Slow Burn

The rise of Chinese-American rapper Bohan Phoenix – Yi-Ling Liu

On a chilly spring day in a quiet neighborhood of East Beijing, Bohan Phoenix lounges on the divan of his hotel room. The twenty-five-year-old rapper flew in from Shanghai the night before, and is enjoying a pause after several whirlwind weeks promoting the launch of his new album Overseas. For a brief moment, dressed in a white long-sleeved shirt, black joggers, and a gold hoop on his left ear that once belonged to his grandmother, Bohan lies still, a Portrait of a Reclining Rapper in Repose.


Swallowed by the State

Susan Blumberg-Kason reviews The People’s Republic of the Disappeared

When five Hong Kong booksellers disappeared in 2015, the world looked on in shock. Two of the booksellers were abducted outside the borders of mainland China. Gui Minhai, a Swedish citizen, was taken from his apartment in Thailand that October, only to reappear in a televised confession months later. In January of 2018, after he had ostensibly been released from state custody, was seized on a train, the Swedish diplomats accompanying him no deterrent to his abductors. He still remains in China today, unable to leave. Lee Bo, a British citizen, was picked up off the streets of Hong Kong. He made a brief reappearance in the city, asking the Hong Kong police to drop the case of his disappearance and announcing that he would never sell banned books again. He was then whisked away back over the border to mainland China. How could this happen? A new book about enforced disappearance in China, The People’s Republic of the Disappeared: Stories from Inside China’s System for Enforced Disappearances, explains exactly how common practice state-sponsored abduction is against anyone who is deemed to be a threat to China’s national security.


Who by Fire

Erica X Eisen visits China’s Western edge

Of Suoyang City only ruins remain: the scattered remnants of an imperial garrison town in the Gobi Desert that once fended off the advancing armies of Genghis Khan. Early in its history, the westering forces of Xue Rengui were besieged there; the general’s soldiers, depleted and half-starved, kept themselves alive by rooting in the sand for a parasitic purple-brown fungi that thrives in the arid region. When the siege was lifted, the men renamed the city after the only thing that had sustained them.


Children of Tiananmen

Coming to terms with 1989 as a young Chinese – Catherine Wang

For a long time, the only significance 1989 held for me was that it was the year when I was born, in the coastal city of Tianjin. By the time I went to university, I had heard about the other thing that happened that same spring. The term used for it when I grew up was not “June 4th”, let alone “Tiananmen square massacre”, but more simply “the student riot”.

“When did our youngest son get married again?” my grandfather would ask my grandmother, when he was flicking through the family photo album.