Conversation

11.29.22

China in Protest

Guobin Yang, Taisu Zhang & more
Over the weekend, large demonstrations broke out in cities across China. The protests followed news, spread rapidly across Chinese and international social media, that a fire in an apartment building in Xinjiang’s capital of Urumchi on Friday had...

Conversation

11.11.22

The Beginning of the End for Zero COVID?

Taylor Loeb, Johanna M. Costigan & more
At the end of October, videos began circulating on social media of workers at an iPhone plant in the city of Zhengzhou fleeing factory grounds to escape a quarantine lockdown of some 200,000 employees. Whether the workers wanted to escape the...

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...

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...

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...

Little Town on the Prairie

Leslie T. Chang from New York Review of Books
Liang Village sits on the edge of the North China Plain, about 650 miles south of Beijing. The area was settled by migrants who came in waves throughout Chinese history, attracted by the fertile soil in what was traditionally one of the country’s...

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...

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...

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...

Excerpts

09.06.22

The American-Trained Rocket Scientist Who Shaped China’s Surveillance System

Josh Chin & Liza Lin
The role Qian Xuesen would play in propelling China into a technological and ideological clash with the United States seems almost fated in retrospect. Born in Hangzhou in 1911, the year China’s last dynasty crumbled, Qian had traveled to the United...

Hong Kong from the Inside

Ian Johnson from New York Review of Books
In November 2019, some one thousand young pro-democracy protesters occupied the campus of Hong Kong’s Polytechnic University, which is located at a crucial junction of two highways and the cross-harbor tunnel. They disrupted traffic for more than a...

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...
08.08.22

Nevertheless, Chinese Civil Society Persisted

Alison Sile Chen
In an autocracy, atomized individuals, without power or influence, seem to have only two options: willingly serve as “social livestock,” or accept their fate and lie flat. But in a society as large as China’s, with 1.4 billion people, can that...

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...

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...

Conversation

06.16.22

China’s Record Urban Youth Unemployment

Qin Chen, Alison Sile Chen & more
China has recorded its highest level of unemployment among urban youth since the country began tracking it in 2018. In March, 16 percent of Chinese city-dwellers aged 16 to 24 were unemployed, compared to 13.6 percent a year earlier. In May, that...

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...

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...

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

02.03.22

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...

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...

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...
01.24.22

Tribute to an ‘Ordinary Chinese Activist’

Anonymous
I first met Jianbing on a cold Gansu winter day over twelve years ago, in the Year of the Ox. As fate would have it, the same astrological sign that brought a dear friend into my life snatched him away mercilessly when it returned twelve years later.

Conversation

12.28.21

Three Questions for China’s Neighbors

Richard J. Heydarian, Nirupama Rao & more
“China was, is, and will always be a good neighbor,” China’s leader Xi Jinping told ASEAN representatives in a November 2021 virtual meeting, after a series of conflicts over Beijing’s territorial claims in the South China Sea had raised tensions...

Conversation

11.24.21

What Future for International NGOs in China?

Katherine Wilhelm, Shawn Shieh & more
Nearly five years have passed since China implemented its Foreign NGO Law, imposing a host of new restrictions on the activities of international non-profit groups. What kind of responsibility do non-government organizations bear for sustaining...

Conversation

10.20.21

Tightening Up

Xibai Xu, Jude Blanchette & more
In what many observers have termed a “regulatory crackdown,” a wave of new legal restrictions and bans on business, technology, and entertainment has broken across China over the past several months, with what appears to be escalating velocity and...

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...

Chinese Medicine in the Covid Wards

Ian Johnson from New York Review of Books
In mid-February 2020, during the peak of the COVID-19 outbreak in China, Liu Lihong, a slight man with a wispy beard, made his way into Hankou Hospital No. 8 in Wuhan. Dressed in an all-white infectious disease suit, the only equipment he carried...

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...

Conversation

06.21.21

Will I Return to China?

Scott Kennedy, Tracy Wen Liu & more
ChinaFile sent a short questionnaire to several hundred ChinaFile contributors to get a sense of their feelings about traveling to China once COVID-19 restrictions begin to ease. Media reports at the time had suggested, anecdotally, that foreigners...

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...

Conversation

05.06.21

What Should China Do about Its Aging Population?

Wang Feng, Karen Thornber & more
Though it has yet to be released, China’s latest ten-year census is certain to confirm what demographers have warned of for years: A labor crisis looms as the fertility rate remains low and the country ages at a dangerous speed. Five years after 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...

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...

Reports

01.12.21

Precarious Progress

Darius Longarino
Darius Longarino
OutRight Action International
Whether state decisionmakers in the coming years and decades will pursue policies to protect the equal rights for LGBT people will come down to a mix of ideology, pragmatism, and public pressure. LGBT advocates are striving to turn that calculus in...

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

12.30.20

‘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

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...

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...

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...

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...

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

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

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...

Conversation

07.21.20

Is There a Future for Values-Based Engagement with China?

Neysun A. Mahboubi, Mary Gallagher & more
A key feature of current debates over U.S.-China relations is the proposition that “engagement failed,” in light of the Chinese government’s increasingly aggressive posture towards liberal values at home and on the world stage. Already on the...

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

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...