This weekly column offers a digest of the latest pieces from the Chinese blogosphere published on our website and most recently completed translations of new Chinese writing.

Beijing spirit

New texts published

City spirit, empty words – Zhang Ming

Chinese cities are launching a new wave of urban sloganeering, led by Beijing’s ‘spirit of the city’ campaign – Zhang Ming gives a critical opinion on the practice. This text has already been translated, and is already available in English!


Paper media is in a tough situation indeed – Zhu Xuedong

To what extent will the shift to digital affect Chinese paper media? All industries have a life cycle, and without innovation, paper media may not survive the growth of the internet. If you’re interested in this debate, you might wish to read our recently completed translation of ‘Traditional paper media shouldn’t let itself collapse‘.


What does internet pluralism amount to? – Muran

How does the value of pluralism, promoted by the internet, affect the current status quo between ideologies and factions in contemporary China? A reflection on freedom, nationalism and the New Left, as informed by technology.


The Spirit of Shenzhen – Lan Ran

A writer’s look at China’s youngest mega-city. Shenzhen emerged out of nothing 30 years ago, but now counts over eight million people, and ranks among the country’s top five cities. How can you define Shenzhen’s spiritual qualities? With a particular look at bookstores and people’s contemplative habits, this piece will help you better understand this Southern metropolis

If you like this piece, or plan travel in Guangdong, you may be interested in looking at ‘Guangzhou, desert for others, paradise for us‘.


Songs from the camp – Zhou Zhixing

What would life in a Chinese army camp be like, and what memories would flow years after? Discover the personal experience of a Chinese soldier, and the songs they sing down at the camp!


New translations


In ‘Reflections on the Social Security Issue’, public intellectual Su Shi offers a few suggestions for improving the Chinese social security system, and in passing, underlines some dangers of the status quo – including that it encourages crime.

The death and birth of online literature‘ is a reply to an article announcing ‘the death of online literature (available in translation) – Jianhan Qiushui argues that, actually internet literature is getting ahead, because stories circulate across media (TV and film, books and games), and the internet is the key channel to access these. Here is the original piece


This is the first post in our new ‘Reading thread‘ series. Reading thread bring together pieces on a similar topic from the Marco Polo Project catalogue, inviting you on a guided journey through Chinese writing, and offering an insider’s, original view of contemporary China. You might also be interested in our weekly Digest, presenting the latest pieces published and translated on Marco Polo Project.

in the arcade

China’s urbanisation is creating an unexpected by-product: aspirational hipsters. Yet these emerging trendy youths, the Shamate, look very different to their skinny-jeaned western counterparts.

The Shamate work at Foxconn, the world’s largest electronic parts manufacturer. Western hipsters work in coffee shops.

The Shamate blow-dry their hair in reaction to migrating across a country the size of Europe. Western hipsters buy a fixie bike because finding a job is hard.

We’ve found some fantastic articles on how China is dealing with these non-mainstream migratory youths. Leave your comments at the bottom: if you listen to music we-won’t-have-heard-of-yet or love Instagram, tell us why.


“杀马特”:文化贫困产物 – “ShaMaTe”, a product of cultural poverty

by Zhang Tianpan, 11th March 2013


Who are the Shamate, and where do they come from?

In this piece, Zhang Tianpan discusses the snobbish way in which Shamate are talked about in society and compares them against another intriguing sub-culture, the ‘fresh young things’.

Perhaps this is China’s version of mods and rockers; goths and punks; trendies and indies?


你们能指责80后吗? – Can you accuse the post-eighties generation?

by Xi Mu, 11th October 2012.


Some people describe the post-eighties young people as China’s ‘beat generation’. They enjoy a reformed country but don’t care about politics. Lifestyle and consumption matters more to them than democracy.

These youths are seen as ignorant, but is that really fair? Why do you think the Shamate spend their time blow-drying their hair yet aren’t so politically involved?

The Shamate are possibly part of a stream of migrants who cannot think of politics, their priority is assimilating into their new urban homes.


中国式大迁徙:何处安放我们的故乡– Great migration China-style: where is our hometown?  

by Zhang Tianpan, 17th February 2014


In this sad piece, Zhang Tianpan takes a completely different tone. Not only are the Shamate stuck between the cities and countryside, but the very idea of a hometown is equally strained.

This article highlights how China’s incessant skyscraper building puts the country’s rural areas on the spot. China’s traditions are really being tested.

Migrants are blurring the lines between urban and rural. Are Chinese cities experiencing an identity crisis? Zhang Tianpan provides food for thought.


有一种空虚叫做农村 – There is a void called the countryside

by Zhang Zejia, 18th December 2012


Where are these Shamate coming from, I hear you ask? Look no further, as Zhang Zejia describes his impressions on a visit home.

Living in towns populated by children and grandparents as parents search for work in faraway cities, it’s no wonder why these youths want to leave home.

What stands out for me in this article is how impoverished these rural people are. Surrounded by huge skyscrapers, branded stores and restaurants, I feel I didn’t fully experience this poverty whilst living in Beijing.



In the following articles, Wang Xiaoping and Duyuan Jushi both react to the Shamate text posted by Zhang Tianpan above. The translations are unfinished, why don’t you keep this discussion going and translate the articles yourselves?


山河破碎风飘絮,身世浮沉雨打萍 – Reflecting on the “ShaMaTe” aesthetics

by Wang Xiaoping, 13th March 2013 

一个“杀马特”的独白 – A monologue on “ShaMaTe”

by Duyuan Jushi, 14th March 2013


This post was written by Francis Beechinor, from London University School of Asian and African Studies. 

This weekly column offers a digest of the latest pieces from the Chinese blogosphere published on our website and most recently completed translations of new Chinese writing.


New texts published

Can friendship last between women – Shui Muding

Writer Shui Muding explores the meaning of the word ‘guimi’, an intimate and exclusive affection between young women. Deep friendship between women is certainly possible, she says, but the very close-knit, intimate feelings of teenage years cannot last.

Dancing on the street” from collective to public space – Zhang Tianpan

Cultural analyst Zhang Tianpan explores the new phenomenon of dancing on the square in China, under a particular angle: the sense of public space ownership, and the constitution of a community.

Zhang Tianpan will speak at the Melbourne Writers Festival – book your tickets now!

Food memories: bamboo shoots – Bo Bangni

In her series ‘food memories’, Bo Bangni explores the personal and collective history of certain dishes – followed by a recipe. This week, the story of a ‘fat girl’ at a restaurant who lost a considerable amount of weight on a panda diet, eating only bamboo shoots.

You can’t regret a renovation – China30s

China30s is a Shanghai-based magazine offering portraits of alternative Chinese innovators from the ‘sandwich generation’, born between the late 70s and the mid-80s. Considering the high cost of land in Shanghai, how to build a satisfying little nest? Young architect Ying Chaojun caused a lot of buzz on the internet, and attracted many viewers, with the renovation project he conducted on his own apartment: ’40 square meters, 100,000 RMB, 150 days’. Apart from amazing ideas for renovation, he wants to advocate for everyone’s capacity to lead a better life.

Donning the cloak of wisdom – Xin Lijian

What happens when business people meet Buddhist monks? What can we learn from Buddhism? In this piece, Xin Lijian reflects on spiritual pursuits in contemporary life, and the particular role that Buddhism plays in a secularized China.

New translations completed

In ‘Traditional paper media shouldn’t let itself collapse, journalist Wei Yingjie calls on the danger of crying wolf – even if the new media is challenging, the transition must be managed

’How will the book review industry get healthier? is the last piece in a series about Chinese book review ethics by Zhang Tianpan. Here, he invites media, publishers and reviewers to consider ways ahead for a healthier environment: media to maintain independent judgement, publishers to resist short-term commercial pursuits that affect book quality,

This weekly column offers a digest of the latest pieces from the Chinese blogosphere published on our website and most recently completed translations of new Chinese writing.


New texts published

Wu Xia: if you do nothing, what right do you have to complain? – Bottle Dream

Bottle Dream is a Guangzhou based organisation that promotes the work of young Chinese change-makers. This piece, introduces Wu Xia co-founded a Chinese NGO offering alternative education, that proposes to develop soft skills and emotional intelligence.

 The build-up of Hong Kong Identity – Charlie 13

This piece by a Hong Kong blogger takes a historical look at the development of the city and its special cultural and cultural characteristics – challenging a few myths along the way.

Populism – Yu Ge

A regular blogger from the ‘Consensus Network’ explores the concept of populism, in a Chinese and international perspective.

Pregnant Ghost – Wang Youmei / Yisha

For a year, poet Yisha collected poem from online forums around China, and circulated them, one a day, on his micro-blogging account, as part of a project called ‘Poems for the new century’. Pregnant ghost describes the spooky encounter with a pregnant woman at a tombstone. 

Is that how it is? – Zhang Jiajia

Zhang Jiajia became a literary sensation in China after circulating bedtimes love stories on his weibo account – readers from the post-80s generation found echoes to their own lives in the patterns of emotions that he paints in these moving, often melancholy short pieces. “Is that how it is?” tells the story of a break up among former high school lovers – an unwanted pregnancy, and a failed marriage.

News translations completed

Kenny Choi, founder of Bottle Dream and Guangzhou’s first co-working community ‘Yi-gather’ shares his social entrepreneurship journey in ‘Why did I open a co-working space?’ 

Each year for Spring festival, crowds fight for limited tickets. In ‘It’s hard to get a ticket, so when will it get better? , economic and financial commentator Feng Qingyan takes a look at this complex phenomenon from multiple angles – infrastructure, policy, service-design, and the frustrations of everyday people.

Li Yinhe, sociologist and specialist of gender issues, shares regular posts on her blog about more psychological and philosophical topics – such at the importance of ‘Passion for those willing to lead a satisfying life.

This weekly column offers a digest of the latest pieces from the Chinese blogosphere published on our website and most recently completed translations of new Chinese writing. 

Shanghai Cathay

New texts published

 Food memories: Shanghai curry – Bo Bangni

In her series, Bo Bangni connects food and personal story. This article on ‘Shanghai curry’ brings together the multicultural flavours of China’s commercial metropolis, and memories of educated youth in her family.

 Counter-revolutionary cases close to home – Zhu Xuedong

The times of the cultural revolution, and the times immediately following it, are still present in the memory of many Chinese people who experienced it first hand. Senior journalist Zhu Xuedong evokes  a ‘counter-revolutionary criminal’ from his childhood – a worker from his village who had the bad luck of expressing relief at the news of Mao’s death over the phone.

China’s silk road and the spirit of the times – Zheng Yongnian

This piece is part of a series by political analyst Zheng Yongnain, reflecting on China’s international relations. Zheng Yongnian wonders how Chinese imperialism or international influence may differ from British and American imperialism. To guide his thoughts, he uses the Hegelian concept of the ‘zeitgeist’ or spirit of the times, as well as the historical and geopolitical construct of the ‘Silk Road’.

What’s so good about Shanghai? – Tang Yalin

When inland friends ask the writer: ‘What is appealing about life in Shanghai? Isn’t it a frustrating and difficult bustling city?’, Tang Yalin replies, the great thing about Shanghai is the choices offered to you, the freedom you can experience, and the romantic quality of everyday life, the possibility of sudden moments of joy offered by this multicultural city.

Why did I open a co-working space? – Ah Cai

Ah Cai, or Kenny Choi, recently opened Yi-gather, the first co-working and incubation space in Guangzhou. In this post, he shares his motivation – discovery of co-working spaces when he shot the first Chinese documentary film about social enterprise, desire to have his own space, and a vision about the benefits social innovation to China, and his home-city.

Why is there no legal protection in the world of love? – Ding Xiaoyun

Love comes with much sacrifice and dedication – of time, emotions, and multiple gifts. Yet if the feeling ends, there is no legal protection for the sad lovers – why, asks Ding Xiaoyun.

New translations completed

When the government announced a revision to the family planning regulations last year, some commentators expected the end of the one child policy – not so, explains journalist Zong He in ‘Family planning adjustment is not an invitation to bring on the second kid‘.

In ‘Four attitudes to oppression‘, Chengdu philosopher Li Yehang explores the possible reactions of victims in this world – seek revenge, sterile struggle, revolution, or mysticism.

Is China really a racist country? And what is the changing form of racism in China? Wu Xianghong offers a few elements to help us understand the question in ‘The decline of racism in China‘.

Finally, in ‘How to achieve good public life, Zhang Tianpan explores Toqueville’s analysis of democratic experiments in New England townships to contrast American and Chinese village life, and proposes self-management and autonomy as a basis for good public life.

This weekly column offers a digest of the latest pieces from the Chinese blogosphere published on our website and most recently completed translations of new Chinese writing.

dancing in the park

New texts published

Restoring the concept of charity  – Chen Tongkui

This piece proposes a reflection on the non-profit and charity sector in China. It offers insight into current debates regarding the respective roles of the government and community sectors in providing social welfare, and potential developments in regulations for the non-profit sector.

Fragmented education – Muran

Professor Muran reflects on the crisis of higher education in China today. He particularly focuses on the radical changes brought about by the internet – how technology modified the traditional role of the teacher, the relationship between teachers and students, and the modes of access to knowledge.

 What do we talk about when we talk about the world cup – Yu Ge

China has been watching the Football World Cup with great interest, even though the Chinese team did not even take part until recently. Social analyst Yu Ge reflects on the international character of football – and the core reasons why people obsessively watch the game.

Chen Yinxi: the free life of a jazz singer – China 30s 

China 30s is an online magazine offering interviews with young Chinese people who led alternative lives, and pursued innovative or creative avenues. This piece is an interview with Jazz singer Jasmine Chen. From a young age, she trained as a pianist, but she stopped playing the piano at 11.  At 19, she went to England where she battled alone for five years, to pursue studies of music and piano. During this time, she discovered jazz, and enjoyed it more and more. So after graduating, she decided to return to China, and turn her passion of jazz singing into the focus of her life and work.

New translations completed

For poetry lovers, Marc Howe from Canberra translated a series of poems by Yisha: ‘That Thing, ‘Small Memories from Kongtong‘, and ‘Dream 91‘. Simon Cooper from England translated ‘Reading Jiang Qing’s new Confucian Political Order, review of a recent Chinese book exploring the political applications of neo-confucianist thinking.

The following two pieces are still lacking a few paragraphs, but can already be enjoyed. Li Yehang’s My views on the university entrance exam offers a philosophical reflection on the evils of China’s university selection systems, how it affects the winners as much or even more than the losers.  ‘The death and birth of online literature explores the parallel evolution of print, TV and internet – and the possible convergence of the three media.

This week on Marco Polo Project is a work in progress – your feedback is very welcome!