Andy Rothman has interpreted the Chinese economy for people who have serious and practical decisions to make since his early career heading up macroeconomic research at the U.S. Embassy in Beijing. He is now an investment strategist for Matthews Asia, where he continues to focus on the Chinese economy and writes the Sinology column. His analysis often diverges from what’s in the headlines, and the contrast between Andy’s interpretation and the dominant, deeply gloomy media narrative of the last year or more is especially pronounced. In this podcast, Sinica hosts Jeremy and Kaiser ask Andy to explain why he’s still bullish after all this time.
Don't miss our backgrounder for this episode, "The truth about the Chinese economy, from debt to ghost cities," and a Q&A with Andy, in which he talks about how he got started in China.
Andy: The Man Who Stayed Behind, by Sidney Rittenberg, and After the Bitter Comes the Sweet: How One Woman Weathered the Storms of China's Recent History, by Yulin Rittenberg.
Kaiser: The Honeycrisp apple cultivar.
China’s legal system is much derided and poorly understood, but its development has, in many ways, been one of the defining features of the reform and opening-up era. Rachel Stern, a professor of law and political science at the University of California, Berkeley, has researched the contradictions, successes and failures of China’s changing approach to governance and legal oversight of society. She has also written a book, Environmental Litigation in China: A Study in Political Ambivalence, which examines the intersection of Chinese authoritarianism, pollution and the nation's laws.
In this podcast, Rachel talks with Kaiser and Jeremy about her recent research, the Chinese bar exam and its politicization, the ways in which environmental litigation works (or doesn't), and the anxious uncertainty behind much of the self-censorship in media. You can find background reading for this podcast here, which includes a curated reading list on China's legal system. You can also learn more about Rachel in her supplementary Q&A with Jeremy Goldkorn in which they discuss comparisons between the U.S. and Chinese legal systems, the phrase "rule of law" and the Chinese citizens who are filing lawsuits.
Jeremy: Chinese politics from the provinces blog.
Rachel: The Chinese Mayor, a documentary film by Zhou Hao.
Kaiser: Moonglow, a novel by Michael Chabon.
On this week’s episode, our guest Ma Tianjie, editor of the bilingual environmental website China Dialogue and the blogger behind Chublic Opinion, untangles the complexities and contradictions of online discussions in China. Tianjie shares insights into three key events in China’s public-opinion landscape that inflamed hordes of online commentators: a shocking family murder-suicide; a famous actor’s cheating spouse; and a mass online action in the name of patriotism against a popular film director and Kentucky Fried Chicken.
The conversation also delves into the origin of the “little pink” patriots who combine cutesy pop culture with nationalistic cyberactivism, as well as Chinese critiques of “white liberalism” and the urban elites who espouse its values.
You can find background reading for this podcast here, which includes summaries and links to the Ma Tianjie articles discussed in the podcast, along with a supplementary Q&A by Jeremy Goldkorn in which he discusses Tianjie’s background and the roots of his interest in environmental issues.
Jeremy: Aeropress coffee maker.
Ada: Fact checking websites: Factcheck.org, for example.
Ma Tianjie: Fan Hua 繁花, a novel in Chinese by Jin Yucheng 金宇澄.
Kaiser:The Goldfinch, a novel by Donna Tartt.
The first day of 2016 marked the official end of China’s one-child policy, one of the most controversial and draconian approaches to population management in human history. The rules have not been abolished but modified, allowing all married Chinese couples to have two children. However, the change may have come too late to address the negative ways the policy has shaped the country’s demographics and the lives of its citizens for decades to come.
In this podcast, Jeremy and Kaiser talk with Mei Fong about the policy’s history, its effectiveness and the consequences of nearly four decades of mandating a family’s size. Mei also discusses her heartbreaking encounters with parents who lost their only children in the 2008 Sichuan earthquake, and their subsequent rush to have their vasectomies and sterilizations reversed. She provides insight into the people who designed the policy (rocket scientists — literally, rocket scientists!), those who enforced the rules, what lies ahead with the relaxation in the policy, the 30 million unfortunate bachelors who can’t find a mate, and the fate of grandparents who have only one descendant in a culture that used to regard a large family as the ultimate happiness.
For further reading, don’t miss Jeremy Goldkorn’s Q&A with Mei Fong, in which she discusses her early life and career, from developing an interest in journalism after a meeting with Queen Elizabeth to winning a Pulitzer to navigating the white-male dominated ranks of the foreign correspondence field. Our Sinica backgrounder, “The past and future of China’s one-child policy”, provides different perspectives on the controversial subject, some of which highlight the benefits it may have had.
Jeremy: China: When the Cats Rule, by Ian Johnson, on the 20th-century Chinese writer Lao She.
Mei: The Gene: An Intimate History by Siddhartha Mukherjee; Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End by Atul Gawande;When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi.
Kaiser: The television show BrainDead.