Viewpoint

01.26.23

What Impact Would a U.S. Debt Default Have on China?

Arthur R. Kroeber
The big political drama in Washington in the next few months will be the fight over the federal debt ceiling. The worst-case scenario is that Congress refuses to raise the ceiling and the U.S. Treasury defaults on its debt. Since U.S. treasury debt...

For Your Weekend, January 6, 2023

A park bench in New York’s Central Park memorializes Li Wenliang, the Wuhan-based ophthalmologist who, just over three years ago, began issuing warnings about the dangerous pneumonia-like illness spreading in his city, that would soon come to be...

The Class of ’77

Susan Jakes
In August 1971, Jaime FlorCruz arrived in Beijing for a short trip to learn about Maoist China. Just days later, the Filipino college student learned he had been put on a blacklist by then President Ferdinand Marcos. Facing certain arrest and likely...

Planting the Flag in Mosques and Monasteries

Jessica Batke
Over the last few years, the Chinese Communist Party has physically remade places of religious worship in western China to its liking. This includes not only the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, but also other areas with mosques or Tibetan...

Viewpoint

12.12.22

In China’s Diaspora, Visions of a Different Homeland

Yangyang Cheng
At the beginning, there were songs. It’s the Monday after Thanksgiving. In the storied New England town, over a hundred of us had gathered for the candlelight vigil. After a fire claimed at least ten lives in a locked-down building in Urumchi, and...

Media

11.07.22

ChinaFile Presents: Nury Turkel, No Escape

Nury Turkel & Jessica Batke
In his recent book, No Escape: The True Story of China’s Genocide of the Uyghurs, attorney and activist Nury Turkel tells his personal story—his birth in a re-education camp in China, his journey to the United States, and his career working to end...

China’s Next Act

Susan Jakes & Scott Moore
While discussions of U.S.-China relations tend to revolve around trade and national security, more focus ought to be given to issues of environmental sustainability, including health, and to emerging technology, argues the University of Pennsylvania...

For Your Weekend, November 4, 2022

Asian Labour Review published a translated first-hand account of one of the many workers who fled a Foxconn factory in Henan this week due to COVID cases and the threat of lockdown. The worker recounts the sudden chaos of leaving, the kindness of...

Viewpoint

11.01.22

In Tibet, Officials’ Pursuit of Zero-COVID Sent Tens of Thousands into Mass ‘Isolation’ Facilities

Robert Barnett
The general attitude in Lhasa since early September has been marked by concern and discontent. Its focus has been primarily on the mass transfer by city officials of thousands of citizens to isolation camps, and on the ways in which officials have...

For Your Weekend, October 28, 2022

For those interested in the nuts and bolts of Party priorities and self-representation, the Substack Ginger River has provided a line-by-line review of changes in the Party constitution following the recent Party Congress. It has also collected a...

How to Become a Better Firefighter in Gansu? Read ‘1984,’ ‘How to Win Friends and Influence People,’ and ‘The Complete Book of Jewish Wisdom’

Jeffrey Sequeira
On April 23, 2022, the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) marked World Book Day with a meeting in Beijing to “study and implement the important instructions of Party General Secretary Xi Jinping and...

For Your Weekend, October 7, 2022

An article from Emily Feng at NPR, “A public payphone in China began ringing and ringing. Who was calling?,” manages to be both inspiring and deflating. The story it tells brings together themes of environmental justice, public protest, art as a...

Viewpoint

10.03.22

Thanks to a County in Utah, Same-Sex Couples Can Get Married—In China

Zhijun Hu
When Juying attended her son Yangming’s wedding this summer, she was not in a banquet hall or a church but in her apartment. On Zoom, she watched Yangming—3,000 kilometers away in the southern metropolis of Guangzhou—stand next to his husband-to-be...

Features

09.29.22

Elections? No Thank You. Performance Reviews? Maybe.

Jessica Batke
In recent years, both Chinese state and Communist Party organizations have fielded thousands of public opinion polls, on subjects ranging from hospital services, to rural revitalization, to food safety. Yet, much of the information gleaned from...

Viewpoint

09.16.22

New Export Controls on Chinese Semiconductors May Prove Self-Defeating

Sam Bresnick & Nathaniel Sher
New restrictions are not only likely unnecessary, they may ultimately prove self-defeating. Overly zealous controls that limit older semiconductor equipment sales to China will inflict collateral damage on American, and potentially international,...

Media

09.15.22

ChinaFile Presents: Surveillance State—Inside China’s Quest to Launch a New Era of Social Control

Josh Chin, Liza Lin & more
Wall Street Journal reporters Josh Chin and Liza Lin discussed their new book with ChinaFile Senior Editor Jessica Batke and Arthur Ross Director of Asia Society’s Center on U.S.-China Relations Orville Schell. Surveillance State: Inside China’s...

Culture

09.12.22

Forbidden Writer

Brian Haman from Mekong Review
From his humble beginnings as a propaganda writer, Yan Lianke has gone on to become among China’s most controversial writers—one whose work is frequently censored for its focus on the lives of those devastated by Beijing’s policies. “When people are...

For Your Weekend, September 9, 2022

Sixth Tone recently published a striking photo series featuring people in the city of Xi’an who have taken up residence in a half-finished apartment complex. In a story repeated throughout China right now, the developer ceased building due to...

Online Posts Purport to Show Severe Lockdown Conditions in Xinjiang

Jessica Batke
Videos, voice messages, and WeChat posts purporting to show residents in the Ghulja (Yining), Ili Kazakh Autonomous Prefecture, area of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region crying out for food or medical attention have appeared online in recent...

For Your Weekend, September 1, 2022

As we go into the last weekend of the summer, and a holiday weekend for those in the U.S., we recommend this New Yorker essay in which Han Zhang discusses the censorship of feminists and reporting on incidents of gender-based violence.

For Your Weekend, August 25, 2022

This weekend, we recommend this superb exploration of Chinese documentary film winning awards at fake documentary film festivals, from our friends at China Media Project.In this short interview, climate expert (and our Asia Society colleague) Thom...

Culture

08.15.22

Hong Kong Type

Wong Yi from Mekong Review
Over the past few years, readers, writers, and publishers in Hong Kong have become interested in the city’s history. New books about colonial figures, societal events, and relics not covered in textbooks have proliferated, dominating independent...

For Your Weekend, August 11, 2022

The most recent episode of the Sinica Podcast, with former U.S. intelligence officer John Culver, was recorded last week before Beijing’s military exercises in the wake of Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan. But it’s an invaluable resource on both the...

For Your Weekend, August 5, 2022

Thanks to our colleagues at Asia Society’s Center on U.S.-China Relations, we are reading this excellent investigation into the effects Chinese iron mining in Guinea, by Bloomberg’s Sheridan Prasso and featuring the work of our old friend,...

Features

08.04.22

In What Purport to be Lifestyle Videos, Uyghur Influencers Promote Beijing’s Narrative on Their Homeland

Rune Steenberg & Seher
For the past few years, Uyghur and other young members of ethnic minority groups from Xinjiang have been creating videos like Anniguli’s in which they appear to display details of their personal lives while simultaneously evincing support for the...

For Your Weekend, July 28, 2022

For your weekend, we recommend Ian Johnson’s review of a new English language translation of Wang Xiaobo’s 1992 novella The Golden Age, released this week.You can read more on Wang, his unique place among contemporary Chinese writers, and...

Confession and Reconciliation in the Cultural Revolution’s Aftermath

Susan Jakes
Last week, frequent ChinaFile contributors Geremie Barmé and Zha Jianying joined editor Susan Jakes on Twitter Spaces to discus Zha’s recent short story for ChinaFile, “The Prize Student.” The story takes place in Nanjing in 1983, as a prominent...

Postcard

07.25.22

Norma in Kaohsiung

Anatol Klass
On a warm evening this past January, a crowd gathered outside the Weiwuying Opera House in Kaohsiung, Taiwan’s second largest city, more than an hour before the night’s performance was scheduled to begin. As they waited to enter the theater, people...

Viewpoint

07.21.22

From My Anguished Heart—A Letter to My Daughter

Xu Zhangrun & Geremie R. Barmé
In early July 2020, Xu Zhangrun was detained for supposedly having “solicited prostitutes” during a trip with friends to Sichuan in late 2019. He was being persecuted for his unsparing critiques of Xi Jinping, starting in July 2018. The following...

Arrests and Charges Related to Hong Kong's National Security Law

Since May 2021, Lydia Wong, Eric Yan-ho Lai, and Thomas Kellogg, from the Center for Asian Law at Georgetown University, have tracked the implementation of Hong Kong’s National Security Law, tallying up arrests and prosecutions as well as assessing...

2021 (Most Recent) Official PRC Place Name Data Available for Download

For the last few years, ChinaFile has collected and hosted the list of official names of all the places (political units) in China. This information is openly available on the Chinese government’s National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) website, but not...

Participation in Xinjiang Surveillance Program Can Lead to Smoother Career Enhancement

Jessica Batke
Since 2014, authorities in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region have, as Human Rights Watch phrases it, sent “cadres from government agencies, state-owned enterprises, and public institutions to regularly visit and surveil people.” The program,...

A Note on Notes From ChinaFile

As ChinaFile approaches its 10th birthday, we find ourselves occasionally having something on the short side to say. Notes from ChinaFile will provide a dwelling place on our site for recommendations of books or articles, shrewd thoughts we overhear...

Features

06.03.22

The Prize Student

Zha Jianying
This short story, written in 2000 by Zha Jianying, is ChinaFile’s second foray into original fiction.

Features

05.24.22

Public Security Minister’s Speech Describes Xi Jinping’s Direction of Mass Detentions in Xinjiang

Adrian Zenz
An internal Chinese government document provides new support for the extraordinary scale of internment during what was likely its peak in 2018 and 2019. The document, a transcript of an internal June 15, 2018 speech by Minister of Public Security...

Viewpoint

04.08.22

Closing the U.S. to Chinese Biotech Would Do Far More Harm Than Good

Scott Moore & Abigail Coplin
Biotechnology intrinsically blurs boundaries between science and commerce, market and state, the global and the national, and even personal privacy and collective interest. Progress depends more heavily in biotech than in other high-tech industries...

Features

04.05.22

Arrest Data Show National Security Law Has Dealt a Hard Blow to Free Expression in Hong Kong

Eric Yan-ho Lai & Thomas Kellogg
On December 29, 2021, two hundred national security police officers raided a newspaper headquarters and arrested several individuals at various locations across Hong Kong. The exceptional number of police officers involved suggested those arrested...

Viewpoint

03.21.22

‘I’ve Forgotten How to Kneel in Front of You!’

Geremie R. Barmé
It started with a simple message to his parents. Russian forces were invading Ukraine and, in case something happened to him, Wang Jixian, a computer programmer based in Odessa, decided he had better record a few words addressed to his parents on...

Viewpoint

03.12.22

Wang Jixian: A Voice from The Other China, but in Odessa

Geremie R. Barmé
“Hello, everyone. This is Jixian in Odessa. Just checking in to let you know that I’m okay; I’m still alive.” This is the way that Wang Jixian, a 37-year-old software engineer originally from Beijing, starts most of his daily vlog updates posted...

Viewpoint

02.28.22

In Xinjiang’s Tech Incubators, Innovation Is Inseparable from Repression

Jessica Batke
Innovation and its benefits to society in Xinjiang have come to encompass both the use of big data to enhance cross-border trade and the use of big data to monitor people inside their own homes. Official documents promoting innovation in Xinjiang...

Viewpoint

02.03.22

Keeping the Flies Out

Anne Stevenson-Yang from Mekong Review
The first time I rode a public bus in China, in 1985, a young woman came up to me and ran her hand up and down my arm to feel the body hair. Foreigners were like rare animals then: precious, strange, probably dangerous. Surveillance was constant and...

Viewpoint

02.01.22

Verdicts from China’s Courts Used to Be Accessible Online. Now They’re Disappearing.

Luo Jiajun & Thomas Kellogg
Judicial transparency in China has taken a significant step backward in recent months. Beginning at least a year ago, China’s Supreme People’s Court has considerably scaled back the number of cases available on its China Judgments Online web portal...

Features

01.31.22

A Vast Network of ‘New Era Civilization Practice Centers’ Is Beijing’s Latest Bid to Reclaim Hearts and Minds

Jessica Batke
New Era Civilization Practice Centers are designed to deliver a mix of social services and political indoctrination, to draw China’s citizens ever nearer to the Party by giving them tangible reminders of the Party’s largesse and molding them into...

Media

10.15.21

ChinaFile Presents: In the Camps—China’s High-Tech Penal Colony

Darren Byler, Susan Jakes & more
Darren Byler joined ChinaFile’s Susan Jakes and Jessica Batke to discuss his new book, In the Camps: China’s High-Tech Penal Colony. Evidence has mounted in recent years that China’s government has incarcerated more than one million Uyghurs and...

Viewpoint

09.23.21

‘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...

Viewpoint

09.09.21

A Farewell to My Students

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,...

Viewpoint

09.02.21

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...

Features

08.19.21

Homage to Richard Nixon

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...

Viewpoint

07.20.21

Making Sense of Support for Donald Trump in China

He Weifang
As the dust finally settled on the U.S. presidential election that shook the world, Biden was sworn in as president, and Trump, who tried everything to cling to a second term, slunk out of the capital city of Washington, D.C. in disgrace. Looking...

Viewpoint

07.10.21

Why China Is Going After Its Tech Giants

Charles Mok
Just days after its lucrative listing on the New York Stock Exchange, China ride-hailing giant Didi Global was hit with another round of sanctions by the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC). On July 4, the country’s Internet regulator ordered...

Viewpoint

05.18.21

A Letter to My Editors and to China’s Censors

Xu Zhangrun & Geremie R. Barmé
Xu Zhangrun, perhaps China’s most famous dissident legal scholar, released a letter addressed not only to China’s censors but also to the editors and publishers with whom he had worked for decades. That essay, translated below, is Letter Eight in...

Viewpoint

05.14.21

Ahead of Its Centennial, the Chinese Communist Party Frets Over Unsanctioned Takes on Its History

Hans van de Ven
On July 1, the Chinese Communist Party will commemorate its founding in Shanghai one hundred years ago. Unsurprisingly, Beijing is leaving no stone unturned to ensure that nothing untoward takes place in the run-up to the great day. On April 9, the...

Features

05.03.21

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...

Viewpoint

04.27.21

The Right Way to Bring Chinese STEM Talent Back to the U.S.

Evan Burke
The Trump administration deployed a raft of restrictions on international students and workers, many of which directly targeted or disproportionally impacted Chinese STEM talent. While some measures had a basis in legitimate concerns like illicit...

Viewpoint

04.23.21

‘I Stand the Law’s Good Servant, but the People’s First’

Margaret Ng
Former legislator and prominent lawyer Margaret Ng was given a suspended sentence of 12 months. In her sentencing statement, which she read out in open court, Ng recounted her career in law and politics, interweaving her own story with the decades-...

Viewpoint

04.01.21

Will Protests against China Push Beijing to Intervene in Myanmar?

Abby Seiff
Angry with the results of the November election, which saw a landslide win for the ruling National League for Democracy party, Myanmar’s military claimed electoral fraud. On February 1, they seized power from the civilian government, rounding up...

Viewpoint

03.25.21

Abandoning Criticism of China’s Government Isn’t the Right Way to End Anti-Asian Racism in the U.S.

Ho-fung Hung
The recent surge of anti-Asian violence across the U.S., culminating in the tragedy of the Atlanta shooting, reminds us that the mainstream (mis)representation of Asian Americans as a model minority never spares us from racist hatred and the...

Viewpoint

01.22.21

In Xinjiang, Rare Protests Came Amid Lockdown

Tracy Wen Liu
Six months after China rolled out its first coronavirus lockdown in Wuhan in late January 2020, Urumqi was placed under quarantine. The first lockdown specifically targeting the capital of the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, rather than the...

Features

12.30.20

‘Because There Were Cameras, I Didn’t Ask Any Questions’

Darren Byler
Sometime in the summer of 2019, Vera Zhou, a young college student from the University of Washington, forgot to pretend that she was from the non-Muslim majority group in China, the Han. At a checkpoint at the mall, she put her ID on the scanner and...

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...