Party Congress, cockfighting, Party Congress again, Game of Thrones, and watching for forest fires. Then more Xi and the Party Congress.
Weekly Highlights for October 15th
With a certain political event really looming now, the first selection for this week is a piece on how preparations for 19th National Party Congress might be having knock on effects for cock fighting get-togethers in Xinjiang.
According to the article, a recent crackdown on cockfighting isn’t about animal rights, but about extreme caution in the run up to the Party Congress. Large gatherings of people in politically turbulent areas like Xinjiang are a no-no this autumn.
The article is about the Party’s strict control around the time of the Party Congress, but it is also about the potential permanency of such new controls in restive Xinjiang.
This is a non-political read about loneliness and duty in Northern China. The article follows Cao Zhiguo in his work as a fire-watcher in Mohe County, a job he performs in splendid isolation from a top a 28m high tower surrounded by young forest.
The forest is young because in 1987 it was transformed into wasteland during a fire that burned for 28 days and claimed 211 lives.
The piece, translated from Chinese, is also accompanied by a lovely short video, which is definitely worth watching.
One of the many great pieces on the Party Congress would have been an easy choice for today, but diversity is the spice of life. If you want more reading material on the Party Congress, check out The China Road’s contribution to the sea of explainers out there.
Aside from not mentioning the Party Congress once, this is also a great piece. It discusses the difficulties, dangers, and generally crap situations that face assistants to foreign journalists in China.
Chinese news assistants are vital to the production of foreign coverage of China, but their difficult work is rarely credited. Sometimes this is the fault of lazy or self-important foreign correspondents, but the article seems to conclude that the Chinese government’s restrictive practises are mostly to blame.
Ironically, reluctance to allow Chinese journalists (legally, nominally “assistants”) to participate in international news means that the Party ‘unwittingly lets foreign journalists dominate the narratives of the most important stories about China’.
And back to the Party Congress… This is David Shambaugh’s take.
If we divide up the world of China scholars into those who paint China’s futurescape as one of either political reform or collapse, and those who see the Leninist system as sustainable, then Shambaugh definitely belongs to the former camp.
He’s a “China pessimist” and this article is a reflection of that designation. His recent book ‘China’s Future‘ suggests that the Chinese model is unsustainable and his SCMP article echoes this stance, furthermore claiming that Xi’s accumulation of personal power has paradoxically made the Party even more vulnerable.
This article from the People’s Daily demonstrates the sensitivity of state media to foreign coverage of China. The piece takes particular umbrage with the comparison of the Party Congress with Game of Thrones. Of course, the Congress isn’t about cut-throat politics, because ‘all the party’s efforts are aimed at national rejuvenation’.
The Economist actually coined the now widely used moniker for Xi Jinping, ‘Chairman of Everything’.
They are usually pretty bullish when it comes to Xi and his stranglehold on power, and this article is on message. It’s a short read on the decline of Trump’s America and the growing clout of Xi.
It appeared in Saturday’s print edition, with a big orange picture of Xi on the cover, so it’s a big splash in terms of UK China stuff and worth reading.
Saving the best for last, here’s BBC journalist Carrie Gracie’s take on Xi.
This was published before the 15th, but it’s a classic Sunday read. In writerly terms, Carrie Gracie is the best UK China person there is. This awesome profile of Xi threads many themes, it’s really well written, and it’s a thoroughly enjoyable read.