In China, ‘Once the Villages Are Gone, the Culture Is Gone’

Ian Johnson
New York Times
Across China, cultural traditions like the Lei family’s music are under threat. Rapid urbanization means village life, the bedrock of Chinese culture, is rapidly disappearing, and with it, traditions and history.

Malaria Eradication—Cure All?

Economist
A novel approach, using drugs from a South China company, instead of insecticides, may make it easier to eliminate malaria. But it is not without controversy.

Other

12.26.13

2013 Year in Review

As the year draws to a close, we want to take a moment to look back at some of the stories ChinaFile published in 2013. We hope you’ll find something that interests you to read—or watch—over the holidays.It’s hard to remember a recent year that didn...

The End of China’s One-Child Policy? An Interview with Mei Fong

Jeffrey Wasserstrom
Dissent
What exactly did the recent Third Plenum reveal about China’s strategy for dealing with the “One-Child Policy?” Questions for Mei Fong, a Pulitzer Prize–winning reporter working on a book about the policy.

Environment

11.27.13

Life in the Shadow of the Mekong Dams

from chinadialogue
This is the second in a two-part special report on the resettlement rights of villagers displaced by dams along the Mekong (Lancang) River. Part one is an analysis of how China’s resettlement policies are playing out on the ground. Part two, below,...

In China, Rural Elderly Are Being Left Behind (Slideshow)

Qilai Shen
Washington Post
Tens of millions older Chinese are struggling with poverty and loneliness as their children flee villages for cities. Decades of societal turmoil — radical communism followed by rampant capitalism — have frayed the ties that once bound the nation’s...

As Chinese Farmers Fight for Homes, Suicide Is Ultimate Protest

Ian Johnson
New York Times
Farmers are increasingly thrown off their land by officials eager to find new sources of economic growth. The tensions are especially acute on the edge of big Chinese cities, and more and more people are resorting to suicide to protest the...

400 Million Cannot Speak Mandarin

Reuters
China’s governing Communist Party has promoted Mandarin for decades to unite a nation with thousands of dialects and numerous minority languages, but that campaign has been hampered by resistance, the country’s size and lack of investment in...

Visitors Flock to China’s ‘Kingdom of Women’

Nicola Davison
Guardian
Lugu Lake, situated in the mountains on the border between Sichuan and Yunnan provinces, is the historical home of the Mosuo, an ethnic minority with a population of 40,000 that forms one of the last matrilineal societies on Earth.&nbsp...

Conversation

08.15.13

What Should China Do to Reverse its Tourism Deficit?

Leah Thompson, Damien Ma & more
Recent news stories and industry studies show that fewer international visitors are choosing China as their destination. January-June arrivals in Beijing are down 15% from the same period in 2012 and more Chinese than ever before are spending their...

The Abuse of China’s 'left-behind' Children

Yuwen Wu
BBC
A series of disturbing revelations in China’s state media about the sexual abuse of school children has exposed the dark side of life in rural areas where parents leave their homes to earn money as migrant workers.

Caixin Media

08.12.13

China’s Urban Sludge Dilemma: Sinking in Stink

Promptly at noon on March 17, a heavy truck hauling a dark substance and on a dark mission pulled out of the Gaobeidian Wastewater Treatment Plant in eastern Beijing.A wastewater treatment engineer helped a Caixin reporter identify the unusual load...

Caixin Media

08.05.13

County in Shaanxi in a Deep Hole as Mining Bubble Pops

A financial crisis triggered by falling coal prices is brewing in Shenmu County, in the northwestern province of Shaanxi.Construction projects have been halted, universal health care has run into payment problems and many private bankers have...

From Cities To Farms: Is Agriculture The Next Boom For China?

Offbeat China
With some 6.99 million fresh graduates, 2013 is said to be the toughest year for China’s new graduates to land a job. But job hunting isn’t a concern for design-majored Chen and his girlfriend Du. The young couple, who just rented 1.5 acres of land...

China’s Cordgrass Plan Is ‘Overkill’

Jane Qiu
Nature
The plant in question is Spartina alterniflora, or cordgrass. In 1979, the plant was introduced to China because its roots can trap sediment, making it ideal for erosion control and land reclamation. Since then, the weed has spread rapidly...

Caixin Media

07.29.13

Why a Reporter Feels Sympathy for an Airport Bomber

These past few years as a reporter, I have met some people with nothing left to live for and now another person can be added to the list. Ji Zhongxing, the disabled man who set off a bomb in a Beijing airport on July 20, is that person.Ji and I are...

China's Bad Earth

Josh Chin, Brian Spegele
Wall Street Journal
Industrialization has turned much of the Chinese countryside into an environmental disaster zone, threatening not only the food supply but the legitimacy of the regime itself.      

Features

07.24.13

Carried Off

Charlie Custer
In March 2011, Rose Candis had the worst lunch of her life. Sitting at a restaurant in Shaoguan, a small city in South China, the American mother tried hard not to vomit while her traveling companion translated what the man they were eating with had...

Earthquake: Death Toll From Strong Temblor Hits 94

Huffington Post
About 123,000 people were affected by the quake, with 31,600 moved to temporary shelters, the provincial earthquake administration said on its website. Almost 2,000 homes were completely destroyed, and about 22,500 damaged. 

Pitfalls Abound in China’s Push From Farm to City

Ian Johnson
New York Times
Li Yongping is directing one of the largest peacetime population transfers in history: the removal of 2.4 million farmers from mountain areas in the central Chinese province of Shaanxi to low-lying towns, many built from scratch on other farmers’...

China’s Great Uprooting: Moving 250 Million Into Cities

Ian Johnson
New York Times
The ultimate goal of the government’s modernization plan is to fully integrate 70 percent of the country’s population, or roughly 900 million people, into city living by 2025. Currently, only half that number are.   &...

Books

06.04.13

Strange Stones

Peter Hessler
During the past decade, Peter Hessler has persistently illuminated worlds both foreign and familiar—ranging from China, where he served as The New Yorker’s correspondent from 2000 to 2007, to southwestern Colorado, where he lived for four years. Strange Stones is an engaging, thought-provoking collection of Hessler’s best pieces, showcasing his range as a storyteller and his gift for writing as both native and knowledgeable outsider. From a taste test between two rat restaurants in South China to a profile of Yao Ming to the moving story of a small-town pharmacist, these pieces are bound by subtle but meaningful ideas: the strength of local traditions, the surprising overlap between cultures, and the powerful lessons drawn from individuals who straddle different worlds.Full of unforgettable figures and an unrelenting spirit of adventure, Strange Stones is a dazzling display of the powerful storytelling, shrewd cultural insight, and warm sense of humor that are the trademarks of Peter Hessler’s work. —Harper Collins{node, 3320, 4}

Excerpts

05.29.13

Every Thousand Years

Dan Washburn
There are no guardrails on the road to Qixin. And there is only one other way to the top of the mountain—a four-hour hike. It was February, and the ice and snow from Guizhou’s winter storms had recently melted, leaving the famously treacherous cliff...

China’s Brutal One-Child Policy

Ma Jian
New York Times
In the countryside, where the need for extra hands to help in the fields and the deeply entrenched patriarchal desire for a male heir have created strong resistance to population control measures, officials has been merciless. 

Media

05.22.13

On “Strange Stones,” a Discussion with Peter Hessler

Peter Hessler, Michael Meyer & more
On May 21st at the Asia Society in New York City, Peter Hessler, author of the recently published Strange Stones: Dispatches from East and West, discussed his book and a decade of writing about China and elsewhere with author, Michael Meyer and...

Five Years After Quake, Chinese Cite Shoddy Reconstruction

Louisa Lim
NPR
Five years after the massive Wenchuan quake in China’s Sichuan province left about 90,000 dead and missing, allegations are surfacing that corruption and official wrongdoing have plagued the five-year-long quake reconstruction effort. 

Video

05.15.13

The Reborn of Beichuan

Zijian Mu
The Sichuan earthquake that struck this mountainous region on May 12, 2008 killed an estimated 90,000 people, including thousands of children. For many families in China, losing one child means losing an only child. The Reborn of Beichuan follows...

Conversation

05.14.13

Why Can’t China Make Its Food Safe?—Or Can It?

Alex Wang, John C. Balzano & more
The month my wife and I moved to Beijing in 2004, I saw a bag of oatmeal at our local grocery store prominently labeled: “NOT POLLUTED!” How funny that this would be a selling point, we thought.But 7 years later as we prepared to return to the US,...

Caixin Media

05.04.13

Earth Moves, China Rallies

Rapeseed was ripening in the lush fields ringing the village of Renjia when a local farmer, forced from his home, stepped into the sea of green stalks and pitched a tent.Less than a day earlier, the farmer and each of his more than 3,000 neighbors...

China’s Ancient Lifeline

Ian Johnson
National Geographic
Over time, the Grand Canal did more than move grain—it was a potent political symbol in being the country’s unifying feature and acted as a cultural conduit connecting North and South. Johnson deatils his journey with one barge on a southbound coal...

Mother Loses Son, Then Daughter In Both Sichuan Earthquakes

Chris Luo
South China Morning Post
Life has not been fair for 50-year-old Lu Jingkang, who lost her teenage daughter in the 7.0-magnitude earthquake that hit Yaan on April 20, 2013. Barely five years earlier, she lost her son in the other catastrophic Sichuan earthquake, in...

The Silk Road Of Pop

Sameer Farooq
Smoke Signal Projects
The film follows the trails left by a young Uyghur female named Ay and her interest in music, documenting her influences and portraying her musical idols in northwestern China. 

Earthbound China

04.11.13

Moving House: Preserving Huizhou’s Vernacular Architecture

Leah Thompson & Sun Yunfan
In 1996, art historian Nancy Berliner, working with the Peabody Essex Museum, purchased a vacant Qing dynasty merchant’s house from the Huizhou region of China and, piece by piece, moved it to the United States to be meticulously reconstructed at...

Earthbound China

04.11.13

There Goes the Neighborhood

Sun Yunfan & Leah Thompson
When, in 1996, art historian Nancy Berliner purchased a late Qing dynasty merchants’ house from Huangcun, a village in Anhui province, it was just one ordinary house among thousands like it in the picturesque Huizhou region of China. It took...

Environment

04.10.13

Writing Yunnan a Rubber Check

Chris Horton
Our van stopped at a scenic vista on the contour road where verdant mountains undulated southward toward China’s border with Laos. Stepping out to take some photos, I was overcome by an acrid, unpleasant odor. I asked my local travel partner, Xiao...

China’s Urban Refugees: Leaving Pollution, City Life Behind

Rob Schmitz
Marketplace
Many educated Chinese urbanites have left the city and their jobs for a slower and cleaner life in the mountains of Western China. 

Viewpoint

03.19.13

For Many in China, the One Child Policy is Already Irrelevant

Leslie T. Chang
Before getting pregnant with her second child, Lu Qingmin went to the family-planning office to apply for a birth permit. Officials in her husband’s Hunan village where she was living turned her down, but she had the baby anyway. She may eventually...

Caixin Media

03.16.13

Spin of a Crooked Record

Hundreds of villagers in Hebei province discovered they were victims of identity theft—and in demanding officials find the culprit, they became the recipients of harassment and legal bills. Instead of seeing a shakeout, the villagers watched...

Will The Middle Class Shake China?

Evan Osnos
New Yorker
A decade after recognizing that the middle class might be a signpost on the way to redemption, the government is failing to enact the will of the people it needs most, and thus it risks losing its greatest bulwark against the change it fears.&...

Return to Rivertown

Peter Hessler
National Geographic
In 1996 a Peace Corps volunteer arrived in Fuling, a sleepy town on the Yangtze, to teach English. He went back recently to find the landscape—and his former students—transformed.

Snakes On a Lane

Global Times
Beneath the creepy exterior lies a misunderstood goddess. What pops up in your mind when it comes to the concept of snake? Cold-blooded, dangerous, sly, or even a symbol of evil? It seems that all words related to it are negative. And even though we...

(Photo essay) Migrant Nation: Liu Jie Docuements China’s Ongoing Transformation

Liu Jie
Time
In 2011, Liu Jie, a Chinese photographer based in Beijing, visited and photographed more than 20 villages in the Chinese countryside, documenting one of the more silent but equally poignant externalities of the Chinese economic miracle: the...

In a Rush to Urbanize, China Flattens 700 Mountains

Calum McLeod
USA Today
China’s shift from a rural to urban society is speeding up development projects, including one where a developer is flattening mountains to build a new city.

Books

01.24.13

Shangri-La

Michael Yamashita
The legendary Chamagudao, the Tea Horse Road, winds through dizzying mountain passes, across famed rivers like the Mekong and the Yangtze, and past monasteries and meadows in a circuitous route from Sichuan and Yunnan provinces in western China to the Tibetan capital city of Lhasa. Actually a network of roads, trails, and highways, rather than one distinct route, the Chamagudao once stretched for almost 1400 miles (2350 km)—a conduit along which the historic trade between the mighty Chinese empire and the nomadic Tibetans linked remote villages and ethnic groups. The Chinese military needed strong horses for their wars against Mongol invaders from the north, and the fiercely religious Tibetans desired tea for sacred rituals and sustenance. Once tea was introduced into Tibet around the 10th century, demand for it grew. Tea soon became a staple for Tibetans, especially when combined with their other staple, yak butter. But with Tibet’s extreme temperatures and altitudes, tea cultivation on a large scale was impossible. This set the stage for the tea-horse trade, which, by the 11th century, flourished along the Chamagudao, continuing until the 1950s. But getting these prized commodities to their growing markets was no easy feat. To transport the tea over the mountains meant many months of hard and dangerous travel for the hundreds of porters.Today, as Chinese culture merges with and even absorbs Tibetan traditions, the Tea Horse Road is a relic of a vastly different time. The Chinese are rapidly paving dirt roads to make highways for cars and trucks. Soon there will be little evidence of this once vital trade route. Though horses are no longer a military imperative for the Chinese army, Tibet has a new commodity that is in much demand in China. A homely caterpillar infected by a parasitic fungus has replaced the horse trade in Tibet. The yartsa gombu is prized for its medicinal qualities. Now Tibetans nomads drive Land Cruisers and motorcycles instead of horses, thanks to the profits they make collecting and selling the miracle mushroom worth more than gold. So trade continues, even though relics of the tea-horse trade are becoming harder to find. Following the Chamagudao, this book is a rare intimate look into the changing world of Tibet—both ancient and modern, sacred and commonplace, the rarefied and the gritty—before the legends and mysteries of the Tea Horse road disappear into the Tibetan mist. —White Star {chop}

Earthbound China

01.23.13

Appalachia Comes to Anhui

Leah Thompson
This past fall, my colleague Sun Yunfan and I were preparing to bring Coal+Ice, the documentary photography exhibition we produce for Asia Society, to rural Anhui Province to participate in the Yixian International Photography Festival. Upon hearing...

Media

01.03.13

How a Run-Down Government Building Became the Hottest Item on China’s Social Web

It is perhaps a sign of the times in China that an image of nothing more than a ramshackle county government building could echo so widely. Since its posting on Sina Weibo, China’s Twitter, hours before New Year’s Eve, the image (see below) has been...

Telling China's Stories Through Food

Rebekah Denn
Seattle Times
Former Associated Press reporter Audra Ang, talks about To the People Food is Heaven, her journey through a complicated, sometimes maddening, sometimes breathtaking society.

Caixin Media

12.28.12

Uncertain Future for Architectural Treasures

Nestled between mountains and a winding river in a scenic corner of Shanxi province is Zhongyang County, the home of an exquisite Confucian temple built during the Ming dynasty.The colorful wooden temple graced this idyllic valley for hundreds of...

Buy, Sell, Adopt: Child Trafficking in China

Mark McDonald
New York Times
In the past two and a half years, according to government statistics, some 54,000 children have been rescued from traffickers.

Earthbound China

12.17.12

Unlikely Harvest

Leah Thompson
A little over month ago, I found myself traveling to rural Anhui province. Coal+Ice, the documentary photography exhibition I had produced for Asia Society, had been invited to exhibit at the Yixian International Photography Festival. Logistically,...

Mongolia Finds China Can Be Too Close for Comfort

Charles Hutzler
Associated Press
In a global rush to get rich off China, Mongolia works to ensure that Chinese investment doesn't become Chinese dominance...

Opinion: How Cities Can Save China

Henry Paulson
New York Times
Working on urbanization will foster solutions to the challenges the world faces from China's pressure on ecosystems, resources and commodities. ...

The Hungry Years

Pankaj Mishra
New Yorker
Pankaj Mishra reviews two new books on Mao Zedong and the Great Famine of 1958-62.

Decline of Primary Schools in Rural China: Causes and Consequences

Wenjin Long
China Policy Institute Blog
“Half of rural primary schools have disappeared between 2000 and 2010 and such a trend is still an ongoing process”, says Twenty-first Century Education Research Institution, a NGO based in Beijing. The rapid decline of primary schools in rural...

Caixin Media

12.03.12

Toxic Effects and Environmental Nondisclosure

High-profile talk emphasizing environmental action at the Communist Party’s 18th national congress attracted a lot of attention. News from the November proceedings spurred industry demands for more information and pushed stock prices higher for...

Caixin Media

12.03.12

When Hope Dies

A nationwide uproar paralleled the investigation that led to the identification of five street children who suffocated in a large rubbish bin in the city of Bijie, Guizhou province.Officials learned the victims were the sons of three brothers. The...

Prominent Chinese Activist Blasts Nephew's Conviction

CNN
CNN
Chen Kegui, nephew, of Chen Guangcheng, was convicted of "intentional infliction of injury" during a clash with local officials...