Chinese Corner

Not Mandarin

An invitation to speak other Chineses – Will Sack

Imagine if all of Germany spoke Shanghainese. Or if a population bigger than Britain spoke Cantonese. Wouldn’t we treat them as more than just sideshows? With 80 and 70 million native speakers respectively, Shanghainese and Cantonese are massive in both use and importance. So why do we so seldom teach them or other non-Mandarin Chineses? Why aren’t we curious what one third of China – a politically and culturally marginalized, but not always economically marginalized, third – has to say and think on their own terms?

Review

Tough Questions

Grace Jackson reviews The China Questions, from Harvard University Press

In 1955, Professor John King Fairbank established the Center for Asian Research at Harvard not to train scholars per se, but to educate and prepare a new generation of public servants for engagement with Chairman Mao’s China. Sinology was already an established academic discipline in Europe and the United States, tracing a lineage from the Jesuit missionaries through to the great nineteenth century translators such as James Legge, Thomas Wade and Herbert Giles. But unlike the Sinologists, who approached Chinese civilization through its ancient texts, the China Hands that Fairbank would train at Harvard were multidisciplinary men – in those days, it was primarily men – of the world: aspiring journalists, diplomats and policymakers.

Essay

The Disappearance of Rahile Dawut

A vanished professor, remembered by students and colleagues – Darren Byler

On December 4, 2017, the disappearance of Professor Rahile Dawut, an eminent scholar of the Uyghur ethnic minority which she herself belongs to, sent quiet shockwaves among her students and colleagues around the world. On that day she had packed her bags for a flight to Beijing from Urumqi, the capital of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, where the majority of Uyghurs live, and has not been seen since. Presumably she is being held in detention. The cryptic text messages a colleague sent regarding what happened did not provide many details. They ended with the message, “I am going to delete my VPN [virtual private network, for communicating behind the Chinese firewall] and never use it again. So please if you care about people here, stop asking questions.”

Dawut’s Uyghur students care too deeply to stop asking questions, but for many months they have kept their questions quiet.

Little Red Podcast

War on the Uighurs

An unfolding crisis in Xinjiang – Louisa Lim

The little boy sat mute beside his father. Just three years old, he was completely still, not fidgeting, just staring straight ahead. His sister, four years old, sobs uncontrollably through the night, and refuses to eat. There is no comfort for these children. Though they are in Adelaide, Australia, their mother – an ethnic Uighur – is in a re-education camp in Xinjiang. Their father’s voice breaks when he says, through a translator, “I had to tell them your Mum has to be kept by Chinese authorities. A little child – what can he understand?”