September 16, 2021 — March 3, 2024


Interesting snippets about the centre of the world.

1 Podcasts

  • The China History Podcast (feed). 90% killer. It took me a while to warm to host Laszlo Montgomery but now I am hooked. He is so curious and enthusiastic about epic stories of the various peoples of China and their complicated history, warts and wonders both, and is just so warm in inviting you to share his wonder. The world where we are all as interested as Laszlo is a better world.
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2 Sharp power

The Chinese state is attempting to identify itself with the Chinese people. Fascinating.

See Noah Smith’s invective: New technologies, new totalitarians—by Noah Smith

The third of these is especially new and unique to China. The Economist lays it out:

Xi Jinping, China’s supreme ruler, has instructed the Communist Party to recruit ethnic-Chinese nationals of other countries in a quest to build international support and stymie political enemies. In 2018 responsibility for relations with the Chinese diaspora was handed to the… united front department… In South-East Asia above all, Chinese embassies and state-security organs reach out to ethnic-Chinese businessmen, clan associations and grassroots organisations. Mr Xi’s approach confers primacy to blood rather than to citizenship: no matter how long ago their forebears left China, ethnic Chinese are considered to have a duty to their ancestral land.

Distinguishing little between the Chinese state, Chinese culture and Chinese ethnicity is bound to sow questions about the loyalty and identity of the tens of millions of ethnic-Chinese citizens of South-East Asian countries.

The “united front department” the Economist refers to is the United Front Work Department. Basically, the UFWD handles the “assimilation” of minorities within China, pushes propaganda overseas, and—most infamously—tries to recruit the Chinese diaspora to serve the People’s Republic of China. For example, Beijing Rules recounts how the UFWD organized massive efforts to buy up masks in America and ship them to China in the early days of Covid.

But the CCP doesn’t just try to recruit its diaspora; it also tries to discipline it. The overseas “police stations” China operates clandestinely within democratic societies are there to abduct and threaten Chinese nationals or ethnically Chinese people who speak up—or who might speak up—against the Chinese government.

3 Incoming