Features

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...

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...

Viewpoint

12.09.20

How the CCP Took over the Most Sacred of Uighur Rituals

Timothy Grose
The rooster hadn’t even stopped his crowing when the police arrived at my Uighur host’s courtyard in rural Turpan one early spring morning in 2008. Although they spoke calmly, almost apologetically, the uniformed Uighur officers demanded that the...

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...

Viewpoint

09.17.20

Could Same-Sex Marriage Advocacy in China Be Poised for a Breakthrough?

Darius Longarino
Last fall, as China’s lawmakers neared finalizing the country’s first-ever Civil Code, they opened to public comment its draft chapters on marriage and other areas of law. A newly formed coalition of LGBTQ organizations advocating for gay marriage...

Viewpoint

09.10.20

In Defense of Diplomacy with China

James Green
Critics of the last four decades of China policy have incorrectly and simplistically labeled diplomacy a failure because the People’s Republic did not become a liberal democracy. That was never the goal or an achievable objective of U.S. policy. The...

Viewpoint

08.27.20

When China Reporters Can’t Report from China

Matt DeButts
Shortly after midnight on March 18, a phone call awoke Steven Lee Myers in his Beijing apartment. The call was followed by a flurry of messages: WhatsApp, text, email. Friends and colleagues were asking him questions: What is going on? What does...

Viewpoint

08.20.20

How To Teach China This Fall

Dimitar D. Gueorguiev, Xiaobo Lü & more
The coming academic year presents unique challenges for university instructors teaching content related to China. The shift to online education, the souring of U.S.-China relations, and new national security legislation coming from Beijing have...

Viewpoint

08.04.20

Reciprocity in U.S. Relations with China Should Be a Tool, Not the Whole Strategy

Lucas Tcheyan & Sam Bresnick
Since the outset of the U.S.-China trade war, critics have castigated the Trump administration for its capricious approach to relations with Beijing. They have found fault in particular with Donald Trump’s flip-flopping on sanctioning ZTE, banning U...

Viewpoint

07.30.20

For Wuhan’s COVID Mourners, Little Has Been Laid to Rest

Tracy Wen Liu
In a conversation on Weibo, Yang, 50, told me about the loss of her 24-year-old daughter, Yuxi, her only child, to COVID-19. She was grieving, of course, but she was also seeking justice for what she viewed as an avoidable death. She showed me a...

Viewpoint

07.27.20

Pandemic Responses Suffer from Common Ailments

William C. Summers
As the world continues to reel from the COVID-19 pandemic, the onslaught of new developments, disrupted routines, and fast-evolving medical research and advice trap us in a kind of eternal present. Each day feels unprecedented. But, at least since...

Viewpoint

07.02.20

It’s True That Democracy in China Is in Retreat, But Don’t Give up on It Now

Li Fan
China’s popularity in the world is plummeting, and antagonism between China and the United States is growing. Many blame China for allowing a series of new viruses to emerge, for failing to stop COVID-19 when it first appeared, and for not sharing...

Viewpoint

06.10.20

For Me, the Breakdown in U.S.-China Relations Is Personal

Judy Polumbaum
In my childhood, they were the Red Chinese. In my husband’s upbringing, we were the American imperialists. U.S.-China reconciliation after ping-pong diplomacy enabled us to meet and marry 40 years ago. Those of us with a foot in each world find the...

Postcard

06.05.20

Scallion Dutch Baby

Shen Lu
The dishes I make myself flavor my moods, and season my experience of the news. As my birth country and my host country cast blame on one another, I eat four-cheese pizza with a side dish of blanched cauliflower seasoned with soy sauce, vinegar, and...

Viewpoint

05.21.20

A New U.S. ‘Consensus’ on China May Not Be as Solid as It Appears

Ali Wyne
The COVID-19 pandemic has brought ties between Washington and Beijing to their lowest level since the countries normalized relations in 1979, with many observers warning that they have entered into either “a new Cold War” or at least “a new type of...

Viewpoint

05.21.20

How Will Historians Look Back at the Coronavirus Outbreak?

Sulmaan Khan
Imagine that a historian decides to reflect on the pandemic, asking quite simply, “How did it come to this?” There would be many ways of telling that story. But one way would be to chart a series of off-ramps on the road to disaster. Some of these...

Viewpoint

04.03.20

‘We’re Hardly Heroic’

Tracy Wen Liu
Dr. Li, a heart specialist at Wuhan No. 4 Hospital, spent the third week of March preparing for the reopening of the hospital’s general clinics, which closed on January 22, when No. 4 became a key facility for treating COVID-19 patients. After...

Features

03.20.20

‘My Epitaph Only Needs One Phrase: He Spoke up Once for People.’

Dave Yin
Translator’s IntroductionOn February 7, the day Li Wenliang died from coronavirus, a piece of farewell prose written in the first person emerged online. Li was a Chinese doctor whose efforts as early as December 30 to warn colleagues of the outbreak...

Viewpoint

03.20.20

Xi Jinping May Welcome Trump’s Racism

Dan Baer
The coronavirus pandemic has ushered in a new low-point for the already strained relationship between the U.S. and China—and it could get worse in the months ahead as the toll rises and there is more urgency to assign blame. At the White House press...

Viewpoint

03.18.20

‘This Is Not Forensic Genetics Anymore. This Is Surveillance.’

Jessica Batke
Yves Moreau, a professor specializing in human clinical genomics, had been emailing with Promega since 2016, warning its communications department first about how Promega’s products might be used in a proposed DNA databasing project in Kuwait, and...

Viewpoint

02.26.20

Dear Chairman Xi, It’s Time for You to Go

Xu Zhiyong & Geremie R. Barmé
In this open letter, the author urges Xi Jinping to step down. Xu Zhiyong went into hiding in late 2019. The following open letter, which was released on 4 February 4, 2020, was written while he was on the run. On February 15, Xu was detained in the...

Viewpoint

02.22.20

Despite Government Assurances, Medical Workers in Hubei Say They Lack Supplies

Tracy Wen Liu
Amid quickly changing news about the trajectory of the outbreak of the novel coronavirus, Covid-19, on February 20, the Chinese government body overseeing the response to the epidemic announced that medical supplies adequate to combating the spread...

Features

02.19.20

American Company Sold DNA Analysis Equipment to Security Officials in Xinjiang, Documents Show

Jessica Batke & Mareike Ohlberg
In 2015, the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps Public Security Bureau announced it planned to purchase equipment from the U.S.-based biotechnology company Promega for the purpose of analyzing DNA and adding it to a national database,...

Viewpoint

02.10.20

Viral Alarm: When Fury Overcomes Fear

Xu Zhangrun & Geremie R. Barmé
Overnight, the country found itself in the grip of a devastating crisis; fear was stalking the land. The authorities proved themselves to be at a loss and the cost of their behavior was soon visited upon the common people. Before long, the...

Culture

02.06.20

What a Picture of China’s One-Child Policy Leaves Out

Jie Li, Susan Greenhalgh & more
Brainwashed? Reflections on Propaganda in One Child NationBy Jie LiOne Child Nation, a documentary distributed by Amazon Studios which was shortlisted for an Academy Award, is becoming one of the most influential films about China in the United...

Features

02.04.20

Human Resources Both Drive and Limit China’s Push for Automation

Muyi Xiao from New America
For China’s government planners, one of the most important roles for artificial intelligence (AI) and automation is addressing looming challenges in the labor market. After nearly four decades of the one-child policy, China’s aging population is...

Viewpoint

01.29.20

How Much Could a New Virus Damage Beijing’s Legitimacy?

Taisu Zhang
A month into the coronavirus epidemic that has swept across China, the details of the Chinese government’s political and administrative response remain highly ambiguous. What has been unmistakable, however, is the volume and intensity of social...

Viewpoint

01.14.20

Why Aren’t More Countries Confronting China over Xinjiang?

Matt Schiavenza
China has justified its repressive actions in Xinjiang as a response to a series of terror attacks attributed to Uighurs. But the measures Chinese authorities have employed have attracted international condemnation. In July, the United Nations...

Postcard

01.09.20

As Taiwan’s Election Nears, A Sense of Foreboding Grips Voters from Different Camps

Anna Beth Keim
On the evening of December 29, at a rally in front of Democratic Progressive Party headquarters in Taipei, hundreds of people are shouting in unison. They support Tsai Ing-wen, the Democratic People’s Party (DPP) candidate in Taiwan’s January 11...

Viewpoint

12.11.19

Is Violence in Hong Kong’s Protests Turning off Moderates?

Andy Buschmann
As protests in Hong Kong have become more violent, have the demographics of the protesters changed? The level of violence employed by protesters as well as the police force has escalated to new heights ever since July 21, when alleged triad members...

Viewpoint

11.14.19

Violence by Hong Kong Protesters Won’t Advance Their Cause

Thomas Kellogg
I have watched with growing concern as violence has intensified in Hong Kong. I have been deeply dismayed to see escalating police violence, which has fundamentally damaged the reputation of a police force once known as among Asia’s best. And I have...

Viewpoint

10.18.19

Converting the Converters

Darius Longarino
Chinese LGBT advocates have set out to convince China’s mental health field that being professionally competent means being LGBT-affirming (and for the already LGBT-friendly counselors, that mere friendliness is not enough—they also need to have...

Postcard

10.17.19

‘If We Give up on Our Husbands Today, Tomorrow Our Children Will Be Ashamed of Us’

Jiang Xue
This is a story about fear and the attempt to conquer fear. The wives of some of the lawyers who disappeared in China’s “709” crackdown have suffered house arrest, threats, and suppression. In their search to find their husbands, they hope no longer...

Viewpoint

10.01.19

We Need to Pull U.S.-China Relations Back from the Brink. Here’s How.

Orville Schell & Zha Daojiong
Like it or not, the U.S. and China are in the process of “decoupling.” The two countries find themselves drifting dangerously back into a state of growing distrust, and even antagonism. Both sides have their narratives and grievances that prevent...

Culture

09.30.19

The Same Old ‘China Story’ Keeps Chinese Sci-Fi Earthbound

Ying Zhu
In the run-up to the 70th anniversary of the People’s Republic on October 1, China’s television regulator has mandated that all television channels only air patriotic shows. The ban might be short-lived, but it has kept the news in the headlines and...

Viewpoint

09.28.19

A Birthday Letter to the People’s Republic

Yangyang Cheng
Dear People’s Republic, Or should I call you, China? I am writing to you on the eve of your 70th birthday. 70, what an age. “For a man to live to 70 has been rare since ancient times,” the poet Du Fu wrote in the eighth century. You have outlived...

Features

09.21.19

Which European Companies Are Working in Xinjiang?

Benjamin Haas
Foreign companies continue to conduct business in Xinjiang despite widespread evidence of human rights abuse. This list identifies 68 European companies with ties to Xinjiang ranging from building infrastructure and investing in joint ventures to...

Viewpoint

09.20.19

Can a Colonial Treaty Soundly Defend Hong Kong's Freedoms?

Peter Harris
By what right does the international community insist that the P.R.C. must respect the special constitutional status of Hong Kong? After all, critics of Beijing’s policies toward Hong Kong do not just argue that P.R.C. officials should respect the...

Viewpoint

09.18.19

Beyond Hawks and Doves

Ali Wyne
Two recent documents—as well as the critiques they have elicited—furnish the basis for a more nuanced debate on U.S. policy towards China. First, on July 4, a group of roughly 100 figures from the policy, military, business, and academic communities...

Postcard

08.28.19

Thwarted at Home, Can China’s Feminists Rebuild a Movement Abroad?

Shen Lu & Mengwen Cao
A small number of China’s feminist movement’s influential thinkers and organizers have relocated overseas, in search of an environment more hospitable to their activism. Today, though their numbers are relatively small, they have succeeded in...

Viewpoint

08.27.19

China’s Government Wants You to Think All Mainlanders View Hong Kong the Same Way. They Don’t.

Kiki Tianqi Zhao
Mainland Chinese flood the Internet with messages calling protesters in Hong Kong “useless youth.” They send obscene messages and death threats to supporters of the Hong Kong demonstrations. But reports on episodes like this, while important, are...

Viewpoint

08.08.19

The U.S. Recently Erected a New Hurdle to U.S.-China Academic Cooperation. Here’s What It Might Mean.

Julian G. Ku
A recent move by the U.S. Department of Commerce reminds us that academic relationships are not immune from the effects of deteriorating U.S.-China relations. In April 2019, the Department included several Chinese universities on its Unverified List...

Viewpoint

08.02.19

‘Once Their Mental State Is Healthy, They Will Be Able to Live Happily in Society’

Timothy Grose
We should pause before impetuously tracing the practice of describing Islam as an illness, disease, or even cancer to “Western” politicians. While the United States-led “War on Terror” and subsequent global anxieties over Islam have undeniably...

Viewpoint

07.18.19

‘See, They Are So Happy with Our Generosity!’

Yaqiu Wang
On June 22, in Sihanoukville, a port city in southwest Cambodia, a Chinese-owned building under construction collapsed, killing at least 28 people, all Cambodians. The owner had undertaken the construction without the required permit, and defied...