Little Red Podcast

Of Sea Cucumbers and Men

Not as sexy as the shark – by Louisa Lim


Reviled in the West, the slimy slug-like bottom-feeders of the ocean known as sea-cucumbers have recently won another moniker: “the gold of the sea”. Skyrocketing demand for this prized feature of Chinese wedding banquets has driven up the price of beche-de-mer, causing knock-on impacts ranging from international sea-cucumber smuggling syndicates to a thriving black market to a collapse in sea-cucumber stocks to starvation in some parts of the world.

The fate of the lowly sea cucumber is a cautionary tale into how one country’s growing hunger for a particular food source can reverberate into unforeseen ecological and social crises on the other side of the world.

Little Red Podcast

Party Poopers

Can art bring down the government? – by Louisa Lim

In late July, after the death of Chinese Nobel laureate Liu Xiaobo, a ghostlike picture materialised on walls around the world in Melbourne, Sydney, Ottawa, New York City, Taiwan, Dublin, and even Beijing. It showed images of Liu Xiaobo floating skywards, hand in hand with his wife Liu Xia, with blank white expanses where their facial features should have been. This was the work of Badiucao, a radical Chinese artist who, like Banksy, hides behind a pseudonym. He keeps his identity secret out of caution: “If you’re spreading negative energy like me, drawing criminals of the state, you become a problem.”

Little Red Podcast

Muzzling the Academy

Censorship emboldened, at home and abroad – by Louisa Lim

For University of Melbourne doctoral candidate Dayton Lekner, it was supposed to be his last day of fieldwork interviewing elderly survivors of the Anti-Rightist movement. Instead, he found himself in a Shanghai police station undergoing a three-hour interrogation about his research. His experience in February 2017 illustrates the challenges faced by Western academics researching China, who are encountering increasing levels of intimidation both of themselves and their sources. Though recent headlines have focused on the controversy surrounding Beijing’s demands that at least two Cambridge University Press journals censor their archives inside China, it is clear that attempts to shut down academic inquiry go far deeper.