A backlog of links ahead of the long weekend…

The Hong Kong History Centre at the UK’s Bristol University is producing a series of 10-minute personal, not-overly-academic videos on current historians of Hong Kong. They include Dr Vivian Kwong, Dr Kwong Chi-man (The 1941 Battle of Hong Kong), Dr Katon Lee (on how Western suits caught on in the city), and David Bellis/Gwulo (on his website), with more on the way.

From China Digital Times, a short article with a very long list – all 240-plus topics on which Xi Jinping has ‘pointed the way forward’ according to official reports. (Editor says ‘translating this was hell’.) A small slice…

  • the maritime economy (July 12, 2020)
  • how the Chinese economy will “weather the storm” (July 22, 2020)
  • accelerating the construction of a better Anhui (August 22, 2020)
  • the development of Tibet in the New Era (August 28, 2020) 
  • responding to global challenges (September 9, 2020)
  • creating archaeology with Chinese characteristics (September 30, 2020)
  • China’s realization of high-quality development (November 8, 2020) 
  • reshaping the world in the post-pandemic era (November 24, 2020)
  • the promotion of people-centric new-style urbanization (December 30, 2020)
  • building a better world (January 7, 2021) 
  • the development of the internet and info-tech industry (January 28, 2021) 
  • the future of humanity (April 21, 2021)

Al Jazeera examines Xi Jinping’s appeal for loyalty among all ethnic Chinese worldwide…

According to Associate Professor Ian Chong Ja, who teaches Chinese foreign policy at the National University of Singapore, Xi’s language suggests that the CCP sees ethnic Chinese across the world as a vehicle to mobilise support and advance Beijing’s interests, even if those people are not nationals of China and have no allegiance to the country.

…[Kenny] Chiu has spoken out about Beijing’s involvement in Hong Kong, and foreign interference in Canada.

He told Al Jazeera that Xi Jinping’s call for ethnic Chinese across the world to join the rejuvenation of the Chinese nation was “insane”.

“Imagine if the UK suddenly demanded that everyone with an English last name had to swear allegiance to the English crown,” he said.

…Xi has spoken about both [PRC citizen and non-citizen ethnic Chinese] groups as “members of the great Chinese family” who would “never forget their homeland China” and “never deny the blood of the Chinese nation in their bodies”.

According to Chong, this indicates that Beijing defines membership of the Chi­nese nation less in legal terms and more in ethnic and racial terms.

Asia Nikkei op-ed on China’s counterproductive alienation of India…

Ahead of this year’s spring thaw and possible new Chinese provocations, India moved an additional 10,000 troops to the frontier. “The possibility that we may face a similar situation that we faced in 2020 is keeping us active all the time,” Indian Defense Secretary Giridhar Aramane said last month.

China has also been expanding its troop presence and frenetically building warfare-related infrastructure along the inhospitable frontier. This has included boring tunnels and shafts in mountainsides to set up command positions, reinforced troop shelters and weapons-storage facilities.

In addition, it has planted settlers in new militarized border villages that are becoming the equivalent of the artificial islands it created in the South China Sea to serve as forward military bases.

…For four years, tens of thousands of Chinese troops have remained deployed in extremely harsh conditions along the Himalayan frontier. If Xi somehow came to an agreement with Modi about undoing China’s territorial encroachments, he would face questions about why he embarked on the aggression in the first place.

The longer the standoff persists, though, the greater the risk that Beijing turns India into an enduring enemy, a development that would weigh down China’s global and regional ambitions.

China has no economic or strategic need to push its Hiamalyan border with India/Bhutan a few dozen miles south. The frozen and barely accessible territory has no value. The Diaoyu/Senkaku islands similarly have no worth beyond hyped-up ‘first island chain’ symbolism. The South China Sea has some natural resources, but they are finite, and no country – China included – has an interest in the sealanes being disrupted. China also causes ecological and economic harm to communities in several Southeast Asian by damming and diverting water from the Mekong river. And then there’s Taiwan.

How does China benefit from quarrels with India, Vietnam, the Philippines, etc? What could it gain if it prioritized good relations with them? Which course would be more likely to convince the US to reduce its presence in the region? 

A (paywalled) SMH op-ed argues that China’s leadership prefers a less freewheeling economy…

…most foreigners have failed to understand that [the high-growth/stimulus] era is over. They assume that strong economic growth is inherently desirable. And they grew accustomed to a Chinese leadership that felt the same way. But Xi Jinping styles himself after Mao rather than Deng. He values control above growth. The game has changed.

One clear indicator of the changed priority: in the past year, China’s pro-reform central bank has been downgraded while the hawkish spy agency – the Ministry of State Security – has been promoted in the Beijing power hierarchy.

Xi has imposed restrictive measures on three of the country’s main growth engines [real estate, tech entrepreneurs, foreign companies].

…Xi Jinping’s ultimate objective remains unchanged – to build an economy fit to survive and win in the new era of Cold War 2.0,” write analysts Sam George and Matthew Johnson in a client note this month. “That involves enduring Ukraine-type scenarios and eventually outmuscling the US, China’s apex competitor, in the contest for Taiwan.”

In other words, Xi is preparing China for war, the “extreme circumstances” of which he has repeatedly warned his people. For that, he wants to make sure all parts of the economy are geared to respond to centralised control. And to ensure that investment and productive capacity are directed to the country’s war needs.

…Says John Garnaut: “The economy is on a structurally low growth trajectory, partly by design. He’s battening down hatches not worrying about household consumption growth.”

Chris Patten talks to Times Radio (it’s a video) about the UK’s allegation that China has hacked into British voters’ data.

The Guardian looks at China’s surveillance of Chinese students and activists in the UK…

Those who plan to keep speaking out, such as Fan are undaunted. He says the opportunity for protest and dissent in the UK has given him a political awakening.

“I feel like I’ve entered a new world,” he says. “Before, I didn’t realise there were so many amazing people who have the same political opinions as me, who are willing to do something for our country.”

WSJ (paywalled) on the constant rewriting of Beijing’s official history of the Qing dynasty…

Xi has enforced what he calls a “correct outlook on history,” aimed at fortifying his “China Dream” of national renaissance and autocratic rule. In practice, this means promoting nationalistic narratives that cast the Communist Party as the sole guarantor of China’s inexorable rise, while quashing alternative views about the past that contradict official canon.

Xi, in sweeping aside the relatively tolerant intellectual climate that prevailed before he took power in 2012, has left historians wrong-footed, according to people familiar with the Qing History project. 

“This is a product made for one customer but sent to another customer,” said one of those people. The shift in China’s ideological landscape since the project’s launch two decades ago meant that some theoretical frameworks that historians used “are no longer valid or politically correct,” the person said.

…Vetters said the manuscript should emphasize that Qing rulers governed a united multi-ethnic nation—a narrative that helps the Communist Party justify its current rule over a vast territory spanning areas inhabited by ethnic Mongols, Tibetans, Uyghurs and other non-Han Chinese groups, according to the person familiar with the project.

…Such demands reflect Beijing’s resistance to Qing historians—particularly in the U.S.—who have drawn on sources in Manchu, Uyghur and other languages beyond Chinese to produce work that contradicts the party’s narratives. Many of those scholars characterize the Qing as a Manchu-led empire that conquered China by defeating the Han Chinese-led Ming dynasty, and that went on to annex territory now considered to be Chinese borderlands.

Xi rejects portrayals of the Qing as “an empire of conquest,” because they could encourage separatist sentiment in borderland regions such as Tibet and Xinjiang and boost calls for the formal independence of the self-ruled island of Taiwan, according to Pamela Kyle Crossley, a Qing expert at Dartmouth College.

“According to Xi Jinping, there have been no conquests in Chinese history. Only happy unifications with people aspiring to be Chinese,” Crossley said. 

It isn’t clear when the history might be published. More than a dozen senior historians on the project have died, including Dai in late January at the age of 97, while dozens of others are in their 80s or older, according to a Wall Street Journal tally. 

…Mark Elliott, a China historian and Qing expert at Harvard University, who has met some of the project’s leading members. “Now politics comes first and the chapters they have are useless to them.”

For sci-fi/international relations/TV/feminism buffs – an in-depth analysis of The Three Body Problem

…how the theories, storylines, and characters of the trilogy are employed in digital discourse as metaphors and parables through which to bolster reactionary narratives and interpret international relations.

You might want to get up to speed with ‘realist’ international relations theory first…

Readers familiar with Chinese digital culture may immediately recognise how the themes of the trilogy are well aligned with the concerns of an online discursive and ideological formation known as ‘the industrial party’ (工业党 gongye dang). It is characterised by a firm belief in technological determinism, a social Darwinist view of the international system in which the survival of the technologically underdeveloped is perpetually threatened by the technologically advanced, and a contempt for anything the techno-nationalists find ‘sentimentalist’, ‘idealistic’, or ‘moralistic’ (for a sympathetic introduction to the gongye dang discourse, see Lu and Wu 2018). From this perspective, the main narrative arc of the Three-Body Problem can be easily summarised as humans repeatedly undermining efforts to ensure their own civilisational survival out of concern for morality and democracy. But eventually, the sustaining of civilisation depends on the ‘rogue figures’ who prioritise rationality and the determination to pursue survival over moral or democratic principles.

…the narrative structure of the Three-Bodies series, just like the gongye dang techno-nationalist discourse, is masculinist and misogynistic. Liu explicitly depicts human society under deterrence peace as ‘feminised’, noting the physical as well as mental feminisation of the ‘new era’ men. The qualities conventionally associated with femininity, such as love, compassion, and moral sentiments, are blamed for the extinction of human civilisation, whereas qualities associated with masculinity, such as rationality, determination, and aggression, are framed as key to civilisational survival. 

…Another theme in the discourse about the Three-Body series among techno-nationalists is Chinese international relations, with the relationship between Earth and the Trisolarans interpreted as a metaphor for Sino-American relations. 

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9 Responses to A backlog of links ahead of the long weekend…

  1. HKJC Irregular says:

    I need a lie down after getting thr0ugh today’s dispatch.

  2. Mark Bradley says:

    “I need a lie down after getting thr0ugh today’s dispatch.”

    Difficult to digest eh?

  3. wmjp says:

    Chris Tang maintains two security laws in Hong Kong target ‘with precision’ perpetrators of acts endangering safety in the city.

    With carpet bombing accuracy.

  4. Shy Enquirer says:

    Hemlock et al

    Some of today’s links were v intersting but the one I wished I had come across years ago is the item on gwulo.com. Although I spent nearly half my life in Hong Kong I have never previously heard of the website. Indeed I only learnt of biglychee.com by a friend recommending a few years ago.

    May I please invite Hemlock and indeed all readers to post website addresses that are useful, witty, amusing, informative, controversial, providing a different slant, any or all or none of the foregoing, particularly if they concern Hong Kong ( or as a second category maybe China and /or South East Asia).


  5. Knownot says:

    Several months ago, I posted briefly here, commenting that the Hong Kong government’s action to reduce the power of judges was similar to the action being taken against their judges by the government of Israel. (This was before the Gaza war.)
    Similarly, our Article 23 legislation aligns with new laws in other places – notably, at present, Scotland and the Republic of Ireland – which are going to reduce free speech. The difference, of course, is that theirs is intended to prevent ‘hate speech’ about race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, disability, etc. The main similarity in all cases, besides the restrictions, is that the terms are undefined and vague. (What is hate speech? – Any speech that incites hatred. – And what is hatred? – Any feeling that is incited by hate speech.) In Scotland, Ireland, and elsewhere, the same phrase is used: the new law will have – is intended to have – a “chilling effect”.

    In Legco, votes were happily cast;
    The Nat Sec law was rapidly passed.
    Speech – even thought – are yet more restricted;
    You might go to prison if you’re convicted.
    Old Hong Kong – they willingly wrecked;
    The law will have a chilling effect.
    Plain people like you need not be alarmed;
    If you have old Apples, you will not be harmed.

  6. Reader says:

    @Shy Enquirer

    Happy to offer a few – perhaps some are new to you:

    The irreplaceable David Webb:

    Government Directory

    Just for old times’ sake:

    Rain as actually happens:

  7. Shy Enquirer says:


    Thank you for your suggestions. Perhaps surprisngly the only one new to me was Legco and (this is not seditious) I am not convinced of its total accuracy in that for example one Christopher Francis Patten is shown as being Governor for (only) 6 months, or so it appeared.

    If you or anybody else knows of less mainstream websites please share.

  8. Young Charles says:

    @Shy Enquirer

    Mostly traffic related, but always worth a read is James Ockenden’s Transit Jam Substack;
    Sadly becoming increasingly infrequent.

    If you want to get subversive, Samuel Bickett’s Substack will need a VPN to get around our local govt’s attempts at censorship;

  9. James O says:

    Thanks muchly for the TJ recco, Young Charles. The tumbleweeds from Transit Jam are painful to me too, I have scoops gone stale, burning issues unexplored!
    But given me and the family have been under the NSL microscope, it’s been better to keep quiet until we see how the new law pans out. Hopefully things will be clearer in the coming weeks. I would very much like to restart the website proper.

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