Barbarians at the Gate

China’s New Youth

An episode of Barbarians at the Gate

In this episode, hosts Jeremiah Jenne and David Moser catch up with writer and editor Alec Ash, to discuss the new US edition of his book Wish Lanterns: Young Lives in New China. Alec’s book is an intimate portrait of six diverse members of China’s “post-80s” generation, tracing their lives’ trajectory in the context of China’s turbulent and unpredictable economic modernization process. Orville Schell called the book “a fascinating mosaic that gives us a wonderfully vivid sense of what it’s like to grow up today in the People’s Republic of China.” With the themes of the book as a jumping-off point, the topic broadens in historical scope, exploring communalities and contrasts in earlier youth movements such as the May 4th movement, the Tiananmen Square movement, the Red Guards of the Cultural Revolution, and the current resurgence of nationalism among the “post-2000s” generation. Alec is China correspondent for the Los Angeles Review of Books, and his articles have appeared elsewhere including The New York Review of Books, The Economist, the Guardian, and The Sunday Times.

 

Podcasts

China’s New Silk Road Comes To Kazakhstan

Ed: We’re pleased to bring you this podcast and accompanying essay by Mary Kay Magistad, part of her new podcast series for the Global Reporting Centre, "On China's New Silk Road." In the series, Magistad, a former China correspondent for NPR and PRI, explores the impacts of China’s Belt and Road Initiative, reporting from different corners of the world where the project reaches to uncover where it came from, why it is being pursued and how it is viewed on the ground. In this, the second episode of the series, she travels to Kazakhstan.

Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit to Almaty, Kazakhstan’s capital, in 2013, seemed like another boring meeting worth skipping, according to Dulat Yesnazar, then a college student studying international relations. Xi had come to announce the launch of one of the most sweeping global infrastructure initiatives in history.

 

Translated Chinese Fiction

Reading Mo Yan’s novella ‘Radish’

An episode of the Translated Chinese Fiction Podcast

“As the boy's thoughts wandered, the purple and green leaves turned into autumn well water, and then the jute became water, while sparrows skimming the tips of the jute plants were transformed into green kingfishers snapping up tiny shrimp from the water's surface.”

In this episode of the Translated Chinese Fiction Podcast, Angus Stewart is joined by translator Lehyla Heward to discuss Mo Yan's novella Radish (透明的红萝卜 Tòumíngde Hóngluóbo). Mo Yan is, of course, a Nobel-winning novelist, author of The Garlic Ballads and Red Sorghum. Read more about his background and career in the long translated essay we published at the China Channel last year. Radish, like much of Mo’s work, is set in Cultural Revolution-era rural China, where a countryside work team is joined by the strange, silent protagonist Hei-hai, who seems indifferent to pain and has an affinity for the titular root. 

 

Translated Chinese Fiction

Jin Yong’s translator on martial arts novels

An episode of the Translated Chinese Fiction Podcast

“We Han Chinese outnumber the Jurchen by more than a hundred to one. If the Imperial Court decided to employ honest and loyal men, our great Empire would prevail. With one hundred of our men against one of their worthless soldiers, how could the Jin army win?”

In this syndicated episode of the Translated Chinese Fiction Podcast, host Angus Stewart and translator Gigi Chang discuss the literary merit and cultural impact of Legend of the Condor Heroes, the series of wuxia (martial arts) novels by grandmaster Jin Yong, or Louis China, who died in 2018. The Condor Heroes series is a magnum opus in Chinese literature – both highbrow and lowbrow – and pop culture in general. In this, the first episode of the podcast's wuxia season, Angus and Gigi get to grips with this behemoth of genre fiction. The first of the novels, Legend of the Condor Heroes: A Hero Born is already out in English (translated by Anna Holmwood), and at the China Channel we both reviewed and excerpted it. The second novel published in English, A Bond Undone, was translated by Gigi Chang:

 

Barbarians at the Gate

China’s Education Ambitions (Part II)

An episode of Barbarians at the Gate

Following on the previous episode about the Chinese education system, Jeremiah and David continue the discussion with award-winning journalist and author Lenora Chu. Lenora is the author of Little Soldiers, a melding of memoir and journalism that brings to light the enormous cultural differences between the Chinese and American education systems. In recounting the adjustments of her young son to the academic environment of an elite Shanghai elementary school, Chu explores the complex web of social conditioning and parental cooperation that results in the high-achieving “little soldiers” in the Chinese system, and weighs the advantages and disadvantages of the East and West educational models. The conversation also touches on the gaokao, the controversial college entrance exam, the supposed “creativity gap” in the Chinese model, and the similarities in the phenomenon of “helicopter parents” in the two cultures: