Fearful Reality

Kyle Muntz reviews Harvey Thomlinson’s novel The Strike

In a small town along the northern border of Heilongjiang Province, people gather to protest the closing of the Bright Moon electricity plant:

Still after the night blizzard neighbors had emerged in ones and twos from concrete stairwells strung with garlic bulbs… We can’t let them sell our factory Mrs. Gao said… They will steal our children’s future. There’s people going hungry.

The workers organize a strike, and are immediately labeled “dangerous … subversive criminals.” Their leader goes into in hiding, forbidden even the possibility of coverage in the news or collaboration with workers in other provinces. In China’s new economy, the inefficient state-owned factory is a relic of a past most of the country has already abandoned – yet, following half a year of unpaid wages, its loss will leave hundreds without work, a whole way of life coming to an end beneath an impenetrable media silence. This has happened before and it will happen again, in a hundred similar towns all across the country. But that doesn’t make it any easier to live with now.


Making Leaps

Amy Hawkins talks to Zhang Wei, director of China’s new award-winning trans film

In 2007, a young man name Liu Ting was awarded China’s highest honor for filial piety. Liu’s achievement had been to care for his ailing mother while he was a university student in Zhejiang, carrying her to and from hospital every day when his father left the family after a job loss.

Seven years later, Liu made the headlines again when he came out as transgender, and revealed he had been trying on his mother’s lipstick and clothes since he was a child. “If he was a nobody, it wouldn’t have been big news,” says the film director Zhang Wei via WeChat video call from his hotel room in Busan, South Korea, “but people were shocked.”

Little Red Podcast

Geopolitics on the New Silk Road

Is the Belt and Road Initiative China’s Marshall plan?


There’s no escaping China’s Belt and Road Initiative. It’s been written into China’s constitution, and more than 70 countries from Pakistan to Papua New Guinea have signed up. But what is it? A modern-era Marshall Plan, a geopolitical bid for China to build a new international power bloc, a new model for Chinese colonialism, or an all-encompassing bumper sticker for Chinese-brokered development projects? To unpack the motivations behind Xi Jinping’s highest profile foreign policy initiative, Louisa Lim and Graeme Smith are joined by Peter Cai of the Lowy Institute and Dirk van der Kley from the Australian National University, in this episode of the Little Red Podcast: