New on the site this time:
Two articles that deal, in different ways, with China’s ongoing mental health crisis, and in particular its relationship to China’s high pressure educational system.
Lei Wanghong, “Tiger Mothers’ are Multiplying in Urban China because of the Epidemic of Success Education”
Zhang Han and Huang Siyun, “After a Child is Diagnosed with Depression, an ‘Experiment’ that Seeks to Cure a Family”
Other news: On October 3, I officially start my new life as an itinerant scholar/tourist with a two-week visit to Colombia, after which I will join my wife in Lausanne, Switzerland. Lausanne will be my European base, but I plan to travel frequently, and will be in Germany and France before returning to Canada in early December. In my travels, I would be delighted to meet with readers individually, or give a talk if they are at institutions where such things are possible. So I’ll be in Bogotá and Medellín between October 4 and 16. I’m not holding my breath about finding many readers there, but will be meeting with China scholars at one of Bogotá’s universities. Then Lausanne from October 17. Updates to follow.
I’m also thinking of writing a travel blog, but will see if it is interesting before inflicting it on you.
Only one new text this time, but it’s a doozy: Xiang Shuai’s 2023 Wealth Forecast. This is the translation of a talk given by Xiang Shuai in late July 2023.
Xiang Shuai is a former Peking University Business School professor who left Beida behind in 2018 to become an intellectual entrepreneur – an author and commentator on China’s economy. She has published several books and is an important voice in China, where she speaks as a liberal who believes fervently in the power of free markets and in the ability of the Chinese people to make money. This address is a once-a-year event in which Xiang tries to sum up where China’s economy is and where it is going. It is particularly interesting this time, because she admits that the forces pushing China forward since reform and opening – industrialization, globalization, urbanization, and the Internet – are running out of steam.
The task she sets for herself is to discover a “new narrative” that will put the wind back in China’s sails. You’ll have to click on the link to see what it is, but it is quite different from the gloom and doom we read about the Chinese economy in the Western press, and it has nothing to do with Xi Jinping Thought.
Enjoy! To contribute to the site, click here.
New this time on the site:
Sun Liping on the overproduction crisis in which China’s economy finds itself, and on the fact that only deep structural reforms will be of much help. This post was taken down by authorities and reposted elsewhere on the Chinese Internet.
Cui Qinglong, a well-known psychologist and online commentator, on the burnout phenomenon in China and what to do about it.
Enjoy! Click here if you want to contribute to Reading the China Dream. Thanks!
New on the site this time:
“The Beijing Cultural Review on the rise of Trump and the End of American Hegemony.” Here I translate the editorial introductions to five cover stories in the Beijing Cultural Review between 2020 and 2023 on the topic in question, as part of a chapter I am writing for my book on how Chinese intellectuals view the United States. I look both at the issues involved and at the way the editors and authors shape these issues.
In addition, a fascinating and well-done interview with the scholar-entrepreneur Liang Jianzhang on “Why are Today’s Young People Not Having Children?” Here, Liang is speaking as a demographer and talking about China’s imminent demographic disaster, the result of rapidly declining birth rates. Whether Liang is right or wrong, he is refreshingly frank, a reminder that not everyone in China is thinking only about Xi Jinping Thought.
I have two book projects on which I need to make major progress over the next couple of months, so my contributions to my blog may be a bit less frequent. My impression is that people read less in the summer anyway, so it may make little difference.
For those who are reading, enjoy! And for those who want to contribute to the blog or the project, click here. Thanks!
New on the site this week:
The big news is that as of July 1, 2023, I have retired from the Université de Montréal. This was my choice; I am in great health and very excited about the future. I absolutely plan to continue the website and thought that this might be an appropriate moment to ask for contributions from readers to defray the costs of running it. So I added a contribution button to the site. This button is more easily accessed from the website than from your phone, although if you feel that you must contribute while driving to work or crossing the street, you can click on the three buttons in the top right of your cell and choose “desktop site,” from which you can see the button. I stress that this contribution is voluntary and that I will not bombard you with messages about it. Thanks. More about my retirement plans in future updates.
New translations this time include:
An interview with Wu Xinbo on Secretary of State Blinken’s visit to China, a moderately hopeful if realistic view that I think resonates with a good number of Chinese;
A talk by Jiang Shigong on the decline of the American empire, the rise of “civilizational states” (Russia, Turkey, India) and how Chinese socialism will save the 20th century from a coming clash of civilizations;
An interview with Japanese feminist Chizuko Ueno and Chinese sexologist Li Yinhe. This is part of a huge “Ueno moment” in China – in the past few months, 9 of her books have been published in Chinese and some 1 million copies purchased. This is surely Chinese feminism finding a way to make its voice heard even as the movement’s leaders are silenced or exiled.
If you missed me on Kaiser Kuo’s Sinica podcast on June 8, you can give a belated listen here. That interview earned me another with Kalavinka Advisors which is available here (a written interview, so the vibe is a bit different).
Enjoy! More soon!
New on the site this time:
A dazzling essay by feminist activist Lü Pin on feminism and the blank paper revolution which effectively brought China’s zero-covid policy to an end;
The eighth of Qin Hui’s essays on the Russia-Ukraine war, this one on the destruction of the Kakhovka Dam—in which he scoops the New York Times;
Wu Chaojin and Zhang Jingrong on “goofing off” at work, a further addition to our project on Chinese youth concerns.
By the way, if you missed me on Kaiser Kuo’s Sinica podcast on June 8, you can give a belated listen here.
À propos of nothing at all, if there are elliptical aficionados among my readers, I highly recommend Chancha Via Circuito’s “Río Arriba” (available on Spotify) as musical accompaniment. Put on your headphones, close your eyes, turn up the music, and you will be loping across the Argentinian Pampas before you know it. You can be the mustang or the cowgirl/cowboy, your choice.
Back from China after an extremely interesting three weeks in Beijing, Shanghai, and Hong Kong. International flights to China have definitely not returned to normal, and I had 30+ hour trips both going and coming back, but once I got to China, everything was smooth sailing. I had no problems with access, saw lots of old acquaintances and made many new friends.
Nonetheless, I confess that I found China quite bleak. One reason was the general atmosphere as reported in Western media—the uncertain economy, the dismal political scene. More surprising to me was that much of China has still not gotten over the abrupt conclusion to the zero-covid policy in mid-December 2022. For many Chinese young people, particularly, this episode has led to an ongoing existential crisis, as their patriotic faith in China’s government as responsible and competent has been shaken to its core. My experiences are too complicated to explain here, but the introductions to the texts translated for this update – both of which deal with youth issues – provide more details: Fu Yu and Gui Yong, “The Five Intriguing Paradoxes of Contemporary Chinese Young People,” and Youthology, “A Diary of Four Years of Psychological Treatment: From Seeking Help to Helping Others.”
New this time:
Shi Zhan’s new preface to the re-edition of his 2018 work The Hub: Three Thousand Years of China, which has sold some 420,000 copies in China and had an important impact.
An interview with Wu Fei, a Peking University professor of philosophy, on the subject of suicide in contemporary Chinese society.
I am leaving for China later today (!) for my first visit since 2018. I will be in Beijing for the week of May 7, in Shanghai for the week of May 14, and in Hong Kong (and Guangzhou) before and after. It is shaping up to be a busy trip, so I doubt that I will update the site while I’m gone, but I will keep a diary…
Since everyone is talking about ChatGPT, I thought I would add my own two cents. Over the course of the past few weeks, I finished up a book manuscript in French based on my talks at the Collège de France in June 2022. I have taught in French for more than 30 years now, so I am quite fluent, but I did not go to school in French or write an M.A. thesis or a doctoral dissertation. As a result, my written French can be idiosyncratic, and I don’t always know the difference between formal and informal writing, nor can I always distinguish Québécois French from the “standard” version.
Turns out that ChatGPT is just the thing. I fed my manuscript in, paragraph by paragraph, and it invariably found le mot juste and ironed out my idiosyncrasies, as well as my attempts at humor (my impression is that the French don’t want their books to be funny anyway). ChatGPT readily does the same thing with first drafts of translation, which are often garbled. Of course, ChatGPT seems to have no sense of style, so an entire book penned by ChatGPT would be rather dull. But who knows what’s coming down the AI road?
New on the site this time:
Xu Jilin reflects on the “silence” of the Shanghai lockdown in a talk with the Chinese branch of the PEN organization in June of 2022, a few weeks after the lockdown was lifted.
Chen Zhiwu talks about how “risk avoidance” has shaped the course of civilization, in an interview with Southern People Weekly on the occasion of the publication of Chen’s The Logic of Civilization (2022).
New on the site:
An interview with Gao Quanxi (on the right) and Huang Jisu (on the left), entitled “Left and Right are Getting Along Just Fine,” from a book by Xiao Sanza, Standing with the Hedgehog (2016). The interview is quite interesting, as Gao rails against Chinese authoritarianism and Huang condemns China’s New Left as “statists who are flirting with fascism.”
Only one text this time, but the end of the semester is approaching, which should free up more time for the site. I will be heading for China in May for the first time since December of 2018. I will be in Beijing for the week of May 7, Shanghai for the week of May 14, and in Hong Kong for a few days before and after the China trip. If readers would like to meet up for a meal or a beer, send me a message!
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. Click here for the 15 most popular translations, and here for my personal favorites.
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.