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    ‘China’s Search for a Modern Identity Has Entered a New and Perilous Phase’

    Roger Garside

    In 1980, writing the last paragraph of the last chapter of Coming Alive: China After Mao, I declared that China was moving “from totalitarian tyranny to a system more humane, part of a struggle by this nation to free itself from a straitjacket woven of feudalism, Marxism-Leninism, and twentieth-century technology.” In 2020, 40 years later, in China Coup: The Great Leap to Freedom, I describe a China firmly in the grip of totalitarian tyranny. In the years between, there were periods of... Read full story>>

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    A Farewell to My Students

    An Excerpt from ‘Ten Letters from a Plague Year,’ by Xu Zhangrun, Translated and Annotated by Geremie R. Barmé

    Xu Zhangrun & Geremie R. Barmé

    Xu Zhangrun addresses this letter to the students and young scholars who participated in “The Three Talents Salon” which Xu founded in 2003, a biannual symposium devoted to fostering “three talents” or skills in the participants: in-depth reading, freewheeling discussion and debate, and convivial social drinking. Under Xu’s aegis, members of the salon published numerous edited volumes on topics related to law, history, philosophy, and politics. Read full story>>

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    How Much Does Beijing Control the Ethnic Makeup of Tibet?

    Andrew M. Fischer

    The idea of swamping, which the Dalai Lama himself elaborated in 2008, holds that China’s government has been seeking to solve its problems in Tibet and other “ethnic minority” areas such as Xinjiang by turning local indigenous ethnic groups (such as Tibetans or Uyghurs) into minorities in their own land through a coordinated program of Han Chinese in-migration, like settler colonialism in the Americas or Australasia. China’s 2020 National Population Census allows us to assess the concerns... Read full story>>

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    What Does the U.S. Withdrawal from Afghanistan Mean for China?

    A ChinaFile Conversation

    Laurel Miller, Amanda Hsiao & more via ChinaFile Conversation

    As China seeks to balance security concerns and financial considerations, a nation that has long espoused the principle of noninterference may find its foreign policy tested in coming months. What will be the challenges and opportunities for China in Afghanistan? What will the U.S. withdrawal mean for China’s role in the region and globally? Read full story>>

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    Homage to Richard Nixon

    A Short Story

    Zha Jianying

    This short story was written 20 years ago but never published. It is the first piece of original fiction to appear on ChinaFile since our launch in 2013. In a postscript, author Zha Jianying explains that when she unearthed the story earlier this year, she felt it resonated with the current moment in U.S.-China relations. Read full story>>

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    Overseas NGOs and Foundations and COVID in China

    Using a Securitized Framework in a Time of Crisis

    Mark Sidel via The European Institute for Chinese Studies (EURICS)

    The COVID crisis that enveloped Wuhan, Hubei province, and some other parts of China in late 2019 and early 2020 might, in another era, have encouraged China to temporarily relax constraints on international aid and engagement. In the current Chinese political environment, such relaxation of constraints wasn’t going to happen. China accepted some overseas aid at the beginning of the COVID crisis, but almost entirely on the restrictive political and legal terms laid down in the Overseas NGO Law... Read full story>>

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    Will Beijing Invade Taiwan?

    A ChinaFile Conversation

    Susan Thornton, Scott Swift & more via ChinaFile Conversation

    What, precisely, are Beijing’s plans for Taiwan? In recent years, there has been no small amount of saber rattling, with aggressive naval drills, aerial incursions, and warnings that force would be used for reunification if necessary. But given the steep domestic and international costs of war, how likely is it that Beijing will attempt to force reunification militarily? Will the People’s Republic of China wage war on Taiwan? Read full story>>

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    How Should the U.S. Approach Climate Diplomacy with China?

    A ChinaFile Conversation

    Isabel Hilton, Scott Moore & more via ChinaFile Conversation

    As China continues to emerge as a superpower and move forward with its colossal Belt and Road Initiative amid the climate crisis, American climate engagement with China is more critical than ever. What would an effective climate diplomacy for the U.S. and China look like? Read full story>>

  • Anthony Kwan—Getty Images

    New Data Show Hong Kong’s National Security Arrests Follow a Pattern

    Lydia Wong & Thomas Kellogg

    In the nine months since the Hong Kong National Security Law was passed, more than 90 people have been arrested under the new legislation. Though they have been charged with various breaches of national security ranging from inciting secession to terrorism, their primary crime appears to be peaceful criticism of the government. A closer look at the arrests under the NSL or conducted by the newly-created National Security Department of the Hong Kong Police paints a clearer picture of how... Read full story>>

Recent Stories

The Protest Families of Pro-Democracy Hong Kong

Lavender Au from New York Review of Books
They met at a crossroads in October 2019. That day, Hong Kong’s people came out in their tens of thousands, to protest the proposed Extradition Bill, which would allow the territory to detain and transfer citizens to mainland China. Hoikei was there...

Xi’s China, the Handiwork of an Autocratic Roué

Xu Zhangrun & Geremie R. Barmé from New York Review of Books
At this crucial juncture, China’s political, business, and academic elites revealed a core of craven self-interest and vacuous hypocrisy. The display was even further evidence of the degraded state of our nation’s public life, one that has long been...

Features

10.30.20

State of Surveillance

Jessica Batke & Mareike Ohlberg
Across China, in its most crowded cities and tiniest hamlets, government officials are on an unprecedented surveillance shopping spree. The coordination of the resulting millions of cameras and other snooping technology spread across the country...

Features

12.21.20

Pretty Lady Cadres

Shen Lu
In early February, at the beginning of the outbreak of the deadly COVID-19 virus in China, Wang Fang, a local Communist Party secretary, was working around the clock. As an official responsible for 19,000 residents of a neighborhood in the city of...

Features

12.20.20

Message Control

Jessica Batke & Mareike Ohlberg
Li Wenliang’s death had only been announced a few hours earlier, but Warming High-Tech was already on the case. The company had been monitoring online mentions of the COVID-whistleblower’s name in the several days since police had detained and...

Photography & Video

Depth of Field

12.31.19

‘Nowhere to Dock’

Ye Ming, Yan Cong & more from Yuanjin Photo
In 2019, Depth of Field showcased stories covering a range of topics: Shi Yangkun’s nostaglic exploration of China’s last collective villages, Zhu Lingyu’s careful and artisitic portrayal of survivors of sexual violence, and cities seen through the...

Photo Gallery

07.24.19

‘I Love HK but Hate It at the Same Time’

Todd R. Darling
A central issue many of the Hong Kong people in my portraits are wrestling with is how to define an identity and being challenged in that pursuit by cultural, social, or political pressures. There is a lot of frustration and anger over the recent...

Books

Books

04.09.20

The Myth of Chinese Capitalism

Dexter Roberts
St. Martin’s Press: Dexter Roberts explores the reality behind today’s financially-ascendant China and pulls the curtain back on how the Chinese manufacturing machine is actually powered. He focuses on two places: the village of Binghuacun in Guizhou province, one of China’s poorest regions that sends the highest proportion of its youth away; and Dongguan, China’s most infamous factory town located in Guangdong, home to both the largest number of migrant workers and the country’s biggest manufacturing base.Within these two towns and the people that move between them, Roberts focuses on the story of the Mo family, former farmers-turned-migrant-workers who are struggling to make a living in a fast-changing country that relegates half of its people to second-class status via household registration, land tenure policies, and inequality in education and health care systems.Roberts brings to life the problems migrant workers face today as they attempt to overcome a divisive system that poses a serious challenge to the country’s future development.

Books

03.24.20

Vernacular Industrialism in China

Eugenia Lean
Columbia University Press: In early 20th-century China, Chen Diexian (1879-1940) was a maverick entrepreneur—at once a prolific man of letters, captain of industry, magazine editor, and cosmetics magnate. He tinkered with chemistry in his private studio, used local cuttlefish to source magnesium carbonate, and published manufacturing tips in how-to columns. In a rapidly changing society, Chen copied foreign technologies and translated manufacturing processes from abroad to produce adaptations of global commodities that bested foreign brands. Engaging in the worlds of journalism, industry, and commerce, he drew on literati practices associated with late-imperial elites but deployed them in novel ways within a culture of educated tinkering that generated industrial innovation.Through the lens of Chen’s career, Eugenia Lean explores how unlikely individuals devised unconventional, homegrown approaches to industry and science in early 20th-century China. She contends that Chen’s activities exemplify “vernacular industrialism,” the pursuit of industry and science outside of conventional venues, often involving ad hoc forms of knowledge and material work. Lean shows how vernacular industrialists accessed worldwide circuits of law and science and experimented with local and global processes of manufacturing to navigate, innovate, and compete in global capitalism. In doing so, they presaged the approach that has helped fuel China’s economic ascent in the 21st century. Rather than conventional narratives that depict China as belatedly borrowing from Western technology, Vernacular Industrialism in China offers a new understanding of industrialization, going beyond material factors to show the central role of culture and knowledge production in technological and industrial change.{chop}

Reports

Reports

09.01.17

The Costs of International Advocacy

Human Rights Watch
Even as it engages with U.N. human rights institutions, China has worked consistently and often aggressively to silence criticism of its human rights record before U.N. bodies and has taken actions aimed at weakening some of the central mechanisms...

Reports

05.24.17

China’s Social Credit System: A Big-Data Enabled Approach to Market Regulation with Broad Implications for Doing Business in China

Mirjam Meissner
Mirjam Meissner
Mercator Institute for China Studies
Under the catchphrase “Social Credit System,” China is currently implementing a new and highly innovative approach to monitoring, rating, and regulating the behavior of market participants. The Social Credit System will have significant impact on...

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