Viewpoint

02.21.24

“When It All Comes down to It, China Has No Real ‘New Year’”

Li Chengpeng & Geremie R. Barmé
I’ve written all of this because friends urged me to offer some reflections on the year gone by and jot down a few thoughts for the upcoming year. But I didn’t want to waste my time looking up data points. Anyway, I don’t see that there was all that...

Viewpoint

12.12.23

No One Is Talking About the Plight of Uyghurs with Disabilities in Detention. The World Owes Them More.

Rayhan Asat
In 2016, Chinese authorities began rounding up Uyghur intellectuals. Among those detained was Ababekri Muhtar, the founder of Misranim, a popular social media site used by Uyghurs to debate with and learn from each other. Muhtar relies on a...

Media

11.01.23

ChinaFile Presents: China Reporting in Exile

Annie Jieping Zhang, Li Yuan & more
ChinaFile and The New York Review of Books co-hosted a panel discussion with Chinese journalists working from abroad. Participants included reporter, editor, and digital media entrepreneur Annie Jieping Zhang, New York Times columnist Li Yuan,...

Conversation

10.24.23

Are Staying in the U.S. or Returning to China Mutually Exclusive?

Wendy Zhou, Zizhu Zhang & more
The past several years have seen declines in both the number of Chinese students studying in the U.S. and U.S. students studying China. We asked Chinese students studying, or who have recently completed their studies, in the U.S. why they chose to...

What’s Behind China’s Laws to Protect Privacy?

Samm Sacks & Mark Jia
In his article “Authoritarian Privacy” for the University of Chicago Law Review, Mark Jia writes: “Privacy laws are traditionally associated with democracy. Yet autocracies increasingly have them.” In this ChinaFile Q&A, Jia and Samm Sacks...

Features

09.28.23

Holding Sway

Jessica Batke
In most parts of the world, the United Front Work Department is known—if at all—as a secretive Chinese Communist Party organ conducting influence operations abroad. But in Gonghe Village, the local UFWD ponied up nearly one million renminbi in 2022...

‘What Kind of Wish Is This?’

Angeli Datt
The writer Hao Qun, who publishes under the pen name Murong Xuecun, has spent the past two decades exploring Chinese society through his literature. After studying at Beijing’s prestigious China University of Politics and Law, he worked in the...

Covering Tiananmen

Mike Chinoy
The Tiananmen Square crisis in 1989 was a turning point for China. Weeks of student-led demonstrations turned into the largest protest for political reform in the history of the People’s Republic. The bloody military crackdown that crushed the...

Viewpoint

05.22.23

‘They Are Men Who Acted out of Conscience’

from Bu Mingbai Podcast
Last month, a Chinese court sentenced the civil rights activists and lawyers Xu Zhiyong and Ding Jiaxi to fourteen and twelve years in prison for “subverting state power,” a charge arising from an informal gathering of fellow activists the two had...

Excerpts

05.19.23

Can Chinese Payment Apps Gain Traction Globally?

Martin Chorzempa
Chinese-owned social media app TikTok is a global phenomenon. Yet, for every TikTok, there is a WeChat, an app that is ubiquitous in China but that has failed to catch fire abroad. WeChat is just one of many Chinese apps incorporating financial...

‘Beijing’s Global Media Offensive’

Abby Seiff & Joshua Kurlantzick
Over the past several years, there has been an active debate about Chinese influence overseas. Amidst allegations that Beijing has influenced foreign elections and politicians, state newswire Xinhua has expanded into one of the largest news agencies...

Features

05.12.23

Investing in Tourism in Xinjiang, Beijing Seeks New Ways to Control the Region’s Culture

Eva Xiao
In a county where authorities ran multiple internment camps in China’s northwest Xinjiang region, the local government has commissioned a new set of buildings for a very different demographic: tourists. These sites and services, which were...

Appeasement at the Cineplex

Orville Schell from New York Review of Books
Although Beijing and Hollywood inhabit political and cultural universes that have little in common, they are similar in one important respect: both have expended vast amounts of energy, time, and capital confecting imaginary universes. The Chinese...

For China’s Urban Residents, the Party-State Is Closer than Ever

Jessica Batke & Taisu Zhang
In a recent working paper, scholars Yutian An and Taisu Zhang argue that local urban governments in China emerged from the COVID-19 pandemic with far more muscle and clout than they have ever had before. Unlike in the past several decades, the sub-...

‘A Stone Is Most Precious Where It Belongs’

Jessica Batke & Gulchehra Hoja
Gulchehra Hoja is a longtime broadcaster with Radio Free Asia’s (RFA) Uyghur Service. She grew up in Urumqi, the capital of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, and was a successful TV personality and journalist with Chinese state media there. She...

Viewpoint

02.24.23

Touting ‘Ethnic Fusion,’ China’s New Top Official for Minority Affairs Envisions a Country Free of Cultural Difference

Aaron Glasserman
Pan’s election to the Central Committee suggests that the Xi administration’s hard turn toward assimilationism will likely continue and perhaps intensify. Pan is the second Han official in a row to head the Ethnic Affairs Commission, which for...

‘I Wonder How the Protesters Felt When They Heard Their Own Voices’

Yangyang Cheng
On Sunday, February 5, after a polar vortex brought the coldest weekend in decades to the region, scores of people gathered in the heart of Boston to commemorate the third anniversary of the passing of Dr. Li Wenliang, the young Chinese...

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...

Conversation

12.02.22

Jiang Zemin, 1926-2022

Julia Lovell, Ian Johnson & more
Former Chinese leader Jiang Zemin died on Wednesday at the age of 96, shortly after anger about the zero-COVID policy had boiled over into a wave of protest last weekend. Jiang took the country through the boom years of the 1990s, a time now...

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...