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Sinica Podcast

A weekly discussion of current affairs in China with journalists, writers, academics, policy makers, business people and anyone with something compelling to say about the country that's reshaping the world. A SupChina production, hosted by Kaiser Kuo and Jeremy Goldkorn.
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Now displaying: November, 2017
Nov 30, 2017

Leta Hong Fincher is the author of the book Leftover Women: The Resurgence of Gender Inequality in China and the upcoming book Betraying Big Brother: The Rise of China's Feminist Resistance, and a regular commentator on the state of feminism and gender discrimination in China today. She joins Jeremy and Kaiser to discuss sexism and sexual harassment in China and why, she says, the government is complicit.

Explosive cases of sexual harassment and abuse have grabbed headlines for months in the U.S., as countless men in media, entertainment, and politics have been accused of gross sexual misbehavior. Most of the accused who are not politicians have faced serious consequences, as a majority of America rallies around the #MeToo campaign, raising awareness of the severity of the problem.

In China, Leta says, the situation is entirely different. Sexist behavior is rampant in Chinese workplaces, but the government is intolerant of social media campaigns like #MeToo. Feminism is treated as a sensitive subject by censors and by the state-controlled press, which is unwilling to publish allegations that could be socially destabilizing. And though some women have broken through in business despite extraordinary sexism, representation by women at the top of China’s government is not even token.  

Recommendations:

Jeremy: A Japanese Mirror: Heroes and Villains of Japanese Culture, by Ian Buruma.

Leta: The blog Women and Gender in China, and the twitter account @halfthesky49, run by University of Nottingham scholar Séagh Kehoe.

Kaiser: The China Channel from the L.A. Review of Books.

Nov 22, 2017

Everyone knows, or at least recognizes, the image of the Flying Tigers (飞虎队 fēihǔduì). The shark-faced noses of these American airmen’s planes streaked across the skies of China, as they racked up an impressive string of successes in defending China from Japanese forces from 1941 to 1942.

They are so recognizable, in fact, that their story has obscured the equally fascinating stories of other American pilots who landed in China — or, in the case of the two stories on this podcast, crash-landed.

Melinda Liu, the Beijing bureau chief for Newsweek, joins Kaiser Kuo and David Moser to tell the story of the Doolittle Raiders, whose unprecedented — and successful — mission to bomb Tokyo from an aircraft carrier ended with scattered landings throughout Japan-occupied eastern China. Melinda’s father, it just so happens, met some of these pilots and was able to translate for them as they continued to sneak through occupied territory.

Jonathan Kaiman, the Beijing bureau chief for the Los Angeles Times, relates an incredible tale of how a blond, blue-eyed American pilot flying the “Hump” from India to Chongqing allegedly found himself enslaved by the Yi minority in southwest China.

Melinda has a 10-minute video documentary of the Doolittle Raiders’ story in China, and John’s piece in the LA Times on the legend of the American slave can be found here.

Recommendations:

David: A Chinese state-media-run YouTube channel called zuǒyòu shìpín 左右视频, which has amazing and rare videos of people speaking early modern Chinese language, historical stories (from a state media perspective, but with unique source material), and much more.

Melinda: Dick Cole’s War: Doolittle Raider, Hump Pilot, Air Commando, by Dennis R. Okerstrom, about the last surviving Doolittle Raider — 102 years old now! And Target Tokyo: Jimmy Doolittle and the Raid That Avenged Pearl Harbor, by James M. Scott, which includes fascinating details from Western missionaries who were paired up with some of the fallen pilots.

Jon: Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI, a historical mystery by David Grann about a Native American tribe in southwest Oklahoma that struck oil beneath its land and was among the richest people in the world — until the murders started.

Kaiser: “The risk of nuclear war with North Korea,” by Evan Osnos at the New Yorker. The Retreat of Western Liberalism, by the Financial Times’ Edward Luce. And as a counterpoint to Luce’s view of liberal identity politics, “The first white president,” by Ta-Nehisi Coates at the Atlantic.

Nov 16, 2017

Jane Perlez is the Pulitzer Prize-winning Beijing bureau chief of the New York Times, and her own reporting focuses on China's foreign policy, in particular its relations with the United States and China’s Asian neighbors. She was previously on Sinica in March 2017 to discuss Chinese foreign relations in a new age of uncertainty. In this episode of Sinica, she discusses Donald Trump’s visit to Beijing on November 8 and November 9, 2017.

In this podcast:

  • Is Trump’s rapport with Xi genuine?
  • How did his performance in China compare with his performance in Japan and South Korea?
  • Were human rights discussed?
  • Was Taiwan mentioned as a bargaining chip?
  • What do Chinese leaders actually think of Trump?
  • Was Trump’s “I don’t blame China” line intended as strategy, or an off-the-cuff remark?
  • And, most importantly, how has this visit changed U.S.-China relations?

Recommendations:

Jeremy: Huang Fei Hong Spicy Crispy Peanut, which you can buy online or at some Asian grocery stores in the U.S.

Jane: Pachinko, an excellent historical novel about the Korea-Japan relationship by Min Jin Lee. Also see an interview with the author (paywall) on the New York Times by Jonathan Soble.

Kaiser: World Without Mind: The Existential Threat of Big Tech, a book on the perils of monopolistic behavior by Google, Facebook, and Amazon, by former New Republic editor-in-chief Franklin Foer.

Nov 9, 2017

The South China Morning Post has been up to big things recently — and faced big doubts from those who worry about its editorial independence as Hong Kong’s paper of record.

In late 2015, it was announced that the paper would be acquired by Chinese ecommerce giant Alibaba, bringing the paper both a huge infusion of cash and a wave of questions about whether the new owners would maintain the SCMP’s editorial independence from Beijing.

Gary Liu, formerly CEO at content aggregator Digg and head of labs at streaming music service Spotify, was appointed CEO of the SCMP a year after the Alibaba acquisition. He aims to adapt the 114-year-old newspaper for an age of technology disruptions, and talked to Jeremy and Kaiser about the paper’s editorial independence, its plans to evolve and build out digitally, and how it plans to contribute to the global conversation on China’s rise. This podcast was recorded in front of a live audience at the China Institute in New York on October 9.

Recommendations:

Jeremy: The WeChat app of China’s National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), a good way to get real news about China because spitting out propaganda is not a priority of the NDRC. Just search “国家发改委” (guójiā fāgǎiwěi) on WeChat.

Gary: The Party, a book by Richard McGregor that gives a fascinating exploration of how the Communist Party of China wants the world to perceive it, how it plans to stay in power, and how it manages to affect everyone’s life in China. Also, Destined for War, by Harvard professor Graham Allison, which discusses the Thucydides Trap, China’s rise, and the history of great power rivalries.

Kaiser: A research paper from the Mercator Institute for China Studies titled “Ideas and ideologies competing for China’s political future,” which identifies really interesting clusters of people in China who have diverse ideological alignments. A Sinica podcast on a similar subject can be found here.

Nov 2, 2017

Today we welcome back to the show two regular Sinica guests, Bill Bishop and Jude Blanchette, to discuss the outcomes of the 19th Party Congress, which wrapped up on October 24 in Beijing.

Bill Bishop authors the Sinocism newsletter, an essential resource for serious followers of China policy, and he is regularly quoted in a variety of major news outlets reporting on China. He has been on Sinica most recently to discuss how to understand media coverage of China.

Jude Blanchette is the associate engagement director at The Conference Board’s China Center for Economics and Business in Beijing, and is a scholar writing a book on neo-Maoism in China — you can listen here to a Sinica episode featuring him discussing the topic.

Click here to read an article on SupChina that rounds up the top three takeaways of the 19th Party Congress, drawing on both this podcast and on SupChina reporting.

Recommendations:

Bill: The Spy's Daughter, the third book in a trilogy by Adam Brooks, a former BBC correspondent in China who quit his job and started writing spy fiction based in China.

Jeremy: The article “Aerospace experts in China’s new leadership” on China Policy Institute: Analysis, which discusses the substantial number of technocrats in the new Central Committee, even if they are now less prevalent in the upper echelons of leadership. And Ear Hustle, a podcast produced by the inmates of San Quentin State Prison in California about their experience in prison.

Jude: Mao's Invisible Hand: The Political Foundations of Adaptive Governance in China, a book by Sebastian Heilmann and Elizabeth J. Perry on how policy making in China is affected by the Communist Party’s revolutionary experience. Also, the work of the Mercator Institute for China Studies (MERICS), where Heilmann now works.

Kaiser: Putin’s Revenge, a two-part series on PBS Frontline that explains Putin’s rise and the events that shaped his worldview. And The Future Is History: How Totalitarianism Reclaimed Russia, a book by Masha Gessen.

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