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Confessions Made in China

Globally, mass media face a difficult dilemma: how to report on the Chinese spectacles of prisoners forced to perform fake, scripted confessions? The Chinese authorities produce these confessions in order to create a new ‘truth’, one that is to be disseminated through Chinese state media and, if possible, through foreign mass media, and social media […]

Eviction and the Right to the City

Beijing’s eviction of migrants from their dwellings in November 2017 following a deadly fire left tens of thousands homeless within days. It was rightly seen not as a legitimate response to a fire hazard but a convenient opportunity to push forward new political goals with regard to the city’s migrant population. The evictions were undoubtedly […]

Beijing’s eviction of migrants from their dwellings in November 2017 following a deadly fire left tens of thousands homeless within days. It was rightly seen not as a legitimate response to a fire hazard but a convenient opportunity to push forward new political goals with regard to the city’s migrant population. The evictions were undoubtedly not just an unintended consequence of a disaster. They were preceded by the forced closing of shops, restaurants and housings in similar areas, and by the announcement of a plan to relocate Beijing’s city government and public institutions to a nearby province. This is part of a wider strategy to supposedly slow down the urban growth of the capital—moves that have produced heightened anxiety and uncertainty among the Chinese floating population. This poses the question: do migrants in today’s China have a right to the city?

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The Abolition of the Two-term Limit: A Sea Change?

On 25 February, almost at the same moment his visage appeared on screen at the Closing Ceremony of the Winter Olympic Games in Korea, Xi Jinping made a play to keep himself at the centre of Chinese politics for many years to come. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) announced that it would advise the repeal of term limits for the President and Vice President from Article 79 of China’s 1982 Constitution. On 11 March, the National People’s Congress duly voted to codify the changes…

Civic Transformation in the Wake of the Wenchuan Earthquake: State, Society, and the Individual

On 12 May 2008, a 7.9 magnitude earthquake hit the Wenchuan region, Sichuan province, causing widespread damage in 10 provinces, autonomous regions, and municipalities in China. According to official data, about 45 million people were affected by the seism, including no less than 69,229 casualties and 17,923 missing persons. The earthquake also resulted in tremendous […]

Ching Kwan Lee: The Specter of Global China

Over the past decade, China’s increasing presence on the African continent has been a source of global debate, excitement, and anxiety. In her new book The Specter of Global China: Politics, Labor, and Foreign Investment in Africa (Chicago University Press, 2017), Ching Kwan Lee draws on six years of in-depth fieldwork to ask a new set of questions.

Resurrecting the Dead

Lu Xun today lives a new life in his homeland as well as abroad. However, given the vastness and unevenness of his oeuvre, not all his works receive the same attention. In particular, one collection of short stories stands out for their neglect: Old Tales Retold, a series of comic sketches based on ancient Chinese myths and legends published shortly before his death. This essay focusses on this semi-forgotten pearl and its relevance for today’s readers.

Datong, Forever in Limbo

The 2015 documentary The Chinese Mayor by Zhou Hao documents the story of Datong, Shanxi province, as its leaders embark on an ambitious plan to transform the city into a tourist destination. Still, although the filmmakers devote sustained attention to the relocated residents and their demolished homes, the film is no exposé: it is mostly intended to educate an international audience on the internal workings of the Chinese policy-making process.

Industrial Landscapes of Socialist Realism

Although industrial landscapes today appear as one of the most alien of art forms, they were once fundamental as backgrounds of socialist realist paintings. This essay examines the legacies of two masters of the genre in China and North Korea—Song Wenzhi (1919–1999) and Chōng Yōngman (1938–1999)—and demonstrates how different revolutionary histories have led to a divergence in legacy and achievement.

In the Absence of a Peasantry, What, Then, Is a Hong Kong Farmer?

Given the social and political significance of ‘the peasant’ (nongmin) in modern Chinese history, it is surprising that the term nongmin is largely absent in Hong Kong, where discourses about individual farmers (nongfu) are far more prevalent. In tracing the modern etymology of Chinese peasants and the history of Hong Kong agriculture, this essay argues that the lack of ‘class’ consciousness makes Hong Kong farmers even more vulnerable to the unceasing wave of urban sprawl.

Boom or Bust in China’s Jade Trade with Myanmar

Since 2014, declining economic growth and Xi Jinping’s anti-corruption campaign have led to decreasing demand in certain markets for jadeite—the highest valued type of jade in China. But while institutional factors may explain these short-term fluctuations, historical continuity and cultural imaginations underpinning Chinese demand suggest that the jadeite market boom in China is not quite over yet.

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