CDT Editors’ Picks: The Best of 2018

CDT Editors’ Picks: The Best of 2018

Editors at CDT have provided their personal recommendations of readings about China – from CDT and elsewhere on the web – from 2018. Happy New Year!

Dong Ge, Executive Editor (CDT Chinese):


Josh Rudolph, Editor (CDT English):

  • How I Made it to Renmin University’s Blacklist, by Xiang Junwei, translated by CDT: The ongoing detentions and on-campus assaults of student activists who found inspiration for their advocacy in CCP rhetoric marks a point of ideological confusion in China, as the Party now seems willing to turn its back on its own intellectual foundations in effort to “maintain stability.” See also related CDT translations of netizens paying respect to high-profile activists currently in detention, and of accounts of the on-campus assaults.
  • Inside China’s surveillance state, by Louise Lucas and Emily Feng at Financial Times: A fairly balanced and comprehensive primer on a trend of increasing importance. Covers domestic development, public acceptance/compliance/cooperation, international cooperation and market appeal (including bestowing accolades on Chinese firms for practical applications of tech that appears to be built for more nefarious aims), and ties together the multiple pilots and how they all seek to operate as a “digital panopticon” when realized.


Samuel Wade, Deputy Editor (CDT English):

  • Journalist Liang Xiangyi’s eye-roll was adopted as the iconic, if indirect, reaction to the abolition of presidential term limits early this year, but equally striking to me was Zhao Xiaoli’s written response, which CDT translated at the end of February. We typically celebrate the linguistic tricks used to evade China’s censors, but Zhao had had enough. “Hiding in metaphor, hiding in a system of ambiguous language, hiding in silence and furtive glances on the street, this has brought us neither strength, nor space,” she wrote. “I will no longer be silent. I will not satirize or use sarcasm. I will not complain. I will not use metaphor. I will clearly express my point of view.”
  • Credible voices pointing out misconceptions about social credit have been gaining traction, but myths are still rife, and the wrongness of the popular vision is onion-like: many now know that there is no single unified score, for example, but still overestimate the role of high technology. I’ve found two pieces particularly helpful in gradually peeling back these layers: Rogier Creemers’ SMC050 video talk, and Elizabeth Lynch’s interview with Jeremy Daum at China Law & Policy. Creemers, Daum, and others emphasize that there is plenty to worry about in terms of technology and social control in China (and beyond). Most of it, though, lies elsewhere.


Sophie Beach, Executive Editor (CDT English):

  • My two choices both put a much-needed human face on the ongoing human rights crisis in Xinjiang. Translation: Within Pain There is Also Hope, by South Moon, a student from Inner Mongolia who writes eloquently about her experiences living with and befriending her Uyghur and Tibetan classmates. Personal accounts of understanding and friendship across ethnic lines in China are few and far between, and are very valuable in increasing understanding and respect as about one million Uyghurs are held in detention camps in an effort to eradicate their religious beliefs and practices.
  • Likewise, a lengthy article by Gene A. Bunin on Living Otherwise, How the “Happiest Muslims in the World” are Coping with Their Happiness, provides accounts of his conversations with his friends and associates in Xinjiang. He gives a very personal look at how many people in Xinjiang are dealing with having their friends and family members disappeared into detention camps and their own fear in being taken away themselves.


Lisbeth, Editor (CDT English):

  • Journalists Reflect on the “Total Censorship Era,” by Jiang Yannan, Initium Media (translated by CDT): A fascinating and worthwhile look from over 20 Chinese journalists—including veterans in economics and entertainment reporting to editors of WeChat public accounts—at how the noose continues to tighten on reporting in China. These increasing controls mean that some stories are no longer covered at all, while self-censorship becomes more common on topics that are still in-bounds.
  • Eradicating Ideological Viruses: China’s Campaign of Repression Against Xinjiang’s Muslims, by Human Rights Watch: One of the most in-depth analyses of the ongoing human rights crisis in Xinjiang. It details not only the experiences of those who emerged from Xinjiang’s “re-education” camps, but also the campaign to break down Turkic Muslims’ identities beyond the camps’ walls through mandatory political indoctrination and dystopian surveillance practices such as biometric data collection and facial recognition cameras.


Xiao Qiang, Editor-in-Chief:

These stories reflect voices that spoke up to power in 2018:


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