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.
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!
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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