Essay

Living MoreFree

China’s streetball hero plays his way – Eduardo Baptista

On a mid-September afternoon, Wu You (吴悠) a.k.a. MoreFree, one of China’s most notorious basketball icons, was getting beaten badly. Despite the giant posters foregrounding the court and cameras filming Wu’s every move, this was only an informal exhibition game; Wu’s teammates included his childhood friends and their relatives, many of whom hadn’t exercised in months, let alone play a competitive game. As his team, down 20 points against a well-drilled team from the PLA National Defense University, called yet another timeout,Wu sat down on the bench, staring into space as everyone else chattered over tactics. Next to him, two of his septuagenarian teammates lit cigarettes, leaning back languidly and taking long drags. His team short on manpower, Wu tried to put them on his back for the final quarter, but to no avail – they lose by 30.

In China, the name “Wu You” has long been synonymous with “streetball,” or jieqiu (街球). The naughty younger brother of association basketball, streetball originated in the outdoor courts of America’s inner cities. The objective is not so much to outscore your opponent but to out-humiliate him, whether “breaking their ankles,” where a change of direction sends a defender flying to the ground, or inflicting a brutal “posterizer,” a dunk that rams the defender’s body backwards. At NBA games, spectators for the most part cheer and clap for their teams; streetball crowds are much less civilized, screaming in excitement whenever a player is embarrassed, even running onto the court.

Essay

The American Spirit behind China’s New Silk Road

US-Chinese cooperation and the dream of a global railroad – Matthew Ehret

Until recently, the Chinese role in building America’s transcontinental railway was nearly written out of history. It was only in 2014 that the US Department of Labor inducted the Chinese railway workers into the Hall of Honor, officially recognizing for the first time the vital role and sacrifice of the Chinese, whose numbers amounted to over 15,000 workers at the peak of the project’s construction – 90% of the total Central Pacific Railway workforce.

Essay

Naked and Famous

A comics anthology brings the birthday suits – Nick Stember

While the ongoing war of the words between the panicking, pusillanimous Pussy-Grabber in Chief and a certain belligerent billionaire has delivered no shortage of choice headlines (‘BEZOS EXPOSES PECKER’; ‘BEZOS COULD SUE THE PANTS OFF THE NATIONAL ENQUIRER’), I would be remiss not to point out the fortuitously-timed forthcoming publication of Naked Body: An Anthology of Underground Chinese Comics (although, because I can’t help myself: ‘JEFF BEZOS GOES HARD…’).

In just under two weeks, Orion Martin’s Paradise Systems, in collaboration with original publisher Yan Cong and Hong Kong cartoonist Jason Li, has raised $12,570 USD and counting (of an original $8,000 USD goal) in preorders and bonus pledges on Kickstarter – bringing some much-needed attention to this small press publisher of translated underground Chinese comics, while also earning it a place in the annals of Chinese folks going au naturel to prove a point.

Essay

The “Bots” of Weibo

How fake automated Chinese social media accounts are being used as a Trojan horse for dissent – Bai Mingcong

On October 21, 2018, an account named ‘People’s Daily bot’ (@人日bot) posted this message on Weibo:

They fear the empowerment of the people, fear that the people shall see the true face of our era, and further yet, they fear that their vice shall be exposed in front of the masses! (他们害怕人民翻身,害怕人民认识大时代的真面貌, 更害怕他们自己的丑恶暴露在人民大众面前!)

Taken at face value, the account appears to directly and forcefully target the Chinese regime. Puzzlingly, by the time of publication, the post has yet to be removed, and the account has not been banned, as usually happens to dissenting social media in China. Yet a closer look reveals that this is a repost of a 1946 editorial from the People’s Daily, the central mouthpiece of the Chinese Communist Party, that criticized the treatment of journalists in the Nationalist “occupation zone” as contrasted with the communist “liberated zone” under CCP control. The survival of the post in the face of hardening censorship is not a loosening of the cords. Instead, it is representative of a new trend on the Chinese internet, in which Weibo accounts purporting to be bots hide their criticism of the government behind prominent and often politically unassailable figures of modern China.

Essay

Disappeared Forever?

The persecution of Uighur intellectuals – Henryk Szadziewski

I was raised in the UK by parents who survived the Nazi occupation of Poland. I grew up hearing their stories of fear and deprivation. My father spent time in a German internment camp, with only threadbare clothes to protect him from the freezing cold. Decades later, even on mildly cold days, he would put several pairs of socks on his feet to keep the chill at bay. It was a persistent reminder of his severe experiences as a young man. I didn’t understand the lasting psychological and physical impacts of internment.

My parents were fortunate. They survived and rebuilt their lives. Members of their family and community, and millions of people in Poland including the educated elite, did not share this fate. In 1939, the Nazis implemented ‘Intelligenzaktion,’ a policy that singled out Poland’s intelligentsia. Selected people were targeted, disappeared and murdered. The aim was not only to ‘cleanse’ the newly conquered territory, but also to wipe out any source of opposition to Nazi rule. Professor Jan Pakulski writes that these ‘eliticides’ resulted in the “formation of a politically dependent and socially deracinated ‘quasi-elite’ with limited capacity for governing.”