Category Archives: The China Blog

LARB’s China Blog covers the life, culture, politics and literature of China. It is edited by Jeffrey Wasserstrom and Maura Elizabeth Cunningham. If you’re looking for blog posts prior to September 2013, please visit our China Blog tumblr page.

Feminism in China and the Wandering Life: An Interview with Maura Elizabeth Cunningham

By Jeffrey Wasserstrom

It has now been about half a year since Maura Cunningham started a new position with the Association for Asian Studies and switched from being a co-editor of to an occasional contributor to this blog, so this seemed a good time to check in with her about her new job.  It is also an apt moment to check in with her about her activities as a writer, since she has an article in the latest issue of the World Policy Journal. Continue reading

Dumplings, Dictators, and Daoists — Six Book Recommendations

By Jeffrey Wasserstrom

I wrote the first draft of this post on the final day of 2016, and then revised it on the first day of 2017, so it is fitting that it will be divided between backward looking and forward looking halves.  In the opening half, I will provide micro-reviews of two worthy but dissimilar 2016 books.  They explore, respectively the cuisine of the Jiangnan Region of China that includes the cities of Shanghai, Suzhou, and Hangzhou, and the puzzle of how China’s Communist Party keeps outliving predictions of its imminent demise.  I thought at various points that I would work extended discussions of these 2016 publications into piece I was writing, but that never happened.  I am glad to at least be able to give them short shout outs here.  Continue reading

Hong Kong Noir

By Susan Blumberg-Kason

When I lived in Hong Kong in the 1990s, my only interaction with the police occurred when I’d return from Shenzhen by foot. Once on the Hong Kong side of the Lo Wu Bridge, I always breathed a sigh of relief when I saw their crisp navy uniforms.  The sight represented stability, order, and safety, things that were in short supply in Shenzhen and the parts of Hubei that I often visited as well on my forays to the mainland.  Life in those places had a Wild West, free-for-all feel to them.  There, as opposed to in rule-honoring Hong Kong, the trend often seemed to be that those with guanxi (personal connections) could work the system, while others were left to their own devices. Continue reading

More China-Focused Suggestions for the Bookish People on Your Holiday Lists

thesBy Jeffrey Wasserstrom

In this follow up to our December 7 post, two China Blog regulars, Alec Ash and Maura Elizabeth Cunningham, recommend a quartet of titles.  These titles, which deal with everything from down-and-out residents of contemporary Beijing to a pair of American journalists who fell in love while covering World War II in Asia, would make excellent last minute presents for others — or enjoyable items to buy for yourself with any gift cards you get. I didn’t get a chance to do a full write-up for my own selections, but will slip a plug for them into this intro without extended explanation.  I’ll just note that former BBC reporter Adam Brookes is two-thirds of the way through what will eventually be a trilogy of novels of intrigue that move between China and other parts of the world, and both Night Heron and Spy Games, each now available in paperback, are unusually well crafted page-turners.  (For more about each book, see these LARB reviews of them, here and here.) Continue reading

From Diamond Village to Wukan: An Interview with the China Media Project’s David Bandurski

By Jeffrey Wasserstrom

In last week’s post, three regular contributors to the China Blog gave suggestions for books dealing with Chinese themes that would make good holiday gifts.  Next week’s post will take the form of a sequel, offering recommendations for last minute present shopping.  So, it seems fitting that this post, which falls between, is an interview with the author of a very appealing book on China that would also be good to give to someone on your to-buy-for list. Published in other markets by Penguin last year but only recently available in the U.S., it is titled Dragons in Diamond Village: And Other Tales from the Back Alleys of Urbanising China, and it is by the versatile David Bandurski, an independent journalist, documentary filmmaker, and now book author as well. Bandurski joins me here to discuss recent developments in rural-urban unrest and the state of the Chinese media. Continue reading

Some China-Related Holiday Gift Book Ideas

By Jeffrey Wasserstrom

This post continues a tradition, first begun at The China Beat (a publication that began a four-year run in 2008) and then carried on here more recently, of inviting contributors to recommend books they thought could make good holiday presents for those obsessed with or merely curious about the world’s most populous country.  What follows, in what will likely be the first in a two-part series, are multiple recommendations from contributors Paul French and Susan Blumberg-Kason and, starting things off, a single suggestion from Mengfei Chen, who wrote “Reading Middlemarch in Jiangxi” for this blog, while she was working in publishing in Beijing, and is now based back in California and will be joining the LARB team as co-editor of this blog. Continue reading

Babies, Bylines, and Life in Smoggy Cities: An Interview with Pallavi Aiyar

By Jeffrey Wasserstrom

I’ve been a fan of Pallavi Aiyar’s writing since 2008.  Back then, she was based in Beijing, reporting for the Hindu as its first Mandarin-speaking correspondent, and had just published her debut book, Smoke and Mirrors: An Experience of China, a prizewinning work that received many positive reviews — including one that I wrote for Foreign Policy. I have continued to read her regularly since she has moved on from China to first Brussels, then Jakarta, and now Tokyo, publishing a novel and several new non-fiction books along the way.  I managed to catch up by email recently with the peripatetic and prolific Pallavi, who was incidentally among the first journalists that China Beat interviewed after that precursor to this blog was launched in 2008, and asked her to tell us more about her most recent books, Babies and Bylines and Choked, both 2016 publications.        Continue reading

The President-Elect and the Generalissimo

By Daniel Knorr

In the lead up to and immediate wake of the U.S. presidential election, commentators have frequently cast Donald Trump as an unprecedented political figure. Others have noted, though, that the President elect shares key traits with a wide variety of charismatic candidates and populist power holders.  This pattern continues.  Among current power holders, suggested analogues include Vladimir Putin, Narendra Modi, Rodrigo Duterte, and Xi Jinping. Historical comparisons have been more controversial, with both amateur and professional historians turning to two fascist figures whose personality cults flourished in the 1930s: Italy’s Benito Mussolini and Germany’s Adolf Hitler. Continue reading

Selling Singles Day — An Origin Story

By Alec Ash

Every November 11th, while Brits wear poppies to remember the dead of WWI, the China news cycle rotates back around to Singles Day or “Double Eleven” — the online shopping bonanza, Black Friday on acid, pioneered by e-commerce company Alibaba. This year, observers were especially wide-eyed as Alibaba reported sales of 121 billion yuan ($18 billion), a 32% increase on the year before. But Singles Day hasn’t always been about sales, and the only figure worth crunching when it started was the loneliest number, the number one. Continue reading

Fat Rice Adventures: A Taste of Macau in the American Midwest

By Susan Blumberg-Kason

Arroz gordo, or fat rice, is one of the most popular dishes in Macau. With Portuguese and Chinese influences, the dish is comprised of rice, of course, but it’s much more than just that.  It’s an amalgamation of poultry, seafood, sausage, olives, raisins, and tea eggs. There aren’t many Macanese restaurants in the United States, but one in Chicago has quickly gained national recognition. Its name: Fat Rice. Continue reading