A year after leaving China and five years after publishing his first book (China Cuckoo: How I Lost a Fortune and Found a Life in China), Mark Kitto has a follow-up, That's China, technically a prequel that traces the beginning of his That's magazine franchise and looks underneath the fingernail of Chinese publishing. Kitto wrote the following column for Prospect, republished here with the author's permission -- with a freshly appended postscript.
If you’ve read a story about China in the last couple of years that sounded just too good to be true – that smelled, in fact, more like sweet, sweet horse manure – chances are it came from CEN, a European-based “news agency” whose bluff just got called in exhaustive length by BuzzFeed investigative reporters.
Although their offices and staff are in Vienna, CEN’s scope is worldwide – Russia, Argentina, India, Macedonia and the PRC, where it regularly elbows Xinhua aside to publish the least likely version of events.
A few weeks ago when talking to a Uyghur acquaintance, I was told: “One the biggest problems among Uyghurs today is the rate of divorce. I think it is as high as 70 percent. Most of it is the fault of women. They have misunderstood what women’s equality is all about. They think that it means that they should be equal to men in every way; or that men should be just like them. They try to control men, stop them from going to bars. They order men to do housework, and then spend all of their money. They don’t understand that that is not their place. If they would be encouraging to men, than men would never cheat on them.”
I understand the HeForShe movement is a global initiative spotlighting men (officially, "a solidarity movement for gender equality that brings together one half of humanity in support of the other half"), but holding a gender equality discussion without inviting any women kind of makes for bad optics. Also, men clearly need more appreciation:
In the short film Rahime, the Uyghur ethnomusicologist and filmmaker Mukaddas Mijit portrays a moment in the life of her grandmother. When she was coming up with the theme for the short film, Mukaddas was feeling dismayed by the many events happening in the world around her. Since she herself was born in an Islamic culture, she felt it her obligation to frame that world in a way to give voice to the humanity and wisdom of that world. She felt that her 88 year-old grandmother could do this by drawing out the richness of her knowledge of Sufi mysticism.
Something for the weekend, sir? With Chinese cadres under official instruction to behave themselves for, perhaps, ever, the kind folks at Ccln.gov.cn, a website operated by the Central Communist Party School, have offered them a replacement entertainment to getting lobster-faced on baijiu, vomiting down their suit and curling up with a dead-eyed mistress.
The classics-quoting, picture-rich, cutting-edge “Learning China" app was launched yesterday, and is set to blow your mind – or your phone. Just three minutes after I opened the app, my two-year-old HTC had frozen up – like its owner, it was obviously having a hard time processing all the fun.
One of the driving forces in the Uyghur film scene is a filmmaker and poet named Tahir Hamut. A graduate of Beijing’s National Minorities University, Tahir began his academic career as one of the premier Uyghur critics of Western Modernist literature. Throughout the 1990s he, along with Perhat Tursun and others, were the leaders of a Uyghur avant garde poetry movement. Then in 1998 he turned his attention to filmmaking. Now Tahir serves as one of the principle instructors in the Film Department of the Xinjiang Arts Institute in Ürümchi.
The consumption power of Chinese travelers once again grabbed headlines during the Spring Festival holiday. But instead of luxury watches or baby formulas, it’s Japanese toilet seats that have tourists going wild.
One of the emerging trends among young Uyghur film directors is a new attention to documentary filmmaking. This approach has long been a part of Uyghur cinema, but previously it was often part of a larger public relations presentation sponsored by the Chinese Culture Ministry. These new documentary short films are independently produced on limited budgets by young filmmakers who have an intimate knowledge of their subjects.
Here's the classic story of a man who lost his phone in New York's East Village only to discover -- due to a stranger's pictures appearing on his photo stream -- that the phone is still alive, though halfway across the world. This is undoubtedly the cross-culture social media story of the year, featuring Avril Lavigne, firework pics (iPhones have amazing cameras, never forget), and a human flesh engine search initiated by Chinese netizens.
For you: a very special Sindicator. Using the sino-indicator of PM2.5 I show how air pollution can really fuck with your emotions. A bit more gravitas in this, a short film documenting a day in shit air, but with a kitschy sci-fi mood and a bit of dark humor.
Few things can poison an artist’s development quite like early fame. And when fame comes knocking, it takes a lot to cast it away and reboot one’s art career in an unfamiliar world. Illustrator Lisk Feng made that tough decision three years ago when she left her hometown behind to build her skills and begin a new career in the US.
There's verve here. Brio. These singers are rouged with holy spirit and plainly happier than you and I, poor nonbelievers at Christmas Mass. Why do we continue to pay the price for our pride? Who are we to let the piddling inconvenience of no Gmail make us glum, corruptible, not-rippling as befits our 5,000 years, unfaithful and obfuscated and dark and meekly dying on sand? March to this goddamn battuta, guys. INTERNET POWER. Hotdamn.
When Memetjan Semet first came to Urumchi he remembers being shocked at how isolated everyone felt from each other. For the first time in his life he didn’t have his family and childhood friends to lean on for support. He also noticed that he wasn’t alone in this condition. No one in the big city seemed to care about the others around themselves. Instead, people kept their heads down. They focused on their smartphones, chatted with friends in the virtual world, and ignored the difficulties of people nearby. The problems of strangers were not something they needed to feel.
One of the nicer perks of being a mover and shaker in a one-party system is that you can pretty much declare anything is illegal and people just have to deal with it. This is a new monthly column that looks back at all that was banned in China in the past month.
A recent Uyghur-language short film called “Dream From the Heart” (English and Chinese subtitles) tells the story of a group of boys from Qaraqash, a county of more than half a million people in Southern Xinjiang. Shot as part of China Southern Airlines’s new ad campaign by the award-winning director Zhang Rongji (张荣吉), the film references the true stories of how self-taught and underfunded young people from the deep poverty of Hotan and Kashgar prefectures struggle to compete with more privileged opponents.
Well, you run an open comments system, someone always has to come along and crap in the salad. We present to you: the Beijing Cream Troll, who was sober enough to post under multiple identities, but not to switch up his IP address: