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 […]

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 […]

Zombies of Capital

On Reading Ling Ma's Severance

Capital is dead labour, that, vampire-like, only lives by sucking living labour, and lives the more, the more labour it sucks. The time during which the labourer works, is the time during which the capitalist consumes the labour-power he has purchased of him. Karl Marx, Capital Volume One (1867)   As a true man of […]

American Factory: Clash of Cultures or a Clash of Labour and Capital?

American Factory, a documentary released in 2019 by Netflix, has attracted attention in both America and China—even more so after it won the 2020 Academy Award for feature documentary. The film documents the attempts of the owner of the Fuyao Glass Company—an enterprise that supplies 70 percent of the windshields and windows for China’s automobiles—to […]

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Jiabiangou Elegy: A Conversation with Ai Xiaoming

Before retiring, Ai Xiaoming was a Professor in the Chinese Department at Sun Yat-sen University. She is also a feminist scholar, rights activist, and independent documentary filmmaker. In the 1980s and 1990s, Ai’s academic work focussed on modern and contemporary Chinese literature and comparative literature. In 1999, she moved to the United States for one […]

Autobiography, Exile, and Gender: A Conversation with Ying Liang

Ying Liang is an independent filmmaker, whose work encompasses film curation, teaching, and commentary. His well-known feature films include Taking Father Home (背鸭子的男孩 2005), When Night Falls (我还有话要说 2012), as well as the short movies Condolences (慰问 2009), A Sunny Day (九月二十八日·晴 2016). Ying’s works have won numerous international awards; When Night Falls earned him […]

An Infrastructure for Autopoiesis: On Building a Sustainable Platform for Process-driven Artistic Research and Practice

Autopoiesis (n) the property of a living system that allows it to maintain and renew itself by regulating its composition and conserving its boundaries. China’s recent economic development policies, including the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), have served as a poignant reminder of how large infrastructure projects often lose connection with the citizens they are […]

Hooligan Sparrow: A Conversation with Wang Nanfu

After her return to China in June 2013, Wang Nanfu, a postgraduate from New York University, trained her camera on Ye Haiyan, an activist for sex workers (see Tiantian Zheng’s essay in this issue). In Hainan province, she filmed Ye’s protests against the sexual assault of several primary school girls by their principal, and the […]

Once Upon a Time in China: Lu Zhixiang’s Sketches of Shanghai’s Society in the 1930s

Cartoon master Lu Zhixiang’s artistic production offers notable glimpses into timeless aspects of Shanghai’s metropolitan modernisation in the 1930s, providing particular insight into the plight of the underclasses. In this essay, Martina Caschera argues that Lu’s work is not only particularly representative of the ideal approach to artistic creation strongly upheld by leftist intellectuals in that epoch, but can also be useful as we reflect on the social dynamics of present-day China.

Plastic China: Beyond Waste Imports

In the last two years, the issue of waste exports to China has attracted considerable media and public attention. As a result, awareness of the social and environmental impact of the global trade in recyclables has increased substantially, both within and outside of China. Among contributing factors was Plastic China (suliao wangguo, 2016), a documentary directed by […]

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