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.

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

Journalism and Love in Wartime China: A Q&A with Eve of a Hundred Midnights author Bill Lascher

By Paul French 

Bill Lascher is an Oregon-based journalist who didn’t realise he was related to one of the great journalists of the China Press Corps in World War Two, Melville Jacoby. Lascher set out to write a dual biography of his cousin and Mel’s wife — and fellow China correspondent — Annalee Jacoby. Before World War Two Melville Jacoby had found himself in China and ended up in journalism by a round about way (all explained by Lascher in his new biography of the couple, Eve of a Hundred Midnights: The Star-Crossed Love Story of Two WWII Correspondents and Their Escape Across the Pacific, which was published earlier this year). Annalee (then surnamed Whitmore) had tired of working as a scriptwriter in Hollywood and found herself in China, too. Continue reading

The 2016 Hong Kong International Literary Festival — A Q&A with Phillipa Milne

By Jeffrey Wasserstrom

I’ve had the pleasure of participating in the Hong Kong International Festival in two past years, 2009 and 2015, and found doing so both times memorable. I am happy, therefore, to be heading off soon to be part of the next one, which runs from November 4 to November 13. My past festival activities have ranged from a dialog with Global Voices co-founder Rebecca MacKinnon on the perils and pleasures of “blogging”—back in the late 2000s when that term was only starting to be widely known, hence sometimes needed to be put in quotes—to a presentation eleven months ago, which I’ve written about for this site before, reflecting on the Umbrella Movement’s legacy one year on.   Continue reading

Pivoting with Kurt Campbell—U.S. Policy Toward Asia in the Era of China’s Rise

By Graham Webster

Beginning with its title, The Pivot: The Future of American Statecraft in Asia, Kurt Campbell’s latest book faces the challenge of signaling both continuity and change. In rightfully claiming partial credit for developing the Obama administration’s Asia policy and making the case for continuing on a similar path, he nonetheless subtly breaks from the White House, which calls the policy the “rebalance to the Asia-Pacific,” to advance the “Pivot to Asia” brand more closely associated with the State Department when he served in it under Secretary Hillary Clinton. Continue reading

What the Diaspora Can Know: Reconsidering Madeleine Thien’s Do Not Say We Have Nothing

By Nick Admussen

Imagine the world from the perspective of people who speak Chinese: a Sinosphere, centered by the huge population of the People’s Republic of China but spanning across the globe from Taiwan to Singapore, Vancouver to Los Angeles, Panang to Perth. Now imagine the Anglosphere, a similar map of people who speak English. Increasingly, as English is taught in Chinese countries and Chinese immigrants spread far and wide, these maps are melting into one another. Chinese intellectual life is full of translations, imitations, and excoriations of Anglophone books and ideas, and yet somehow English-language intellectual life lags behind, still scratching at the surface of Chinese experience. Continue reading

Reading Hillbilly Elegy in Beijing

By Jeremiah Jenne

The United States and China have more in common than people might think. Both are vast, continental empires with revolutionary governments convinced utterly of their own superiority. Each possesses a sense of exceptionalism that alternately fascinates and repulses other nations. And both, despite an oft-stated ideological commitment to equality of opportunity, embrace a vision of economic growth which is riven with inequality and class divisions. Continue reading