Essay

China’s Soft Power Divergence

Why Beijing’s global propaganda drive is strugglingMartin Gelin

Standing in New York’s Times Square in June, I gazed up at the iconic neon-lit skyscrapers and counted four gigantic advertisements for Chinese companies and media firms. At one prime spot, an electronic billboard glowed with the name of China’s state news agency, Xinhua. According to recent estimates by Quartz, advertising on these billboards costs at least $2.5 million a month, so it is likely that the Chinese government is paying around $30 million annually just to have the Xinhua logo shining brightly over the people of Manhattan, 365 days a year.

It is unclear exactly what the Chinese government hopes to achieve with this splurge. But one thing is for sure: Times Square billboards are just a tiny fraction of the full efforts of Beijing’s spending on global promotional efforts.

Little Red Podcast

The Han-opticon

China’s dystopian surveillance networks – Louisa Lim

Surveillance drones disguised as birds. Cameras in classrooms monitoring students for signs of distraction. Sensors embedded in hats transmitting brainwave data from workers on the production line, to scan for depression, anxiety or rage. A network of cameras across rural villages, with the longterm aim to “turn every television set and mobile phone in the countryside into a security monitoring terminal.” All of these technologies are being piloted in China, as the country harnesses artificial intelligence and cutting-edge tech to transform itself into a modern surveillance state.

Review

The Epistemology of Surveillance

Andrea Lingenfelter reviews Dragonfly Eyes, a film by Xu Bing

A grainy black and white long shot, filmed from a high angle. A solitary figure is walking away from the camera, along the edge of what appears to be a lake or small reservoir. It’s night-time, and the person walks unsteadily, weaving from left to right, as if drunk, or maybe just tired. Then, without warning, the person falls into the water. It’s hard to tell if the person can swim or not; they seem to struggle. We see their head and arms, but after a few seconds, their head and arms disappear beneath the surface. Gradually the ripples subside.

According to the timestamp, this took place some years ago. But that makes it no less immediate, no less disturbing. We have become witnesses after the fact to a death — one that seems to have gone unwitnessed in real time. Powerless to help, we feel implicated all the same.

General

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A quick note from us at the China Channel, about a new translation project we're looking to start. Right now, China is going through a nonfiction golden age. Every day, essays, articles, narrative nonfiction and personal memoir is published that puts the world's fastest rising country in a new perspective – told by the voices that are creating China's story, not by foreign observers or anyone else writing in English. Right now, those valuable voices are only read by Chinese speakers but are lost to readers abroad, who are only getting a partial view of one of the most important nations in the world.

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