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Generation Gaps

From old-timers to fifty shades of youth – Alec Ash

For China’s ‘post-80s’ generation, there are various tribes to identify with. The ‘working grunt tribe’ (shangbanzu) or ‘urged tribe’ (beicuizu) are the nine-to-fivers pressured into conformity. The ‘strawberry tribe’ (caomeizu) are nice to look at but soft inside, flitting from job to job and avoiding responsibility. The ‘moonlight tribe’ (yueguangzu) spend their monthly wages shopping – a punning double meaning of ‘moonlight’ and ‘spend it all’ – while the ‘bite the old tribe’ (kenlaozu) still live off mum and dad. Almost everyone’s in the ‘rush-rush tribe’ (benbenzu) but those who can’t hack it might join the ‘crush-crush tribe’ (nieniezu), named for a brief craze where stressed young workers took out their frustrations by crushing packets of instant noodles in supermarket aisles.

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Reform and Opening: China’s Turning Point

Crossing the river by feeling for the stones – Klaus Mühlhahn

On December 13, 1978, at the end of a month-long preparatory conference for the historic Third Plenum of the Eleventh Central Committee, to be held in Beijing from December 18 to December 22, Deng Xiaoping delivered a carefully thought-out, well-calculated speech, which not only dared a risky break with the Maoist past, but ushered in a new era of reform and opening. It is time, Deng stated, that the members of the Chinese Communist Party "emancipate their minds, use their heads, seek the truth in the facts, and look to the future together." He criticized that many Party members clung to "book knowledge" and were accustomed to "hang their flag in the wind." But conservatism and the worship of theories must be overcome in order to make China a "modern and powerful socialist state." Deng also made it clear that pragmatism should never call into question the political leadership of the Chinese Communist Party.

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China’s New Feminists

Bearing the torch from centuries-old activism – Leta Hong Fincher

When I visited Hangzhou in November 2015 –roughly half a year after the Feminist Five were released – two feminist activists in their twenties invited me to tour the city’s most scenic landmark, West Lake, in the middle of a rainstorm. We paid an old man to row us across the lake in a small boat covered with an awning to keep us semi-dry. As the rain fell, Gina (a pseudonym) – who worked at the Weizhiming Women’s Rights Center – and Zhu Xixi, a feminist PhD student at Zhejiang University, told me how state security agents had summoned them for questioning several times since the detention of the Feminist Five. Gina’s landlord had just threatened to evict her after coming under pressure from the police, while Zhu Xixi was warned that she might be expelled from her university.

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How Britain’s First Mission to China Went Wrong

Why the Macartney mission went awry – Stephen R. Platt

At last, an early departure on September 8 brought Macartney and his entourage into range of the emperor’s summer quarters. They had been traveling for nearly a year since their departure from England in the autumn of 1792, and the success or failure of the embassy would likely be decided in the next few days. They stopped a mile from the imperial residence to primp and reassemble themselves for presentation, then set forth for the final leg of the journey in a makeshift parade formation with as much pomp as they could muster. The English soldiers and cavalry led the way on foot, followed by a two-by-two procession of servants, musicians, scientists, and various gentlemen. Bringing up the rear were Macartney’s secretary, George Staunton, in a palanquin, and finally the ambassador himself, accompanied by his page, Staunton’s 12-year-old son, in a post-chaise trailed by a little turbaned African boy one of the gentlemen had brought along.