Conversation

04.29.22

Shanghai’s Lockdown

Kenton Thibaut, Guobin Yang & more
In late March, China started its largest lockdown in more than two years, with most of Shanghai’s 26 million residents confined to their homes in an effort to battle the rapid spread of Omicron. As of mid-April, 45 cities across the country were...

Conversation

04.14.22

Europe’s China Policy Has Taken a Sharp Turn. Where Will It Go Next?

Rogier Creemers, Una Aleksandra Bērziņa-Čerenkova & more
In their first such meeting in nearly two years, representatives of the European Union and Chinese government met on April 1 for a virtual summit. The conversations took place against the backdrop of not only unprecedented unity among the members of...

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...

Conversation

04.07.22

What Does Putin’s Invasion of Ukraine Mean for China-Russia Relations?

Yun Sun, Philipp Ivanov & more
As Russia piles up casualties in Ukraine while its economy collapses at home, the democratic world appears—at least for now—more united than ever. Russian firms are scrambling to adjust to the country’s status as an international pariah, while big...

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...

Conversation

03.02.22

China’s Calculus on the Invasion of Ukraine

Paul Haenle, Bonnie S. Glaser & more
Since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, the response from much of the international community has been swift and coordinated, with sanctions, shipments of armaments, and loud condemnation. China, however, has stayed markedly apart. What does...

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...

Conversation

01.28.22

The Olympics Return to Beijing

Sam Crane, Maya Wang & more
In February Beijing will host the Olympic Games again, this time amid a surging pandemic, a new wave of lockdowns, at least 10 diplomatic boycotts, and international alarm at the disappearance of one of the country’s top athletes. “Together for a...

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...

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...

Conversation

02.12.21

Will China Be a Global Vaccine Leader?

Deborah Seligsohn, Jenny Lei Ravelo & more
Beijing stands to reap major rewards by becoming the supplier of choice—or necessity—throughout low- and middle-income countries. China has expanded its international aid efforts in recent years and stressed its commitment to “south-south”...

China’s First Big #MeToo Case Tests the Party

Lavender Au from New York Review of Books
In November, a court at last notified Zhou Xiaoxuan, known more commonly by her nickname, Xianzi, that it would try her case, a civil lawsuit filed in 2018 against television host Zhu Jun, who she alleges sexually harassed her. But when the trial...

Features

12.21.20

Pretty Lady Cadres

Jing Wang
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...

China’s Clampdown on Hong Kong

Barbara Demick from New York Review of Books
Hong Kongers demonstrated about everything from the removal of hawkers selling fish balls during the Chinese New Year to fare increases on mass transit (which had also provoked protests under British rule). But mostly they have demonstrated against...

Conversation

10.16.20

A New Normal for U.S. China Policy?

Teng Biao, Isabel Hilton & more
After four years of Trump’s trade wars, withdrawal from international bodies, and xenophobic immigration policies, the United States has hit an apex of isolationism. Even if a new government steps in, however, it’s not altogether clear the U.S...

How Did China Beat Its COVID Crisis?

Ian Johnson from New York Review of Books
The coronavirus was a big deal; it was something that I (and many other smug foreigners) misjudged but that the Chinese authorities accurately saw as a public health crisis. The thought and effort that went into the flyer were especially impressive...

Conversation

09.25.20

Technical Difficulties

Samantha Hoffman, Fergus Ryan & more
Citing national security concerns, the Trump administration announced September 18 that it was banning both TikTok and WeChat from mobile app stores starting Sunday, with further usage bans to come. While that date came and went without any impact...

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...

Conversation

06.16.20

China’s Zoom Bomb

Wang Dan, Donald Clarke & more
In the lead-up to the 31st anniversary of the Tiananmen Square demonstrations this spring, Zoom, the U.S.-based company whose online meeting platform has rocketed to global prominence amid the COVID-19 pandemic, received requests from China’s...

Conversation

06.03.20

Has COVID-19 Changed How China’s Leaders Approach National Security?

Rorry Daniels, M. Taylor Fravel & more
While the world is reeling from the cascading shocks of the COVID-19 pandemic, China has continued a comparatively aggressive course in its foreign policy and security posture. Not only has it continued military and paramilitary activities in the...

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...

Depth of Field

05.15.20

‘A Letter to My Friend under Quarantine in Wuhan’

Ye Ming, Yan Cong & more from Yuanjin Photo
Highlighting Chinese visual storytellers’ coverage of COVID-19 inside China. Some of these storytellers were on the ground documenting the experience of residents and medical workers in Wuhan, the city where the virus first emerged. Other...

Conversation

04.06.20

What Does the Coronavirus Mean for EU-China Relations?

Plamen Tonchev, Theresa Fallon & more
2020 promised to be an especially consequential year for the EU-China relationship, but three highly anticipated summits have been thrown into uncertainty, and diplomacy between Europe and China is now completely consumed by the coronavirus crisis.

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...

Conversation

03.19.20

As Its Coronavirus Outbreak Abates, China Is Trying out a New Look. Is It Working?

Daniel R. Russel, Pamela Kyle Crossley & more
As the coronavirus spreads globally, China’s government is working aggressively to change its international image. In the span of just a few weeks, China has gone from the embattled epicenter of the coronavirus epidemic to presenting the country as...

Evacuation from China, Quarantine in the UK: A COVID-19 Dispatch

Lavender Au from New York Review of Books
I had missed the first British evacuation when my embassy didn’t get me a permit for the checkpoints in time, but I was trying to make the second. My send-off gifts: two instant-noodle pots (hot food safer than cold), a tub of alcohol-soaked cotton...

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...

Books

02.18.20

Vigil

Jeffrey Wasserstrom
Columbia Global Reports: The rise of Hong Kong is the story of a miraculous post-war boom, when Chinese refugees flocked to a small British colony, and, in less than 50 years, transformed it into one of the great financial centers of the world. The unraveling of Hong Kong, on the other hand, shatters the grand illusion of China ever having the intention of allowing democratic norms to take root inside its borders. Hong Kong’s people were subjects of the British Empire for more than a hundred years, and now seem destined to remain the subordinates of today’s greatest rising power.But although we are witnessing the death of Hong Kong as we know it, this is also the story of the biggest challenge to China’s authoritarianism in 30 years. Activists who are passionately committed to defending the special qualities of a home they love are fighting against Beijing’s crafty efforts to bring the city into its fold—of making it a centerpiece of its “Greater Bay Area” megalopolis.Jeffrey Wasserstrom draws on his many visits to the city, and knowledge of the history of repression and resistance, to help us understand the deep roots and the broad significance of the events we see unfolding day by day in Hong Kong. The result is a riveting tale of tragedy but also heroism—one of the great David-versus-Goliath battles of our time, pitting determined street protesters against the intransigence of Xi Jinping, the most ambitious leader of China since the days of Mao.{chop}

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...

Stuck in Central China on Coronavirus Lockdown

Lavender Au from New York Review of Books
Before Shiyan, a city in Hubei province, went into quarantine, the sum of 30 yuan (about $4) could buy two cabbages, enough spring onions for two soups, a large white radish, two lettuces, a potato, and 10 eggs. Not any more. Wanting to record the...

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...

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...

Conversation

01.08.20

China: The Year Ahead

David Schlesinger, Scott Kennedy & more
As 2019 drew to a close, ChinaFile asked contributors to write about their expectations for China in 2020.

Conversation

10.24.19

Can China’s Government Advance Its Case on Twitter?

Mia Shuang Li, Lotus Ruan & more
How successful have Chinese officials been at their use of English-language social media? Has the Chinese Party-state’s use of Facebook and Twitter been good or bad for Chinese soft power?

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...

Conversation

10.10.19

What Just Happened with the NBA in China?

Brook Larmer, Jonathan Sullivan & more
Houston Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey tweeted—and then quickly deleted—a post supporting the protests in Hong Kong. The tweet generated an immediate outcry. The Chinese Basketball Association announced it was suspending cooperation with the...

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...

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...

Postcard

08.28.19

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

Jing Wang & 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...

Conversation

08.07.19

Will Hong Kong Unravel?

Ho-fung Hung, Thomas Kellogg & more
Beijing’s top official in Hong Kong, Wang Zhimin, called the protests a “life and death war” and compared them to the “color revolutions.” Coming a week after Hong Kong police charged 44 people with rioting and days after strikes paralyzed parts of...

Excerpts

07.31.19

What Role Will Intellectuals Play in China’s Future?

Sebastian Veg
As we commemorate the thirtieth anniversary of China’s 1989 democracy movement, it is hard to imagine students and intellectuals playing a similar role today. In China’s highly marketized and politically controlled society, the space for...

Culture

06.27.19

‘What I’m Always Doing Is Escaping, Escaping, Escaping’

Perry Link
Liu Xia, widow of Liu Xiaobo, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2010 and died while in Chinese custody in 2017, has opened up to the public for the first time since she began a life of exile in Germany nearly a year ago. On May 4, in a dialogue with...

China’s ‘Black Week-end’

Ian Johnson from New York Review of Books
When Chinese law professor Xu Zhangrun began publishing articles last year criticizing the government’s turn toward a harsher variety of authoritarianism, it seemed inevitable that he would be swiftly silenced. But then, remarkably, dozens of...

Media

06.11.19

ChinaFile Presents: Erasing History—Why Remember Tiananmen

Nicholas D. Kristof, Zha Jianying & more
On the evening of June 3, ChinaFile hosted a discussion on the Chinese government’s efforts to control, manipulate, and forestall remembrance of the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989 and the bloody crackdown that ended them. Participating in the...

Viewpoint

06.04.19

Is Hong Kong Forgetting to Remember June Fourth?

Violet Law
In sharp contrast to anywhere else in China, Hong Kong has stood as a steadfast stronghold of remembrance of the massacre, protected by the territory’s political system that guarantees freedoms of assembly and expression. Every June 4, the...

Conversation

06.03.19

How I Learned About Tiananmen

Anonymous, Tianyu M. Fang & more
In April, ChinaFile put out a call for young people who grew up in China to describe how they first learned about the Tiananmen Square protests and massacre, and how they felt about it. Here is a selection of the responses we received, including...

Media

06.03.19

Six Questions and Four Articles About Tiananmen Square

Isaac Stone Fish
Why can’t we banish history from our memories? The author Ling Zhijun titled his 2008 exploration of Mao Zedong’s disastrous people’s communes “History No Longer Lingers,” and it sometimes feels counterintuitive that we cannot forget past tragedies...

Postcard

05.30.19

Four Is Forbidden

Yangyang Cheng
Liusi. Six-four. The two-syllable word, spoken nonchalantly by our teacher, was a stone cast into the tranquil pond of a classroom. From each ripple rose a gasp, a murmur, or a perplexed face, with only one or two enunciating the question on many of...

Why China’s ‘Debt Trap Diplomacy’ Critics Are Wrong

Eric Olander, Cobus van Staden & more
China’s critics, led largely by the United States, are determined to warn developing countries about the risks of borrowing too much money from Beijing. They contend China will use these loans to financially entrap economically vulnerable countries...

Confused About China’s Belt and Road Agenda? You’re Not Alone.

Eric Olander, Cobus van Staden & more
Thirty-seven foreign heads of state came to Beijing this week to take part in the second Belt and Road summit hosted by Chinese President Xi Jinping. Some leaders, like Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta, came with expectations to sign huge...

Chinese and Africans are Having Totally Different Conversations About Their Relationship

Eric Olander, Cobus van Staden & more
Chinese news coverage and African and international reports are often starkly different from one another, even when discussing the same issues. With Chinese and African news consumers reading vastly different perspectives, what can be done to narrow...

China: A Small Bit of Shelter

Ian Johnson from New York Review of Books
At night, a spotlight illuminates four huge characters on the front of the Great Temple of Promoting Goodness in Xi’an, the capital of Shaanxi province in northwestern China: mi zang zong feng, “The Esoteric Repository of the Faith’s Traditions.”...

Viewpoint

04.22.19

The Messy Truth About Social Credit

Shazeda Ahmed from Logic
Almost every day, I receive an email from Google Alerts about a new article on China’s “social credit system.” It is rare that I encounter an article that does not contain several factual errors and gross mischaracterizations. The social credit...