At the grassroots level, [ideological liberation used to mean] freedom, tolerance, diversity, and the breaking open of forbidden zones—new subjects were up for discussion, new authorities were open for questioning, new essays could be published."

— From a now-deleted WeChat essay by blogger Feng Hongping, ruminating on how the CCP has cheapened the term “ideological liberation,” having reduced it to mean submission to the Party line. Feng was responding to a recently announced campaign by Hunan’s Provincial Party Committee that frames “ideological liberation” as slavish adherence to Xi Jinping Thought.

 

CDT Highlights

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Censored Essay: Peter Hessler Sells His Car

Acclaimed writer Peter Hessler is selling his car in Chengdu, after leaving China in 2021 when his teaching contract was abruptly terminated. Online, the sale of his Honda CRV has spurred a series of reflections on Hessler’s impact on China and on the closing of a chapter in U.S.-China relations. Hessler wrote three famous books on China: “River Town,” on his Peace Corps service in rural Chongqing; “Oracle Bones,” a portrait of China past and present with the recurring eponymous motif of China’s oldest recorded writing system; and “Country Driving,” a travelogue detailing his journeys across...

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Cost of Raising Children in China is World’s Second Highest

China’s population decline looks set to continue despite the possibility of a traditional Dragon-Year “baby bump” and signs of a post-pandemic uptick in marriage rates after nine successive years of decline. A recent report from the Beijing-based YuWa Population Research Institute shed light on one key driver of the low birthrates: the disproportionately high financial burden of raising a child in China, against a backdrop of widespread economic pessimism and broader disillusionment captured in the pandemic-era catchphrase, “We’re the last generation.” At The Guardian, Amy Hawkins reported...

More Than 100 Arrested Following Dam Protest in Tibetan Region of Sichuan Province

Chinese authorities have reportedly arrested more than 100 Tibetan Buddhist monks and other residents of largely Tibetan Dege County in Sichuan Province, following protests against a vast dam project that would destroy six Buddhist monasteries and force villages within two townships to relocate.  Parts of the protest, which began in mid-February, were captured on video that showed black-clad Chinese forces restraining and pushing Tibetan monks who were vocally but peacefully protesting the dam project. RFA Tibetan’s Kalden Lodoe and Tenzin Pema described local residents’ concerns about the...

Quote of the Day: “Fifteen Months Later, Despite 50 Alterations and Deletions, Censors Have Yet to Approve This Film.”

Today’s quote of the day comes from a CDT Chinese faux “Dragon Seal” visual about acclaimed sixth-generation filmmaker Wang Xiaoshuai’s battle to get his latest film “Above the Dust” 《沃土》(Wòtǔ, “fertile soil”) past the censors at China’s National Film Bureau. The film will make its world premiere at the Berlin Film Festival on Saturday, minus the censors’ seal of approval: Variety’s Patrick Frater explored the film’s historical subject matter and the director’s commitment to having his film screened in Berlin: With a young teen boy as the protagonist, the film depicts a...

Chinese State Media, Others Highlight Contrasting U.S. Stances on Xinjiang, Gaza

Several China-focused scholars and other observers have argued that continued American diplomatic, financial, and military support to Israel for its war in Gaza, despite the International Court of Justice (ICJ)’s finding that there is a plausible case that Israel’s conduct constitutes genocide, has weakened U.S. credibility on Xinjiang. The U.S. government has argued that the Chinese government is committing genocide against Uyghurs and other ethnic groups in the region. The Chinese government and state media have also picked up on this contrast, their criticism of the U.S. role...

Messi Mess Highlights “Fragile” Psyche of Hong Kong and Mainland Chinese Nationalists

Argentinian soccer superstar Lionel Messi’s apology to Chinese fans last week for sitting out a friendly match in Hong Kong has done little to quiet nationalist outrage on the mainland. In early February, Messi’s home club Inter Miami played an exhibition against a Hong Kong side. Messi, citing injury, did not take the pitch. After the match, video circulated of Messi seemingly avoiding a handshake with John Lee, Hong Kong’s controversial Chief Executive. Three days later, Messi came on as a late substitute in a match in Japan. A viral explosion of nationalist anger over Messi’s perceived...

Translation: Special One-Month Reconnaissance Operation Against “Overseas Cyber Forces”

A pair of recently surfaced screenshots appear to offer unusual detail about a special month-long operation, held in Beijing and involving over 40 Ministry of Public Security computer specialists from around the country, to combat “overseas cyber forces” in the battle for public opinion. The apparently leaked internal instructions from the Ministry of Public Security are likely to be the result of an email breach. They include the names and locations of many of the computer-specialist officers, as well as the name and contact information of the individual in charge of the operation. At some...

New eBook: China Digital Times Lexicon, 20th Anniversary Edition

On September 12, 2003, John Battelle published the first post on chinadigitaltimes.net: Here’s what a Google Search on “china weblog” yields, I’m looking forward to seeing ours at the top soon! China’s online population at the start of that year was nearly 60 million. Ten years later, it was fast approaching 600 million, and now, after 20, it is well over a billion. This new completely revised and hugely expanded update to our ebook series, formerly known as “the Grass Mud Horse Lexicon,” aims to capture something of the enormous explosion of online speech that accompanied this growth, with...

African Union Bans Donkey-Hide Trade in Response to Unsustainable Chinese Demand 

At a recent summit in Ethiopia, the African Union (AU) decided to approve a 15-year continent-wide ban on the slaughter of donkeys for their hides. Donkey hides are a key component of the Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) ingredient known as ejiao (“donkey-hide gelatin”), whose demand in China has boomed over the past decade and decimated donkey populations in Africa. The Donkey Sanctuary, one of the world’s largest equine charity organizations, celebrated the announcement and described its significance:  This historic decision taken by the African Union recognises, at the highest level of...

African Union Bans Donkey-Hide Trade in Response to Unsustainable Chinese Demand 

At a recent summit in Ethiopia, the African Union (AU) decided to approve a 15-year continent-wide ban on the slaughter of donkeys for their hides. Donkey hides are a key component of the Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) ingredient known as ejiao (“donkey-hide gelatin”), whose demand in China has boomed over the past decade and decimated donkey populations in Africa. The Donkey Sanctuary, one of the world’s largest equine charity organizations, celebrated the announcement and described its significance:  This historic decision taken by the African Union recognises, at the highest level of...

Words of the Week: “Handing Someone a Knife,” and the Flattening of Sixth Tone

Last month, an otherwise innocuous report at Sixth Tone on cloning of Tibetan cattle referred to the region only by its Chinese name, Xizang, falling in line with a recent push by Chinese authorities. For some, this symbolized a final squeeze in the long constriction of a unique state-media organ that, in the words of its former head of news Qian Jinghua, had once managed “to write about China as a place where real people live and care about their future, as opposed to an abstraction, or a rival nation, or a site to do business, or a series of social and economic problems.” Qian was speaking...

More Than 100 Arrested Following Dam Protest in Tibetan Region of Sichuan Province

Chinese authorities have reportedly arrested more than 100 Tibetan Buddhist monks and other residents of largely Tibetan Dege County in Sichuan Province, following protests against a vast dam project that would destroy six Buddhist monasteries and force villages within two townships to relocate.  Parts of the protest, which began in mid-February, were captured on video that showed black-clad Chinese forces restraining and pushing Tibetan monks who were vocally but peacefully protesting the dam project. RFA Tibetan’s Kalden Lodoe and Tenzin Pema described local residents’ concerns about the...

Translation: My Hometown Survived the Pandemic

Even before the lifting of China’s long-standing “zero-COVID” policy in early December of last year, there were signs of a surge in Omicron cases nationwide. Since then, China has experienced a tsunami of infections—first in larger cities, and then in the countryside—amid concerns about shortages of needed medications, the increasing risk of medical debt, and unreliable official data on the numbers of infections and deaths. Despite the recent Lunar New Year celebration in which hundreds of millions of residents went traveling and returned to their hometowns, there are signs that the wave of...

Human Rights

Latest

More Than 100 Arrested Following Dam Protest in Tibetan Region of Sichuan Province

Chinese authorities have reportedly arrested more than 100 Tibetan Buddhist monks and other residents of largely Tibetan Dege County in Sichuan Province, following protests against a vast dam project that would destroy six Buddhist monasteries and force villages within two townships to relocate.  Parts of the protest, which began in mid-February, were captured on video that showed black-clad Chinese forces restraining and pushing Tibetan monks who were vocally but peacefully protesting the dam project. RFA Tibetan’s Kalden Lodoe and Tenzin Pema described local residents’ concerns about the...

Politics

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1960 People’s Daily “Air of Rapid Development” Lunar New Year’s Message Deleted

In the midst of a troubled economy and stock market rout, a People’s Daily Online article trumpeting a supposed nationwide “air of optimism” drew so many derisive comments last week that its related hashtag was censored on Weibo. Soon afterward, a 1960 People’s Daily Lunar New Year’s message was deleted from WeChat, possibly due to similar wording in the headlines, after it was shared by a WeChat user. It was the second deletion of historical People’s Daily content in a short span of time: a 2016 article predicting that China would enter the club of “high-income” nations by 2024 was deleted...

Society

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Four Years On, Tributes to Covid Whistleblower Dr. Li Wenliang

Four years after the death from COVID of Dr. Li Wenliang, the young Wuhan ophthalmologist who alerted colleagues to the emerging novel coronavirus, tributes to the widely admired doctor continue to pour in, despite some online censorship of such memorials.  As on the three previous anniversaries marking his passing, many Chinese netizens left messages in the comments section under Dr. Li’s final Weibo post, a venue that has become known as China’s “Wailing Wall.” (CDT has published extensive translations of these comments from the Chinese public, including this deep-dive from 2021. Our...

China & the World

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Ultranationalist Bloggers Take Aim at Red Circles, Backlash Ensues

When the management of a shopping mall in Nanjing decided to post some festive New Year’s decorations, little did they expect that the red and white floral and circular designs would make them the target of an ultranationalist vlogger. The vlogger had posted a video of himself pointing to the decorations and claiming that the red flowers resembled a Japanese “rising sun” motif and that the red circles suggested the Japanese national flag. He also scolded a mall manager, saying, “This is Nanjing, not Tokyo! Why are you putting up junk like this?” Afterward, local authorities intervened, the...

Law

Latest

More Than 100 Arrested Following Dam Protest in Tibetan Region of Sichuan Province

Chinese authorities have reportedly arrested more than 100 Tibetan Buddhist monks and other residents of largely Tibetan Dege County in Sichuan Province, following protests against a vast dam project that would destroy six Buddhist monasteries and force villages within two townships to relocate.  Parts of the protest, which began in mid-February, were captured on video that showed black-clad Chinese forces restraining and pushing Tibetan monks who were vocally but peacefully protesting the dam project. RFA Tibetan’s Kalden Lodoe and Tenzin Pema described local residents’ concerns about the...

Information Revolution

Latest

WeChat “Bug” Turns Out To Be Obscure Insult for Xi Jinping

A group of students under the impression they had discovered a WeChat “bug” that hides the phrase “200 jin of dumplings” (roughly 220 pounds) had in fact stumbled upon an obscure insult for Xi Jinping that triggers automatic censorship.  In the course of daily conversation, the students found that messages preceded by the term “200 jin of dumplings” (200斤饺子) were not received by their counterparts. Juvenile hilarity ensued. They sent each other curses and confessions: “200 jin of dumplings, you’re a stupid c***,” “200 jin of dumplings, you’re an idiot,” “200 jin of dumplings, piggy,” and...

Culture & the Arts

Latest

Censored Essay: Peter Hessler Sells His Car

Acclaimed writer Peter Hessler is selling his car in Chengdu, after leaving China in 2021 when his teaching contract was abruptly terminated. Online, the sale of his Honda CRV has spurred a series of reflections on Hessler’s impact on China and on the closing of a chapter in U.S.-China relations. Hessler wrote three famous books on China: “River Town,” on his Peace Corps service in rural Chongqing; “Oracle Bones,” a portrait of China past and present with the recurring eponymous motif of China’s oldest recorded writing system; and “Country Driving,” a travelogue detailing his journeys across...

The Great Divide

Latest

Translation: My Hometown Survived the Pandemic

Even before the lifting of China’s long-standing “zero-COVID” policy in early December of last year, there were signs of a surge in Omicron cases nationwide. Since then, China has experienced a tsunami of infections—first in larger cities, and then in the countryside—amid concerns about shortages of needed medications, the increasing risk of medical debt, and unreliable official data on the numbers of infections and deaths. Despite the recent Lunar New Year celebration in which hundreds of millions of residents went traveling and returned to their hometowns, there are signs that the wave of...

Sci-Tech

Latest

Words of the Week: “Handing Someone a Knife,” and the Flattening of Sixth Tone

Last month, an otherwise innocuous report at Sixth Tone on cloning of Tibetan cattle referred to the region only by its Chinese name, Xizang, falling in line with a recent push by Chinese authorities. For some, this symbolized a final squeeze in the long constriction of a unique state-media organ that, in the words of its former head of news Qian Jinghua, had once managed “to write about China as a place where real people live and care about their future, as opposed to an abstraction, or a rival nation, or a site to do business, or a series of social and economic problems.” Qian was speaking...

Environment

Latest

African Union Bans Donkey-Hide Trade in Response to Unsustainable Chinese Demand 

At a recent summit in Ethiopia, the African Union (AU) decided to approve a 15-year continent-wide ban on the slaughter of donkeys for their hides. Donkey hides are a key component of the Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) ingredient known as ejiao (“donkey-hide gelatin”), whose demand in China has boomed over the past decade and decimated donkey populations in Africa. The Donkey Sanctuary, one of the world’s largest equine charity organizations, celebrated the announcement and described its significance:  This historic decision taken by the African Union recognises, at the highest level of...

Hong Kong

Latest

Messi Mess Highlights “Fragile” Psyche of Hong Kong and Mainland Chinese Nationalists

Argentinian soccer superstar Lionel Messi’s apology to Chinese fans last week for sitting out a friendly match in Hong Kong has done little to quiet nationalist outrage on the mainland. In early February, Messi’s home club Inter Miami played an exhibition against a Hong Kong side. Messi, citing injury, did not take the pitch. After the match, video circulated of Messi seemingly avoiding a handshake with John Lee, Hong Kong’s controversial Chief Executive. Three days later, Messi came on as a late substitute in a match in Japan. A viral explosion of nationalist anger over Messi’s perceived...

Taiwan

Latest

Taiwanese Election Weathers Chinese Influence Efforts

Taiwan’s ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) lost its legislative majority in the country’s general election on Saturday, but its presidential candidate Lai Ching-te was elected with 40 per