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Cancel Russia? The Risk Of Targeting Culture In Times Of War

From Tolstoy and the Bolshoi Ballet to Russia Today, the West is banishing Russian composers, artists and media. But is banishment of culture the right move in times of war?

Cancel Russia? The Risk Of Targeting Culture In Times Of War

A ballerina at the Bolshoi Theater in Moscow

Christian Meier

BERLIN — Last week German TV channel RTL Nitro changed its schedule: instead of showing the classic James Bond film From Russia with Love, it ran with On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. But wasn’t Vladimir Putin part of the secret service, and didn’t he say, “Once KGB, always KGB?” So maybe Goldfinger would have been a more appropriate choice? Or even Quantum of Solace?

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Of course, it’s important for programming to be tactful, especially during a crisis. But there are more important things at stake than tact. Almost the entire cultural sector seems to be scrutinizing itself, asking what links orchestras, museums or institutions have to Russia, whether they need to cut ties with them and how they can justify these decisions.

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Coronavirus

In Shanghai, A Brewing Expat Exodus As COVID Crackdown Shows "Real" China

Not only strict rules of freedom of movement as part of Zero-COVID policy but also an increase in censorship has raised many questions for the expat population in the megacity of 26 million that had long enjoyed a kind of special status in China as a place of freedom and openness. A recent survey of foreigners in the Chinese megacity found that 48% of respondents said they would leave Shanghai within the next year.

People walk in Tianzifang, located in Huangpu District, a well-known tourist attraction in Shanghai.

Lili Bai

SHANGHAI — On the seventh day of the lockdown, Félix, a French expat who has worked in Shanghai for four years, texted his boss: I want to "run,' mais je sais pas quand (but I don’t know when). A minute later, he received a reply: moi aussi (me too).

Félix had recently learned the new Mandarin word 润 (run) from social network postings of his local friends. Because its pinyin “rùn” is the same as the English word “run,” Chinese youth had begun to use it to express their wish to escape reality, either to “be freed from mundane life”, or to “run toward your future.”

For foreigners like Félix, by associating the expression “run” with the feeling of the current lockdown in Shanghai, “everything makes sense.” Félix recalled how at the end of March, the government denied rumors of an impending lockdown: “My Chinese colleagues all said, Shanghai is China’s top city, there would be no lockdown no matter what.”

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