12 Best China Documentaries

Our pick of the best TV and film docs about modern China

Our end-of-year 'best of' season continues, for our listicle sins. On top of China books and Chinese fiction, we previously ran a list of the 12 Best Modern Chinese Films, so there is one last hole to plug: China docs. From Michelangelo Antonioni's 1972 glimpse of Maoist China, Chung Kuo, to the cinéma vérité of Jia Zhangke's 24 City, documentary films about China fill an essential space to record a nation changing faster than we can keep up with. Here are the China Channel's pick of the top 12 from recent years. We're then going on break for Christmas, and will return in the new year. Happy holidays to all.



Top 10 Recent China Books

A holiday shopping list of China nonfiction and fiction

The season of end-of-year listicles has arrived, and we're kicking it off with a Christmas wish list of noteworthy China titles from the last several years. We've previously run lists of 20 Best China Books and 12 Best Chinese Contemporary Fiction Books, and this one has some overlap, but the focus here is on recent titles published in the last decade, and we've capped it at a more manageable ten. From Shanghai streets to fictional fields, historical biography to family memoir, the list is far from comprehensive and necessarily misses a number of excellent titles (such as your not-so-humble editor's own new rerelease), but it covers a range of topics and genres to fill out any growing China bookshelf. The first are by foreign journalists and academics; the second half is from Chinese voices. Wishing everyone a happy holidays, and a comfortable reading couch to rest your feet.



Old China Blogs

We salute the fallen heroes of the Golden Age of China blogs

We're indulging ourselves with an act of nostalgia before close of year, and listing some of the old China blogs that we used to read and enjoy. Many of these are relics of a bygone age of the internet: the era of personal blogs, before the web was corporatized and Web 2.0 social media took its place. Some of them are still going strong. But mostly this is a record for posterity of that golden age (the 2000s and early 2010s) when the English-language Chinese blogosphere – as it was alarmingly called, as if some Borg spaceship – was as exciting and varied as life in China and Chinese blogs were, before the Great Chill of the Xi era.

We're not including on the list: old blogs affiliated to mainstream media, such as NYT's Sinosphere or The Economist's Analects; city-guide websites including Shanghaiist and The Beijinger; long-running sites with institutional funding like China File; those affiliated to Chinese media, such as World of Chinese or Sixth Tone (both excellent sources regardless), activist/aggregation websites such as China Change and CDT; and those with paying customers like the well-known Sinocism and supChina. Rather, this is a look back at the little guys in a burgeoning blogging community trying to make sense of China – including your humble editor's old individual and group blogs – before the media landscape, and China, changed.



Three years of the China Channel

We celebrate our birthday, and ten best posts of the last year

Three years ago – on Lu Xun's birthday, in the spirit of his iconoclasm – we launched the Los Angeles Review of Books China Channel to fill in the white space of China coverage. Three years later, we are still going strong, publishing reviews, essays, dispatches and podcasts, with a focus on culture and history rather than the news cycle. We want to take this moment to thank you, our readers, for following and supporting us, and making this possible. In these uncertain economic times nothing lasts forever, but we're proud of what we've accomplished over the last three years. Below are ten of our favorite posts from 2020, and do consider donating on Patreon to fund our new translations. Cheers! – The Editors



Support Chinese translation

A call for Patreon donations to fund original translations from Chinese

Last week, we featured a long translation (by our own translations editor Anne Henochowicz) of scholar Tang Danhong's search for an interred Uyghur intellectual and former colleague who had since been locked up in a Xinjiang re-education camp. We believe that funding and publishing such translations is an invaluable addition to the China conversation. Hearing Chinese voices adds much-needed perspective to the issues of the day, such as Tang's outrage at what her own nation is perpetrating in its far West.

Since our launch in fall 2017, we have published scores of original translations of the best contemporary non-fiction, fiction and poetry. We have done so in partnership with Read Paper Republic, One-Way Street Magazine, and The Initium, and have also commissioned many original translations from Chinese into English. This is made possible through your support. Please consider adding your name to the list and donating on Patreon to our translations drive, from as little as $1 or $5 a month, to help us publish more content such as Tang's essay in the future.