A New Look at Chinese Liberalism among Elite Students

Memo #330

By Fen Lin – fenlin [at] cityu.edu.hk

Lin_Chinese College Students_photoPeking University, the traditional locus of Chinese liberalism, seems to be yielding this role to China’s economics and financial universities. A 2012 survey, conducted among six elite universities in Beijing and Shanghai, revealed that only 14% of Peking University students described themselves as liberal reformists, the lowest percentage among the… Continue reading

Author Chan Koonchung on His Role as an Activist Public Intellectual

Memo #95 – On June 28, 2011, we published our first interview with Chan Koonchung (陈冠中), the author of the novel Shengshi-Zhongguo 2013 (盛世 – 中国 2013) or, The Fat Years. In this second installment he speaks about his role as an activist public intellectual. In 2010, he started an e-mail discussion group and NGO, Minjian China because he found that other Chinese intellectuals were not concerned with China’s impact outside of China, despite China’s role as a rising power. “Minjian” is one term for civil society. He has tried to identify scholars interested in China’s impact on the broader world, starting with Southeast Asia. He recently started a second online discussion group on China-India relations. Continue reading

Author Chan Koonchung on His Novel, Shengshi-Zhongguo 2013

Memo #92 – A noted cultural figure, writer, and public intellectual based in Beijing, Chan Koonchung (陈冠中) is the author of the pathbreaking novel Shengshi-Zhongguo 2013 (盛世中国 2013) or, The Fat Years. In this first of two interviews, he reflects on the implications of China becoming more wealthy and powerful. In 2008 he became convinced of China’s ineluctable rise and the prospect that it would soon be more advanced than Hong Kong and Taiwan. The novel is alive with characters and situations that speak tellingly and often in dystopic terms about what China’s future might hold. Continue reading

Hard Days for China’s Public Intellectuals Will Likely Get Harder

Memo #73 – These are hard days for China’s public intellectuals. International media highlight crackdowns and repression, the recent disappearance and now apparent arrest of Ai Weiwei, incarceration and abuse of public interest lawyers, and the heavy-handed police presence on the streets of major Chinese cities to avert a “jasmine revolution” among Sunday shoppers. Six months after the controversy over the Nobel peace prize for China’s most prominent dissident, Liu Xiaobo, is this the unraveling of “the China model”? Continue reading

Chinese Artist/Activist Ai Weiwei Detained

Memo #71 – Famous artist, tweeter, and critic of the Chinese authorities Ai Weiwei (艾未未) disappeared on April 3rd, 2011. This marks the latest in a series of arrests and detentions of human rights activists, bloggers, and lawyers in the Chinese government’s crackdown in response to fears of a jasmine revolution in China. Yet rather than having links to a ‘colour’ revolution, it is Ai’s self-assigned role as memory-keeper for the child victims of the 2008 Sichuan earthquake and obsessive recorder of state-sanctioned acts of violence and surveillance that has led to his detention. Ai Weiwei has taken on the time-honoured task of Confucian historian, allocating praise or blame or imperial censor critiquing a ruler’s shortcomings. His is a modern take on ancient roles: documenting abuses and criticizing injustices by using the internet and social media. Continue reading

Interview with Dai Qing, the Environmental Activist, Investigative Journalist, and Writer

Memo #39 – The indomitable Dai Qing (戴晴) has chosen to demand answers to uncomfortable questions and bring to account a system that dreams big dreams but harms those it is meant to serve. Ms. Dai is perhaps best known for her active opposition to the Three Gorges Dam project, which led to her imprisonment for ten months in 1989. Her new work with her long-term partners Toronto-based environmental NGO Probe International is an oral history of Beijing residents’ responses to their city’s water crisis. Rapid development has drastically reduced the capital’s water supply and sparked a massive new project to divert (highly polluted) water from the south to the north. This project would displace several hundred thousand people en route and promises to be at least as problematic and disruptive as the Three Gorges Dam. Continue reading

China’s Directed Public Receives Nobel Peace Prize

Memo #28 – The public realm in China is rich and varied, loud and commercialized, colourful and fascinating, but it is firmly under the direction of the Central Propaganda Department of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). Liu Xiaobo’s (刘晓波) 2010 Nobel Peace Prize has shaken up the community of Chinese public intellectuals. Continue reading

The “Directed Public” of China’s Public Intellectuals

Memo #13 – Back in 2004, Guangzhou’s People Magazine Weekly listed their pick of China’s 50 top public intellectuals – writers, lawyers, and academics who lead on public issues. Not any more. Have China’s public intellectuals disappeared? Continue reading