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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: August, 2019
Aug 8, 2019

This week, while Kaiser is vacationing on the Carolina coast, we are running a March 2014 interview with Orville Schell and David Moser. Orville is the Arthur Ross Director of the Center on U.S.-China Relations at Asia Society in New York and formerly served as dean of the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism. The discussion in this episode centers on the book co-authored by Schell and John Delury, Wealth and Power: China’s Long March to the Twenty-First Century, and the role of select members of the Chinese intelligentsia in the formation of modern China.

What to listen for on this week’s Sinica Podcast:

7:56: Orville opens the discussion describing how he and John Delury arrived at Wealth and Power as the title for their book: “For us, to try to sense what was the main current flowing through Chinese history — it was in fact, we concluded, this desire to see China great again. To become a country of consequence, and ‘wealth’ and ‘power’ really described it. And it was something that almost everybody in some form or [another] — whether nationalist, communist, dynastic, anarchist, Christian — they all understood that aspect, and I think that was a tremendously important, animating impulse that got us to the present.”

25:21: Orville recalls sitting in the front row at a summit held between Jiang Zemin and Bill Clinton, the dialogue of which is included in Wealth and Power: “I was sitting right there during [the summit], in the front row, watching Jiang Zemin with ‘Bubba,’ the master of repartee, and trying to imitate him. It was quite touching, he did quite well. And looking back on it, there isn’t a snowball’s chance in hell that Hu Jintao or Xi Jinping would risk such a wager.”

41:56: Jeremy asks Orville about his placement of Liu Xiaobo at the end of his book, and what Liu’s question is for China and China’s future. He responds candidly: “I think the question that he poses for China, and indeed all of us, is: What’s the real goal? For him, the real goal is not to simply be wealthy and powerful…and I think also what’s lurking in the back of his critique is something that the leaders now sort of see but are quite surprised by. Namely that getting wealthy and getting powerful doesn’t, as everybody thought for these 170 years, create ipso facto respect. And that is what is really wanted. That’s why there’s such an incredible fixation on soft power.”

Recommendations:

Orville: Now I Know Who My Comrades Are: Voices From the Internet Underground, by Emily Parker, and Age of Ambition: Chasing Fortune, Truth, and Faith in the New China, by Evan Osnos.

David: Marketing Dictatorship: Propaganda and Thought Work in Contemporary China, by Anne-Marie Brady.

Jeremy: The blog East by Southeast.   

Kaiser: The Chinese Enlightenment: Intellectuals and the Legacy of the May Fourth Movement of 1919, by Vera Schwarcz.

Aug 1, 2019

Emily Feng is one of the rising stars among China reporters. She’s about to take up her post in Beijing as National Public Radio’s correspondent after an illustrious run with the Financial Times. In a show taped a few months ago, Emily speaks with Kaiser and Jeremy about her most recent reporting for the FT, covering important topics related to Xinjiang and technology. She also reflects on why, as a Chinese American, she feels like she’s under added pressure to present accurate and balanced reporting on China.

What to listen for on this week’s Sinica Podcast:

14:02: Emily discusses the changing scope of topics that have garnered media coverage recently: “This year, rather than having conversations about #MeToo or Black Lives Matter, which, I think, really dominated discussions in the past two years, it's been about Chinese students [and] Chinese identity.”

She also discusses a scandal at Duke University — Emily’s alma mater — in which an assistant professor at Duke University urged Chinese students via email to “commit to speaking English 100 percent of the time.” “Chinese Americans have always been very politically quiet. And I come from a Chinese-American family, [so] this is what has been taught to me: Don’t stick your head up. But I think that with what’s happening in the U.S.-China relationship, Chinese Americans are going to have to figure out what their stance is to partake more in political discussions happening on campuses [and] at the local government level.”

18:49: Emily, who has reported extensively on Xinjiang, reflects on her trips there in 2017 and 2018, and the rapidly deteriorating conditions for Uyghur Muslims in the region. “It was very, very evident that things were different. People [in 2017] could still talk freely about what was happening. You would talk to people in taxis, in restaurants — I met up with a number of Uyghur friends and they talked quite comfortably, but fearfully, about how their phones were being hacked and people were going to jail because of content they had shared that was vaguely Muslim from four or five years ago.”

Outside of the capital of Urumqi, things were different, she explains. “I went to Hotan and Kashgar in October 2017, and Hotan was just another level. It was a police state. There were tanks and cars on the streets. There were checkpoints maybe every three or four blocks within the city. It was incredibly segregated.”

38:34: Emily wrote a deep-dive story on Hikvision, a Chinese CCTV company, which touches on the moral entanglement that U.S. companies face in supplying authoritarian governments with the nuts and bolts needed to monitor and sometimes oppress or imprison individuals abroad: “There are only a handful of companies out there that can make the type of commercially competitive semiconductors, components, [and] memory hard drives that go into the electronics we use every day — including the type of surveillance technology that China uses. So, that gives American companies a huge amount of power in saying, ‘This is whom we will sell to and this is whom we will not.’ But they’re understandably reluctant in making that distinction and making what they see as political decisions because their focus is the bottom line.”

Recommendations:

Jeremy: Sticky Notes: The Classical Music Podcast, by Joshua Weilerstein.

Emily: The show Schitt’s Creek, available with a Netflix subscription.

Kaiser: Another Netflix show, Russian Doll.

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