The Globality of Antiblackness

Since the turn of the millennium, the proliferation of Africa–China encounters—Chinese investment in and migration to Africa and African migration to the People’s Republic of China (PRC)—has spurred new global racial discourses. In the 2010s, numerous high-profile incidents of anti-African, antiblack racism in the PRC made international headlines. For instance, in the infamous 2016 Qiaobi […]

Conceiving Chinese Speed: Sociotechnical Imaginaries of High-Speed Rail in Post-1978 China

Since the 1980s, Chinese officials and technocrats have been presenting a rosy image of high-speed railway growth under the label of ‘Chinese Speed’. In this context, the Ministry of Railways conceived of the acceleration of train speeds as a techno-fix to the problems that public transportation and the national economy faced in post-socialist China. In the twentieth-first century, however, a mounting social critique of high-speed rail in China demonstrated public distrust of this technocratic order. In response to these criticisms, after the Wenzhou train collision on 23 July 2011, the MoR refashioned a technological-determinist mentality of speed into a discourse highlighting techno-risk regulation and economic rationales. This move shows how the meaning of Chinese Speed is a multiply authored cultural idea that has been transformed through technocratic–civil contestation.

A Letter from a Tehran Prison

My experiences in 2022 sound terrifying, but I know that they are only an insignificant footnote in this absurd year that we have all gone through together. I was a knowledge and culture worker living in mainland China. In the past few years, because of my professional and social activities, I have been frequently harassed […]

The ‘Three-Body Problem’, the Imperative of Survival, and the Misogyny of Reactionary Rhetoric

Liu Cixin’s the Three-Body Problem book trilogy is one of the world’s bestselling Chinese sci-fi series, being read and endorsed by figures such as George R.R. Martin and Barack Obama. In Chinese public debates, however, critics highlight the series’ social Darwinist, misogynistic, and totalitarian tendencies, raising concerns about how the trilogy has been used by […]

The Digital Yuan: Purpose, Progress, and Politics

This essay explores the purpose, progress, and strategic political motivations driving China’s development of the digital yuan. This central bank digital currency is not merely a technological advancement or modernisation of a fiat currency, it also serves as a key instrument in the agenda of the People’s Bank of China to consolidate monetary authority. The essay analyses the development of the digital yuan in the context of China’s broader economic and political strategies, including enhancing financial inclusion, centralising the nation’s payment ecosystem—currently dominated by private fintech players—and potentially challenging the US dollar’s global dominance. It also assesses its possible impacts on international trade, while addressing the challenges it faces in gaining global acceptance.

On the Edge: A Conversation with Margaret Hillenbrand

In On the Edge: Feeling Precarious in China (Columbia University Press, 2023), Margaret Hillenbrand probes precarity in contemporary China through the lens of the dark and angry cultural forms that chronic uncertainty has generated. She argues that a vast underclass of Chinese workers exist in a state of ‘zombie citizenship’—a condition of dehumanising exile from […]

More Third Sector, Less Civil Society

Civil Society Repression, Sometime Third-Sector Robustness, and the Moulding of the Nonprofit Sector in China

In the two articles that follow, we have quite different perspectives on civil society and the third sector in China. Professor Salmenkari provides one perspective: A boom in the nongovernmental organisations (NGOs) sector was evident in post-Covid China during my fieldwork in April–June 2023. After the Covid-19 lockdowns were lifted and the leadership change was […]

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Surveillance State: A Conversation with Josh Chin

In their new book, Surveillance State: Inside China’s Quest to Launch a New Era of Social Control (St Martin’s Publishing Group, 2022), investigative reporters Josh Chin and Liza Lin examine the emergence of automation-assisted digital surveillance in China and in spaces of Chinese development around the world. Drawing from reporting done in Xinjiang, eastern China, […]

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Towards a Command Civil Society?

China’s Xi-Era Rules on Social Organising

What are the future possibilities for Chinese civil society? Practitioners and academics speak of optimism or pessimism—whether ‘spring’ will soon come or whether civil society organisations (CSOs) will remain in the depths of ‘winter’ (Zhu and Lu 2022). The tougher it seems for CSOs to survive, the more common such language becomes. In recent years, […]

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