When the world gets closer.

We help you see farther.

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter.

Enjoy unlimited access to quality journalism.

Limited time offer

Get your 30-day free trial!

China

China

How China's Mass Protest Took The World By Surprise — And Where It Will End

China is facing its biggest political protests in decades as frustration grows with its harsh Zero-COVID strategy. However, the real reasons for the protests run much deeper. Could it be the starting point for a new civic movement?

In just one weekend, protests spread across China. A fire in an apartment block in Urumqi in China’s western Xinjiang region killed 10, with many blaming lockdown rules for the deaths. Anti-lockdown demonstrations spread to Beijing, Shanghai, Wuhan, Chengdu and other cities. University students from more than half of China's provinces organized various protests against COVID restrictions.

Why and how did the movement spread so rapidly?

At the core, protesters are unhappy with President Xi Jinping's three-year-long Zero-COVID strategy that has meant mass testing, harsh lockdowns, and digital tracking. Yet, the general belief about the Chinese people was that they lacked the awareness and experience for mass political action. Even though discontent had been growing about the Zero-COVID strategy, no one expected these protests.

Watch VideoShow less

Chinese Students' "Absurd" Protest Against COVID Lockdowns: Public Crawling

While street demonstrations have spread in China to protest the strict Zero-COVID regulations, some Chinese university students have taken up public acts of crawling to show what extended harsh lockdowns are doing to their mental state.

Since last Friday, the world has watched a wave of street protests have taken place across China as frustration against extended lockdowns reached a boiling point. But even before protesters took to the streets, Chinese university students had begun a public demonstration that challenges and shames the state's zero-COVID rules in a different way: public displays of crawling, as a kind of absurdist expression of their repressed anger under three years of strict pandemic control.

Xin’s heart was beating fast as her knees reached the ground. It was her first time joining the strange scene at the university sports field, so she put on her hat and face mask to cover her identity.

Kneeling down, with her forearms supporting her body from the ground, Xin started crawling with three other girls as a group, within a larger demonstration of other small groups. As they crawled on, she felt the sense of fear and embarrassment start to disappear. It was replaced by a liberating sense of joy, which had been absent in her life as a university student in lockdown for so long.

Yes, crawling in public has become a popular activity among Chinese university students recently. There have been posters and videos of "volunteer crawling" across universities in China. At first, it was for the sake of "fun." Xin, like many who participated, thought it was a "cult-like ritual" in the beginning, but she changed her mind. "You don't care about anything when crawling, not thinking about the reason why, what the consequences are. You just enjoy it."

The reality out there for Chinese university students has been grim. For Xin, her university started daily COVID-19 testing in November, and deliveries, including food, are banned. Apart from the school gate, all exits have been padlock sealed.

Keep reading...Show less

Business Tips, Free Speech, Racism: A Nigerian Writer's China Diaries

The deepening ties between China and Africa are a hot topic, but the voices we hear are usually the same — white and Western. So what does China look like to an African? Nigerian journalist Solomon Elusoji is the best person to ask.

BEIJING — China's increasing trade links with Africa have become the most discussed bilateral relationships of the twenty-first century.

But the opinions we hear are usually white and Western. Solomon Elusoji, a Nigerian journalist, is in a unique position having spent extended periods of time in China. His perspective adds one that is oddly missing from a widely discussed topic — the voices of Africans.

In 2018, at the age of 23, Elusoji was sent to China by his editor at Nigeria's daily newspaper, This Day.

Keep reading...Show less

Escape From Foxconn: Inside The COVID Lockdown Chaos Blocking China's iPhone Production

Around China, Zero COVID policy has shut down entire towns and workplaces. But in the high-tech Foxconn factory in Zhengzhou, famous for cranking out iPhones, employees were forced to work even if they tested positive. Exclusive testimony from some of those who fled Foxconn premises last week.

ZHENGZHOU — Luo, a newcomer at the Foxconn factory in this central Chinese city, was genuinely frightened when she heard her workplace would be an "experiment field" for new COVID-19 policies: Even during outbreaks, some employees won't stop their production work. Luo was chosen as one of the experiment subjects.

By the end of October, things were getting out of control at Foxconn: chaotic COVID testings, spreading infections, workers quitting their jobs. And Luo felt trapped inside the five million square meters of the Foxconn factory, China's largest producer of Apple's iPhones, which was falsely described as a COVID-free zone.

On Oct. 29, videos of Foxconn workers returning by foot to their hometowns began to spread on the internet. Some workers claimed that due to the company's chaotic quarantine system and poor logistical support, they had chosen to leave on their own and walk for several days back to small towns outside the city.

It would only deepen the delays piling up for iPhone deliveries around the world, and raise new questions about China's policy for dealing with the spread of COVID.

Keep reading...Show less
Society
You Ka

Inside China's Surveillance State, Built On High Tech And A Billion Spies

Twenty-five years in the making, China has developed a mass surveillance state, from Beijing alleyways to rural villages. And citizens don't object because they've been co-opted into it.

BEIJING — In 2021, a local police bureau in Beijing published an initiative on the Sharp Eyes project. Its description offers a chilling taste of how China's future of mass surveillance will be.

“Security cameras automatically capture the people’s faces, and match with house rental information, records in hospitals, hotels, and school, and summarize an activity log of different groups of people. With all information and data collected, an alarm model would be created to automatically identify abnormal activities."

Just exactly how the model will be implemented is not yet known. But combined with China's existing surveillance system, the Sharp Eyes project could allow community workers to proactively go to individuals' doors to investigate a crime that has not even been committed yet.

Its goal is to create a system that is literally meant to "prevent crime before it happens."

Watch VideoShow less
Society
Michelle Zhang

What Life Is Like As A Taiwanese Living In Mainland China

Tensions between Taiwan and China have ratcheted up over the last two years, peaking with Nancy Pelosi's visit to Taiwan in August. The Taiwanese who have lived peacefully on the mainland for many years are now questioning their place in an increasingly hostile environment.

SHANGHAI — Weng was invited to a party by a mainland Chinese friend on the night that U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi arrived in Taiwan in August. The theme of the party was different from the previous ones: "Welcoming Taiwan back to China and celebrating the reunification of our country."

China has of course long claimed ownership over Taiwan, but relations between the two have deteriorated further since Pelosi's visit, which prompted China to conduct military exercises in areas that overlap with Taiwan's territorial waters.

The situation has made life difficult for Taiwanese people like Weng living on the mainland. In response to the party invitation, Weng responded with a joke. “Haha, what if Taiwan is not going back, wouldn't that be a slap in the face?”

He is 37 years old and has lived in China for 16 years. He had even bought an apartment at the request of his ex-girlfriend’s parents and settled down here.

On the same night as Pelosi's plane landed, the internet in China was abuzz with emotional posts: "When Pelosi arrives in Taiwan, it is time for the unification of the motherland", "Unification of Taiwan by force", "No one will be left behind on the island", "the unification of the motherland is unstoppable" ... The top 10 trending topics on Sina Weibo (China’s equivalent to Twitter) were all related to Pelosi's visit to Taiwan, with "#Taiwan media reports Pelosi landing at 22:00" receiving nearly 1.3 billion views in one night.

Watch VideoShow less
China
Qiliu Zhao

How China's Race To Boost Low Birth Rates Is Backfiring With Teenage Pregnancy

In an attempt to counter an aging population, China announced its "three-child policy" last year. It has also cracked down on sex education and contraception. The move has meant that abortion is often the only option for Chinese girls and women in the post-family planning era.

In 2018, the phrase "family planning" disappeared from the names of Chinese State Council ministries and commissions. Three years later, China announced the "third-child policy", allowing one family to have up to three children.

The same year, a public service gynecology clinic serving teenagers in Xi'an was asked to move from the premises provided by the local family planning department, and was no longer invited to host contraceptive education outreach activities. Anqin Zhou, the founder of the clinic, understood clearly that the government was taking contraception much less seriously than before. She was even asked, "Why are you still talking about contraception now that we are encouraging childbirth?"

But alongside the current indifference to contraception is the troubling question of teenage abortion in China.


Watch VideoShow less
Economy
Lu Yang

The China-Vietnam-U.S. "Triangle": A Model For Globalization's Future?

Following the escalation of the Chinese-U.S. trade war in 2018, the "Made in China" label is not as ubiquitous as it once was. Southeast Asian economies are on the rise — but their growth doesn't necessarily threaten Chinese dominance.

There have been a flurry of reports recently in the Chinese media about the rise of Southeast Asian economies, particularly Vietnam's.

The question of whether Southeast Asia is about to replace China as the leading source of low-cost production is not new, and the "special trade corridor" between China, Southeast Asia and the U.S. became a popular subject again after the escalation of the China–U.S.trade war in 2018.

The many discussions of "supply chain relocation" for European and American companies often point to Southeast Asia as the first choice, while after the pandemic in 2020, some 60–70% of manufacturing companies in Zhejiang province in the east of China (the hub of the country's private economy) had said they would consider building factories in the neighboring Asian countries due to the rapid rise in domestic labor costs.

And now, there are more and more signs that Southeast Asia could be a good bet for companies as China faces issues both at home and abroad. But the larger picture reminds us that China and the West will very much need a middle ground in the future.

Watch VideoShow less
Society
Chung Kin Wah

China's Tattoo Crackdown: Celebrity, Subversion And A Twist Of Patriotism

A new regulation in China is cracking down hard on tattoos. The law is ostensibly about minors, but some argue that it's going too far and actively erasing the glorious Chinese past.

For those who get tattoos to be noticed, the Chinese government has noticed.

In June, China's State Council released new measures targeting the showcasing of tattoos in public media, forbidding publications, films and television programs from encouraging or abetting minors to get tattoos. This new regulation also prohibits any enterprise, organization or individual from providing tattooing services to minors.

The country's Children's Welfare Department later announced that minors cannot be tattooed, even with the consent of their parents. The regulations also state that anyone who gets a tattoo for a minor in violation of the law, or who breaks the law on promoting tattoo awareness, will face prosecution.

The Chinese government had already banned entertainment artists with tattoos from appearing on TV shows back in 2018, describing them as people who were "alienated from the Party and the country."

Watch VideoShow less
Geopolitics
Dan Wu

Old Witch Farce, No Fly Zone:  Specter Of Pelosi Taiwan Trip Raises Heat In Region

A phone call Thursday between Presidents Xi and Biden may have avoided adding tensions to U.S.-China relations, but now all attention will be back on the question of whether Nancy Pelosi lands in Taipei next month for a meeting that Beijing has been warning against and the Chinese media stirs the pot.

It's not quite "Nixon goes to China," but the question of whether U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will visit Taiwan is already stirring geopolitical tensions, and sparking rhetorical bluster from Beijing's official channels, as well as media and social networks.

Following The Financial Times' report on July 19 of a planned trip, Pelosi herself has still not confirmed whether she will be the most senior Congressional figure to make an official visit to Taiwan in 25 years. But that hasn't stopped continuous speculation and threats, and even insults, coming from mainland China.

The possibility of a visit also further complicated an already highly charged call Thursday between U.S. President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping, the first since March.

Watch VideoShow less
Geopolitics
Hye-kwan Lee and Stanley Leung

A Bitter Road Back For Hong Kong Students Arrested During 2019 Protests

Thousands of students and young people were detained during Hong Kong's democracy protests in 2019. Now with criminal records, many are struggling to re-integrating into a changed society

HONG KONG — Shortly after his release from the Detention Center, Ah Tao received a phone call from his secondary school headmaster. The headmaster told the Hong Kong teenager that it might not be a good idea for him to continue his studies, and that there were some barista courses outside school he might as well try.

Tao did not respond to the suggestion, and hung up after a few pleasantries.

Back when he was arrested on the street in 2019, Tao had completed his third year, and the school promised to hold his place. However, they stated that if he committed any offenses again, he could be expelled. Tao was already prepared for such a phone call. At that moment, he felt strongly that he was just a young person who had broken the law, and even his school did not want him anymore.

In 2019, the Hong Kong government proposed an amendment bill on extradition that would allow the transfer of fugitives from between Mainland China and Hong Kong. The bill received widespread criticism, with fears it would hamper political dissent in Hong Kong and led to large-scale protests.

Watch VideoShow less
Taiwan
Shi Qingye

The War In Ukraine Should Force China To Rethink Its Taiwan Narrative

Russia's invasion of Ukraine has put China's stance on Taiwan back in the spotlight. But despite shared narratives of national unity, there are key differences in how Beijing and Moscow approach territories they consider their own.

–Analysis–

Ever since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, there have been comparisons between the Russian-Ukrainian war and China's standoff with Taiwan, with divergent views on whether the same scene would be repeated.

Stay up-to-date with the latest on the Russia-Ukraine war, with our exclusive international coverage.

Sign up to our free daily newsletter.

The situations have similarities: Both Moscow and Beijing use the notion of “national unity” and Putin's war narrative also reflects China's theoretical dilemma on the issue of "anti-secession".

Watch VideoShow less
EXPLORE OTHER TOPICS
chinaitalyusafrancegermany