on the role these practices played in the relationship between the United States and the Republic of China both before and after the move to Taiwan. Meredith Oyen identifies three patterns of migration diplomacy: migration legislation as a tool to achieve foreign policy goals, migrants as subjects of diplomacy and propaganda, and migration controls that shaped the Chinese American community.Using sources from diplomatic and governmental archives in the United States, the Republic of China on Taiwan, the People’s Republic of China, and the United Kingdom, Oyen applies a truly transnational perspective. The Diplomacy of Migration combines important innovations in the field of diplomatic history with new international trends in migration history to show that even though migration issues were often considered “low stakes” or “low risk” by foreign policy professionals concerned with Cold War politics and the nuclear age, they were neither “no risk” nor unimportant to larger goals. Instead, migration diplomacy became a means of facilitating other foreign policy priorities, even when doing so came at great cost for migrants themselves. —Cornell University Press{chop}Correction: Meredith Oyen’s employer was misidentified in an earlier version of this video. She is an Assistant Professor at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.