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Ivan Franceschini is a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Australian Centre on China in the World, The Australian National University. He has been working on Chinese labour activism for more than a decade and his current research focuses mainly on China’s presence in Cambodia. He co-edits the Made in China Journal.

Building the New Macau: A Portrait of Chinese Construction Workers in Sihanoukville

Due to a massive and sudden influx of capital from China, much of which was invested in shadowy gambling operations, in just a few years Sihanoukville went from a dreamy, low-budget tourist destination on the Cambodian coast to Southeast Asia’s ‘new Macau’. When, in the summer of 2019, the Cambodian authorities banned online gambling, the local economy came tumbling down. As construction sites all over the city halted operation, workers, both Chinese and Cambodian, were hit particularly hard by the crisis. This essay looks into their plight.

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Workers and Change in China: A Conversation with Manfred Elfstrom

In his new book, Workers and Change in China: Resistance, Repression, Responsiveness (Cambridge University Press, 2021), Manfred Elfstrom delves into the paradox that sees the Chinese Party-State addressing workers’ grievances while coming down increasingly hard on civil society groups and individual activists promoting labour rights. Examining both the causes and the consequences of protest through […]

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Red Silk: A Conversation with Robert Cliver

In Red Silk: Class, Gender, and Revolution in China’s Yangzi Delta Silk Industry (Harvard University Press 2020), Robert Cliver reconstructs the history of Chinese silk production in the Yangzi River Delta during the wars, crises, and revolutions of the twentieth century. Based on extensive research in Chinese archives and focussed on the 1950s, the book […]

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Hunting Sorcerers in Cambodia

Over the past decade, Cambodia has seen dozens of witchcraft-related cases in which people were harassed or even killed because their neighbours suspected them of engaging in black magic. Through interviews with survivors and family members of the victims, this essay traces some of these cases and argues that such occurrences are linked not only to poverty and exclusion, but also to a more fundamental collision between two worlds.

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Hong Kong in Revolt: A Conversation with Au Loong-Yu

For the past year and a half, Hong Kong has been in turmoil, with a new generation of young and politically active citizens mobilising to protest Beijing’s tightening grip over the city. In Hong Kong in Revolt: The Protest Movement and the Future of China (Pluto Books 2020), prominent Hong Kong leftist intellectual Au Loong-Yu […]

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Experiences of the Soul: On William Somerset Maugham’s Far Eastern Writings

William Somerset Maugham is probably one of the most commercially successful but least critically appreciated writers of the twentieth century. If today he is remembered mostly for his 1915 masterpiece Of Human Bondage and a few other outstanding novels, back in his time readers looked upon him as the cantor of the decadence of the […]

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The Great Hanoi Rat Hunt: A Conversation with Michael G. Vann

In The Great Hanoi Rat Hunt: Empire, Disease, and Modernity in French Colonial Vietnam (Oxford University Press 2018), historian Michael G. Vann tells the darkly humorous story of how the French colonial state unsuccessfully attempted to impose its vision of modernity upon the colonial city of Hanoi, Vietnam, focussing on a long-forgotten episode that took […]

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Syllabus: Chinese Labour

This syllabus explores the world of Chinese labour in five modules. The first module attempts a genealogy of labour in China through an excavation of key political concepts that were at the core of the discourse of the Chinese Communist Party in the Maoist years and that still have significant reverberations in the post-reform era. […]

What about Whataboutism?

Viral Loads and Hyperactive Immune Responses in the China Debate

‘If people actually cared about slavery they would be holding demonstrations out the front of their local Chinese Embassy demanding that the Falun Gong and Uyghurs be set free.’ Tweet by an Australian journalist, 15 June 2020   ‘Forget about #StandWithHK. It’s time to stand with #Minneapolis.’ Tweet by a Chinese journalist, 29 May 2020 […]

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Scholars and Spies: Experiences from the Soviet Union, Communist Romania, and China

In response to the renewed emphasis of the central government on national security, in November 2015 the authorities of Jilin province, in northeast China, introduced a hotline to report possible spies. The dilemma was how to recognise a spy. Local officials instructed concerned citizens to look out for eight revealing signs (Yang 2015). First, spies […]

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