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newsletter China, land of the middle
Professor Li Yang made fame and fortune in China in an unusual way. Aware of the country’s rapid economic expansion, he decided to create an English course that mixed repetition of phrases in the language with motivational lectures in which participants gather in auditoriums to shout slogans.
The so-called “Crazy English” (crazy English) method became a book, a DVD series and the subject of reports around the world. Already famous, he was accused by his ex-wife of committing abuses and making threats. He accepted the mistake, saying he had a “problematic personality” and would not repeat the attacks. Ten years later, he broke his promise.
In a post on Weibo (a kind of Chinese Twitter) seen by more than 45 million users, Li’s ex-wife said that he has again had outbursts of anger, this time with the couple’s daughters. The woman said that one of the girls was beaten by her father.
Later, students at Crazy English — who she describes as “members of a cult” — reportedly threatened the girls if they told their mother about what had happened.
The post is accompanied by a video in which Li is caught yelling at a girl as she replies “why are you hitting me? Why do you want to kill me?”.
The ex-wife also denounces that, when asked about episodes of domestic violence, Li replied that foreigners “don’t understand” why it was “part of Chinese culture”.
In a statement, Li said that the ex-wife’s description of the episode was disproportionate and that the fight was motivated by “divergence of opinions with the daughters”. He threatened to “take aggressive legal action” against anyone spreading “evil rumors” about him.
Why It Matters: For the third week in a row, Chinese headlines are dominated by a case of an abusive man and a woman who decides to go public with reporting abuse. The wave of feminist awareness, harshly repressed by the Chinese government in 2015, is now gaining traction on social media and inciting more complaints. With the public debate heavily moderated by the state, sinologists and observers are curious: does the discussion take place authorized by the government or despite it?
what also matters
A video showing subway workers in Xi’an removing a female passenger from a car has sparked a wave of revolt on the internet. Security guards accused the passenger of fighting and disturbing other passengers.
In the image, eight men appear dragging her across the floor, exposing her underwear and body parts. The incident generated a trending topic on Weibo, attracting 190 million views.
Xi’an’s Department of Public Security said in a statement that it reprimanded the officials, although it noted that they had not committed any crimes.
Netizens reacted angrily, demanding an official apology and severe punishment from the company that runs the subway system. An inquiry was opened to investigate what happened.
China has banned anyone under the age of 18 from playing online games from Monday to Thursday. Access to these games on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays is restricted to one hour per day.
The rule was announced this week by China’s National Press Department, with the support of parents and great discontent on the part of companies in the sector.
State media prominently released the new rules. A CCTV report claimed that “recent research” has shown that the brains of young people “addicted” to video games are similar to that of an elderly person with Alzheimer’s.
“Experts have told us that this is because when a person is in a state of passively receiving information while playing, imagination, thinking and the ability to understand are not trained,” says the journalist in the video.
Industry investors were already expecting restrictive measures. As of 2019, minors were limited to a maximum of 90 minutes per week playing online games, and companies were required to collect personal and biometric records from users.
Foreign ships intending to enter Chinese “territorial waters” will have to report data to Chinese authorities about the vessel and the cargo they are transporting.
The move would not be unusual, except for one thing: by “territorial waters”, Beijing also includes the disputed South China Sea, the target of feuds with several neighbors such as Vietnam, the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia and Taiwan. Parts of the East China Sea played with Japan and South Korea will also be covered in the order.
The US reacted to the Chinese decision. “Illegal and comprehensive maritime claims, including in the South China Sea, pose a serious threat to the freedom of the seas,” said Pentagon spokesman John Supple.
US Vice President Kamala Harris accused China of using “coercion” and “intimidation” to support illegal claims in the South China Sea.
keep an eye
The Politburo, the most important organ in the hierarchy of the Chinese CP, defined the holding of the 6th plenary of the Central Committee for November this year. Usually aimed at defining questions about the party’s ideology, the 2021 meeting will have history as its main theme.
The decision is rare and only took place in 1981, the year in which the plenary defined the official position on the mistakes made by Mao Tse-Tung in the Cultural Revolution and adopted the necessary cohesion to carry out the economic reforms promoted by his successor, Deng Xiaoping.
Why it matters: discussing the history of the Chinese CP here does not refer to the past, but to the perspectives for the future. Chinese policy observers speculate that the meeting will enshrine Xi Jinping’s thinking as the organization’s ideological heart, consolidating the Chinese leader as the most powerful since Mao himself.
to go deep
If you’ve been following the news about China more closely, you’ve probably heard the phrase “common prosperity” frequently repeated after Xi’s speech on the subject. The China Media Project compiled the origins of the term and how it can help us understand its practical applicability on today’s Chinese PC. (Free) For many years, Chinese state banks have been generous to Ecuador, lending about $8 billion to finance infrastructure projects in the South American country. Diálogo Chino explains why the issue could become a point of contention not only between Quito and Beijing, but also involving the US. (free, in Portuguese)
Observa China network receives this Saturday (4) Professor Pu Xiaoyu. A PhD from Ohio State University and one of the most prolific political scientists analyzing China’s rise, Pu will talk about the mixed signals sent by Chinese diplomacy and how to interpret them. Registration is free but limited. (free, in English)