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After leaving China Women News, Lü Pin began to work with women intellectuals pioneering women’s rights advocacy in the 1990s and 2000s. In 2009, Lü Pin founded ‘Feminist Voice.’ Its sharp interpretation of women issues through a feminist lens attracted many young educated women. A small NGO called ‘One-yuan Commune’ was established in Beijing that quickly became a springboard for street activism from 2012 to 2015.


Wang Dan, September 8, 2019 In Hong Kong, social resistance against the “China extradition” law has entered the stage of protracted conflict, with various forms of protests taking place every weekend. Hongkongers’ courageous efforts to defend their freedom have won them respect worldwide. Meanwhile, with regard to the goals they are striving for, the views of Hongkongers have steadily shifted in the course of their resistance. Of particular note is the fact that, on July 7, 230,000 Hongkongers staged protests and parades in the areas where mainland Chinese are most common. Speaking Mandarin, the demonstrators spoke out about the issues facing Hong Kong, exposed the dark reality of Chinese politics, and shouted slogans of “exporting revolution” to mainland China. The focus of my discussion today […]


Li Wenzu, September 6, 2019 In 2016, the police issued an order to all the kindergartens, including all the early education centers in Beijing’s Shijingshan District (石景山区) to not accept my son at their schools. My son, Quanquan (泉泉), had stayed home, unable to attend school since May 2018. Then, by luck and coincidence, I found a private school that accepted him. Quanquan finally was able to go to school, joining the top kindergarten class there. It was a hard-won opportunity for Quanquan, and he was very excited. On the first day of school [in 2018], he woke up at 6 am. He tugged at me, acting cute one moment and threatening me the next. I had to get out of bed. We washed together, […]


Since the 1990s, Lü Pin has been a pioneering advocate for women’s rights in China as well as a prolific writer on gender issues and a mentor to a group of activists known as the “young feminist activists.” In part one of our 3-part interview of her, Lü Pin traces her upbringing, the 1989 movement, her journalism career at China Women’s News, and her recollections of the 1995 World Conference on Women.


Between 1991 to 1994, Li Hai, a graduate student of philosophy at Peking University, compiled a list of 522 “June 4th Rioters” — Beijing residents who had been severely punished for their participation in the 1989 democracy movement. The list was published by Human Rights in China and Human Rights Watch in 1994. From 1995 to 2004, Li Hai was imprisoned for the list. According to him, this project was “the most perfect thing [he] has ever done.”


July 9, 2019 The world was shocked by the mass detention of Chinese human right lawyers on July 9, 2015 –– in what became known as the “709 Incident.” Following the secret sentencing of “709” lawyer Wang Quanzhang (王全璋), who was tried for the crime of “subversion of state power,” people thought that the “709 Incident,” at least for the time being, should have come to an end. But in fact, the opposite is true. The relevant authorities not only have not ended their persecution of human rights lawyers; on the contrary, they have intensified their efforts. After the roundup of human rights lawyers in the “709 Incident” in July 2015, four additional human rights lawyers, Jiang Tianyong (江天勇) Li Yuhan (李昱函), Yu Wensheng (余文生), […]


In 2008, encouraged by a sense that China was opening up to more democratic norms, a group of lawyers in Beijing sought to directly elect the Beijing Lawyers Association. In this film, nine participating lawyers tell this story of struggle and persecution.


China Change, July 4, 2019 Given the serial nature of Ms. Huang Wang’s Twitter revelations, which began on June 25, we will start our report on her latest revelations with a recap of what she has posted earlier. Huang Wan (黄婉) is the daughter-in-law of Zhou Yongkang (周永康), one of the nine CCP Standing Committee members during Hu Jintao’s tenure as the General Secretary of the Communist Party from 2002 to 2012. He was investigated sometime in 2013 after Xi Jinping took the helm, and was subsequently tried and sentenced to life in prison. On December 1, 2013, security forces (either police or armed police or a combination of both) stormed Ms. Huang’s home, taking away her husband Zhou Bin (周滨), Zhou Yongkang’s elder son, […]


China Change, July 2, 2019 Since we posted our last piece, Billionaires and Zhongnanhai Families — China’s Newest Breed of ‘Rights Defenders’, Ms. Huang Wan (黄婉), daughter-in-law of Chinese Communist Party’s former standing committee member and chairman of the powerful and much feared Central Political and Legal Affairs Commission Zhou Yongkang (周永康), has made more revelations. In her latest statement, she began to describe torture during her secret detention in 2014 and provided a glimpse of her trial in 2016. Zhou Yongkang is by far the highest ranking CCP official and the only Standing Committee member to have been sentenced to life in prison for corruption. Like virtually every family that has been bulldozed by Xi Jinping’s anti-corruption campaign, Ms. Huang has kept mum about […]


China Change, June 29, 2019 On June 6, Ms. Huang Wan (黄婉) received her “certificate of release from community correction” (解除社区矫正证明书) from the Justice Bureau of Chaoyang District in Beijing. From that day on, she was a free woman, and she had made plans to travel to the United States for a long-waited reunion with her aging parents. “From December 1, 2013,” she wrote on her Twitter the same day. “I have been subject to two days of detention without due process, 319 days of residential surveillance at a designated place (指定地点监视居住), 590 days in a detention center, 10 days of release pending investigation (取保候审), and 1095 days of community correction, making a total of 2016 days that I have been without freedom.” But on […]


Liu Xiaoyuan, June 26, 2019 After months of appealing, complaining, and calling to resume practice, on June 23, lawyer Liu Xiaoyuan received “Beijing Bureau of Justice’s Decision to Cancel Lawyer Liu Xiaoyuan’s License.” For the past four years he had not been able to practice because Fengrui Law Firm (锋锐律师事务所), of which he was a partner, was at the center of the 709 crackdown on human rights lawyers, even though he himself wasn’t implicated. The “Decision” was dated June 14. “This year marks the 40th anniversary of China restoring lawyers in its judicial system,” Liu Xiaoyuan tweeted.  “The Beijing Justice Bureau finally kicked me out of the ranks of lawyers. Eight years ago in 2011, the Beijing Justice Bureau had wanted to eradicate me. I […]


China Change, June 24, 2019 When Jiang Tianyong (江天勇) was released from prison on February 28 from Henan Province Second Prison in the city Xinxiang (新乡), many people breathed a sigh of relief. China first put him in secret detention, known as Residential Surveillance at a Designated Location, then in prison, since Nov 2016, for rallying domestic and international support for his lawyer colleagues swept up in the 709 Crackdown in 2015. He was tortured during secret detention, made to confess on TV that he had fabricated the torture details of lawyer Xie Yang, one of the 709 detainees. Through a proxy media outlet, the government also issued videos smearing Jiang Tianyong’s work as well as his character. But he was not set free. Through […]


Citizens Movement in China, June 2, 2019 In the hearts of millions of people, there is a collective memory that has been suppressed for 30 years. How to awaken this memory, and confront our nation’s historical wounds? How to exorcise the haze of authoritarianism that has plagued this great land for millenia past? How to break out from the totalitarian blockade, and set free the cry of our soul? Pleas for exoneration? No, we will not get on our knees to beg. Furious condemnation? An exercise in futility. We must not get on our knees to beg for exoneration, and anger-filled condemnations are exercises in futility. If we are to fundamentally part with the barbaric authoritarian past, we must purge the terror that predominates in […]


China Change, May 30, 2019     In the evening of May 16, Deng Chuanbing (邓传彬) posted a picture of a “Remember 8964” wine bottle on Twitter. Father of two school children, he lives in a town in Yibin, Sichuan province. Within half an hour, local police arrived. They ringed him from outside asking him to flash the upstairs lights to prove that he was home. We don’t know what the conversation was like, but he posted on WeChat, “I caved in again, and deleted the wine bottle photo.” The wine bottle Deng Chuanbin had photographed at a friend’s home some time ago was not the same wine bottle that led to the incarceration of four men in Chengdu for three years without trial. It […]


Chen Jiangang, April 1, 2019 In the summer of 2018, I applied for the “Hubert H. Humphrey Fellowship Program” to study law and human rights. After I was interviewed and had taken the TOEFL, I was accepted into the program. According to arrangements made by the program administrators, I was due to fly to the United States on April 1, 2019, to participate in English study in advance of the start of my program. In order to succeed in traveling to the United States to study, I contacted the relevant personnel of the Beijing Municipal Public Security Bureau (Beijing PSB) to ask if I was still prohibited from leaving the country. I was told that I was prohibited from going to the United States for […]


China Change, March 31, 2019 Liu Xiaoyuan (刘晓原) stands prominent among China’s human rights lawyers. In 2004, he came to Beijing to practice at the age of 40. In the roughly one decade up to mid-2015, he represented countless rights cases. Some of the more notable of these include the appeal of a death sentence by farmer Li Zhiping (李志平) in Dingzhou, Hebei Province; the Yang Jia (杨佳) police murder case in Shanghai; the case of the three netizens in Fujian (福建三网民); the case of journalist Qi Chonghuai (齐崇淮) in Shandong; and the case of Ji Zhongxing (冀中星), the migrant worker who threw a homemade bomb at the Beijing Capital Airport in 2013. Cases Liu Xiaoyuan has taken on in recent years include the “separatist” […]


Ai Xiaoming, March 26, 2019 This is the tenth year since I was barred from leaving the country. I still remember the last time I came back to Shenzhen, from Hong Kong, on March 17, 2009. After that I have never been out of Luohu Border Control. The first time I was barred from leaving the country was in 2005, because I had made the documentary “Taishi Village” (《太石村》). Perhaps it was because the police putting the restrictions on me hadn’t gotten in touch with the customs yet, or because my passport hadn’t expired (the digitalization of personal data wasn’t as strict back then), so between 2005 and early 2009, I left the country several times for meetings or screening tours to universities abroad. Over […]


Teng Biao, March 12, 2019 As the Communist Party held this year’s “Two Sessions” (两会), Beijing activist Hu Jia (胡佳) was kept under control by being forcibly moved across the country to Guangdong. Human rights lawyer Tang Jitian (唐吉田) and Xu Zhiyong (许志永), of the New Citizens Movement, received midnight visits in Zhengzhou and were interrogated without explanation. The number of human rights defenders who are under house arrest or have been disappeared is in the thousands. The security departments at all levels are operating at full capacity on a nationwide scale with the capital at the center, consuming a great deal of manpower and financial resources as they use high-tech means to monitor every corner of society. In its editorial Bring an Immediate End […]


Lü Pin, March 11, 2019 “As far as human rights activism is concerned, the outside world tends to focus on short-term incidents, such as when activism comes into direct confrontation with the state. But the outside world cannot keep long-term and sustained attention, which leads to many long-term, internal difficulties being left undiscussed.” On March 6 and 7, 2015, police arrested and criminally detained five young feminist activists because they were planning an action on International Women’s Day to oppose sexual harassment on public transportation. The action never took place.  Thirty seven days later, after strong domestic and international appeals, they were released on “bail pending further investigation.” The Feminist Five case was the first public suppression of a women’s rights initiative in the history […]


Members of the Chinese Human Rights Lawyers Group, March 8, 2019 Lu Tingge (卢廷阁) is a lawyer based in Shijiazhuang (石家庄), the capital of Hebei province. He is one of the newer faces in the community of human rights lawyers in China. In February he put forward a proposal to limit the legislative authorities of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, and more than a thousand Chinese citizens signed to support the proposal. He has been missing since March 2. — The Editors   We have learned from multiple sources that, on March 2, the Shijiazhuang-based lawyer Lu Tingge was taken away by officials of Shijiazhuang municipal Justice Bureau and his neighborhood police officers, and that his family and colleagues have not been able […]


Liao Yiwu, translated by Michael Martin Day, March 4, 2019 On December 9th, 2018, on the eve of International Human Rights Day, in my hometown of Chengdu, Sichuan, the most influential house church in China today, the Early Rain Covenant Church, was raided by the police and banned, and more than 100 believers were taken away. The chapel, seminary, and other church property funded by the congregants were seized and the property was immediately and illegally occupied, becoming the government office hall of the Double Eyes Well Community. The founders of the church, the husband-and-wife pair of Wang Yi (王怡) and Jiang Rong (蒋蓉), were both accused of “inciting subversion of state power”, arrested and have gone missing until this day, leaving their ten-year-old son, Wang […]


Wang Dan, February 5, 2019 On February 2, tens of thousands of Venezuelans took to the streets again, demanding change. This article by 1989 Tiananmen student leader Wang Dan (王丹) was published in Chinese by Radio Free Asia on January 25. After teaching in Taiwan for years, Wang Dan now lives in the Washington, DC area and heads the new Dialogue China think tank. – The Editors On January 23, tens of thousands of demonstrators took to the streets of the Venezuelan capital to protest the ruling party and President (Nicolás) Maduro. In front of a dense cheering crowd, waving their arms in support, the 35-year-old opposition leader (Juan Guaidó) proclaimed himself “interim President” and immediately received recognition from Western countries led by the U.S. […]


Tang Jitian, January 30, 2019 On December 10, 2018, on the occasion of the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the 20th anniversary of the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, the French National Consultative Commission on Human Rights (La Commission nationale consultative des droits de l’homme) has awarded the annual French Republic Human Rights Prize to six personalities or organizations that have distinguished themselves in their country for the defense and promotion of human rights, and Chinese human rights lawyer Tang Jitian (唐吉田) is one of them. He was unable to travel to France to receive the prize. On January 14, 2019, the French Ambassador to China, Mr. Jean-Maurice Ripert, presented him the award in Beijing. –– The Editors Ladies and Gentlemen:  I […]


Zheng Yefu, January 25, 2019 “Now it’s time to lay it bare: You can’t fool the Party into starting this journey, nor can you allow the calls for political reform that lack a clear final goal to numb the minds of the people.”  I. Why Hasn’t Political Reform Happened? In the late 1970s, China undertook a reform; the main elements were the restoration of the household production system in rural China [that allowed individual families to take control of their farming], opening up the private economy, and allowing farmers to go into the cities to find work. In the early 1990s, seeing that it was likely that this reform would run aground, Deng Xiaoping once again pushed a reform agenda, which was known as “reform of […]


China Change, January 16, 2019 On January 14, a court in Dalian, northeastern China, sentenced Canadian Robert Lloyd Schellenberg to death for drug smuggling at a one-day retrial. It appears that China, after detaining two Canadians recently, is escalating the diplomatic clash with Canada over the arrest  of Meng Wanzhou (孟晚舟), Huawei CFO, which the US requested pursuant to its extradition treaty with Canada, to the United States for suspected violation of Iran sanctions. The bizarre re-sentencing of Schellenberg seems to indicate how far China is willing to go to pressure Canada for the release of Meng, and how it is betting on Canada to give in by using the Schellenberg case as further leverage. To help clarify the legal controversy surrounding the retrial of […]


Tan Zuoren, January 13, 2019 Huang Qi’s trial opens today (January 14, Beijing time) in Mianyang Intermediary Court, Sichuan Province. – The Editors Huang Qi (黄琦), 55, is from Neijiang City in Sichuan Province (四川内江市), southwestern China. He holds a bachelor’s degree and is the founder of 64 Tianwang (六四天网) as well as the China Tianwang Human Rights Affairs Center (中国天网人权事务中心). He has for years devoted himself to public interest work, and he is also a dissident. Huang Qi’s late father was a soldier. His mother is a retired cardiologist Ms. Pu Wenqing (蒲文清), 85 years old this year. Huang Qi graduated from the Radio Department of Sichuan University in 1984. Following his graduation, he worked for years as a businessman. In 1998, Huang Qi […]


Zhang Xuezhong, translated by Andrea Worden, January 7, 2019 Last week, Dr. Zhang Xuezhong (张雪忠), a law professor at East China University of Politics and Law in Shanghai, posted an article on WeChat titled “Bid Farewell to Reform and Opening Up –– On China’s Perilous Situation and Its Future Options” (《告别改革开放 –– 论当今中国的危局和前路》). The following is an excerpt from the article in which he dismisses the notion that Deng Xiaoping’s time was a better time, a time, many believe, the current leader Xi Jinping has digressed from and should return to. We should point out that, in 2013, Dr. Zhang was stripped of his teaching position at the university by the university’s communist party committee for his writings on constitutionalism, and he now works in […]


December 31, 2018 China is at a crossroads. History will remember 2018. In March, Xi Jinping amended the Constitution to everyone’s chagrin, paving the way to life in power. It’s an anachronism to go back to permanent power in the 21st century. More than that, it’s a subversion of civilization; it’s a shame for the country and for all Chinese nationals.   Xi Jinping has imposed his will on the entire Chinese population. In order to hold onto power, he has to strip the Chinese of their rights and dignity and enslave them. Xi Jinping is building a new model of totalitarianism that directly threatens freedom of movement and property rights. Each person lives in fear. Xi Jinping attempts to monopolize all the resources and gain […]


Xiang Songzuo, December 28, 2018 On Dec. 16, Prof. Xiang Songzuo (向松祚) of Renmin University School of Finance and former chief economist of China Agriculture Bank, gave a 25-minute speech during a CEO class at Renmin Business School that was apparently applauded by the audience but immediately censored over the Chinese internet. Singling out 2018 as the year when China comes to a large shift unprecedented over the past 40 years, the speech can be seen as a landscape survey of Chinese economy, and obliquely, also of politics. Just as Tsinghua law professor Xu Zhangrun’s (许章润) broadside “Imminent Fears, Immediate Hopes”, which was superbly translated and widely talked about among China watchers, Prof. Xiang’s speech is another rare burst of Chinese intellectuals’ discontent with the […]


Pastor Wang Yi, December 24, 2018     In line with the teachings of the Bible and the mission of the gospel, I respect the leaders that God placed in power over China, because the coming and going of kings and leaders is all His hands. In this vein, I shall obey the arrangements God has made for Chinese history and its government. As a pastor of the Christian church, my starting point is the Bible, and I have my own understanding and views on society, politics, and law, as well as on the proper definitions of justice and benevolent governance. I abhor the Chinese Communist Party’s persecution of the church, how it deprives people of their right to free faith. However, it is not […]


China Change, December 21, 2018     On Sunday evening, December 9, while worshiping with members, Wang Yi (王怡), the lead pastor of Chengdu Early Rain Covenant Church was seized and taken away by police. The church was raided; books and other items were confiscated. In the same evening, police descended on homes of many members, demanding that they sign a pledge not to participate in “illegal gatherings of the Early Rain church” anymore. Over one hundred were taken away for refusing to sign. The church’s WeChat group was shut down, so were the personal accounts of many churchgoers. The authorities outlawed the church, the church’s elementary school and its divinity school. According to the latest report, 25 church members have been detained so far. […]


Jeff Rambin, December 11, 2018     “There is no word for the pain, sadness, humiliation and anger I feel in my heart.” After six years and four months of tweeting, Wang Jiangsong was forced to delete his account. Wang calls himself a “labor scholar,” but he is too modest. William Nee of Amnesty International calls Wang “arguably the most prominent labor academic in China.” This is due not only to Wang’s scholarship, but also to his connections, and most importantly, his compassion. Wang’s perspective has been relied on by the Associated Press, Foreign Policy, and Reuters. Last year, Wang became part of the news himself. As reported by Radio Free Asia, officials in a Beijing neighborhood used a November fire as a chance to […]


Liao Yiwu, December 10, 2018, International Human Rights Day, Berlin     I’ve so often said that my courage and everything about me comes from prison. This is how I differ from other Chinese writers. In prison, I was tortured ‘til I could no longer bear it, and tried to kill myself twice. But I learned to write secretly; and I learned to play the xiao (ancient flute) from an over-80-year-old monk. From the sound of his xiao, I realized that freedom comes from the soul. A man of inner freedom is the natural enemy of a dictatorship. His political views come in a pale, second place. The key is that, only after experiencing the horror, sadness, and pity of losing freedom and being trampled upon, […]


China Citizens Movement Outstanding Citizenship Award Selection Committee, December 10, 2018       Today, we offer our respects to an outstanding citizen. She is a loving mother, a strong mother, and a great mother. She is eighty-five years old this year, an age at which she should have been enjoying a peaceful retirement with her family. Instead, at her venerable age, she has been thrust into a situation that no mother should be forced to experience: she has had to see her son imprisoned and brought to the verge of death for committing no crime at all. In her quest to protect and support him, she stakes out a trail of blood and tears upon the great but troubled land that is China. Using […]


Andrea Worden, November 25, 2018     Over the past several years, the Chinese government has steadily been promoting its own version of human rights –– “human rights with Chinese characteristics”–– at the UN, and maneuvering to insert language trumpeted by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), with Xi Jinping as its core wordsmith, into various UN resolutions, with an eye toward assuming a leadership role in global human rights governance. China’s third Universal Periodic Review (UPR) by the Human Rights Council (HRC) on November 6, 2018 provided a high-level global forum for the government to announce its newly formulated five-pronged “human rights development path with Chinese characteristics.” In a press conference following the review, Assistant Foreign Minister Zhang Jun claimed that more than 120 countries […]


Hu Ping, November 19, 2018   Recently, there have been two hot topics in China: the Sino-U.S. trade war and the commemoration of the 40th anniversary of China’s Reform and Opening up. We have noticed that many people in the system have written articles or made speeches enthusiastically praising Deng Xiaoping while covertly and in some cases even openly criticizing Xi Jinping. They believe that in bringing back lifelong leadership terms and the cult of personality, abandoning Deng’s policy of “hiding one’s capabilities and biding one’s time” (韬光养晦) and promoting state-owned businesses over private firms, Xi Jinping has significantly deviated from Deng Xiaoping’s reform and opening up. For this year’s May 4th anniversary, Fan Liqin (樊立勤), a Peking University alumnus and an old friend of […]


Yaxue Cao, November 11, 2018       Around 10:10 pm eastern time on Nov. 8, as I was browsing my Twitter timeline and taking a breaking from editing a website post, a tweet by Wu Gan (吴淦) jumped into my vision. Even though he has gone for three years and a half, his avatar immediately stood out. It’s an auto-generated tweet that reads: “I just activated @Tweet_Delete on my account to automatically delete my old tweets (is.gd/delete)!” Instinctively, I pressed the “prt src” key: It was 11 am on Nov. 9, Beijing Time. Wu Gan, better known as the “Super Vulgar Butcher,” is serving an eight-year sentence in a prison somewhere in the mountains on the border of Fujian and Jiangxi provinces. He was […]


China Change, November 6, 2018  Teng Biao interviewed Prof. Stein Ringen on August 2, 2018 and October 5 via Skype. Stein Ringen is Professor of Sociology and Social Policy at the University of Oxford and Professor of Political Economy at King’s College London. Teng Biao is a visiting scholar at the U.S.-Asia Law Institute, New York University and a Chinese human rights lawyer. – The Editors    Teng Biao (TB): I think your book, The Perfect Dictatorship: China in the 21st Century, is one of the best books on Chinese politics in recent years. Is this your first book on China? What inspired you to study China? Stein Ringen (SR): First, I’m interested in governments and states and how they work. This is the biggest […]


China Change, October 31, 2018 This is part of China Change’s new interview series that seeks to understand the effort of civil society in bringing change to China over the past 30 years. The interview was conducted in June 2018 by Yaxue Cao, editor of this website, at Professor Xu Youyu’s home in Flushing, New York City. — The Editors     Yaxue Cao (YC): Professor Xu, would you mind first introducing yourself to our readers? Xu Youyu (XY): My name is Xu Youyu (徐友渔); I was born in Chengdu, Sichuan Province, in 1947. I was in the graduating class at the Chengdu No. 1 Secondary School in 1966 when the Cultural Revolution erupted — right when I was enrolling for the national college entrance […]


Yaxue Cao, October 18, 2018     Bard College in Annandale-on-Hudson, New York, is a small liberal arts college with around 2500 students. The Campus Center is the central meeting place with a bookstore, a cafe, a post office, computer terminals, a small auditorium, lounge areas and art exhibit space. On October 1, a photo exhibit was mounted along the hallways of the center. It is called, adopting a well-known Mao Zedong quote, “Weightier Than Mount Tai, Lighter Than a Feather: Human Rights Experience of Chinese Contemporary Art.” Featuring ten artists (all but two lived in China), the exhibit includes photographs, conceptual compositions, negative images of Tiananmen Square in 1989, and photographs that depict a wide range of life in China: the student movement in […]


Yaxue Cao, October 15, 2018     On the morning of October 11, Ms. Pu Wenqing (蒲文清) arrived in Beijing accompanied by a couple of supporters. Ms. Pu is 85 years old, a retired doctor living in Neijiang, Sichuan province (四川内江市). As soon as she stepped off the train at Beijing West Railway Station, she spotted six people who had followed her all the way from Sichuan. In China, they are known as “jie fang renyuan” (截访人员), or local government workers whose job is to trail, stop and take back to their hometown petitioners who have gone to the capital on a quest for justice. That is what brought Ms. Pu to Beijing –she was seeking justice for her son. With the help of activists, […]


Matthew Robertson, October 11, 2018     China’s rapidly expanding interest in researching and applying artificial intelligence has been widely noted. Last year, the Chinese government published a plan to become a world leader in the field by the end of the next decade; billions of dollars are being funnelled into AI startups; and China is competing head-to-head with industry in the United States on the cutting edge of the field. What makes AI developments in China so different from those in the United States, however, is that as with any technology, if it can be used by the Chinese Communist Party to strengthen its grip on power or further its panoptistate, it will. This is almost a truism, of course, and military adoption of […]


China Change, September 30, 2018 Unsettling news from China emerges every week — on social media, in reports, and from our own sources in the country. Not every new development is suited to a fully fleshed-out analysis, and as with so much in China, many reports and developments cannot be immediately confirmed or properly evaluated. Nevertheless, while each individual brush stroke may not be decisive, upon stepping back a fuller picture begins to emerge. China Change catalogues and contextualizes these items so as to keep a growing awareness of changes in China.  — The Editors       ‘Public-private partnerships’ 2.0: la chasse à courre Chinese officials have come out with a string of comments recently that have spooked private companies. The first was a […]


Liao Yiwu, September 27, 2018, New York City     I thank the award committee for conferring this honor upon me. The award is named for Vaclav Havel’s first work, his autobiography Disturbing the Peace. When translated into Chinese, however, the title of this work means about the same as “provoking trouble” (寻衅滋事). During the existence of the Czechoslovak communist regime, and under the rule of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), many dissidents have been sentenced for these “crimes”. When the Tiananmen Square massacre of 1989 occurred, I wrote and recorded my poem “Massacre” (《大屠殺》). As the final line goes, “Faced with this unprecedented slaughter, the only survivors are the sons of bitches.” For this “disturbance of the peace” I got four years in prison, […]


September 25, 2018     China Change, partnered with Humanitarian China, has compiled this 19-minute video presentation about the Chinese regime’s ongoing repression of churches, particularly in central China’s Henan Province (河南). Much of the footage is collected from social media, and we conducted a number of interviews with pastors inside and outside China to provide context and analysis. – The Editors   Related: Interview with a Wenzhou Pastor: The Chinese Government’s Large-Scale Destruction of Crosses in Zhejiang Province, July 29, 2015. Second Interview With the Wenzhou Pastor: After the Demolition Comes the ‘Transformations’, December 15, 2015. Living Stone: A Portrait of a House Church in China, December 21, 2015. The Shepherds of Living Stone Church, December 25, 2016.   Support Our Work At China […]


China Change, September 22, 2018   Unsettling news from China emerges every week in a constant flow — on social media, in reports, and from our own sources in the country. Not every new development is suited to a fully fleshed-out analysis, and as with so much in China, many reports and developments cannot be immediately confirmed or properly evaluated. Nevertheless, while each individual brush stroke may not be decisive, upon stepping back a fuller picture begins to emerge. China Change catalogues and contextualizes these items so as to keep a growing awareness of changes in China.  — The Editors   Local Government Debt: Going Bankrupt, or Raising More? On September 13, the General Offices of both the Chinese Communist Party and the State Council […]


China Change, September 16, 2018   Unsettling news from China has been emerging in a constant stream for some time now, in news, on social media and from our own sources in the country. Not every new development is suited to a fully fleshed-out analysis, and as with so much to do with China, many reports and developments cannot be immediately confirmed or properly evaluated. Nevertheless, while each individual brush stroke may not be decisive, upon stepping back a fuller picture begins to emerge. China Change today inaugurates a new, regular series titled ‘Signs of China,’ where we catalogue and contextualize what might otherwise have been forgotten as ephemera. What are these signs pointing to? Our discerning readers will know. — The Editors     […]


Xu Zhiyong, September 16, 2018   Xu Zhiyong was released from prison on July 16, 2017, after serving four years for his role in the New Citizens Movement. Xu is a seminal figure in China’s rights defense movement with the founding of “Gongmeng” (公盟) in 2003, a NGO providing legal assistance to victims of social injustice. It was a training ground for some of the earliest human rights lawyers and took on some of the most high-profile cases of the time. Gongmeng was shut down by the government in 2009. After that Xu Zhiyong and colleagues sought new ways to continue their work for change, resulting in the New Citizens Movement. Between 2013 and 2014, dozens of participants were thrown in jail, including Xu himself. […]


September 13, 2018     On September 13, 2013, lawyers Wang Cheng (王成), Tang Jitian (唐吉田), and Jiang Tianyong (江天勇) announced the establishment of the China Human Rights Lawyers Group (中国人权律师团). All three had been disbarred by the Chinese authorities because of their commitment to defending the rights of the Chinese people. In just one year, more than 300 Chinese lawyers joined the Group. Many seasons later, the Human Rights Lawyers Group now marks the fifth anniversary of its founding. On this otherwise ordinary day, we will take inventory of what we have done over the last five years, reiterate the basic principles of the group, and plan our steps for the future. In the past five years, we have gone through hardships and sadness; […]


China Change, September 6, 2018     On August 17, 2018 at about 3:30 p.m., He Guangwei (何光伟) strode out of the A Exit at the Zhujiang Xincheng subway stop in Guangzhou, carrying a bag of drumstick leaves, a rare vegetable, on his way to meet a friend. In the years prior, when he worked as a journalist at the prominent newspaper Southern Weekend (《南方周末》), he got on and off everyday at the very same stop. A short walk from the subway, a member of China’s auxiliary police (that is, a non-official police officer) intercepted him and demanded in a voluble tone that he produce his identification card for inspection. He glanced around and noticed that not far off another police officer was rebuking a […]


September 4, 2018     The Governments of Australia, Germany, Japan, Taiwan and the United States, and the European Council:   We are a group of students, scholars and professionals from China and Chinese-occupied territories. We call upon you to urge China to release the well-regarded Uyghur human rights leader Prof. Ilham Tohti, amid reports of students, scholars and professionals disappearing and dying in concentration camps and prisons in the occupied region of East Turkestan (known as Xinjiang in Chinese). The Chinese occupying authorities are cracking down on Uyghurs with the use of widespread surveillance, language restrictions, elimination of cultural and religious expression, forcible political indoctrination, family separation, and mass incarceration. Prof. Ilham criticized oppressive policies such as these, and called for dialogue, reconciliation and […]


China Change, August 28, 2018     This 3-minute video has gone viral on Twitter the last couple of days. It’s not a movie; it’s an everyday reality in China that’s seldom captured on record. We, as many people do, know it’s a commonality, but the video somehow sends chills down the spine. The video emerged on Twitter on August 26. The event supposedly occurred late night on August 23 in Shenzhen, and the police came from Shajing police station (沙井派出所) for this young woman named Chen Guixiang. She’s an average Chinese, not an activist or a dissident. She posted or said something online, and the police arrived to take her to the station for an interrogation. It appears that she knew they were coming […]


Matthew Robertson, August 23, 2018   “Our goal is to make sure that any user facing an increased risk of online attacks enrolls in the Advanced Protection Program.”  — Dario Salice, Advanced Protection Product Manager at Google.        Journalists and dissidents involved in Chinese affairs are accustomed to every so often receiving a pop-up banner on their Gmail from Google informing them that “state-sponsored attackers” may have been attempting to gain access to their accounts. To guard against such intrusions, Google suggests signing up for its Advanced Protection Program. The Advanced Protection Program involves using a pair of security keys that can be purchased on Amazon. The problem? Google recommends a product — the Feitian MultiPass FIDO Security Key — manufactured in China, by […]


China Change, August 21, 2018       Yang Shaozheng (杨绍政), a couple of months shy of 49, was for 11 years a professor of good standing in the College of Economics at Guizhou University. He taught game theory and advanced microeconomics, focused his research on optimization theory and mechanism design theory, and managed numerous provincial- and state-funded research projects. On August 15, however, Guizhou University made a decision to expel him for “long-running publication and spreading online of politically mistaken speech, writing a large number of politically harmful articles, and creating a deleterious influence on campus and in society.” He was also guilty of “being unrepentant” and refusing to accept “educational help.” Prior to this, last November, Yang was suspended from teaching and banned […]


China Change, August 13, 2018     On August 9, the Beijing Justice Bureau issued a decision to cancel lawyer Cheng Hai’s  (程海) license. Six months ago in February, the bureau cancelled the registration of his small Beijing Wutian Law Firm, claiming that the firm had not accepted the annual review on schedule. According to China’s Administrative Measures for the Practice of Law by Lawyers (《律师执业管理办法》), a lawyer’s license is revoked if they’re not hired by a firm for six months. On August 10, lawyer Cheng Hai filed an Application for Administrative Review, which shows that the authorities were committed to having him disbarred, and refused to view contrary evidence. The application shows that Cheng Hai signed an employment contract with the Beijing Liangzhi Law […]


August 10, 2018     It is now clear, from numerous reliable sources, that shocking human rights atrocities are being perpetrated in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region of China (XUAR). The Communist Party authorities have established a large number of political re-education centers in Xinjiang, detaining people without any judicial process, stripping them of their personal liberty, imprisoning them, and detaining them for indeterminate ‘sentences.’ Estimates of the numbers detained range from hundreds of thousands to over a million, primarily targeting Uighurs, but also Kazakhs, Hui people, and other minorities who follow Islam. Among those detainees are peasants, workers, university, college, high-school and middle-school students, teachers, poets, writers, artists, scholars, the head of a provincial department, bureau chiefs, village chiefs, and even Uighur police officers. […]


Xiao Man, August 9, 2018     China’s online P2P lending platforms are currently being rocked by one crisis after another, with media and the public calling a crash, collapse, and high storm in the sector. A large number of investors who have lost their principal entirely have recently flooded into Beijing to petition for redress. To shield the financial institutions from the public rush, Beijing police set up barricades on August 6, grabbing anyone they thought suspicious and loading them into rows of passenger coaches they had lined up on the Second Ring Road. Video and photographs show buses, full of petitioners, along the shoulder of Beijing’s Second Ring Road; police were also stationed nearby in large numbers. China’s Banking Regulatory Commission, the Bank […]


China Change, August 8, 2018     Until recently, David Missal (@DavidJRMissal) was a graduate student at the School of Journalism and Communication, Tsinghua University, on a two-year DAAD scholarship (Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst; or German Academic Exchange Service). Two months ago, Missal told RFA, he applied to the Exit and Entry Administration of the Beijing Public Security Bureau for the renewal of his student visa. Under normal circumstances, it takes about 10 days to complete the process. But last Friday, the bureau notified him that his renewal was denied, and he was ordered to leave China within 10 days. The reason they gave is that Missal has engaged in activities not in accordance with his student visa. Missal believes that the denial of visa and […]


China Change, August 1, 2018       On July 24, Unirule (天则), the liberal, beleaguered economic think tank in Beijing, published a 10,000-character essay by the Tsinghua University legal scholar Xu Zhangrun (许章润) which has lit up the Chinese internet at a time when the voice of Chinese intellectuals has been dying out. The text, deploying all the rhetorical potency of literary Chinese — even in its length, the ‘Ten Thousand Word Petition’ having a specific valence in Chinese political history — has captured the zeitgeist of revolt against the China that Party leader Xi Jinping is busy constructing. Since being republished on the website of the Hong Kong-based Initium Media, the article has been widely shared and reflected upon by intellectuals and scholars […]


China Change, July 27, 2018   Xu Lin (徐琳), who described himself as “a dissident, poet, singer-songwriter and senior construction engineer in mainland China,” was put on trial in the Nansha District Court in Guangzhou on July 27, where he faced charges of ‘picking quarrels and stirring up trouble’ (寻衅滋事) for a series of songs about sensitive political topics that he composed, sung, and posted online. Xu pleaded not guilty to the charges. The court did not deliver a sentence at the end of the trial. Xu Lin was arrested and criminally detained in September 2017 while visiting his sick father in Hunan. Among the list of his supposed crimes were the songs he composed supporting human rights lawyers targeted in the July 9, 2015 […]


July 19, 2018   Lawyer Wang Quanzhang (王全璋), who was disappeared on July 15, 2018 in the Chinese Communist Party’s infamous 709 Crackdown on human rights lawyers, has been held incommunicado for just over three years now. Until recently, almost nothing was known about him, including where he was being held, the conditions under which he was being held, and what charges are likely to be brought against him. Whether he was even dead or alive was unknown until recently. Following are two updates on his situation translated by China Change. The first comes from Wang’s newly appointed lawyer, Liu Weiguo (刘卫国); the second, expressing great concern over Wang’s health, from his wife Li Wenzu (李文足). — The Editors   An Update on Wang Quanzhang’s […]


Terence Halliday, July 9, 2018     Again and again, across history and across regions, lawyers stand in the vanguard of change. In Britain in the 1600s, in France in the 1700s, in Germany in the 1800s, in India and Brazil in the 1970s, in Egypt and Pakistan in the 1990s, in Zambia and Kenya, and, not least in South Korea and Taiwan over the last generation, and in many other places.     In the last days of June 2015 I spent many hours in coffee shops and hotels and restaurants and offices with many of China’s notable rights lawyers. Wang Yu (王宇) and I discussed the extraordinary nationwide attack on her reputation. Yu Wensheng (余文生) described his unbearable torture in the hands of […]


Yaxue Cao, on the second China Human Rights Lawyers’ Day, July 8, 2018, New York   As of today, lawyer Wang Quanzhang has been held incommunicado for 1,095 days. Over the 1,095 days, his toddler has grown into a boy who vows to fight the “Monster” that took his father; his wife has metamorphosed from a timid housewife to one of the most recognizable faces of the 709 resistance. With each day, we worry about Wang Quanzhang’s fate: Is he still alive? Has he been so severely debilitated by torture that they can’t even show him? These dreadful thoughts eat at our hearts when we think about Wang Quanzhang, and we don’t know how not to think about him. Wang Quanzhang is 42 years old. […]


Xie Yanyi, July 8, 2018 My name is Xie Yanyi. I’ve been a lawyer for 17 years. In 2003 I was the first person to bring a lawsuit against Jiang Zemin for violating the constitution by continuing as the chairman of the state Central Military Commission. From that point forward, I attracted the attention of the authorities. In June and July 2015 — around then — due to the Qing’an case and a number of other rights defense cases, numerous rights lawyers and citizens were called in and interrogated by the authorities, some were arrested and paraded on state media. The Qing’an incident was the fuse that lit the 709 crackdown. In the early morning of July 12, 2015, I heard a knock at the […]


Xie Yang, July 6, 2018       My name is Xie Yang. I’m a lawyer at the Gangwei Law Firm, in Changsha, Hunan. On July 9, 2015, I immediately got word of the arrest of Wang Yu, Bao Longjun, and their son. On the morning of July 10, when I was interviewed by an overseas media outlet. They asked me: What do you think of Wang Yu’s whole family getting taken away? I frankly told them my opinion: I said that this is the beginning of the Chinese authorities’ purge of human rights lawyers. I said that a tempest would soon be upon us. The following afternoon, on July 10 — it was a Friday — I went to Huaihua City in Hunan to […]


Sui Muqing, July 5, 2018       Hello everyone. I’m lawyer Sui Muqing from Guangzhou. I practiced law in Guangzhou from 1998 to 2017. On July 9, 2015, in the early hours of the morning — I happened to still be online — Wang Yu live-broadcasted her arrest. I was arrested the following night, on July 10. At 11:00 p.m. the property management people rang my doorbell and said that my car had been hit. I suspected a ruse, so I ignored them. A little while later they came back, and again said that someone had hit my car. The problem now was that the sound of the doorbell was extremely loud. My wife and kid were already asleep. It was really loud, you […]


Lü Shijie, July 4, 2018     In China, lawyers who handle cases according to the law and uncover the illegal activities of the authorities have increasingly filled the Chinese Communist Party with dread. Their courage has invited strict surveillance and repression. The methods of repression incorporate not only the past experiences of ‘class struggle,’ but have been further refined through continuous innovation to form a comprehensive and more deceptive mechanism of control. 1. Unlawful ‘Annual Review’ of Lawyers Each year, Chinese lawyers must complete a so-called ‘inspection’ with their local judicial bureau. Those who pass receive a blue seal on their practice license to confirm that they are ‘qualified’ (称职). Over the years, the authorities have used this as a means of muzzling lawyers. […]


Wen Donghai, July 4, 2018       Hello everyone. I’m lawyer Wen Donghai (文东海) from Changsha. In the early hours of July 9, 2015, we first heard Wang Yu’s call for help. She said that unidentified men had charged into their home and were going to take her away. For a long time following that, we didn’t hear any news. In the evening of July 10, the next night, I received a phone call. The caller identified themselves as coming from the police station, and said they wanted to speak to me. After I got there they began questioning me. Their main line of enquiry was about the arrest of Wang Yu and Zhou Shifeng. They said that we shouldn’t pay any attention to […]


Jiang Tianyong, July 3, 2018   Following is an excerpt from Jiang Tianyong’s interview with the Chinese edition of The Epoch Times, published on July 12, 2016, a year into the 709 Crackdown and four months before his own arrest. Also following is a short video his wife, Jin Bianling, who shares the latest news about Jiang, who is now serving a two-year sentence in Xinxiang Prison, Henan (Henan No. 2 Prison). It is believed that Jiang was severely tortured during custody. The excerpt has been edited for brevity. — The Editors         A Patriot By Himself, a Subverter by the Chinese Government The education we receive from childhood to adulthood is that people must be patriotic, must be involved in politics, […]


Wang Yu, July 1, 2018   Wang Yu (王宇), born 1971 in Inner Mongolia, was a lawyer with the Beijing Fengrui Law Firm when she was abducted in the early morning of July 9, 2015. The date of her detention marks the beginning of, and gives name to, the most notorious human rights event over the last two years – the 709 Crackdown. That same evening, her husband and son, en route to Australia for the son to attend school, were also detained. Wang Yu and her husband Bao Longjun, also a lawyer, were released on bail in August 2016 and the family of three was sequestered in an apartment in Ulan Hot, Inner Mongolia, under severe surveillance. This continued until late 2017, when they […]


Tan Jiangying, June 15, 2018   On June 8, messages circulated on social media that truck drivers across China were going on strike on the 10th. This came with a feeling of deja vu, as a similar call for strike had happened on April 25, when crane operators announced a strike for May 1. And, as happened with the crane operators earlier, the truckers’ strike never materialized. The day came, and the strike was called off. One can guess that the strike leaders were controlled by the stability-maintenance authorities in their locality. But the effect again mirrored that of the canceled crane operators’ strike: upon hearing the call to action, truckers gathered and demonstrated on the days before the appointed time. They hailed from all over the […]


Wu Renhua, June 4, 2018   The June 4 massacre once shocked the world — but because the Communist Party made it a forbidden area of enquiry, there are still numerous controversies around the massacre, despite it having taken place 29 years ago. Following are some of the major sources of confusion and misunderstanding surrounding the events of June 4, 1989. Was There a Counterrevolutionary Rebellion in Beijing? To provide a seemingly reasonable justification for the bloody military suppression in the capital, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) authorities emphasized that a violent insurrection was afoot, and that the martial law troops had no choice but to put it down. To this day, the CCP’s claims still deceive a great many people. But in fact, proving […]


A continued call on behalf of Liu Xia (China Change Exclusive) Liao Yiwu, Chinese writer in exile, June 1, 2018         Dear friends, I am hereby once again publicizing a portion of a conversation with Liu Xia (劉霞), this time on May 25, 2018. The recording runs 21 minutes; I have excerpted the final 8 minutes. Liu Xia said: “Loving Liu Xiaobo is a crime, for which I’ve received a life sentence.” This is enough to make one burn with rage. Since when did love become a crime? When Xi Jinping’s father was labeled an anti-CCP element and jailed by Mao Zedong during the Cultural Revolution, his mother didn’t abandon him, and nor did she get locked up for years like Liu Xia […]


Liu Shuqing, May 16, 2018   Beginning last year as the 709 crackdown gradually petered out, the government’s hands were freed up, and they decided to do something about the ‘unconventional lawyers’ (非常规律师) they kept seeing. They have since been targeting these lawyers using a combination of methods that aim at terminating their professional lives. These include straightforward revocation or annulment of legal licences; forcing lawyers to transfer law offices but then gumming up the process so they end up with no place of employment; delaying lawyer annual assessments and more. The community has felt the blow and the sting. The reason I place these targeted lawyers under the term ‘unconventional’ is because the scope of targets in this round of assault is fairly broad: […]


China Change, May 14, 2018     Following the ‘709 crackdown’ — a large-scale attack against human rights lawyers that began on July 9, 2015 — China has continued to target this small group (about 0.1% of China’s 300,000 lawyers) who have taken on cases to defend basic human rights and other forms of social injustice. While torture and imprisonment have failed to cowe them, the government is now resorting to simple disbarment, or more subtle techniques, like preventing them from getting work so as to force their licenses to lapse, in order to take human rights lawyers off the field. The government regards this group of lawyers and those they defend a threat to communist rule; their determination to eliminate them is meeting with […]


May 9, 2018       Background On July 9, 2015, Wang Yu (王宇) became the first target in a campaign of mass arrests against human rights lawyers in China. Over the next roughly two weeks, over 300 rights lawyers were arrested, interrogated, detained, and threatened — thus begetting the notorious ‘709 Incident.’ After over a month in secret detention at a black site in Beijing, Wang Yu was transferred to Tianjin for a continuation of her detention, then under so-called ‘residential surveillance at a designated place’ (指定居所監視居住). For over a year she was not allowed to see her lawyer, family, or communicate with the outside world. Another 20 or so lawyers and activists, including Wang Yu’s husband Bao Longjun (包龍軍), were given similar treatment. […]


Wang Jiangsong, May 7, 2018     On April 25, an open letter from a WeChat group named “Changsha tower crane operator federation” (长沙塔吊联盟) was circulated. It said: To all hardworking front-line tower crane operators, conductors, and elevator operators, greetings! As construction, crane, and mechanical equipment operators and engineers, in the most dangerous line of work on the construction site, our salary and compensation is severely out of step with the risks we take and the utter indispensability of our work. In the construction industry, the hours we work far exceed those stipulated in the Labor Law, and we have no social security. Yet despite being in the most unsafe work and working the longest hours, our pay is miniscule. In order to trigger a […]


China Change, May 3, 2018     Every year, justice bureaus and lawyers’ associations across China demand that lawyers and law firms submit to a “annual review” (年检), held in spring each year, that determines whether they can continue to practice law in China. Ostensibly, these assessments are aimed at evaluating professional competence and merit — yet their primary function, as far as the authorities are concerned, appears to be aimed at keeping a tight leash on the lawyer class, designated by the authorities as the “opposition.” For more than a decade, it has been used as a tool of pressure to keep human rights lawyers at bay.   China Change recently obtained a copy of the 2018 annual assessment form provided to lawyers in […]


May 2, 2018 The following is an essay by Liu Xia’s longtime friend Liao Yiwu (廖亦武) explaining the circumstances of the phone call and providing an excerpt of the call for the first time. — The Editors     ‘Dona, Dona,’ Give Freedom to Liu Xia Liao Yiwu, Chinese writer in exile   On April 30, 2018, at 4:00 p.m. in Germany, I spoke to Liu Xia at her home in Beijing. She said: “Now, I’ve got nothing to be afraid of. If I can’t leave, I’ll die in my home. Xiaobo is gone, and there’s nothing in the world for me now. It’s easier to die than live. Using death to defy could not be any simpler for me.” I felt like I’d just been […]


Li Wenzu, April 12, 2018   Li Wenzu (李文足) is the wife of 709 lawyer Wang Quanzhang (王全璋). On April 4, the 1000th day of her husband’s disappearance on July 10, 2015, she and a group of 709 lawyers’ wives began a march from Beijing to Tianjin, about 130 kilometers, where Wang Quanzhang is supposedly being detained. Along the way, other activists joined them on and off. On the sixth day of their march, their march were broken up by scores of plainclothes police officers, and Li Wenzu was taken back home to Beijing by force. Human Rights in China translated Li Wenzu’s account of her first day back. We offer you a translation of her account of the second day. However, as we prepare […]


China Change, April 4, 2018     Between February and March this year, rights activists from provinces around China were summoned, questioned, and threatened by secret police who demanded that they withdraw from the ‘Rose chatgroups,’ also known as the ‘Rose team.’ These chatgroups have attracted relatively large numbers of internet users on different portals such as QQ, Skype, WeChat, Telegram, and WhatsApp. The intervention by Chinese police took place following the criminal detention of Xu Qin (徐秦), a leading activist and a spokesperson among these online groups, on February 9. She was accused of ‘picking quarrels and provoking trouble.’ Prior to this, the initiator of the Rose chatgroups and Wuhan dissident Qin Yongmin (秦永敏) was detained on January 9, 2015. Between March 2013 and […]


Xiao Meili, March 27, 2018     January 2018 was a special month for the Chinese feminist movement. On January 1, Luo Xixi (罗茜茜) released an open letter –– using her real name –– in which she accused her former PhD advisor, Chen Xiaowu (陈小武), of sexually harassing female students. It was as if she had lit a spark that ignited a powerful and dynamic wave of anti-sexual harassment on Chinese social media, and its impact far exceeded the expectations of many, including Luo herself. Students from nearly 80 universities sent joint letters to their university presidents, urging their alma maters to establish a sexual harassment prevention mechanism. More than 9,000 people took part. It’s said that this is the largest student movement in China […]


Yaxue Cao, March 21, 2018 Continued from The Might of an Ant: the Story of Lawyer Li Baiguang (1 of 2)     Rights Movement Spread All Over the Country By 2004, Zhao Yan and Li Baiguang were under constant threat. Fuzhou police told the village deputies that Zhao and Li were criminals, and demanded that the deputies expose the two. The Fujian municipal government also dispatched a special investigation team to the hometowns of Li and Zhao to look into their family backgrounds. A public security official in Fu’an said: “Don’t you worry that Zhao and Li are still on the lam — that’s because it’s not time for their date with the devil just yet. Just wait till that day comes: we’ll grab them, […]


Yaxue Cao, March 20, 2018     Li Baiguang (李柏光), a human rights lawyer, died on February 26, aged 49. Li Baiguang, born on October 1, 1968, was the youngest of seven children in a tiny mountain village household in Jiahe county, Chenzhou, Hunan. His father died when he was seven years old. The family was impoverished. When Li reached school age, his playmates went to school, but he had to stay home another year and help his mother with chores. One day, after he herded the ducks back home, Li went to the school, leant on the window, and saw his friends all studying. He returned home and told his mother through tears: “If you don’t let me go to school, I’ll hack our […]


Andrea Worden, March 14, 2018   “Everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, to promote and to strive for the protection and realization of human rights and fundamental freedoms.” –– UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders     The Chinese government attacks human rights defenders (HRDs) – those who peacefully defend and promote human rights – on a range of fronts. First, and most critically, are the government’s attacks on HRDs at home. The relentless crackdown on human rights defenders has gone from bad to worse under Xi Jinping, and we can expect the downward trend to accelerate now that Xi is no longer constrained by term limits. While the resilience of China’s beleaguered HRDs is remarkable, their numbers are shrinking; a few […]


March 2, 2018     Minister Zhang Jun: We are among the lawyers who have been disbarred or prevented from practicing as a result of coordinated suppression by the Ministry of Justice in the year 2017. We are well aware that open letters are regularly received by ministries, commissions, and high officials in the Party, state, and military — some angry, some polite, some beseeching… letters of every kind imaginable. There are simply too many people who, unable to find redress anywhere else, will put their hopes in making direct appeal to officials. Whereas local officials may occasionally respond to letters, writing to high-ranking officials in Party Central is like tossing a rock into the ocean. There are also many, in particular human rights lawyers, […]


China Change, February 28, 2018       We don’t know what Xi Jinping was expecting when the proposed removal of the term limit for state chairman was announced on February 25 — but he was wrong if he was expecting that the news would be received like a beam of light from the sky, eliciting awe and relief, as depicted in a recent CCTV propaganda video glorifying Xi as the father figure of the people and the country. Xi and his loyalists seem to have been stung by the shock and ridicule — and sometimes the pointed silence — coming from Chinese social media. The censors clamped down fast and heavily. An explainer in People’s Daily a few hours after the announcement summarized ten […]


Mo Zhixu, February 27, 2018   On February 26, China’s official news agency Xinhua published the Chinese Communist Party Central Committee’s Proposed Amendments to China’s constitution (Chinese). The Party proposed revising the clause “The term of office of the Chairman (国家主席) and Vice-Chairman of the People’s Republic of China is the same as that of the National People’s Congress, and they shall serve no more than two consecutive terms” to “The term of office of the Chairman and Vice-Chairman of the People’s Republic of China is the same as that of the National People’s Congress.” During the Party’s 19th congress in November, 2017, no one in the new politburo standing committee appeared to be the potential successor of Xi Jinping, as Hu Jintao was to […]


February 19, 2018   On July 9, 2015, in the mass arrest of Chinese human rights lawyers and defenders known as the “709 Crackdown,” the security authorities used “residential surveillance at a designated place” (指定居所监视居住), a disguised form of secret detention, to detain lawyers. They denied family the ability to hire their own counsel, conducted secret trials, and violated the principle of “innocent until proven guilty” by forcing prisoners to plead guilt in video recordings for state media before trial. This campaign-style (运动式) suppression has engendered panic and backlash domestically, and led to widespread censure from the international community. The lessons of the 709 mass arrests are deep. The rising prominence of human rights lawyers was, in the first place, a wonderful opportunity for the […]


China Change, February 12, 2018     On February 9, lawyer Chen Wuquan (陈武权) was criminally detained with five villagers on an island off the coast of Zhanjiang (湛江), on the southwest peninsular of Guangdong Province. He was not a lawyer representing clients in a land rights defense case, as one may assume. Instead, he was a disbarred lawyer living at home in his village, leading an effort against forced demolition, illegal land reclamation, and the logging of redwoods along the beach. The group of six had petitioned on behalf of the village, and the police responded by detaining them for “obstructing the start of construction.” On February 11, Chen Wuquan’s family received notice of his criminal detention. Before he led villagers to protest illegal […]


Mo Zhixu, February 4, 2018   “Rather, reform has been used as a kind of calibrating tool for the system to retain complete control in the political, economic, social, and cultural spheres.”   In 1981, Polish president Wojciech Jaruzelski ordered a crackdown on the growing Solidarity movement. Eight years later, under pressure of internal unrest as well as a cultural thaw in the Soviet Union, the Polish Communist government and Solidarity held roundtable talks. On June 4, 1989, free parliamentary elections were held in Poland and the Communists suffered a crushing defeat. Jaruzelski resigned in 1990 and Solidarity leader Lech Wałęsa took his place as president. Poland marked its transition to democracy without shedding a drop of blood. Poland’s case is unique among the political […]


Tang Danhong, translated by Anne Henochowicz, January 26, 2018   Elliot Sperling died in his sleep at the end of January, 2017 (the Wikipedia entry puts the date of his death on January 29, 2017). In our unabating sorrow of losing a dear friend, China Change presents a full translation of Ms. Tang Danhong’s interview with Elliot. Ms. Tang (唐丹鸿) is herself a prolific writer about Tibet, and now lives with her family in Israel. The interview was conducted in Chinese on July 27, 2014, in New York City. Ms. Tang published it for the first time in February, 2017.  — The Editors         “When I got to Greece, someone said to me, ‘You know, the road doesn’t end in Greece. You could […]


China Change, January 24, 2018       On Monday evening the Guangzhou-based lawyer Sui Muqing (隋牧青) was notified by his law firm that government officials from the provincial Justice Department would inspect the firm the following morning and that Sui, in particular, must be present. He felt a nervous chill and began to suspect that his communications on a series of human rights cases he has represented had upset high-level officials. On Tuesday morning (January 23), two officials from the Justice Department arrived, announcing on the spot that Sui’s law license had been revoked. The written announcement cited two incidents as cause of the punishment: that he disrupted court order while defending New Citizen Movement activists on April 8, 2014, by quitting the court […]


Sun Liping, January 21, 2018   This essay was published when I first launched a public WeChat column. Now, I’ve made some revisions, and am publishing it again as follows. I’m doing this because people have a hard time comprehending a few recent events because they were incredibly unreasonable. It’s hard to understand why people, who are clearly smart and have gone through great travails, are screwing things up so badly. This essay attempts to explain this phenomenon from the perspective of the thinking of the system. –– Sun Liping, December 14, 2017.   About 20 years ago, I once said: Sometimes the system is more stupid than individuals in the system. That is to say, people within the system may all appear to be […]


Yaxue Cao, January 15, 2018       As of January 15, 2018, human rights lawyer Wang Quanzhang (王全璋) had been held incommunicado for 920 days. This makes him the only 709 detainee who hasn’t been heard from since the notorious 709 Crackdown began in July 2015. Last Friday, two lawyers, a former client, and three wives of 709 victims travelled from Beijing to arrive early morning at the First Detention Center in Tianjin, a half hour ride by high-speed train. The sun had risen, and a rich orange hue cloaked everything. A large-character slogan ran the length of the walls of the Detention Center: “Be Loyal to the Party, Serve the People, Enforce the Law with Fairness.” They were the first visitors waiting for […]


Huang Yu, January 5, 2017   Zhen Jianghua has been placed under secrect detention known as “residential surveillance at a designated place,” his lawyer Ren Quanniu was told over the phone on December 13, 2017. Zhen continues to be denied access to his lawyers. — The Editors        Zhen Jianghua (甄江华) hadn’t yet gone to bed at midnight on September 1, 2017, when police burst into his apartment and put him in handcuffs. As he was being led out, he was unperturbed, and simply told his roommate: “Make sure you tell Xiao Li (小丽) to check Taobao and pick up my packages.” Xiao Li is Zhen Jianghua’s ex-wife. The phrase was code to say that she should spread the news of his arrest. […]


Chinese Human Rights Lawyers Group, January 1, 2018   It is with a heavy heart and a sense of desolation that we begin our New Year’s dedication, just as China is shrouded in smog and enveloped in haze. But regardless of the challenges and suffering of the past year, we have not cowered. We continue to hope that 2018 will bring us closer to freedom. We also wish that our own hope will become infectious, and that the citizens of China will together fight for a free, beautiful future and country. 2017 was again a year of no shortage of injustice and wanton violations of the law by the country’s judicial organs. Ugly words such as suffocation, shackles, and dungeons tested our resolve; deaths, disappearances, […]


China Change, December 26, 2017     On the morning of December 26 courts in Tianjin and Changsha announced the verdicts respectively of Wu Gan, a seminal activist, and Xie Yang, a human rights lawyer. Xie Yang was found guilty of “inciting subversion of state power” while Wu Gan’s refusal to cooperate led him to receive the more severe “subversion of state power.” Both were “convicted,” but Xie Yang was exempt from punishment, while Wu Gan was handed a heavy sentence of eight years. In a live broadcast, Xie Yang was made to once again deny that he had been tortured, and to thank all parties for a “fair” trial and for “safeguarding” his rights. The first time he was forced to make this false […]


China Change, December 22, 2017     Around 4:30 p.m. on December 19, dissident writer Li Xuewen (黎学文) got off Guangzhou subway’s No. 5 line at the Guangzhou Train Station. Before he swiped his card to exit, two plainclothes officers approached him, flashed their IDs, and told Li Xuewen that he was wanted by the Ministry of Public Security for allegedly “gathering a crowd to disrupt social order.” This refers to Li’s participation in a seaside memorial in Xinhui, Guangdong, on July 19, 2017, four days after the eventual death of China’s most known dissident and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo. At least a dozen or so people took part in it, ten have been detained and then released “on bail.” Li Xuewen told […]


Mo Zhixu, December 14, 2017       In the evening of November 18, 2017, a fire broke out in the Jufuyuan Apartments (聚福缘公寓) in Beijing’s Daxing District (大兴区), prompting authorities across the city to begin “clearing out illegal apartments.” In an abrupt and sweeping action, tens of thousands of people were commanded to collect their belongings and vacate their homes onto the cold and windy streets of China’s capital. It was heart wrenching to watch. The incident raised much online discussion. The drive to remove the so-called “low-end population” (低端人口) of Beijing harks back to the “shitizen” (屁民) phenomenon that arose a decade earlier in Shenzhen. For many, it is a blatant reminder that in China, a veil of prosperity and affluence conceals the […]


Yaxue Cao, December 13, 2017     Humanitarian China celebrated its 10th anniversary in Los Angeles last Sunday, December 10, on International Human Rights Day. I was there with more than 200 others, one of the largest recent gatherings of overseas Chinese who support democracy and human rights in China. Gone is the time when, in the wake of the Tiananmen Massacre, several thousand Chinese students and visiting scholars gathered in Chicago in 1989 to form the Independent Federation of Chinese Students and Scholars and give their support in words and actions to the cause of democracy in China. “Where are all the Chinese?” Someone asked me once, referring to the puniness of a June 4th Massacre commemoration one year. I asked back: “Where are […]


China Citizens Movement Outstanding Citizenship Award Selection Committee, December 10, 2017                                                                                                                                                                    Introducing Li Wenzu Li Wenzu (李文足) was born in Badong, Hubei, on April 5, 1985. She is the wife of Wang Quanzhang (王全璋), a human rights lawyer who was arrested during the 709 crackdown. She worked as a tour guide and did business. After losing contact with her husband in July, 2015, she became a housewife, taking care of her son and working to rescue Wang as well as other lawyers and activists arrested in the 709 Incident. During the two years since Wang’s disappearance, Li and other 709 families have stood by each other in the face of harassment, threats, detentions, and even physical violence. They persevered even as their children […]


Teng Biao, December 7, 2017   This is the Foreword to The People’s Republic of the Disappeared: Stories From Inside China’s System for Enforced Disappearances, a newly published book about China’s “Residential Surveillance at a designated location.”       Those holding unchecked power often seek to hide their cruelty behind euphemisms. In China, classic examples range from “land reform” to the “Cultural Revolution.” You can’t easily see the cruelty from the surface of such words. Expressions like “the three year natural disaster,” used by the Communist Party to describe the Great Leap Forward of 1958 to 1961 in which tens of millions died, or the “6/4 counterrevolutionary riot,” the description of the Tiananmen Democracy movement, are shameless acts of misrepresenting history and reversing right […]


Hu Ping, December 5, 2017     The World’s Political Parties Dialogue held by the Communist Party of China in Beijing closed on December 3, 2017. According to the Global Times, representatives who attended the meeting include Burmese leader and State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi, President of the Cambodian People’s Party and Prime Minister of Cambodia Hun Sen, President Choo Mi-ae of South Korea’s Democratic United Party, representatives of parties from traditionally friendly countries such as the United Russia Party and Communist Party of Vietnam, and representatives from G7 countries including the U.S. Republican Party, Liberal Democratic Party of Japan, the Conservative Party (UK), the Republican Party (France), and the Liberal Party of Canada.” After the meeting the Xinhua News Agency published a document titled […]


China Change, November 29, 2017     On November 18, 2017, a huge fire broke out in Xinjian Village, Daxing County, in the Beijing suburbs, killing 19 people. Subsequently the Beijing municipal government launched a large-scale campaign known as “big investigation, big clean-up, and big rectification of hidden safety trouble,” issuing eviction orders that forced thousands of migrant workers to leave their residences in the freezing night. In official documents, they are referred to as the “low-end population.” While the exact number is hard to estimate at this point, the eviction map suggests that the number is likely to be in tens of thousands. Men, women, old and young migrant workers left Beijing in haste, dragging as many of their belongings as they could out […]


Wang Yu, November 13, 2017   Wang Yu (王宇), born 1971 in Inner Mongolia, was a lawyer with Beijing Fengrui Law Firm when she was abducted in the early morning of July 9, 2015. The date of her detention marks the beginning of, and gives name to, the most notorious human rights event over the last two years – the 709 Crackdown. She was released on bail on August 2016, but until recently Wang Yu, her husband and son have been sequestered in an apartment in Ulan Hot, Inner Mongolia, under severe surveillance. The family returned to their home in Beijing recently. Below is an excerpt of Wang Yu’s account of her first two months in Beijing from July to September, 2015. She is currently […]


China Change, November 13, 2017     Today in Tianjin, lawyer Wang Yu’s 18-year-old son Bao Zhuoxuan (包卓轩) was again blocked from leaving China. He was due to fly to Tokyo. The border control in Tianjing told him and his parents that he is “a national security threat,” and mutilated his passport on spot (see photo above). According to Wang Yu, her son has passed IELTS and is awaiting admission from the University of Melbourne.  On July 9, 2015, Bao Zhuoxuan, on route to Australia to study, was stopped and detained in Beijing Capital Airport along with his father who accompanied him. That same night, his mother was abducted from home, marking the beginning of the 709 Crackdown. The community of Chinese human rights lawyers responded to […]


China Change, November 8, 2017     The city of Weimar announced on June 30 that, in compliance with the Weimar City Council’s recommendation, they were awarding this year’s Weimar Human Rights Prize to Ilham Tohti in recognition of his work upholding the rights of the Uighur people and promoting understanding between Uighurs and Han Chinese. In accordance with tradition, the Prize is awarded every year on December 10—International Human Rights Day. The Weimar City Council, in announcing the award, said: “As a professor of economics and sociology at the Central University for Nationalities (Minzu), for decades Ilham Tohti spared no effort in publicizing the economic and social difficulties faced by Uighurs in Xinjiang. At the same time he advocated the peaceful coexistence of Uighurs, […]


China Change, November 6, 2017     Wen Donghai (文东海) is a 43-year-old lawyer in Changsha, Hunan Province. He grew up in a mountainous village and became a policeman in the Changsha Municipal Public Security Bureau. Bored and unfulfilled, he quit his job, went to graduate school and became a lawyer in 2009. He came into contact with human rights lawyers in 2014, and in 2015 was a defense lawyer in the case of three Guangzhou activists promoting non-violent resistance and civil disobedience. That was the first human rights case he took on. When the July 9, 2015 (709) crackdown on human rights lawyers began, he became the defense lawyer for Wang Yu, the first of scores of lawyers arrested that day and afterward.  But […]


Yaxue Cao, November 1, 2017     Li Aijie (李爱杰) is from Henan province, China’s central plains. She married a man named Zhang Haitao (张海涛) in Urumqi, Xinjiang, who moved from Henan to the far northwestern region in the 1990s seeking job opportunities after being laid off from a state-owned enterprise. He made a living trading in electronics. The couple were very much in love. Embittered by personal injustices in the hands of authorities, he was attracted from 2009 onward to the thriving rights defense activism around the country. He partook in online forums that discussed democratic ideas; he volunteered for the human rights website Human Rights Campaign (“权利运动”); he signed a petition urging the Chinese government to abolish the extra-legal Reeducation Through Labor detention system; he gave interviews […]


China Change, October 31, 2017     On the afternoon of October 31, lawyer Li Yuhan’s (李昱函) family revealed that she had been criminally detained by Shenyang Public Security Bureau. The charges against her are unclear. She was last heard from on October 9 when she texted her younger brother that she had been taken away by police from Shenyang PSB Heping District. Over the past three weeks, her relatives called the municipal government offices for her whereabouts. She is one of the two lawyers who have represented lawyer Wang Yu (王宇), the first human rights lawyer detained during the massive 709 Crackdown on human rights lawyers. During Wang Yu’s detention, lawyer Li made numerous trips to Tianjin to try to meet her client but […]


October 25, 2017   Yaxue Cao sat down with Wang Dan (王丹) on September 27 and talked about his past 28 years since 1989: the 1990s, Harvard, teaching in Taiwan, China’s younger generation, his idea for a think tank, his books, assessment of current China, Liu Xiaobo, and the New School for Democracy. –– The Editors     YC: Wang Dan, sitting down to do an interview with you I’m feeling nostalgic, because as soon as I close my eyes the name Wang Dan brings back the image of that skinny college student with large glasses holding a megaphone in a sea of protesters on Tiananmen Square. That was 1989. Now you have turned 50. So having this interview with you outside a cafe in […]


Xie Yanyi, October 15, 2017   Xie Yanyi (谢燕益) is one of the twenty or so 709 detainees during China’s sweeping, still ongoing crackdown on human rights lawyers and activists. He was held incommunicado  from, July 12, 2015 to January 18, 2017, in Tianjin. As a human rights lawyers, Xie Yanyi’s career spans from 2003 to the time when he was detained, representing dozens of cases involving religious freedom, freedom of speech, forced expropriation of land and property, corruption, local elections, political prisoners, and more. Meanwhile, he has been known for passionately advocating democratic transition in China. During the 553 days of disappearance, his wife gave birth to a baby girl, and his mother died without him knowing it. In September he posted a book […]


Meng Han, October 11, 2017     Continued from Part One   Governmental Dysfunction and NGO Work In our time of great changes, the term “NGO”—when applied to our Service Center—inevitably has some political connotation. NGO workers have nothing to do with any criminal activities, but have everything to do with governmental dysfunction. It is precisely because of this that we drew attention from society. It is also because of this that the media, scholars, and workers have taken an interest in us and observed our work. As a matter of fact, it is inevitable that NGOs will impact the government in any country. The core issue is in what manner NGOs are making an impact. In my opinion, the involvement of the Service Center […]


Meng Han, October 10, 2017   On December 3, 2015, Guangdong police raided a series of labor NGOs in the Pearl River Delta area, detaining several NGO leaders and activists. Among them was Meng Han (孟晗), a then 50-year-old experienced labor activist and an intern at Panyu Migrant Worker Service Center in Guangzhou. Meng Han had served nine months in jail for leading a rights struggle in between 2013 and 2014, and this time, he was tried and sentenced to twenty-one months in prison. Last month he was released and shortly afterward he posted “Notes From Prison” (《狱中札记》) on social media. He was subsequently questioned by police and given warnings. “We are innocent,” he told the court in 2013 and his words still ring true, […]


Andrea Worden, October 9, 2017     In January 2017, after his success at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Xi Jinping traveled to Geneva to deliver a rare, invitation-only speech at the UN’s Palais des Nations. Most of the top UN officials were present, and Secretary- General António Guterres gave opening remarks that failed to include even a mention of human rights. Human Rights Watch described Xi’s reception in Geneva by UN officials as an “obsequious red carpet treatment,” and said the measures to protect Xi and ensure the event unfolded without disruptions were “highly unusual.” These measures included emptying the complex of many of the approximately 3,000 staff who work there, closing parking lots and meeting rooms, and prohibiting accredited nongovernmental organizations […]


Yaxue Cao, October 3, 2017   Early in September the Justice Department of Shandong province notified Zhu Shengwu (祝圣武), a 36-year-old lawyer in Jinan, the provincial capital, that his “anti-Communist Party, anti-socialism” expressions online had “threatened national security,” and he was disbarred. Mr. Zhu requested a public hearing. Zhu Shengwu heads the Shandong Xinchang Law Firm (山东信常律师事务所) which he founded about a year ago. He has been practicing for only five years, specializing in intellectual property rights, particularly online copyright disputes. Beginning this year, however, he began taking on so-called “sensitive cases” – i.e., involving human rights. Among others, he represented Wang Jiangfeng (王江峰), a man from Shandong who was found guilty of “picking quarrels and provoking trouble” and sentenced to two years in prison […]


Yang Jianli, September 22, 2017     Recently, the long detained Taiwanese citizen and human rights activist Lee Ming-che appeared in a bogus trial in Chinese courts and was forced to plead guilty to “subverting (Chinese) state power”. Outraged family members and Taiwanese supporters might want to come to the United Nations’ human rights mechanisms for help — but they can’t. This is because they, as citizens of Taiwan, are not represented at the world governing body. With pressure from China, even Taiwanese tourists are routinely excluded from visiting the UN Headquarters with Taiwanese passports. Egregious and ridiculous as such is the reality facing us today. The only thing preventing Taiwan, a full democracy, from taking its rightful seat in the UN is China, and China’s aggressive posture on the international stage with respect […]


Safeguard defenders, September 19, 2017     Among the many revelations into the systematic repression of the human rights community to have come to light since the beginning of the 709 Crackdown have been accounts from those released about the access of police and state security to chat logs and emails, even communications and documents those people thought they had deleted. This heightened awareness has certainly pushed the idea of taking digital security precautions in how to prevent sensitive information from falling into the hands of police in the event of detention. However, the focus of trainings and guidebooks is often directed in the wrong direction, namely on more advanced hacking and sophisticated intrusion. This continued focus on advanced threats actually has and will continue […]


Yaxue Cao, September 14, 2017     It’s said that when Liu Xiaobo (刘晓波) won the Nobel Peace Prize in October 2010, one of his friends wept. But he wasn’t shedding tears of joy. “He will never get out alive,” the friend said. At the time, the 55-year-old Liu had just begun his 11-year sentence at the Jinzhou Prison in Liaoning Province. The prediction that he won’t make it out alive was a difficult one to credit even for the most pessimistic observers of China’s political system (of which, in China, there is no shortage). Anything can happen in 11 years. Many more people — in particular Liu’s large group of friends — were able to bite their tongues until the day Liu was to […]


The China Human Rights Lawyers Group, September 13, 2017     Today, September 13, 2017, marks the fourth anniversary of the founding of the China Human Rights Lawyers Group. Even though it is the obligation of government to respect and safeguard human rights based on international treaties and the Constitution, it is also the natural and professional duty of lawyers. Four years ago today, the China Human Rights Lawyers Group was founded to provide an open platform for professional cooperation. Over the past four years, we have set foot across the country and worked tirelessly against constant obstacles to protect freedom of expression, freedom of belief and other basic civil and political rights. Among us, some have lost their freedom and even their lives. Since […]


Hermann Aubié, September 5, 2017       During the eight and a half years that Liu Xiaobo spent in Jinzhou prison, only intermittent attention to both his fate and Liu Xia’s detention kept him from becoming gradually invisible, despite being the world’s only imprisoned Peace Nobel laureate. Now that Liu Xiaobo has passed away of liver cancer on July 13, 2017, there is an even greater danger that what he expressed and stood for will be either poorly remembered or completely forgotten. In the absence of a comprehensive bibliography of his writings, I compiled this list of Liu Xiaobo’s texts that were found on various Chinese websites, magazines, journals and books that had mostly been published in Hong Kong and Taiwan, as part of […]


Safeguard Defenders, August 28, 2017     The Human Rights Tulip is an award by the Dutch government for courageous human rights defenders. Wang Quanzhang (CHINA) is a lawyer, father and husband whose work to defend and protect persecuted religious groups, especially Christians and Falun Gong practitioners, has made him a target himself. He is also a defender who understands that broader change in China must come from developing a wider movement of rights defenders. Since 2008, Wang has worked to develop institutions and mechanisms to train, teach, and offer support to the greater rights defense community, from other rights defense lawyers, “barefoot” lawyers working locally, or victims themselves. Wang is the co-founder of an NGO that established training programs, training many hundreds of lawyers […]


Mo Zhixu, August 16, 2017 The Chinese original was first published in December, 2015.       The importance of Wu Gan “the Super Vulgar Butcher” has been widely recognized for some time, and the most direct testament to his importance comes from none other than the party-state itself.   On May 18, 2015, Wu Gan left for Nanchang, the capital of Jiangxi, to support lawyers in the Leping wrongful conviction case.* That evening, he joined the lawyers’ sit-in at the gate to the Jiangxi High Court, demanding the lawyers’ right to access the case files. On May 19, in a performance typical of Wu Gan, he set two roll-up signs in front of the court calling out court president Zhang Zhonghou (张忠厚). Soon after, Nanchang […]


China Change, August 13, 2017     On Monday one of China’s most well-known rights defense activists, Wu Gan (known by the moniker “The Super Vulgar Butcher” online) will be put on trial in the Tianjin No. 2 Intermediate People’s Court. The court says that the case involves “state secrets” and has announced that it will be a closed hearing. For days now, activists and lawyers around the country have been warned not to travel to Tianjin to try to attend the trial or congregate outside the courthouse. Last December, Wu Gan was charged with subversion of state power. Since the Deng Yujiao case in 2009, he has been an active in the public sphere. All the way until he was arrested in May 2015, […]


Wu Gan, August 9, 2017   Wu Gan (吴淦), arguably the most celebrated activist in recent years in China’s struggle for justice and human rights, and a seminal user of online mobilization and peaceful direct action, was the first detainee of what has come to be known as the 709 Crackdown. Wu Gan became known for his role in mobilizing public support in the Deng Yujiao case (邓玉娇案) in 2009, and in the years following was involved in countless cases, both large and small. He became well known for his audacity and creativity. He also wrote three guides for potential activists and petitioners: Guide to Butchering Pigs (《杀猪宝典》) , Guide to Drinking Tea (《喝茶宝典》) and Guide to Petitioners Fighting Against Forced Demolition of Homes (《访民杀猪宝典》). […]


Hermann Aubié, August 9, 2017     Dear Xiaobo, About three weeks ago, shortly after the world learned about your terminal liver cancer diagnosis of late May 2017, you died aged 61 in the Northeast region of China where you were born. As the poet Tang Danhong wrote, you departed as “an innocent prisoner into the eternal light” (无罪的囚徒,融入永恒的光芒). What a cruel tragedy to live out your last days in a hospital bed under lock and key after fighting most of your life for freedom and human rights! Although I’ve never had the chance to meet you in person, I feel like I’ve lost someone very close to me, as if your death has torn away a part of myself. While you were behind bars […]


By Wu Gan, July 31, 2017 Writing from a detention center in Tianjin, well-known activist Wu Gan (吴淦) is among the last of the 709 detainees. — The Editors     I recently heard the news of Liu Xiaobo’s (刘晓波) death in prison from liver cancer. I also heard of the videos of medical experts treating him, supposedly showing what a “happy life” he led in jail, where he was even allowed to play badminton. I don’t want to be a conspiracy theorist — but who benefited the most from his contraction of liver cancer? It certainly is a beautiful resolution to the hot potato of an annoying Nobel Peace Prize laureate. There have been other deaths in prison — that of Li Wangyang (李旺阳) […]


By Yang Jianli, July 22, 2017 “The U.S. should implement targeted sanctions against those personally responsible for Liu Xiaobo’s death. The U.S. can use the Global Magnitsky Act as a tool to sanction them—banning them from traveling in the U.S. and freezing their assets in this country—and also encourage its allies to do the same. It should also consider trade sanctions. In addition, the U.S. can honor Liu Xiaobo’s life and legacy by passing legislation to permanently rename the street in front of the Chinese Embassy in Washington DC as ‘Liu Xiaobo Plaza.’”       The world lost a hero when China’s only Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Liu Xiaobo, died of liver cancer in Chinese custody on July 13, 2017. In life as well as in death Liu Xiaobo represents the best of what China can ever be. He possessed […]


Wang Dan, July 20, 2017 “Liu Xiaobo’s death also lays bare a reality we sometimes are reluctant to acknowledge: even the most moderate position, so long as it is premised on constitutional democracy, cannot be accepted by the Chinese Communist Party.”       When I heard that Liu Xiaobo had died, I quickly posted the news on Facebook. So many online friends shared their condolences. One message among them struck me as particularly incisive and worthy of our consideration — this friend said that Liu Xiaobo “walked the path of Kang Youwei (康有为), and spilled his blood like Tan Sitong (谭嗣同).” Of course, to say that Liu Xiaobo “walked the path of Kang Youwei” is not to say that Liu advocated for constitutional monarchy, […]


By Chang Ping, July 18, 2017     On July 7, the German professor Markus W Büchler, Chairman of the Department of Surgery, University of Heidelberg, traveled to Shenyang to take part in diagnosing the condition of Liu Xiaobo. Media reports noted that it was the first time in almost a decade that Liu, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, had seen a foreigner. When I read this line I felt full of grief. The visit of a doctor isn’t anything like that of a friend calling in. Liu Xiaobo was imprisoned for his speech and thought, and apart from the small number of family members who’ve long been under house arrest, no one has been able to see him for all these years. Until he […]


Yaxue Cao, July 16, 2017       It was heartbreaking and depressing recently to watch the community of Chinese activists and dissidents, especially friends of Liu Xiaobo, congregating on WhatsApp and frantically thinking of ways to save him. The appeals and statements, and the calls for signatures from a dozen or so sources, sounded like echoes bouncing off the walls that Liu Xiaobo and his wife Liu Xia were trapped behind. For China’s opposition movement, the passing of Liu Xiaobo feels like the climax of a continuous and ruthless campaign of elimination. Now, people are left to pick up the pieces, and they will need time. I have been pointing out that over the past few years, starting from the now benign-looking crackdown on […]


July 15, 2017   “This was a long and public slaughter.”   Today, Xiaobo is gone. Xiaobo, our teacher, our classmate, is gone. The courageous man who protected others’ lives at the scene of the Tiananmen massacre has perished, and the beautiful soul behind Charter 08 has passed away. Xiaobo was a writer, a scholar, a sage, but even more he was a man who acted on his word. He is the unforgettable dark horse in literary circles. His words radiate with rational brilliance; he sacrificed his frail body for Tiananmen; he used pen and ink to calmly write his beautiful freedom-seeking articles. Years of purgatory did not change his ideas. He said at the devil’s court—I have no enemies. Xiaobo had no enemies. But […]


China Change, July 15, 2017     Dr. Xu Zhiyong (许志永), leader of the New Citizens Movement, was released from prison on July 15, after serving a 4-year sentence. Xu Zhiyong’s defense lawyer Zhang Qingfang (张庆方) confirmed that Dr. Xu has returned home in Beijing. He was picked up earlier by the security police, a source said. Yesterday, scores of citizens traveled to the vicinity of Kenhua Prison in Ninghe District in Tianjin where Xu Zhiyong had been imprisoned since he was sentenced in February 2014. Dr. Xu, 44 years old, is a legal scholar and the founder of Gongmeng, a civil society group that pioneered China’s “rights defense movement” and in recent years campaigned for equal education rights for migrant workers’ children in large […]


The China Human Rights Lawyers Group, July 9, 2017   In the early hours of the morning on July 9, 2015, the Beijing-based lawyer Wang Yu and her husband and son, Bao Longjun (包龙军) and Bao Zhuoxuan (包卓轩), were suddenly illegally arrested by the police. Before long, Wang Quanzhang (王全璋), Li Heping (李和平), Xie Yanyi (谢燕益), Zhou Shifeng (周世锋), Xie Yang (谢阳), Sui Muqing (隋牧青), Li Chunfu (李春富), Xie Yuandong (谢远东), Liu Sixin (刘四新), Gao Yue (高月), Zhao Wei (赵威), Li Shuyun (李姝云) and dozens of other lawyers and their assistants were also arrested. At around the same time, Wu Gan (吴淦 known online as “The Butcher”), an activist who was in Nanchang protesting the Jiangxi High Court’s refusal to allow a lawyer to examine […]


China Change, July 7, 2017   “Wang Yu (王宇) was at home by herself that night, having just seen off at the airport her husband Bao Longjun (包龙军), and their son Bao Zhuoxuan (包卓軒). A group of men began idling about outside her home, and when she yelled out asking who they were, they shrank away and kept quiet. About an hour later, when she was unable to raise her husband and son on the phone, and just beginning to get anxious, the lights in her apartment suddenly went out. Her internet was also cut. The harsh buzz of an electric drill shattered the silent darkness and within a few minutes the lock had been drilled out, falling to the ground. A gang of men […]


Wen Donghai, July 6, 2017        With the second anniversary of July 9, 2015 approaching, and as someone who has witnessed it first hand and served as the defense lawyer for one of the prominent 709 detainees, I’ve racked my brains about what to say. I feel that I have so much to say — but at the same time, it seems that only being as quiet and still as a mountain could truly encompass the full meaning of the 709 Crackdown. Naturally, the first people I was worried about when the crackdown began were my client Wang Yu (王宇) and her family. Prior to 709, she was extremely active as a human rights lawyer, gaining the nickname “Goddess of War” (战神) for […]


July 4, 2017       China’s human rights lawyers have since 2003 become one of the most active and effective forces in the country advancing the ideals of universal values, because of their unique role and professional positions. Their work defending the civil rights and liberties of Chinese citizens extends from the internet to the streets, from courtrooms to jails. They’ve fought hard to promote the rule of law and democracy in China. As prominent representatives of Chinese lawyers, human rights lawyers have been the target of the Chinese government’s persecution since the beginning of the rights defense movement. They’ve had their licenses to practice law revoked, they’ve been followed, threatened, publicly slandered by state media, abducted, disappeared, sent to forced labor camps, imprisoned […]


China Human Rights Lawyers Group, June 23, 2017   This year, the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) is partnering with the International Bar Association (IBA) to mark the annual “International Day in Support of Victims of Torture” on June 26. Through storytelling, social media campaigns, and a panel discussion, they hope to advance their “shared ambition for the absolute prohibition of torture.” This year and the year before, we have begun to learn, with horror, about the torture of Chinese human rights lawyers during the 709 Crackdown. Below is a letter from the China Human Rights Lawyers Group addressed and delivered to OHCHR and IBA. — The Editors   To the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for […]


Liao Yiwu, June 2, 2017     (Continued from Part One)   LIAO: I’ve heard some people say that if they had known blood was going to be shed, they would not have resisted. YU ZHIJIAN: It was the student’s Command Center that turned us over [to the authorities]. The guy who headed the UAA Guards was called Guo Haifeng. He told us his name himself — you have to give him credit for being pretty open and candid. He said that the UAA standing committee members took a vote, with the majority deciding to send us off to the Public Security Bureau of the Eastern Quarter Branch Tiananmen office. He had strongly opposed the decision. After an impassioned debate, he was overruled and, what’s […]


Liao Yiwu, June 1, 2017   On the afternoon of May 23, 1989, sitting at home in a small town in Sichuan, poet Liao Yiwu watched in awe scenes from Beijing just after “three hooligans from Hunan” threw paint-filled eggs at the portrait of Mao Zedong, sized 6 by 4.6 meters, hanging on Tiananmen (the Gate of Celestial Peace). Increasingly astonished and impressed, once the full significance of the act sunk in Liao Yiwu came to regard it as the most singular event during the 1989 movement — second perhaps only to the Tank Man. Liao himself, a rebellious poet publishing in underground magazines during the 1980s, would be imprisoned too for writing and performing a long poem titled “The Massacre.” On a sultry and […]


China Change, May 31, 2017   Liu Shaoming’s (刘少明) work as an activist, while based in Guangdong, saw him travel across the country in recent years. In Guangdong he joined the calls for releasing dissident Guo Feixiong (郭飞雄), Tang Jingling (唐荆陵), and numerous other participants in the Southern Street Movement (南方街头运动). He traveled to Xinyu in Jiangxi Province (江西新余), Jixi in Shaanxi Province (陕西鸡西), Jiansanjiang in Heilongjiang (黑龙江建三江), and many other places where citizens gathered to scrutinize the abuse of power. Over the last few years he has been summoned in for talks with the police or detained in police lockups dozens of times, but by what he called “luck” he was spared serious persecution. One human rights lawyer has described Liu as enthusiastic and […]


Wu Renhua, May 29, 2017   Wu Renhua (吳仁華) is a unique scholar. For over 20 years he has been immersed in the primary source materials about what Chinese authorities call “the June 4th incident,” and what is known around the world as the Tiananmen Square Massacre. His academic training of nearly a decade was in ancient Chinese historiography — a set of research methodologies that he never expected he would apply to unraveling the genesis, execution, and aftermath of the bloody slaughter of unarmed students and Beijing residents in 1989. Wu was a junior faculty member of the China University of Political Science and Law in Beijing at the time of the protests, in which he was also a participant. He was one of […]


Wang Qiaoling, May 26, 2017 This interview was conducted on May 5, 2017, three days before lawyer Li Heping returned home. – The Editors     Host: Hello everyone and welcome to “Surveying China,” (放眼大陆); I’m Huang Juan (黄娟). From July 9, 2015, for the next two months, about 300 lawyers, rights defenders, and dissidents were subject to mass disappearances; they were summoned by police, detained, and some have eventually been sentenced and jailed. This became the “709 Crackdown” that shocked the world. It’s been almost two years. Some victims have been imprisoned, others have been released on probation, still others have been given suspended sentences. It would seem that what family members want most is for the victims to be released, no matter what […]


China Change, May 25, 2015       The struggle continues for Chinese workers who labored on the Imperial Pacific casino project. This morning, as captured in this video, over 20 workers are protesting in the streets of Saipan chanting “pay my hard-earned wages, I want to return home.” Below is a letter issued by the protesting workers describing their long hours, low pay, and inhumane treatment. They are demanding to be paid in accordance with U.S. minimum wage and overtime laws as well as seeking compensation for injured workers. These workers were employed by a variety of Chinese construction companies helping construct the casino, including Beilida, Gold Mantis, CMC Macao, and the state-owned enterprise MCC. As the New York Times noted, several of the […]


Chang Ping, May 18, 2017 “Corruption is not just the result of money being misused, but the lack of a fair and transparent mechanism itself.”     God said: “Let there be light,” and then there was light. Xi Jinping said: “A ‘Project of the Century’ must be undertaken,” and then there was “One Belt, One Road.” At the just-completed summit in Beijing, Xi Jinping announced that China will invest hundreds of billions of U.S. dollars in 60 countries to lead in the construction of bridges, railways, ports and energy projects. This venture is known as “One Belt, One Road,” and involves more than 60 percent of the world’s population. It’s projected to transform the global political and economic order, and can be said to […]


May 11, 2017       Related: Workers Stranded in Saipan Without Pay Wrote Letter to Chinese Consulate, May 1, 2017. U.S. Investigates Work at Pacific Island Casino Project With Trump Ties, New York Times, May 4, 2017.      


Chen Guiqiu, May 8, 2017   Over the weekend, ahead of the trial of human rights lawyer Xie Yang (谢阳) on Monday, his wife Chen Guiqiu (陈桂秋) published an article detailing, for the first time, how she first learned about her husband’s torture during the 6-month “residential surveillance at a designated place” and then in the Changsha 2nd Detention Center. Xie Yang, during the three-hour show trial for subversion and disrupting court order, denied being tortured as part of an apparent deal with the government. He looked gaunt in photographs. He was represented by a government appointed lawyer, and no witnesses were called. A handwritten statement by Xie Yang on January 13, sealed with red wax thumbprints, foretold this unfortunate “denial”: “If, one day in […]


May 4, 2017     We have learned that, around 1 pm on May 3, 2017, Beijing lawyer Chen Jiangang (陈建刚), his wife and two young children, as well as their friends Zhang Baocheng (张宝成) and his wife, were forcibly taken into custody by local police while the company was on a tourist trip in Jinghong, Yunnan province (云南景洪). In doing so, the police did not present any legal warrant. Lawyer Chen Jiangang and the company have now been in custody for over 19 hours, and their belongings have been confiscated. [As of the publication of the translation of this statement, they have been detained for over 30 hours.] We are acutely aware that lawyer Chen Jiangang has riled the authorities for revealing the torture […]


Li Aijie, April 29, 2017 This is the second and last installment of Li Aijie’s account of her trip. Zhang Haitao was sentenced to 15 years in prison on January 15, 2016, for “inciting subversion of state power” and 5 years for “providing intelligence to foreign organizations.” He’s currently imprisoned in Shaya Prison in remote western Xinjiang. He believes that he is innocent, and has retained an attorney to represent him for a petition for retrial (申诉). — The Editors     On April 22, 2017 I took a train from Urumqi, and arrived in Aksu on the morning of April 23 at around 8:00 a.m. Human rights volunteer Huang Xiaomin (黄晓敏) was already waiting at the train station. After breakfast the four of us—Huang, […]


China Change, April 28, 2017     Late Friday, evening time Beijing, Wang Qiaoling (王峭岭) and Li Wenzu (李文足) issued the following video statement. China Change offers our audience a translation:   Statement by Wang Qiaoling and Li Wenzu Wang Qiaoling: This morning at 11:00 a.m. I was walking out the first floor entrance of our apartment building with my daughter when I found myself surrounded by a large group of state security agents. Among them were Beijing state security agents, Tianjin state security agents, chief of the Tianjin Jiaguasi (挂甲寺) police station, and the neighborhood property management people. As they closed in on me, the state security officers demanded that we discuss Li Heping’s case. I thought it was a standard attempt to threaten […]


Chen Jiangang, April 24, 2017 This article was written in December, 2015. Between then and now, the 45-year-old but youthful looking human rights lawyer Xie Yang (谢阳) performed a rare act of courage: revealing his torture in full detail while still behind bars, and despite the perpetrators’ repeated threats. The author Chen Jiangang (陈建刚), a friend, became Xie Yang’s defense lawyer in December 2016, recording the torture in a series meetings earlier this year. Then in an equally courageous action, Chen published them. The revelations caused an international stir, providing a rare but clear glimpse of  the “709 Crackdown” on human rights lawyers, while also showing how the Chinese authorities routinely use unspeakable torture to extract confessions. “[Xie Yang’s] thought was that he wanted to […]


Li Aijie, April 23, 2017 Born in 1971, the Urumqi-based Zhang Haitao (张海涛) was arrested on June 26, 2015 for his online speech: to be precise, 69 WeChat posts and 205 Twitter posts, including retweets of others’ tweets. On January 15, 2016, Zhang was sentenced to 15 years in prison for “inciting subversion of state power” and 5 years in prison for “providing intelligence to overseas [entities].” He was given a 19-year sentence. On November 28, 2016, the Superior Court of the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region upheld the lower court’s ruling. On December 2, 2016, Zhang Haitao was sent to Shaya Prison in southwestern Xinjiang to serve his jail term, which ends on June 25, 2034, when he will be 63 years old. He hasn’t […]


China Change, April 21, 2017     Since the publication in early January of the “Transcript of Interviews with Lawyer Xie Yang,” made by lawyer Chen Jiangang (陈建刚), detailing a series of meetings with Xie Yang (谢阳) at the Changsha 2nd Detention Center, the Xie Yang case has taken many bizarre turns. The revelations of torture in the interviews, the first meticulously-recorded and lengthy account of the abuse meted out to a human rights lawyer, offer a shocking view of the “709 crackdown” since mid-2015. As of now, four human rights lawyers and a number of activists are still in detention, and in the case of lawyer Li Heping (李和平) and Wang Quanzhang (王全璋), have been denied access to their lawyers for well over 600 […]


Chen Guiqiu, April 9, 2017 Since February 27, four weeks after the much-reported torture of Chinese human rights lawyer Xie Yang (谢阳). who has been imprisoned since July 2015, the two family-appointed lawyers of Xie have repeatedly been denied meetings with him. The last time they saw him was February 6. According to Chinese law, lawyers are free to meet their clients any time during the trial stage. Rattled by the coverage of torture and responses by international legal professionals as well as foreign governments, China took extraordinary steps in early March to deny the torture and attempt to discredit the report, in an all-out propaganda assault. They forced lawyer Jiang Tianyong to confess to the “fabrication” on national television, and threatened Xie Yang’s lawyer […]


March 31, 2017 Taiwanese pro-democracy activist Lee Ming-che disappeared on March 19 after clearing immigration in Macau. China has confirmed that Lee is being investigated on suspicion of ‘pursuing activity harmful to national security.’ This is an unauthorized translation of his wife’s statement. — The Editors   Lee Ching-yu’s Press Release: I’ve been a historian of Taiwan’s period of political violence, the “White Terror,” for many years. Now that my own my loved one is detained, terror grips my heart. I’ve tried so hard to calm myself, to carefully compose my thoughts. I know from the history of the White Terror in Taiwan that when a country’s system of rule of law hasn’t risen to international standards, all attempts to offer defenses according to the […]


Chen Yunfei, March 31, 2017   The Sichuan-based activist was arrested in April, 2015, for “picking quarrels and provoking trouble.” He was tried on December 26, 2016, a six-month delay from the scheduled trial in June. On March 30, the court sentenced him to four years in prison. He attended yesterday’s hearing in pajamas, and upon hearing his sentence, called out, “I will appeal; it’s much too light!” — The Editors   Dear lawyers and crooks of public security apparatus, procuratorate, and court, I’ve been tormented for two years now, to the point that I’ve started to feel like the Monkey King (孙悟空) trapped in the searing flames of Lao Zi’s crucible — exceedingly comfortable. The persecution, the beatings, the shackling, have all turned into […]


Yaxue Cao, March 28, 2017     When on March 1 Chinese media launched a sudden and all-out smear campaign claiming that the torture of human rights lawyer Xie Yang (谢阳) was a fabrication, and that Western media coverage of it was “fake news,” many of us wondered what this outburst was all about. A UN Human Rights Council meeting? The German Chancellor’s planned visit? Now we know. On February 27, diplomatic missions in Beijing from 11 countries wrote a letter, expressing their “growing concern over recent claims of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment in cases concerning detained human rights lawyers and other human rights defenders.” The letter also urged China to abandon the practice of secret detention known as […]


China Change, March 25, 2017     When one of the two defense lawyers for Pastor Yang Hua (仰华) of the Living Stone house church in Guiyang traveled to the Nanming District Detention Center (贵阳市南明区看守所) to meet their client on March 20, he was surprised to see Yang almost carried into the meeting room by three sturdy cellmates. Yang Hua’s face showed he was full of pain, seemingly on the verge of paralysis. The lawyer discovered that, three days previously, Yang’s legs suddenly became inflamed and ulcerated, and the festering was spreading fast, with the burning pain keeping him up at night. The physician on duty at the detention center treated it as nothing more than a superficial skin infection and administered painkillers. Yang’s condition […]


Chen Jiangang, March 22, 2017   The public didn’t know until yesterday that ambassadors from 11 countries wrote a letter to China’s Minister of Public Security on February 27, 2017, expressing their grave concern over recent reports of torture of human rights lawyers, and China’s use of secret detention known as “residential surveillance at a designated location” (RSDL). In light of our knowledge of this letter, China’s massive smear campaign beginning on March 1 — two days after the letter was received — becomes much more disturbing. China made lawyer Jiang Tianyong (江天勇) “confess” on camera that he had made up the reports of Xie Yang’s (谢阳) torture; Jiang was forcibly disappeared on November 21, 2016, and subsequently placed under RSDL, and thus could not […]


China Change, March 9, 2017   On March 1, Chinese state-run print and television media launched a massive campaign to discredit reports that human rights lawyer Xie Yang was severely tortured during his detention, from July 11, 2015 to the present. The propaganda apparatus paraded on camera Jiang Tianyong, another human rights lawyer kidnapped by state security in November 2016, “confessing” that he had fabricated the details of torture to capture the attention of Western media and governments, who are said to be implacably biased against China. Jiang Tianyong is believed to have been tortured to subjection. The next day, the official Weibo account of the Chinese Communist Party’s Youth League trotted out a four minute video that, in addition to repeating the same smears, […]


By Anonymous, March 8, 2017 This poem is making rounds on Chinese social media as execrable protests against South Korea over THAAD deployment continue across the country.  Enjoy. – The Editors   In the morning I hate America After lunchtime I hate Korea In the evening, I hate the Japanese I have to squeeze in hate for Singapore and the Taiwanese Then at night when I dream I hate on Vietnam and the Philippines On Monday I oppose Korea On Tuesday, Japan On Wednesday, it’s the Americans On Thursday I oppose the independence of Taiwan Friday, that of Hong Kong Come Saturday, against independence in Tibet is what I am On the Sabbath, it’s that of Uyghurs in Xinjiang My life is so wonderful and rich Of everything else, […]


March 7, 2017 On February 28, 2017, and then again on March 6, police in Changsha refused to allow the defense counsel of detained human rights lawyer Xie Yang (谢阳) to meet with him. In between, starting March 1, China’s state propaganda apparatus launched a smear campaign telling the world that the widely-reported torture of Xie Yang was a fabrication. Former lawyer Jiang Tianyong (江天勇), who had been disappeared on November 21, appeared on state television confessing that he had somehow made up the torture details. The authorities’ specious narrative makes it abundantly clear who is doing the fabricating. The smear campaign clearly aims to rein in the defiant human rights lawyers and to misinform the world. Given this, there is now a credible fear […]


Chen Jiangang, March 4, 2017       1.   I cherish life. I want to live to see the universal values of democracy, liberty, rule of law, and human rights realized in China. I want to see a constitutional system of government established in China. If these things don’t happen I’ll die without peace. I cherish my family. I want to see my children grow and live in freedom and health. For all these reasons, I will not kill myself. If something unexpected happens to me, please know that it will absolutely not be because I committed suicide. 2.  I have committed no crime. I will never, of my own volition, assent to any illegal interrogation, and nor will I level false charges against […]


Chen Jiangang, March 3, 2017 When lawyer Chen Jiangang published the “Transcript of Interviews with Lawyer Xie Yang,” the revelations of torture garnered a great deal of attention in the international press and legal profession. To name a few among the many media and professional organizations that covered the transcripts or lamented the lawlessness of Chinese authorities: The Washington Post, the American Bar Association Journal, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, El País, Agencia EFE, The Guardian, The Irish Times, Brussels Diplomatic, and Le Monde. Twenty-nine respected lawyers and judges from around the world penned a letter demanding that China respect the rule of law, while the European Union issued a rare statement expressing concern over the reported torture of human rights lawyers. […]


Wang Qiaoling, Li Wenzu, Chen Guiqiu, Jin Bianling, March 1, 2017   The following letter was recently delivered to: U. S. Senator Marco Rubio and Congressman Chris Smith, co-chairs of the Congressional-Executive Commission on China; Congressman James McGovern and Joseph Pitts, co-chairs of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission of the U. S. Congress; Angela Merkel, Chancellor of Germany; Frank-Walter Steinmeier, the President of Germany; Sigmar Gabriel, the Foreign Minister of Germany; François Hollande, the President of France; Bernard Cazeneuve, the Prime Minister of France.   We thank you for your sustained attention to the human rights situation in China, especially on the matter of the “709 lawyers,” who have been targeted from July 9, 2015 to this day. The case began with the mass […]


Li Xuewen, February 21, 2017     In the world of Chinese Communist Party propaganda, the image of Deng Xiaoping (邓小平) has been molded into that of the master architect of China’s reform and opening up. He’s said to have helped China through two major transformations: the reform and opening up following the Cultural Revolution, and then the development of a market economy following his Southern Tour in 1992. Thus, in the mythology of the Chinese Communist Party, Deng is the second deity following Mao Zedong (毛泽东). But if we step back, take in a broader historical perspective, and make a rational examination at the twentieth anniversary of Deng’s death (February 19, 1997), it quickly becomes clear that Deng Xiaoping managed to effect only one […]


Tsering Woeser, February 10, 2017 Woeser’s note: This essay was written in Lhasa in the summer of 2014, for a very special book. The volume, “Trails of the Tibetan Tradition: Papers for Elliot Sperling,” was a compilation of 31 essays from Tibetologists, paying respect to Elliot Sperling. There were 5 essays in Tibetan, 25 in English, and 1 in Chinese. On February 3, 2015, the book was launched at the Amnye Machen Institute [in Dharamsala]. Prior to that, Elliot didn’t know that this book had been in preparation for two years. It was presented as a gift to him as a token of respect and friendship, and most importantly as a testament to his preciousness and rarity: wise, kind, brave, righteous. And yet… those whom […]


Elliot Sperling, February 5, 2017 In memory of Elliot, who passed away last week. I recovered this from my email archive, dated September 17, 2016, the day after Ilham Tohti was nominated for the Sakharov Prize. It is published here for the first time. – Yaxue Cao     The nomination last week of the imprisoned Uyghur Professor Ilham Tohti for the European Parliament’s Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought is welcome recognition of the role this courageous individual has played in working for the fundamental rights of a beleaguered people, a people subject to one of the harshest regimens that China visits on any nationalities or collective groups within its borders. But the persecution of Ilham Tohti serves as an example of how China’s […]


January 25, 2017   Lawyer Li Heping (李和平) is one of China’s earliest human rights lawyers and no stranger to torture. In an interview with the artist Ai Weiwei in 2010, he recounted how he was abducted one day in 2007 by Chinese domestic security police, beaten savagely, and thrown onto a hill outside Beijing in the middle of the night. In recent years he ran an anti-torture education program in Beijing, which was likely the reason for his arrest, along with scores of other lawyers, in July 2015, in what is now known as the “709 Incident.” Last week, lawyer Chen Jiangang (陈建刚) published his interviews with lawyer Xie Yang (谢阳) detailed horrific torture the latter was subjected to during a period of “residential […]


Xie Yang, Chen Jiangang, January 22, 2017     Continued from Part One, Part Two and Part Three   [The interview began at 9:47:50 a.m. on January 6, 2017] Chen Jiangang (陈建刚, “CHEN”): Let’s continue our conversation. What happened after you refused the attempts by Yin Zhuo (尹卓) to get you to implicate others? XIE: I tend to be constipated and need to eat fruit; otherwise the condition can get rather serious. I couldn’t even drink water while I was locked up, so my constipation got very serious and I was in extreme pain. I asked them to give me some fruit to eat. They didn’t give me any at first, but later they wanted me to trade. I would have to write a statement […]


Xie Yang, Chen Jiangang, January 21, 2017     Continued from Part One and Part Two   [The interview began at 2:49:55 p.m. on January 5, 2017.] Chen Jiangang (陈建刚, “CHEN”): Let’s continue. Xie Yang (谢阳, “XIE”): Okay. CHEN: Other than not letting you sleep, were there other ways they used to coerce you? XIE: Yes. They have a kind of slow torture called the “dangling chair.” It’s like I said before—they made me sit on a bunch of plastic stools stacked on top each other, 24 hours a day except for the two hours they let me sleep. They make you sit up there, with both feet unable to touch the ground. I told them that my right leg was injured from before, and […]


Xie Yang, Chen Jiangang, January 20, 2017     Continued from Part One   (The interview started at 9:23:32 a.m. on January 5, 2017) Chen Jiangang (陈建刚, “CHEN”): Today Lawyer Liu Zhengqing (刘正清) had to go back. Let’s continue our interview. XIE: Okay. CHEN: At the time you were put in Room 207, you hadn’t slept for all of the 11th and half a day on the 12th—that’s at least 30 hours. Did you ask for time to sleep? Were you tired? XIE: Very tired! But they always had someone coming in, so I couldn’t even shut my eyes. CHEN: Describe what happened after you got to the room. XIE: After I got to the room, police kept coming in one after another to ask […]


Xie Yang, Chen Jiangang and Liu Zhengqing, January 19, 2017 In a series of interviews, the still incarcerated human rights lawyer Xie Yang provided a detailed account of his arrest, interrogations, and the horrific abuses he suffered at the hands of police and prosecutors, to his two defense lawyers Chen Jiangang (陈建刚) and Liu Zhengqing (刘正清). This revelation, and the extraordinary circumstances of it, mark an important turn in the 709 crackdown on human rights lawyers. This group, seen as the gravest threat to regime security, has not been crushed, but instead has become more courageous and more determined. This is the first of several installments in English translation. — The Editors       Date: January 4, 2017, 3:08:56 p.m. (interview start) Location: Interview Room 2W, Changsha Number […]


Wang Qiaoling, January 17, 2017 Since Li Chunfu was released from the custody of China’s security forces on January 12, his family has been providing updates on his condition to the outside world. Their notes make clear that Li was left a broken man, suffering both physically and mentally. China Change calls on the United Nations to investigate the treatment of Li Chunfu in custody, and we call for immediate access on the part of legal counsel to Li Heping and Wang Quanzhang, as well as Jiang Tianyong who has been held in secret detention since November 21, 2016. The circumstances of all these individuals are now of grave concern given Li Chunfu’s condition. — The Editors   These last few days I’ve been staying […]


Zhuang Liehong, January 17, 2017 “Soon after, a dozen public security agents came to his house and forced him to sign his name to a document they provided, under the watch of three SWAT officers in his living room, who had their submachine guns pointed at his chest and head.”     On December 26, 2016, the Haifeng Court in Guangdong sentenced nine villagers from Wukan (six men and three women) to between two and ten years imprisonment, punishing them for participating in protests that swept Wukan for the second time, from June to September 2016, in response to the imprisonment of their democratically-elected village head Lin Zulian (林祖恋).  The protests were repressed by armed police and SWAT teams, and scores of villagers were arrested, […]


Wang Qiaoling, January 15, 2017 Li Chunfu, a rights lawyer arrested during the 709 incident and the younger brother of lawyer Li Heping, was released “on bail” on January 12, mentally disturbed and physically frail. He has been diagnosed as having symptoms of schizophrenia and hospitalized. We learned from relatives that he was subjected to severe torture during his six months of “residential surveillance at a designated place,” China’s term for secret detention, including being locked up in a bed-sized metal cage for several stretches of time. More details to come. Once again, we urge the international human rights community to immediately begin an investigation into the extreme abuse that Li Chunfu, Li Heping, Wang Quanzhang, Wu Gan, Jiang Tianyong, and others targeted in the […]


Wang Qiaoling, January 14, 2017 *** Latest on January 14: Li Chunfu has been diagnosed today as having symptoms of schizophrenia and hospitalized. We learned from relatives that he was subjected to severe torture during his six months of “residential surveillance at a designated place,” China’s term for secret detention. More details to come. Once again, we urge the international human rights community to immediately begin an investigation into the extreme abuse that Li Chunfu, Li Heping, Wang Quanzhang, Wu Gan, Jiang Tianyong, and others targeted in the 709 arrests have suffered. – The Editors   *** Hours ago China Change posted Wang Qiaoling’s first report of her brother-in-law, lawyer Li Chunfu, who was released “on bail” after being detained incommunicado for 18 months as part of the […]


Wang Qiaoling, January 13, 2017 Li Chunfu (李春富) is a human rights lawyer and the younger brother of the well-known rights lawyer Li Heping (李和平). On August 1, 2015, he was taken into custody (less than a month after his brother was also detained on July 10) and put under residential surveillance for six months. In January 2016 he was formally arrested on charges of “subversion of state power.” On January 5, 2017, he was granted China’s version of bail awaiting trial, and on January 12 returned home by police. Following is the first report by Wang Qiaoling (王峭岭), Li Heping’s wife, of the homecoming. We know from multiple cases of personal testimony, both published and privately relayed, that the 709 detainees have been subjected […]


January 12, 2017     Tianjin Municipal People’s Procuratorate Number Two Branch Bill of Indictment TJ 2d Br Proc Crim Indict (2016) No. 10001   Defendant Wu Gan (吴淦), male, [redacted], identification card number [redacted], Han ethnicity, high school graduate, a native of Xiamen city Fujian province, administrative employee of Beijing Fengrui Law Firm (北京锋锐律师事务所), registered address [redacted], residence [redacted], placed under criminal detention by Public Security Bureau of Siming precinct of Xiamen municipality, Fujian province, on May 27, 2015, on suspicion of picking quarrels and provoking trouble and defamation. With the approval of this procuratorate, arrested by the Xiamen Public Security Bureau on July 3, 2015, on suspicion of inciting subversion of state power and picking quarrels and provoking trouble. His period of detention […]


January 11, 2017   Hunan Province Changsha Municipal People’s Procuratorate Bill of Indictment CS Proc Crim Indict [2016] No. 85   Defendant Xie Yang (谢阳), male, [redacted], Han ethnicity, master’s degree education, was a practicing lawyer at Hunan Gangwei Law Firm, [redacted]. On July 12, 2015, he was put under residential surveillance by the Changsha Municipal Public Security Bureau on suspicion of the crimes of subversion of state power and disrupting court order. On January 8, 2016 this procuratorate approved his arrest on suspicion of the crime of subversion of state power. The arrest was executed the following day by the Changsha Municipal Public Security Bureau. The Changsha Municipal Public Security Bureau has concluded its investigation of this case and, on August 8, 2016, referred […]


January 10, 2017       On December 23, 2016, President Obama signed into law “The Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act” (NDAA 2017, section 1261-1265). The law authorizes the U.S. president to levy sanctions against foreign nationals who engage in the following acts: significant corruption, extrajudicial killings, torture, violation of international human rights covenants, and persecution of those who expose government corruption or seek to defend internationally recognized human rights. The mechanisms it provides to the president to carry out such sanctions include prohibiting or revoking U.S. entry visas or other entry documentation; freezing and prohibiting U.S. property transactions of an individual if such property and property interests are in the United States, come within the United States, or are in or come within […]


January 8, 2017     July 9, 2015, marked the beginning of a large number of arrests of human rights lawyers and rights defenders in China. Dozens of lawyers and human rights defenders have been disappeared, and hundreds of lawyers and defenders have been called in for intimidating “chats” with the police, or been temporarily detained. The campaign has extended to 23 provinces, shocking both China and the world alike, and is now known as the “709 mass arrest.” The “709 mass arrest” is the most severe attack on the rule of law and human rights in China for the last decade. This is shown clearly in how it has turned lawyers into imaginary enemies, making their lawful activities a primary target of attack. They’ve […]


Zhuang Liehong, January 5, 2017   Ten days ago on December 26, 2016, the Haifeng Court in Guangdong sentenced nine villagers from Wukan to between two and ten years imprisonment, as a means of punishing them for participating in protests. My father Zhuang Songkun (庄松坤) was among them. Through this article I hope readers outside China will gain an understanding of these arrests and the circumstances of the trial, and that the situation in Wukan will receive greater international attention. From 2009 villagers in Wukan engaged in collective petitions and protests against collusion between government officials and businessmen, who were expropriating collectively-owned village land for personal profit. After years of being ignored by the government, mass protests broke out at the end of 2011. I […]


January 3, 2017 This Q & A can be read as a companion piece to the Guardian report. It focuses more on Dahlin’s work, the interrogations, and the legal features of his case. Given that China’s “Law on the Management of Foreign Non-Governmental Organizations” took effect on January 1, 2017, we hope the conversation offers insight and perspective. – The Editors     CHINA CHANGE: Peter, you are a Swedish national; on January 3, 2016, you were taken into custody by Chinese national security agents for allegedly “endangering national security.” It was not until nine days later that the international press reported that you had been disappeared on your way to the Beijing airport. Then, on January 15 and 19, the Global Times and the […]


Chinese Human Rights Lawyers Group, January 2, 2017     Time sweeps by, the seasons change, and another year is upon us. As we bid farewell to the old and welcome the new, China’s human rights lawyers greet 2017. We bore witness to too much in 2016. We saw the hidden poverty that lies behind the bright and orderly image of the nation. Due to poverty, a 13-year-old in Jinchang, Gansu, leapt from a building to her death after being humiliated. She had pilfered and eaten a few chocolates at the local market — the first time in her life that she’d savored the taste. Due to poverty, a student from Linyi, Shandong, who had matriculated but not yet begun college, died after falling into […]


Yaxue Cao, December 31, 2016     If it wasn’t for the “Safety House” in which he was hiding as he wrote, the opening paragraph of Lam Wing Kee’s personal account would be beguilingly insouciant: there he stands at the window, painting his view of the Lei Yue Mun bay in the dazzling late afternoon light, with precise, unhurried sentences. It is with this dissonant scene that Mr. Lam begins his narration of eight months of secret captivity in mainland China. Doing what he had for years – hauling suitcases of tabloid-style exposés about Chinese leaders and politics to mainland China, and then mailing them to clients – he was stopped at customs in Shenzhen one day in October 2015 and pulled aside for questioning. […]


Yaxue Cao, December 25, 2016     On December 9, 2015, after dropping their two sons off at school, Pastor Yang Hua (仰华) and his wife Wang Hongwu (王洪雾) of the Living Stone house church (活石教会) in Guiyang, made their way to the 24th story of Guiyang International Center, which hosts the main hall of their congregation. At the same time every Wednesday, at three different church locations, Living Stone congregants hold a prayer service. A few days prior, government Neighborhood Committees and police stations dispatched personnel to go door-by-door to the homes of hundreds of Living Stone church members, warning them against attending the Wednesday service. “We’ll arrest whoever goes,” they were told. Needless to say, the authorities had the home addresses, workplaces, telephone […]


December 22, 2016 On December 20 the official Weibo account of the Communist Youth League Central Committee posted a short video (YouTube) targeting human right lawyer Jiang Tianyong (江天勇). Jiang was disappeared on November 21, and the Chinese government has not formally notified his relatives of his whereabouts, which violates China’s own laws. As the Party’s propaganda juggernaut churns out videos like this, the word “shameless” fails to describe it. The Chinese narration of the video is presented, interspersed with the images and corresponding text in italics. — The Editors     As the population of society has continued to grow, the number of people using fake identities to commit crimes has increased in large numbers. Thus, the real name-registration system is an important feature […]


December 18, 2016 A verified account belonging to the Ministry of Public Security issued this video on December 15 with the hashtag #警惕颜色革命 (“Beware of color revolutions”) and #是谁最想扳倒中国 (“Who wants to take China down the most”).  Two similar videos issued in August can be seen here and here.  – The Editors     [Syrian swimmer] Yusra Mardini, fleeing war-ravaged Syria. The boat had a problem, she and her sister pushed it to rescue the refugees packed in it. [Mardini’s voice]: “It’s hard to believe, but as an Olympic swimmer, I almost died in the water.” In Rio, she was a member of the Refugee Olympic Team made up of athletes who have lost their homes because of “color revolutions.” Her presence at the Olympics […]


December 15, 2016 Yaxue Cao spoke with Chang Ping in Toronto on December 2, 2016.     YC: You used to be the director of the news department of the famed Southern Weekly and a columnist there, and you belong to a community of journalists who distinguished themselves in the 25 years of “market-oriented” media that coincided with the period of soaring economic development from early 1990s until recently. I’ve been wanting to hear your story, because I sensed that your trajectory as a journalist has also been the trajectory of China’s “market-oriented media.” So I’m very happy to see you. First of all, congratulations on receiving the CJFE International Press Freedom Award. They made a great choice. Chang Ping: Thank you. YC: I knew […]


Wu Qiang, December 14, 2016 “They had merely to sit on the edges of Tianfu Square wearing smog masks for police bring them in for interrogation until the early hours of the morning — this is a clear show of how deeply anxious Chengdu authorities are about protests against smog.”     For the last week, inland China has been enveloped in smog. Some cities issued emergency smog warnings; others cancelled outdoor activities at schools. In Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan Province, the government banned gatherings in Tianfu Square (天府广场)— as though they were afraid of something. And just as expected, on the weekend, Chengdu residents came out in numbers on Chunxi road in the central business district and on Tianfu Square. Some sat down […]


Chang Ping, December 1, 2016 From the Canadian Journalists for Free Expression website: “Chang Ping is one of China’s best-known journalists who reports on political issues. He writes about sensitive topics including democracy, media censorship, the failures of government policy and Tibet. He is the winner of the International Press Freedom Award. This award recognizes the outstanding courage of journalists who work at great personal risk and against enormous odds so that the news media remain free. Establishing himself in the 1990s, he first reported from Guangzhou. As censorship has tightened in China, Chang’s pleas for transparency and accountability have put him under a political spotlight. In 2011, while working as the editor-in-chief at the now-suspended weekly magazine iSun Affairs in Hong Kong, [Chang Ping] […]


China Change, November 30, 2016   Peng Ming (彭明), one of a handful of Chinese political prisoners serving a life sentence, died in Xianning prison, Hubei Province, on November 29, according to his relatives in China. The head of the prison told Peng’s brother in Wuhan, the provincial capital, that Peng Ming suddenly fell down while watching TV, and died in hospital after being rushed in for emergency treatment. No autopsy or forensic report has yet been performed. But China Change learned today from a close family friend that Peng Ming’s sister believes he was murdered; a public statement from the family is forthcoming.   To many who have been tracking human rights in China over the years, the name of the 62-year-old political prisoner […]


China Change, November 29, 2016 “A lawyer who was born at just the right time; a lawyer who’s willing to take any case; a lawyer hated by a small political clique; a lawyer who wants to win the respect of regular folk; a lawyer who kept going even after being stripped of his law license.” – Jiang Tianyong’s Twitter bio     Lawyer Jiang Tianyong (江天勇) has been incommunicado for nine days as of today, and repeated attempts by his wife and lawyers to confirm his whereabouts and the circumstances of his disappearance have been met with obstruction. He’s believed to have been abducted by the Chinese government and fear is mounting that he is now, once again, being subjected to brutal treatment. On November […]


Yaxue Cao, November 27, 2016     Ms. Liu Huizhen (刘惠珍) is a villager in the District of Fangshan (房山区), on the southwestern outskirts of Beijing. She’s a victim of forced demolition who fought hard to preserve her property but lost it anyway. This year, she is one of the 70 or so Beijing residents who organized to compete for seats as district People’s Representatives. China held its once-every-five-year grassroots elections for county-district level People’s Representatives on November 15. In a joint statement, Ms. Liu and other independent candidates promised that “they will make sure every voter knows who they are and how to reach them with their problems, and as their representatives, will monitor the government and its functions.” Financial Times, Washington Post, and […]


Zhuang Liehong, November 23, 2016 “Wukan is a big prison now. Scores of villagers have been detained, including my father. Police patrol the streets and roads, and life is difficult.” – Wukan villager Zhuang Liehong     Wukan, a fishing village in eastern Guangdong Province, occupies an area of about 5,765 acres and has a population of 13,000. Since 1993, corrupt officials have conspired with businessmen to secretly sell off the collectively-owned, arable village land, and pocket the proceeds. This led to large-scale petitions and protests to defend villagers’ rights from 2009 to 2011. As they fought for their land and for democracy in their village, Wukan residents were faced with extreme hardship, and the local government did everything it could — including plots and […]


China Change, November 21, 2016   Zhang Haitao (张海涛) is a 45-year-old Han Chinese man living in Urumqi, the capital of the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region. He is originally from Henan Province, and relocated to Xinjiang after being laid off from state employment in the 1990s. Since 2009 he’s been an active participant in rights defense activities and subsequently became a “sensitive” person who was harassed by police. Zhang was detained on June 27, 2015, in Urumqi, indicted on December 25, 2015, and tried in January 11, 2016. Based on 69 WeChat posts, 205 Twitter posts, and interviews by Voice of America and Radio Free Asia during the period from 2010 to 2015, a court in Urumqi found Zhang guilty of “inciting subversion of state […]


November 14, 2016 About one and a half hours ago, Chinese state media announced that Jia Jinglong had been executed this morning – they killed him faster than we had time enough to translate this appeal, which should still be read and contemplated. – The Editors     Respected president of the Supreme People’s Court Zhou Qiang (周强): As law professors and attorneys long concerned with the development of the rule of law in China, we believe that the Supreme People’s Court’s review ruling in the Jia Jinglong (贾敬龙) case does not conform to the applicable standards and policies for the death penalty as determined by Chinese law, and that the review procedure did not fully safeguard the right to appeal of the defendant and […]


November 6, 2016 Mr. Yao Lifa (姚立法) has been an advocate of grassroots elections in China since 1998. – The Editors       We live on the lowest rung of society; we yearn for a brighter future.      We think that changing the status quo isn’t as arduous as some people make out — because we can vote. We have the right to elect the electorate group leader and deputy group leader in our constituency, We have the right to jointly nominate preliminary candidates for People’s Representative elections, We have the right to be nominated as preliminary candidates for People’s Representative elections, Our approval or disapproval of preliminary candidates is the basis on which the election committee decides the formal list of candidates for People’s Representative […]


November 1, 2016 Updated on November 17: 5-minute BBC video tells everything you need to know about Chinese elections.     Yaxue Cao: This year is also an election year in China, with county- and district-level elections of People’s Representatives on November 15. Independent candidates have sprung up everywhere, and China Change recently ran an article about the independent candidates from Beijing, including the group of 18 organized by Beijing resident Ye Jinghuan (野靖环). Over the months leading up to the vote, they’ve held training sessions on election law and the electoral process — some of which was presented by lawyers. But since their announcement of candidacy, they’ve been harassed by police. On the first day (October 24) of their neighborhood campaign, police came and stopped […]


Tang Yinghong, October 23, 2016 On August 31, the Supreme People’s Court of China approved the death sentence of a young man named Jia Jinglong (贾敬龙). The decision wasn’t conveyed to Jia’s lawyers until October 18. Since then, legal scholars, lawyers, journalists, writers, and netizens from all walks of life have spoken out on Chinese social media about the injustice in sentencing Jia Jinglong to death. Readers can seek out the lawyers’ written defense and discussions about the legality of the forced demolition of Jia’s home and the larger issue of social justice, but here is the story of Jia Jinglong. – The Editors     Jia Jinglong is a young man from the North Gaoying Village, Chang’an District, Shijiazhuang (石家庄市长安区北高营村), a capital city of […]


China Change, October 22, 2016 “Participation is the simplest, most direct, most realistic, and most effective political action.” — Yao Lifa, 2016 “Actually, the result is not what is most important. What’s most important is to take part. I hope that my participation will tell everyone: Believe in our laws, believe in the progress of this era. Please believe that we have a genuine right to vote.” — Xu Zhiyong, 2003   Update on November 17: 5-minute BBC video tells everything you need to know about Chinese elections.   This year, 2016, is an election year in China: every five years, Chinese citizens elect their people’s representatives (PR), and the vote is on November 15. In Beijing, over 70 people have declared that they are taking […]


Han Lianchao, September 28, 2016     Some young Chinese friends of mine often criticize me for getting mixed up with the Dalai Lama. They say he’s a separatist element who’s trying to split Tibet from China. I don’t blame them for this, as I once understood things pretty much the same way they do. It’s only after having more opportunities to observe and interact with the Dalai Lama at close range and having more frequent interactions with Tibetans that my brainwashed thinking has gradually begun to change. My answer to these young people is this: Contrary to what the Chinese Communist Party says in their propaganda, the Dalai Lama is no separatist. I recently heard His Holiness the Dalai Lama deliver a lengthy discussion […]


Guo Yushan, September 22, 2016     On September 22, after nearly two years in detention and a trial in August, lawyer Xia Lin (夏霖), my friend, will finally face his sentence. Whatever he’s been charged with, it’s clear to everyone that it was only because he defended me that he has been imprisoned, and suffered as he has to this day. In May 2014, Xia Lin got dragged into a number of disputes because of his involvement in Pu Zhiqiang’s (浦志强) case. One day in mid June, me, Xia Lin, and Kaiping (黄凯平) were sharing drinks at Beijing Worker’s Stadium, lamenting Pu’s case. At a break in the conversation, Xia Lin suddenly said to me: “If you get sent to prison in the future, […]


China Change, September 19, 2016       Ilham Tohti (伊力哈木), a Uighur scholar known for his incisive writings on China’s policies in Xinjiang, was named by the European Parliament to be one of the five nominees for the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought on September 15. Ilham has for years been a vocal advocate for the economic, cultural, and religious rights of Uighurs in Xinjiang. His role as a rational voice for Uighur autonomy led to his arrest in January, 2014, and a sentence to life imprisonment in September that year. Incidentally, on the same day that Ilham won the nomination, Tibet’s spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, was received by the European Parliament where he spoke of his admiration for “the spirit of […]


Chinese Human Rights Lawyers Group, September 13, 2016     On September 13, 2016, Chinese Human Rights Lawyers Group marks the third anniversary of its founding. Over the last three years, the Chinese Human Rights Lawyers Group has been an open platform for lawyers, offering them a channel to get to know one another, exchange their thoughts, and put out calls for mutual aid. It has also become the main force in “effective criminal defense,” Chinese-style. We deeply believe that behind these achievements lies the fact that human rights is not a dull, abstract idea, or some unfathomable theory — the universality of human rights is already deeply rooted in the hearts of the Chinese people. They spring every moment from the human experiences of […]


Zhao Xin, September 11, 2016 “Chinese state media spilled much ink on the “three factors” and “five main proposals” to demonize Hu Shigen, but avoided discussing Hu’s “three stage” roadmap to change. This is because if the 88 million Communist Party members hear about such a moderate and rational roadmap for transition, some of them may very well embrace it, leading to fissures within the ruling clique itself.”     From August 2 to 5, The Tianjin Intermediate People’s Court carried out a four-day so-called “open trial” against Hu Shigen (胡石根), Zhou Shifeng (周世锋), Zhai Yanmin (翟岩民), and Gou Hongguo (勾洪国), where they were charged with subversion of state power. The first two were sentenced to 7.5 and 7 years of imprisonment, while the latter […]


China Change, September 1, 2016 Human rights cannot be treated as a stand-alone issue anymore.   President Obama is going to China again, this time to attend the G-20 summit on September 4 and 5 in Hangzhou. Every time the President, the National Security Adviser, or the Secretary of State visits China, or every time Chinese leaders visit the U.S., human rights organizations and activists, inside and outside China, take it as an opportunity for change, asking the President or the senior leaders to pressure the Chinese government for human rights improvements, and to raise a number of individual cases. To be sure, the administration makes an effort to hear from activists and NGOs. Just two days ago, for instance, National Security Advisor Susan Rice met with Chinese […]


Tang Jingling, August 28, 2016 Chinese was published on May 20, 2016   “I can’t help but sigh over how much more civilized the South African apartheid regime of 50 years ago was compared to the Chinese Communist regime of today.”  – Tang Jingling “Other people don’t know better than the Chinese people about the human rights condition in China and it is the Chinese people who are in the best situation, in the best position to have a say about China’s human rights situation.” – Wang Yi, China’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, June 2, 2016.     Recalling his nearly 30 years in prison, Nelson Mandela wrote in his memoir Long Walk to Freedom: “It is said that no one truly knows a nation until […]


Li Heping, Ai Weiwei, August 21, 2016 This is a translation of an Ai Weiwei interview of lawyer Li Heping (李和平) in July 2010 (here, here, here, and here) that was released only recently. Beginning from his first involvement in “sensitive” cases around 2002, Li Heping went through the trajectory of his years as one of China’s earliest rights lawyers, including police brutality against him in 2007. Over the past decade or so, many early rights lawyers have withdrawn from the scene under duress, but Li Heping is one of the few who have persevered. He was arrested in July, 2015, as one of dozens of rights lawyers in what is known as the “709 Crackdown” of human rights lawyers and activists. After a year […]


August 14, 2016 Following the news of Xie Yang’s case being sent to the prosecutors for possible indictment, details of Xie Yang’s torture were brought to light by lawyers who met with police at the end of July. In recent days, family and lawyers’ requests for meeting Xie Yang (谢阳) have been repeatedly denied. Xie was taken away by police on July 11, 2015, while he was on business trip in Huaihua, western Hunan Province. Later he was placed under “residential surveillance at a designated place,” China’s term for secret detention, for “disturbing courtroom order” and “inciting subversion of state power.” Xie Yang was among the lawyers arrested in July, 2015, as part of a nation-wide crackdown on human rights lawyers and activists. Show trials […]


August 6, 2016     Over the last week, we all wondered whether the American Bar Association would go ahead with conferring its inaugural International Human Rights Award to the Chinese human rights lawyer Wang Yu. On August 1 she appeared on camera in China, repenting her courageous work fighting for justice and the rule of law, and repudiating the ABA award because she is a Chinese person and loves her country — as though receiving the award would be a betrayal of China. It was indeed Wang Yu speaking, but from an undisclosed location, after nearly 13 months in secret detention, to three people whose faces and identities were hidden. We cannot begin to fathom what has happened to her and dozens of other […]


August 4, 2016 This is indeed an extraordinary week. In a beguiling internet style, the Weibo account of the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party Youth League posted another 4-minute video on August 4, obviously shot by domestic security police, a day after posting one that portrays rights lawyers and dissidents as part of a vast American conspiracy undermining China. In addition, under the hashtag #警惕颜色革命 (“Beware of Color Revolutions”), the Youth League account also posted numerous music videos and articles attacking the United States, rights lawyers, activists, President Tsai of Taiwan and internet freedom. This wave of propaganda is not just for a domestic audience; it aims to intimidate the U.S. and the free world too. A transcript of the narration in the […]


August 3, 2016 This video was posted this week by the official Weibo accounts of the Supreme People’s Procuratorate of the PRC, as well as the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party Youth League. The claims are false and distorted, ludicrously so, but the world view behind it is real and has consequences. We provide an English translation of the script. — The Editors     Beware of Color Revolutions   Not long ago, a little Iraqi girl was filmed speaking on camera, and her story saddened countless people around the world. “What’s your name?” “I don’t know.” “Where is your father?” “He died.” “Where? Where did he die?” “In Hadabah.” “Have you had breakfast, lunch, or supper? Tell me.” Of course, there is him […]


Yaxue Cao, July 26, 2016 Li Tingting (李婷婷), also known as Li Maizi (李麦子), is one of the “Feminist Five” in China who were detained on the eve of the International Women’s Day in 2015; they were planning a protest against sexual harassment on public transportation, which is insidiously prevalent in China. The women were released after 37 days in detention following an unprecedented international outcry. I met with Li Tingting recently over a Sunday brunch, and we spoke about her detention, women’s rights, LGBT advocacy, and civil society. — Yaxue Cao   YC: Let’s begin from your experiences during the arrest of the Feminist Five on March 6. Li Tingting: At that time my girlfriend and I were living in a rental. The police […]


Liang Xiaojun, July 25, 2016 Xie Yanyi (谢燕益) is a human rights lawyer, and one of the 709 detainees. – The Editors   It was probably somewhere around the end of 2008 that I started receiving occasional group emails from someone writing under the name Liang Buzheng (梁不正)—“Crooked Beam.” Sometimes the emails would contain this person’s views on politics, while other times they would describe the actions he was taking in the legal sphere. In those days much of my time was spent handling commercial cases in order to make a living, so I wasn’t paying a lot of attention to public interest law or human rights issues. As a result, I would often simply skip over those emails from “Crooked Beam” without really reading […]


André Gattonlin, Marie Holzman, and Noël Mamère, July 18, 2016 This is a translation of Donnons le prix Sakharov à un intellectuel ouïghour published in the French newspaper Libération on July 14, 2016. – The Editors   The Sakharov Prize is awarded every year in October, to honor individuals or organizations who have dedicated their lives to defending human rights and fundamental freedoms. The award, which was created in 1985 by the French MP Jean-François Deniau, may well be awarded this year to an Uighur intellectual who was sentenced in 2014 to life in prison. It turns out that this professor from Minzu University (University for Nationalities) in Beijing had been discovered in 2008 by the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs and was invited to spend […]


Jiang Tianyong, July 17, 2016     Recently I’ve been thinking: Leading up to 1949, the Chinese Communist Party had been able to steadily grow its strength partly because of the United States. And a major reason the Party has become the disruptive and powerful giant it is today is because of the greed and appeasement of the United States, Europe, and other Western countries. This became particularly clear with regard to the “709 Crackdown” last year, when the new communist boss, “Xitler,” directed a massive campaign of arrests in just a few days, targeting the most influential and active human rights lawyers and activists. As the only country with the actual leverage to exert pressure on the Communist Party (leverage being only one of […]


China Change, July 15, 2016   On late Friday afternoon on July 15, the Second Branch Procuratorate of the Tianjin People’s Procuratorate announced on its official Weibo account that four of the several dozen lawyers and activists detained since July 2015, in what is known as the “709 Incident” or “709 Crackdown,” have been indicted. The message was quickly re-posted and reported by People’s Daily and other mouthpiece media: On July 15, 2016, the Second Branch Procuratorate of the Tianjin People’s Procuratorate, upon review, has decided according to law to indict Zhou Shifeng, Hu Shigen, Zhai Yanmin, Gou Hongguo respectively in the Tianjin Second People’s Intermediate Court for the alleged crime of subversion of state power. Zhou Shifeng is the director of Beijing Fengrui Law Firm, and […]


Gao Zhisheng, July 14, 2015     The legal profession is weak under the tyrannical Chinese Communist Party, yet there has been no lack of individual lawyers who stick to the law and principles. Because of their profession, lawyers witness or experience countless incidents of injustice or suppression bred by the cruel system itself. As the saying goes, the great waves sift the sand. In the face of this injustice and suppression, most lawyers simply try to get on with their lives. Some, acting as puppets, even join forces with the tyrants for selfish gains. But there is one group who instead have developed the towering wish to change the fate of the Chinese nation and people, and shoulder the special historic role of relieving […]


Chinese Human Rights Lawyers Group, July 8, 2016     Like the rest of us, they traveled around the country through rain and shine and choking smog, assisting the most vulnerable. Like the rest of us, they were exhausted looking after their parents’ health and finding a school for their children. Like the rest of us, they embraced the lofty China Dream, believing in “governing the country according to the law,” and stepping into the role of defending justice and human rights, committed and tireless. But that dream was shattered on July 9, 2015.   It began with the arrest of lawyer Wang Yu’s entire family in the early hours of July 9, 2015. Thereafter, the state’s machine of coercion shifted into full gear, raiding […]


Wu Qiang, July 6, 2016 As we were readying to post this translation, we learned that two lawyers met with Lu Yuyu and two other lawyers met with Li Tingyu on July 6 in the Dali Detention Center, Yunnan Province. — The Editors     “June 13, Monday, 94 incidents,” Lu Yuyu’s last tweet read on June 15. On June 24, the news spread that Lu Yuyu (卢昱宇) and his girlfriend Li Tingyu (李婷玉) were detained for “provoking disturbances.” Open his blogpost that day and you can see the 94 incidents grouped into categories, 5 of them highlighted, each with a link to the original post on Chinese social media (though some have long been censored). We learn that on June 13,  in 21 provinces […]


Mo Zhixu, July 1, 2016 2016 is also an election year in China, in case you are not aware of it.     A struggle is once again brewing in Wukan. Four years ago, after a protracted struggle during which village representative Xue Jinbo (薛锦波) lost his life under mysterious circumstances in police custody, the people of Wukan were able to elect a village leader that they trusted. But several years later, they still haven’t been able to win back their rights and things have again become unsettled. Police recently detained Lin Zulian (林祖恋), the elected head of Wukan’s village committee, and then put him on television to confess to accepting bribes. And in just the past few days in Gansu Province, independent candidates for […]


China Change, June 30, 2016     A Recap of Guo Feixiong’s Arrest, Sentencing, and Treatment in Prison Guo Feixiong was arrested on August 13, 2013, for his role in the Southern Weekly protest at the beginning of that year, and his campaign to demand that China ratify the The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which China signed in 1998 but has never ratified. He was tried in November 2014, but it wasn’t until a year later that a sentence was announced. To deliver a harsher sentence, the court, in an unprecedented and preposterous move, added a second charge at the last minute of the trial, and Guo was sentenced to 6 years in prison for “gathering a crowd to disrupt order […]


Yaxue Cao, June 20, 2016     On Friday night I posted an essay that recorded a day’s events in China. Such days have become rather typical. A reference I made to a news item from six years ago caught the attention of some readers: “The Ministry of Public Security: Mental Hospitals May Not Treat Non-mentally Ill Patients Without Permission from Police.” On the Voice of America show, the host asked: Instead of issuing such directives to check abuses, why didn’t the Chinese government just ban police-run “mental hospitals?” I said: “The Chinese government wants the police to have such tools.” On the show, I wasn’t quick-thinking enough to point out the obvious: the Chinese government gives police extralegal power to put people in mental […]


Yaxue Cao, June 17, 2016   I was on a Voice of America Chinese Service show on Thursday and, with the host and another guest, we discussed rights movement leader Guo Feixiong’s hunger strike, rumors about a young legal worker being violated in prison, and police-operated mental hospitals. A caller from Hubei Province by the surname Deng had this to say: “As a matter of fact, China is the biggest mental asylum in the world. A normal country would not have had the Great Leap Forward. A normal country would not have had the Cultural Revolution. A normal country would not have run over students with tanks. A normal country would not have prisoners of conscience and would not lock rights defenders in mental hospitals. […]


China Change, June 15, 2016     On June 14, Beijing time, Gei Feixiong’s older sister Yang Maoping (杨茂平) went to the Yangchun Prison. Later, she wrote the following message: “Friends: my WeChat friends groups have been shut down, and my Sina Weibo account has also been blocked. My younger brother Guo Feixiong (Yang Maodong) has been on a hunger strike in the Yangchun Prison for over 30 days. Yesterday I went to the prison to deliver a letter by his wife, Zhang Qing (张青), urging him to stop fasting, and was prepared to tell him the same thing myself. But prison authorities didn’t let me see him. At about 5pm Beijing time, the office director of the prison came out and said: ‘If you […]


– Observing Recent Events, Especially the Death of Lei Yang By Wu Qiang, June 13, 2016   As public contention surrounding the death of Lei Yang’s continues to grow, something new is developing in China’s political scene: the middle class is speaking out and asserting its own demands, even as the rights defense movement continues to suffer a sustained crackdown.     Four recent deaths in China sparked widespread public attention. The first, on April 12, was the that of Wei Zexi (魏泽西), a university student in Shaanxi Province, who perished from a rare form of cancer after following recommendations for a hospital from China’s largest search engine, Baidu. It turned out that the facility was part of the so-called “Putian network,” a clique of […]


By @badiucao, June 5, 2016     I choose art to resist — to fight terror and to remember. I once drew the Tank Man, and I also have Tank Man tattoo. This year I decided to use performance art to bring the Tank Man back, in the hope that, tomorrow, there’ll be even more Tank Men. All I know of the Tank Man is his plain white shirt, his black trousers, his leather shoes, and the plastic bag and briefcase he carried. The only thing he left the world was that view of him from behind. I don’t know the real identity of the Tank Man. There’s a rumour that his name is Wang Weilin, but no one really knows. Who he was before […]


June 4, 2016   (Continued from Part One) Wu: Another find that was very exciting was to discover the chief of staff of the 38th Group Army’s 1st Tank Division. This chief of staff led the spearhead of that tank division, the 1st Regiment of armored infantrymen and the 1st Regiment, the very first tanks to arrive in Tiananmen Square, including the three tanks involved in the massacre at Liubukou. This chief of staff was eager to carry out orders and show his “politically correctness.” In all the military propaganda materials celebrating his “heroic achievements,” he was only ever referred to as “Chief of Staff Yan.” They described how he repeatedly ordered for forcing advancement, and his troops shot dead a student attempting to obstruct […]


June 3, 2016 In 1989, Mr. Wu Renhua was a young faculty member at China University of Political Science and Law in Beijing, leading the student demonstration along with other young scholars. He participated in the Tiananmen Movement “from the first day to the last,” and was among the last few thousand protesters who left Tiananmen Square in the early morning of June 4. On the way back to his college, he witnessed PLA tanks charging into a file of students at Liubukou (六部口), a large intersection, killing 11 and injuring many. In February, 1990, Wu swam four hours from Zhuhai to Macau, and onto Hong Kong, and arrived later that year in the United States. Over the next 15 years he was the editor […]


By Yaqiu Wang, May 23, 2016   On April 26 when Yang Maoping (杨茂平), the sister of renowned Chinese rights activist Guo Feixiong (郭飞雄), visited her brother in Yangchun Prison (阳春监狱), Guangdong Province, she found that his health had seriously deteriorated: he had blood in the stool, he mouth and throat were bleeding, and he couldn’t walk properly. She demanded that the prison authorities give him a medical examination, but was rejected. Guo’s compromised health condition is the result of the immense abuses and inhumane treatment he has suffered since his arrest in August 2013, including being denied yard time for consecutive 800+ days in a fetid detention center. Guo Feixiong is a pioneer of the rights defense movement in China. He was sentenced to […]


Zhang Qing, May 19, 2016   President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang: My name is Zhang Qing. My husband Guo Feixiong (also known by his original name, Yang Maodong) has been framed by the authorities for protesting in support of the employees at Southern Weekly, for calling for freedom of speech and ratification of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and for demanding that officials disclose their assets. Having been wrongfully convicted of “gathering a crowd to disrupt order in a public place” and “provoking a serious disturbance,” Guo Feixiong was sentenced to six years’ imprisonment in Guangdong’s Yangchun Prison (广东阳春监狱). There, his health has seriously deteriorated. However, not only has he been denied treatment; in fact the domestic security police and […]


China Change, May 18, 2016   On October 6, 2015, the two Chinese human rights activists Tang Zhishun (唐志顺) and Xing Qingxian (幸清贤) were arrested for attempting to help the son of human rights lawyer Wang Yu (王宇) escape China through Burma, so he could come to the United States to study. Now, seven months after their arrest, the first word of their fates has been heard: Xing Qingxian’s wife was provided with a notice of arrest dated May 5 saying that he is suspected of “organizing human trafficking across borders.” He is currently held in the Tianjin No. 2 Detention Center. The news is a result of months of fruitless efforts on the part of the lawyers and families, though we have yet to […]


By Wai Ling Yeung, May 13, 2016   Recently a video of a 5-year-old Hui Muslim kindergarten pupil from Gansu province reciting verses from the Qur’an went viral on China’s social media, attracting almost unanimous condemnation from presumably Han Chinese netizens. At a discussion forum, for example, several comments labelled the preaching of religion to children as “evil cult” behavior. They called for netizens to “say no to evil cults and to stop evil cults from invading schools.” Others questioned why schools allowed children to “wear black head scarves and black robes as if they’re adults.” They also expressed support for legislation that “set an age limit to religious freedom.” One comment went as far as asking all Hui Muslims to move to the Middle […]


Published: 9:25 pm, April 28, 2016 The views expressed in this article are those of the authors, and do not necessarily represent those of China Change. – The Editors   According to reports, Mr. Harry Wu (known as 吴弘达, or Wu Hongda, among Chinese) died suddenly on April 26, 2016, in Honduras while vacationing with friends. We wish to express our sincere condolences to his family. While the media has been inundated with obituaries and statements that celebrate Mr. Wu’s life as a human rights champion, we feel we too must say a few words in order to shed light on an investigation we have been conducting, and our preliminary findings.     We will start with the Yahoo Human Rights Fund. Yahoo was the first […]


By Mo Zhixu, April 13, 2016 “When the Southern activists stood amidst heavy traffic and photographed themselves holding placards of protest, the feeling it gives is a little surreal….”   On April 8, 2016, after a year and half in detention, two activists arrested in 2014 for holding banners on the streets of Guangzhou in support of Hong Kong’s Umbrella Movement—Wang Mo (王默) and Xie Wenfei (謝文飛, real name Xie Fengxia 謝豐夏)—were sentenced to four and a half years imprisonment by the Guangzhou Intermediate People’s Court. In addition, they will be deprived of political rights for three years. On the same day Zhang Shengyu (張聖雨, real name Zhang Rongping 張榮平), who held a placard in support of the Hong Kong students, was sentenced to four […]


By Mo Zhixu, published: April 6, 2016 Authoritarian resilience has always been an illusion.       On March 6, 2015, the Wall Street Journal published a piece by George Washington University Professor David L. Shambaugh entitled “The Coming Chinese Crackup.” In it, he pointed to five indications that China’s political system is seriously falling apart—a view that attracted widespread attention for some time after its publication. Ever since 1989, many have predicted the impending collapse of Chinese Communist rule. But there are two reasons why Shambaugh’s piece was so noteworthy. First, Shambaugh has enjoyed good personal relations with leading Party officials. His books have been published in Chinese translation, and state media have often quoted his views. In January 2015, the China Foreign Affairs University under the Ministry […]


China Change, March 24, 2016. In no particular order and with a couple of exceptions, we sample Chinese netizens’ thoughts on March 21, 2016, Twitter’s 10th anniversary. We don’t know who else will be touched by this, but we certainly are. – The Editors   乌鸦哥哥 ‏@wuyagege : Twitter is like a small cafe that never closes. People come and go, connecting with each other in ways both lasting and fleeting. You can exchange a few words if you feel the urge, otherwise everyone goes about their own business. After these many years, I have so many friends from all over, both old and new. Some have faded away, others are still around. Still others have been made to vanish. I somehow manage to continue on. I […]


China Change, March 23, 2016 Social media is by nature subversive in a country like China, where totalitarian rule depends on monopolizing the narrative and suppressing free speech. The Chinese Communist Party is well aware, and worried: state propaganda calls social media an “opposing sphere of opinion,” and hawkish PLA generals refer to it as battleground where life and death are at stake. On Monday, in an essay “laced with wartime imagery,” the chief editor of the People’s Daily warned of a “historic mistake” if China (meaning the Party) loses grip on new media. The war has been a daily affair for years now, despite the censorship, and despite the fact that netizens are thrown in jail for what they post. Another round of pushback against […]


Open Letter from Chinese Human Rights Lawyers to Republican Candidate Donald Trump March 15, 2016   According to CNN, at the televised Republican debate on March 10 the moderator put the following question to billionaire Donald Trump: “Some of your Republican critics have expressed concern about comments you have made praising authoritarian dictators. You have said positive things about Putin as a leader and about China’s massacre of pro-democracy protesters at Tiananmen Square, you’ve said: ‘When the students poured into Tiananmen Square, the Chinese government almost blew it, then they were vicious, they were horrible, but they put it down with strength. That shows you the power of strength.’ How do you respond?” Trump replied: “That doesn’t mean I was endorsing that. I was not […]


March 11, 2016     We are appalled by the U. S. presidential candidate Donald Trump’s remarks about the Chinese government’s 1989 massacre during the 12th Republican presidential candidate debate last Thursday, in which he called the heroic pro-democracy protest in Beijing a “riot”, and praised the Chinese government’s response as “strong.” Trump’s comments show not only a lack of moral orientation, but also show a complete disregard for the hundreds if not thousands of innocent lives lost when the Chinese government butchered unarmed students and citizens in Tiananmen Square on June 3-4, 1989. Many of us participated in that peaceful demonstration, and we know that we were merely exercising our basic rights to protest and our rights for free speech. We petitioned the government […]


By Yaxue Cao, published: February 14, 2016   She is a renowned public interest lawyer, a pioneer of China’s NGO movement, a defender of women’s rights, a writer, a legislative advocate, a recipient of some of the world’s top awards for women, and her work has been recognized and supported by the likes of the United Nations. What could go wrong? Everything. On January 29 a message on WeChat read that Zhongze had been ordered to close before the Spring Festival by the “relevant authorities.” Not long after this, the head of the Center, Guo Jianmei (郭建梅) sent out a WeChat message: “Announcement: Beijing Zhongze Women’s Legal Counseling Service Center  (众泽妇女法律咨询服务中心) will close from February 1, 2016. Thank you to everyone for your attention and […]


By Martin Oei, published: January 17, 2016   On January 15 a video was published online showing Chou Tzu-yu (周子瑜), a 16-year-old member of the K-pop girl group Twice, apologizing for holding a Republic of China flag in a photo shoot several months ago. The video was produced and published by the group’s South Korean management company JYP Entertainment. “There is only one China,” she says in the tape. “The two sides of the strait are one, and I have always felt proud to be Chinese.” She then apologizes for holding the flag. The video, instigated by pro-Beijing Internet users, at the tip-off of pro-Beijing Taiwanese singer Huang An (黄安), infuriated Taiwanese. People have found it difficult to watch, but we urge you to forge beyond […]


Translation published: January 15, 2016 Ilham Tohti was an economics professor at Minzu University in Beijing and the foremost Uighur public intellectual in the People’s Republic of China. He was sentenced to life in prison in September 2014 for criticizing the government’s policies in Xinjiang and advocating basic economic, cultural, religious and political rights for the Uighur people. The translation is based on the Chinese transcript of a VOA interview with Ilham Tohti in November 2013, shortly after the car crash of a Uighur family in Tiananmen Square on October 28, 2013, and less than three months before his detention on January 15, 2014. You may also want to watch our 32-minute documentary about Ilham Tohti. – The Editors   BEIJING – The Chinese government has included Xinjiang and Tibet […]


By Chinese Urgent Action Working Group (中国维权紧急援助组)   CHINA – Detention of human rights professional Peter Dahlin   Sometime after nine pm on 3 January 2016 a human rights professional, Mr Peter Dahlin, a Swedish citizen, disappeared on his way to the Beijing Capital Airport. He was scheduled to fly to Thailand via Hong Kong shortly after midnight. Peter’s girlfriend, a Chinese national, has also disappeared. Peter Dahlin is a co-founder of the Chinese Urgent Action Working Group (China Action), an organization based in China working to promote the development of the rule of law and human rights through training and the support of public interest litigation. According to Chinese authorities, Peter was detained on 4 January 2016 on suspicion of endangering state security. These […]


By Chang Ping, published: October 1, 2015 “Why would the results of a poll conducted by a neutral, respected polling organization tally so closely with the propaganda of a totalitarian government?”   Can it be that 92.8% of Chinese poll respondents are truly satisfied with the Chinese central government, and that among these, 37.6% are “extremely satisfied”? For over a decade, the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, in collaboration with Horizon Research (零点调查公司) in Beijing, has been conducting polls on Chinese citizens’ attitudes toward their government. In the most recent poll, respondents’ satisfaction with the central government was at an all-time high. The New York Times described it as a “reliable” public opinion poll. […]


Quentin Tarantino’s Oscar-winning film Django Unchained was slated to open in Chinese theaters on April 11, and Tarantino was reported to have edited the film himself so as to satisfy the Chinese censors. And obviously he succeeded. At the last minute though on Thursday, Chinese authorities ordered the movie to be pulled from theaters, and the order came with a panting urgency. “I was watching the first screening of Django in Mejia Theater, Sanlitun (北京三里屯美嘉影院),” Weibo user @血一刀 reported, “one minute into the show, it stopped! Theater workers came in and said the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television and the theater chain both called to postpone the movie! What the heck is going on?” Online and at the box offices, lots of tickets have […]


Simply put, Teng Biao (滕彪) is one of the best known human rights lawyers and legal scholars in China. This is his preface to a memoir entitled “A Worthwhile Trip—A Documentation of Beijing Reeducation-through-Labor Dispatch Center”, in which he looks deep into what these camps do to inmates as human beings. It’s much worse than just turning them into cheap labor making Christmas gifts for the American market.  I It’s inconceivable, in a modern society, to detain a citizen for up to three, even four, years based merely on police decisions without going through any proper judiciary procedure. But in present-day China, it is a vivid reality, and hundreds and thousands of Chinese citizens have fallen victims to it. That is since China’s re-education-through-labor system […]


By He Qinglian He Qinglian (何清涟) is a Chinese economist who lived in China before 2001. In her bestseller The Pitfalls of Modernization (《现代化的陷阱》), she argues presciently that, as the power of local governments grows, officials who have favored reform would come to oppose further reform because it would limit their ability to trade power for money and money for power. The book was banned in China, Ms. He forced to exile. In 2006, she published China Shrouded in Fog (《雾锁中国》) that studies how the Chinese government manipulates and, to some degrees, controls overseas Chinese-language media. Ms. He lives in New Jersey with her family. The Chinese original is here.  The Securities and Exchange Commission in December charged the Chinese affiliates of five big accounting firms Deloitte, Ernst […]


As you’ve likely already heard, thousands of doomsday predictors have been arrested throughout China as part of the “evil cult” Eastern Lightning. Unfortunately many Chinese Christians are willing to dismiss them as a cult and agree with their treatment, but these arrests should concern everyone advocating for human rights in China and especially those concerned with religious freedom and yet there has been little discussion of this within the Western Media. Within this story are several important issues worth taking a moment to consider. While Eastern Lightning meets many of the sociological definitions of a cult by urging members to cut off ties to their non-believing family members and friends, unquestioning faith in their charismatic leader, and exerting coercive pressure on those who try to […]


For the last month, there has been a raging debate over child abuse. It started when Yan Yanhong posted pictures of herself abusing her own kindergarten students; the pictures were taken by her co-worker, Tong Qingqing. She picked her students up by the ears, put children upside-down in garbage cans, and taped their mouths shut for “being disobedient,” and in other cases “just for fun.” Far more disturbing, was that Yan Yanhong forced her 4-5 year old students to strip, dance, and kiss each other (People’s daily reported several times on this story when it broke 1,2,3,4). This is just one of dozens of child abuse cases involving teachers. In Shanxi a girl was slapped in the face for nearly 10 minutes for failing to […]


With China’s latest round of promotions, we have a chance to get an updated perspective on what is valued by the CPC, instead of relying on the claims from state media that the Party is looking to improve reforms and protect human rights. Within the top 7 it is clear that as long as you are a Han male, in your late 50’s or early 60’s, (and have suspiciously dark black hair), there is no single path to power. Xi Jinping was well connected through his family and developed ties in the military before moving unobtrusively through the Party ranks, Li Keqiang found ties to Hu Jintao in the Communist Youth League (CYL), Zhang Dejiang established himself by outlining how to work with North Korea, Yu […]


Several years ago, when I was working in a very rural university, I hosted a group of college graduates from the United States. They were invited to visit with the students, and one of them became very popular with the girls in class. He always had more attention than any of the others, perhaps because he was incredibly friendly, had a bright smile, and was by most accounts handsome. However, what the fawning girls didn’t notice was that my friend was gay. So after a week or so of having girls ask for his QQ number, I asked if he would be willing to host a very special English corner. Even though it was specifically in my contract that I was not to challenge traditional […]


When I heard that Richard Burger, of The Peking Duck, had written a book about sex in China, I expected it to be a somewhat scandalous introduction to the topic (he had told me that it wasn’t meant for China experts). However, I found Behind the Red Door: Sex in China to be an incredibly thorough exploration of sex and sexuality in China. He covers almost every aspect– dating, marriage, prostitution, concubines, homosexuality, pornography, sex shops – and each in a way that considers the past and present and avoids easy answers. The only gripe I had with the book was when Burger chastised the missionaries of the past for bringing their close minded western views on homosexuality. He highlights a passage from a Jesuit […]


As I prepared myself for leaving China to embark on something of a speaking tour of American churches, I was told time and again by friends, co-workers, former students, and even the Party Secretary of the hospital to tell them the “truth” about China. The undertone seemed to be that Americans were truly ignorant about China and thought it was a place of human rights abuses, corrupt officials, a draconian one-child policy, tainted food and polluted skies;  and somehow I was going to counter all of those “misconceptions” in a cozy 1-hour talk. At the same time, I know that in most respects China is a better place than the average American is imagining. Compared to other developing countries- most Chinese children can read and […]


The other day, I highlighted China’s argument for why it should be considered the rightful owner of the Diaoyu Islands – in short: Military aggression should not be rewarded with new territorial claims Treaties signed under duress should not be acknowledged Historical claims should be the major determining factor in ownership, giving special priority to “first come, first serve” Claims made by other gov’ts on land that is already being administered by another power are “illegal” So, while we’re on the issue of sovereignty, let’s take a look at why China claims Tibet as its territory (according to the somewhat misnamed site, Chinahumanrights.org) The peaceful liberation in May 1951 freed Tibetans from the fetters of imperialistic encroachment to enter a new epoch. Certain members of […]


Now, I generally know better than to go sticking my neck out on issues like this, but I actually agree that China should be in control of the Diaoyu islands. The problem is that I was tempted to side with the Japanese after witnessing the disgusting display of mindless nationalism over the weekend (which in some cases included calls for wiping out all Japanese, and seemed to be state-sponsored). Hidden behind the calls for boycotts and sanctions, and the embarrassing claim based on the policy of “first come, first serve,” (which can be found in legal texts between “Dibs” and “Finders keepers”) makes it seem like this entire issue is nothing more than a ploy to drum up support for the Party. Or, that perhaps […]


On Saturday Yaxue shared the story of “Subverter” Chen Pingfu. Essentially, he was deeply in debt after paying for a surgery, and turned to performing in public to try and pay off the money he owed his family members. For this he was threatened and eventually beaten by “public servants,” but he continued on. When he complained about this treatment online, he was further harassed by police, and was forced out of the only job he’d been able to find in years. Chen was a man desperately clinging to the last shred of dignity he had and local officials were determined to take that away from him. Apparently in China, when the gov’t takes away your job and threaten you by saying, “I’ll send you […]


Just a quick thought today: As I tell people in the States, when it comes to China, seemingly good news is often bad, and seemingly bad news is often good. In many cases, like increased numbers of AIDS cases, higher numbers of people living below the poverty line, and shrinking college admissions, bad news can actually be signs of problems being acknowledged and addressed. On the other hand, reforms to the criminal code, the completion of bridges and rails, and “elections” often serve as reminders of how far China has to go in terms of human rights, safety, and developing a gov’t that is actually selected by the people. In a story published the other day in People’s Daily, the gov’t announced that it planned […]


For over two years ocean rocks have dominated China’s foreign policy issues. So far the Party has managed to anger virtually all their neighbors and has left an opening for America’s pivot to Asia. In my opinion, regardless of whether or not China’s claims are valid, the gov’t seems to be losing the battle on the international stage. One afternoon when I was chatting with a typically soft-spoken co-worker about my future plans in the Pacific, she pointed out the Philippines on the map and said, “I hope the ocean swallows this country up so that China doesn’t have to destroy it.” As I picked my jaw up off the floor, she elaborated, “Since I was a little girl, these little islands have been a […]


I recently finished Dan Ariely’s book, The Honest Truth About Dishonesty, and realized that I’ve been thinking about corruption in the wrong way. While I’m not about to argue that there are “acceptable levels” of it, in the way Global Times tried, I do think we are overlooking a few key points. For one, as Ariely argues, cases of embezzlement and fraud are not made up largely of Madoff’s (or Liu Zhijun’s), but of small daily acts by very ordinary people. He shows through his research that for the most part everyone is willing to cheat a little, and that massive cheats are actually far more rare than they should be (if one assumes that a person would cheat as much as is possible without repercussions), […]


A few weeks ago I witnessed something that warmed the cockles of my typically icy heart. In China, when one pictures a middle school student, they picture a small child diligently studying behind a great wall of books. Outside of the classroom they are spotted in their uniforms around 5pm being brought back from school for several more hours of homework. These few minutes on the bus in Nanjing were almost always filled with a few rounds of Fruit Ninja or Angry Birds on their smart phones. In rural China, the students were boarded, and so had no chance of furtive gaming between school and study. In my two years at the hospital, I sat through dozens of chats between co-workers that focused on their children’s […]


On return from more than a week on the road, I caught up with my China news and found it all to be a bit…predictable. In response I’ve created the following template that seems to exist somewhere to save all of you time. A gov’t official (or family member of an official) was caught abusing their power by murdering/embezzling/forcing farmers off their land/covering up a scandal for a company in X province. The story first appeared on Weibo, a Chinese version of Twitter, late last week and built to a crescendo over the weekend. SomeGuyWithACamera posted pictures of an angry crowd ranging between dozens and thousands, which were deleted within 24 hours by censors. Calls to the local gov’t went unanswered. A man from the […]


Today, we continue our ongoing series on Ai Weiwei’s book, Time and place. A World Without Honor By 2006 China had already tapped Zhang Yimou to direct the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics. To Ai this was completely unacceptable, and he decided to devote a rather fiery post to the injustice of this decision. It was  shortly before this that the once daring director had begun to back away from the line. As a friend who had attended film school with Zhang told me, it seemed to her that the gov’t had finally “gotten” him. But Ai’s essay is still relevant today, especially as we sit through two more weeks of Olympics. He says, “Every competition has a winner, and the victorious side always […]


A few days ago the New York Times posted a story entitled “Where Europe Trails Asia,” in which a weary traveler longs for the friendly customs line in China over the one in Germany (which, as we all know, has a global reputation for enthusiastic smiles). I thought I should offer my following experience in reply. On my recent trip home I was reminded of all the fabulous tourist sites I had visited over the past five years – The Terracotta Soldiers, The Great Buddha at Leshan, Dali, Lijiang, and scores of others. However, as incredible as the sites are, I’m often left pondering how much better the trips would have been if just a little bit more thought had been put into the planning […]


Picking up from where Hannah left off yesterday, I want to look at a couple ideas from Ai Weiwei’s essays that jumped out at me. Chinese Contemporary in Dilemma and Transition Ai’s essays provide a great reminder of why Ai was so popular in China before the West took an interest in him – he isn’t speaking to a western audience and he is directly challenging Chinese culture. In fact much of his essay on Chinese art is in direct opposition to how the gov’t tried to paint him after his arrest; Ai is in no way infatuated with Western ideology, as he wants to see a strong and prosperous Chinese art scene, and by extension China. That Chinese artists should resist western influence, and […]


When it comes to describing China’s challenges, foreigners (myself included) tend to attack the gov’t side of the issue. While the current system does seem to reinforce a number of practices that limit people power and encourage corruption, it ignores the cultural factors that are in play. I believe the reason for this is that us “old outsiders” worry about being decried as racist. To some extent these two factors reinforce one another. For instance, the leaders in China have never actually been required to heed the will of the people, and so there is a limited culture of challenging their rule; 0r that the rich have always been privileged in Chinese society over the commoners. Fortunately, people like Xu Zhiyong and Murong Xuecun are attacking both […]


I know I should have written about this a few days ago, but I find taking a few days to reflect usually leads to a more interesting post. The Beijing Olympic opening ceremony was unimaginable. I think most would describe it as an awesome showing of man power, precision, and beauty. It employed thousands of drummers, dancers, and proudly displayed Chinese history and culture without touching anything from the last century or two. It was a celebration of perfection and Han identity (with a few token minorities in traditional dress). This year’s London Olympics knew that it would be unable to match China point for point in the ceremony, and I think succeeded in demonstrating the kind of culture that flows effortlessly from a mature […]


Seeing photos of the terrible flooding in Beijing, I can’t help but feel for the families affected by the devastation (video). As is usual with disasters, netizens have begun to blame the gov’t for the outcome of what would likely have been tragic in many parts of the world. Hannah, the newest addition to our team, described it as “apocalyptic,” and noted that Saturday’s forecast had only called for a 60% chance of rain. While it is important to note the level of dissatisfaction with the gov’t, it is difficult to know to what extent infrastructure could have mitigated the floods. As saddening as the loss of life is, it is important to note that natural disasters are bound to happen and then the emphasis should shift […]


As I prepare to head back to the US, I want to share a few of my favorite memories from my five years in China. Late 2007 was a fantastic time to arrive in China. It was the perfect chance to get wrapped up in all of the Olympic hype, and even in the remote county of Longzhou the students could hardly contain their excitement. In October I was asked to fill out a survey from the provincial gov’t to gauge my enthusiasm, and while it seemed odd to ask someone who couldn’t have ended up much further from Beijing, I was pretty excited too. As the Olympics grew closer China’s gov’t faced two huge challenges, the widespread Tibetan uprising, and the devastating Wenchuan Earthquake. […]


With the conclusion of the school year, I marked the end of my 5th consecutive year in China. Soon, I will be heading back to the United States and applying to graduate programs related to international development and theology. It has been a fantastic time. I feel very fortunate that I have had the opportunity to be here and to witness China firsthand. I plan on continuing to write about China, and will try to digest a similar amount of People’s Daily, Global Times, and whatever else looks interesting. I know that I will not be able to keep up with frantic pace of five posts a week, so for the past few months I’ve been working with Yaxue and another friend (you will meet […]


Dream of Ding Village by Yan Lianke is the Man Asian Literary Prize nominated story of a small village in Henan as it is ravaged by the AIDS epidemic that spread through central China nearly a decade ago (and continues to devastate communities to this day). Even though it is a work of fiction, the author is a respected anthropologist who did a large amount of field work prior to writing this book. It is a tale of the gov’t’s failure to prevent/control the spread of the disease and inability to provide basic assistance to those afflicted. It is also an interesting view of how village life is portrayed in Chinese literature and the ways in which extended families operate in rural life. The story […]


Yesterday we posted Xu Zhiyong’s essay calling for a New Citizens’ Movement. Today I want to highlight a few of the aspects that make this piece especially interesting to me, and why I believe this essay lays out a realistic path for change. Reform not Revolution What has been made clear time and again in Global Times and Peoples Daily is that the Chinese people have little appetite for revolution, they aren’t wrong about this. After all, they got their fill of the chaos that revolution brings during Mao’s reign. As I mentioned a few weeks ago, and a successful movement is going to have to reassure the people that what they are doing is not going to turn China into Libya, Egypt or Syria. […]


By Xu Zhiyong, published: July 11, 2012 On May 29th, 2012, Dr. Xu Zhiyong published an article titled “New Citizens Movement,” it was quickly censored by the Chinese authorities, but here we present it in English for the first time with the permission of Xu Zhiyong. This essay and Xu’s activism are truly deserving of further coverage overseas as it offers a comprehensive path for reform in China. – Editor     China needs a new citizens’ movement. This movement is a political movement in which this ancient nation bids utter farewell to authoritarianism and completes the civilized transformation to constitutional governance; it is a social movement to completely destroy the privileges of corruption, the abuse of power, the gap between rich and poor, and to […]


Yesterday we looked at three soft suppression tactics commonly used in China to end confrontations before they come to a head. These concepts from recent papers by  Kevin O’Brien and Rachel Stern were: using family members to negotiate with protesters, often with threats that these family members would lose their jobs or pensions (relational repression); vague boundaries of acceptable and unacceptable speech; and the traditional harsh punishments without clear explanations that push observers to see warnings for their own work (morality parables). Today I want to use these ideas to explore how these gov’t tactics can work to the protesters’ advantage, and how these soft suppression failures factored into the recent violence in Shifang. Relational Repression (link) As Kevin O’Brien saw in the protests in Zhejiang, while many people […]


While instances of violence and coercion in China are well-known overseas, they actually make up a small percentage of the total cases that are silenced in less visible ways. For every Chen Guangcheng, there are likely hundreds (thousands?) of others who never dared to speak, or shut up shortly after first opening their mouths. In a great series of papers from Kevin O’Brien and Rachel Stern, they show that China has developed a wide variety of tools for maintaining stability (the following sections are a combination of information from the papers and my own observations). Relational Repression (link) As O’Brien shows with a case study of an environmental protest in Zhejiang, people’s family members and friends are often mobilized to apply pressure to activists. In many cases […]


As we looked at yesterday, China may not be as welcomed in Africa as some authors might argue. My friends told me a few stories after reflecting on our first discussion that I thought should be shared, but didn’t quite fit into yesterday’s post.* Friend from Zambia You know, it’s probably not fair to think that the Chinese are only bad for Zambia. If they weren’t there many of the mines would have closed. Any job is better than no job. The people working in the mines just consider how much better things were for them when the mines were operated by the gov’t, rather than thinking about what it would be like without any job at all. If we were rational we’d probably be […]


I recently read Dambisa Moyo’s NYT op-ed “Beijing, a Boon for Africa.” After wrestling with a few questions that came up for me in the piece, I realized that this was a topic far beyond me and decided to ask my African friends here in China what they thought. The three men I chatted with come from Zambia (the same as Moyo), Zimbabwe, and Ghana. Even though they are not scholars like Moyo, their opinions reflect another valid view of how China is being perceived in their countries. Since they currently live in China, they prefered to remain anonymous. Do Africans really like China more than the U.S.? This question was met with chuckles from my Zambian and Zimbabwean friend (I didn’t get an answer […]


I try to only let myself indulge in jubilant patriotism once a year on this blog, and the 4th of July is that occasion (last year’s entry). This afternoon I’m bringing pulled pork sandwiches in to the office, where I plan on chatting with co-workers about how America threw off the chains of imperial oppression and built a nation based on the rights of individuals instead of the whims of monarchs (sentences like this come from listening to Fanfare for The Common Man on a steady loop). I will acknowledge that it took nearly 200 years to even begin to make the idea that “All men are created equal” a reality in our laws, but that for those centuries, it was this founding principal that pushed […]


As the U.S. continues to grapple with what the Supreme Court decision last week will mean for their health care coverage, China has begun to experiment with their own reforms. In the U.S. our policies left millions without health insurance, and individuals struggled with bankruptcy and chronic illnesses. In China, the situation has deteriorated to a point where patients stab their doctors, hospitals have police stations, and demonstrations are held several times a month in front of the public hospital where I work. I’ve written about China’s hospitals before in Storming the hospital and Chinese doctors speak out about China’s health The reforms being tried in all of Shenzhen’s public hospitals and one of Beijing’s look to address one of the key underlying issues – over prescription. When […]


Last December as soon as I started tweeting and getting to know Twitter’s Chinese community, I was shaken by the news of two men—Chen Wei (陈卫) and Chen Xi (陈西) –being sentenced for nine and ten years in prison, respectively, for writing pro-democracy articles. Even though I was no fan of the Chinese communist party, it seemed to me utterly preposterous that in the 21st century China was still locking people up for thought crimes while it postured itself on world stage as a great power and tried to exert influence. All of a sudden, I was guilt-stricken by everything I enjoyed and took for granted, such as the sunlight slanting across my dining table and the morning peace enveloping me. Then again, shouldn’t there be a few […]


By Yaxue Cao, published: June 28, 2012   I almost forgot; I had been to Shanghai before. It was the Chinese New Year of 1990, I decided spontaneously to go to a friend’s home to spend the holidays. On New Year’s Eve, I boarded an airplane in Guangzhou, and landed, several hours later, at Hongqiao Airport in Shanghai. From the airport, I took a taxi to the Shanghai Train Station. I remember it was dusk, the sky overcast, the air chilling beyond a northerner’s assumption of Shanghai. There was not a soul on the streets. I don’t know why, but right at this moment, I am thinking about six o’clock. Two clicks away now, I know the trip is sixteen kilometers long, and passes a […]


By Yaxue Cao, published: June 27, 2012   On the morning of Christmas Eve as my family and I were getting ready to go to North Carolina to visit my parents-in-law, I received an email from Mr. Sheng Liren whose information I had found on the same school alumni page. He is Sheng Shuren’s brother, seventeen years his junior, a retired professor of mathematics. Before I accidentally heard Sheng Shuren’s story from Erjia, he seemed to be the only person I could potentially find, so I wrote him a letter and sent it to the School of Mathematical Sciences of Anhui University where he had taught before retiring. I did this just to give a try without really expecting too much—perhaps he had moved; even […]


By Yaxue Cao, published: June 26, 2012   Erjia, who was only a couple of years older than Sheng ’s oldest son, called Sheng “Shuren Dage” (树人大哥) or Big Brother Shuren, and Sheng Shuren called Erjia “Jia Di” (“家弟”) or Little Brother Jia. Shuren Dage and Jia Di did not cook and ate in a neighborhood canteen mainly for the neighborhood factory workers. There, Erjia’s two favorite items, steamed dumpling and pickled duck egg, sold for 5 cents a piece. Going Dutch, the two men lived on twenty yuan a month. Sheng Shuren’s mother was sick, and the two men often went to a general store together to rent oxygen bags for her (she died not too long after Erjia left). When there was nothing […]


By Yaxue Cao, published: June 25, 2012 《盛树人》_中文版   I came upon the name Sheng Shuren (盛树人) recently when I was reading one of the documents left behind by Uncle Liu Erning. From the reference I learned Sheng Shuren was a man arrested along with Uncle Erning in Xushui, Hebei Province, in the summer of 1958. I very much wanted to know who he was and whether he was still alive; and if so, whether I could find him and ask about what had happened in Xushui. A Google search found him on the list of notable alumni of an elementary school in the east coastal city of Ningpo. I knew then it was him: “Sheng Shuren, also Yinxing, of the Sheng Family in the […]


By Xu Zhiyong Dr. Xu Zhiyong is a lecturer of law at Beijing University of Posts and Telecommunications, and one of the founders of Open Constitution Initiative (公盟) that offers legal assistance to petitioners and rights defenders, and has been repeatedly harassed, shut down and persecuted. In 2010 it changed its name to simply “Citizen”. Just weeks ago in May 29, Dr. Xu posted a blog post titled China’s New Civil Movement to renew his call for a “new civic movement are a free China with democracy and the rule of law, a civil society of justice and happiness, and a new national spirit of freedom, fairness and love.” The post has since been deleted by the authorities, and he himself was taken away by […]


Duanwu Jie (端午节), or Dragon Boat Festival, is said to have originated in commemoration of the noble suicide of poet/official Qu Yuan roughly 2,300 years ago. The villagers who witnessed his death so respected the man that they raced in their boats to retrieve his body. Others threw balls of glutinous rice (Zongzi) into the river to distract the fish, and keep them from eating his body. According to my co-workers, “It’s just a holiday,” and they struggled to tell me even this much about the festival. Later they added that “Qu Yuan was very patriotic,” in that he loved his country so much he would rather die than see it destroyed. The story of Qu Yuan’s death isn’t only about patriotism; the poet had […]


Today, Jonathan Watts of the Guardian filed his last article from Beijing entitled, “China: Witnessing the birth of a superpower.” While I will sorely miss his reporting, his lengthy 4,000 word post neatly encapsulates the decade long rule of Hu Jintao and Wen Jiabao who came to power just months before Jonathan’s arrival. It is absolutely worth reading in its entirety, but I created this handy chronological cheat sheet to the pieces linked to in it (his article cleverly clumps them by topics). 2003 John Gittings: Goodbye to China Nervous Beijing orders TV blackout as Chinese astronauts reach for the stars After the flood 2004 10,000 animals to be culled as SARS returns to China Taiwan president shot in election attack 2005 A bloody revolt […]


Last week, a photo emerged on weibo of a woman laying next to her aborted daughter*, and the Chinese Internet exploded in anger over how the One Child Policy was being implemented (The New Yorker has a good overview). I didn’t comment on this last week, not because of self-censorship or a disinterest in the story, but because I had failed to consider just how powerful that image was. In the hospital where I work, dozens of abortions take place everyday in the name of family planning; I had assumed most people were aware of the practice, and as I’ve discussed before abortions aren’t usually seen as a moral choice. While most of these would be considered “voluntary,” if there were no policy, these women would […]


Since November last year, Murong Xuecun has becoming increasingly vocal about China’s political situation. If you haven’t read his works, now is a good time to catch up. His only book available in English, “Leave Me Alone: A Novel of Chengdu” (excerpt) focuses on individual struggles in modern China, and while it is a gritty look at life, it is not specifically political in nature. The turning point seems to have come when his visit to Chen Guangcheng ended in getting thrown to the ground and beaten by hired thugs. The riveting account of that trip helped focus the spotlight on Dongshigu and the abuse of human rights there. Since then he has published a number of biting works that are worth reading (in addition to […]


My wife asked her students to collect stories from their grandparents from the Rape of Nanking. Many of the student’s families had fled the city, and other simply didn’t hand anything in. The following are four accounts of what happened in Jiangsu province during the war with Japan as remembered by witnesses of the tragedies. I’m publishing this partially in response to Yoshikazu Kato’s comments made during his visit to Nanjing, in which he stated that he wasn’t certain of the facts of the event, and that further research should be done. All I know about that period of history is from my grandma. At that time my grandma was very young, about 7 or 8 years old. One night when the whole family was […]


This morning I took a deep breath as I left my apartment (due in part to the insane pollution we’ve had in Nanjing the last few days, which Global Times reported was the equivalent of smoking 15 packs of cigarettes), and prepared myself for a trip to one of the worst places in China- the post office. Now bear in mind that I myself am the grandson of a post master general, and I worked for a few years in a shipping company so I generally respect the institution. I’m also well versed in shipping regulations and proper packing. But China Post is an unforgiving place, and so it was with great trepidation that I set out on my task this morning. During my 5 years […]


Last week I carefully broached the subject of Tian’anmen Square with one of my co-workers. Together we looked through a series of pictures from that day from The Atlantic (excellent), which sparked a very interesting, and yet minimally productive conversation. It was her first time seeing evidence of civilian casualties, and I explained that no one was certain how many students and workers had died in the Square, but most foreign sources say hundreds. With the ongoing violence in Syria (which she is following), this wasn’t an easy idea to accept. So I told her that I had never really heard about June 4th from a Chinese view, and asked her to tell me what it had been like. She said here in Nanjing and in Beijing […]


I just discovered quite possibly the strangest corner of the People’s Daily website, the “tips” section. This was apparently launched at the end of May and includes such helpful hints as “Toothpaste treats athlete’s foot,” “Noodle cooking water can soften rag (for those of you who have been fighting the dreaded curse of hard rags),” and “Tips for solving agglomerated sugar.” I can’t quite figure out why the heck these are taking up space on such an official website, and why the explanations are the worst translations I’ve seen from PD. On the upside, they are good for a laugh. For example, this is one complete article (Making soup efficient in summer): “People sweat a lot and drink a lot in summer, so we always make green bean […]


I recently finished reading Mao’s Great Famine: The History of China’s Most Devastating Catastrophe by Frank Dikötter, which outlines the full scope of horror that was the Great Leap Forward which in four years claimed 45 million lives. However, that number fails to capture the suffering and individual abuse that was pervasive throughout the country.  While it is by far the most complete account of that period, it makes for rather dark summer reading. I felt a need to push myself through the unpleasant details as a kind of penance for my years of absolving Mao of any wrong doing. In the past I would have argued that Mao had been fed inaccurate information and was clueless about the actual situation, it was a terribly naive position, […]


It’s not surprising that China lacks a forum for cutting political cartoons, but one artist is challenging the Party’s dominance with pigs and ducks. Crazy Crab’s satirical cartoons on China, which he posts on his site Hexie farm, show the absurd nature of China’s one-party dictatorship and its efforts to silence discussion. He is probably best known for his work on the Chen Guangcheng dark glasses portrait campaign, and his series on China Digital Times. Tom: How would you describe yourself and your work? Crazy Crab: I’m an anonymous cartoonist who doesn’t know how to tell a joke. I started to draw Hexie Farm in late 2009. It’s a series of political cartoons depicting a ‘great, glorious and correct’ era of ‘harmony’. Were you always interested […]


By Yaxue Cao, published: June 1, 2012   When I last visited China in 2004, I did what a visiting overseas Chinese typically does: spending time with family and friends, sightseeing, and enjoying the food. In Beijing I felt like a time traveler arriving at a future time from a quiet, immobile past. I hardly recognized the city at all. When my brother drove me from Beijing to Shanxi on sparkling highways that stretched down the endless great middle plain and then through the mountains of Taihang (太行山), tunnel after tunnel, I had to remind myself that these were the same mountains I used to gaze at from the train and observe a rock or a hut basking in the lazy afternoon light. In my […]


A few days ago, it was announced that Liu Zhijun, former head of the Railway Ministry was stripped of his party title as a result of misconduct. In the Western press it was said that his graft involved hundreds of millions of RMB (over 800 million), and yet People’s Daily (PD) has never hinted at an amount. With this small spark, I decided to do a case study of PD’s reports on corruption in China. The Party’s mouth piece is left in a precarious situation, a lack of reporting on corruption would give the people the impression that nothing is being done to confront the very visible problem. Reporting too much though gives the impression that every gov’t official is corrupt, and the Party is […]


For the last few weeks, the expat community in China has been abuzz with talk about Beijing’s crackdown on foreigners who are here illegally, and the growing anti-foreign sentiment that seems to be stoked by state media (Beijing Cream’s summary of what sparked it all and the fiery post that almost got China Geeks sued). So far the crackdown has already spread to Yanbian and Chengdu is preparing to announce similar measures, a nationwide campaign in the next few months would not be surprising. If we’re completely honest though, I think most of us would agree with the importance of enforcing visa policies, but dislike the tone of the rhetoric and the nationalism it encourages. I think we should also admit that most of us know people […]


Any foreigner who has spent more than a few hours in China might have noticed that smokers are everywhere. Many notice it before they even leave the airport. In Shanghai’s Pudong airport, it’s not uncommon to see a man place a cigarette between his lips or behind his ear before he’s even off the plane. Most of them will duck into the first bathroom they can find to light up, despite the ban on smoking in airports (this might not be the first impression they were hoping for when they built PVG). But what does the ubiquitous smoking tell us about China? First, it gives us a very interesting glimpse into how many Chinese view freedom. In the west we might define freedom as the ability to […]


Over the past few days, I’ve mentioned the village on the cliff several times, but haven’t yet discussed one of the biggest questions I had on my mind during my time there, Why didn’t the gov’t build this village a road? Why is it being left to charities to do the gov’t’s work? I should say that we aren’t just talking about a single road, the majority of the projects we visited were infrastructure projects. One involved repairing an irrigation system, another was to fix a broken water pump, and the third was to build a water pump. Throughout China this charity is also involved in rebuilding schools, roads, bridges and village clinics. This ties back into an important argument made by economists who say […]


I had the chance last night to record a podcast with Mike from the new website ChinaBlogcast.com. We talked a bit about my last few posts on life in rural China, and I shared a few other thoughts and anecdotes. You can download it or listen online here. Secondly, I’d just like to encourage you to check out Mike’s other episode and add China Blogcast to your podcast subscriptions (this is week 2, so it won’t take long to catch up). At the moment there is a real shortage of China related podcasts, and this is a very good addition to the others that already exist. Mike is planning on releasing a new ~30 minute episode every Thursday featuring chats with other China bloggers.


In my visits to rural villages in China I have been impressed by the ability of local churches to identify needs, and design projects to meet them. Often these projects rely solely on volunteers and donations from believers. Today I want to share a few examples of projects undertaken by Chinese churches and the impact they are having on their communities. It is worth noting that these are initiatives begun by local TSPM churches, and represent just a small amount of the “good fruit*” that seems abundant in many of the churches I have visited. Hospice and Counseling One of the churches we visited had created a hospice program which met with terminally ill patients. Some of these patients were Christian, but many were not. The […]


Continued from yesterday My pleasant chat with the happy rural Christians was almost the complete opposite from my chat with one of the ministers of that province’s Christian Council (the governing branch of the officially recognized church). Perhaps that was because she could speak English, and wasn’t constrained by the officials that had come along with us; perhaps it was because she’d been pushed too far. In the city where she worked, the gov’t had big plans for the downtown areas, and the plans required the bulldozing of a historic church and a Bible training center. While the groups were being more than fairly compensated for the land, this minister was adamant that gov’t should not interfere with the church and that these place were […]


A few weeks ago I had the chance to visit a very small village. The villagers there told me this story of how they converted to Christianity and I thought it was an interesting account that gave a glimpse of their relationship with God and a few of the practical challenges of being a rural Christian. The following is a fairly close retelling of what I overheard from their congregation- Villager #1 – Before we became Christians, our village was known for quarreling with our neighbors. Outsiders said that you could hear us fighting even before you entered. Neighbors would fight from sun up to sun down. We were really terrible then (congregation nods in agreement). Another villager later told us that she had been […]


For seven years Chen Guangcheng has been silenced in China for his role in opposing illegal forced abortions in Shandong province, that ended today with his arrival in the US. Even after his escape from thugs in Linyi, the gov’t in Beijing kept him in a tightly guarded hospital room. Finally, he will have a chance to talk openly about his experiences and the situation facing hundreds of other activists in China. I hope you will take a moment to reflect on the power of that image – a man once tortured and imprisoned, now is able to stand in front of the world. I wanted to say that he was no longer afraid of the Chinese gov’t and their reprisals, but much of Chen’s […]


Yesterday we looked at a few of the pros and cons of rural life, today we’ll be looking at the development plan for this region. “China is a large country with a large population,” seemed to be the catch-all excuse for much of the poverty we saw as we traveled through rural parts of a central Chinese province.* While I generally find it an unconvincing dodge, the remoteness of this region lead me to contemplate how it could ever be prosperous. Many of China’s remote regions were settled exactly because they were so difficult to reach, offering minority groups and small clans protection from outsiders. But now that trade and manufacturing are the base of China’s growth, these rural places have been left behind. One […]


China’s rise has lifted hundreds of millions out of poverty, but has life really improved as much as that claim implies? As a recent study shows, life satisfaction in China has not increased over the past 20 years, which seems to suggest that increasing wealth has not brought about a correlating increase in happiness. Today we’ll be exploring why this might be the case in the countryside. A few weeks ago I had the chance to visit several remote villages in central China. As the van bumped along rocky roads that wound over steep mountains for nearly 10 hours I started wondering how much life had really changed in many of these places over the past 60 years and whether or not these survivors would say […]


Over the past three days we’ve had a chance to look at the full version of the story the Party tells about China’s past 170 years. I divided it into three sections that weren’t broken up in the National Museum, but that allowed reflection on logical chunks – The Opium war up to the founding of the Republic; The founding of the Party through the Mao years; and finally, 30 years of opening up. I wanted to wait to comment on the text until you all had had a chance to read it and form some of your own impressions (which I hope you’ll share below). The first thing that I noticed from the exhibit was that China’s default status in the world is “glorious,” […]


…Continued Ushering in a new era of development in the cause of socialism 5.1 The Third Plenary Session of the 11th CPC Central Committee was a significant transition in the history of the party and the state since the founding of the People’s Republic of China. the CPC central collective leadership with Comrade Deng Xiaoping as its core throroughly reviewed the lessons from its experience in socialist construction, emancipated their minds, sought truth from facts, made the historic decision to shift the focus of the Party and country’s work to economic development and to implement reform and opening up, laid out the Party’s basic line for the primary stage of socialism and the three-step strategy for modernizing the country, created Deng Xiaoping Theory and blazed […]


…Continued from part 1 An earth-shattering event 3.1 The imperialist powers invasion shattered China’s dream of learning from the West. The October Revolution in Russia sent Marxism to China and cause progressive Chinese to turn their attention from the West to the East, and from bourgeois democracy to socialism. The May 4th Movement furthered the spread of Marxism, and the working class appeared on the stage of history as an independent political force. The integration of Marxism with the workers movement gave  birth to the CPC. The founding of the CPC was an earth-shattering even that brought new vitality to the Chinese revolution. Searching for a new path for the Chinese revolution 3.2 After its founding, the CPC relied on and mobilized workers and peasants, […]


The following is copied word for word from the exhibit “The Road to Rejuvenation” at The Chinese National Museum in Beijing (and as far as I know has not been published online prior to this). The exhibit focuses on China’s history from 1840 to the present. The Chinese National Museum reopened in March 2011, offering the most official and most recent account of China’s history as told by the Communist Party (for more on the museum I recommend this excellent NYT piece about the difficulties the Party had in agreeing on how the past should be portrayed). This is the story taught to hundreds of millions of Chinese students; it shapes every discussion of China’s future. I hope this series of posts will help foster discussions of […]


A few months ago I reviewed Yes China! by Neil Clark, and when a friend asked me to review another book about teaching English in China I was a little hesitant to commit to reading what to me has already become a familiar story. Yet, I was pleasantly surprised to find Yin-Yang: American Perspectives on Living in China filled with thoughtful reflections packaged in an altogether new format. Colorado China Council (CCC) Executive Director and author of this book, Alice Renouf, collects letters from former teachers and organizes them into a wide range of topics, and sorts them by location and date. I found this a wonderfully novel approach to creating a clear picture of China’s development and the diversity of experiences. This book shows it […]


Yesterday we explored why there is no such thing as instant guanxi, and were reminded that favors are often repaid in ways that we might not expect but have to accept. Today we’ll be looking at why your Chinese friends might feel uneasy pulling strings for you, and why foreign teachers are so wary of dinners with co-workers and bosses. As an employee of a hospital, I occupy a prime spot in the guanxi hierarchy in that I know a few doctors in several departments. Even though my connections are very limited in number, the connections I do have can be incredibly handy when friends are sick. Yet, as they have come to see, if it can be avoided I don’t use my guanxi. It […]


The following is a guest post from a friend who writes on her blog ChinaB.org My Chinese friend turned to me the other day and said “What time is it? I got a plane to Shenzhen to catch.” “Shenzhen? What are you doing going there on a Sunday night?” She looked suddenly embarrassed and told me quietly that she was taking a PhD qualifying exam for someone. The first question that came to mind was why?; why this thirty-some-year-old was being flown out to Shenzhen to take a PhD exam. I have known her for two years, and she is a very kind and curious woman, but by no means a mover and shaker. Her English is pretty good, and if she had any other […]


I received this as an email today and was asked to share it with you all. I am writing this in great fear. Let me explain- All of the things happening with the drama of Chen and Bo haven’t even phased people here as they are still more concerned with surviving in their daily lives. But then today that changed. My boyfriend (a Chinese professor of English) received a strange text message. He sent it to me and was very concerned because we are planning on getting married and moving to the US as soon as possible. The text was in Chinese and my Chinese was too poor to understand all of it so he translated it. It read: an announcement received today from concerned authorities that all leaders and professors […]


I arrived in Beijing late on the high speed train from Nanjing a few days ago. In Nanjing we were whisked to the South train station on a relatively new subway, walked into the massive new transportation hub (it brought back memories of the Three Gorges Dam), and arrived roughly a thousand miles away in just 3 and half hours*. It was everything that China appears to be in Thomas Friedman’s accounts, and even as skeptical as I can be at times about China’s progress, it was hard to contain my sense of awe. For a moment I forgot about the pollution that had limited my view the entire journey and the massive cost of the projects and enjoyed China’s glorious achievements (but just for […]


Last week Chen Guangcheng entered a US embassy for the protection that the Chinese gov’t had failed to provide the innocent man. According to Chen’s friends, it was a step that Chen did not want to take. Today we will be looking at three lessons Chen’s case teaches us about China’s legal system. Chen Guangcheng would never call himself a dissident; he might hesitate to even describe himself as an activist. The incredible thing that we should keep in mind as representatives from the US and China decide Chen’s fate, is that he is a man who simply thought that the laws on paper should be enforced. Chen’s initial fame came from his efforts to protect the rights of the disabled and he fell afoul […]


Yesterday Yaxue posted a piece entitled “An Angry Father,” in which she asked the question – How can a parent protect their child from the poison of the Party’s propaganda? Yaxue also mentioned the feeling of guilt and anger that she experienced as she told a friend not to interfere with the system for the sake of his child. These two ideas I think deserve closer examination. Poisoned By Propaganda This last week as I visited rural villages in central China, I was struck by the pervasive nature of propaganda. In the countryside slogans were either neatly stenciled on the sides of buildings, or simply scrawled with a paintbrush in the poorest areas. The campaigns seemed relatively harmless, encouraging parents to accept boys and girls […]


I received the following as an email a few days ago and thought it was interesting enough to share with you here- “Just wanted to share with you a message I received from my soon-to-be brother-in-law. He wrote: On a completely unrelated and weird note, a few minutes ago I was breaking apart the box for the smart cover I recently bought for my iPad and discovered Chinese writing on the inner cardboard surface of the box. The writing was hidden between two layers that were glued together and I only found it because I was physically breaking apart the box. We immediately started to speculate about what it could possibly say and then I realized you may be able to read it. Anyway, if […]


Yesterday I shared the answers my former students gave to a short survey I sent them. Today we’re going to look more closely at the data, and try to get a better understanding of the lives these recent graduates are facing. As I am currently living in Nanjing, where salaries have been moving steadily upward for my friends graduating from one of China’s best universities, it was very interesting to see that the top salary among these 9 from Guangxi was only 2,500 RMB. The average was just 1,842 RMB, which is slightly below the national average for urban residents (1,998 RMB/month). Only 3 of the 9 students reported salaries above that average, two of those earned 2,000RMB/month. The second surprise for me was how […]


A few weeks ago I sent a very brief survey to a class of my former students as a way of checking on their progress since graduation. Out of the 20+ students I sent the questions to, 9 replied. Those who did not reply may have been too busy to respond, or without internet (due to geography or poverty), or simply had no interest in participating. These students attended a low-level university (4-year program) in Guangxi province. The questions I asked were: 1. What kind of company do you currently work for? How much money do you earn each month? How many hours do you work each week? Where is it located? 2. Are you satisfied with your work? 3. Does your job make use […]


In the run up to the London Book Fair focused on Chinese literature, the Guardian is publishing a great series of short fiction works from some of the best authors in China (there are a few works left to be published). Unlike the book fair, which moved to avoid offending their guests from the Chinese gov’t by not inviting any of China’s writers in exile or remaining dissidents (One of these guests is Liu Yandong), this set of works doesn’t worry about hurting the feelings of officials who might wish to show China in a more flattering light. The stories published so far play with some of the expected themes like the rural/urban divide and the challenges of modernity. They also explore some surprisingly dark themes like […]


When you hear the words “migrant worker,” what kind of person comes to mind? Are they young or middle age? Are they poor? Are they educated? While “migrant worker” seems at first to describe a fairly uniform group of lowly occupations – factory and construction workers, aiyis, taxi drivers, etc. Their backgrounds are actually quite diverse, and the term covers a far larger group of people than we might expect. So large in fact that over 55% of those between 14-35 living in Shanghai are counted as “migrants.” Many of these people are ambitious college graduates entering a workplace with little need of higher education degrees. As a colleague from a Chinese charity recently told me, a large number of people working at factories like […]


Last night the Central Gov’t confirmed that rumors of Bo Xilai’s involvement in the death of a British national were true. The Party claims this as a victory that shows China as a country “ruled by law (and here),” even though information about this case began to surface months ago with Wang Lijun fleeing to the U.S. Embassy in Chengdu. Bo’s sacking along with the revelation that he may have been an accomplice in a murder is also unusual in that high-level officials are usually dismissed without much clarification. In the last big case, with Railway minister Liu Zhijun supposedly embezzling 800 million RMB, it was only stated in the Chinese press that he was suspected for graft without a specific amount (even though he was blamed […]


We’re often presented with images of Beijing and Shanghai’s glittering skylines and are inundated with stories of economic success. We know that China has succeeded in bringing hundreds of millions of people out of poverty and that life in the countryside has never been better. But what does life actually look like in rural China for the nearly 700 million people that call it home? What kind of life does roughly $2.50 per day buy (this is the average rural income)? Today I’ll be sharing some of the best photos from People’s Daily as well as from my own travels. These images would be familiar to most Chinese people. In the countryside your school looks like this (more) Your parents are most likely farmers (more) Or work […]


China’s foreign policy of non-involvement seems to stem from the Confucian teaching to “Never impose on others what you would not choose for yourself.” For the Party, this means avoiding situations like what is currently happening in Syria, which if the UN had its way would see the ouster of a gov’t for slaughtering its own people (similar stances were taken by China in respect to Sudan and Libya too). China’s foreign policy recognizes the possible problems of setting a precedence of using military force against chronic human rights abusers. The key to this policy is keeping public opinion in line with the gov’t response and to accomplish that, China needs nationalism. This also explains the Party’s framing of China as a still imperiled nation. They push […]


Today the pro-Mao (and by extension pro-Bo Xilai) site Utopia announced it would be closed for a month. At the risk of over simplification, this would be like Mitt Romney shutting down Tea Party websites. While one of my co-workers seemed to think that this was “good news,” it’s not the victory for reformers that some might be tempted to claim it is. Too often observers make the mistake of assuming that China is either heading to the left (which in China is the pro-Mao camp) or to the right (reformers), but things are rarely that simple. As other observers have noted, if a site on the right had ventured as far from the permissible realm as Utopia had gone to the left, people would […]


The strange new trend with China’s young parents is arranging marriages for their toddlers. These virtual vows are being promoted by Babytree.com as well as a few other sites, which allow parents to create social network profiles for their infants and then review possible matches. While these online betrothals seem to be little more than sensational play-dates, it does beg the question, what kind of society comes up with baby marriages? When you actually look at the underlying social factors, the practice becomes somewhat unsurprising, and that makes the factors all the more interesting. We’ll work backwards on this phenomena: What is the purpose of marriage from the perspective of the parent? In modern China, marriage fulfills several important social functions. For families with sons, a marriage means […]


For some reason, I’ve been brought to a number of business meetings even though I am in no way a businessman. Yet, I’ve been a part of making decisions related to hiring and forging partnerships. Today I thought I’d share a few cases that may prove of some use to those of you looking to succeed in China. The case of the effusive businessman An older white man sits down at a table full of Chinese faces. With a strong Aussie accent he manages to say in Chinese, “Hello, I’m very happy to be here with you today.” The meeting begins with laughter, and whispers of how good his Chinese is (even though it really isn’t). Over the course of the meetings and meals he […]


After reading an article about the myriad problems facing China’s health system, I asked the doctors in my medical English class to briefly reflect on the system based on their own ideas and opinions. Of the 17, 15 doctors wrote that China’s system faced serious challenges. The following are excerpts from their papers that I think accurately reflect the challenges currently facing China’s health. I have not fact checked them, and in some cases I’m fairly certain they aren’t accurate, but that the doctors believe these statistics is revealing. This one echoed many of the main points of the other doctors. “For patients, medical services are too expensive. It is said that the average cost is about 500 yuan for a common cold in a […]


This post is continued from yesterday. The book Poor Economics is the source for these general ideas, I’m simply discussing how they would apply to China’s context. Culture shifts, not culture shift Cultures often create systems of reciprocity that create some kind of “fairness” within the family. However, as the authors point out, just because one part of a culture changes doesn’t mean the corresponding pieces change as well, and the system becomes unfair in a way that continues poverty. One instance of this would be in family arrangements. Traditionally the grandparents help their children raise the next generation, and children also traditionally support their parents when they reach old age. While these two may seem to be connected, in modern China grandparents have been expected to […]


While China has raised hundreds of millions of people out of desperate poverty in the last 60 years, there are still 128 million people living on less that $1 per day (World Bank defines poverty as less than $1.25/day). This is actually 100 million more people than 2010, because the gov’t radically revised the definition of poverty which was hiding the true scale of the problem. While it might be tempting to “blame” poverty on the poor, or urge leaders to serve the people, or throw our hands up in despair, Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Duflo’s recent book Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way to Fight Global Poverty, offers more practical advice. Instead of simply judging anti-poverty campaigns on whether or not they […]


By Hu Ping Mr. Hu Ping (胡平) was a graduate student of philosophy at Peking University in 1980. On campus that fall there was a lively student campaign, and then election, for People’s Representatives of Haidian District in Beijing, an event that has not been seen since. Mr. Hu was one of the candidates. I remember all of a sudden the campus was filled with milling crowds reading posters by the candidates sharing their ideas. Public debates were held, followed by endless chattering around meal times and in the evening hours. After ten bleak years of the Cultural Revolution, the energy was palpable, raw and eruptive. As a freshman still just finding my ways in college life, I understood little of what was going on, […]


Last week Weibo was swept up in rumors of a completely imagined coup in Beijing (Yaxue covered the extent of the madness excellently). It seems that this week is bringing yet another wave of crazed speculation, again involving former star Bo Xilai, as well as an international man of mystery, and most of Bo’s family (NYT coverage or the more entertaining and similarly accurate movie version). For me the question has nothing to do with whether or not these rumors bare any resemblance to what has actually happened (they probably don’t), the big question is why aren’t these rumors being squashed like a bug? There are several possibilities. While nobody really knows the answer, my Chinese friends have assured me that “this is absolutely not normal”. Weibo has come off […]


For those who have never visited China, the country offers much more freedom than you are probably imagining. For those who’ve visited for quick trips, China is likely far more restrictive than what you’ve experienced. For most people in China, the lack of freedom only occasionally asserts itself as the veneer of “reform and opening up” gives way, exposing the fact that in many ways, China is still a police state. Despite my daily reading of abuses and scandals, these breaches rarely appear in daily life. This is partially why I try to avoid reporting on every act of depravity, they don’t reflect the China I know. At times it feels like there are two completely separate realms, the one in the papers and the one that I […]


By Yaxue Cao Mystery abounds. Suspense builds. Millions in China, as someone on Twitter puts it, have been immersed lately in writing “movie scripts” of court intrigues in Zhongnanhai (中南海, gov’t headquarters in Beijing). Under normal circumstances, they can’t even get within 30 feet of its shining red gate guarded by soldiers with truncheons but, all of a sudden, it seems that scores, if not armies, of people live right under the beds of China’s supreme leaders, and are eavesdropping on all of their nightly whispers! CCTV can’t be any happier. Its 7pm newscast sees a wobbling hike in viewership because its script, for once, becomes the most sought-after. Appearances are analyzed and then overanalyzed. Words are turned, over and over again, for hidden clues. […]


The practice of using the organs of executed prisoners for transplantation has been going on since at least 1984 in China, and it has been treated as a state secret for most of that time. At that time the gov’t formulated a directive that formally legalized the practice, and prescribed specific instructions for keeping the practice from being exposed. No white clothes, no vans with hospital insignias, and guards had to be present during the operations. The first acknowledgement from Chinese officials came in 1991. For 28 years, the practice continued without much discussion in the Chinese press, and frequent denials from Chinese citizens. In 2005 however, the curtain was slightly pulled back once again thanks to China Daily, which featured a very brief acknowledgement of the practice. […]


One of the first things that a person notices when they arrive in Nanjing, is that unlike other Chinese cities, many of the main streets are lined with mature trees. Some of these trees were planted over 60 years ago, and in some ways are the symbol of Nanjing. The trees are so loved, that around this time last year, when the local gov’t planned the removal of 600 trees for subway stations, people protested and managed to get the officials to redraw their plans to limit the effect on the trees (Nanjing has 15 additional lines planned for the next 18 years). The protest was unique in that it was not related to health concerns as other environmental campaigns have been, but that people […]


Recently I had the chance to discuss the fascinating article, “The Sick Man of Asia” with the doctors at my hospital. The author, Huang Yanzhong, argues that despite China’s seemingly impressive gains in health over the past 60 years, they are lagging behind its economic growth. Furthermore, the author seems to argue that the average Chinese person (as far as health is concerned) saw greater benefits from Mao’s time in power than during Deng, Jiang, and Hu. The author argues that Mao’s regime was able to make large gains because they focused on bringing medicine to rural populations. Huang also shows that the chaos of the Cultural Revolution caused the bureaucratic powers of the Ministry of Health to retreat, while millions of doctors were sent […]


A recurring topic on the blog is that in China many things are sensitive, but nobody is actually certain what is on that list (as we saw yesterday). For instance, due to a strange turn of events, “Ferrari” was blocked on Weibo, while rumors of a coup in Beijing remained intact. This lack of clarity on what can and can’t be discussed not only impedes the free flow of information and discourages efficiency, but also has very real costs for individuals and organizations. I know a Chinese Christian charity who would benefit greatly from greater exposure overseas. A number of scandals in other Chinese charities this year and continued concerns about the global economy have reduced contributions to them. So when I heard about a journalist doing […]


I think to many observers of China, People’s Daily (PD) has little worth outside of restating the Party line. They pretend that it is a reconstruction of the Ministry of Truth from 1984, whose only purpose lies in creating “truth.” Some even go so far as to argue that reading and quoting such a paper does nothing but affirm the Party’s leadership. In fact, bloggers, activists, and dissidents should be reading the People’s Daily, and, as I’ll show, often the most damning evidence against the Party’s rule can be found within its pages. Initially, I too was skeptical of the integrity of People’s Daily, but linked to it regularly, assuming that even the strongest proponents of China would find it difficult to argue with facts […]


Last week we looked at why the Two Meetings matter, today we’re looking at what this year’s recurring themes were. Equality Since opening up in the 80’s, gov’t resources have been increasingly targeted at creating advanced cities, abandoning the more equitable development that had been encouraged under Mao. Rural China now finds itself with few medical personnel and crumbling schools while their land is sold out from under them by greedy officials. Meanwhile Chinese cities have benefited immensely from the policies, which has created a wealthy class that in some cases spends more on a single meal than many farmers make in a year. This new wealth has helped spark a real-estate boom that has led to the quadrupling of real-estate prices in some cities, moving housing out of […]


By Yaxue Cao The Chinese microblogs are in an uproar about amendments to the country’s Criminal Procedure Law, already passed Sunday afternoon by the 170-member presidium of the National People’s Congress with only one objection and one abstention. It will be voted on by the 3,000 NPC representatives on Wednesday, March 14, 2012. The wide contention focuses on two proposed revisions which allow secret detention and disappearance. They are article 73 and 83. Article 83 provides, in part, that “Upon detaining a suspect, relatives of the detainee shall be notified within 24 hours unless the suspect is allegedly involved in crimes of harming state security, crimes of terrorism, and notifying family may impede investigation. Or when there is no means to notify relatives.” Article 73 […]


Around 1 p.m. this afternoon People’s Daily reported that a 300 meter section of high-speed railway collapsed in Hubei province, possibly because of heavy rains. As far as I can tell from the media reports, no one was injured or killed (although it does not say so explicitly). The strange part about this report though, is that the collapse happened Friday afternoon. Why was there a delay? Odds are that this was caused by the ongoing meetings in Beijing that typically prefer only positive news during their sessions. The same day as the collapse, officials assured the public that China would be pushing forward with it’s planned high-speed rails despite “some mistakes.” Even though there was no loss of life in this collapse, tragedy seems to have […]


Just in case you’ve been doing something else this week besides poring over China news, Monday marked the start of China’s annual Two Meetings (两会lianghui). Over 10 days, “representatives” (it is unclear who they actually represent) submit thousands of suggestions for new laws, listen to speeches from heads of various ministries, and approve virtually everything the Party sets in front of them. For many Chinese netizens, it serves as a buffet of memes (internet jokes) at the expense of sleeping delegates and Mao’s grandson, as well as a source of outrage when it comes to expensive clothing and accessories. At the end of the meetings, new laws will be presented and then promptly forgotten. As the WSJ put it: …activists including artist Ai Weiwei, who was detained […]


As we saw yesterday, China’s water problem urgently needs solutions. As is often the case in China, the Party has pushed forward a single massive project as their favorite option. This project is known as the “South-North Water Diversion Project,” and was inspired by a quote from none other than Chairman Mao who stated, “Southern water is plentiful, northern water scarce. If at all possible, borrowing some water would be good.” Mao may have gotten the idea from the Soviet Union, which was also working on a similar project at the time (that project was abandoned in the 80’s due to environmental concerns). The project began in 2002, and some sections are already in use. The plan seems straight forward enough, pump water from the Yangtze […]


Over the last year we’ve discussed the problem of air pollution nearly a dozen times, and while this is a pressing issue that effects hundreds of millions of people, there is a bigger environmental challenge facing China – water pollution. More specifically, there is a shortage of water that can be used. You can tell it is a serious problem, given the frank discussion of the issue in the People’s Daily, and that unlike smoking or public defecation, it has its own public service campaign. A recent article from People’s Daily highlights some of the problems (it’s worth reading the full thing): UP to 40 percent of China’s rivers were seriously polluted last year after 75 billion tons of sewage and waste water was discharged into them 20 percent of rivers were so polluted their water quality was rated too toxic even to come into contact with nearly 300 million rural residents lack access to drinking water The per capita of water resources is only 2,100 cubic meters annually, or about 28 percent of the world’s average About two-thirds of Chinese cities are “water-needy” Unlike air pollution, water shortages (caused partially by pollution and industry) disproportionaly effects the poor. For […]


A few weeks ago I was at a duck restaurant and the time came to pay the bill. At just under 100RMB, I knew that asking for an official receipt (发票 fapiao) would give me a chance to win some money. When I approached the register though, I was given a choice between an official receipt and a can of Sprite. If you’re scratching your head at this point, don’t worry, so was my mother-in-law. In an effort to boost tax compliance, I’m not sure when exactly, China enacted a policy that tied tax payments with official receipts. So for example, if the tax is 10% than a 50RMB receipt costs the restaurant 5RMB (or cab company or local handyman, etc.). Since these are required by […]


Earlier this week, out of nowhere, netizens in China found G+ was accessible and some began to post comments on President Obama’s campaign account making appeals such as “Free Chen Guangcheng.” By now all the rowdies have shown up, and I had difficulty cutting a screen shot with a CGC message on it. What a pity. This week, the annual National People’s Congress (NPC) and National Political Consultative Conference are getting ready to open on March 3rd and 5th respectively, and it is also the time of the year when online satire and sarcasm are at their thickest. Also this week, the latest spasm of “Learning from Lei Feng” campaign went full blown on state media, but this time around, thanks to the existence of […]


By Yaxue Cao …Continued from yesterday Components of a He Cha Session When the state security police descended on these law-biding citizens, often in plain clothes, asking to have a talk with him or her, they didn’t bother to show their ID and did so only reluctantly in some cases when the interrogatee insisted. Never mind the warrant. There was none. In one case, the wife of an interrogatee opened the door to find policemen asking her husband to go with them. When she asked why, she was told “it’s inconvenient to say.” When she insisted the police show a warrant, the police said there was no warrant, threatened to use force, adding, “You are in China.” The Interrogation: The security police asked an interrogatee’s name, […]


After two days without breakfast, I was glad to see the jianbing man this morning (jianbing is a delicious crepe like food that should be enjoyed by all). I was actually surprised to see him, the two big meetings of the Party start next week, and I had assumed they had forced him from the street early as usual. When I asked where he had been, he said, “There was a health inspection. We get a phone call from someone who knows when these are, and so we stayed home.” I nodded and expected the conversation to shift back to the usual topic: the cost of random goods in the US. In the last year the jianbing man has been absent a few days at […]


Liao Yiwu’s book, God Is Red, is one of the best I have ever read. Liao Yiwu’s work concerning Tian’anmen Square cost him 4-years in prison. His work with the currently imprisoned Nobel prize winner, Liu Xiaobo, caused further restrictions on his freedom in China and led to regular visits from the police. He was told that the publishing of God is Red would be considered a criminal offense. On July 2nd, 2011, he crossed the border into Vietnam, knowing that he would have to sacrifice his connection with his homeland in order to tell the stories of the people who lived there. It started a few years earlier while Liao was working on other projects. He met a number of Chinese Christians and became interested in their […]


The idea that democracy doesn’t fit China’s national condition seems to be a weekly feature in the Global Times (like today’s article). The arguments provided in these pieces not only show a disgusting contempt for the common Chinese person (we’ll call them “laobaixing (老百姓) from here on), but also expose the deeper flaws in the current electoral-system which is a faux-democracy at best. At present, China’s political system allows for choosing representatives at the local government level, these candidates though are handpicked by the Party. In the last round of elections there were several independent candidates, but many of these were harassed by the police and marginalized in the election. These elected officials are partially responsible for selecting the higher levels of gov’t although they too face […]


This week we have an interesting assortment for you. Before shutting himself up, an economist makes one last plea; the word to use to accuse someone who advocates change; China has a lot of “national secrets” and I bet this is one of them; the party asks you to oversee it, but you wonder how; a patriot defends his country, loud and clear; friendship cracks under fear; and what a Chinese luxury car looks like. Click date below for link to the original. More than once I translated in this column the economist Han Zhiguo, known for speaking out on Weibo and elsewhere about how the political system in China hinders the economy. He recently hinted that he had been pressured and threatened. This week […]


Today the People’s daily ran a story gushing over an upcoming release of the complete works of Lei Feng nearly 50 years after his death. In the West though it is widely accepted as fact that Lei was little more than an invented character who served the Party’s propaganda needs, and is a reminder of the days before Mao’s cultural revolution. Today we’ll be trying to answer two questions about Lei – Who was Lei Feng? And is there still room in modern China for “Lei Feng Spirit”? I’ll let a People’s Daily article introduce the man: “Born in late 1940 in central China’s Hunan province, Lei was orphaned at the age of 7. He started working in a steel mill in 1958, and became […]


Last night a new arrival to the middle kingdom asked me whether or not the water was safe to drink. “It’s safe as long as I boil it, right?” she said with a worrying tone. The answer is yes, for the short term. A thorough boiling of water is enough to kill the things that cause unpleasant stomach situations. For as long as Chinese people can remember, water has been boiled and served hot. There are a number of Traditional Chinese Medicine beliefs about the benefits of warm/hot water, including digestive aid and the curing of common ailments. In fact there are even accounts from the late 1800’s about how miserably sick the Irish were while building the railroads in the US due to drinking untreated water […]


I’ve been working on transcribing the diary of a missionary doctor who lived in Hefei (then called Lu Chow Fu) around the turn of the century. This passage, written by the doctor’s wife, struck me as particularly interesting for several reasons. Firstly, by the sheer number of people the doctor and his two assistants were able to treat in a year, and secondly by the fact that malaria had been such a major concern in central China. Last year there were only 24 deaths from the disease, and it has been eradicated in Hefei, this is a noteworthy achievement that is rarely mentioned. According to Wikipedia, the population of Hefei in 1930 was ~30,000. The following entry gives us an interesting glimpse of both the […]


I came across a blog post yesterday that compares Weibo and Twitter, and the conclusion is that Weibo is not international and its power to promote change is limited. To that I will add that Weibo is really a glass house where it feels like you are free but you keep hitting the walls all the time. It is also becoming a mirror of the twisted world that China is, because, for example, while posts about what’s going on in the Tibetan area of Sichuan can result in a night visit by police (an artist friend of mine in Beijing emailed me on the 9th about being visited by four policemen the night before and taken to a station and warned of his posts about […]


By Yaxue Cao   Xi Jinping (习近平), the vice president of China and heir-apparent of the Communist regime, was in town to visit on Tuesday, Valentine’s Day. Protesters gathered in Lafayette Park across the street from the White House. I went too, with a Chen Guangcheng sign I had made the night before. Of the diverse groups there, the Tibetans were the largest. Before I walked into the park, I had already seen a jungle of snow lion flags and heard shouts of slogans. A lot of Falun Gong practitioners were there too. Some held banners calling for “Stop Persecuting Falun Gong”, but more were meditating on their mats over the east lawn of the park. I don’t think I heard them shouting any slogans. […]


This article was written by a Chinese friend in Chengdu who is passionate about the protection of animals. The first time I heard about the House of Love (爱之家, aizhijia) was on Christmas Day, 2008. I was giving a lecture on animal rights in western countries during my last period of the semester. One of the students came to me after class, saying she had been a volunteer for the House of Love for a long time. “Visit our blog, or come to visit us when you are free,” she said. So I did. I searched their blog on line and was totally surprised that there was a private animal shelter right here in Chengdu. I called Chen Yunlian, owner of the shelter to verify […]


Clark Nielsen came to China with no training and no clue how to be an English teacher, Yes China! An English Teacher’s Love-Hate Relationship with a Foreign Country ($13.45 paperback, $5.99 Kindle) is the enjoyable record of what happened next. The majority of the book focuses on his experiences in a variety of classroom settings and his failure to understand how to properly lesson plan. Clark’s first foray into China was with a largely Mormon summer teaching program, which leads to interesting reflections from Clark on his former faith and how his decision to leave the church has changed his life (non-China related personal content makes up about 20-30% of the book). It’s also an account of him struggling to control a class full of primary students […]


As my wife, whom I love very much, reminds me from time to time, I assume too often that the readers of the blog actually know me. I hope this post helps you better understand where I am coming from as you read about the China that I know. From time to time readers of the blog ask whether or not I even like living in China. They say things like, “If you don’t like it, why don’t you just go home?” In no time the comment section fills up with reasons why I should stay in China to continue my work, whatever that might be. The truth is though, I love China. Since high school I’ve been fascinated by everything about the country, and […]


Over the past few days I’ve received emails from long-time readers of the blog telling me to “stay safe” after publishing Ge Xun’s account of his detention. In the past I would have said that for the most part, China deports troublesome foreigners and is content with keeping them outside of its borders and labeling them as “hostile foreign forces” (this is not the case with drug charges, China routinely executes foreign “smugglers”). Now though, it seems that the Party is expanding its search for activists that it deems a threat to stability, even if they have been living outside of China for 25 years, and is willing to subject them to violence and intimidation. We published Yaxue’s translation of Ge Xun’s account, not only […]


By Ge Xun, translated by Yaxue Cao This is the continuation of Ge Xun’s account of his ordeal in Beijing that happened just one week ago. – Part One They asked what prompted me to “come back (to activism)” in 2009. I told them because the human rights situation in China was deteriorating badly, and I wanted to do something to be useful. They asked me what other organization(s) I had joined apart from IFCSS. Any organization having to do with Tibetans overseas? I realized they were asking about the Bay Area Chinese and Tibetan Friendship (BACTF). I joined in 2010. It’s a young organization for mutual understanding and friendship between Chinese and Tibetans in the bay area. I was elected Secretary. “Why did you […]


By Ge Xun, published: February 8, 2012 A Chinese-American activist’s kidnap.    I came to the United States to study physics in 1986 and stayed and became an American citizen. I believe in universal values such as freedom and basic human rights. I admire the best of humans wherever I see it, and I do what I do openly with nothing to hide. My mother died at 83 on January 24, 2012, in Beijing. I flew back on the 28th for her funeral. By the 31st my siblings and I had taken care of everything and made arrangements to put my parents’ remains together. For the rest of my stay I planned to meet a few people, among them, Ding Zilin (丁子霖), or the “Tian’anmen Mother” […]


It would be easy to write a post about the difference between Malaysia and China and point to the joys of multiculturalism and  democracy. However it wasn’t these things that jumped out most at me during my travels, instead it was the simple joy of being reminded of the abundance of life outside of the human race. Even though Malaysian Borneo is home to orangutans, sea turtles, and hosts of other intriguing creatures, it was the little birds that could be heard in every city that made me saddest to leave. China’s urban areas have stray cats and dogs, rats, and surprisingly large cockroaches, but very few birds (outside of the ones old men bring to the parks in cages). Even though my apartment exits […]


Last week I briefly showed how if-then rewards are more likely to cause a search for loopholes than actual results. Today I want to explore a second idea from Pink’s book “Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us;” that relying solely on extrinsic motivation doesn’t promote the kind of business/thinking that China needs to become a world leader. Firstly, it is important to understand another concept from the book, which Pink calls “motivation 2.0,” this is his name for the carrot and stick approach to leadership. External rewards can give people the incentives they need to act in a certain way, but it doesn’t fully appreciate the complexity of human choices (“motivation 2.0” can be anything from lower power prices at night to encourage […]


You know things are going wrong in Tibet and other Tibetan areas when CCTV tells you that Tibetans are living happily as never before, Global Times hits hard on “lawless Tibetans”, and Wumaos (五毛) are swarming Twitter accounts of Woeser and other sources of Tibetan news and spitting hate. On Weibo, there are loose items by travelers, local Chinese, or even one or two members of the armed police, about what they see and do. Otherwise they do a pretty good job making sure there isn’t much news. Click to see a set of pictures taken in Lhasa, Tibet,  on Jan. 31. In this issue we have items about the makeup of China’s new leadership, political reform or the absence of it, a reminiscence about […]


I recently finished a book called “Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us” that focuses on intrinsic motivation, how it can be bolstered or buffeted by workplace policies, and how it effects our overall happiness (I enjoyed the book, even if it was a little short). Like most things these days, there were several parts that reminded me of China (we’ll be looking at a second aspect in a later post). If-Then rewards cause a search for loopholes China’s government since reform and opening up has functioned more as a corporation than as a country. Within each level of government there is fierce competition for promotions that come with clear perks and benefits (and some that aren’t made quite so public). As Daniel Pink […]


continued from “The Misty Poets: an introduction“ Like many China-watchers, I cannot tell you when the better part of my day became dedicated to blog-reading. Background to my everyday routine is the murmur of botched lawsuits, human rights violations, incompetent local governments, nationalist rhetoric, internet memes, and ridiculous acts of indulgence committed by 富二代 (fu’erdai – second-generation rich). Sometime in the past year I’ve started to slouch a little, as if the weight of China’s unpublished atrocities is resting on me, the reader and the blogger. Somewhere in the malaise I found Bei Dao. The article – whichever one it was – had said that he was exiled after his poem “Proclamation” appeared on banners at Tiananmen. As an impulsive gesture of technological footnoting, I […]


The year of the dragon began with the news that armed police were firing on protesters in Tibetan areas in Northern Sichuan. On Weibo, a netizen said he spotted a sniper on the roof of Jokhang Monastery (大昭寺) in Lhasa, Tibet; another expressed surprise at seeing “so many armed police” on streets of the same city who demanded her to delete pictures she took of them; and many more described seeing military vehicles full of soldiers moving on highways in Western and Northern Sichuan. Otherwise, there isn’t much talk about Tibetans, either the self-immolations or the violence, on Weibo due to censorship. On Twitter however, the news as well as the talks came in steadily from all directions. In this issue, I have several items on […]


This great guest post comes from a friend. Over the next few days she’ll be introducing her research on the Misty Poets. If you are a grad student working on a China related topic please contact Tom about the possibility of introducing here. “Misty”is the title conferred upon a group of poets known during the Democracy Movement (1976-1980)for their unique style. Some, such as Ai Qing, Ai Weiwei’s father, called their work “obscure” (古怪), even poisonous.[1] At the very least, it was certainly daring. So daring, in fact, that three of the leading Misty poets were exiled for inspiring the Tiananmen youth. Misty poet Bei Dao was not even in China when the demonstrations occurred, but he was nonetheless not allowed back for twenty years, […]


“I don’t like Chinese people. When I visited Guangzhou a few years ago everyone was cutting in line. They would use their elbows just to push past you. They didn’t even care if you had been standing there a long time, they always had to go first. In Malaysia people always line up, even when they are in a hurry. China has too many people and none of them have any manners. Like when you go into the bathroom and nobody has even bothered to shut the door. You see everything and I just can’t stand it. I don’t want to see your penis and I definitely don’t want to watch you poop; it’s disgusting. Furthermore, China doesn’t even have any traditional culture. Everything has […]


The following is a guest post from my friend Hannah on the latest story buzzing around the Chinese internet. Twenty-four-year-old Liu Lili recently appeared on a Chinese job-hunting TV show. She was halfway through saying, “I was in New Zealand for three years. After those three years, I came back home, and realized, ‘Wow, China’s been through a lot of changes!’ Now if it had been New Zealand—”, when the host, Zhang Shaogang,  scolded her for using the word “China” rather than “my country” (我国) or “my ancestral homeland” (祖国). He said that using the word “China” did not convey the warm-hearted feeling that two Chinese people should share when talking about the motherland. Liu Lili probably did not realize what she was going up […]


In this article, Jonathan Poston finishes the story he started last time about how his kung fu film project collapsed without him ever seeing it coming… …the lead student (and there is almost always one in every group—the outspoken, respected one) came to my office to let me know that the students felt uncomfortable with the contracts they had signed. Granted they were pages long, covering everything that the attorney said they should for me to feel comfortable that I owned all rights. I told the lead student (whom I’ll call film supervisor) that was managing the other students and coordinating the film team, to just find some other students who were interested, and let anyone go who was disagreeable to the terms of the […]


Guest post from Jonathan Poston M.E. Up until now, this story has never been told in print, only lamented in subsequent international business courses I taught, and reminisced about in random “China-talk.” It was a year of peaks and valleys like life tends to serve up, but at the start of 2008, I was surfing at the height of a 100 ft. wave. I had just moved to China to teach business communications at an American university’s international business school. I probably should have stopped there to simply enjoy the teaching experience and the rich culture forever modulating around me. But I didn’t. I started taking kung fu (gong fu-功夫) from an amazing martial arts master, and just as I was getting into it, I was […]


Just letting you all know that I am taking off with my wife for a few weeks to enjoy Spring Festival somewhere a little warmer (Malaysia). As I travel I’ll make sure to take copious notes, and will seek out conversations that broaden my vista. But don’t worry, I have done my best to make sure that there will be fresh content waiting for you while I’m away, although there will be fewer posts than normal. We have some great guest posts lined up for you, as well as posts from the whole Seeing Red in China team. I hope all of you have a very 热闹 (renao-hot noisy/lively) Spring Festival and do your best to bring in the Year of the Dragon with your […]


Yesterday we began to explore the biggest challenge facing China, trust, and how mistrust is a pervasive feeling even at a personal level. Today we are going to slightly broaden our view and look at mistrust between customers and companies. Between customers and companies While the importance of trust may seem obvious, the results of mistrust are often irrational. For example; a Chinese person is walking down the street and spots 50RMB lying on the ground. Given the lack of trust between individuals, do they A) pocket the money immediately B) look for the person who may have dropped it or C) leave the money on the ground? According to my college students in Guangxi (about 120 of them) the answer is C. In each […]


This year a crowd of economists and social spectators have started to wonder aloud if 2012 will be the year China’s system collapses (to be fair, this is an annual tradition). This time they are pointing to mass incidents, economic troubles, growing evidence of corruption, a Grand Canyon sized gap between rich and poor, and scandals that seem to rock the country on a bi-weekly basis. These are challenges China has overcome before, but on a much smaller scale and without having to contend with the openness of Weibo. Some might go so far as to say that what has already been set in motion makes it impossible to avoid such a catastrophe. However, there is a single problem underlying many of China’s greatest woes: […]


China’s tomb raiders laying waste to thousands of years of history, by Tania Branigan. Soaring prices offered by collectors and lax monitoring of China’s thousands of historical sites have led to grave robbing on a massive scale. One researcher estimates that 95% of Chinese tombs have been plundered, and that without sufficient protection it could all be lost in the next 10 years. Chinese authorities and villagers clash over mosque – From around mid-December there have been a number of crackdowns on religious groups in China, with Buddhist, Muslisms and Christians all being effected. This time the clash happened in a Hui region, which is unusual, since Hui have traditionally been tolerated. The children left behind by China’s migrant workers – great photos and an […]


I hope all of you had a wonderful holiday season. In this issue, you will find a sample response to President Hu Jintao’s article about malicious cultural infiltration by hostile forces, items about Wukan, how China practices law, why a couple who were dying to see each other had a hard time reuniting, the deluge of confidential user information, and more. Click date below for link to the original.   张鸣 /Zhang Ming/(Professor of political science at People’s University of China)/: Chinese have no American TV to watch, cannot access American websites. Americans are not allowed to open schools in China. On the other hand, China can set up TV, websites and schools in the US. The US has no Great Fire Wall to keep […]


As we saw yesterday, China is a diverse country with hundreds of distinct dialects/languages that are closely connected with local culture. However, for the past 100 years, the government has been encouraging the adoption of a single national dialect based on the Beijing accent. Originally, the language we know as Mandarin, was only spoken by officials and the people who lived near the capital (the language shifted with the capital as it moved from Nanjing to Beijing). It was a necessity due to the fact that officials came from all corners of China, and would be otherwise unable to communicate orally. Near the end of the Qing Dynasty, it was decided that this language of officials should become the national dialect, known as Guoyu (国语 […]


When many westerners arrive in Beijing or Shanghai, their suspicion that all Chinese really are the same is quickly confirmed. The fact that 92% of China’s population identify themselves as Han, almost seems like an underestimate at first glance in the subway station as the homogeneous mass of tanned skin and black hair surge onto the train. Today I want to challenge this misconception. Despite first impressions, there are huge regional differences in China. As with all ethnic groups, the idea of a single common “Han” people is a social construction, not scientific one. Throughout history the definition of “Han” has been murky. Note: I’m using “Han” here, but it is not clear whether or not a concept exactly like ethnicity existed in ancient China. For the most […]


A few weeks ago a Chinese friend told me what worries him the most: a form of Nationalism that asserts China’s natural position is “glorious” and that the country only falls from this status when “outside forces” limit its growth. Equally concerning to him was that these ideas were predicated on a kind of racial superiority, sometimes referred to as Han nationalism (大汉族 DaHanzu Greater Han Ethnic group). This small group of people maintain that not only was China weakened in the 19th century by western influence, but was susceptible to these forces specifically because they were being led by Manchurians. The ultra-nationalists take this misreading of history to illustrate that China can only be strong when Chinese (Han) culture is purified of foreign influences and […]


Koonchung Chan’s The Fat Years is a chilling account of a very possible near future. It was originally published in Chinese in 2010, but is finally available in English. The book is set in 2013. China has been the world’s only super-power for two years since the US dollar dropped 30% in a single day plunging all other world economies into chaos in 2011 (it seems we just barely escaped this). As the story opens China is confident, the people are happy, and a strange man (Fang Caodi) confronts an old friend (Old Chen) about a missing month. He tells Old Chen that despite the official account which states that China’s rise and the global downfall were on the same day, they were actually a month […]


With the holidays I know that many of you have taken a break from the internet to spend time with your families, but the Chinese gov’t realizes this too, slipping 3 State subversion trials of dissidents into the final week of the year in the hopes that foreign media will miss the story (and one very mysterious broken probation). Due to the number of links this week, I’ve only added a few comments. China jails dissident 10 years for subversive essays Why isn’t the West reacting to China’s crackdown Draft law prohibits citizens who may endanger national interests from leaving country – This story has not been widely reported on outside of People’s Daily, but would essentially allow China to keep any dissidents from speaking out […]


Yesterday we started looking at some of the strategies China has used to weather the first financial downturn. Today we’ll continue that by looking at two other strategies as well as their potential benefits and costs. One of the major things that was supposed to happen after the economic downturn was that China was going to shift from being the world’s factory to a position higher up the production chain. The idea was that many of the factories on China’s east coast were shutting down, but increased domestic consumption and new college graduates would soon alleviate the slowdown. Increased College Enrollment When I arrived in 2007, my average class size at the rural college was 35, by the start of the 2009 school year that […]


As the world braces for what looks like a possible second economic downturn, it is increasingly important to understand how China weathered the first one. Today and tomorrow we are going to take a very simplified look at this issue. Please keep in mind that this is meant to give a broad overview and is in no way a complete account. When the markets started to drop off in 2008, the gov’t took a number of actions to try and prevent a financial collapse in the middle kingdom. They made it easier for companies to get loans, pushed a massive economic stimulus, propped up domestic consumption by offering discounts on things like home appliances and cars, increased college enrollment to delay entrance to the job market […]


Even though Christmas has just passed, the major gift giving season approaches in China: Spring Festival (it is also a major time for illicit gifting). Giving and receiving gifts in China is something of an art, and the ritual can be as important as the gift itself. At work, my office is responsible for hosting visitors from other provinces and countries, so today I want to share with you some of the finer etiquette points I’ve picked up from watching this process dozens of times in the last year. The Art of Receiving a Gift If you’ve ever seen the fight for a bill at dinner, then you’ll understand why I’m starting with receiving first. If you haven’t, it looks something like this: A group of friends […]


In China, the possibility of “gray income” can be an important factor when choosing a job. “Gray income” simply refers to receiving “gifts” in exchange for improved service. It is most common when someone controls access to something like health care, education or job opportunities. The difference between this and bribery seems rather arbitrary, but people in China seem to accept the former while being disgusted by the latter. The prevalence of gray income jumped out at me the other day after a good friend told me of a discussion he had in a local noodle shop with an off-duty policeman and his friend. At some point the policeman’s friend brought up the issue of gray income and how police officers have many sources of it, which the policeman […]


Tanks didn’t roll into Wukan. Relief? Yes. Comfort? Hardly, given countless precedents that inject nothing but dread, and the fact that the government is still lying and mis-presenting nearly every aspect of the event, down to the location where the village representative and the provincial deputy party secretary met. In Haimen the latest words are that the government conceded to the people’s demand after days of confrontation. This week, a great many Chinese mourned the death of Václav Havel, former president of Czech and a symbol of the communist collapse in Europe in 1989. Then the country had a field day celebrating the death of Kim Jong Il with the exception of the Party and its Foreign Ministry and CCTV. It is one of those […]


Being thousands of miles away from home isn’t exactly how most people picture celebrating Christmas. In fact, it’s a holiday that can be pretty hard to enjoy without family. So, like many expats, I did my best to recreate the Christmas experience with my students and co-workers. For the four weeks leading up to the holiday, we spent the last 10 minutes of every class practicing a few festive songs. I think for the most part the students enjoyed the challenge, and the rest liked having the time to make noise. Finally, on Christmas day, we made a call from the classroom to my grandparent’s house where my whole family was and surprised them with a seasonal medley. It was a moment I’ll never forget; 30 […]


Part of a continuing series of journal article summaries. You can also read my summaries on The regulation of religion in China and Reconsidering the campaign to suppress counter-revolutionaries.   Watchman Nee and the Little Flock Movement in Maoist China                         By: Joseph Tse-Hei Lee (full text PDF) Tom’s Summary: The Little Flock Movement or Christian Assembly, was a loosely connected church movement that was started by Watchman Nee in the 1920’s as a wholly Chinese form of Christianity. It strove to be self-supporting, self-propagating, and self-funded in accordance with three-“self” principles that were popular at the time, and quickly grew as the Chinese public turned more strongly against foreign imperialism. Fundamentally the Little Flock modeled itself after the church depicted […]


The other week I had a chance to discuss nutrition with the doctors at my hospital. As we looked at beverages and snacks, many of them were surprised to see that the healthy choices they thought they had been making, weren’t so great. For example, every single one of the 30 doctors was shocked to learn that a bowl of instant noodles had twice as much sodium and much more fat than a grilled chicken sandwich from KFC. The general agreement was that if they were misinformed about nutrition, than the public would probably be even less informed. A large part of the problem was that nutritional information was either absent or not in a standard, easy to understand format. China’s urban areas are now facing […]


I broke the news today of Kim Jong Il’s death to several co-workers, hoping for some kind of reaction from them, but all I got was a shrug and a “So what?” The conversation then quickly turned to what this might mean for China, and whether or not more N. Koreans would be sneaking across the border (the N. Korean army actually received orders to seal the border with increased patrols several hours before the news was broken, it will remain sealed until at least Jan. 15). One co-worker did shake her head, and express concern about the fact that Kim’s son would be taking power, “Dynasties are not a good thing,” she said. One of the students my wife tutors said that N. Korea was “broken” […]


The battle of Wukan, and Christian Bale’s trip to visit Chen Guangcheng dominated China related headlines recently, but several other important stories emerged this week: Beijing real-name registration rules for bloggers, bad news for Sina, from the Wall Street Journal, shows that new policies are being set in place that will mark the end of Sina’s reign as the top source of scandals. This is a very worrying turn for freedom of speech in China. China officials shut down outdoor Christmas party, from the Associated Press, shows that Chinese officials have been working overtime to make it on to Santa’s naughty list. This kind of clamp down is common around religious holidays. Gao Zhisheng, missing Chinese lawyer, get new prison term, New York Times, looks […]


This week, all eyes are on Wukan as the world awaits to see how the unprecedented struggle of one Chinese village develops. If Christian Bale didn’t get to see his personal hero on Thursday, he more than succeeded in throwing a hand grenade at the feet of the Party while lighting a firestorm—a joyful one—among Chinese netizens. Friday, we finally heard words from the authorities about Gao Zhisheng after he had gone missing for more than a year and a half. Also in this issue are items taken from Weibo before Yaxue’s account was obliterated earlier this week (possibly for helping spread information about Wukan). Click on date below item for link to the original. I have had a growing dread all week and it […]


As a China blogger, it’s a pretty big week, open rebellion in Wukan has attracted a flock of journalist, and then Hollywood star Christian Bale/Batman attempted to visit blind lawyer Chen Guangcheng. The big question floating around at the moment is does foreign pressure mean anything to China? Before I address that question I would first like to point out that Christian Bale has created one heck of a dilemma for China’s censors. The media gears have been spinning wildly to promote his new film, The Flowers of War, which opens today in China. I passed Mr. Bale’s image at least 4-5 times just on my way to work this morning. How are they going to block discussion of his trip to Linyi without limiting the […]


This is a developing story, and while I usually don’t comment on “sensitive” events as they happen, the stakes seem to be much higher this time. In a small village in Guangdong, the villagers have staged a revolt. All government officials and police have fled the village after months of demonstrations sparked by land grabs and public funds that seem to have gone missing. Now the village, and its thousands of inhabitants, are encircled by armed police who are demanding they give up their cause and return to normal life. The villagers however are insisting that the local gov’t apologize for the violence they have used against the people (including the death of an organizer while he was in police custody), as well as be […]


When I was being briefed about Chinese communication styles in my preparations to come to China, I was warned that indirect communication is the preferred method of transmitting news. Today I’d like to share a few examples of this, and how woefully understated that was. Indirect communication in China means that information (usually bad news or self-boasting) is either transmitted via a third party or through half truths. I would say that despite my other experiences, this is the more common style of communication. I have seen this manifest in several ways, and it usually involves the word “maybe.” In fact, the word “maybe” often pops up in sentences where it has no place. One of my co-workers at one point actually said “Maybe today […]


This past weekend I had the chance to go to a nearby resort with my co-worker’s family. It was a great opportunity to see how China’s newly wealthy spend their money, and I was reminded of what priorities they have when it comes time for vacation. Value To me, the urge to get the most use of the money spent, was surprising. For instance, we had many places that we wanted to visit after we checked out, but our friends insisted on waiting until noon to leave the hotel. When noon did finally roll around, there was a giant mob of people checking out as well. It seemed as if everyone had whiled away their morning in an effort to get their full allotment of hotel room time. […]


This week has seen renewed effort by netizens to visit Linyi, on what they call “group dating”, and instead of Dong Shi Gu, the destination was the People’s Square downtown. Three visitors were charged of “illegal gathering” and detained; a few more have been reported missing. And more are going. As for this week’s Weibo translation, we offer items about the citizen humanitarian effort in Beijing, the still unseen report about the high-speed train collision, what judiciary with Chinese character is like, Taiwan’s presidential debate, and more. Links to a couple of the items have been severed since I culled them, and you can join me to wonder why, but otherwise, click on date below item for link to the original. 翁涛yt:/Weng Tao/(investment executive associated […]


Chinese police rescue 178 children after mass child trafficking ring bust, from The Telegraph, covered the biggest story of the week: Chinese police arrested over 600 suspects connected with trafficking. This issue of child trafficking is one we’ve covered before on the blog, and if you’d like to learn more about it, read my interview with Charlie Custer, who is directing a film on the topic. Journalists should be government mouthpieces, Chinese media leader says, from the New York Times, looks at the most widely discussed comment this week. The leader argued that journalists who believed they were anything but propaganda pieces were misguided. Not a good sign for freedom of the press in China. The Death – Microcosms, by Eric Fish on Sinostand, is […]


On December 6, 2011, two days before the 3rd anniversary of Liu Xiaobo’s arrest in 2008, the Congressional-Executive Commission on China held a hearing on “One Year after the Nobel Peace Prize Award to Liu Xiaobo: conditions for political prisoners and prospects for political reform.” Eight people spoke at the hearing. Mr. Perry Link, professor emeritus at University of California, Riverside, gave a quick but comprehensive introduction to Liu Xiaobo, his life, his education, his writings, and his imprisonment for “inciting subversion of state power.” About Liu Xiaobo’s current situation, he said we knew very little and, as of late 2010, a rights group reported that Liu Xiaobo shared a cell with five other inmates, was allowed monthly visits only while other cell mates were […]


The first year of blogging has resulted in well over 300 posts, so in celebration of surviving the writing process that has yielded over 150,000 words, I thought we should revisit a few of the best posts. My personal favorites – and the story behind them There must be something in the air – I don’t think anyone but my wife, and a few close friends know that I had a very short lived blog prior to this one. It was charitably described as “dry” and “overly detailed” (it was deleted shortly after starting this one). That failure helped me realize that I should be writing a blog that was more accessible to those without any first hand knowledge of the country. This post launched […]


When I started Seeing Red in China one year ago, the plan was to write a post every weekday for a few months and see what happened. I am incredibly pleased by the way this site has grown into something beyond a typical travel blog, into a more complete guide to modern China, and that every post has been further supplemented by your excellent comments. Through researching my posts each day, I’ve greatly improved my understanding of China, and today I’d like to share two of the major underlying themes that I wish I had known earlier, as well as my overall impression of this year spent studying China. Scandals are all the same While I had had some sense of this, after following the People’s […]


When it comes to China’s environmental progress, it can be hard to find much of a silver lining. The front page of the newspaper in the office today showed Beijing choked with pollution, as over 200 flights had to be canceled. New data also came out that showed the increase in CO2 emissions in 2010 was the largest since the industrial revolution, and China’s lead as worst polluter continues to grow at an astonishing pace. Yet today, I’m feeling slightly optimistic about the future of the air quality as co-workers and friends more frequently discuss the urgency of this issue. The other day I had the chance to help a person prepare a presentation about the energy saving measures taken in one of Nanjing’s largest […]


I’ve already received a handful of emails from blog readers asking for advice on finding work in China, and my wife received 2 from friends just in the last week. As teaching in China becomes more popular, so does tricking foreigners into working at awful schools. Today I’d like to give job hunters a few tips for finding a reputable school in China. Why do you want to teach? Before we get started in finding a school, it’s important that you have a clear reason for wanting to teach in China. In my experience, the people who most enjoy their work here are the ones who specifically set out to teach English in China, while the least satisfied say “It’s an easy job,” or “I wanted to […]


China halts U.S. academic freedom at the class door, from Bloomberg, was the better of two excellent pieces this week on the topic of joint-managed colleges in China (the other being No academic freedom for China). This piece generated a lot of discussion about education, and one friend who actually studies at the school mentioned that the article should have also examined discussions in the classrooms that are actually much freer than she had expected. Hepatitis C outbreak hits Anhui, Henan, from Caixin, is an in depth look at how lax regulations and the recycling of used needles at local clinics led to over 110 people being infected. Supposedly this problem was fixed nearly a decade ago. This coming out near World AIDS Day is a […]


This week we offer an assortment of Weibo items for your thoughts: the mysterious but all-powerful Above, China’s new land reform, China’s AIDS exiles, journalists as propaganda workers, free turnips, and more. Click on date below item for link to the original. 黎学文在北京/Li Xuewen in Beijing/(Writer, publication planner)/:【The  invisible Above】There is an absurd black hole in [China’s] current power operation: In each of the wrongful convictions, there are enforcers but no one is in charge. The enforcers say, this is the decision of the Above. But no one knows who is the Above and who you can take legal action against. As the source of evil, the Above is shrouded in a fog. There are evil doers but no one can be held accountable for […]


Yesterday at the bus stop, I noticed a man wearing all black waiting by the back of the mass of people getting on the bus. He would get pushed forward, and then purposefully work his way towards the back; it seemed suspicious. I know from friends that pickpockets like to use the moment of climbing on the bus to snatch wallets and mp3 players as people crowd onboard, so I kept my eye on him. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. Just as the woman in front of him took her first step on, he reached up and placed his hand on her purse. At that moment everything we’d discussed here on the blog about apathy and the evil of “minding our own business” […]


A week or so ago I stumbled upon a Chinese language version of Animal Farm in a local bookshop. I was slightly surprised to see it, but the back cover described it as being about 1950’s England, so perhaps the censors signed off on it as a criticism of the west. It was only 9rmb, so I bought it as a gift for one of my co-workers to see how she would react. After she turned the last page yesterday afternoon, we dove into discussion. “It’s a good book,” she said, “but when you think about its connection with (Chinese) society, it’s a little sad.” She explained that the whole book represented what happened in China so well that it was hard to imagine that […]


In my three years in Chinese schools, teaching 20 different groups of students, nearly every class told me that “In China, the customer is God,” which left me dumbfounded because in my experience, customer service in China is practically non-existent. Today I’ll be sharing a few of the more extreme examples of this, and hopefully they will help prepare you for some of the frustrations awaiting you in the middle kingdom. My first inkling that customer service might not be as fine as the students claimed, came during a role play. One student was the hotel manager and their job was to address the complaints of the hotel guest. It went something like this: Guest: I’m sorry, but there is a mouse in my room, […]


Yesterday’s review of “Reconsidering the Campaign to Suppress Counterrevolutionaries,” is important reading not only to better understand the terror and hysteria of the Mao years, but to understand the way in which the past effects the psyche of Chinese people today. Three bits from the article have been cycling through my mind since yesterday: that in some areas nearly 80% of the people accused were later exonerated, 30% of those whose death sentences were not absolutely necessary were executed anyway, and that even in my former home of Longzhou, which is tiny by Chinese standards, at least 40  people were executed. These three pieces show that the campaign was largely used as a source of revenge against otherwise innocent people, and that this campaign reached […]


The China Quarterly recently released it’s top ten most downloaded articles for free. Over the next few weeks I’ll summarize and comment on a few of these great articles (and save you 20+ pages of reading). Reconsidering the Campaign to Suppress Counterrevolutionaries By: Yang Kuisong (link to full text) Tom’s Summary: Yang begins his article with the assertion that, “Power seized by violence must be maintained by violence.” The first example of this violence came just one year later with the start of the Campaign to Suppress Counterrevolutionaries. The program was aimed at consolidating the Party’s power over the country that was continuing to struggle with actual counterrevolutionaries (these were actual KMT agents acting to disrupt Party control). There were wide spread reports of arson and […]


Caging a Monster by Murong Xuecun is one of the most compelling cases I have seen made about the state of modern China, and what needs to be done to save it. Make sure you read this. Insight: Tibetans in China seek a fiery way out of despair, by Sui-Lee Wee at Reuters, focuses on the ongoing string of self-immolations happening in Tibet’s religious community and the act of suicide from a Buddhist perspective. Women in China: The sky’s the limit, from the Economist, examines women’s role in the Chinese work place, and explores the differences between types of companies (SEO vs. Multinationals). The piece also looks at how family life is effected by changes in the work place. A credit crisis in China’s most enterprising city […]


There have been fewer reports on netizens attempting to visit Chen Guangcheng, but there are signs of the campaign taking a different direction, which we illustrate for you in a group of pictures. Starting this week, Ai Weiwei will be sending to his 30,000 “creditors” an exquisite, hand-written IOU. We also offer items about the secret of Huaxi village, the national shame of China, and how good the Beijing subway security check is. Click on date below item for link to the original. Is this the beginning of a guerrilla campaign? A group of men carrying out what they call the first installation of “Veteran Military Doctor Program”(“老军医项目”): A group of four men planted “Free Guangcheng” balloons in various sites of Linyi: T-shirt, car stickers, […]


Happy Thanksgiving everyone. I hope you weren’t hoping for a hard news story today. In a very unscientific poll, I asked my students (doctors) what they were thankful for this year. At some point during their “toast,” roughly 30% mentioned their health, 90% mentioned their family, and about 20% mentioned their co-workers. Here is a somewhat random sample: I am thankful for my parents, they gave me some money this year to buy a car. Now I don’t have to be cold going to work, so I am thankful for that. I am very thankful to my parents-in-law, this year they gave my husband and I a lot of money to buy an apartment. Now we all live together, and they help us to raise […]


As Thanksgiving and the winter holidays draw near, we often imagine Norman Rockwell-esque gatherings. Elaborate and delicious meals, the sounds of convivial conversation, the feeling of warmth that comes from time spent with family. I think for most of us, it is these things that come to mind, even if we haven’t personally experienced these things in our own lives. We imagine a time in the past when things were better, and from that false memory, complain about the present. I’ve noticed that among my Chinese friends, the topic of discussion has been more frequently focused on China’s current woes. The other day, one co-worker was disgusted by the deaths of over 20 children in a school bus crash, and the other one talked in […]


Last year I detailed just how miserable winters can be in China (here). Windows are left open or don’t even close to begin with, buildings lack any kind of insulation, and space heaters are required just to keep your tea from freezing. The problem is that China’s people are now actually expecting to be comfortable at home and work (I don’t blame them), but the amount of energy required to accomplish that is going to be astronomical given the lack of energy efficient buildings. In fact, just the other day a senior gov’t planner described 95% of China’s new buildings as “energy-guzzling,” and that China is building  2 billion square meters of this type of building each year (that doesn’t account for old buildings which […]


If you have spent much time in China’s major cities, you have no doubt seen a few hundred new luxury cars, up and coming urbanites clutching Louis Vuitton bags or sporting a new Rolex watch, and more than a few people talking loudly on their iPhones. This rampant materialism even seems to surpass what I saw in the US a few years back. As I’ve mentioned before, when co-workers return from overseas trips, more often than not, I hear about what they bought rather than what they saw. One friend told me he had spent over $25,000 on watches during a brief trip to Taiwan. Another said she had bought 4 new designer bags on a trip to Hong Kong. This binge shopping is shrugged off when […]


Ai Weiwei speaks out on his detention, appeared online for Newsweek and covers both the artist’s arrest and his ongoing campaign to pay a 2 million dollar tax bill. Ai’s description of his arrest is troubling, as well as Beijing’s attempts to silence him of which he said, “If you play a chess game, and play two or three moves, they throw the board away.” Shortly after paying part of the tax bill, the gov’t brought charges of pornography against him. Chinese executioner says job not complicated, appeared this week in Reuters. It gives a glimpse into one of China’s best kept state secrets: how many people are executed each year? It’s a little grisly, but it’s important to keep a focus on these issues. […]


On November 16th, in Qingyang, Gansu (甘肃庆阳), a minivan with a rated capacity of 9 people but carrying 63 daycare children collided with a truck, killing 19 children and 2 adults. We offer a group of photos culled from Weibo to illustrate the incident. We also continue to follow the two cases, Chen Guangcheng’s and Ai Weiwei’s, that lay bare China’s “rule of law”, while offer other items for your thoughts.  Click on an item for a link to the original. Read about the tragic accident, and about China, in 5 pictures: Sadness and outcries poured in on Weibo, while CCTV’s Evening News made no mention of it. The photo below on the left shows candles lit by residents in Dongfanghong Square (东方红广场) in Lanzhou […]


The China Quarterly recently released it’s top ten most downloaded articles for free. Over the next few weeks I’ll summarize and comment on a few of these great articles (and save you 20+ pages of reading). Belief in Control: Regulation of Religion in China By: Pittman B. Potter (link to full text) Tom’s Summary: Throughout China’s history, religion has been a source of opposition against imperial forces. Historically, religions that did not comply with current practices of the state were suppressed, which was exemplified by the Party’s efforts to destroy all types of identifiable religious practices under Mao. In the post-Mao era the Party has maintained the view that religion is something that has the potential to undermine their authority and have sought to regulate […]


I don’t always read the local papers, and for the most part my Chinese co-workers don’t either. So when something big comes to Nanjing, we don’t usually hear about it until it has passed, but we can always tell that something is approaching. For example, about three weeks ago we noticed a shift in our favorite DVD shops. The most visible one, located on a busy street across from the foreign student housing of a large university, was not only shut, but completely empty. Just days before it had displayed at least 1,000 pirated DVD’s, CD’s and computer games. Two other nearby shops were closed as well. When we returned home, the two shops nearby that sell more than just DVD’s had been shut down too. At […]


When talking with Chinese friends and co-workers about the pollution levels in Nanjing (awful compared to developed countries, but decent for Chinese cities), they are quick to point out that foreign companies in China are the ones that should be blamed for the filthy air. While it is absolutely true that foreign companies are adding to China’s environmental woes, I’m not convinced they should shoulder all the blame. Today, I’d like to start by discussing three points related to this statement, and I hope you’ll continue the discussion in the comment section below. Production for the West This factor is undeniable. Western consumers have benefited from the destruction of China’s environment by purchasing cheap goods. If all of our environmental standards were enforced globally (and […]


A few months ago Yaxue wrote a great post looking at how many Chinese view Americans as too trusting and naive; in their words we were “Dumb Americans.” Today I want to look a little at Ugly Americans, and how easy it can be to reinforce stereotypes. The main thing I want you to keep in mind is that of China’s 1.4 billion people, only .05% are foreigners. Of this .05% a large percentage are Japanese and Korean. That means in many parts of China when a non-Asian is eating in a new restaurant, stopping by a store for the first time, or just taking a new route to work, they are likely to interact with someone who has never before dealt with a person […]


By Yaxue Cao …Continued from earlier posts, this is part 3. Part 1, Part 2 From a Small Prison to a Big One Chen Guangcheng was released on September 9, 2010, and has been under illegal house arrest since then. His home is monitored by multiple cameras, floodlit 24 hours a day, and all communications with the outside world are severed. Close to a hundred men guard his home and are present on every road leading to his village, intercepting, beating, robbing, and humiliating visitors. After a video of him was smuggled out and shown to the world, he and his family were beaten. In a letter smuggled out later to seek help, his wife described how Zhang Jian (张建), the Deputy Party Secretary of […]


‘Cake Theory’ has Chinese eating up political debate, from Louisa Lim at NPR, examines two competing ideas within the party that may one day lead to inter-party elections. Bearing Witness, from That’s Shanghai,  is an interesting collection of memories from Shanghainese octogenarians who recount what life was like many years ago. March of the Freshmen, by Eric Fish (who also writes his own blog, Sinostand), is a great piece looking at military training in Chinese schools. For the story he asked a student to keep a notebook detailing her experiences, and gives a first hand look at a program that many have described as “brainwashing”. What it means to vote in China, an essay by Xu Zhiyong that appeared this week in the Economic Observer. An […]


By Yaxue Cao …Continued from yesterday Forced Abortion and Sterilization In July 2004, the People’s Government of Linyi issued a directive to step up population control efforts. Unsatisfied with the results, Linyi government issued a more forceful directive in February 2005, marking the beginning of a vicious campaign in the 9 counties and 3 districts under its jurisdiction. The measures included: Raids—In the middle of the night when villagers were sound asleep, family control officials and their hired thugs would kick people’s doors open or enter their property by jumping over the enclosing walls, pulling everyone in the house away regardless of age, as long as someone in their family was hiding to avoid abortion or sterilization. Resisters were beaten on the spot. One house […]


By Yaxue Cao, published: November 12, 2011   To say life didn’t start promisingly for him is a vast understatement. He was born on November 12, 1971, in the impoverished village Dong Shi Gu (东师古) in Yinan County, Shandong province, the youngest of five boys. He lost his vision to high fever when he was around one year old. He didn’t go to school until 18 years old. In the Chinese countryside, where living is at its barest, expectations are a rare commodity to begin with, and for the disabled, there are none. For most of the part, they are seen and treated as a family scourge that must be borne. A Naughty Boy Despite blindness, he told friends he had a happy childhood. His […]


When I first arrived in China in 2007, the attitude of many of my Chinese friends was that the system was broken, but there was absolutely nothing they could do to fix it. I clearly remember chatting with a professor in Longzhou. He said, “They talk a lot about a ‘harmonious society’ but what the hell does that mean? The price of everything is going up and things are getting worse. I don’t care about ‘harmony’ I care about actually having a good life.” At that time I was surprised to hear people openly complain about their situation, and was bothered by their sense of hopelessness. Now though people are far more willing to vent their frustration, not only with foreigners (who are seen as a safe […]


The “three public expenditures” refers to public spending on government vehicles, banquets, and overseas travel. This part of spending is the most hotly debated, and one that netizens have already won symbolic victories in (meaningful ones will come more slowly). Government agencies are now supposed to make this part of their budget public, but many have simply refused to release the information or claim that it is a “state secret.” While I have no idea how much public money is spent on travel, I am familiar with the kinds of trips government employees take, and I think this gives an interesting glimpse of the decision making process that goes into this. Note: my office is responsible for all travel by hospital employees, and these trips are covered […]


Yesterday we looked at the spread of AIDS in China and the impact of having a limited understanding of the disease. Today I want to look at one of the major factors in the spread of the disease: prostitution. Chinese friends are quick to point out that officially, prostitution is illegal but I’ve noticed that doesn’t seem to mean very much. On virtually every trip I have taken in the middle kingdom I have been solicited, usually through phone calls to my hotel room. Even the small towns in Guangxi where I lived, with populations around 50-75,000, had something similar to red light districts. If you walk around in the evening almost anywhere in China off the main streets, you will see the faint pink […]


The other day I was discussing infectious diseases with a group of doctors. The question was relatively simple, “How do diseases spread?” They quickly offered: through coughing, sharing chopsticks, touching, mother to infant, and even mosquitoes. I continued, “those are all correct, but how about viruses like HIV or hepatitis?” A few perked up with “Blood transfusions!” I waited another minute before giving in, and adding, “and sexual intercourse.” When I said those two words, everyone’s eyes dropped to the floor (keep in mind these are doctors in their 30’s and 40’s). I had mentioned a taboo topic. The problem, as in most cultures, is that even though the topic is off limits, it doesn’t mean that Chinese youth are celibate. Chinese youth have a poor […]


A few weeks ago SeeingRedinChina.com was not accessible within China. My initial urge was to figure out which post had led to being blocked, and decide what that would mean for the future of the blog. Was it our coverage of Chen Guangcheng’s case? Or was it my rant against the Global Time’s incredible lack of integrity which unintentionally went online the same day that Global Time’s called us one of the best English language blogs focused on China. A few days later though, the site was accessible and we hadn’t changed a thing. The Great Firewall of China had shifted once again. In my year of blogging I’ve seen a number of websites get blocked and often people try to find a single reason. Instead of […]


This week we continue to follow the Free Guangcheng movement (自由光诚), even though some of the more vocal Weibo accounts have been shut down, and nearly all CGC avatars wiped out.  We also offer items about increasing number of false cases against private entrepreneurs; sign of judiciary collapse; dire need for political reform; latest inflation number, and the latest on Ai Weiwei. Click on date below item for link to the original. Zheng Wei/郑维/(Editor of Zaobao Online in Singapore)【Zao Bao special report on Chen Guangcheng 】Chen Guangcheng’s case has been elevated by the local government as a “conflict between enemy and us,” the measures taken against him can be traced back to the revolutionary era, and he has been judged by ideology. It has been […]


I’m going to try something slightly different with this week’s Top Stories. Instead of creating a summary of the most important events, I’ll link to the best articles published this week about China. If you prefer this format or the other please let me know in the comments. -Tom Why many in China sympathize with Occupy Wallstreet – a great article from the Atlantic looking at differences between rural and urban residents. China’s Fox News – Christina Larson of Foreign Policy gives her take on the Global Times and journalism in China. Which was followed up by The top 10 screeds in China’s Global Times. Global Times fired back with Foreign Policy’s limited view of Chinese media. Chinese police take on ‘lost generation’ grandparents – Malcom […]


For over a month now we’ve been covering the story of Chen Guangcheng, thanks largely to Yaxue’s “Heard on Weibo” section. We’ve seen it grow from an online protest, to manifesting in the physical world with activists attempting to enter Chen’s village only to be beaten back time and again (this link is an incredible account of such a group). The issue is now widely known, and the angry question seems to be “How can Linyi’s government treat people this way?” But now the question is starting to shift to “How can the central government allow local thugs to treat people this way?” In China, calling for action from the Central government would typically be an ineffective approach. Most of the high-profile cases are never officially […]


When I hosted a group of European visitors the other day, one of them asked a question that I think many of you might have been wondering about, “What happened to China’s historical buildings?” Considering the historical centers of many European cities, it’s an understandable question. Note: Some of China’s best known cities like Xi’an and Beijing have a number of ancient buildings given that they are historic capitals, but throughout the country they are considerably harder to find. The Communists destroyed it The Party is often the scapegoat when it comes to explaining many of the choices made in modern China. In this case, not entirely without reason, Chinese temples and artifacts were destroyed during the Cultural Revolution, but other works were well preserved. However, […]


My co-worker and I took guests through the Nanjing Massacre Memorial yesterday, which we do several times each year. It is a place where the past serves a distinct political purpose for the present. Groups of Chinese tourists are shepherded through by guides who make sure they don’t miss a single grisly detail, murals depicting slaughter on an inhuman scale stretch over open graves filled with ten-thousand bodies, and signs remind visitors that this is an important place for political education. The memorial is essentially a monument to the Party’s narrative of history. Even though I have visited the site several times, I still find something new each time in the massive complex. This, however, was the first time that I had accompanied one of my co-workers […]


Dear Readers, I just wanted to let you know that I am starting work on a book. At the moment it is in the very early stages, and I am writing this open letter partially to put pressure on myself to complete it. The book will be similar to the blog in some ways, as I will discuss a variety of topics that have already been mentioned briefly here including: education, rural life, issues facing migrant workers, the environment, and also a touch of politics, history and economics. I am also planning on a few topics that I have a closer connection with, like the difficulties facing disabled people in China and the Rape of Nanking. These topics will be presented in more depth than on the blog, […]


In China, white people get an inexplicably large amount of respect simply by being white (I didn’t use “foreigners” here because people with darker skin are typically excluded from these “perks” regardless of their country of origin). You get preferential treatment when it comes time to find a job (often making several times what your Chinese counterpart makes)and even in Chengdu, a city with a decent number of foreigners, Casey and I were offered positions as “marketing managers” for a wine company while we shopped at a supermarket. A few months ago, I was offered a spot in an advertisement for a nearby restaurant. For reading a few lines in Chinese I would have received 2,000RMB (close to what a factory worker earns in a month), and a scrumptious banquet […]


This week’s Heard on Weibo offers translation of postings about the violence in Huzhou, Zhejiang province, where store keepers revolted against increased taxes; China should provide nuclear protection to North Korea; a young man being arrested for founding a pro-democracy website; what is “dignity”; and the continued activism to free the blind rights lawyer Chen Guangcheng (latest NYT report here and two powerful video clips: here and here). Click on date below item for link to the original. Zhou Tianyong / 周天勇/(Professor at University of Science & Technology Beijing) : The revolt against increased taxes in Huzhou is a milestone. In the past I have appealed many times regarding over-taxation, excessive fees and fines, high cost for small and micro businesses to borrow money, high […]


This week China’s central gov’t continued to urge the development of Chinese culture, which no one is entirely sure how to do (at the hospital I have heard several times that we need to promote our hospital’s culture). Sensing that Confucianism hasn’t really caught on overseas, the gov’t promoted Daoism in a world conference. Sam Crane from “The Useless Tree,” was quick to point out that Daoist philosophy might undermine the Party’s authority; for example: “The people are starving, and it’s only because you leaders feast on taxes that they’re starving.” A few days later, protests against taxes turned into riots in the town of Huzhou (if only they’d read the Daoist classics sooner). A reader who used to live in the city told me […]


By Yaxue Cao A few days ago, I watched a video clip of the 6th plenary session of the Chinese communist party’s 17th Central Committee. I didn’t pay attention to what they were talking about. Instead I was interested by the stony faces of China’s highest-ranking officials when the camera rolled over them one after another: except for Hu Jintao who was giving a speech, each had the same frozen, expressionless face with no discernible muscle movement whatsoever, while it is hard to catch the focus of their eyes. A Weibo commentator said all of them suffered from “facial paralysis.” I probably shouldn’t be promoting physiognomy here, but in China, officials do tend to have highly uniformed facial display. In front of superiors, they pile […]


Yesterday we introduced the problem of kidnapping in China, as well as Charlie Custer’s documentary on the subject, if you missed that it would be a good place to start Tom: Where does your passion for working against kidnapping in China come from? Was it a single experience, or a gradual realization? Charlie: Gradual realization, I guess. The first time you see a kid begging on the street it’s sort of shocking, and you could also say it all came out of that experience, but from there it was definitely a gradual process of learning about what was actually happening there and realizing the scope of the problem. But once you do get a handle on it, it’s hard not to be passionate about it, […]


When I first visited China in 2006, my parents and I did a whirlwind tour of the major sites in a few weeks before I began my summer course at Beijing Language Culture University. I remember one sweltering morning in Suzhou, we were approached by two child beggars, they were caked in mud and wearing torn clothing. Without a moment of hesitation my mother reached into her purse, and dropped a few coins into their cup. For a moment we felt we had fulfilled our Christian duty, and could feel less guilty knowing that at least for today these children would eat. Our satisfaction didn’t last long, as the children dutifully scampered back to their parent who was lounging in the shade of a tree. […]


While many foreigners enjoy the Chinese hospitality at banquets, I get the feeling that most of them are trying to survive the meal rather than impress at them. Banquets are a social obligation, and we’ve learned from guidebooks that we shouldn’t stick our chopsticks upright in the rice bowl, and it might not hurt to toast once or twice with baijiu, but do you ever really feel completely comfortable at the big round table? Hopefully these tips will help: Seating This isn’t a surprise to anyone who has walked into a private room and heard “please sit down.” It is almost never clear exactly where one should sit, especially when there is more than one guest. In a private room the most important person is […]


I work in a large hospital, and sometimes there are “unfavorable outcomes”, which in hospital-speak translates as a death or life changing mistake. When we have an unfavorable outcome families typically gather in front of the administration offices and battle with the hospital’s security guards (we have a whole police office). These skirmishes have become increasingly common in China, and I’ve written about such an instance before (A fight at the hospital – Abortion in China), but it is a topic that deserves further discussion. Let’s start with a recent example; a patient committed suicide by jumping out of his hospital room window as a result of being dissatisfied with his treatment, either because his disease was incurable, the pain was intolerable, or the bill was […]


Today my co-worker informed me that she would be sending her 14 year-old son to study in New Zealand, and she was understandably sad about it. For the last year he has struggled to meet the school’s standards, but has been left behind by teachers who care more about their own performance bonuses than helping him reach his potential. He is a good kid, who simply does not fit the model of Chinese education. His family feels like there are no decent choices for educating him in China, but hate to be separated. My co-worker revealed part of the problem when she explained that every night he’s given hours of homework focused on memorizing answers. He doesn’t see the point, and she doesn’t either. After […]


This week there was heated discussion about the toddler who was twice run over by a van and not helped by passersby and people around until a rubbish-collecting woman picked her up (read here).  Below is this week’s offer about the continued Weibo activism to free Chen Guangcheng; what are “socialist core values”; China’s luxurious prisons for jailed officials; and more. Click on the date under the item for link to the original. Lu Qiu Lu-wei/闾丘露薇/Journalist with ifeng TV, Hong Kong/: My book-signing and lecture tour in three Northeastern cities has come to an end. A young female reader asked me to write “Give Light to Guangcheng” on her copy. In Shenyang, about ten readers asked me to write “I want Guang (light), I want […]


Those of us who grew up in Christian homes are all familiar with the parable of the Good Samaritan. Sadly we learned this week that the tale has a very different ending in China: A toddler was going down to the street to play, she was run over by an inattentive driver, who paused a moment to consider what to do and then departed, leaving her half dead. By chance, a certain merchant was going down that way. When he saw her, he passed by on the other side. In the same way a mother also, when she came to the place with her own child, and saw the injured toddler, passed by on the other side. Sixteen others did the same, but a certain […]


I recently finished Troy Parfitt’s travelogue “Why China Will Never Rule the World: Travels in the Two Chinas,” and I rather enjoyed it. It was at times funny, shocking, enlightening and enraging. The basic idea behind the book was that Troy would visit a number of Chinese cities over a few marathon-like trips to China and record almost everything that happened. From this foundation he would add in bits of history and culture from a wide range of sources that, taken together, give fairly accurate accounts of the places he visits. The hope was that this would help shape his opinions and prove his thesis, that China would never rule the world (at least not this century). Troy’s observations are hit-and-miss, but always thought provoking. […]


In addition to “The west doesn’t understand China,” the second refrain you’ll hear when it comes to defending some of the Party’s more draconian policies is that “China is a big country with a large population.” For example, a comment on an old post: “China insists on having solution that is suitable for the conditions in China, and I bet the shape the hospitals are in is one of these solutions – right for China. When anyone complaints about anything wrong with China, the size of the population will always come up as the trump card – no other country has as large population as China, and therefore China’s problems are always unique. And I suspect that these hospitals are part of the solution to […]


From time to time people disagree with some of my thoughts on China. I welcome thoughtful comments, and one of my major motivations in starting this blog was seeing to what degree people agreed with my thoughts on the middle kingdom. That being said, there are a few excuses that I’m tired of hearing. We’ll be looking at a few of these over the next few days. The West doesn’t understand China It seems that you can’t read an opinion piece in the People’s Daily without bumping into phrases like “the West”, “Hegemony” and the idea that westerners just don’t get China. This feeling comes out of a sense of superiority/insecurity within China’s nationalist groups. When it comes to democracy and other topics that worry China’s […]


By Yaxue Cao …Continued from yesterday I have been wanting to write about my high school chemistry teacher, Mr. Huang, who died more than a decade ago. He was the best chemistry teacher in my school, but he was a wreck! Although extremely near-sighted, he didn’t wear glasses and had to hold things up close to his eyes to see, whether it was his book or notes or test tubes. In winter, he wore a ragged, dirty cotton-padded coat with a thick rope tied around the waist to keep warm. Outside the classroom, he hardly ever spoke to anyone. When we saw him on campus, we often didn’t know what to do. Sometimes we pretended not to see him; when we did say hello to […]


The story most deserving of your attention this week can by found on Foreign Policy, and was written by Charlie Custer of ChinaGeeks.org, highlighting the problem of kidnapping in China (hopefully you already noticed the link on the right hand side of this page). According to the U.S. State Department there are nearly 20,000 kidnappings every year in China, which is over 100x higher than in the US. It is a heartbreaking story, and Charlie is working on a documentary called “Living with Dead Hearts” to draw more attention to this epidemic. Although there have been stories circulating for nearly a year about China’s possible economic problems, it seems like this week the evidence of a slow down started bubbling to the surface. Throughout China […]


By Yaxue Cao, published: October 15, 2011   Earlier this year, I interviewed two people in China and wrote the story of a man called Sheng Shuren (盛树人). He studied journalism in St. John University in Shanghai around 1940, and worked for English publications and then for the British Consulate. After 1949, he moved to Beijing to work for the Xinhua News Agency. His trouble began almost immediately and, by the end of the 1950s, he was a prisoner at a labor camp. Later he was sent back to Shanghai, his hometown, where he was denied residence registration, divorced by his wife, had no job, and lived with his aging mother. He taught English stealthily to support himself and died in 1976 at fifty-six years old. […]


It’s no secret that journalists working for Xinhua, Global Times, and People’s Daily, are part of an effort to distribute messages from the Party. I read these sources daily, and have built up a degree of tolerance to articles about how America wants to separate Taiwan from the mainland (example), that China’s presence in Africa is always beneficial to Africans (examples 1, 2, 3), and the seemingly weekly calls for the Party to serve the people (Example). Let’s just say that my expectations for Chinese journalists in these publications is pretty darn low, yet from time to time, they still manage to surprise me with their total lack of concern when it comes to exposing the truth. Yesterday’s post is a prime example. Not only did these officials take […]


According to reports from Xinhua: Guangdong Experimental High School (广东实验中学) announced that not only had it completed 3 new campuses within China, but was proud to be opening the very first Chinese managed public school in Riverside, California. The move was heralded as China’s first step on to the world stage for promoting its unique style of education and overall quality. Even better, it was opened on National Day, and would soon be opening up to enroll Chinese students. This new campus/program was made possible through a relationship with the Chemax Educational Foundation, which was authorized by Guangdong Experimental High School to establish a branch in the United states. Former Secretary of Education for the state of California, Dr. David Long, had even been on hand for […]


Yesterday we explored how currency manipulation works, today we’ll be looking at tariffs briefly before examining why the currency bill isn’t going to change China. Tariffs: When we talk about imposing tariffs on Chinese goods, it sounds like a great way to promote the American economy. Lawmakers argue that these tariffs will force China to revalue its currency, help create jobs in the US, and hopefully force China to open its markets to American products (although this chart from The Economist suggests otherwise). It sounds like a miracle solution to America’s economic problems. But what if we called it a 10-20% tax on everything imported from China? As Tim Harford explains in his book “The Undercover Economist” (a fun introduction to economics that goes a […]


The US Senate is getting ready to pass a bill that would allow the gov’t to place a tariff on Chinese goods equal to the amount that Chinese currency is undervalued. If that sentence makes complete sense to you, and you feel like you understand its implications, congratulations! You’ve clearly been working on your economics degree. If you’re like me though, you might want need further clarification. Today we’ll be looking at the general idea of currency manipulation so we can talk about the bill tomorrow. Is China’s Currency Undervalued? The answer to this is a resounding “yes.” It’s no secret that China has manipulated the value of its currency for years, unless you live in China where the People’s Daily throws a fit anytime the […]


I’d like to apologize for the large number of links today, but when it comes to sensitive topics it’s best to be prepared. The other day I quietly asked my co-workers where exactly Dr. Sun Yat-sen (or Sun Zhongshan in pinyin) was during the Xinhai revolution, when Imperial China was overthrown. The intern quickly replied “Nanjing” which was a good choice, since that is where his mausoleum is, and where Sun set up the Republican gov’t (his presidency lasted 3 months). My other co-worker guessed “Beijing” then switched to “Beiping”, the name used during the republican era, just in case it was a trick question. Their mouths fell open when I told them he was in the far away city of Denver, a fact that […]


Every weekend, Yaxue will present a column called “China is talking” in which she will translate some items she finds online that has interest her. By doing so, we hope to give you a small taste of some of the things that are making the rounds in Chinese cyberspace. Feng  Xiaogang (冯小刚, Chinese movie director): The price you pay for saying a bit of truth is very steep. First of all, my wife wouldn’t let me sleep, begging me plaintively: Could you please not speak your mind for the sake of the children and me? Then, there are good friends who scoffed me: Will you die if you don’t speak honestly? What Daoming (陈道明, Chinese actor) said stung me in particular. He said: “It won’t […]


This week China was on holiday, and millions of people spent it traveling. On Oct. 1st alone, the start of the break for National Day, nearly 9 million people climbed aboard China’s busy trains. Thousands of mainland tourists visited Taiwan, with a few taking advantage of the newly relaxed restrictions that allow for travelling as an individual instead of in a group. Both governments hope that it will help to ease tensions between the two sides, but Taiwanese locals aren’t always so impressed by their mainland visitors. Despite the holiday, Xinhua (a state media company) did not miss the chance to point out the flaws in American democracy as Occupy Wall Street protests grew. In a single week Xinhua published more than 25 stories about […]


Yesterday we looked at how China can be rife with small crime, while still seeming safe to foreigners. Today we’ll be exploring a few of the ideas Chinese citizens hold about other countries, and why these views might be promoted by the state. I’ve honestly lost track of how many times I’ve been told that everyone in America has a gun, and that I come from a very dangerous country. While the US does have the highest gun ownership in the world, that doesn’t actually effect my daily life in the way my students might think. My wife actually takes a little joy in responding to this with her students, her grandfather sells antique guns and in the past had a room full of them. […]


The other day I was visiting my favorite jianbing salesman (煎饼 a delicious crepe type breakfast food), and he asked me if America was safe. I told him that regarding food and transportation, America is pretty safe, but we still have too much violent crime. I figured this was a fairly safe answer, China has been plagued by food safety problems and fatal accidents in the double digits are fairly common. It would have also played into the stereotypical idea that America is dangerous because we all have guns, which would make it easy to believe (more on that tomorrow). Instead the chef just shook his head and said, “China isn’t safe”. His two female co-workers agreed. “Too many thieves,” one said. Even in the […]


A few months ago I wrote a post titled “There’s no bureaucracy like Chinese bureaucracy” that highlighted a few of the crazier experiences I’ve had with China’s love of hierarchy. Today though I wanted to look at one of the bigger problems with bureaucracy, not that it simply wastes time, but that having millions (literally) of officials with a little bit of status and a small amount of power can be an incredibly dangerous thing. A recent study came to a rather unsurprising result, when people have power and a low status in the overall hierarchy, they tend to abuse it. For those of us living in China we see this daily in the way the chengguan beat street merchants, the way local gov’t officials […]


On my way to the supermarket I pass a man fixing bicycles, a place that can repair virtually any article of clothing and at least three shops that can solve any problem on almost any cell phone. This culture of fixing things instead of throwing them away is something I deeply admire. In Longzhou I had a flat tire, so I went to the repairman who worked behind a newspaper stand just off campus. His body was a rich brown, and he hardly had any hair left on his head, just a few wisps combed over. He only spoke the local dialect, and I could only speak Mandarin, but he knew what I wanted when he saw the sorry shape of my bicycle. He pulled […]


The top story this week was the Shanghai metro crash which I covered in a recent post. The accident reignited the debate about the speed with which China is building infrastructure. Adam Minter reflected on the greater meaning of the crash for Shanghai residents who have no choice but to commute to work on the subway in his piece “Shanghai rail commuters get onboard with a prayer“. China also launched the first components of its new space station, which should be fully operational around the time the International Space Station is decommissioned. This great technological accomplishment coming on the heels of a needless crash creates an interesting contrast between technical achievements, and the ability to manage and maintain these systems. The cost of development was also […]


By Yaxue Cao On the heel of the 2008 Olympic spectacle that awed much of the world, China celebrated its 60th anniversary of the communist rule on Oct. 1, 2009. In the ancient Chinese calendar system where 10 heavenly stems and 12 earthly branches are combined to designate the sequence of years, the 60th year marks the completion of a cycle, and after that the years start all over again. By the old concept, 60-years is a lifetime. 10,000 military members goose stepped in formation, each consisting of marchers who looked like replicas of each other with the same height, the same built, the same weight, the same haircut and the same expression. After the soldiers, 100,000 civilians paraded in nearly the same sameness along […]


I ride the bus almost everyday here in Nanjing. From home to work, the journey is just about 2.5 km, down a single straight road. In ideal traffic conditions it takes about 15 minutes by bus, during rush hour it’s closer to 30 minutes (which is the same amount of time it would take to walk), last night it took me nearly an hour. About 15 minutes was spent just waiting for a bus, which isn’t entirely unusual. Even though the stop is next to a subway station, and leads to a major residential area, there is only one bus route connecting the two. To me it seems to be a combination of rapid development and poor planning. China changes so quickly that 5-10 years […]


My office’s usually chipper intern (the same one whose budget we looked at last week) surprised me on the way to lunch today when she told me she was in a bad mood. “Our society has too many problems everywhere,” she told me in English before launching into Chinese, she had seen an old woman pick food out of the garbage can on her way to work this morning. Later she told me of seeing a patient fight with a doctor over a medical bill that he couldn’t afford. The metro crash to her wasn’t so much a wake up call as it was a painful reminder of all the problems facing Chinese society. “In society, we are powerless to change,” she said loudly enough […]


It seems that few people manage to escape China without a tale of being conned out of at least a couple dollars. Whether it’s buying goods in Beijing’s silk market at prices 1000% higher than locals would pay, getting tricked into paying additional “fees” at hotels, or having a cabbie take you the long way back to the train station. Today we’re going to be exploring why scamming isn’t seen as an ethical problem in China. While many people think that these scams are simply a result of increased tourism (which is definitely a factor), this does not completely explain its prevalence in the middle kingdom. After all, foreigners aren’t the only ones getting tricked, it may actually be more closely tied to the idea […]


One of my first posts on this blog focused on the idea of being a waiguoren (外国人), an “outside country person”, and the fact that a foreigner can never be fully accepted in China. Today though, we’ll be looking at the idea of a waicunren (外村人), an “outside village person”, and how it presents new challenges in an increasingly mobile China. Along with your name and age, a person’s hometown is considered an important part of their identity. This comes out of the fact that for thousands of years a person’s village in many cases mostly consisted of their extended family members. In a traditional village one would expect to find only a few family names with lineages tracing their history in a single place back hundreds […]


This first section is a collection of jokes poking fun at the party after a Chinese journalist asked Gary Locke, ““I hear you flew here coach. Is that a reminder that U.S. owes China money?” Netizens took Locke’s frugality as a sign of respecting state funds, instead of wasting the money on lavish treatment for himself. They chose to mock the journalist, and the current state of gov’t corruption, with questions that show the same kind of faulty assumptions. -Translated by Yaxue. You have brought your wife with you to Beijing, don’t you know officials in China like to keep mistresses? Officials in your country don’t keep mistresses, is that because they are not virile enough? You have so few corrupt officials in the US, is […]


This last week I had the chance to chat with 小米2020 (xiaomi) who is one of the organizers behind yizhe group (http://yyyyiiii.blogspot.com/). This group translates western journalism on China, so that it can be more accessible to common Chinese people. Sometimes because it covers a different perspective, but often because the news is considered to “sensitive” to be reported domestically. Tom: How would you describe the purpose of Yizhe group? 小米2020: Yizhe is the Chinese word for “translator”. We are all individuals who can understand more than one language. And most of the Yizhe members are bilingual in English and Chinese, with Mandarin as our mother’s tongue. When you can do that, you cannot help noticing that there is a gap of information in terms of what you […]


If you aren’t familiar with the Great Firewall of China I would suggest reading this and this first. Several months ago Hillary Clinton described the efforts of the Chinese Communist Party to maintain their firm grasp on power as a “fool’s errand.” I think her succinct statement was right on target. The gov’t’s attempts to limit freedom of speech only seem to be accelerating the causes pushed by China’s activists. Today we’ll be looking at how the Great Firewall is likely to create more problems than it solves. First just a touch of history. Despite popular belief, the Great Wall as we know it (the brick one built after the Yuan dynasty), was built largely due to gov’t inaction. While the national gov’t bickered over whether or […]


Yesterday we took a careful look at the budget of my office’s unpaid intern, and some of you questioned her spending habits. So today we’ll be looking at the importance of social obligations, and why spending more than 20% of your monthly budget on friends and family doesn’t strike this young woman as an optional expense. Her 150rmb dinner for four seems like an extravagant expense considering that she usually spends less than 10rmb on meals for herself. However, hosting meals may be one of the most important ways of building guanxi. This usually means ordering more food than any group of humans could possibly eat, with as many meat dishes as possible (since meat is more expensive). Where I currently work, a small banquet […]


Today I want to illuminate what life is really like for the average Chinese person that has yet to fully reap the rewards of China’s rapid development. We’ll be looking at a friend’s monthly budget up close, which I think you’ll find quite interesting. From other discussions with students, this seems to be a fairly typical budget. She is about 20 years old, and is in her final semester of college (a three year program). Her school requires her to complete an internship as part of her degree, the hospital gives her practically no work to do and she takes home no salary. All in all it seems to be a huge waste of time and money for her, but for some reason it is necessary for […]


While China may be releasing a huge quantity of films, and producing a number of new TV shows, to most foreigners living here, there is still a dearth of entertainment (sorry CCTV). Despite efforts to promote “soft power”, China still seems unable to attract followings on par with Japanese anime or Bollywood films. So today we’ll be looking at the factors limiting China’s cultural potency. As I’ve discussed before (How long until we’re all singing Beijing Opera?), I think one of the major challenges facing China’s efforts is that the gov’t/party seems to be closely involved with these projects, which is a negative to many in the US and Europe. This has been especially true of 2011’s highest grossing film, The Founding of the Party, […]


The top story this week was the fallout surrounding Li Yang’s abuse of his wife. Li is the head of “Crazy English” which is probably the best known English learning program in China. Last week pictures were post on Weibo by his wife that documented the abuse, and begged him to stop hitting her in front of their children. This was a shock to Li who said, “I hit her sometimes, but I never thought she would make it public since it’s not Chinese tradition to expose family conflicts to outsiders.” Adam Minter wrote an excellent piece for Bloomberg with a closer look at this case, and what it says about domestic abuse in China. The biggest lesson from this article is that China does not have […]


By Yaxue Cao, published September 17, 2011   You would imagine that it is easier for Chinese to discuss Mao Zedong and do so in a productive manner, now that over thirty years have passed since the death of the man and there is enough perspective for retrospection. After all, the look of China is so far removed from Mao’s era, Chinese from all walks of life are travelling all over the world studying, sightseeing, working and living, and new and abundant information has shed such light on the man as never before. No, it is not. Earlier this year, the Chinese economist Mao Yushi (茅于轼) wrote an article entitled “Turning Mao Zedong Back to a Human Being” (《把毛泽东还原为人》 ), calling for just that: To […]


In the run up to the Party’s 90th anniversary the People’s Daily said that history “is the precious wealth of the party”, which we saw yesterday when we looked at the Party’s narrative of history. Today I thought we should take another look, and consider the implications of a slightly different perspective (links in the post refer to current events, not sources). A New History In the 1700’s China had managed to export millions of pounds of silver worth of silk, tea, and porcelain. The Qing dynasty had managed to convince the Chinese people that the west had little of interest, and China was becoming incredibly wealthy. By 1730 the British East India Company was desperately trying to find a way to get the flow of wealth […]


After watching “The Founding of the Party” a few months ago, I was left with several questions about how the last 200 years of Chinese history is presented in the country’s school system. My two favorite sources for this kind of information though couldn’t clearly remember what they had been taught. “It was all state published books,” one of them said, “And in China we have a saying ‘to believe only in books is no different than having no books at all.’” Which wasn’t very satisfying. So from further reading, and conversations that have ended in slogans reminiscent of the cultural revolution, these are the basics of China’s narrative. 1840’s – Britain leads the first Opium War ending in the the treaty of Nanjing, which is the […]


Recently a lot has been made of China’s efforts to modernize its military, and it’s easy to get the West’s attention when you simply remind them of the sheer size of China’s army. Even though China maintains the largest standing army in the world, it hasn’t been involved in international conflicts, outside of a limited peace keeping role, since the 1980’s. So what do they keep all of these soldiers around for? According to President Hu Jintao, who is head of the Party, the government, and the military, the PLA exists to: Consolidate the ruling status of the Communist Party Help ensure China’s sovereignty, territorial integrity, and domestic security in order to continue national development Safeguard China’s expanding national interests Help maintain world peace Though, […]


Nearly 9 months ago I wrote a post that emphasized the fact that the gov’t rarely intrudes in the private lives of most citizens. Which for the most part is still true, unless you are an outspoken artist, or are trying to actually run for office. To the casual visitor to China, it might seem that the army also stays out of the way since they are harder to spot. Yet at times the military seems omnipresent. I say this for several reasons. Partially because yesterday morning, on what was supposed to be a holiday, I witnessed nearly a hundred students, dressed in army fatigues, marching around the center of campus. The campus literally echoes with the sound of their drills. “Army training” is mandatory […]


According to my students, Mid-Autumn festival is the second most important holiday of the year, behind Spring Festival, and just ahead of Qing Ming. Yet, each year I am surprised by their total lack of ability to explain just what exactly this festival is. If I were to simply repeat their answers all we would know is that Mid-Autumn Festival involves something called a mooncake, watching the moon (weather permitting), and seeing family. Even after 4 years of asking classes of students, this is pretty much all I’ve managed to nail down from conversations with my Chinese friends. Mid-Autumn Festival falls on the 15th day of the 8th lunar month, which is near the autumnal equinox (an equinox is a solar event, not a lunar […]


The big story in China news this week was that there was an effort by Chinese arms companies to sell weapons to Qaddafi in mid-July, well after the UN embargo had begun. While the Chinese gov’t is denying any knowledge of these meetings (even claiming that it might have just been a friendly chat), and is stressing that no arms were sold. This does however fit China’s pattern of supporting dictators with small arms that they know are being used against civilians. As China’s strength grows, it is finding foreign policy to be a bit of a minefield. Read my coverage of weapons sales to Zimbabwe, and Chinese attitudes about the genocide in Darfur. China also used state media to focus anger at ConocoPhillips this week as news […]


There are two major stories that have been grabbing headlines over the summer: the rising cost of everything, and a growing number of food safety concerns. As the school year begins, it seems these two issues have converged in a way that could have deadly effects. In many parts of China school lunch prices are not actually set by the schools themselves, but by local gov’t mandates. This means that when the cost of pork, or other ingredients, increases for the school, the price to the students has to remain the same. Since actions to raise the price would not be welcomed (there have been mini-riots in schools that tried this, even when inflation was much lower), cafeterias are left with two options: one being to decrease […]


Over the past few days I’ve pointed out some of the major issues revolving around the hukou system. So I thought it was important to establish why it is that the hukou system won’t be changing anytime soon, despite the ongoing discussions of how to change it. Surprisingly the hukou system is not something that was dreamed up by the communist party as a way to control the masses (which is how it sounds to most Americans I’ve talked with), it is actually a modified version of household registration that has been a part of China for thousands of years. The original system was also used to restrict the movement of people, and to remove “troublemakers”. The modern system in the 1950’s was used as […]


For the past few days we’ve been looking at migrant workers, and issues surrounding the hukou system, including left behind children, and forgotten grandparents and wives. In China’s medical system there are a number of drugs that treat chronic conditions (like TB and AIDs), that are given out to sick patients at little or no cost. While this in itself should be applauded, this program is unfortunately tied to one’s hukou and therefore restricts the person’s movement. If the person leaves their village, it will be incredibly difficult for them to receive their much needed medications. I believe that this policy was created with the intention of controlling the spread of diseases (which is a good intention), but that this has had some very troubling results. In the past this system […]


From the Soil: The Foundations of Chinese Society is not a typical book on modern China, largely because it was written 70 years ago. It’s author, Fei Xiaotong, was one of China’s first sociologists, and was writing at a time when it seemed that new China would have limitless potential. Fei wrote a number of essays that were published throughout China in the 1940’s firstly to describe China’s essential nature, and secondly to describe how this national character could be used to China’s advantage. I don’t think he realized how relevant this book would be today. Fei’s main argument focuses on his idea that China is essentially a rural country, which describes a great deal of modern China’s social structure all these years later. I […]


At a conference I attended a few months ago, a Chinese professor described rural villagers as “sacrificing their youth, for the sake of the cities”. It struck a chord with me as I pictured the rural villages I had grown familiar with during my bike rides down dirt roads in Guangxi. Every village was full of children and grandparents, but was missing nearly everyone from 20-60 years old. It’s as if this entire group left to work in the cities, giving their best years to a develop a region where they cannot reap the full rewards of their work. While the left behind children are a pressing topic of discussion, the other family members are no less effected by the social hole left by migrant […]


By Yaxue Cao Yaxue Cao is short story writer who grew up in Northern China during the cultural revolution.  I met a young man a few years ago while working with a law firm on a case involving China. We were among a few Chinese who had been hired to translate documents. All of us were working more or less honestly in our respective capacities, but every day he sat in front of his computer, chatted with anyone who would answer him, or mostly got online to do whatever he was doing. Now and then, he would say to the rest of us, “Why rush? Slow down so we will log more hours!” Or, twirling in his office chair, “The Americans are dumb! They don’t […]


It’s no secret that China is a massive country that is changing at incredible speeds, and so it seems that even 5 days a week isn’t enough to cover everything that is happening in the middle kingdom. So I am very pleased to announce the launch SeeingRedInChina.com’s weekend section. It will have posts focusing on (mis)adventures in China, a brief round-up of the week’s news stories with a brief explanation of why they matter, as well as opinion pieces, guest posts, and hopefully some interviews. My good friend Casey will be kicking things off on Saturday as he starts to tell the story of his first trip to China, and his time spent working in what has to be the absolute worst school in China. […]


Modern China is home to many phrases that seem to exist in few other parts of the world. Phrases like: Cancer Village, Blue-sky Days, and Gutter Oil. Perhaps the most troubling of these is “Left Behind…”, because the full damage is much harder to see. This phrase refers to children, wives and elderly parents who are left in the countryside while the productive generation heads to the cities to look for work, and captures a few of the issues we’ll be exploring over the next few days. Parents in rural China face a difficult choice once they have decided to look for work in a place beyond their hukou status: should they bring their child with them? If they bring their child with them as […]


Yesterday we looked briefly at the life of a typical migrant worker, today we will be exploring the limits of the hukou system. It is impossible to discuss the issue of migrant workers without understand what exactly a hukou (户口) is. At the most basic level, a hukou is a legal document that specifies which village/town/city you are a resident of. So when I use the term “migrant worker” I am meaning a person who works in a place outside of what their hukou specifies, and is coming from a less developed region to a more prosperous one to look for work. What is a Hukou? A hukou for one of China’s eastern cities can be an incredibly valuable thing, since your residency determines which schools you […]


In China, “migrant worker” has a very different meaning than it does in most other countries. Here it refers to people who have left their hometowns in search of work (usually on the East Coast). Currently this group makes up nearly 20% of China’s total population, although it is hard to say exactly how many people work outside of their hometowns for a part of the year. Over the next few days we’ll be exploring issues related to this topic. Migrant workers often work the least desirable jobs in China’s major cities, like garbage collectors, window washers, and sweatshop workers, etc. They accept meager wages, because farming offers little or no hope of moving up in society, and these jobs add just a tiny bit […]


According to official statistics (which means they are full of problems) there are roughly 300,000,000 English learners in China. This statistic is being bandied about to show how quickly China is changing, and how the West needs to do more to learn Chinese (which is a point for another day). Yet from the moment you step off the plane, you start to question whether or not 25% of the population really learned anything more than “Hallloow,” “A-What-a is-a your name-a?” and “I’m fine, thank you and you? (with a rapidly rising pitch to indicate the question mark)” and “Chinglish” signs abound as online translators (like Google translate) seem to be the only authority on language. The number 300 million comes from the total number of […]


Children from urban areas in China are 6.3x more likely to attend a university than children from the countryside, largely because of the better primary and secondary education in the cities. However, I didn’t need to see the statistics to know that this was true. My first year in China was spent in rural Guangxi as a placement with a Chinese charity. Of the dozen or so “needy” schools we were working with at the time, mine was considered to be one of the poorest, and was located in a small county an hour from the freeway. Some of my students’ families earned less than 1,000rmb per year as farmers, and the majority owned less than 4 sets of clothes. My students came from the […]


At this conference we’ve been discussing some of the recent studies about the massive gap between rural and urban education. For example: Urban children are 6.3 times more likely to attend college than their rural counterparts, and when rural children do go on for further studies it is usually a 2 or 3 year program. For us to get further into these problems, I think its important to take some time to review past posts about Education in China, since there is a lot of background information necessary to frame the topic of this conference. Then over these next few days we’ll be looking at just how serious this gap is, and why it is not as depressing as it might seem at first. Student […]


Yesterday I highlighted some of the exciting developments in Chinese NGOs, and briefly illustrated why they were needed (so far at the conference every speaker has emphasized the growing gap between rich and poor). Today I want to address a few of the challenges. Recently the gov’t has publicly taken a step away from civil society, but in practice remain strong supporters. I think this is partially because of the problems that are being highlighted, and partially because of scandals and fraud within some of these organizations. I think one of the major challenges for these NGOs is that the gov’t has already defined what a “harmonious society” should be, but has not actually engaged in any sort of discussion with the people about what […]


I’m at a conference focused on Charity and Education in China, so this week we’ll be focusing on these two issues. One of the biggest misconceptions in the west about China is that “Socialism with Chinese Characteristics” is anything like “Socialism”. From the 1970’s China has maintained only the State owned enterprises, which are incredibly profitable, but has done away with most of the social programs. For nearly thirty years many of these holes grew larger, and are now reaching a point that is beyond rescue even for the party. The Central Government has mandated a “Harmonious Society”, but has left the details to local governments. So in the last ~5 years these gov’t bodies have encouraged the growth of a civil society, finally admitting […]


Today I wanted to bring you something unique. This is from a diary written by a missionary who arrived in Nanjing at the end of Imperial China, and was integral in spreading western medicine in Eastern China.  I hope you’ll enjoy this moment from the past and reflect on how much China has and hasn’t changed. August 1st, 1891 – One amusing experience was a call to the Fanti’s Yamen to treat a man who had cut his arm and fainted from loss of blood. The Fanti is the treasurer and is a high official. The present one being a relative of the Emperor. A yamen is a palace which in Chinese style is composed of many rooms only one story high, separated by courts […]


This week we’ve been looking at how the party relies on improving its citizens quality of life for its mandate to rule. We started by looking at how GDP is no longer enough to maintain that stability, and what changes will be coming in the next few decades. Today I want to focus on some ways the Party could eventually transform its system of rule. As you read remember that the Party will maintain absolute power until a majority of the population feels that their lives are no longer improving. The most important idea to understand, is that there is no action considered beyond the pale for maintaining their position of power. As Fei Xiaotong points out in his book, “From the Soil”, they would […]


Continued from yesterday  When life satisfaction disconnects from GDP growth, it has to be met in other ways to ensure the Party’s rule, and I believe we are approaching that moment. Today we will be looking at some of those options. Note: while I do not have access to a crystal ball, I’m putting time frames on these issues to emphasize that these are not things that will be changed instantly, and to clarify the order in which they may happen. Lowering Costs (The Present) The Party knows that even though many Chinese people are far richer than their parents, many of them still cannot afford many of the basic appliances that can improve living standards. This is why the gov’t offers generous subsidies to […]


China’s system of gov’t is based not on a mandate from the people, nor does it rely on a mandate from heaven (which was the Chinese version of a divine right to rule), instead the current system relies on quality of life improvement spurred by China’s growing GDP (my post on the problem with those numbers) for their mandate to rule. Over the last 60 years there have been fluctuations in the speed of growth, and its effect on stability. Let’s start by looking at each decade incredibly briefly: 1950’s Civil war ends and life expectancy increases as people finally have safety and regular access to food. China is able to launch massive infrastructure projects. 1960’s Great Leap Forward, followed by millions of deaths in […]


I recently finished Jonathan Watts’ book “When A Billion Chinese Jump,” and I must say that it is one of the finest books I have read on China. While the author was attempting to create a complete picture of China’s environmental situation, he actually created a much broader guide through his pan-China adventure in which he visits almost every province. His journey begins in Shangrila, or Deqing as it was called before the marketing campaign. There he notices that in the rush to create an eco-tourism paradise, the companies are actually destroying the main attraction. There he also takes time to introduce a concept that he refers to as the Daoist approach to nature, a bit of Tibetan culture, as well as sharing interesting conversations he […]


As one of the very few expat bloggers working in a Chinese hospital I feel it is my responsibility to share some tips on going to the ER in China, as well as a bonus helping of awful hospital experiences. Hopefully, you’ll never need to use these. Bring someone with you Chinese hospitals are not designed for the patient’s convenience, so even if you have excellent language skills, odds are that you will need someone to assist you while you are there. For foreign teachers I would strongly recommend bringing a co-worker or someone from the foreign affairs office since they will generally be able to use the school’s clout on your behalf. As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, I saw a doctor, and then […]


I apologize if this is too much information In my four years in China I have had three experiences where I thought either my friends or myself were near death. The first instance came about a month after I arrived in rural China. Not surprisingly I was struck with terrible food poisoning, which I tried to ignore. After running to the bathroom every fifteen minutes for 2 hours, I was still trying to claim that I was just fine. I knew that in rural China the last place I wanted to be was their filthy health clinic. Before arriving in Longzhou I had met a grad student in Beijing who had informed me of an experience he had in rural Yunnan province. The nurses at […]


If you’ve read every article so far on Seeingredinchina.com now, you have now read the equivalent of a 200+ page book, and hopefully have learned something new about China. If you haven’t caught every exciting article (and the ones in between) make sure to check out the archive. Here are a few of the posts that I think were my best work: There must be something in the air Mao’s fuzzy math and the one child policy Can the world afford China’s heating bill Your home in rural Guangxi It’s easy to learn Chinese, really China’s GDP doesn’t mean what you think it does Is inflation a Party crasher? A fight at the hospital – Abortion in China Common questions about Christianity in China Protests […]


After looking at the effects of Weibo on the Chinese justice system yesterday, I thought it was important to take a closer look. The Chinese Courts Until 1949 there was very little litigation in China. If someone wronged you, you would have to appear in front of the local leader. There you, and the person you accused were usually beaten  before your testimony would even be heard. The leader would then decide, based on anything from your moral character to the ugliness of your face which party deserved the punishment. That person would then be tortured until they confessed, and the common folk would marvel at the leader’s wisdom. This is paraphrased from the book “From the Soil” which I will be reviewing shortly. Not […]


People’s daily and other state news sources have been pointing to the influence of Weibo as a sign of China’s shift toward democracy (here and here), but is social media really creating a more just China? Note: Weibo is a Chinese networking site, something like a combination of Twitter, Facebook and a blog. It is also carefully monitored by gov’t censors (a.k.a. internet police) for stories on sensitive topics, and imposes keyword bans. One way that Weibo is contributing to the development of democracy in China, is that it has helped introduce the idea that the gov’t should actually listen to its people. Weibo has accomplished this largely because it has given common people a way of airing grievances in a public forum. In the past […]


Last Train Home claims to be a documentary about migrant workers heading home for Spring Festival, but it is so much more than that. The director opted to focus on a single family, whose parents work in Guangdong province, while their children are looked after by their grandmother in rural Sichuan. In happens to cover the one Spring Festival that almost didn’t happen because of the massive winter storms that swept China in 2008, and depicts the anxiety that many felt. As one the father says, “If you can’t spend Spring Festival with your family, than what is the point of living”. The daughter in the film was the most interesting character I thought. After failing to achieve academic success in high school, she drops […]


It’s early morning, the sun is shining through  kitchen windows, aroma of coffee wafts pleasantly as toddlers squirm and squeal at your feet. The husband is off busying himself for the office, life could not be better. On the other side of the world, in a village in China, another person is preparing for his day at work. He, too, has a wife who stands in a small area where the cooking is done, also, a happy toddler wriggles and squeals on the floor. But this man will not be going to an office. He will head off to a different type of job for twelve hours, probably for his sixth day in a row. That job is back-breaking, dirty and pays very, very little. […]


…continued from yesterday “My problem is that the gov’t covers up this information, if the Chinese people knew what was happening they would be outraged,” I said, naively assuming that I understood Chinese people’s complex relationship to the world beyond their borders. With that the younger co-worker began searching for news of Darfur on the Chinese web. Between Western thought and Chinese policy there remains a giant chasm. The U.S. and Europe have reached a consensus that supporting oppressive regimes leads to terribly corrupt countries that are unable to pull themselves out of poverty (Zimbabwe for example).  While China argues that these dictators provide the necessary stability that allows for businesses to open and grow the economy, China itself is the proof of this argument, even though the […]


I sat down to lunch a few days ago with my co-workers and the hospital president. For some reason, when I had been watching “The Founding of the Party” (a recent propaganda film), a single line had jumped out at me that needed further exploration. The line was “Brother Mao, you are so tall.” So I started asking co-workers how tall Mao had been, their answer shocked me. Not only did everyone seem to have an answer, but they claimed he was over 1.8m tall (5’10″+). When I had seen Mao’s body though the thing that had struck me most was how small he seemed compared to his almost mythic stature (even accounting for the fact that he has been dead for ~40 years). I […]


…continued Chinese men also come with involved mothers.  Their mothers are full of opinions and criticisms.  The Chinese fathers I have known, on the other hand, are not involved and extremely difficult to have a relationship with.  The best way to deal with the introduction of a new mother-figure into your life is to demonstrate to her that you are an adult who is open to and cares about her opinions, but is not obligated to follow them (I learned this the hard way from my step-mother).  You don’t yet have water under the bridge with this woman, so there’s no need to get worked up when she does not agree with you.  I am very pleased with my husband’s mother because she genuinely likes […]


This post was written by my good friend Heather, about her new life with her husband Huichun. I had the honor of being the best man in their wedding and wish them both all the best as they work through the immigration process. None of my friends or classmates of other racial backgrounds have EVER asked me to elucidate my experience as a “white woman.”  So now that I have been called upon to give a kernel of insight into White American woman–Han Chinese man marriages, I can understand a little better the plight of the lone Black American in some of my high school and college classes who would frequently be expected to give the “Black” outlook on the topic.  How can one person […]


…continued Dating a Chinese man, or perhaps anyone outside your own culture, isn’t the easiest thing to do. There are different ideas, beliefs and customs. Even though we both don’t belong to any religion, my boyfriend is as superstitious as any other Chinese person. He was terrified when he found out that I had taken photographs from a grave yard. He also thinks it is bad for your health to go to sleep with wet hair and bought me a hair dryer. Being in a relationship and living with a Chinese guy is a process of learning. My boyfriend doesn’t speak any English and our common language is Mandarin Chinese. After learning the language for year and a half in Finland and one year in […]


Sara Jaaksola lives in Guangdong province where she write Living a Dream in China about her adventures. What is it like to date a Chinese guy? Or in more detail, what is it like for a Finnish girl living in China to love a Chinese boy from Guangdong province? I would say that it’s an adventure that I’m happy to be in. I haven’t found anything in common between Finland and China, but it doesn’t mean that there isn’t anything similar between me and my boyfriend. Let’s start from the beginning which happened over a year ago by the Pearl River in Guangzhou. My boyfriend never thought of having a foreign girlfriend. Like many Chinese guys, he thought that laowai women are out of his league. […]


Today’s guest post comes from Jo. She writes the blog Life Behind the Wall about life as an African-American woman in China. There have been several controversial articles written on the internet regarding multicultural, multiracial relationships concerning Chinese men; however, being a Black American woman married to a Chinese man and living in China, brings a whole new level of chaos to the multicultural mix. The recent internet chatter has been about African women marrying Chinese men and how they are being received in China by the locals.The negative feedback has caused a lot of people from Western countries to be shocked and appalled at the ignorant and discriminatory comments that were posted all over the website (here is a post from Chinasmack that translated […]


Over the next few days we’ll be looking at three different interracial marriages, though this time, it is the woman who is non-Chinese. First though I thought it might be beneficial for us to take a look back on some of the other posts on this topic (to date, the topic I have written the most about). In the past we have looked at weddings in modern China, and saw that family obligations still often trump personal desires. The boss’s speech and other oddities at Chinese weddings What happened to traditional Chinese weddings? Chinese wedding days & wedding nights Guest Post – I hate the Chinese ideas about marriage Expired women and family obligations We also looked at intercultural weddings where the men are foreigners. […]


“In Guangxi we eat everything with 4 legs but tables and chairs, everything in the ocean but submarines, and anything in the sky but airplanes,” a giddy student told me when I asked about local dishes. It turned out that this was much closer to the truth than I had imagined at the time. In my four years here in China, I have been introduced to a variety of foods: roast dog, snake soup, chicken ovaries, duck stomach, goose intestines, a variety of fowl flippers, and pig arteries, brain, and even urethra (my previous post on dog meat). I’ve seen so many animals served up that I doubt that there is even a Chinese word for kosher. Behind many of these strange dishes are concepts […]


Today we’ll be looking at a few of the upsides of these projects, and why they are for the most part appreciated by the people, despite the corruption and problems these vanity projects can cause (read my updated post on some of the problems). Jobs As the US entered the recession questions were raised about Keynesian economics, could gov’t spending really be the answer? While we battened down the hatch for another long debate as to whether or not it might be effective, and then moved on to how much to spend, China pushed ahead with massive spending. While the long-term results are unclear (10 trillion rmb in local debts is worrying), the immediate benefits were obvious. Not only did several cities launch plans for expanding desperately needed […]


Wednesday we looked at part of the reason why Chinese officials like massive projects, and today we’ll be looking at the another major reason: corruption. This factor helps to explain why local governments are so eager to build infrastructure, but struggle to find money for schools, and why the National government continues to favor single major projects. It’s no secret that China has thousands (hundreds of thousands? millions?) of officials who use their positions for extra gains. Starting at 1:58 (What do you want to be when you grow up?) Boy: I want to be an official Interviewer: What kind of official? Boy: A corrupt official, because they have many things. This endemic corruption is essential for understanding not only infrastructure projects, but China as […]


We’ve talked before about the Chinese concept of family, and how it looks at times to foreigners. Today I’d like to talk a little bit about fighting in Chinese families, which has broad implications throughout China’s hierarchical structures (family, work, government…). For example this weekend I was traveling with my Chinese friend and his family. His parents insisted on taking a “short-cut” on the way home that would potentially save thirty minutes on an hour and a half trip. The only problem was that nobody knew exactly how to take the short-cut. My friend thought it would be much easier to take the route he already knew, but his parents insisted we use his GPS to find this way. After countless u-turns and losing everyone […]


Some of you may have missed that China completed two major projects just in time for the Party’s 90th birthday. These now stand like trophies along with the Three Gorges Dam and dozens of other massive works. These projects often come at massive prices, and require moving thousands of people (sometimes millions). The Three Gorges Dam is one of the largest projects ever completed by man, with enough steel to construct 63 Eiffel towers. It along with many of China’s other dams were inspired by Mao Zedong, and were partially constructed simply to fulfill his dream (many have argued that several smaller dams would be more efficient, and cause fewer environmental problems). Currently the dam is the center of a lot of debate in China, […]


For my non-American readers please excuse this burst of patriotism, as it is Independence day Today I wanted to share a few of the aspects of American life I enjoy more after living in China for four years. Freedom to Report In China there is a special vocabulary that has evolved out of the need to define events that have never happened before. Words like: “Gutter oil” (Used oil that has had the garbage strained from it, that is reused in restaurants), “Cancer village” (unusually high rates of cancer caused by pollutants) and Naked officials (gov’t officials who have sent their assets and family overseas so they can escape when their misdeeds surface). These are words we don’t have in the US, and I think […]


Yesterday we looked at some of the key changes Mao made in China during his rule that can be linked to China’s current success. Today we’ll be looking at some of his devastating policies, and how they are explained away in China. At one point in my life, when I thought communism was a sensible model, I thought Mao had simply been unaware of the damage he was doing. I still don’t think that Mao set out to kill millions of people (although directly he is probably responsible for a few thousand), but that he simply didn’t care about the human cost for his projects. His vision for a stronger nation made him a leader, but personally he cared very little about individual lives. This […]


For the past few days we’ve been exploring a few of the myths the Party sees as central to their rule (here and here). Today and tomorrow we’ll be taking on the the most controversial one, that Chairman Mao was 70% right and 30% wrong. If you haven’t lived in China, you are probably wondering how anyone ever came up with such a precise statistic. One of my American friends liked to joke with his students (not sure if they realized he was joking) that perhaps the Chairman was only 65% right or that it included his primary school test scores, generally, the students didn’t want to discuss these things. The Chairman is still very much officially revered in China; his face is on every […]


Yesterday we looked at two of the Party’s central myths concerning China’s role in the world, today I want to look at two more myths that might not be working in the way the Party meant. The important thing to note here with the word “myth” is that I don’t mean to judge these definitively as lies (that’s up to you), but that these are stories told with special meaning to teach a specific lesson to the masses. Happy Minorities If you’ve been reading the People’s Daily these past few weeks in the run up to the Party’s 90th anniversary you are probably more than aware of the fact that China is a family of 56 happy ethnic groups. This is a “fact” that students […]


After working in the hospital for almost 10 months, my co-workers are finally starting to talk with me about politics in China (this serves as a good reminder of 1. how important relationships are in China and 2. how hard it can be to get interesting information). Two of the women were fairly willing to talk one-on-one with me about it, but when the third woman would come in the room the conversation would die instantly. Whenever we have these chats someone always makes sure to close the door (sometimes I even do it). It’s not that I would normally be worried about what is said, but the Party office of the hospital is directly next door, and one can never be too careful. One […]


This is a question I have been struggling with these past few months. I don’t mean to say that China’s economy is headed for a bust (although many are afraid it is), but will the rest of the world ever like China as much as it did during the Beijing Olympics? It was a moment when China’s human rights issues seemed to be improving, Wikipedia had been unblocked, journalists were given greater freedoms than before, and China had spared no effort in responding to the Sichuan Earthquake. Heck, Beijing even had blue skies for several days in a row! The stadiums and infrastructure had all been built in record time, and the opening ceremony was awe-inspiring. It seemed there was nothing that China couldn’t do. The […]


This continues a series we’ve been reading on physical disabilities and mental handicaps. In China only a tiny amount of funding goes into mental health, even though it is estimated that roughly 1.5% of the population suffer from serious mental illnesses (that’s nearly 15 million people). In the past few years there have been a growing number of reports of violence caused by underlying mental problems, which included a spate of attacks on kindergartens last year. China also has one of the highest suicide rates in the world, exact numbers are very hard to come by. One fact that is not disputed though is that China is the only country in the world where more women commit suicide than men. Perhaps the most shocking statistic […]


It’s very tempting at this moment to celebrate the release of Ai Weiwei, but the current situation is a painful reminder of just how far China has left to go before it actually respects Human Rights. The lead story today is that Ai Weiwei was released from prison on bail after confessing to his economic crimes (tax evasion). He has agreed to pay his fines, and is out because of good behavior in confessing and because of a chronic illness. Other sources add that this is partially in response to international calls for his release. Today, we’ll be picking this apart. It is wrong to say that Ai Weiwei is free. In the next few months there is a good chance that he will be […]


Yesterday I noted that things seem to be improving for China’s physically disabled, unfortunately I’m not so optimistic about the situation for China’s mentally disabled. Generally speaking there are few opportunities for such people, both in terms of education and employment. Children who are severely disabled are often kept in their homes for reasons of protecting their families “face”, those who are less severely impaired are placed in classroom situations that are ultimately frustrating for everyone involved. I know of one project that works with mentally challenged adults. The project is a small bakery here in Nanjing, whose main source of income is selling moon cakes. Currently it only “employs” 5 adults, and is only possible financially because of volunteers, but it is an encouraging […]


I lived in China for almost three years before I saw someone in public in a wheelchair, and I have yet to see anyone using one under their own power. I think this is largely because China wasn’t built for wheelchairs. Even in the big cities, it’s hard to find a side walk that would be suitable for rolling, and almost every building has a half dozen steps to the front door. For most of China’s physically disabled people, I would imagine it is difficult to even leave their home, since buildings with less than 8 floors typically do not have elevators. This also includes schools and practically every government building. Not only are there few programs for physical rehabilitation, but they literally can’t even […]


I just finished reading The Millionaire Next Door, and even though it’s about how America’s wealthy become wealthy, I started to notice just how many of the mistakes mentioned in the book described the new rich in China. In contrast to what we have heard about the Chinese savings rate (around 30% for households), it seems that many of those struggling to reach the middle class are spending massive amounts of money on luxury goods to appear rich (or here). One of the ideas in the book is that there is a difference between being rich (usually a high salary) and wealth (the accumulation of investments above what would be typical for the salary). An example of this would be that a person making $70,000 […]


Continuing to look at some of my favorite parts of living in China, is the fact that there is history everywhere. Thanks to the Cultural Revolution, civil-wars, and thousands of years of tearing down the old to make room for the new, it is fairly safe to say that China has lost more history than the US has. We weren’t even a country until half way through China’s final dynasty (the Qing). So living in a place where I pass a 600-year-old buildings on a daily basis is great. The tiny town of Longzhou where I first lived was an excellent example of how even present day backwaters can have an interesting history (Here it is on Google Maps). There was a kind of joke […]


I enjoy having the opportunity to host foreign investors when they visit China for the first time. They see the country the way I used to see it, and I wish sometimes that I could get back to that feeling. For people stepping off the plane in Shanghai, China seems like a country that is capable of accomplishing anything, and a place where the market is ready for just about any new product. So for the next few days we will be looking at the things China does well. I remember when I lived in Longzhou I was struck by the quality of life enjoyed by China’s elderly population. It is common to see in most Chinese cities, parks full of elderly people enjoying chess, […]


For those of you reading this outside of China, it’s important to understand that China has probably close to a dozen different kinds of police. There are traffic police, railway police, bus police and countless others. When there is a problem, like when my friend had her i-Pod stolen as she got on a bus, it took 6 phone calls to figure out which police should handle the case (ultimately it was the bus police, even though they didn’t think it was their jurisdiction because she wasn’t fully on the bus when it happened). Of these police, there is one branch that is the most feared and despised, they are known as the Chengguan (City Management). While most criticisms of gov’t agencies are only ever whispered […]


As I’ve mentioned before, the Party’s greatest concern is stability. It’s a phrase used so often when glossing over corruption, censorship, and human rights abuses, that it’s almost become a joke for those of us who spend far too much time reading the People’s Daily. In the after math of the Egypt protests the People’s Daily ran a flurry of stories about Egypt’s lagging economy caused by a lack of stability. The message was clear, the Party brings stability, and that stability brings GDP growth. For decades all China has had to do to maintain this growth was keep moving workers from the farms to the factories, but now that the wealth gap has grown beyond even American levels of inequality, China has brought back […]


Last week we looked at many of the misunderstandings about Christianity in China (1, 2,3, 4), so today I thought we would wrap up by looking at mission in China just before the fall of the last emperor. The era we will be looking at though is not the start of Christianity in China, which first arrived around the 8th century. The following dynasties seemed to fluctuate between banning the practices, embracing them, or just flat out ignoring them. Matteo Ricci was the most successful of the early missionaries to China. In 1601 he was the first westerner to ever enter the Forbidden City, but it was the scientific knowledge he possessed that most interested the court. His efforts to understand Chinese culture, and adapt […]


On Friday morning I was taking a group of foreign guests to visit sites around Nanjing when a heavy smog blanketed the city in a yellow stench. It seemed as if every family in the city of over 7 million had lit a pile of tires ablaze. Within 20 minutes of being outside I started feeling asthma like symptoms, meaning that it actually hurt to breathe. After the experience I was eager to check the official Air Quality Index (updated daily) to see just how severe the pollution had been. Unfortunately, these are not posted in a timely enough manner to be of any use in avoiding this kind of hazard. So you can imagine my surprise in learning that “officially” the air quality on Friday was […]


This morning as I sat down for my morning reading session (check suggested sites for a partial list), I came across two more articles full of misinformation about Christianity in China. One took the experiences of a foreign Mormon in China as representative of what happens to Chinese Christians (Mormonism is not recognized by the gov’t, so it faces more restrictions). So today I thought I would share with you some of the activities I have taken part in without any problems from the gov’t, and give a few examples of how they can cause trouble for the foreigners involved. Note: These restrictions DO NOT apply to Chinese Christians Pray During my first year in China I had a student approach me asking to pray […]


Yesterday I answered some of the questions I get most often about Christianity in China (if you have more please post them below). Today we’ll be looking mostly at the differences between a registered and unregistered church. Registered Church/Official Church Chinese protestant churches must be registered with two groups in order to be considered legal; these groups are the China Christian Council (CCC), and the Three-self Patriotic Movement (TSPM). These two groups work so closely together that at this level of understanding, it is not so important to differentiate. The Three-Self Patriotic Movement was formed in 1951 as a way of placating the new Communist gov’t that there would be no direct foreign involvement in the Chinese church. The ideals highlighted by this movement though […]


Religion in China, and especially Christianity in China is one of the topics I am asked about most frequently when I return to the States. People ask if there are Bibles here, or if I worry about my safety because I work for a Christian organization, or if it is even legal to believe in God. The confusion is understandable, China was an enemy of the US for about 30 years, during a time of considerable propaganda efforts and fear mongering. So today we are going to begin a series on Christianity in China, and then look at religion in general as it exists in modern China. Are there Bibles in China? Believe it or not, China has plenty of Bibles. The Amity Printing Press […]


The historical viewpoint that we looked at yesterday seems likely to be the one taken by many ethnic Mongolians, as well as Western journalists. While many of the issues raised will need to be addressed, I think it’s important to consider the bigger picture that these protests are a part of. Han vs. Minority Group This first viewpoint has been the most popular one cited so far, but after talking with my Chinese friend at length about this topic, I think it’s only part of the picture. I think this one has gained a lot of traction because in the past 4 years there have been protests in Tibet, Xinjiang and Inner Mongolia. All of them sparked by a Han-Minority crime that exploded into larger […]


A few weeks ago a shepherd in Inner Mongolia was run over by a trucker moving a load of coal. The result has been wide-spread protests over the past two weeks, causing dozens of news stories about Han-Mongol relations. Before we get too far into this story, we need to pause for a little background. Around 221 B.C. China became a unified nation under the Qin dynasty. One of the emperor’s first acts was to connect the city walls along the Northern border to defend against the nomadic sheepherders who were also fierce warriors (the tribe at this time was the Xiongnu). Even though the tribes along China’s border changed, the relationship between the nomads and the farmers never really improved. For another 1500 years […]


On China’s East Coast people are getting rich. The province I currently live in, Jiangsu, has a GDP equivalent to Switzerland (picture the Alps with more than 30 million people, and 100 degree heat). While much of this wealth is concentrated in a few hands, there is a growing middle class in the cities, and they are providing jobs to their lower class neighbors that are better than they sound. The first job I wanted to discuss was that of the maid, only that isn’t close to being an adequate translation. The Chinese call the maid an “Aiyi” which actually means auntie (in the close family friend sense of the word). In English this job doesn’t offer the opportunities that it does in China, nor […]


In the mid 1800’s China faced a growing debt with England as a result of opium addiction. Officially opium had been banned by the emperor but corrupt officials continued to allow the drug into the country for the right price. The problem was not only destroying the fabric of Chinese society, but the empire itself. Finally in 1838 a man with an impeccable reputation for being impervious to bribes was sent to deal with the illegal imports, his name was Lin Zexu. Not only was he effective in limiting the amount that entered the country, but was also adept at seizing it from warehouses. In 1839 he managed to destroy more than 2.5 million tons of opium, and wrote a letter to the Queen of […]


A few weeks ago my friends my friends were on a Chinese TV show called “My Man Can” (Which can be watched here), they are the American Girl-Chinese Guy couple. This episode featured 4 intercultural couples competing for a free trip to almost anywhere in the world. The basic premise is that the wives bid how well their husbands can do on a particular challenge, while the husbands have to hope their wives don’t push the goal up too high. The show ended up taking nearly 4 hours to film, but lead to several interesting insights about how the Chinese view these intercultural marriages. The most striking was that before the show even started the producers told my friend that they were rooting for them […]


Today’s guest post comes from Mr. Kuaizi, who writes wonderful comments in response to many of my posts (and sometimes he eve agrees with me).  He writes a blog that covers a wide variety of topics, and that can be found here. I was very thankful that he agreed to share his story for the first time here for all of you. After reading much of the commentary on foreigner/Chinese relationships related to Tom’s recent post on “I hate the Chinese ideas about marriage”, I feel compelled to offer some of my own insight on the subject matter. I am American and my wife is Chinese. We first met in China more than 15 years ago when I was there on scholarship teaching English and […]


Continued from yesterday It turned out his girlfriend had already paid the 1,000rmb to meet him, and really wanted to avoid paying the 10,000rmb if they got married. So she came up with a plan for him to break up with “her” on QQ, so that they could continue dating without the companies knowledge. Otherwise she knew the company would come looking for their money, it had happened to her friend who married an Australian through the same company. The company had convinced this friend that her new foreign husband could pay, “Just tell him your family needs money, and get mad if he refuses,” the company had said, “To foreigners it isn’t very much money.” My friend was OK with this idea, even though […]


Continued from yesterday In the week before his new girlfriend arrived, there was a flurry of emails. He told us that he was spending hours each night writing and reading her emails. She was kind enough to accept them in English and would reply in English, all with the help of Google translate. They would even talk on the phone, but that was just a few very simple phrases. My friend seemed genuinely happy with this new-found love. They were able to communicate well enough, and he thought that with her determination she’d be able to learn enough English to handle living in the US. For now though he had a simple solution. He bought two pocket translators, and ever so slowly they could “talk” […]


Yesterday I brought you the wonderful example of true love in an intercultural marriage, so today I want to look at some of the ways these relationships can be exploitative. Now generally speaking when I hear Chinese-Foreigner marriage, I think of a Western Man and a Chinese woman. Typically the man is 10-30 years older than the woman, and she is far better looking than he is. In most of China’s major cities it is hard to miss seeing these kinds of relationships, and it’s harder still to believe that these could be true love. I know when I first arrive in China I thought it was disgusting that these men were so clearly taking advantage of the younger woman. Last year though I met […]


Tim and Yan Jiang were married this weekend. A few weeks ago Yan Jiang took the time to write out the story of how they met, and I think it is a wonderful way to begin our look at inter-cultural marriages. I picked this story because too often people assume that these marriages are not based on true love, and I think this is a good reminder that this is not always the case. You can read more about them at TimCorbin.com My soon-to-be husband, Tim, and I met in October, 2008 in the college that I attended and he taught at. Before that, I wasn’t sure I would ever have any foreign friends, so dating a foreigner was never even a thought. Tim is […]


I’m back in the USA this week to attend my twin brother’s wedding (Congratulations Alex and Erin). So this week we’ll be looking at marriage in China again, this time focusing on Chinese-Foreigner relationships. We have a couple of guests posts to look forward to as well as a fairly crazy look at online dating. So now would be a good time to re-visit our look at marriage in China: The Boss’s Speech and Other Oddities at Chinese Weddings What Happened to Traditional Chinese Weddings? Chinese Wedding Days and Wedding Nights Guest Post: I Hate the Chinese Ideas About Marriage Expired Women and Family Obligations


One of China’s newspapers broke the story that gov’t officials were in Hunan province were forcing parents who had more than one child to give up their extra children. The children were than sold to adoption agencies by these officials. This isn’t to try to scare people out of international adoption, but I think it is important to consider the possibility that this act of love, can create a demand for babies. This demand for babies creates incentives for immoral people to take terrible actions. The majority of these kidnapped and trafficked children are adopted/purchased by other families within China that were unable to conceive their own child. So it would seem that only a tiny percentage of the children adopted by Americans or Europeans […]


I had a great discussion with a German man on the train yesterday, and thought you might find it interesting. He is in the garment manufacturing business and works for a large German chain similar to The GAP or H&M, and has been in China for 3 years. In our conversation we talked about a variety of topics: Manufacturing, GDP growth, High speed rail, the housing boom, China’s environment, and in each topic he brought up that it wasn’t sustainable. Perhaps it was made more apparent by traveling 300km/hour through what used to be China’s countryside, which now offers little other than new apartment buildings, gray skies, and a dozen coal power plants. One of the most interesting things he said was that wages have […]


It seems in the last few years in the US the fear of “Big Gov’t” has been enough to draw large crowds to the Tea Party. Apparently these people have never been to China. The idea of small gov’t in China would be almost heretical here in the Middle Kingdom, where there are 5 levels of gov’t compared to the US’s 3. Bureaucracy though isn’t limited to China’s bloated gov’t, it bogs down every business and transaction. For example during the Swine Flu scare a few years ago, teachers and students were not allowed off campus without permission. For one teacher, who had daily lessons on a different campus, this meant an hour of filing paper work every day for TWO MONTHS! She had to […]


Yesterday we started to look very generally at China’s efficiency problems. Today I would like to introduce you to a few of the most pointless jobs in China that highlight the practices inspired by low wages. Bus Line Monitor I see these people standing at each of the bus stops on my way to work each morning. They stand around with their yellow or red arm bands and watch the masses cram in to buses. While their title might imply that these people are in some way responsible for making sure getting on the bus is an orderly process, I have yet to see them do anything to improve the situation. Receipt Stamper A common sight throughout China, the receipt stamper is the bored looking […]


A lot of words come to mind when thinking about business in China: “Booming”, “Exports”,  “Walmart”, “Cheap Labor”, “Outsourcing” – You’ll notice “Efficient” isn’t one of them, and this doesn’t just apply to manufacturing. Over these next few days we’ll be looking at the Chinese workplace, and a few interesting jobs, that seem to be unique to China. When I first arrived in China I noticed that even the smallest shops were staffed with dozens of employees. My Chinese friends explained that this was because Chinese businesses wanted their customers to have excellent service. I was skeptical as to whether or not this was true after my first trip to a Beijing Starbucks. There were at least 6 employees standing behind the counter and it […]


On Tuesday I reported briefly on Shaanxi’s plan to relocate 2.7 million residents from the northern and southern parts of the province. The local gov’t reported that this was a major push to help break the cycle of poverty that has been effecting those regions for generations. They also cited the fact that both areas are prone to disasters, and so this project would help save lives. I wasn’t so optimistic about the project, and wondered when exactly we would find out the real motivation behind it. Today as I was combing through the part of the People’s Daily I realized they had yet again buried the lead. The headline is “Shaanxi plans to move 2.7 million to safer areas“, and the first page of […]


It was 2:28 in the afternoon when the 8.0 magnitude earthquake struck, it was felt as far away as Hanoi, but I didn’t notice it because I was running late to class. A few of the students who walked in late to class, still rubbing the sleep of their noon nap from their eyes, asked their classmates if they had felt the earthquake. Nobody knew what they were talking about, and so we continued our classes as usual. After class the news started to come in slowly. I remember the sickening feeling when I realized that every time I checked CNN’s website the death toll had risen, it had started at 10,000, but we knew that it would be much higher. It wasn’t until the […]


Du Haibin’s film “1428” captures a variety of scenes from post earthquake Beichuan in a way that I hadn’t seen before. Even though I was in China at that time, and remember checking the news hourly for days, there was still very little I knew about the conditions in Sichuan at that time. All of the images were being very carefully selected before they were shown on TV, but this film manages to capture everything that was left unseen. The documentary begins just 10 days after the earthquake that killed more than 80,000 people, and shows how chaotic life can be as people struggle to know what steps to take next. Many people spent their days trying to scavenge scrap metal from collapsed buildings to […]


Today a provincial gov’t announced a new relocation project that would move 2.8 million people from their homes, nearly twice as many as were moved for the construction of the Three Gorges Dam. This project though is not to clear the way for a massive new infrastructure project, but is instead aimed at poverty alleviation and avoiding disasters. The project is looking to move people from rural Shaanxi to some of the larger towns and cities, and will no doubt be a topic of debate over the next few years. The argument the gov’t makes is that this project could help to limit some of China’s rural problems. By moving rural people to larger towns it would improve access to medical care and education, with […]


Yesterday I did an interview with ChinaTravel.net as their featured blogger of the week. You can read that here. It was exciting to be picked for their site, and I’m glad I had the opportunity to share a bit more about myself and my motives behind this blog. I hope you’ll check it out. Tom


A few months ago America tossed itself into panic mode again, like it does every year when it realizes how low our students are ranked on standardized tests. So it may surprise some of you to learn that despite China’s number 1 ranking on the tests this year, the best Chinese students all want to go somewhere else for college. I had a number of students over the years talk about their aspirations to go study in the US or England, but none of them eve had the money to make that a possibility. It turns out there are very few scholarships for international students; schools expect them to be able to pay. So it’s only now that I’m living in a city where people […]


While I was in Huaxi another interesting topic came up which doesn’t have so much to do with this strange village, but reflects more broadly on China. As we were walking through their hall of glorious history we noticed there were pictures of leaders from several foreign delegations on the wall. Two in particular seemed to be emphasized and we looked closer. “It’s the king of Cambodia,” my co-worker’s husband said with a big grin, “He very much liked to visit Huaxi.” I recognized the man in the second photo too, a small part of me was hoping we would just move on. “And this,” her husband continued, “Is Po-er Pa-te.” “Pol Pot?” I asked trying to make sure that this was something he really […]


This is part of a series, it starts here with my trip to Huaxi village The whole experience raised more questions about Huaxi’s socialist success than it answered. Most of the Chinese people I have talked with know about the village, are quick to repeat that it is the richest village in China, but I’m still stuck on how exactly it became so rich. I have a few different theories, which as usual, I’m happy to share with you. The Government has paid for the whole thing. Or at least that was my initial reaction. After all, how could it possibly be that simply through hard work and “advanced” agricultural techniques that a village could possibly get rich enough to build all of these villas? […]


Continued from yesterday At dinner that first night we started to realize that there was much more to Huaxi village than most might realize. For one the village leader offered us the choice between Huaxi Wuliangye (a famous brand of baijiu) or Huaxi Changyu (a famous brand of red wine in China). The dinner included a variety of local specialties, including a kind of Yangtze river puffer fish that is poisonous if not prepared correctly. “Our chef is one of the highest ranking chefs in China,” the village leader said as he raised his glass for the umpteenth toast. I’ve lived in Chinese villages, and this was completely different. It wasn’t until we got to Huaxi’s memorial hall that we fully realized we were in […]


A few websites have already rushed to translate the reactions of Chinese internet users responses to the news of Bin Laden’s death (ChinaSmack’s coverage). As you know though, I am much more in favor of soliciting views of people who don’t know their comments will be made public. China’s net users often try to say the most inflammatory things simply for attention (like many net users around the world), and so their views aren’t really representative of most Chinese people (Wall Street Journals coverage of this story is more representative of thoughtful netizens, which was met with hundreds of more inflammatory comments). So far my co-workers seem completely indifferent to the news, which isn’t surprising since it took nearly 20 hours for People’s Daily to […]


Every once in a while I start to wonder if I will run out of material for this blog…then I have a ridiculous weekend like this one and realize that there is still so so so much more to talk about. Even though many of you have read more than 100 posts here, we are still just a few inches beneath the surface, and luckily for us, that is where a lot of the fun begins. This weekend was May Day holiday here in China, essentially the communist version of Labor Day in the US, and my co-worker invited my wife and I to visit her husband’s hometown, Huaxi Cun. “Where is it?” I asked. “Oh, it’s very famous,” her husband said “It’s the first […]


This short post comes from a friend living in Inner Mongolia, and is brand new to life in China. I asked her what had surprised her and this was her response. Her and her husband keep a personal blog about their adventures, which can be found here. Spring is in the air, and as I was walking back from class recently I took a deep breath and realized that the smell of urine is also in the air. When I first came to China, public urination surprised me. Now it doesn’t surprise me, but it is one of those mild Chinese irritants. Men and children urinate here, there, and everywhere. I have yet to see a woman assume the squatting position, but every day men […]


Yesterday we saw that China’s farmers occupy the lowest rung of Chinese society. Today we’ll be looking at why China’s farmers are also at the bottom economically, as we try to answer the question, How poor are Chinese farmers? Officially the average rural income is 5,919rmb, which is about $900. That’s well above the World Bank’s poverty measure of $1/day. However I’m skeptical of these official numbers. A few months ago I helped the charity I work with edit their annual report and found the annual per capita income for some of China’s least developed areas. Now keeping in mind that this charity is working in some of China’s poorest areas, it is still surprising to see that none of these villages were closer than […]


About 80 years ago Pearl Buck penned her novel “The Good Earth” about farmers in rural Jiangsu province, and today that image remains firmly planted in the minds of Westerners. After my time in rural Guangxi and my visit to Gansu, it seems that there are many places in China where Buck’s description is still fairly accurate. Over these next few days we’ll be exploring the lives of China’s farmers (you might want to start by reading about houses in rural china). How are farmers viewed in modern China? I remember quite clearly a discussion I had with one of the Chinese teachers in Guangxi shortly after I arrived in the Chinese countryside. He had just returned from Shanghai where he was studying for his […]


My Chinese friend Grace is about the last person you would picture when you think about dissidents. She’s happily married to a doctor who doesn’t drink or smoke. She is pregnant with her second healthy (and perfectly legal) baby. She has a college education and a good job by Chinese standards. Grace doesn’t like reading the news, and refers to the Cultural Revolution as “some unpleasant times that aren’t good to talk about.” Her family is firmly part of China’s new middle class. She isn’t an artist or a lawyer, she doesn’t know how to get past the great firewall (even though she wants to), and she definitely wouldn’t be considered an intellectual (she’s not stupid, but she avoids reading and writing at pretty much […]


Eating dogs is something we joke about when we think of Chinese food, and then we are often scolded by those who are more “politically correct” than us. However, throughout much of China dog meat is a fairly common delicacy. Lately there has been some discussion as to whether or not eating dogs and cats should be banned, but that discussion became a nationwide argument this week after volunteers rescued/stole 500 dogs (ministry of tofu covered this store in more depth). I am heartened by the news that an increase in pet ownership in China has spurred on more animal rights activists, since human rights are more or less taboo. I’m somewhere in between on the issue. After all meat is meat, and it all […]


This week we’ve taken a brief look at China’s ability to project economic, political, and military power, and whether or not China is approaching super power status. Today we look at China’s cultural power. Culture a.k.a. Soft Power Chinese language is becoming widely popular in schools throughout the world. People are eager to learn the world’s most spoken language, and this has given China a great opportunity to use it’s GDP (and people’s desire to get into the Chinese market) to build China’s soft power. The Confucius Institute has been by far China’s most successful attempt at exporting it’s culture. However, many expats have already discovered that Chinese isn’t actually a necessity for living in China. I know dozens of foreigners that have never progressed […]


So far we have seen that China has the GDP to be a superpower, and would have the political strength to meet the criteria if it decided to take on a leadership role. Today we will be trying to evaluate how effectively China would be able to project it’s military strength. Military Power China employs the largest army in the world despite the fact it has not been involved in any serious battles since the early 1980’s when it faced off in a brief skirmish with Vietnam (China called this self-defense, even though it launched the attack) . Since then China has been steadily building a blue ocean navy, state of the art missiles, and even its own stealth fighter which is being tested now. […]


Yesterday we looked at how China’s growing GDP was putting it a step closer to being a superpower, but also that GDP alone is not enough. Today we will be continuing our look at China’s growing role in the world, and what that means for the rest of us. Political Power China’s political power is growing even faster than it’s GDP. Through generous aid programs to much of the developing world, China has secured itself as the figurehead of this rather large group of nations. As I mentioned yesterday, being able to project these kinds of powers are a crucial part of the definition of a superpower. It surprised many during the climate change debates that China (and others) had effectively organized themselves to avoid […]


I have wanted to write this series since I went back to the US this February and noticed a palpable change. It seemed like people were no longer talking about China as a kind of economic miracle, those thoughts had been replaced by a growing anxiety over what it might mean for China to be a superpower. This week we are going to be taking a look at what it means to be a superpower, and try to gauge how close China is to meeting the criteria. For this series we’ll be looking at four areas of power and China’s ability to project them. These four areas are: economic, political, military and cultural power. Economic Power Today I thought I would begin with the most […]


As many of you know I work in a large public hospital with over 2,000 medical personnel. We treat over 1,000,000 patients every year. Sometimes, things do not go well. Mistakes are made, and families get upset. About once a week there will be a small group of people who try to come into the building where I work to complain to the hospital administrators about an unfavorable outcome (often this is hospital speak for death). Generally there is a lot of yelling, the police will come, and after 30 minutes or so they all leave quietly. I don’t know what, if anything, is ever done to help these people, but you can always hear the pain in their voices. Today I witnessed the largest […]


China’s high-speed rail system has been a hot topic for these past few months since it was revealed that millions of dollars had been embezzled from these projects. With that revelation came some big questions over the safety of the system, which had already been constructed with a fraction of the budget used in other countries. Japanese engineers were also raising questions about how China was using the same technology, but were traveling 25% faster than was allowable on Japanese lines. Yesterday we got the first notice that these lines were going to be slowed down, however all of the information pointed to this move being in response to complaints about high ticket prices. Today it seems we are getting a bit more of the […]


Earlier this week we looked a little bit at food safety in China. Today we are going to look at a Chinese market (nothing comes in packages), these are where most rural Chinese prefer to do their shopping. Whenever I have visitors from the States, I enjoy taking them to the market because it makes such a visceral impact on them and leaves them with the inescapable feeling that they have caught a glimpse of the real China. I still clearly remember my first trip to the market in Longzhou. It was late August so the air was heavy with humidity and the heat seemed to amplify the fragrance of the fresh fruit along with the pungent smell of meat that had been sitting out […]


If you’ve been reading this blog for more than a few weeks, you probably already know that I enjoy looking at cultural differences, and like to highlight just how vast a subject culture can be. Grabby Beggars Let me start my describing a fairly typical scene here in China, which I experienced yet again just two days ago. I was walking to a restaurant with my wife when an old woman in grubby clothes came up and asked me for money, when I didn’t reach into my pocket right away, she started pulling on my sleeve and pleading that she wanted to eat. When I shook my head ‘no’ she stepped in front of me to block my path and continued begging from my wife who […]


I have a trip back to the US coming up, so I offered to bring a few things back for my Chinese co-workers. My pregnant friend Grace didn’t even pause to think before telling me I needed to bring infant formula back for her. I have a feeling a few of you are scratching your heads right now thinking; “Can’t you buy formula in China?” You can, but all of my Chinese friends would agree that Grace has made a wise request. China is struggling with an ongoing food safety crisis, which first caught the world’s attention back in 2008 with the infamous melamine laced infant formula that sickened 300,000 infants, and killed 6 (melamine helps watered down milk appear to be unadulterated when measuring […]


I stumbled across this short documentary about Chinese immigrants living in Senegal and thought some of you might enjoy another look at this topic. If you missed my 3-part series (The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly) on China’s Growing African Empire, I would suggest reading that along with this documentary. I found that this film focused much more on the micro-economic effects of Chinese immigrants’ push into Africa, that was a piece missing from my own posts on the situation.


My wife pointed out to me last night that over the last few days I had fairly completely torn apart the Chinese educational system. My goal in writing these posts was not meant as a way of proclaiming the complete failure of the schools. So today I’d like to focus on the parts of the educational system that show great promise, but still need a bit of work. Creating World Class Universities If you look at this list of the top 100 universities in the world you will notice that China occupies 3 of the places (Sorry Chinese gov’t, you don’t get credit for universities in Taiwan or HK). Upon looking for the other up and coming BRICS, you will notice that China is the […]


Over the past few months I’ve showed that several of China’s environmental achievements have been little more than smoke and mirrors. So I’m very pleased to announce that Beijing is finally getting it right by creating the right incentives along with policies that are easy to enforce and hard to cheat. Their goal is 100,000 electric cars in the next 5 years, and that makes it our news story of the week. Electric cars will not be subject to any of the traffic limits Beijing has been putting in place, which means for hundreds of thousands of consumers, these cars will be their only option. This in turn will start to create a critical mass of consumers demanding electric cars which will push development of […]


Yesterday I detailed the many ways in which school officials cheat to pass inspections, so it’s no surprise that teachers often turn a blind eye to cheating in the classroom. Cheating/copying is pervasive throughout China, in every level of education and industry. A gov’t spokesperson even went so far as to say that copying was a kind of innovation. If you’ve read my posts about copyrights in China (here, here and here) you already know about the problems caused by copying, so today we are going to look at the lighter side of cheating. In the west I think we tend to idealize Chinese/Asian students as incredibly hard workers who are completely focused on their studies and hold their teachers in high regard. Many foreign […]


I know I promised more on creativity, but education is a big topic, and I think if you read through the comments on yesterday’s post, you will find a wealth of information on that topic. In China every college/university goes through a thorough inspection every 2 years (inspections are common in all institutions in China). This process is meant to evaluate the level of the school and to ensure that the school is up to the government standards. It involves interviewing teachers, monitoring lessons, and evaluating student work. These inspections are a collosal waste of time, and do nothing to improve the educational system. Today I’ll be showing you how even the worst universities manage to pass these evaluations (I was told by one of […]


Yesterday we looked briefly at a typical lesson in a Chinese classroom, today we’ll continue looking at education in China by exploring the ways in which the system works against creative thinking. I hope to further illustrate the methodology used in Chinese classrooms, and discuss why these methods are so prevalent. First I would like to highlight a few examples of where creative thinking should be present, but is not. At skit competitions in Guangxi universities, and at the Jiangsu Department of Health English competition, students/doctors simply copied entire performances from online sources. This resulted in 2 groups performing the exact same skit in both competitions. I learned Chinese from “top” language teachers in China at Beijing Foreign Language University (北京语言大学) by reciting texts word […]


I have been teaching in Chinese universities and middle schools for almost 4 years now as well as having observed classes at all levels in China’s educational system. So forget what you’ve read lately about China’s schools rating number one in the world, the educational system here is full of problems. Over these next few days I’ll be outlining some of the major problems with the system as well as presenting a shocking exposé of what may be the worst school in China. I can already hear angry readers scrolling down to leave a nasty comment, so I think we should start by looking at a few things that they do very well before we look at the limits of such a system. There are […]


Qing Ming Festival is a day in which Chinese families head to the graveyard and clean the tombs of their ancestors. It is interesting because it helps us understand how traditional Chinese ideas about death survive in modern China despite Mao’s efforts to eliminate them. It can be said that the Chinese used to believe the spirits of their ancestors were in three places: the grave, the ancestral tablet, and in the Chinese afterworld. It’s not correct to refer to it as heaven or hell, since the afterlife was in most ways the same as their temporal one. It was also believed that ancestors had the ability to help our hurt one’s situation in life. If the tomb was not swept on Qing Ming, if […]


This week Frontline aired an in-depth look at Chinese artist/dissident (or perhaps  dissident/artist) Ai Weiwei. The full episode entitled “Who’s Afraid of Ai Weiwei” is available online here along with a profile of his online activism here. If you aren’t familiar with Ai Weiwei, it’s time for your formal introduction. Ai Weiwei first caught my eye a few years ago when he championed a movement for a complete name list of those who died in the Sichuan Earthquake in 2008. It is believed the gov’t set an “official” number of causalities from the earthquake very shortly after the event, and never revised the number. Thousands of children died in school buildings that had been poorly constructed (Ai Weiwei estimates more than 5,000). These buildings collapsed […]


Seven’s post yesterday touched on many of the aspects of getting married in modern China. Today I’d like to look at a few of those issues closer to wrap up this five-part series (just check the archive). Seven called them “expired” but the more popular term in Chinese is “Left-over.” The following video features “Left-over women”(shengnu), the term describes women who are seen as being unmarriageable. One factor being that they are older than 25 (Chinese women are pretty much expected to marry as soon as they finish college), and that they make a lot of money or are highly educated (Chinese men find this kind of woman intimidating). Before you feel too bad for these women in the video, or start wondering why they […]


This guest post was written by the same friend who wrote – Why I didn’t join the communist party. This time he asked me if he could share his opinion on marriage, and I am so glad he did. Like arranging for a blind date, let me introduce myself first: I’m a 30-year-old single man growing up in a big city in China and I’m the only child in the family. I have a postgraduate degree and a decent job with a comparatively good salary. Moreover, I have 2 condominiums on mortgage. Everything I said here puts me in an advantageous position in the dating circle. But I hate the Chinese idea about marriage. Let me go back a few years. I had a sweetheart […]


These first few months of blogging have been a lot of work, and also a lot of fun. I appreciate all the feedback I have been receiving along the way. This project serves simply as a way to provide an on the ground look at China showing both the good and the bad, attempting to explore the big picture through conversations with co-workers, students, and random people on the bus, and basing that look more on facts and observations than opinions. After hundreds of hours of work my only wish is that if you find a post here that you think others would enjoy reading you will pass it on, and if you have a topic or question you’d like me to address I hope […]


The wedding fun continues (Part 1, Part 2)! Today we will wrap up with a few odds and ends about the activities surrounding the wedding day and the wedding night, before we begin to look at marriage in China. I realized this morning that I had almost forgotten an incredibly important part of getting married in China, wedding photos.The name is misleading; they aren’t pictures taken at the wedding, instead they are taken months in advance in clothes you don’t even own. My wife and I experienced this joy/ordeal for ourselves last year in Chengdu. We opted for the cheapest package (I think 2-3,000rmb), which included 3 outfit changes, 2 indoor backdrops and 1 outdoor photo shoot. My Chinese friends have gone with more pricey […]


One of the things I enjoy about living in China is that culture here seems to be in a constant state of change, even if many Chinese stubbornly claim that it isn’t. This is true of many cultures but China is doing it at an impressive rate. Yesterday we looked at an example of weddings in modern China, but it’s also important to get a sense of how much weddings have changed in the last 100 years. Anthropologically, weddings are of huge importance. They define new relationships and new roles. Where the new couple lives, who pays for the wedding, and the requirements for a dowry all reflect and reinforce the dynamics of male-female relations throughout society. Traditional weddings in China emphasized the transfer of […]


With so many changes in China over the past 30 years of opening up, it isn’t surprising that weddings have been hugely impacted as well. The result is that in modern China it’s incredibly hard to say what a “typical” wedding includes beyond a large meal and a lot of drinking. So I will describe a wedding I attended last year in Chengdu in order to present some of the interesting twists that now appear in Chinese weddings. I was greeted at the door by the bride and groom who shook my hand before I was passed off to the official gift collectors. These people counted the money given by each guest and then recorded the figure in a book next to my name. Upstairs […]


A few weeks ago I wrote “Can Culture Be a Problem?” in which I detailed some of the public health problems that are common in China, and how they are at least partially perpetuated by ideas in Traditional Chinese Medicine. This weeks story highlights one of the problems, tuberculosis, and it’s prevalence in China, and that many of the sufferers are not aware that they are carriers of the disease. Not surprisingly, People’s Daily failed to mention that TB is easily spread by spitting. According to one of the doctors at my hospital, China had actually largely eradicated TB just a few decades ago through a large medical campaign. This was done through the creation of large hospitals that specialized in treating this disease. That […]


A few years ago I was reading a pirated copy of “The Undercover Economist: Exposing Why the Rich Are Rich, the Poor Are Poor–and Why You Can Never Buy a Decent Used Car!,” that I had picked up at the book stall next to a large university. In the book I found an interesting discussion of used cars, and only months later realized that this is the exact same problem we are facing in China with pirated goods. Let’s start with an obvious example of this principle. Imagine you are walking down the streets of Shanghai, and you want to buy a real Rolex. The first place you visit is an actual Rolex shop, and since it is in the middle of an upscale shopping […]


Yesterday we looked briefly at the way copyrights are ignored in China, and today we will be diving deeper into the fascinating world of Chinese knockoffs. In China these knockoffs are called Shanzhai, and there are even references to a shanzhai culture. Some of the more well-known products are the “blockburry”, the “A-Pad” and the “O-Phone” (just for fun, a website that sells them). These devices are often a fraction of the price of the originals, and sometimes they will offer more features. For example an O-phone might be able to use many of the I-phone apps as well as Google Android apps. Other times they might add a camera or some flashing lights (sadly not a joke). The argument for these products is that […]


Intellectual Property Rights are a constant issue in China, and you know it is bad when People’s Daily devotes a special button on the front page to help you find the official information (Tibet gets a special button too). ChinaLawBlog.com says that IPR is one of the top 4 concerns companies should investigate before coming here. It’s no secret why, Chinese companies are infamous for stealing plans, duplicating the product and then undercutting the people who they agreed to do business with in the first place. The official story is that the government is “unswervingly implementing” policies to protect IPR. They like to talk about how they have cracked down on 30,000 copyright infringement cases, and are insulted when the US lists Chinese websites as […]


I think a lot of us picture China as a place where the people are completely ignorant of the outside world due to heavy censorship (yesterday’s post on the topic). Coming to China often does little to change this perception, as people will smile politely and tell you that everything has always been fine in Tibet, or that Tiananmen Square’s only remarkable feature is that it is the largest public square in the world. That is why I take so much pleasure in learning about the subversive corners of the Chinese internet, where the feelings people hide in public come pouring out for the world to read. Some simply ignore the danger of upsetting the government. Little is known about the exact methodology used to […]


Censorship in China at times is so extreme that it is almost laughable, like when they claimed foreigners couldn’t go to Tibet because of the weather (it was the anniversary of anti-Chinese riots). The news articles are so carefully screened for any material that doesn’t portray the official line that they can end up being whittled down to a single sentence. So today we are going to be looking at the ways the Chinese gov’t controls the news and the net. It’s no secret that the internet here is tightly controlled. Over the past four years I have seen (most of) Wikipedia become available, and have seen Youtube, Facebook, Twitter, and countless other sites disappear without explanation. These sites are referred to as being beyond […]


My friend happened to be in a supermarket when panic struck here. She was buying her lunch when three loud, pushy women shoved their way to the front of the line, each buying two bags of salt. She thought it was a bit strange, but it is China, and she has seen far stranger. Within the next few minutes the entire store was full of customers grabbing up bags of salt like it was the most precious commodity on Earth. The store opened up 3 more cash registers and the manager declared that there would be no limit on how many bags a person could buy at a time. Finally my friend asked what all the commotion was about. Why did everyone suddenly need pounds […]


Over the past few days we’ve been looking at changes in the practices of Chinese families (here and here), today we are going to be looking a little closer at how Chinese define the importance of family and why that looks so different from our own definition. The Chinese view is that “Family” is absolutely the most important part of their lives, and the responsibilities to their family trump their individual interests. These sacrifices to improve their family’s standing are seen as acts of filiality, and are the Chinese standard of a “good” child. This idea of family leads to some interesting living arrangements. In the countryside parents often will leave their children behind to work factory jobs in the cities. Nearly 1/3 of China’s […]


Yesterday we looked at the traditional idea of family in China through most of its history. Today we look at the changes that have taken place in the last six decades as China has gone through the Cultural Revolution and opened itself to the world. Maoist China to Modern day Mao saw the clan and the family as institutions that kept the peasants oppressed so he issued several policies to break down the family structure. Families were made to eat in cafeterias; which meant no home needed a kitchen, children were raised in daycare centers instead of being looked after by relatives, parents were cremated instead of buried, and the ancestor tablets (family records) and ancestral halls were destroyed in the Cultural Revolution. Mao’s attempts […]


I just wanted to quickly share the reactions of my Chinese co-workers to the earthquake in Japan. On Friday I spent the entire afternoon trying to learn more about the earthquake, but my co-workers seemed oblivious to it (they weren’t working either). It turned out they had heard about the earthquake, and figured that Japan could handle such a large quake, and went on with their day. When I showed them a video of the tsunami, their reaction was absolute horror. Watching the water rush over the farmland carrying flaming buildings looked like the end of the world. Grace couldn’t help whispering “Oh my God” a few dozen times as she watched the short clip. In that moment the reality of the situation hit them. […]


I apologize, but today you get a little China rant. Our News Story of the Week today looks at an article that argued China should not have an independent judiciary (something argued for by the Jasmine Protestors). In that article the author called China a democracy THREE times! Another article also praised villagers in their attempts at democracy. This of course just days after the 3rd in command gave a speech saying China would never be a western style democracy with multiparty elections. So when this author says “democracy” he is referring to the fact that in the last few years the Chinese gov’t has listened to what the people want, when it agrees with what they are already doing, or if it enables them […]


Part two of a look at the cultural differences that lead to culture shock in China (Part one here) The total lack of personal space in China gets under an American’s skin in a matter of seconds. Riding a bus designed for 40 people, with close to 100 crammed in it is a daily test of my cultural sensitivity. I could tell you stories, but until you have spent 45 minutes practically living in someone’s armpit, in the middle of summer in one of China’s hottest cities, you simply can’t even imagine it. This is another shock that we really should be braced for before arriving in China. After all, with a population of 1.4 billion people we know it’s going to be more than […]


When we head overseas we brace ourselves for the variety of new foods, the crazy streets, and missteps in a new culture. The thing we often forget is that culture is truly ubiquitous, permeating absolutely every aspect of life. So over the next few days we will be looking at a few of the places where cultural differences surprise us because we didn’t even realize they were part of culture. As I like to think of this blog as a place to be exposed to new concepts and ideas, I’ll be introducing a variety of anthropological terms that will help us talk more exactly about culture. Time This one seems fairly obvious, we have heard about cultures that are more or less time sensitive (Americans […]


Earlier this week I brought you the good and the bad that has come out of China’s role in Africa, today we are focusing on the truly ugly. Violence and Abuse A large portion of China’s investments in Africa have been targeted at the extraction of valuable metals. Over the past few years a number of disturbing reports have come out of several countries deploring Chinese mining practices. In the Democratic Republic of Congo, Chinese companies now own 60 of the 75 ore smelters in the Katanga region and 90% of the minerals go to China. The mines there are typical of Chinese mining operations throughout Africa, often employing child laborers, some as young as 13, to work in mines with no safety equipment, no […]


Yesterday we looked at the good coming out of China and Africa’s relationships, but today we are looking at a few of the conditions that seem less than desirable for Africa. One of the complaints about China’s development of infrastructure in African countries, is that it seems to be largely self-serving. China might build a freeway, but it heads straight to the oil field or diamond mine that China also owns. So even though these projects help to increase the country’s GDP (my thoughts on GDP), they do very little to help improve the living standards of the people of that country, nor do they provide means to support the country’s own industries. Often aid from western countries and the World Bank have several conditions […]


Today we’ll be looking at how China’s influence is growing in Africa, and what might be a few of the positives coming from this relationship. This will be followed up tomorrow with the downsides (the bad), and the next day with the ugly. Brief history The most important thing to remember in China’s current African Empire, and yes I mean it with all of the colonial baggage, is that it is not a recent development. China has been cultivating it’s presence there since the 1960’s when it started bringing aid projects to Africa when it was courting rulers for UN votes to oust Taiwan from its seat. Zhou Enlai, China’s Premier at the time, declared that these aid projects should have no strings attached to […]


Sometimes when I sit down to write my daily blog post, I find it hard to find something nice to say about China. It takes a few minutes (occasionally a few hours) to find a topic that I can at least add a little silver lining to. Apparently though I’m not the only one who is having a hard time coming up with something nice to say, a recent poll showed that only 6% of the people who responded to an online survey described themselves as happy. It also revealed that 40% of the respondents thought there was a direct correlation between money and happiness (sadly they are not familiar with the proverb “Mo’ money, Mo’ problems”). Granted, the survey size was pretty small, but […]


It seems that despite my thorough explanation of why China is not a rich country, even though it has the second highest GDP in the world, major governments have started to cut aid to China. The UK’s department for distributing foreign aid actually had it’s budget grow by 1/3 this year, so it’s not just budgetary reasons for cutting their aid to China. The argument is simple, a country growing 10% a year is not in need of foreign aid.Japan has been a major mover of money in China’s direction, since 1979 they have given over $40 billion to China. They made an argument similar to the UK’s this morning, why should they be giving aid to a country that has a larger GDP than […]


One of the fun things about living in China, is that there are very few questions that are considered off-limits (less fun when they are asking you), so I make the most of it and dive right into the personal lives of complete strangers (much to my modest wife’s embarrassment). One of the first questions I get when I start chatting with a stranger is about my salary, I think it’s more out of a curiosity of American life, than actually caring about how rich or poor I am. Through these exchanges the last few years I’ve managed to get a pretty good picture of how wages vary throughout China. I remember being surprised at how eager students were in Longzhou (a tiny, middle of […]


It’s no secret that China has environmental problems (my other posts about China’s environment), today even the Environment Minister acknowledged that “In China’s thousands of years of civilization, the conflict between humankind and nature has never been as serious as it is today.” Also on Sunday Prime Minister Wen Jiabao said in an online chat, “We must not any longer sacrifice the environment for the sake of rapid growth and reckless roll-outs, as that would result in unsustainable growth featuring industrial overcapacity and intensive resource consumption.” He is saying this partially in light of the recent news that up to 10% of China’s rice is contaminated by heavy metals, and Beijing’s air pollution was 10x higher last week than the WHO recognizes as “safe.” Like […]


With growing unrest in the Middle East, China’s gov’t has been a bit more on edge than usual. News of what is happening in Libya and elsewhere is pretty hard to come by. The official gov’t position on Libya is that the violence should end, but is purposefully vague as to what that means. The argument I feel like I have been bludgeoned with this last week is “stability” (it’s my own fault for reading the People’s Daily every morning). On the front page of the People’s Daily website today we have headlines like “World Craves for Peace, Stability”, “Crack Nut with Tenderness – China seeks soft approach to social stability”, “The Leadership and Stellar Growth”, along with several other gag inducing buzz words. The […]


This week I’m bringing you something different in the story of the week. The Warriors of Qiugang (this is the full, free video) is a 40 minute, academy award nominated documentary that follows a village’s battle against a large, polluting factory. Stories like this are why I love the organizations I work with here in China that are working to create a more sustainable China. If you watch the documentary, please take the time to leave your comments below.


I know that one of the few things I learned in middle school about China was that the Chinese language has many “dialects.” I had never been clear on what a dialect really was, often people say that it’s like an accent, and for a few of them that’s correct. In many cases though “dialects” are completely different languages that are based on the same written system. That means even if you couldn’t understand what the person was saying you could read what they wrote. This is most likely the result of China’s vast lands and difficult terrain that made travel rare. This limited direct communication and made writing invaluable. In this video my former students count from 1-10, first Mandarin (the official language), then […]


My wife and I try to limit ourselves to a budget similar to what a Chinese family might earn. That’s about $400 a month for the two of us, which would be average for a Chinese teacher, and at the low-end for people working in my hospital (In China it’s not considered rude to talk about money, so I’m pretty open about it). After a few months here in the city, our budget keeps feeling tighter, even though we are trying to eat less Western food, and we almost never go shopping. So where is it going? Every morning I eat a delicious crepe type thing with egg, cilantro, onions, chili paste, and a fried dough stick (youtiao). Typically this costs me 3rmb, but this […]


Yesterday I lead you through a crash course in Economics, and showed you that China’s GDP doesn’t mean that it’s a developed country, I would suggest reading that first. I think for many American’s (and probably many Europeans) China’s rise is met with mixed feelings. On my recent trip to the States something felt different this time when I told people I lived in China. It seems that China has moved from being seen as the place where people carry little red books, make our cheap socks, and fawn over baby pandas, to being the country that is on track to unseat us as number one. For my Chinese readers, just so it’s clear, this scares the heck out of practically every American born before […]


Today’s post is a crash course in economics (for people who don’t like economics). The truth is that we get a lot of numbers thrown around in the media about China, but I don’t think they are as meaningful as CNN or Fox news want you to think. Let’s get one thing clear straight out of the gate, China is obsessed with GDP. You can’t go more than a few days without seeing it as some headline on People’s Daily, and I was on the look out for parades or fireworks the day China passed Japan to become the world’s second largest economy. Virtually any govt. promotion relies on improving GDP and little else. So what exactly is GDP? I know it’s a figure we […]


Now I hope you’ll read past the headline before leaving angry comments.  You’ll see that my reasons have nothing to do with genetics or race and everything to do with culture. After all, driving is so dangerous/crazy/nerve rattling that Beijing has come out with a 5-year plan to improve “driving manners.” This list x 1.3 billion people = huge crazy mess I have a few theories as to why these problems flourish in China, and I think there is some truth in each of them. But first let’s just clear up any doubt that drivers in China are awful. 1.   Driving is relatively new My first theory is that most of the drivers on the road are new drivers. In 2010 China sold 13 million […]


Not sure how long this is going to last, but for the first time since I’ve started this blog, I’m actually able to read it without having to use internet magic (my more tech savvy friends may know it as a proxy). Chances are good that this is just a temporary thing, since the timing seems strange with all the protests going on in the Arab world, but hopefully this is a small sign of things to come. If it’s not too much to ask, I’d really like to have facebook back too.


This is part two, make sure to read yesterdays post about “face” The other term that every expat dreads is “guanxi.” Roughly translated it means “relationship,” or “connection,” but really it is so much more than that. Guanxi is often described in textbooks as a kind of privilege or as a thing that might help you get a job. One of my readers described guanxi as “endemic” and that’s really the only way to describe it. Recent articles on People’s Daily relating to guanxi have included gov’t positions being given to family members before they are even half way through college, its an official’s son running a person over, and then daring the police to arrest him. Not that this kind of thing doesn’t happen […]


Two concepts that foreigners are always told about are “Face” and “Guanxi”. “Face” is usually explained as not embarrassing people. It seems that every business book about China makes a point of explaining that you cannot point out workers mistakes, because it will cause them to “lose face,” which would be a great embarrassment. “Losing face” can be getting angry in public, making a mistake, or just not knowing an answer. This is a good start for understanding face but really the concept runs so much deeper than that, and causes problems for expats who have lived in China for years. From my experience it’s not actually making a mistake that causes the loss of face, it’s someone discovering that you made a mistake. So […]


We’ve seen how limited interconnectedness and a lack of communication have been causing problems in China’s banks and hospitals. Today I want to bring up a third trend that is critical to understanding how China works. China’s Government This might not be a popular view in the West, but China’s National government has created some excellent policies and laws (for the most part, the most oppressive laws are hold-outs from twenty years ago). I believe that they have a clear vision of what they want for China, and they are eager to be in a globally respected position. The problem is their inability to implement many of these plans because of local officials. I realized this last year when I read “Will the Boat Sink […]


Yesterday, we looked at some of the banking problems in China. Today we are going to start to see a trend; institutions in China are poorly connected at best. This affects hospitals abilities to effectively treat diseases, and provide responsible treatments. Before we start it is important to understand that China does not have family doctors, almost all of the treatment is provided in a hospital or a small clinic. Hospitals I’ve learned a lot working in a large Chinese hospital. There is no question that China’s medical facilities have improved hugely over the past thirty years. Many of the hospitals have modern equipment and well-trained doctors. The stumbling blocks we’ll be looking at today are caused by the system, and not by individuals (this […]


Throughout the economic downturn China has kept huge numbers of people employed by starting massive infrastructure projects. They’ve built hundreds of miles of high-speed rail, started construction on new subway lines, and have worked on improving the freeway system. It seems China has all the infrastructure it could ever need, maybe even more than it will need for a while. However, there are three areas that seem decades behind where they should be for a superpower, and we’ll be looking at them over the next few days. Banks- The bank is my least favorite place in China. It is the pinnacle of Chinese style bureaucracy, with piles of pointless paperwork and regulations that are impossible to understand. A few examples: Paper work – When my […]


This week’s story brings an old story back to the front page. China and Japan are quarreling over the fishing boat accident again, that happened late in 2010. This time Japan has sent the fishing boat captain a letter for the repairs to their coast guard boats. You probably heard about this story, because as it escalated China stopped trading rare earth materials (magnets and other things used in electronics) to Japan. It also caused all of China’s neighbors to pause for a moment and realize that China was positioning itself for a new role in the region, and it might not be a positive thing for them. I don’t think it was a coincidence that China’s GDP had just passed Japan’s a month or […]


2011 has already set record highs for food prices, and that means another step backward for development. Now add to that news that China’s wheat-producing region (one of the largest in the world) is bracing for the worst drought in a century, and you have the makings for a disaster. In 2008 the world saw record high food prices. They led to riots in some countries, and crime waves in others. My brother was in the Dominican Republic at the time, and faced a number of threats on his life, as desperate people looked for ways of providing for their families. At that time I was in Longzhou and there were daily questions from the restaurant owners about the cost of goods in America. In […]


A topic I have been fascinated with recently is trying to figure out what China’s long-term goal is concerning North Korea. I can tell you China would probably say North Korea is a sovereign nation, and that they would never interfere with their internal affairs. It’s a pretty safe guess because that’s China’s stance on just about every international issue. However the last flare up on the Korean peninsula gave us a few interesting glimpses of where China really stands in all of this. One thing that was left out of the Western Media’s coverage was that up to the day of the shelling, China was running pro-DPRK propaganda in the People’s Daily regarding the Korean War, or as it is called in Chinese, the […]


Last year I had the rare treat of watching North Korea play Myanmar at the Asia Women’s Cup in Chengdu (I ended up rooting for Myanmar because they were the underdogs). I attended the game with two of my close friends, and it ended up leading to an interesting discovery. I had asked what I hoped sounded like an innocent question, “How does China explain the failure of communism in North Korea?” It assumed a lot on my part, both that China accepted that communism had failed in the DPRK, and that they would have any interest in explaining it. One of them (who is a Party member) quickly explained that what North Korea has is not true communism. Instead, he offered that China’s model […]


In China I often hear opinions stated as facts, so today I present to you: The two best Chinese poets, Li Bai and Dufu. These two are known by virtually all Chinese people, regardless of their level of education. I have chosen a few of their best short poems for you to read today to introduce you to some of the finer things in Chinese culture. A few things you should know about Chinese poetry before reading these is that: 1. Poets were usually travelers 2. Poets typically will express Daoist (Taoist) ideals, often through images of nature 3. Poets were usually inspired by simple events, and wrote hundreds of poems 4. Poets were often drunk Dufu, who lived just up the street from me […]


This week brings a look again at pollution in China with a story from the Guardian. So despite all the talk of China winning the battle for Green Energy (which I don’t believe), China’s carbon dioxide emissions increased more than any other country in the world. China’s total emissions are now greater than Europe, Africa, Latin America, and South America COMBINED. I know I’ve talked about pollution in China before (here and here), but the piece I had missed is that this year China’s emissions grew faster than their economy, even though China claimed that it met all of it’s goals.


I’m guessing most of you have never showed up in a Chinese restaurant in the States (or wherever else you might be) and tried ordering anything that wasn’t on the menu. Today I want to share with you a few authentic dishes that any Chinese cook should be able to whip up, even if it’s not on the menu. (I discovered that some restaurants even have completely separate menus for Chinese people.) In Order From Safe to Adventurous Egg & Tomato (西红柿炒蛋 xi hong shi chao dan) This simple dish is pretty much what it sounds like, just scrambled eggs and some tomato slices. It’s a dish that I have found on every menu in China. Apparently the tomato only recently became popular (last 20 […]


As most of you know, I’m in the States for a few weeks visiting family. During my time here, I’ve realized just how much interest there is in China at the moment, and how little people know about China. So today I’m going to share my answers to the three questions I’ve been asked the most. 1. Does China have rich people? China has some incredibly rich people, but the bar is lower to be considered rich. A few months ago China’s first yacht club opened up and the requirement for joining was a yearly salary of 200,000rmb (about $30,000). So by this measure a good chunk of Americans would be considered rich, but the top doctors at my hospital wouldn’t make the cut. The […]


February 3rd marks the beginning of the Year of the Rabbit, and for many of you that might be the extent of your knowledge of Chinese New Year (or as we call it in China, Spring Festival). So today we’ll look at how Spring Festival is celebrated. For most Chinese, it means returning to their hometown. Almost half of China’s population no longer lives in the same town as they were born, which leads to the largest annual human migration. The whole country is moving the few weeks before and after the holiday. The typical family will celebrate by coming together for the biggest meal they can afford, and will watch the special Spring Festival tv program, or play mahjong; many will light off a […]


The events in the Middle East have a lot of people wondering just how far these anti-government riots will spread. A few people have even been speculating as to whether or not they could pop up in China (Here, Here, Here, Here). I know I did for a couple of minutes after seeing a video that called for the “rabbits” to rebel (I’m not going to link it to my blog because I still enjoy holding a Chinese visa, but a quick youtube search will help you find it). I also found it surprising that there was no mention of the Egypt riots on People’s Daily until Jan. 30th, maybe the gov’t has been speculating a bit too. The parallel people are drawing is that […]


This might not be the most exciting news story for some of you, but it is BIG news. China is trying out property taxes in Chongqing and Shanghai in their latest effort to cool down the property markets. If you look at the article you can see that the property taxes are 1. pretty small (less than 1.5%) and 2. confusing as heck. For example, in Shanghai you get to calculate square footage across all properties and then divide by total family members. Property prices and China’s housing bubble have been a hot topic for the last year or so. In conversations with my coworkers, one of the first questions they ask is how much housing in the US costs. With good reason too, in […]


I’ve watched a few China themed movies lately and wanted to make a couple of recommendations for this very snowy winter. The Painted Veil – This isn’t historical, but it is a pretty great glimpse of what life in rural China would have looked like around 1900. The movie is about a doctor who accepts a position in the countryside treating an epidemic. Edward Norton and Naomi Watts give good performances. definitely worth a watch. I must admit that I’m a bit partial to this movie because it was filmed just a few miles from Yizhou, where I lived for a year. China: A Century of Revolution – This one can be a bit daunting at first, all 3 parts total up to 6 hours of documentary […]


Continued from Yesterday The following post was written by one of my Chinese friends who is an active member of the Communist Party. What the Party Means to Me To me, any nation or ethnic group shares one common ideal so that they could be united, fighting for the same goal, such as racial superiority (Tom’s note: this is not a “loaded” term in Chinese), or the same religion. And in China, it has always been moralism. I don’t mean that Chinese people enjoy the noblest morals; it is just that we always try to act upon the unique moral standard which is widely-accepted in the country so that Chinese cultural has survived a long time. By the end of the Republic of China, the […]


Last week I posted a short piece by my friend who hadn’t joined the Party. Today brings us a post from his best friend who did join the Party. Again I have left it unedited, so I hope it is still understandable. His article was a bit longer, so I will be posting more of it over the next few days. Why I Joined the Communist Party I find that joining the party for me is quite a natural way during my personal development. Because when little, every kid was encouraged to join the Young Pioneer, and then when we reach our teens, it means that we are doing very well in every field if you could join the Communist Youth League earlier which is […]


It’s Friday, let’s reminisce a bit about my time in Longzhou. Kyle and I enjoyed taking long bus rides whenever we had a few hours of sunlight to enjoy after the noon heat let up. One of the most interesting places to visit, and my mother hated when I did, was the hydro-electric dam that was being built a few miles upstream. It was about a 30-45 minute bike ride that passed some wonderful little sights. We would ride out the back gate of the school, and up the steep hill to the bridge that crossed the river. From there the road would slope gently downhill and we would build up speed as we passed the small tractors with their exposed motors spinning out black […]


A few weeks ago I wrote a post where I commented that the Communist Party doesn’t interfere with my daily life for the most part. That was accurate. However it should also be modified, since the party is ubiquitous (American’s can’t even pretend that what we have is ‘big government’ by comparison). After looking at that chart it should be no surprise that today in China there is 1 government official for every 40 people. My thought is that this is at least partially an effort to limit unemployment. Even though there have been Party officials at every place I have worked, I’m still not really sure what it is they do. At the hospital we have two offices for Party leaders. According to Grace […]


Yesterday’s look at why one person didn’t join the Party gives us a good starting point for looking at what the Party actually is, and how it fits into China’s government system. I’ve asked many of my friends and students over the past few years why they joined the Party, the most common answer the students give is that being a party member will help them get a better job, which is true. The author of yesterday’s post has pretty much reached the pinnacle of his career since he is unwilling to join the party. Also, once a teacher is a Party member, they will almost never be at risk of losing their job. Other students said their parents wanted them to join the Party. […]


The following post was written by one of my friends. In this slightly longer piece I asked him to write for the blog, he explains why he decided against joining the Communist party. English is not his first language, so please accept that there are a few grammar problems, but his word choice is very accurate. In the next week or so there should be another piece by a different friend as to why he did join the party. If you have any comments or questions for him, just post them below. Tomorrow I’ll be writing a short follow-up to this piece. The Boss and Me When I start to talk about why I don’t join the Communist Party of China, I should start with […]


So far we’ve looked at speaking Chinese, and the basics of forming characters (which are complete words themselves), so today we’re wrapping up the series and looking at compound words. Compound words are formed by putting two characters together to create a single, new meaning. For example 中国zhongguo (China) separately they mean “middle” and “kingdom,” but by putting them together they take on a new meaning. We can take it a step further and say 中国人zhongguoren(Chinese person), or 中国菜zhongguocai (Chinese food). Now the vocabulary is growing, for 7 words we’ve had to learn 4  characters. Now I can teach you one more character 美mei(beautiful), but we can make 美国meiguo(America), 美国人meiguoren(American person), and 美国菜meiguocai(American food). So now we are at 5 characters, but 11 words. This […]


One of the first thing people ask me when I tell them I live in China is whether or not it’s a difficult language. The short answer is: yes. Like any language it is tricky, but I promise it’s not as bad as it seems. So for the next couple days I’m going to try to explain the basics of how Chinese works, and you’ll see what I’m talking about. Fear #1 – Tones:The first day of Chinese class I was shown something like the picture above showing the 4 tones of Mandarin. The teacher then explained the importance of tones, and how the slightest inflection could completely change the meaning. Ex. 1 妈妈骂马 (mother scolds the horse) or 马骂妈妈 (The horse scolds mother) However […]


This is part Four of a series on childhood in Rural China. Part One. Part Two. Part Three. When I first arrived in China my friend Kyle made an excellent point. He told me that it was impossible to fully understand our students, because they have overcome tragedies and obstacles greater than we could ever imagine. At the time I thought that it was an exaggeration, of course I can empathize I thought, but now I know that he was right. Some of the people I am most in awe of were the students I taught in Guangxi and Sichuan. Helen was a shy girl, but you couldn’t help but notice her irrepressible smile. In Yizhou the other students had two nicknames for her, “Happy” […]


This is part 3 of a series on childhood in rural China. Part One. Part Two. I tried writing this part of the series earlier this weekend, but got stuck every time I tried to find a way to change the topic to one that would help balance it out. Nothing worked. I finally decided that it was a story that needed to be told, and that to soften it in any way, would be a disservice to the students who lived it. Child abuse in rural China is rampant. From the stories I’ve heard from students I would say that more than half of them were physically or verbally abused. Some of the time it is at the hands of their grandparents or other […]


This post is a follow-up to the news story of the week. So to peak your interest, here are a couple of fast food advertisements I found here in Nanjing. First I present to you a McDonald’s ad that I carefully sheltered from the debris of our meal. My poor wife was more than a bit embarrassed. The father is thinking “You have one, I have one too!” McDonald’s has drawn a fair amount of criticism in the US for targeting children, but in China they have to target the adults. The restaurant was full of children snacking on a pile of hamburgers and fried chicken, but the parents weren’t eating anything. You might remember that I talked about this the other day when we […]


This week’s story has me scratching my head. Apparently a lot is going to change between now and 2030, when supposedly 2/3 of China is going to be overweight. Now I’m not saying that Chinese people aren’t getting bigger, they are. When I arrived in 2007 people were complaining that McDonald’s and KFC were making the children fatter, but that’s only part of the story. Really, it’s the parents’ new found wealth that has changed the diet from mostly rice and vegetables with a few slivers of meat to something that more closely resembles American portions. There is even a noticeable difference in size between people from the countryside and those from the city (both in height and weight), which further shows that it is […]


This is part 2 of a continuing series, part 1 Primary school in China’s countryside pales in comparison to the education offered in the big cities of the East coast. From the moment my students started school they were behind, and never really had what could be called a fair chance. Village primary schools are often single level cement structures, with little to offer in supplies or personnel. This is not to say that teachers in the countryside lack enthusiasm. They have to be dedicated to accept the miserable wages (about $100 a month) and long hours that come with being a village teacher. However many of them lack formal education themselves, few have finished college, some have finished high school, and some were even […]


When I talk about Guangxi, I find myself talking about “the students,” but I realized I haven’t properly introduced them to you yet. For the next few days I’m going to try to give you a view of what it’s like to grow up in rural China by highlighting some of the stories they’ve told me. After that I’m going to take a little time to introduce you to a few individual students. I hope you’ll keep up with this series, because I think it is invaluable for understanding China. These are a few images of the villages that roughly 1/3 of China’s population inhabits. Most of my students came from places like this. They usually consist of a few new homes, paid for by […]


It’s been a wild first month of blogging with just over 1,400 hits. Like I mentioned yesterday, I ended up on a Chinese blog, and I was asked to write a short article for a Polish website about my time in the countryside. I am planning to expand the variety a bit in the next few months. I’m working on convincing a friend to write a recurring column called “Ask a Commie” that will give you access to a different and interesting viewpoint. Also you can start looking forward to some upcoming articles from another friend who purposefully chose not to join the party, even though it will limit his chances for promotion (which is a shame because he is a very bright guy). I’m […]


I’m not exactly sure how these things happen, but the other day my blog post got put up on a Chinese website (the section was later deleted). The title of the article had been translated pretty well. The name got translated to “China Sees Red,” which isn’t quite what I take it to mean, but its close. The post there led to some interesting discussion and a few naïve comments (it is still the internet, no matter the country). The big question though was; who is this American to judge China? It’s a fair question, so let me introduce myself. I had wanted to work in China since I was 16 and spent the 5 following years studying Chinese Language and history. I was enchanted, […]


Yesterday we were looking at how cold it is outdoors and in here in China. Today I want to get to the meat of the problem that lies just beyond that thought. Is it possible for China (or any country) to develop without destroying the fragile environment? I’ll start with something I’m not so proud of; my wife and I are currently running 3 space heaters full blast, all the time. Not because we’re trying to recreate the climate of sunny Florida, or even temperate San Francisco, this is just what it takes to keep our apartment from feeling like winter in Minnesota. At the office we also have two heaters running non-stop, and still I have to pause between sentences to hold my hot […]


It’s cold here in Nanjing, outside and inside. It’s been about 30 degrees outside all month with 10 to 15 mph winds. Which in the US is not that bad, and we’ve only had a tiny amount of snow compared to all of you guys this year. So what’s the big deal? Well in our apartment and at my office, it probably only ever reaches 50 degrees inside if conditions are just right. The cement walls are excellent at bringing the cold in. In the apartment the cool climate is due to the fact that none of our windows actually close. Even with our improvised weather-proofing, Arctic winds somehow still find their way in. Standing next to the closed front door you can feel a […]


This week’s story is more of a reminder perhaps than breaking news. China’s People’s Daily led with an article today titled “Year of extreme weather shows reality of climate change.” I wanted to link to this article because it really is interesting the things China has never had a public debate about. So for example, Climate Change- real, Abortion- not an ethics based decision, Stem Cell research – all good, Death Penalty – absolutely necessary. I’m not supporting or disagreeing with these positions, but I think public debates are positive even if they do slow us down, because they force us to actually try to justify our ideas. One of the big topics that will be coming to the surface in the new year will […]


I would have written this post yesterday, but some how sitting in my office all day, didn’t help me remember that it was a “holiday.” So last night I planned on taking a bunch of photos and videos for you all to enjoy, but then, nothing happened! At our school that sets of fireworks pretty much weekly, there was nothing to see. We could only just make out the rumbling in the distance. My wife was surprised that I had forgotten how unimportant it is here. So here is something a bit more fun. This is how we celebrated the New Year in Longzhou, and why I always expect New Year’s Eve in China to be crazy. Students with fireworks and massive groups of students […]


This morning I was in a bad mood. I had just received word that China had announced that it would be blocking voip services like Skype. I’m not sure if you are familiar with Skype, but for expats like me it serves as the lifeline. If I want to call my parents, or see my niece and nephew, or talk to pretty much anyone, I use Skype. As you may know from every news source you’ve ever read, I live in a country where freedom of speech and privacy are not protected in any way. So when I told my friend Tim this morning that the govt. was trying to spy on my information, he just said “well duh.” Then it struck me, how is […]


When people ask me what the best place in China is, I usually say the terracotta soldiers, or the whole city of Xi’an, but that’s a lie. I tell them this because most of the time they are looking for a place they can actually visit in their few weeks in China. Really my favorite place in the whole of China is in Longzhou on a noisy little corner at the end of Barbecue Street. The tea shop had big glass windows on both of its walls that faced the street, and a sliding door that seemed to always be open. In the windows were carefully cut shelves with neatly arranged tea wares of every kind. Full tea services with deep blue, hand painted dragons […]


This is part three of a three part series. Part One. Part Two. It’s not surprising that a plan that has supposedly prevented almost 400 million births (more than the entire population of the US), has also caused some side effects that have changed every stage of life. One of the big side effects has been a drastic change in family relationships. As you have probably heard, Chinese families have one child and four grandparents. That tied with China’s growing wealth has led to unfathomable levels of spoiling (sadly not an official measure yet). In China, McDonalds and KFC are considered relatively expensive outside of the major cities, yet in even smaller, poorer areas, you see grandparents and parents shelling out the big bucks on […]


This is Part Two of a Three part series. Part One. In the major cities of China, despite everything we’ve heard, it is not uncommon to see people with more than one child. In my classes in Guangxi I was shocked to find that maybe only 50 out of my 500 students were only children. When I asked them how many children they wanted to have, they would say, “I’ll have one, but I want two or three.” The other students giggle at the answer, and then quickly agree. So let’s look at two more examples of the One Child Policy in modern China from the perspective of my friends. Mary My friend Mary in Yizhou had just completed her entry to the Communist party, and as […]


Now I know this is more of an edgy topic, but it’s one of the issues which generates the most anger and confusion amongst Americans when they think of China. First a little history: China has always had a large, mostly rural, population. As it is everywhere, farmers in China also tended to have large families to help with the work. Up to the 1950’s it was common practice for families to have 6-10 children, many of whom would die before their fifth birthday. On top of the high infant mortality rate there was the Japanese invasion, and then a civil war that kept China’s population from growing despite the birth rate. Needless to say, when the communists finally won control of the mainland, life […]


I was chatting with a friend the other day and realized that a few things. 1) I have a lot of strange conversations about random things, and 2) you might enjoy hearing about them.  So you can expect “conversations” to become regular a feature on the blog. I was just chatting with a German friend who had the chance to help perform a surgery in one of the hospitals a few days ago. Yes, you read that right. It sounds pretty crazy, but at least she is a med student. The surgery itself went fairly well, it was a hemi-colectomy and they removed a good-sized tumor successfully, so you can breathe a bit easier. What was interesting about the conversation was all of the little […]


This week we have two stories that represent big picture issues facing China. The first is that finally farmers are able to receive pensions. They will receive 55yuan per month (about $9). Even though that is a tiny amount of money, even in China, this is the first progress we have seen in this area. Prior to this policy, elderly farmers had to rely on their children for assistance. If their children did not provide for them their choice was between abject poverty and suing their own family. This elderly population is referred to as part of the “left behind” group that also includes children and to a lesser extent wives, due to the massive migration of laborers to the cities. Let’s hope this project […]


It’s Christmas Eve here in China, since we are 13 hours ahead of New York, and a full 17 hours ahead of Seattle. My Chinese co-worker, Grace, is attending her daughter’s class Christmas party. Which includes a small gift exchange, performances and food ordered from KFC (at the parents’ expense of course). Grace and her daughter have prepared this cookie song (below), after which they will hand out knock off Oreos to all the other children. The rough idea of the song is about making cookies and then eating them. (“Little friends, isn’t it interesting to make cookies?!”) One of my students/doctors, is going to be taking his family out for a nice dinner on Christmas eve (ironically in China they all eat western food on […]


The blog seems to be off to a great start, and I want to thank all of you for passing this on to people who might be interested. I will be posting over the break, and hope you will use a little of your precious free time to enjoy them. Now for your entertainment, my former students trying to sing Jingle Bells.


One of the most common questions I get is about how much I could talk about religion when I was working in the classroom. In the US there is a lot of confusion about how much religious freedom there is in China (more than you think, but less than there could be), but that is a gigantic issue. So a glimpse of this is how I teach Christmas. Usually I split up Christmas, into two lessons, one for Santa and one for baby Jesus. This is not just because I want the students to understand that these are separate parts of the same holiday, but I really enjoy Christmas and this lets me savor it a little longer. One year I taught a song a week for […]


Christmas in China is a really funny thing. Let’s call it 奇怪(qi-guai), a word that means “strange” but without any negative or positive connotations. You get a full month for quiet reflection, but miss all of the fun and merriment of the Christmas spirit. There are friends you spend special meals with, and there is still some shopping you have to do. After four years, I’m still not sure if I like it or dread it. Christmas is still kind of new in China. During the missionary period up to the revolution Christmas was a quiet religious holiday. The hospital and local universities had many special Christmas performances to try and spread the Gospel. Then President Chiang Kai-shek’s wife, Madame Soong, attended many of these […]


This weekend I visited the local mall, and attended a Christmas worship service. As you can see Christmas is coming in China, and will be the theme of the posts this week. I hope all of you will be spending the holidays with the ones you love. The video below was taken at a local Chinese church, with performance from choirs from both of the large local churches, and the church wind ensemble.


So one part of the Christmas tradition that we look forward to every year is the annual battle over the materialistic aspects Christmas has taken on. Sadly, you can’t even avoid it by coming to China. This weeks story of the week is about extravagant Christmas dinners that are becoming fashionable for China’s super rich. I’m so glad that at least we still have the expectation of staying home with family on Christmas instead of going out to a $500/person meal. Next week we’ll be looking closer at Christmas in China, and I promise pictures of all the terrible knock off Santa stuff.


September 2007 When I arrived in Longzhou there were only a few days to get settled before the semester would begin. On Friday Millie brought Kyle and me over to see the Foreign Language department, Thai and Vietnamese were also popular majors at the school. After some back and forth with the vice-dean she turned and told us that our class schedule had not been decided yet. When Millie turned back to ask about a few other things, Kyle let me know that this was pretty typical and I shouldn’t worry about it. It was my first insight into how things really work in China, in all actuality very few things are planned ahead, and I’m sure this will be the topic of a future […]


Chinese has a few common phrases that are used to mean “foreigner” one is laowai (老外) meaning literally old-outsider, and the other is waiguoren (外国人) meaning outside-country-person. These phrases are both considered neutral. It’s not a good thing or a bad thing, just a fact, and Chinese people enjoy stating the obvious (on a rainy day you will hear people under umbrellas telling other people under umbrellas that it is raining). Waiguoren is attached to all foreigners: North and South Americans, Europeans, Australians, Africans, all are lumped together into a single homogeneous “other”. This is not to say that there is no racism, or stereotypes attached to people from separate countries, but as we walk past people on the street, “waiguoren” is what they shout […]


The other day my wife and I were walking through a kind of upscale mall when we heard (in English) “Hey foreigner! Come here! Foreigner buy things!” This isn’t unusual for me. There is a joke in my organization that being a foreigner in China is like being an animal in the zoo (it is for this reason that we honestly do not sit near windows while we eat). People treat you like you are famous, but you really wish you weren’t. Kyle and I used to play pool in the very back of the dingiest, darkest pool hall in Longzhou because it was the only public place we could go and only be mildly bothered by gawkers. Imagine if every time you went shopping […]


Today at 10am an alarm sounded to remind us of the invasion by the Japanese 73 years ago. In the weeks following the invasion 300,000 Chinese were slaughtered. I was in my office when I heard the alarm, it caused an awful, uneasy feeling in the pit of my stomach. My bus ride to work takes me past many of the homes and universities that served as refugee camps. I’ve been in the home where the missionaries would gather to pray for peace during that time. I have seen the mass graves that serve as the undeniable evidence of the atrocities committed. The International Safety Zone was created by the foreigners who chose to stay behind in Nanjing to protect the people. The area was […]


There are only two types of Chinese banquets. The first kind is just an excuse for the school leaders to eat all of their favorite foods while drinking baijiu (quite possibly the worst alcoholic beverage; 54% alcohol and the rest might be paint thinner). The leaders chat with each other in the local dialect and leave you to try to find a meal’s worth of food among the random animal parts. Luckily this was the second kind of banquet. Millie had ordered all of Kyle’s favorite dishes, so we didn’t get stuck finding excuses as to why we didn’t want a third helping of cow stomach. Instead there was stir-fried broccoli with lots of garlic, a slightly spicy pork dish, and corn with pine nuts. […]


Late August, 2007 When I first arrived in Longzhou, I really had no idea what to expect. I remember that in my mind I was picturing dirt roads, chickens running about, and sweating a lot. The roads turned out to be paved in some places, but my other assumptions were right. I had just met Kyle a few days earlier, and he had told me all about his first year in Longzhou. He was friendly, and literally stuck out from the crowd in China due to the fact that he was 6’6”, and in Guangxi where we lived, few people even reached 5’6”. He had an easy laugh, and had lived in Seattle near where I grew up. We quickly became friends. Millie met us […]


Each week I’m going to try to choose the one must read news article key for your understanding of all the ways in which China is changing as it adjusts to its new role in world affairs. As a person who reads too many news sites, I can tell you this week was really hard to pick. There was continuing tension in the Koreas, a certain prize being given out to a certain guy that we can’t talk about (I tried, and it didn’ go well), or new measures aimed at ending widespread corruption (which was the most exciting news of the week). Luckily I found this wonderful article from the New Yorker focused on the Top China Myths for 2010. It’s a great short […]


Yesterday I wrote about the health effects of pollution on the general Chinese population. (from a Photo essay on pollution in China) Today I am going to look at the question: Where does all this pollution come from? Which has an easy answer – Coal burning power plants, coal heated homes, and coal roasted sweet potatoes. The coal roasted sweet potatoes aren’t a joke sadly, they are a common sight throughout China. In Guangxi many restaurants used cement buckets with coal bricks for cooking. In a matter of minutes my entire respiratory system would stage a protest, and I would have to run out with my nose running, coughing like I had just been tear gassed. This embarrassing reaction only happens to foreigners since all […]


Pollution is something that has really become a concern for me here in Nanjing. The main reason for this is that I have had a sore throat and cough for about 3 months, and after x-rays and blood tests I have been declared healthy, even though I feel far from that. I blame pollution for this, since that seems to make more sense than the ideas my co-workers have come up with. One thought it was because I work in a hospital, which isn’t the worst idea, except that I am not even in the same building as patients. Another thought was that I don’t wash my hands enough, which simply isn’t true, thoroughly washing my hands like a surgeon while wearing my doctor’s coat […]


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