New on the site this time:
A gloomy assessment—from China’s perspective, anyway—of the first months of the Biden administration’s China Policy, by foreign policy expert Shi Yinhong.
A fascinating interview with Xu Jilin on what the Internet has done to the minds and personalities of China’s online youth, and how this has impacted the Enlightenment project of intellectuals of his generation.
A short text by the famed liberal economist Xu Xiaonian in which he criticizes Keynesianism and extols the virtues of Adam Smith’s invisible hand, presumably pushing back against some of the implications of current discussions of “common prosperity.”
Finally, a video of a virtual talk I gave at the University of Oxford China Centre while I was in Germany in early October, together with Ingrid d’Hooghe and Xiang Biao.
New on the site:
An interview with Li Zehou, one of modern China’s most towering intellectual figures, published in Southern People Weekly. Li died earlier this month in Boulder, Colorado at the age of 91.
A text by the Tsinghua sociologist Li Qiang on how China’s social structure has changed over the course of the first two decades of the 21st century.
An article by a Wuhan University graduate student, Chen Ruiyan, on how difficult it is to build houses in China’s villages. The article was inspired by a recent murder in Fujian, provoked by a housing dispute.
And finally, for our “Youth Concerns” rubric, a text on the topic of sexually suggestive clothing peddled by certain Chinese companies. This text was translated by Hannah Wang, a student in Guangzhou, who has recently joined our team. Welcome aboard, Hannah!
For readers who are using our site in part for language learning purposes, I would like to mention a Chinese-language podcast I have discovered recently: 故事FM (Story FM). All of the episodes that I have listened to have been good, but #251 and #521 are excellent. This is not a “learn to speak Chinese” podcast, but a podcast for Chinese speakers, inspired by This American Life, so it is not easy—but it is worth the effort.
New on the site this time:
Yao Yang on common prosperity, arguing that China should continue to let markets and entrepreneurs work their magic, but that China’s educational system should be reformed to level the playing field.
For our Youth Concerns project, Freya Ge and I translated a rousing article by Yu Liang on China’s Little Pinks, in which he connects this incarnation of China’s new nationalism less to patriotic education and more to online fan clubs.
Finally, for our Women’s Voices project, Selena Orly and I translated a provocative essay by the feminist activitist Chen Yaya, who argues that China might see its birth rate rise if it made it easier for single mothers to have children.
A housekeeping note: the last time I updated the site, I received a couple of messages from readers who said that Avast had identified certain weblinks as possible “phishing” expeditions. I contacted Avast, and they replied in effect that “that happens sometimes.” If it keeps happening, send me a screen shot with the Avast warning and I will forward it to them. They would like to avoid false positives if possible.
New on the site this time:
Jiang Shigong discusses the American “legal empire” that made the Meng Wanzhou case possible.
We offer a third, and for the moment, final text by Wang Huning, Politiburo member and arguably China’s most powerful intellectual, “Cultural Expansion and Cultural Sovereignty.” The translation is once again a collaboration between me and Matthew D. Johnson, Founder and Principal of AltaSilva LLC.
Matt Dean translates Gan Yang and Liu Xiaofeng on “Re-reading the West.”
Finally, a recording of a talk I gave in Germany in early October on “China’s Changing Intellectual Landscape,” together with Sarah Eaton, Xiang Biao, and Ian Johnson, is available here (scroll down to find the recording).
New on the site this time:
For our “Youth Concerns” rubric, Freya Ge and I translate a Youthology piece on polarization and hate speech on China’s internet.
In addition, I translate a conversation between political scientist Liu Yu and writer Murong Xuecong on the stigmatization of the term “establishment intellectual.” This piece reads like it was from another era, because it was published on the Chinese-language version of the New York Times web site in 2013, and stands as a reminder of how much certain things have changed.
Finally, an interview with historian Yang Kuisong, who is part of an important group of scholars in China who have begun to treat the Chinese revolution and the process of nation-building as history, bringing admirable sophistication and objectivity to their work.
Department of shameless self-promotion:
I recently published a piece on “China’s Intellectual Ecology” in Palladium, a dynamic new journal concerned with the future of governance.
I will be traveling to Germany (!) next week, where I will participate in two online events: “Understanding China in Uncertain Times,” on October 5, hosted by the Oxford Center, and “The Changing Intellectual Landscape in China,” on October 6, hosted by the Berlin Contemporary China Network. The times will not work for everyone, obviously, but the events will be recorded and I will post the links when they are available.
New this time around:
A follow-up text by Wang Huning, Politiburo member and arguably China’s most powerful intellectual, “The Structure of China’s Changing Political Culture.” The translation is once again a collaboration between me and Matthew D. Johnson, Founder and Principal of AltaSilva LLC. We will post at least one more Wang Huning text in October.
Selena Orly and I also translated an interview with the well-known non-fiction writer Liang Hong. Liang’s third book on the Henan village where she grew up , Liang Village Ten Years On 梁庄十年, was published earlier this year in China. The English translation of her first book, China in One Village 中国在梁庄 was published this year, and I highly recommend it.
A third text, Zhou An’an, “The Supreme Court Finally Overturned the Idea that ‘996 is a Blessing,’ but Did not Address the Larger Problems of the Platform Economy,” is one example among many of establishment intellectuals reflecting on inequality and other economic problems in China as Xi Jinping and the Party center strike out at China’s rich and famous.
Finally, an addition to our Spanish-language transations: 'Filosofía e Historia: Interpretando la "Era Xi Jinping" a través del Informe de Xi Jinping al Decimonoveno Congreso Nacional del PCCh'. Gracias to Nicolás Cornejo Castellanos for helping to make this important text available in Spanish.
Those interested in Shi Zhan, whom I have mentioned before on this blog, might want to read my review of his most recent book, Breaking out of the Cocoon, on the blog of the European Research Centre for Chinese Studies, a very interesting publication.
I am also delighted to share the news that my friend and colleague, David Kelly of China Policy, is launching his own translation blog, Beijing Baselines. Check it out!
New on the site this time:
A text by Wang Huning, Politiburo member and arguably China’s most powerful intellectual, “Reflections on the Cultural Revolution and the Reform of China's Political System.” In fact, this is a 2012 revision of a text Wang originally wrote in 1986. The translation is a collaboration between me and Matthew D. Johnson, Founder and Principal of AltaSilva LLC. Matt and I will be offering more translations of Wang’s work in the coming weeks and months. Two texts are basically finished, and I discovered yesterday that several quite recent talks, interviews, and essays by Wang have been added to Aisixiang.
In addition, for our Youth Concerns project, Freya Ge and I offer the translation of an interesting essay by Xiong Wenchun, “Polarization: The Structure of the Education System Behind the Culture of Migrant Workers’ Children”.
And finally, an addition to our Spanish-language translations: Xie Tao, "2020: Las relaciones sino-estadounidenses y la política americana en tiempos de pandemia." Thanks to Ugo Armanini for his help in polishing the translation.
Something slightly different this time, a translation of a chapter from an upcoming work by the Taiwanese scholar Yang Rubin, entitled Thinking the Republic of China 思考中華民國.
Throughout most of his career, Yang’s academic focus has been on pre-Qin Chinese thought, as well as on Neo-Confucianism, but in the past few years he has begun to write as a public intellectual.
Notably, in 2015, he published In Praise of 1949 (1949礼赞), in which he sought to rewrite the history of the Republic of China and the history of Taiwan, suggesting that despite the “shotgun marriage” aspect of their initial encounter in 1949 (the reference is not to the founding of the People’s Republic), the two had ultimately become one.
I’m not quite sure where to situate Yang’s arguments in the complex politics of contemporary Taiwan, but his goal seems to be to transcend the narratives created by KMT historiography—with its knee-jerk condemnation of the Chinese Communists—and arrive at a more serene embrace of what the Republic of China has accomplished: the establishment of a functional, successful, Chinese constitutional democracy.
The text translated here is a chapter from Yang’s new book, in which he dives more deeply into the themes explored in In Praise of 1949, providing a more complex history for what was originally something of a polemic. Yang revisits the history of the 1911 revolution, suggesting that while traditional narratives celebrate the revolution (and the revolutionaries) and mourn (or condemn) the rapid failure of the Republic, this rush to judgement in fact obscures yet again the fundamental importance of the establishment of a constitutional democracy on Chinese soil.
Yang’s new book will be the focus of a week-long online symposium, organized by Mark McConaghy, who was part of the Reading the China Dream project when it was an Insight grant supported by a grant from Canadian Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, and is now Assistant Professor of Chinese Literature at the National Sun Yat-sen University in Kao-hsiung, Taiwan. The symposium is open to the virtual public; see the program here, the schedule here, and the Facebook page for the event here. Spoiler alert: I am one of the speakers, which is why I translated the chapter.
Back in the saddle again after ten days in the land of the (mask-) free and the home of the brave (vaccine-resisters). God bless boring, civilized Canada.
New on the site this time, two texts by Yao Yang, whose apparent evolution from New Left to New Confucian I find interesting. The first text, “The Challenges Facing the Chinese Communist Party and the Reconstruction of Political Philosophy” is particularly fascinating because it was published on July 2, the day after the CCP’s 100-year birthday bash, and offers Yao’s vision for China’s future, a vision which makes no mention of Xi Jinping or Xi Jinping Thought. Yes, I suppose that everyone had heard quite enough about Xi by then, but still, the omission is striking.
Yao’s second text, “The Dilemma of China’s Democratization,” dates from 2009, and is interesting because Yao seems already to be moving away from his earlier New Left standpoint.
And finally, Freya Ge and I offer a text that speaks to both Youth Concerns and Women’s Voices: a piece on the female stand-up comic Yang Li, and the online male backlash to her gentle ridicule of the foibles of (Chinese) men.
On the centenary celebration of the founding of the Chinese Communist Party, four new texts:
Zhang Weiwei on telling China’s political story well. Zhang is a major cheerleader for the regime, and his text fits well with today’s celebration.
In addition to Zhang, two texts by Party-loyal public intellectuals that could have joined in the birthday bash, but for obscure reasons did not:
Yao Yang and Qin Zizhong on how Confucianism can solve modern problems of inequality;
Fang Ning and Feng Jungong on how the achievement of a “moderately prosperous society” might lead to post-modern challenges to China’s socio-political order.
Finally, for our “Chinese Youth Concerns” project, Yang Xiong on “educational involution.”
There are signs that the US-Canadian border might reopen soon. If it does, I might well take a week or two off and go visit my mother, whom I have not seen since the beginning of the pandemic. In any event, I did the math and discovered that I have published, with the help of several colleagues, over 1,000 pages of material on my site since the beginning of this year, an (obsessive?) devotion to duty that surely earns me a brief holiday from text-hunting, translating, and proof-reading. If you don’t hear from me until August 1, you’ll know why. Stay cool and stay safe.
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.
This materials on this website are open-access and are published under a Creative Commons 3.0 Unported licence. We encourage the widespread circulation of these materials. All content may be used and copied, provided that you credit the Reading and Writing the China Dream Project and provide a link to readingthechinadream.com.