CDT English Top Ten Posts of 2021: Profound Transformation, Historical Deviation, Xinjiang Cotton, and Peng Shuai

Editor’s Note: As we enter 2022, CDT has compiled a special series of features for our readers, offering a look back at the people, events, controversies, memes and sensitive words that defined the past year. Some of this content is drawn from the CDT Chinese team’s year-end series, with additional content added by the CDT English team. We hope that CDT readers will enjoy this look back at the busy, complex and fascinating year that was 2021.

We started with the team’s picks for favorite CDT posts and writing on China in 2021, followed by the Chinese internet’s top ten memes of 2021, as selected by our Chinese editors. The following are the CDT English posts to which our readers gravitated most strongly during 2021.

Topping this year’s list is our translation of Li Guangman’s state media-boosted call for China to “go deeper, and scrape the poison from the bone” in “direct response to the savage and violent attacks that the U.S. has already begun to launch against China.” Also present is a breakdown of the national Cyberspace Administration’s list of “historical nihilist rumors,” with added commentary from several noted experts; an account of censors’ early responses to Peng Shuai’s allegations against former Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli; two posts on the fierce nationalist backlash to foreign criticism of abuses in Xinjiang; and the final post of activist Li Huizhi, who died by suicide on July 23.

Last year’s top two posts, our translations of scathing condemnations of Xi Jinping’s rule by property tycoon Ren Zhiqiang and former Party School professor Cai Xia, also appear in this year’s top ten. Another perennially popular pair completes the list: a 2015 post on censorship related to a viral purported interview with Xi Jinping’s first wife Ke Xiaoming; and Grace Wang’s 2008 essay “The Old Man Who Lost His Horse,” about her experiences after attempting to mediate between pro-Tibet protestors and Chinese counterprotestors at Duke University ahead of that summer’s Beijing Olympics. The essay continues to echo in global responses to the Hong Kong protests of 2019, the increasingly nationalistic climate on Chinese social media, and the approach of this year’s Beijing Winter Olympics.

Most Read Posts on CDT English in 2021:

  1. Translation: Everyone Can Sense That a Profound Transformation is Underway! August 31, 2021
  2. Sensitive Words: “Interview” with Xi’s First Wife, August 31, 2015
  3. The Historical Nihil-list: Cyberspace Administration Targets Top Ten Deviations From Approved History, August 16, 2021
  4. Inside Peng Shuai’s Accusation Against Former Top Leader: #MeToo, Censorship, and Resistance Discourse, November 4, 2021
  5. Netizen Voices: “Don’t Just Support Xinjiang Cotton, Support Xinjiang People”, March 25, 2021
  6. Translation: “The Country Has Gone Dark.” Li Huizhi’s Last Words, July 29, 2021
  7. H&M Mobbed Online Over Xinjiang Cotton, Commanded To “STOP YUEJIPENGCI,” March 24, 2021
  8. Translation: Former Party Professor Calls CCP a “Political Zombie,” June 12, 2020
  9. Translation: Essay by Missing Property Tycoon Ren Zhiqiang, March 13, 2020
  10. Grace Wang: The Old Man Who Lost His Horse, May 11, 2008


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