China’s Literary Obsession with Soccer

From Maradona to Mo Yan Dave Haysom

The author Chen Cun had a good line about the twin failures that seemed destined to forever vex the population of China: the failure to have any success at the World Cup, and the failure to win a Nobel Prize in Literature.

That line had to be revised when Mo Yan brought home the Nobel in 2012. But the connection between the two prizes must have stuck, because two years later someone had the bright idea of shipping Mo Yan out to Brazil to offer his thoughts on the World Cup. This year’s competition, he concluded, had a hint of magical realism about it (“as if some invisible hand in the heavens was moving the ball around”), while the scale of Germany’s 7-1 defeat of Brazil was “unexpected.”


China’s Great Wall of Debt

Mike Cormack reviews China’s Great Wall of Debt by Dinny McMahon

Debt has replaced unbalanced growth as the great fear afflicting the Chinese economy. Following the 2008 financial crash, this is understandable: the figures are enormous, and often unparalleled. Between 2007 and 2014, Chinese firms went from owing a total of $3.4 trillion US dollars to $12.4 trillion. Tell-tale signs of financial distress resound, even when muffled by the damper of Party news management. And though the economy keeps on growing by a hefty 6.5% or so a year, the vast surge in debt over the last decade suggests an economic system with deep-rooted problems – from inefficiencies to misallocation of capital and irrational priorities, led more by political constraints than economic imperatives. Deciphering these signals is a tricky game: growth remains substantial (if the data can be trusted, which is also doubtful), and interested parties are working to minimize the impact of market realities as industries decline and fall in the global marketplace. The fog of economic war is thick and hazy.

In his new book China’s Great Wall of Debt, former Wall Street Journal reporter Dinny McMahon dissects the Chinese economy through the prism of debt.


Waves Against the Dawn

Annetta Fotopoulos reads a poetry anthology in commemoration of Liu Xiaobo

A hot-blooded expression of collective grief and grievance at a time when such politically incorrect expression is being systematically silenced and erased from public consciousness, The Contemporary: A Poetry Anthology in Commemoration of Liu Xiaobo is at once a political statement, an artistic achievement, and a platform for the expression of uncensored human emotions. Inspired by Italian philosopher Giorgio Agamben’s definition of “the contemporary,” the collection shows Liu Xiaobo—the poet, thinker and political activist at the vanguard of the pro-democracy movement in China who published dozens of essays incisively analyzing and criticizing contemporary Chinese society and politics— to be an exemplary “contemporary”: removed enough from his own time to truly understand it, and bold enough to face down the darkness of contemporary China, place it in juxtaposition to international democracies past and present, and hold it up to the light of public scrutiny.


Generational Firewalls

Gifting a VPN for Father’s Day – Mia Li

One Wednesday in early June my father called me at work and said, “I heard it’s going to be Fathers Day soon.”

Alarmed, I sat up in my chair and tried to make sense of this. My father had always said that the invented foreign festivals were decoys imported from America to sell cakes and carnations to China’s new middle class gullibles. Even still, in recent years it had become customary for Chinese children to buy their parents gifts on Fathers and Mothers Day. Pressure from both Confucius and the consumer industry had become insurmountable, let alone guilt trips from mum and dad. Starting the year I got a job, each year my mother dropped hints about what gift she wanted (at least she didn’t make me hand over a portion of my salary like some other Chinese mothers do). But my proud father would never ask me for anything, so I thought.