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Talking Points: January 7 - 21, 2010

This week's edition of the USC US-China Institute newsletter notes recent Chinese government efforts to restrict discussion of sensitive subjects within and outside China. USCI postdoctoral applications are invited and, as always, Talking Points includes information about China-focused events throughout North America.
January 9, 2010

Talking Points

January 7 - 21, 2010


Article 35 of China’s constitution proclaims that citizens enjoy free speech and press. On blogs and bulletin boards, Chinese can and do discuss a huge variety of issues. Some of the limits to what can be said, however, were dramatically illustrated over the past two weeks.

In his short trial, Liu Xiaobo’s attorneys argued that their client’s work writing and disseminating Charter 08, a call for thorough-going political change, was protected by the right to freedom of speech. Rule of law rather than rule by a single party is among the changes called for in Charter 08. The Beijing court rejected Liu’s free speech defense, ruling that Liu was “a major criminal and should be severely punished.” In drafting Charter 08 and posting it to the web, the court said Liu was “inciting the overthrow of our country's people's democratic dictatorship system and the socialist system.” Liu’s been a thorn in the side of the regime for twenty years and has been jailed twice before. On Dec. 25, he was sentenced to eleven years in prison.

 Dhondup Wangchen


Liu’s trial and sentencing attracted considerable international press coverage. Much less is known about the case of Dhondup Wangchen, a self-taught Tibetan filmmaker. Though they don’t know what the charges were, members of his family say he was sentenced on Dec. 28 to six years in prison. Wangchen has been in police custody since March 2008. He was arrested after violence broke out in Tibet and just after he passed more than forty hours of videotaped interviews with 108 other Tibetans on to a British citizen of Tibetan descent. Wangchen knew he was taking risks. He had gone to India in 1993 and met the Dalai Lama. Before he began filming, he sent his wife and four children to India. According to the website for Leaving Fear Behind, the short documentary he made using the interviews, he wanted to focus attention on Tibet during the run up to the Olympics. Wangchen argued that if China’s government “really want[s] to preserve and improve Tibetan culture and language in Tibet then they should withdraw Chinese people living in Tibetan areas.” The website with Wangchen’s film is blocked within China.

Chinese authorities are working to deny such voices an audience outside of China as well. The Palm Springs International Film Festival underway here in Southern California was to feature two films from China, Lu Chuan’s incredibly powerful City of Life and Death (Nanjing!, Nanjing! 南京!南京!) and Ye Kai’s documentary Quick, Quick Slow (超级50). Last week, China Film Group, a state-run company, yanked them from the program.


Poster for City of Life and Death Scene from Quick, Quick Slow

Festival director Darryl Macdonald says Chinese diplomats told him that the Chinese films would be pulled because the festival includes Sun Behind the Clouds: Tibet’s Struggle for Freedom (云后的太阳), a documentary by Ritu Sarin and Tenzing Sonam. Asked about the decision to pull his film, Lu Chuan 陆川 told the Hollywood Reporter that he appreciated being included in the festival and wanted audiences to see his film. He also said that he knew nothing about the Tibet film or its makers, but noted, “when it comes to Tibet and politics, we directors have no choice but to stand together with our film company."



Poster for The Sun Behind the Clouds

A Chinese official reportedly told festival director Macdonald that since the US government recognizes China’s sovereignty over Tibet, including Sun Behind the Clouds put the festival at odds not only with Beijing but also Washington. The official was right about official US policy, but naïve if he thought that festival organizers would worry about this. Macdonald told The Desert News that he replied, “Sorry, this is an arts event and we believe in freedom of expression.”

China’s leaders see things differently. Mao’s economic policies were jettisoned long ago, but his thinking on art still drives state policy. In 1942 he said, “There is in fact no such thing as art for art's sake, art that stands above classes, art that is detached from or independent of politics.”

So festival organizers could have anticipated that Chinese authorities would force them to choose between having access to Chinese films and filmmakers and screening films the Chinese state condemns. In July, films were pulled from an Australian festival after organizers there refused to drop a film featuring an interview with Uighur dissident Rebiya Kadeer. Beijing accused Kadeer and the Uyghur World Congress of fomenting the riots that took nearly 200 lives earlier that month. In spring 2008, China’s government blamed “the Dalai clique” for unrest in Tibet and pro-Tibet demonstrations hounding the Olympic Torch relay. Though neither Kadeer nor the Dalai Lama say they seek independence, Beijing calls them separatists. China’s leaders see participating in festivals which also screen films they deem sympathetic to these individuals and their causes as consorting with anti-China forces. Participation is too important an issue, the leaders conclude, to be left to filmmakers to decide.





  Poster for The 10 Conditions of Love
   Outraged over the inclusion of the film on Rebiya Kadeer, hackers, presumably from China, briefly broke into the Melbourne Film Festival website, replacing the homepage.







Two reporters from our Asia Pacific Arts magazine are in Palm Springs for the festival.

From the Family of Man: China series. Photo by Peter Winter.

Their reports will soon be available at Right now, magazine features include interviews with Taiwan director Tsai Ming-liang, Sikh director (and medical doctor) Sarab Singh Neelam, and the first article in our “best of 2009” series. A half century ago, the US government sponsored a photo exhibition titled “The Family of Man.” More than nine million people in thirty-eight countries visited the exhibition. US-China Today remembers that powerful public diplomacy initiative with a photo exhibition on China by Paul Rockower and Peter Winter.


Academic and other institutions are back in session and are offering a great array of China-related programs. Look for these below and in the calendar section of our website. Among these are three USC talks and two film screenings we’d like to highlight. On Jan. 21, Deborah Brautigam will speak on China’s expanding and multifaceted role in Africa and on Jan. 22, Judith McKay will examine efforts to curtail smoking in China, the world’s largest tobacco market. In part because of the country’s family planning program, China’s population is rapidly aging. Within a generation, China will have more than 300 million people over 65. On Jan. 28, Du Peng, head of Renmin University’s Gerontology Institute, will discuss what research reveals about this massive demographic transition. Later that same day, Academy Award-winning documentarian Bill Guttentag will screen and discuss his film Nanking, a penetrating look at what happened when Japanese forces took the Chinese capital in December 1937. Filmmakers Xiaoli Zhou and Brent Hoffman take us to Africa in February. Their new film, The Colony, includes extensive interviews with Senegalese and Chinese. We hope Southern California readers will join us for these events and we invite event and exhibition organizers throughout North America to send us information for possible inclusion in our calendar.

The USC US-China Institute invites applications for its two postdoctoral fellowships for 2010-2011. New and recent graduates working on some aspect of US-China relations or an issue in contemporary China that has the potential to affect US-China ties are encouraged to apply. Additional information is available at our website.

As always, we encourage all to visit the institute website. The resources section features comprehensive collections of China-related fellowships and grants, calls for papers, and important speeches and government documents.

We hope your 2010 is off to a great start.

Best wishes,
The USC U.S.-China Institute
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Upcoming USC 

01/19/2010 - 01/20/2010: The Global Tobacco Epidemic: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly
Health Sciences Campus, Aresty Auditorium
Time:  5:00pm to 7:00pm
January 20
University Park Campus, Town and Gown
Time:  5:00pm to 7:00pm
January 22: China: The World’s Largest Tobacco Market
USC Leavey Library Auditorium, Los Angeles, CA 90089
Cost: Free, Time: 10:00AM - 12:00PM
Hosted in partnership with the USC U.S.-China Institute and the School of Social Work
Dr. Judith Mackay discusses the epidemic`s challenges, successes and future direction as they apply to emerging world health threats. 


01/21/2010: The Dragon`s Gift: The Real Story of China in Africa
University of Southern California
Davidson Conference Center, Board Room, Los Angeles, CA 90089
Cost: Free
Time: 4:00PM - 5:30PM
Join Professor Deborah Brautigam for a discussion on her book on China`s actions and intentions in Africa.

01/28/2010: Nanking
Leavey Library
University of Southern California
Cost: Free
Time: 6:00PM - 8:00PM
The US-China Institute presents the award-winning documentary, Nanking, followed by a discussion with director Bill Guttentag.


01/06/2010: Liu Jianqiang: China`s Environmental Movement A Journalist`s Perspective
The Asia Foundation
Haydn Williams Conference Room 465 California Street, 8th floor, San Francisco
Time: 6:00PM - 7:30PM
Liu Jianqiang gives a presentation on China`s rapidly evolving environmental movement by one of China`s pioneering environmental journalists.

01/07/2010: Of Concepts and History: Critiques of the Economic in 1930s-1940s China
UCLA 11377 Bunche Hall
Cost: Free
Time: 4:00PM - 5:30PM
UCLA Center for Chinese Studies presents a talk by Rebecca Karl.

01/13/2010: A Venice of China: Transforming China`s Cities for the Next Century
The Commonwealth Club
595 Market Street, San Francisco
Cost: Asia Society/Commonwealth Club Members $8; Non-Members $15
Phone: 415.597.6705/06
Time: 5:30PM - 7:00PM
Professor Renee Chow gives a talk on a canal village outside of Shanghai, known as the "Venice of China." 

01/14/2010: Global Warming and the Emerging Water Crisis in California and China
Nixon Peabody
One Embarcadero Center, Suite 1800, San Francisco
Cost: $5 members/students $10 non members
Phone: 415-421-8707
Time: 5:30PM - 7:00PM
The Asia Society presents a panel discussion on the water crisis in China and California.

01/18/2010: Elizabeth Economy, The River Runs Black
USF Main Campus
Fromm Hall (Enter off Parker between Golden Gate & Fulton), San Francisco
Phone: (415) 422-6357
Time: 5:45PM - 7:00PM
Elizabeth Economy gives a talk on the environmental challenge to China`s future.

North America

01/12/2010: How China`s Leaders Think
TIME: 5:30 p.m. - 7:00 p.m.
PLACE: Jones Day, New York
A discussion with Robert Lawrence Kuhn.



  09/18/2009 - 01/09/2010: Imagining China: The View from Europe, 1550-1700
Folger Great Hall

201 East Capitol Street, SE, Washington, DC 20003
Cost: Free
Phone: (202) 544-7077
Celebrate the opening of the latest exhibition at Folger Shakespeare Library.

09/17/2009 - 01/17/2010: Calligraffiti: Writing in Contemporary Chinese and Latino Art
Pacific Asia Museum
46 North Los Robles Avenue, Pasadena, California 91101
Phone: (626) 449-2742
Calligraffiti: Writing in Contemporary Chinese and Latino Art addresses issues of power, culture, and universality.  

 09/22/2009 - 06/30/2010: China`s Great Wall: The Forgotten Story
NYC offices of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, New York, NY
The Forgotten Story is a series of historically-based photographs of the Great Wall of China. It is a collaboration between Jonathan Ball, a California based photographer, and David Spindler, one of the world`s foremost experts on Great Wall history.

11/03/2008 - 11/03/2009: Ancient Arts of China: A 5000 Year Legacy
Bowers Museum
2002 North Main Street, Santa Ana, California 92706
Bowers Museum presents a collection that portrays the evolution of Chinese technology, art and culture. 

11/15/2008 - 11/15/2009: Masters of Adornment: The Miao People of China
Bowers Museum
2002 North Main Street, Santa Ana, California 92706
The Bowers Museum presents a collection of exquisite textiles and silver jewelry that highlights the beauty and wealth of the Miao peoples of southwest China. 

02/12/2009 - 02/12/2010: Art of Adornment: Tribal Beauty
Bowers Museum
2002 N. Main, Santa Ana, CA
Cost: $5
An exhibit featuring body adornments from indigenous peoples around the world 



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