Lucy Hornby is a China correspondent for the Financial Times. She has previously been on Sinica to speak about China’s last surviving comfort women and about women’s representation in China expertise.
Li Shuo is the Senior Climate & Energy Policy Officer for Greenpeace East Asia. He oversees Greenpeace’s work on air pollution, water, and renewable energy, and also coordinates the organization’s engagement with the United Nations climate negotiation.
Lucy returns to the podcast to discuss her reporting on Chinese environmental challenges — particularly overfishing and soil pollution — issues that Li Shuo, on the pod for the first time, has also researched.
Jeremy: “The Anaconda and the Elephant,” an essay by Xu Zhiyuan 许知远 about self-censorship and how to be a Chinese writer in these strange times under Xi Jinping.
Lucy: The latest book of her FT colleague Richard McGregor: Asia's Reckoning: China, Japan, and the Fate of U.S. Power in the Pacific Century. McGregor previously wrote The Party, a popular book among those wanting an in-depth look at Chinese politics.
Li Shuo: A Chinese book called huanjing waijiaoguan shouji (环境外交官手记; “Notes of an Environmental Diplomat”), an autobiography of one of China’s early environmental diplomats, Xia Kunbao 夏堃堡. He was born in the 1940s, learned English, lived through the Cultural Revolution, and ended up at the highest levels of environmental governance in China. The book is written in fairly simple, short sentences.
Kaiser: Washington Post reporter David Weigel’s new book, The Show That Never Ends: The Rise and Fall of Prog Rock.
Has the last half year of turbulent U.S.-China relations and Chinese politics passed you by? Confused you? Perhaps you’d like a clear recap in plain English?
If yes, then this is the podcast episode for you.
Susan Shirk is a professor at the School of Global Policy and Strategy at the University of California, San Diego, where she’s also the chair of the 21st Century China Center. Susan served as deputy assistant secretary of state for East Asia during the Clinton administration, and is the author of several influential books on China, including most notably China: Fragile Superpower.
Stan Rosen is a professor of political science at the University of Southern California and a close observer of the interplay between culture and politics in China. He writes on subjects as varied as the Cultural Revolution, the Chinese legal system, public opinion, youth, gender, human rights, Sino-American relations, and film and the media.
Kaiser spoke to them in front of a live studio audience, a notably not wonky group of teachers and China-curious folk at the 1990 Institute’s Teachers Workshop in San Mateo, California.
Topics covered include how China has dealt with Trump, trade negotiations between the U.S. and China, Chinese soft power and Belt and Road, leadership transition in China, and the country’s push into Hollywood.
Susan: The website of the UC San Diego 21st Century China Center, and also The Noise of Time: A Novel, written by Julian Barnes about the perspective of famed Russian composer Dmitri Shostakovich and what he endured under Stalin. The oppression of artists and writers in that time and place is newly relevant to China, after the death of Liu Xiaobo.
Stan: If you want to know more about Shostakovich, read his memoir, Testimony, or watch the film of the same name. Also check out three Chinese films, the first of which is the famous To Live by Zhang Yimou. Watch the film, but also read the book by Yu Hua, a much tougher version, which was toned down in its adaption to the screen. Second, The Mermaid, by Stephen Chow, by far the top-grossing film in China — until Wolf Warriors 2 overtook it this month. Finally, Lost in Thailand, which Stan describes as “like The Hangover, but without all the raunchiness.” Of course, that is a big part of the reason why Chinese films aren’t quite making it overseas.
Kaiser: Czech composer Antonín Dvořák and his Seventh and Eighth Symphonies — get the whole collection of his symphonies and concertos. (You may already be familiar with the Ninth, the famous New World Symphony.) And the Chinafornia newsletter, a great free weekly roundup of U.S. state-level engagement with China.
Dirty words, politically incorrect phrases, the legal distinction between suspect and criminal, customs boundary versus national boundary, and better ways to refer to disabled people and minorities: All are discussed in the recent Xinhua style guide update, translated and explained on SupChina here.
Jeremy and Kaiser discussed the style guide and took audience questions at a live podcast at the Definitive China Happy Hour in Washington, D.C., on August 10, 2017. The Happy Hour brings together China professionals and enthusiasts from over 30 D.C.-area China organizations, including Chinese nationals, students, young professionals, and employers.
Jeremy and Kaiser wish to thank:
Gillian Wong has been reporting from China since 2008 and is now the news director for Greater China at the Associated Press. High-profile stories Gillian has covered include the 2012 Tibetan self-immolations and the downfall of Bo Xilai 薄熙来.
Her husband, Josh Chin, works as a foreign correspondent for the Wall Street Journal, where he has covered China since 2007. Prior to the Journal, Josh was a research fellow at the Asia Society’s Center on U.S.-China Relations, where he helped produce the China Boom Project.
Between the two of them, Gillian and Josh have covered a host of China-related topics, ranging from cybersecurity to Xinjiang. They talk to Kaiser and Jeremy about their paths to becoming journalists, their experience of the changing working conditions for journalists in China, and their efforts to create diverse and representative narratives — complicated, and sometimes aided, by the fact that they are both at least part ethnically Chinese.
Jeremy: Memphis, Tennessee, an American cultural destination and the musical hometown of B.B. King and Elvis Presley.
Kaiser: Matt Sheehan’s piece on California’s transformation into an epicenter for U.S.-China relations, “Welcome to Chinafornia: The Future of U.S.-China Relations.” As a second recommendation, The Polish Officer, by Alan Furst, which does an incredible job of re-creating an old-world style of language and immersing the reader in its respective time and space.
Gillian: The audiobook reading by Tom Perkins of John Pomfret’s The Beautiful Country and the Middle Kingdom.
(Listen to John Pomfret discuss his book on Sinica.)
Josh: The Paulson Institute’s MacroPolo initiative, which uses the latest research to decode China’s economy, urbanization, and development. A lot of great data all in one accessible, punny place.
Also check out Gillian and Josh’s coauthored front-page piece, “China’s new tool for social control: A credit rating for everything.”
Pulitzer Prize–winning author and journalist Ian Johnson returns to the Sinica Podcast to introduce his new book, The Souls of China: The Return of Religion After Mao. It tells the stories of different religious groups and the relationship of their beliefs and practices with consumer society and a government that is officially atheist.
Jeremy, Kaiser, and Ian discuss the variety of rituals and religions practiced within Chinese society, the tension between Chinese religious communities and notions of liberalism and democracy, and the changing attitudes toward religion under Xi Jinping’s leadership.
Ian has written about China and religion for decades and has been published in the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, the New York Review of Books, and other publications. His last appearance on the Sinica Podcast was in the episode “Ian Johnson on the Vatican and China.”
Jeremy: Tabitha Speelman’s biweekly newsletter, Changpian, features a selection of Chinese creative nonfiction. These pieces reflect the recent popularity of long-form journalism in China. Also check out her article on SupChina, “Telling true stories is a booming business in China.”
Kaiser: Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow, by Yuval Noah Harari, explores how technology poses new challenges to humankind, specifically how technological advancement could undermine the fundamental assumptions of liberal humanism.
Ian: Bad Religion: How We Became a Nation of Heretics, by Ross Douthat, explores how the mainline religious communities in the United States have fallen and how alternative religious groups, prosperity preachers, and politics acting as religion have filled the void. Additionally, check out Ian’s short video of a jinganggong (金刚功) demonstration. Jinganggong is a physical cultivation technique — similar to tai chi — and is growing in popularity in China.