Good for NYC, Bad for Beijing

Filmmaker Zhu Rikun is homeless.

Not literally, but in a philosophical way.

“I still continue my job as a filmmaker,” he says. “I just feel homeless. I don’t feel any home anywhere, in China or the United States.”


Zhu was the artistic director of the Beijing Independent Film Festival from 2006 to 2011 and is an acclaimed producer and director of independent film in China. In the years before he left Beijing, he was monitored, placed under house arrest and detained by authorities. The festival was shut down last summer. Zhu moved to the Hudson Valley, New York in the fall under a visa program for artists of extraordinary ability.

In a sense, both Zhu and the Beijing Independent Film Festival have become homeless, squeezed out of China’s increasingly tight space for artists and activists.

Next month, his film “The Dossier” will be screened in New York City as part of a special series of independent films from China. A sort of stand-in for what was blocked Beijing, Cinema on the Edge is an almost month-long event of 27 films curated from the Beijing festival that never took place.

Read on a PRI.org.

A textured look at modern China

Had the good fortune to talk about Chinese Characters, the book of essays about everyday life in China that I co-edited with Jeff Wasserstrom, with Lisa Napoli on KCRW in Los Angeles. Here’s our chat:

Lisa wrote in the Which Way, LA blog: “There’s lots of news each day from and about China, but it’s rare that any of the broad brushstrokes we read and hear in the news introduce us to real people grappling with real issues.” Couldn’t agree more.

US Ends Trade Privileges to Bangladesh Following Garment Factory Disasters

President Barack Obama announced Thursday that the US will end trade privileges with Bangladesh over concerns for safety and working conditions in factories.

The US will suspend Bangladesh from the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP), which will increase tariffs on certain goods. The move, in response to recent garment factory disasters, will not directly affect the garment industry because they were not eligible for duty cuts under GSP.

The collapse of a Rana Plaza garment factory outside Dhaka on April 24 left over 1,100 people dead. A factory fire in November 2012 killed over 100 people.

Read on at PRI’s The World.

How has the web changed coverage of Asia?

Next week in San Diego, I’ll be on a “late breaking” news panel at the Association for Asian Studies’ annual conference. I’ve started to think about how to explain the many ways that connectivity — social media, VOIP, chat clients — have really colored how I think about news and story telling about the region. From telling stories using curation to the essential reading of bloggers on Global Voices, international news has been drawn in a lot closer to audiences in the United States. Journalists can no longer write or produce news with the expectation that the subjects of stories will not be able to see or comment on how they’ve been portrayed. Local feedback is instantaneous. But what does this mean for politics across Asia? How do things change when people in Asia can directly communicate with people anywhere else in the world, and vice versa?

These are the questions I’m looking forward to addressing. The panel has a great lineup and no doubt there will be some exceptional minds in the room, so I think it will be a lively conversation. If you have any thoughts or ideas that I might share with the group, I’m all ears. Email me or comment here.

If you’re in San Diego, you can join the event for free. Here are the details:

Digital Debates and Digital Divides: How the Web has Changed Politics in and Coverage of Asia

 

FRIDAY, March 22, 10:45 am – 12:45 pm, Manchester Grand Hyatt, Manchester Ballroom A

Discussants:

Jeff Wasserstrom, University of California Irvine (Moderator)
Nguyen Giang, Editor, East Asia Hub and Vietnamese Service, BBC World Service/London
Kaiser Kuo, Director of International Communications for Baidu, (China’s largest search engine).
Emma Larkin, Freelance Writer, Bangkok
Angilee Shah, Journalist and Blogger, Public Radio International

This panel is made possible in part by a generous grant from the Henry Luce Foundation

China Stories

If Chinese Characters is about telling the stories of everyday life in China, China Stories is explicitly a way to think about how we tell and hear those stories. Historian Jeffrey Wasserstrom and I teamed up again to curate and edit this e-book volume of reviews and analyses for the Los Angeles Review of Books. The cover art is by Chinese artist and activist Ai Weiwei, who figures in the collection alongside some others who have shaped how we see China and how people in China see themselves.

The ebook was available first to LARB supporters, but is now on Amazon for everyone. I hope you enjoy the collection!

Reddit Users Debate the Pricing Game Of The Cancer Drug Industry

When the Indian pharmaceutical company Cipla announced last month that it would cut the cost of three drugs used to treat cancers – one used for lung cancer and two for breast cancer – people around the world responded. Some of the most lengthy conversations took place on the news commenting site Reddit, including a thread 420 comments long in response to a news report in The Economic Times (India).

The conversations and debates centered on why these specialized drugs are so expensive, as well as what pharmaceutical companies’ rights and responsibilities are to make sure life-saving drugs are available in the developing world.

Read on in Global Voices.

Human rights in Sri Lanka take center stage at the United Nations

Sri Lanka has captured attention recently for a deteriorating situation around human rights. International Crisis Group researcher Alan Keenan explains why the Human Rights Council review is so important, and why the world should care.

Read more about the current situation in Sri Lanka and my Q&A with Keenan at Public Radio International.

Publication Day for Chinese Characters

Chinese Characters Book Launch at USC on Sept. 27, 2012

Today is publication day for Chinese Characters! The first shipments via Amazon have reached readers and the book is now easily available to anyone.

We’ve got a lot going on, including East (New York City) and West (Los Angeles) Coast book launches and talks and seminars in China, Boston, Philadelphia and around Southern California. Please do RSVP to our hosts if you are interested in attending any of the events near you!

We’ve also been running a one-sometimes-two-a-day Tumblr of readings on China and book updates. You can also connect with us on Facebook and find most of the contributors on Twitter. We can’t wait to hear readers’ feedback in all these venues and on Amazon.

Ordinary Chinese in extraordinary times

Eye on China interview with Angilee Shah (11:58)

From Radio Taiwan International on August 30, 2012:

How are ordinary Chinese dealing with the dramatic changes in their country? That’s what the new book Chinese Characters: Profiles of Fast-Changing Lives in a Fast-Changing Land unveils. Tune into Eye on China as Natalie Tso talks with the book’s co-editor Angilee Shah.

Filling Foreign News Gaps with Scholars: Asia Beat

I’m working with the Association for Asian Studies, the Journal of Asian Studies and Jeffrey Wasserstrom on a new news proposal. We’re one of 51 finalists of some 1,000 entries to the Knight News Challenge and will find out in a few weeks if they will help fund the project. In the meantime, we’re looking for more ideas to make this project work and make it sustainable.

Knight took down all the proposals (made public on their Tumblr) as they prepare for their next round of applicants, but I wanted to preserve our proposal here and continue to invite comments. Click on the image below to enlarge it and see the full text, including comments. Then come back here and leave comments if you have any. moved the proposals to a new Tumblr and you can still find ours online, where you can comment, like and share the pitch.