This column offers a short digest of the latest pieces published on our website. 

by the pond - small

New texts published

The government also wants a new normal – Muran

As the concept of a ‘new normal’ is increasingly spreading in economic discourses, essayist Muran calls for a ‘new normal’ regarding government – which would include increased new services, big society, equal consultation and the rule of law.

I’m a star… – Shudong

Shudong is a website where people can anonymously share their worries and cares. This short post is a call for help from a Chinese actress harassed by her director.

Maturity – Li Yinhe

We dread old age and the sense of physical decay that accompanies our own aging – but in this optimistic piece, Li Yinhe invites us on the contrary to celebrate the pleasures of maturity, the freedom and wisdom that it bring.

China’s diplomatic multilateralism – Zheng Yongnian

How is China managing its own growing power on the international stage? Singaporean expert Zheng Yongnian returns to the history of China’s multilateral diplomacy to explore the conditions for a responsible way forward.

Love is a double-edged sword – Li Yinhe

Gender specialist and sociologist Li Yinhe offers a friend advice on how to handle passion disrupting his marital life. Her answer: poly-amorous ethics.

Japan in my eyes – Song Xiuyin

A trip to Japan is an opportunity for Song Xiuyin to appreciate the country’s culture – cleanliness, humanity, respect for nature and the land.

This column offers a short digest of the latest pieces published on our website. 

New texts published


On hearing only powerful voices – Zhang Ming

On the basis of a pollution case in Inner Mongolia, Zhang Ming calls for a reflection on the voices that get heard, and those that remain ignore – and how to curb abuse of power from officials who refuse to listen.

Encounter stories at the dinner table – Zhao Jianfei

Small anecdotes can reveal the spirit of the times. Blogger Zhao Jianfei jots down two conversations overheard, revealing aspects of economic and romantic success in today’s China.

Protocols for the dignity of legal officials – He Weifang

Legal procedures have historically been connected to complex rituals and protocols. Law expert He Weifang reflects on the reasons for the rites surrounding the exercise of justice, and the necessity to create conditions that guarantee of officials in charge of determining justice.

Immortality – Li Yinhe

This short meditation by sociologist Li Yinhe questions our quest for immortality and aspirations to historical grandeur. Is this the path to happiness?

Love and revolution (10) – Ye Fu

A new stage in Ye Fu’s family story and memories of the second world war – now taking us to Chongqing, and remembering the ongoing role of education during these troubled times.

Reasons to read books – Yu Ge

Remembering the day he returned his library card after graduating is a starting point for Yu Ge’s meditation on the art of reading. Reading does not have a clear purpose – it will not change the face of China – yet should we stop that activity altogether, just because it has no direct utilitarian purpose? What if reading was one of the key elements for spiritual freedom?

Can princesses have abortions? – Ka Hu

Is it wrong for a primary school girl to write a princess abortion into her fairy tale narrative? This happened in a Chinese primary school, and the teacher not only marked harshly, but published the student’s essay on weibo for public mockery. Freelance writer Ka Hu reflects on this story – inviting a more measured and respectful way of considering a child’s way of integrating the complexities of the contemporary adult world.

Jinan – Wei Zhou

Shanghai-based travel writer Wei Zhou returns to the Shandong capital after fifteen years, observing the many changes that occurred: long stretches of new suburbs, refurbished plaza. The text then turns on to a quest for the sources and memories of this non-touristic city, and the essence of Shandong culture.

This column offers a weekly digest of the latests pieces published on our website and our most recently completed translations.

guangzhou ferry

New texts published

Distorted communism – Muran

The word communism has been used so much and for so many things that it’s lost its original meaning. This short essays offers a much-needed clarification on the concept and its distortion – in particular, how it interprets and relates to freedom.

A metaphor for ‘Chinese mentality’ – Li Yehang

Christian philosopher Li Yehang looks back to the work of Sigmund Freud to make sense on a general feeling of tension that he feels around him – and interprets one of the key problems in today’s China as excessive extension of the self in the outside world, and too little concentration on building solid internal foundations.

Why is Tibetan Buddhism hotter and hotter? – Yang Fenggang

After a militant atheist period, China is seeing a return to religious interests. In particular, the Tibetan form of Buddhism is seeing a revival, and attracting much interest. Read this piece to find out why.

How great is Tokyo – He Weifang

Legal expert He Weifang was invited to Japan for a conference – and sings the praise of the country’s capital, its transport system, its respect for culture, its old neighbourhoods, and its cosmopolitanism.

Sexual desire and its boundaries – Li Yinhe

Li Yinhe is China’s most famous gender and sexuality theorist. Her writings celebrate sexuality as a source of pleasure and personal growth, while insisting on ethical considerations. This piece offers a proposal for delimiting socially appropriate and healthy sexual behaviour.

New translations

Guangzhou is probably the least understood of China’s first tier cities – and has the reputation of being a dull, industrious city. This long interview with Guangzhou music producer and radio host Qing Lang, published under the title ‘Guangzhou, desert for others, paradise for us‘, gives a local insight into the pleasures afforded by the great Southern metropolis to its inhabitants – and how it stands out to nearby Shenzhen and Hong Kong.

This column offers a weekly digest of the latests pieces published on our website and our most recently completed translations.

Walking away

New texts published

Why did Chinese people invent noodles? – Wei Zhou

Get the culture behind your Lamian. This informed piece by blogger Wei Zhou offers a history of noodle making, presenting this northern Chinese staple as a major technological invention.


Who said men don’t need close friends? – 1874 CE

Two Chinese buddies go to the movies together – and choose to watch a girls’ movie, then hang out eating vanilla ice-cream. A short, insightful reflection on male friendship in contemporary China, and the need for emotional companionship, regardless of gender.


Patients or customers? New models for medicine – China 30s

China 30s is a Shanghai-based magazine offering monthly interviews with leading young Chinese innovators. This piece shares the story of obstretrician Gong Xiaoming, who believes the relationship between patient and doctor is one of service: a rare insight into the changing world of Chinese health provision and its implicit value system.

We actually have a choice – Zhou Baosong

Hong Kong intellectual Zhou Baosong walks among the protesting crowds with his young daughter – and meditates on civil disobedience, collective choice, and individual freedom.


New translations

Is there something essentially fraught with the structures of contemporary Chinese art? Possibly, writes blogger Lucia, based on her observations of university friends graduating in fine arts. And so, in ‘The Daydream of a non-professional artist, she proposes a utopian alternative: deprofessionalise art, bypass corrupt institutions and return to spontaneous creative expression.

China’s international rise causes numerous anxieties, in particular among immediate neighbours. The Chinese government promotes a discourse of ‘peaceful expansion’, but how and why exactly is Chinese culture intrinsically peaceful? Singaporean expert Zheng Yongnan, in ‘Important Questions about the new silk road‘, raises a few questions about the use of this geopolitical concept, and shows how – if handled well – it could provide the basis for harmonious development in the region.

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.

Tianjin bridge

New texts published

China’s rise within the triangle – Xin Lijian

China’s becoming increasingly powerful internationally; but for China to reach the full extent of its influence, a lot of work needs to go in its relationships with three important neighbours: Russia, Korea, and Taiwan.


Job satisfaction – Zhao Jianfei

Everyone is busy – but what does busy mean? Blogger Zhao Jianfei, in this odd little piece, shares details of a what a ‘busy work life’ looks life in today’s China.


Poems for the New Century – Yisha

In 2012, poet Yisha was commissioned to circulate one poem a day through NetEase Weibo, forming an anthology called ‘Poems for the New Century’. We will translate some of these as part of a workshop held at Monash University, and read them at the Eltham Montsalvat art centre on October 5.


New translations

To what extent have the dramatic social and economic changes in recent years affected family structures and family values in China? ‘Fashionable men and women are unfit for marriage’ takes an original angle on this question, arguing that society should make people ready for marriage, in multiple ways – but with absent parents, current media programming and school priorities, young Chinese people have become ‘unfit for marriage’.

Is life in a first-tier city just a source of constant stress? Not so, says Tang Yalin in ‘What’s good about Shanghai?’ , because ‘in Shanghai, you can live your own 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.

Zhang Jiajia

New texts published

Innovative corruption – Yu Ge

Will the recent Chinese government crack-down on corruption achieve its full goal? In this piece, analyst Yu Ge offers a cynical-pessoptimistic perspective on the question: innovation applies to corruption as it does to business, and new models emerge as older ones are more strictle controlled.


Scapegoating profiteers – Zhang Ming

Democracy, rule of law, good governance – these concepts are key parts of contemporary debates about government in contemporary China. But what is their actual meaning? This piece proposes clear definitions, which Muran considers are a necessary starting point for any fruitful discussion.


Wish it could be like this forever Zhang Jiajia

From 2012 to 2013, Nanjing-based writer Zhang Jiajia circulated bedtime love stories on his weibo account – and attracted a hugh readership. The stories, collected and published under the title ‘I belonged to you’, reflect the romantic experience of the Chinese post-80s generation – including, like this piece, the complexities of friendship with a married couple, and the bittersweet memories of life together.


New translations

Is China’s economic growth just a function of wasted resources? The broken windows of China’s economic growth, by economist Sun Xiaoji, proposes a gloomy vision of the current Chinese economy: how much of current economic activity goes beyond sterile destruction and reconstruction, for the sake of good economic figures?

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. 

Church in wuhan

New texts published

Religion is the cornerstone of freedom – Muran

In the West, religious freedom is an essential part of freedom more generally. With this as premise, the present piece offers an historical reflection on the concept of freedom, and its concrete manifestations historically, in the West and China.


Let’s open trading doors between rural and urban areas – Zhou Qiren

In order to solve the ongoing income disparity between rural and urban areas, economist Zhou Qiren proposes options to increase trade between both worlds – while taking into careful consideration the many dangers and obstacles.


Football around the world – Iris Tang / China 30s

China 30s is a Shanghai magazine offering exclusive interviews with young Chinese innovators and dream-chasers. This piece recounts the story of Zhao Xingde, who followed his passion for football around the world.

New translations

The Yakusuni shrine, in Tokyo, is a source of ongoing tension between Japan and China: this temple is devoted to the memory of people who defended the homeland – but war criminals are also worshipped there. However, knowledge generally stops at that point. In What war criminals are in the Yakusuni shrine, He Renyong shares the biography of some of these criminals, and offers element to better understand the controversy around the Yakusuni shrine.

Is Xinjiang a land of opportunities for all? Why does Xinjiang reject the Uighur, by Muslim essayist Luqiu PiaoPiao, recounts the memory of a trip to Xinjiang and the frustrations of a young Uighur, offering a mixed perspective on the current local situation.

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. The Festival was on last week

mala xiang guo

New texts published

Why does China like conspiracy theories – Yu Ge

The belief that conspiracies and secret arrangements have a large influence on our collective lives is not an exclusively Chinese phenomenon; yet this belief may be more widespread in China than elsewhere in the world. In this piece, Yu Ge reflects on potential causes for the vogue of conspiracy theories in China, from Cold War mentality to backdoor politics.


Chengdu – Wei Zhou

It’s been seven years since writer Wei Zhou last visited Chengdu – in the meantime, the relaxed Capital of South Western China turned into an ambitious metropolis. But in the alleys and Museums old Chengdu, Wei Zhou still manages to capture the unique flavor of Sichuan culture.


Left-right wing illusion – Yu Ge

Was Hitler left-wing or right-wing? From this extreme historical case, political analyst Yu Ge brings relativity to our conceptions of the political spectrum


Genius and Patience – Li Yinhe

Is talent a gift from heaven, or the result of sheer persistence and determination? This short piece by sociologist Li Yinhe offers a psychological insight into the sources of great achievements.


New Silk Road, what’s the plan? – Zheng Yongnian

Zheng Yongnian is the director of Singapore National University’s East Asia Institute, and a geopolitical analyst. He’s recently reflected about ‘the silk road’ as a key concept in China’s new model of international engagement. In this piece, he’s wondering about the model for international leadership that China might adopt, and how they can learn from, and differ from previous Western colonialism in the region.

You might be interested in reading other pieces by Zheng Yongnian on the same topic, ‘Important questions on the new Silk Road’, and ’China’s Silk Road and the spirit of the times’

Food writer, I love you: lamb soup – Bo Bangni

This series explores memories associated with eating typical dishes of Chinese cuisines. ‘Lamb Soup’ evokes a scene of family drama, marriage break up, and renewed commitment.

An app to share food-related emotions – China 30s

China 30s is a Shanghai-based organization that documents innovative projects led by young Chinese people from the ‘sandwich generation’, born between the late seventies and the mid-eighties. This post introduces an app developed to transform food picture sharing into a rich social experience, integrating restaurant reviews, emotions, and dish rating.

New translations

If the Chinese university exam is a cause of massive alienation and distress among Chinese young people, if it represents a large injustice, and does not reflect actual intelligence, is it not our duty to rise against it? My Views on the University Entrance Exams by philosopher Li Yehang is more than just a loose opinion, but a call to reform education, for the sake of China’s future.

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.

Sun Yat Sen memorial

New texts published

Public intellectual, or Private thinker – Lan Ran

Remembering Umberto Eco’s visit to China, this piece offers a meditation on the potential role of novelists as public intellectuals – how such figures existed during the Republican period, but are now failing in contemporary China’s literary scene.


Dead money, live money – Xin Lijian

Where should the money go? In this discussion informed by historical precedent, Xin Lijian argues for a redistribution of national wealth, in favour of entrepreneurs, or ‘hens’ – who generate more for the community – and away from public servants or ‘cocks’, who simply monitor and control. Only then would be wealth of China become ‘alive’, and china prosper.


‘I was here’: reflections on travel – Wei Zhou

Why do Chinese people feel an impulse to leave inscriptions at places they visit? This pieces offers historical insights into the development of tourism in China, from old times to the modern period, and the multiple ways in which Chinese travellers like to memorialise their journey to places of cultural significance.


Odd expressions of individual rights – Chen Xingzhi

No traveller to China can ignore the odd phenomenon of massive square dancing on public places. Chen Xingzhi explores the psychological and sociological motivations for this new phenomenon: an aging population, a lack of public space – but also, the expression of individual rights in a changing society.


Passion is the most important thing in our lives – Li Yinghe

Sociologist Li Yinhe specializes in gender study – but on her blog, she sometimes publishes more personal reflections, like this one, on passion and its role in our psychology. A great mind celebrating the irruption of irrational emotions.

New translations

In this speech on Media Power, media pluralism and media governance, delivered at a forum on internet public communication, cultural analyst and leading journalist Zhang Tianpan reflects on the decline of opinion pieces in China – particularly those advocating for ‘enlignment values’, and proposes a way ahead: increased involvement of opinion writers in civil society, and influence on events themselves.

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.

worship animals

New texts published

Is Weibo a populist paradise – Muran

Some commentators have criticized Chinese micro-blogging Weibo as a platform likely to encourage populism. In this piece, Muran underlines that populist views are only shared by a minority of users, and rejecting the platform on this ground is the sign of a misguided elitist view.

On this topic, you may enjoy reading Muran’s ‘Weibo is a good thing’ (in English) and Yu Ge’s ‘Populism‘ (in Chinese).


Important questions on the new silk road – Zheng Yongnan

In line with its growing development China has expressed a desire to ‘go towards the outside’ – but what geopolitical strategy will the country follow to achieve this goal? As the US ally with Japan in the East, what options does China have? In this piece, analyst Zheng Yongnan proposes an exploration of the ‘silk road’ concept, advocating for a closer alliance between China, Russia and Central Asia, based on peaceful trading relationships. This could be an important element in China’s soft power strategy.


Food memories: Hot Pot -Bo Bangni

In her series ‘food memories’, Bo Bangni explores the personal and collective history of traditional Chinese dishes – followed by a recipe. This piece on hot pot conjures up memories of a conjugal fight in an artistic family – and a woman’s skill at playing angry housewife.


The borders of literary history – Wei Zhou

Three hundred years from now, what will be retained of our present literature? Will people still highly regard what we – or the media – deem to be great works of fiction; or will historians study minor martial arts, self-help, or even cooking books we disregard? Reflecting on a recent History of Uyghur Literature, Wei Zhou proposes to redefine, or at least interrogate, what we deem to be the boundaries of art.


From ‘Super Mario’ to ‘Tetris’, the secret of popular games – Xun Kong

As computers evolve, video games have become increasingly complex – with rich graphics and elaborate story-lines. However, some minimalist games still prove extremely popular and addictive. This piece reflects on the success of these simple, minimalist games – from classic Tetris to the more recent ‘Nervous Cat’.

New translations

How is trauma transmitted across generations? Starting with a classroom scene of abuse from a teacher repeating shame techniques learnt as a red guard, ‘How the cultural revolution affected a post-80s such as me’  reflects on the long term consequences of the Cultural Revolution in the Chinese psyche. This is the first completed translation by our translator Abukamil – whom we would like to thank and congratulate.

People, within and without China, often like to emphasize its exceptionalism, and unique characteristics of China’s culture. ‘Just how special are we proposes an original approach to the question. Starting with a theoretical look at the opposition between pluralism and universalism, the piece argues that excessive emphasis on Chinese only characteristics may hide a secret danger, that of keeping China outside of universal values; or as Guo Yuhua articulates it ‘are Chinese people really people’?