Little Red Podcast

Tinker, Tailor, Student, Spy?

Australia’s Chinese student boom – Louisa Lim

Editor’s note: We’re thrilled to share the news that The Little Red Podcast, hosted by Graeme Smith and Louisa Lim, was this year’s winner of the Australian Podcast Awards in the news and current affairs category. At the China Channel (and at our former incarnation at the LARB China Blog) we have long been collaborating with the podcast to bring you Louisa’s companion essays to each new episode. Below is Louisa’s essay paired with last week’s episode about Chinese students in Australia, as well as the Soundcloud audio. Our hearty congratulations to Louisa, Graeme and the team. – Alec Ash

Little Red Podcast

How to Win Friends and Influence People

Inside China’s secretive United Front – Louisa Lim

The Communist Party's shadowy United Front Work department has emerged stronger than ever after the most recent government reshuffle. This body, which President Xi Jinping referred to in 2014 as a “magic weapon” for achieving the “rejuvenation of the Chinese race,” has now taken over responsibility for all work related to ethnic minority groups, religious management and contact with overseas Chinese, along with its main task of winning hearts and minds overseas.

“It makes clear what was generally the case all along: the United Front Work Department was the arbiter behind the government departments carrying out this work,” says Dr Gerry Groot of the University of Adelaide, who specialises in the United Front Work Department (UFWD), over email. “Though many people researching areas like religion and ethnic affairs knew that the UFWD was the real power or at least important, it is remarkable how rarely this was acknowledged in published work,” he continued. “That pretence of a separation between Party, government and civil society is now over.”

Little Red Podcast

Policing the Contour Lines

China’s cartographic obsession – Louisa Lim

When German Chancellor Angela Merkel decided to give Chinese President Xi Jinping an antique map, she unleashed a Pandora’s box of cartographic tensions. The 1735 map – printed by a German publishing house but made by French cartographer Jean-Baptiste Bourguignon d’Anville – depicted a China without Tibet, Xinjiang, Mongolia or Manchuria. In addition, the borders of Taiwan and Hainan were shown a different colour from China. At a single glance, this document undermines Beijing’s claims that these regions have been inalienable parts of its sovereign territory since ancient times.

To many Chinese, this gift was at best a shocking breach of etiquette, at worst a slap in the face.

Little Red Podcast

Bitter Medicine: China’s New Pacific Frontier

Is China the new imperial power in Papua New Guinea? – Louisa Lim


In shops across Papua New Guinea, Chinese shop-owners perched on high chairs watch over local shoppers to guard against theft, checking their bags before they are permitted to leave the premises. This striking act of physical dominance is symbolic of the distance between Chinese migrants and locals, according to journalist Jo Chandler, who has reported extensively from the Pacific nation: “There’s a real separateness about Chinese enterprise which is above and removed from this population.” The complicated tensions unleashed by Beijing’s growing role in the Pacific are pitting political elites against ordinary people, with sporadic explosions of violence targeting Chinese communities.

Little Red Podcast

Lies, Damn Lies and Police Statistics

Crime and the dark side of the Chinese Dream – by Louisa Lim


There was once a time when Chinese towns got rich producing a single cheap commodity such as the zip, the cigarette lighter or the humble button. In some parts of China, the model remains the same but the product is crime. Criminal villages – fanzui cun – are emerging, showing a darker side of Xi Jinping's Chinese Dream.