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 […]

Lest We Forget: The Disappeared Women of 2023

为什么我们会被定罪…如果仅仅是因为我们出于同情到了纪念现场,那么这个社会还有多少可以容纳我们情绪的空间。 If attending a mourning event out of sympathy is a crime, how much room is left in this society for sharing our feelings? —Cao Zhixin, referring to the demonstrations in the wake of a fire in Ürümqi that killed at least 10 people in November 2022   Following almost three years of increasingly stringent […]

Setting Knowledge Free: Towards an Ethical Open Access

There is widespread agreement that academia has a publishing problem. After decades of large commercial publishers like Springer Nature and Elsevier extracting higher profits than the major tech companies while simultaneously keeping publicly financed research behind expensive paywalls (Buranyi 2017), in recent years universities and funders have attempted to renegotiate publishing agreements to ensure that […]

Dear Jude: A Tribute to Jude Howell (1956–2022)

For people who study Chinese civil society, the work of Professor Jude Howell is a familiar staple. For many, it’s an inspiration. For those who had the great luck of knowing Jude, her kindness, good humour, and generosity were every bit as uplifting as her work. Through a fortuitous phone call from Professor Wang Ming, […]

Lest We Forget: The Missing Chinese Activists of 2021

Back in December 2019, we published a series of portraits of labour and feminist activists who disappeared into China’s legal system in what was a particularly brutal year for activism in China. At that time, a wave of arrests had just engulfed dozens of activists across several sectors and cities, and several of them were […]

Xi Jinping’s Third Road: A Response

I rarely disagree with my friend and colleague, the always insightful Ling Li, but I cannot go along with her most recent analysis of Party leadership and the succession issue (Li 2021). She suggests that Xi Jinping may reactivate the office of Chairman of the Party Central Committee at the twentieth Party Congress in 2022. […]

Inciting Subversion by Association: 120 Days in Detention

On 16 February 2020, just a few hours after her partner Xu Zhiyong, a leading Chinese human rights lawyer, was detained, women’s rights and labour activist Li Qiaochu went missing. China’s state security bodies would hold her incommunicado for four months under the system known as ‘residential surveillance at a designated location’ on suspicion of […]

Bilingual Education in Inner Mongolia: An Explainer

China today is in the midst of closing out a three-quarters of a century experiment. That experiment was in minority-language education for certain select ethnic groups: Mongols, Uyghurs, Tibetans, Kazakhs, and Koreans. A heritage of both China’s decentralised past and the Soviet model, minority-language education is now being replaced by a new model of ‘bilingual […]

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