Something a little different on the site this week: an essay, “Am I Being Played?” that I composed over the past two weeks, inspired by a question that arose as I was working on Ren Jiantao’s text for last time. The question has to do with the extent to which Chinese establishment intellectuals mean what they say when they publish in mainland Chinese venues.
In addition, the translation of another text by Ren Jiantao, “The Periodization of Reform,” that grew out of research for the above-mentioned essay.
Also an addition to our Spanish-language translations: Yuan Peng, “La pandemia de Coronavirus: Un cambio que solo sucede una vez por siglo.” Thanks to Ugo Armanini, my former student at the Université de Montréal, now at the Real Instituto Elcano in Madrid, for revising the Spanish-language text.
A recording of a talk I gave at the Hoover Institution on February 10 is available here. For those just discovering the site, the short talk (30 minutes followed by discussion and questions) might serve as a good introduction to what the project is about.
Finally, for French-speaking readers, I am pleased to announce the recent publication on Gallimard of Penser en Chine, a collection of essays under the direction of Anne Cheng, with the collaboration of Éric Vigne, to which I contributed a modest translation of an essay by Qin Hui.
New on the site this fortnight, three texts that, paradoxically, remind us of the role of the market in the lives of contemporary Chinese public intellectuals. Legal scholar Liang Zhiping flogs two new books he published last year on the relationship between law and China's tradition in an excellent interview in The Shanghai Review of Books (the equivalent of NYRB); sociologist Sun Liping talks to fund managers about what to expect in 2021; and political scientist Ren Jiantao talks to a think tank about the crisis in Chinese values.
One housekeeping note. At the request of the author, I removed from the site my translation of Li Tuo's piece on "The Pandemic and the Crisis of Contemporary Capitalism" because he had already made separate translation plans. The text is available here.
New on the site this fortnight, two texts where Mainland New Left intellectuals explain to Hong Kong Chinese the rationale for the National Security Law, imposed on Hong Kong by China's National People's Congress in May, 2020:
Chen Duanhong, “2020 National Constitution Day Symposium Keynote Speech: National Security and the Constitution”
Jiang Shigong, “Probing the ‘Imaginary World’ and the ‘Real World’ to Understand the Internal Legal Logic of Hong Kong's National Security Law”.
Also, three short texts on the US election:
Qin Hui, “On the ‘Mainstream Media:’ Replies to a Guest’s Objections Concerning the U.S. Election”
Shi Zhan, “How Many Tweets Would a Trump Thumb Tweet if a Trump Thumb Could Tweet Tweets?!”
Zhou Lian, “Thoughts about Political Philosophy Inspired by the Total Blocking of Trump from Social Media”
New on the site this fortnight, an interview with the activist and legal scholar He Weifang, “The Return of the True Scholar: A Reflection on the University”. He has largely dropped out of sight in the past few years due to official pressure, and it is interesting to read him again, even if the subject is Republican-period universities.
For our second installment on youth issues, Freya Ge and I are happy to offer the young literary scholar Liu Xinting’s bracing essay on “Why are Contemporary Youth Increasingly ‘Unhappy?’ Focus on the Living Conditions of China’s Youth,” a theory-rich discussion of the meme-play engaged in by young Chinese today.
And finally, we add to our growing Spanish-language body of texts with Xu Jilin, "¿Qué clase de civilización? China en una encrucijada," thanks to Cristina Reigadas.
Happy New Year, and enjoy!
New on the site this fortnight. First, a blast from the past, Cui Weiping’s brilliant “Why Does the Spring Breeze Not Warm the Earth? The 1980s Debate on Humanism in China,” originally published in Taiwan in 2007, in which Cui revisits Wang Ruoshui and the debate over “alienation,” insisting that the debate remains relevant in reform-era China. I was delighted to work with my colleague Selena Orly, Lecturer in the Department of Asian Studies at Bar-Ilan University in Tel Aviv, Israel, in the preparation of this translation.
Second, a very recent (Nov. 26) discussion of where the U.S. is heading with the election of Joe Biden by four well-known Shanghai professors.
Many of you may be interested by the journalist Ian Johnson’s recent post, “What is China Thinking?” which is a thoughtful review of the Reading the China Dream website. For those who have recently discovered the site, Johnson does an excellent job of explaining what it is we are doing.
Finally, the publication of Johnson’s post provoked an unexpected flurry of criticism of me and the website (on Johnson’s Facebook page, which I cannot helpfully link to). Those interested in my response to this criticism can read my “Guerrilla Translation in a Borderless World.”
New on the site this fortnite, two texts on China’s foreign relations by senior members of Beijing’s international relations elite : Shi Yinhong, “The U.S. and Other Major Countries' Policies Toward China and the Future World Configuration,” and Wang Jisi, “Abandon the Conventions of Great Power Relations to Grasp the Framework of International Trends”. Sinocism’s Bill Bishop observes that neither Shi nor Wang seems to have the ear of Zhongnanhai, but the texts are interesting nonetheless.
We are also adding three new texts to our Spanish-language section. China is increasingly important throughout Latin America, but there is not a great deal of academic study devoted to China, and Spanish-language commentary is fairly rudimentary, so, ¡ándale! I will create a separate menu for these texts once we have a critical mass.
Nicolás Cornejo has joined the team as a second translator. He studied political science at Tres de Febrero University in Argentina, is interested in the intellectual history of Republican China and contemporary intellectual debates. He is currently learning Chinese in preparation for study in China.
Jiang Shigong "La 'Década Crítica' en la relación chino-americana: el 'Nuevo Imperio Romano' y la 'Nueva Gran Lucha'" (Cristina Reigadas)
Jie Dalei, "Ideología y competencia estratégica sino-estadounidense" (Nicolás Cornejo)
Yan Xuetong, "Por qué y cómo prevenir la intensificación de las disputas ideológicas entre China y los EE.UU." (Cristina Reigadas)
I am pleased to host the work of two guest translators this fortnight. Matthew Dean has translated an important 2006 interview with Gan Yang on “The Modernity Critique of the 1980s and the Transformation of the 1990s,” in which Gan offers his reflections on how he and China’s thought world have evolved over time.
In addition, Freya Ge has translated a round table discussion of “China’s Generation Z? What are houlang and houlang Culture?” which addresses youth issues in contemporary China. Freya is an exceptional high school student in Shanghai who wrote me a few weeks ago wanting to contribute her translations to the site, and we are very pleased with the results of our inaugural effort.
Finally, I translated an interview with the well-known liberal Liu Qing in a Chinese equivalent of People magazine, which I found interesting both in terms of form and content.
New on the site this fortnight, Qin Hui, “Globalization after the Pandemic: Thoughts on the Coronavirus,” a long and fascinating text by one of China’s most famous liberals which, to my knowledge, has not yet been published in Chinese. Qin sent me the text in mid-October, asking me to translate it. The essay pursues Qin’s decades-long reflections on the relationship between human rights and globalization in ways that readers are likely to find sobering, if not disturbing.
Given the importance of Qin’s text, I decided to translate it (my English translation) into Spanish and French as well, an idea I have been toying with for some time. DeepL, a translation program, does a remarkable job when translating between related European languages, and colleagues who are native-speakers of the languages helped me to prepare the final version. Cristina Reigadas of the University of Buenos Aires—who has recently launched her own China Dream blog—handled the Spanish, and Laurence Monnais, my colleague at the Université de Montréal did the French.
If followers of Reading the China Dream are interested in participating in such translation efforts, send me an email and we’ll explore possibilities.
New this fortnight: Zhang Qianfan, the controversial and outspoken law professor at Beijing University, on “Left and Right in China and the West: A Trans-Oceanic Misunderstanding,” a frank discussion of what liberal Chinese Trump fans are doing to Chinese liberalism; and Yan Xuetong's, “Why and How to Prevent the Intensification of Ideological Disputes between China and the US,” a call by a major scholar of international relations for China to abandon Wolf Warrior diplomacy and return to the modest foreign policy that has served China well for forty years.
New on the site this fortnight, Li Tuo, “The Riddle of the Twenty-First Century: Interview on the Coronavirus Crisis and Contemporary Capitalism.” I have removed this piece from my site at the request of the author, who had already arranged translation and publication on another platform, boundary2. The text is available here.
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 Chinese texts that we consider important, together with discussions of related issues and a number of reference tools that can help those interested to navigate the project.
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.