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...

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...

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...

U.S.-China Relations 2020: Coronavirus and Elections

Paul Haenle & Xie Tao from Carnegie-Tsinghua Center for Global Policy
China is facing growing international scrutiny due to its initial mishandling of the coronavirus outbreak. Countries are increasingly questioning the motives underlying Beijing’s recent international aid efforts, and there is growing concern over...

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

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...

Conversation

03.28.20

Is U.S.-China Cooperation on COVID-19 Still Possible?

Julian B. Gewirtz, Deborah Seligsohn & more
Over the past two weeks, as the outbreak of the virus known has COVID-19 has accelerated its deadly spread around the world, an already collapsing U.S.-China relationship appears to be entering a period of free fall. This is happening at a moment...

Books

03.24.20

Vernacular Industrialism in China

Eugenia Lean
Columbia University Press: In early 20th-century China, Chen Diexian (1879-1940) was a maverick entrepreneur—at once a prolific man of letters, captain of industry, magazine editor, and cosmetics magnate. He tinkered with chemistry in his private studio, used local cuttlefish to source magnesium carbonate, and published manufacturing tips in how-to columns. In a rapidly changing society, Chen copied foreign technologies and translated manufacturing processes from abroad to produce adaptations of global commodities that bested foreign brands. Engaging in the worlds of journalism, industry, and commerce, he drew on literati practices associated with late-imperial elites but deployed them in novel ways within a culture of educated tinkering that generated industrial innovation.Through the lens of Chen’s career, Eugenia Lean explores how unlikely individuals devised unconventional, homegrown approaches to industry and science in early 20th-century China. She contends that Chen’s activities exemplify “vernacular industrialism,” the pursuit of industry and science outside of conventional venues, often involving ad hoc forms of knowledge and material work. Lean shows how vernacular industrialists accessed worldwide circuits of law and science and experimented with local and global processes of manufacturing to navigate, innovate, and compete in global capitalism. In doing so, they presaged the approach that has helped fuel China’s economic ascent in the 21st century. Rather than conventional narratives that depict China as belatedly borrowing from Western technology, Vernacular Industrialism in China offers a new understanding of industrialization, going beyond material factors to show the central role of culture and knowledge production in technological and industrial change.{chop}

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...

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...
03.05.20

China Alters Civil Society Rules, Allowing More Groups to Respond to Coronavirus

Holly Snape
As the COVID-19 epidemic continues in China, so do the efforts of civil society organizations and concerned citizens to mitigate the harm. In the official approach to managing their involvement, there have been clumsy force-of-habit measures from...

Books

03.05.20

Playing by the Informal Rules

Yao Li
Cambridge University Press: Growing protests in non-democratic countries are often seen as signals of regime decline. China, however, has remained stable amid surging protests. Playing by the Informal Rules highlights the importance of informal norms in structuring state-protester interactions, mitigating conflict, and explaining regime resilience. Drawing on a nationwide dataset of protest and multi-sited ethnographic research, this book presents a bird’s-eye view of Chinese contentious politics and illustrates the uneven application of informal norms across regions, social groups, and time. Through examinations of protests and their distinct implications for regime stability, Li offers a novel theoretical framework suitable for monitoring the trajectory of political contention in China and beyond. Overall, this study sheds new light on political mobilization and authoritarian resilience and provides fresh perspectives on power, rules, legitimacy, and resistance in modern societies.{chop}

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...

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...