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Chinese Whispers: how will China remember the pandemic?
4d ago
Chinese Whispers: how will China remember the pandemic?
Three years ago, as people across China welcomed the Year of the Rat, a new virus was taking hold in Wuhan. In London, the conversation at my family’s New Year dinner was dominated by the latest updates, how many masks and hand sanitisers we’d ordered.  Mercifully, Covid didn’t come up at all as we welcomed the Year of the Rabbit this weekend, though my family in China are still recovering from their recent infections. The zero Covid phase of the pandemic is well and truly over. So what better time to reflect on the rollercoaster of the last three years? In exchange for controlling the virus, China’s borders were shut for most of that time, while the economy has tanked and a general of children had their schooling disrupted. Yet after some remarkable protests last November, the country has opened up at a breakneck pace. The government is now keen to move on, focusing now on this year’s economic recovery. But can a country of 1.4 billion people move on quite so quickly? The exceptional nature of the pandemic and the collective trauma of the last three years need to be processed, and yet I wouldn’t say that the Chinese Communist Party is usually good at allowing people to come to terms with historical suffering, especially when it’s the Party at fault… So on this episode we’ll be looking at the social legacy of the pandemic on China, and the collective memory of this exceptional time. Joining me are the Financial Times’s Yuan Yang, who was the paper’s deputy Beijing bureau chief during the first two years of the pandemic, and Guobin Yang, Professor of Sociology at the University of Pennsylvania and author of The Wuhan Lockdown, a book looking at how the Wuhan people documented the world’s first brush with Covid-19. On the episode I also mentioned the Chinese Whispers episode on the civil backlash against facial recognition. Listen here.
Chinese Whispers: should Confucius Institutes be shut down?
Jan 9 2023
Chinese Whispers: should Confucius Institutes be shut down?
Should Confucius Institutes be shut down? There are hundreds of these centres across six continents, funded by the Ministry of Education, with the stated goal of public education on and cultural promotion of China. They offer classes on language, history and culture of China, and some would say they help to plug a crucial shortage of Chinese language skills in host countries, especially across the West.  And yet, these have become deeply controversial. Criticism of the institutes range from their CCP-sanctioned curriculum which do not include sensitive topics, to allegations of espionage and erosion of academic independence with Confucius Institutes as the core. Sweden closed all of its CIs two years ago, and universities in countries including the US and Japan have also shut their centres down. This is a live debate in the UK right now. Last November, security minister Tom Tugendhat confirmed that the government would be seeking to ban Confucius Institutes in the UK, repeating a pledge that Rishi Sunak had made during the Tory leadership race. But is this the right decision? In this episode, Cindy is joined by Charles Parton, senior associate fellow at the thinktank RUSI, who worked in or around China as a diplomat for two decades. He is an expert on Chinese interference and espionage in the UK. My interview with Raffaello Pantucci on how Confucius Institutes play a role in central Asia: https://www.spectator.co.uk/podcast/the-new-great-game-how-china-replaced-russia-in-kazakhstan-and-beyond/.