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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 […]


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 […]


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 […]


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 […]


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 […]


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 […]


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, […]


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 […]


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 […]


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 […]


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 […]


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 […]


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 […]


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 […]


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 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? […]


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 […]


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 […]


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