Striking a Balance: How Did China Manage Its Guestworker Program?

Most people would not consider China a typical migrant destination country even though over the past decades it has seen the growth of diverse communities of foreign populations, including African traders in Guangzhou and Yiwu (Wan 2023), intellectual migrants in its universities (Li et al. 2021), and European professionals in the major cities (Camenisch and […]

Broken Windows

I was leaving New York City’s Chinatown one day after fieldwork when a friend pointed to a subway entrance off Canal Street. ‘You’re writing about Black and Chinese stuff, right? This is a perfect example,’ they said as we descended into the station. ‘These Black men hold the emergency exit open for the Chinese aunties, […]

Sinicising Islam in China: The Story of a Mosque

Laohuasi (清真老华寺) is a Sufi mosque in Linxia, a city in China’s Gansu Province. Standing on a raised platform the length and breadth of a football field, it has four floors and two large prayer halls that can accommodate more than 6,000 worshippers. A colour image of it in a book titled Chinese Islamic Architectural […]

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 […]

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