New on the site this time:
An anonymous blog post by a young Shanghai woman that went viral in China (at least 1.7 million views) recounting, with bemused exasperation, her experiences in a quarantine center, in a hotel where “close contacts” were forced to isolate, and many misadventures in between. It is well worth a read, and if you want to know what “Schrödinger's lung” refers to, you’ll need to click through.
In addition, three more entries from Qin Hui’s chronicles of the Russian war in Ukraine, in which he continues to warn of the dangers of appeasement:
Number Five: “Will the Bucha Massacre Put an End to Appeasement?”
Number Six: “Appeasement and Collective Security”
Number Seven: “Appeasement after World War II: Solzhenitsyn's Question”
New on the site this time:
Yuan Peng, “Fundamental Principles Maintaining and Shaping National Security in the New Era—Studying the Outline of the Comprehensive National Security Concept”. Yuan is both an establishment intellectual and a part of the Party-State national security apparatus. Here he writes as the latter, in the People’s Daily.
Jiang Shigong, “Commerce and Human Rights (Part Two)—Sino-American Competition in the Context of World Empire”. This is part two of Jiang’s commentary on the history of commerce and human rights in the liberal world order, in which he extends his analysis to the postwar and contemporary periods.
I am also continuing to translate Qin Hui’s chronicles of the war in Ukraine (7 have been published so far on FT-Chinese, which is pay walled) because his denunciations of Russian aggression and Western appeasement recall similar warnings in the period leading up to WWII: "’Nazify’ or ‘Denazify?’ Ukraine Commentary No. 3”, and “The Russia-Ukraine War and the Soviet-Finnish ‘Winter War’—Ukraine Commentary No. 4”.
New on the site this time, four texts on the pandemic and lockdown in Shanghai :
Zheng Ge, “’Do We Really Have No Other Choice This Time?’ Frank Words from a Shanghai Father”. Five thousand convincing words from a non-expert, in a major publication, on why “dynamic covid” is still right for China.
Wu Jun, “Being Infected Does Not Mean Getting Sick; We Need to Calm the Covid Panic”. A shorter piece from a Chinese medical doctor working in the US on why it’s time to move on from “dynamic covid.”
Lü Dewen, “If the ‘Grassroots’ are not Solid, Everything Starts to Waver”. Maoist nostalgia inspired by the Shanghai lockdown.
Youthology, “Let Shanghai Be Seen, Let the Cry for Help Continue”. Reflections from Shanghai youths living the lockdown.
New on the site this time, four new pieces on the war in Ukraine:
Gao Cheng, “Is the Conflict Turning Around? How Russia and Ukraine Think Will Determine How Things Develop Moving Forward” introduced and translated by Selena Orly.
Cui Zhiyuan, “The ‘Security Dilemma,’ Constructivism, and the Ukraine Crisis”.
Jin Yan, "Regilding the Empire, Russia's 'New Empire Syndrome'".
Shi Zhan, "The First Metaverse War".
The texts are in descending order of conventionality, Gao Cheng’s being a fairly predictable defense of Russia that gives academic cover to the views of China’s authorities, and Shi Zhan’s being a very innovative discussion of the “networked mediatization” of the war.
In addition, Freya Ge has translated a piece by Beida law professor Luo Xiang related to the case of the mother of eight discovered in January chained to the wall of an outbuilding in the suburbs of Xuzhou, who later was found to have been abducted and purchased. Luo gives popular online lectures about legal issues and cases and has some 13 million followers—mostly young people—on the video platform Bilibili, which makes his an important voice.
New on the site this time, four texts on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine:
Zheng Yongnian, “The War in Ukraine Blurs the Two Main Lines, But Many People Misunderstand China's Role.” Zheng’s text is close to some of what we read in official propaganda, suggesting that China might be able to take advantage of the conflict, but he still counsels extreme caution.
Sun Liping, “The Small Chess Board and the Big Picture: Russia in the Big Picture May Be Ukraine on the Small Chess Board.” Sun’s text was taken down by authorities (and reposted elsewhere), presumably for arguing that China should absolutely not get in bed with Russia, which is not only in the wrong morally, but which will soon be the object of a world-wide anti-Russia alliance. This alliance might well be turned against China, since Russia is a minor power in decline.
Finally, two texts by Qin Hui, “The West's ‘Double Standard’ and Putin's ‘Single Standard’—From the Crimean Crisis to Putin's February 21 Declaration,” and “Ukraine Series No. 2: Aggression and Appeasement—Crimea and the Sudetenland Compared.” In the Chinese intellectual context, Qin’s texts are unrepresentative, because his goal is to completely demolish any justification for the Russian invasion and to call the world’s attention to the similarities between Putin and Hitler.
New on the site this time:
Two texts inspired by the highly mediatized case of the “woman with eight children:” one, a brief blog post by the sociologist Sun Liping, attacking utilitarianism and reminding us of the importance of basic humanity; and another, longer text, by Zhang Yinghong, a specialist in rural issues in China, that delves into the broader problems with rural governance that made the case possible.
In addition, Mark Czeller, a Ph.D. candidate at Oxford, translates a fiery piece on land reform during the Chinese revolution by the historian Li Fangchun. Li calls out an older generation of Chinese scholars who, in his eyes, have sullied the heritage of China’s revolution by calling into question the competence of the Party and their over-reliance on Soviet models. As a companion text, Mark also translates part of a lecture by Qin Hui, a popular figure on this site, as representative of the viewpoint Li Fangchun wants to criticize.
For the next update, I will focus on how Chinese establishment intellectuals are responding to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. I have no doubt that many Chinese intellectuals are as shocked as many of us are about this horrifying turn of events. It will interesting to see what they actually say—or what they are allowed to say. See you mid-March.
A rich harvest of texts today.
First, two essays on China and the impending “end of the pandemic.” Perusing my sources last week, I noticed that sociologist Sun Liping had posted two texts on his WeChat feed on this topic that were immediately taken down by authorities. I managed to find one of them elsewhere on the web, entitled “Let’s Think it Through: A Possible Picture of the Post-Pandemic Era and the Problems We May Face.” Sun’s text is exceptional only in that it notes that the pandemic may be coming to an end shortly in the rest of the world, and dares to ask if China might consider “living with the virus” after the Olympics are over. I also translated a piece that honestly describes the difficulties experienced by front-line health care workers instead of praising their heroism, another way of admitting that China, too, is tired of covid.
Sun Liping also posted an outline of a series small-group talks he is giving these days, an interesting window into how a Chinese liberal sees the world in 2022.
Hannah Wang translated an fascinating text on how teachers and parents reacted to last summer’s “double reduction” policy, which sought to lighten the burden on China’s students by reducing homework and after-school tutoring (largely by destroying the tutoring industry). See “88 Days after the End of After-School Classes, Helicopter Parents are still Anxious.”
And finally, Freya Ge translated an interview with Xu Jilin about his new book on Chinese traditional culture.
New the site this time, three recent essays on Sino-American relations:
Gan Yang, “Thucydides and the ‘Thucydides Trap’”;
Liu Xiaofeng, “The Historical Paradox of the Idea of the Great Atlantic Revolution”; and
Jiang Shigong, “Commerce and Human Rights, Part One: World Empire and the Roots of American Behavior.”
I particularly recommend Gan Yang’s piece, which is timely and thought-provoking.
And for a change of pace, Selena Orly has translated an interview with the sociologist Li Yinhe, China’s leading scholar of sex and LGBTQ issues.
I might note as well that the Center for Advanced Chinese Research’s Party Watch Annual Report for 2021 has just come out. I was pleased to have been asked to contribute.
Happy New Year! May 2022 be better than 2021!
Fake news on Reading the China Dream! Over the holidays, I received an email from Ryan Mitchell, Professor of Law at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, informing me that one of the Wang Huning texts we translated and published over the course of the fall of 2021 was a forgery. We’ll attempt to set things right in this update. To that end, please find:
The corrected version of Wang’s 1986 article on the Cultural Revolution, with a revised introduction by Matt Johnson;
The forgery, not quite “debunked,” because I have no idea who the author was, but with indications illustrating what part of the text is Wang’s and what parts are the work of others;
The translation of an 2012 online discussion on constitutional rule and inter-Party democracy featuring Cao Siyuan, a Liberal scholar and politician who died in 2014. Most of the forgery drew directly from an article Cao published in a Taiwan journal in 2012. I found the online discussion on Cao Siyuan’s Aisixiang page, and translated it because it shows that Cao said the same things in a public forum in China proper.
Reading the three texts together is fascinating, because no one working on Chinese establishment intellectuals now would be tempted to put Wang Huning in the same basket with Cao Siyuan. As Matt Johnson has persuasively argued, Wang Huning is powerfully connected with the idea that the CCP sees itself as the "engineer of China's soul," while Cao Siyuan is a classical liberal like Gao Quanxi or Ren Jiantao. At the same time, there are many compatibilities between what Wang Huning said in 1986 and what Cao Siyuan said in 2012, a reminder of possibilities lost and of the complexity of the Chinese thought world.
Personal note: I am back in the (Zoom) classroom again for the first time since the beginning of the pandemic, so I may have less time to devote to translation and curating until the end of term, but I will continue to update the site every two weeks.
New on the site this time:
Two translations that grew out of Xu Jilin’s essay on “Redimensioning the Enlightenment,” which I posted last time:
An interview with celebrity economist Xue Zhaofeng, on “To Consume is to be Linked to Other People in the World,” which is part of “selling consumerism” to Chinese society; and
Wu Changchang, “Video Sites and the ‘Involution’ of State Power,” which is a more difficult read but which is very revealing about various issues touching on online youth entertainment in China and state attempts to regulate it.
Finally, an update to China and the post-pandemic world: Jiang Ruiping, “The Coronavirus Pandemic is Accelerating the Reshaping of East Asia.”
I would also like to share a recent Pacific Century podcast—“Wang Huning: The World’s Most Dangerous Thinker?” in which Matthew Johnson and I discuss Wang and other things. Host Michael R. Auslin’s skillful interviewing technique made this a very good conversation.
About this site
This web site is devoted to the subject of intellectual life in contemporary China, and more particularly to the writings of establishment intellectuals. What you will find here are essentially translations of texts my collaborators and I consider important. Click here for tips on getting the most out of the site.
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