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Tea Leaf Nation

Tea Leaf Nation is a channel on ForeignPolicy.com that decodes Chinese media—mainstream, social, local, special interest—to illuminate the country from within.

Last Updated: February 10, 2016

Media

03.01.16

Why China Isn’t Hosting Syrian Refugees

The civil war in Syria, now spanning almost half a decade, and the Islamic State’s territorial advances there have led to the world’s worst refugee crisis in decades. More than 4.7 million Syrians have left their homeland, pouring into neighboring...

Viewpoint

02.25.16

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...

Media

02.22.16

Leave China, Study in America, Find Jesus

Shelly Cai was 18 years old when she left the southern Chinese metropolis of Nanjing to enroll in the University of Wisconsin-Madison. In August 2010, after a 13-hour flight from Shanghai to Chicago and a three-hour bus ride, Cai finally arrived in...

Media

02.19.16

New Video Celebrates Chinese Missiles With Old-School Communist Pomp

Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian
Trumpets sound and trombones blare as a warhead launches. Intercontinental ballistic missiles mounted on trucks parade down the center of a boulevard crowded with bystanders. “We are the glorious Rocket Force,” a mixed choir sings in a Soviet-...

Media

02.11.16

Chinese Students Are Flooding U.S. Christian High Schools

It is no secret that Chinese students are pouring into the United States; over 300,000 of them attended U.S. colleges and universities in 2015 alone, and Chinese are filling up spots in U.S. secondary schools in search of a better education and an...

Media

02.04.16

Seeking Justice for China’s ‘Underage Prostitutes’

Four and a half years ago in a small village on the outskirts of the coastal city of Yingkou in northern China, a woman stopped a 12-year-old girl outside the child’s school and lured her into a car. “If you don’t come with me, I will beat you every...

Media

01.05.16

China’s Top 5 Censored Posts in 2015

Louisa Lim
Chinese President Xi Jinping rounded off 2015 by posting his first message on Weibo, China’s version of Twitter, in the form of a new year’s greeting to the People’s Liberation Army. His post received 52,000 comments, mostly fawning messages of...

Media

12.30.15

After Deadly Chinese Landslide, Word Games Begin

David Wertime
On December 20, a tidal wave of red dirt and construction waste descended on Guangming New District, part of the Chinese southern megacity of Shenzhen, burying whole buildings and sending residents scrambling in fright. Those facts, captured in...

Media

12.17.15

Smarter, Sexier State Media: There’s an App for That

Before the Internet age, it used to be relatively straightforward for authoritarian regimes to dictate popular news consumption: just control all the major newspapers, as China’s ruling Communist Party has done since the founding of the People’s...

Media

12.15.15

The Proletariat Experience of Beijing’s Airpocalypse

On December 8, a Tuesday, a man surnamed Cao piloted his electric scooter along Beijing’s profoundly hazy streets, parking in front of one towering apartment complex after another to deliver packages. Although the government had just issued a “red...

Media

12.14.15

R.I.P. SCMP?

Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian & David Wertime
On December 11, Chinese Internet behemoth Alibaba announced that it had reached an agreement to acquire Hong Kong’s flagship English-language newspaper, the South China Morning Post (SCMP). The announcement came as no surprise, as the ailing paper...

Media

12.09.15

How to Say ‘Islamic State’ in Mandarin

Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian
On December 6, the Islamic State released a slick recording of a Mandarin Chinese-language song glorifying jihad, in what seems to be a direct attempt to recruit Chinese Muslims to the terrorist group’s cause. “Awaken, Muslim brothers! Now is the...

Portrait of a Gadfly—On New Documentary “Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry”

Jan Kaesebier
One artist, 90 minutes, 5196 children, 9000 backpacks, 81 days in prison and 40 cats, one of them can open the door. “Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry” is a short documentary, but it covers many different aspects of the famous Chinese artist-and-dissident’s...

Will Chinese Courts Refuse to Accept Suits Involving Internet Censorship?

David Wertime
As the Chinese Internet hurtles headlong into an uncertain future, the country’s legal system struggles to catch up. Pressed for time, the government’s reaction may be to fashion the legal equivalent of a blunt axe, rather than a finely crafted...

One Author’s Plea for a Gentler China

Murong Xuecun
There is one clear advantage to living in mainland China: It’s always easy to separate theory and reality. We have some rights in theory, but in reality, they do not exist. Income has increased in theory, but once you get to the market, you’ll see...

The Horrible Truth About Beijing’s New Homeless

Jimmy
The recent devastating floodwaters that hit China’s capital ten days ago may have receded, but thousands of residents who dwell in Beijing’s basement tenements–many migrant workers with few other options in the expensive capital–have been left...

Infographic – Background on the Qidong Protest

Jimmy
An infographic circulating on Chinese social media provides some background information on the planned oceanic wastewater pipeline and a compelling call-to-action for local residents in Qidong, a small city north of Shanghai. Fierce mass protest...

Massive Protest Near Shanghai Scuttles Wastewater Pipeline

Jimmy
Protests against a planned pipeline to channel wastewater into the ocean for a Japanese paper manufacturer near a major fishery on China’s east coast (just north of Shanghai) has turned ugly.  Thousands of angry protesters in Qidong in...

Is Chinese Social Media Becoming an Unruly Fight Club?

Rebecca Liao
To pick out three similar but unrelated incidents on Weibo and call them a trend is to risk forfeiting one’s right to say anything about the social media site ever again, except some things so defy responsible behavior that they deserve to be on the...

It's Time to Redefine the China Expert

Jan Kaesebier
Misrepresentations and misunderstandings of “China” is a complicated issue that won’t disappear overnight. The news media you have trusted doesn’t always give you an unbiased perspective, even though they have been trying their best. Even visiting...

Chinese Draft Rule Could Prohibit Citizens and NGOs From Monitoring Air

Charles Zhu
Even as the Weibo account of the U.S. consulate in Shanghai was shut down, the fight for blue skies has continued to gain momentum. There’s the China Air Daily website, which posts pictures and air quality data in cities across the country. But lest...

Africans in Southern China

Sandra
On June 19, I saw the oft-retweeted images on Sina Weibo, China’s Twitter, which showed black people in Guangzhou city protesting together. My first reaction: This image was from three years ago. Only after an online search did I realize the image...

Has China’s Young Jedi Knight Just Joined the Dark Side?

Xiaoying Zhou
Has China’s most famous blogger finally been brought to heel? Han Han, writer, car racer, and China’s youth opinion leader, recently sealed a deal with massive Chinese Internet company Tencent and founded an e-journal, “One.”

Netizens Agree China's Rape Law Must Be Reformed

David Wertime
How can a little girl be a “prostitute?” Many in China are asking this question after a set of government officials in Lueyang, Shaanxi province, were caught having sex with a minor but found guilty of the lesser crime of “patronizing an underage...

Why Rihanna and Coldplay's 'Racist' Video Doesn't Faze Native Chinese

Jan Kaesebier
Japanese Geishas; half-naked Ninjas covered in tattoos who look more like part-time rappers; Katana blades carved with Chinese characters, Indian Bodhisattvas with 1,000 hands; movements clearly cribbed from “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” and “...

Harvard Report on Government Criticism on Chinese Social Media

David Wertime
Contrary to previous understandings, posts with negative, even vitriolic, criticism of the state, its leaders, and its policies are not more likely to be censored. Instead, we show that the censorship program is aimed at curtailing collective action...

In Chinese Blogosphere, Consensus on Abortion

A Capella
What does it mean to be a “pro-life” Chinese person? Recently, many Western media have been calling Chen Guangcheng, the Chinese dissident who fled China by seeking protection at U.S. embassy in Beijing, a pro-life activist. Conservative websites...