Four Censored Essays On Ukraine Crisis

CDT Chinese has recently archived and republished four essays, censored in the aftermath of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, that reveal the topics that Chinese authorities perceive to be sensitive. Two of the essays deal with the war itself: how it is progressing, and who is responsible. The other pair deal with issues that are embarrassing to China: the delayed evacuation of Chinese citizens from Ukraine and the sudden homelessness of Ukrainian athletes attending the Beijing Paralympics. The sources censored include Esquire’s Chinese edition, an independent Beijing outlet focused on high-quality nonfiction, and two popular WeChat blogs. The essays are arranged chronologically, by dates of republication by CDT Chinese, and accompanied by a brief summary of their contents: 

Escaping Ukraine by Motorcycle: A Chinese Exchange Student’s Five Days On The Road (Letter from Europe),” March 1, Wang Yiwen for Esquire Studio: 

Wang, a Chinese student studying for a master’s degree in journalism and communications in Denmark, relates the story of “Little Tian,” a Chinese student studying in Kyiv who flees Ukraine on a motorcycle with a friend from Iran. A parallel narrative unfolds alongside Little Tian’s escape: Wang’s international classmates’ reactions to the invasion, including Russian students’ shame and pain. Little Tian tells Wang that he decided not to hunker in a dormitory basement with other Chinese students awaiting rescue by the Chinese embassy, and instead chose to flee after the bombing of a subway station near campus. During his escape, he learns that a friend has lost contact with his girlfriend in a central Ukranian city, after the woman told her boyfriend about military planes flying overhead. At the same time, in her graduate school classroom, Wang’s Russian classmate tells of anti-war protests in Moscow and Saint Petersburg, and says the war is the “shame and pain” of many Russians. The piece concludes with Little Tian’s safe arrival on the Polish border and a photo of an anti-war, pro-Ukraine protest held in Aarhus, Denmark. [Chinese]

The Stock Market Booms, Natural Gas Plummets: The Most Significant Change in the Russia-Ukraine Conflict,” March 10, @程墨自留地 on WeChat:

In this long piece, the popular blogger known as @程墨自留地 analyzes the war in Ukraine in light of a Russian foreign ministry spokesperson’s statement that Russia is not trying to overthrow the Ukranian government, which would entail the abandonment of Russia’s two stated war aims: “demilitarization” and “denazification.” After touching on a lengthy list of subjects (Russian equipment loses, humanitarian evacuations, U.S. aid, America’s long-arm jurisdiction, Russia’s anti-sanctions efforts, Zelensky’s speech to the British Parliament), the essay concludes that the two sides have reached an impasse: Putin cannot withdraw without major concessions after the death of so many Russian soldiers, and Ukraine cannot compromise after its initial success and the death of so many of its soldiers. The pivotal line of the essay reads: “To put it bluntly, one side must renounce all legal and military claims to sovereignty over the territories of Crimea and Eastern Ukraine to reach a true ceasefire.” [Chinese]

After the Paralympic Closing Ceremonies, The Ukrainian Delegation Has No Home to Return To,” March 14, Hong Weilin for Zhengmian Lianjie:

This essay includes a series of interviews with Ukrainian Paralympians, who won 29 medals (including 11 golds) at the Beijing Games, second only to China. The piece is a poignant reflection on the meaning of sports and existence. One athlete explains, “We could have given up and not come to Beijing. This is how it is. Bombs are exploding. Missiles are exploding. All of us understand, if Ukraine doesn’t attend the Paralympics, then Ukraine ceases to exist.” The piece also reflects on the specific hardships experienced by the disabled in wartime. “People in wheelchairs can’t dodge bombs, and blind people can’t outrun missiles,” Valerii Sushkevych, the president of Ukraine’s Paralympic Committee, is quoted as saying. The essay did not mention that Russian and Belarusian athletes were banned from competing in the Games. [Chinese]

A Fierce Controversy: Is the Russia-Ukraine Conflict NATO’s Fault?,” March 15, from the blog 明白知识:

This three-part essay on the cause of the war in Ukraine begins with John Mearsheimer’s assertion, made in a New Yorker interview, that NATO’s eastward expansion caused Putin’s aggression. The second part of the essay examines rebuttals to Mearsheimer’s argument. The author chose to center on Paul Poast, a professor of international relations at The University of Chicago, who agrees with certain facets of Mearsheimer’s argument but holds that Mearsheimer’s analysis suffers from shortcomings that include overlooking the agency of Eastern European nations. Part three begins with a call for more comprehensive and diverse modes of analysis to understand the war. Instead of asking,  “What was the fundamental reason for the outbreak of war?,” the piece argues that we should be asking, “What are the various factors that lead to the outbreak of war?” The author further argues that Putin has learned his lesson from the collapse of the Soviet Union, yet to a certain extent is still only acting in the manner of his “warlike race.” In conclusion, the author states that the Mearsheimer-Poast debate provides us with an example of how to constructively debate sensitive topics. The essay concludes with a quote from Bertrand Russell: “We have to learn to put up with the fact that some people say things that we don’t like. We can only live together in that way, and if we are to live together and not die together we must learn a kind of charity and a kind of tolerance which is absolutely vital to the continuation of human life on this planet.” [Chinese]


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