Podcast

Chinese Whispers

A fortnightly podcast hosted by Cindy Yu on Chinese politics, society, and more

A fortnightly podcast hosted by Cindy Yu on Chinese politics, society, and more

Chinese Whispers

Life in a changing China

Since 1978, China has changed beyond recognition thanks to its economic boom. 800 million people have been lifted out of poverty as GDP per capita has grown eighty times. Some 60 per cent of the country now live in cities and towns, compared to just 18 per cent before. But you know all this. What’s

Play 39 mins

Chinese Whispers

China’s vendetta against Nato

Last week, President Xi Jinping visited Serbia. An unexpected destination, you might think, but in fact the links between Beijing and Belgrade go back decades. One event, in particular, has linked the two countries – and became a seminal moment in how the Chinese remember their history. In 1999, the Chinese embassy in Belgrade was

Play 46 mins

Chinese Whispers

How China is quietly cutting out American tech

Last week, President Joe Biden finally signed into law a bill that would take TikTok off app stores in the US, eventually rendering the app obsolete there. This is not the end of the saga, as TikTok has vowed to take legal action. In the US, the drive to decouple from Chinese tech continues to

Play 32 mins

Chinese Whispers

Was Marco Polo a ‘sexpat’?

When I recently came across a book review asking the question ‘was Marco Polo a “sexpat”?’, I knew I had to get its author on to, well, discuss this important question some more. The 13th century Venetian merchant Marco Polo’s account of China was one of the earliest and most popular travelogues written on the country. Polo

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Chinese Whispers

What Chinese hackers want

Over the last week the UK has been rocked by allegations that China was responsible for two cyber attacks in recent years – one on the Electoral Commission, where hackers successfully accessed the open register, which has the details of 40 million voters; and a set of attempts to access the emails of a number

Play 27 mins

Chinese Whispers

Life on the margins pt II: Li Ziqi and the phenomenon of the rural influencer

In the last episode, I discussed Chinese rural lives with Professor Scott Rozelle. One point he made which particularly stuck with me was the dying out of farming as an occuption – he’d said that most rural people under the age of 35 have never farmed a day in their lives. So that got me

Play 23 mins

Chinese Whispers

Life on the margins: how China’s rural deprivation curbs its success

Too often our stories about China are dictated by the urban experience, probably because journalists inside and outside of China are often based in the big cities; Beijing specifically. Those who live in the cities also tend to be more educated, more privileged, and so able to dominate the global attention more.  That’s why I’m

Play 41 mins

Chinese Whispers

What the Messi row reveals about Chinese football

The Argentinian football star Lionel Messi has been trending on Weibo – and unfortunately, not for a good reason. It all started when Messi sat out a match in Hong Kong earlier this month. His reason – that he was injured – wasn’t good enough for some fans, and keyboard nationalists quickly took offence when

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Chinese Whispers

Why do people join the CCP?

At last count, the Chinese Communist Party has 98 million members, more people than the population of Germany. Its membership also continues to grow, making it one of the most successful and resilient political parties of the last a hundred years, perhaps with the exception of India’s BJP, which boasts 180 million members. And yet

Play 36 mins

Chinese Whispers

Was China’s economic boom ‘made in America’?

Today, the US and China are at loggerheads. There’s renewed talk of a Cold War as Washington finds various ways to cut China out of key supply chains and to block China’s economic development in areas like semiconductors and renewables. There’s trade, of course, but the imbalance in that (some $370 billion in 2022) tilts

Play 53 mins

Chinese Whispers

What lies at the root of the India-China rivalry?

India is the fifth largest economy in the world, and now has a population larger than China’s. It’s no surprise, then, that officials in Washington often see India as a powerful non-western bulwark to growing Chinese power. On this podcast, I look at where China and India’s rivalry comes from. How much have long-lasting skirmishes

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Chinese Whispers

Who will be Taiwan’s next President?

Taiwan goes to the polls in just over a month. This is an election that could have wide repercussions, given the island’s status as a potential flashpoint in the coming years. The incumbent President, Tsai Ing-wen, is coming to the end of two elected terms, meaning that she cannot run again. Her party’s chosen successor

Play 43 mins

Chinese Whispers

Dialect and identity: is Mandarin bad for China?

Across the span of China, a country as big as Europe, there are countless regional dialects and accents – perhaps even languages. Often, they’re mutually unintelligible. The Chinese call these ‘fangyan’, and each Chinese person will likely be able to speak at least one fangyan, while also understanding Standard Mandarin, the official language of the

Play 44 mins

Chinese Whispers

Battling the official narrative — China’s ‘underground historians’

Controlling history is key to the Chinese Communist Party’s control of the country. Whether it’s playing up the ‘century of humiliation’, or whitewashing past mistakes like the Great Leap Forward or the Tiananmen Protests, the Party expends huge effort and resources on controlling the narrative. That’s why it’s so important and interesting to look at

Play 35 mins

Chinese Whispers

Rethinking Chinese food with Fuchsia Dunlop

All cultures care about their cuisine, but the Chinese must have one of the most food-obsessed cultures in the world. It may be because we have the best food… Those listeners of Chinese Whispers who’ve been to China will know exactly what I’m talking about. For those of you who haven’t, you may have come

Play 50 mins

Chinese Whispers

‘The mask has slipped’ – Tuvia Gering on China, Israel and Hamas

When China brokered a historic detente between Saudi Arabia and Iran earlier this year, it seemed that a new phase in world history – and certainly in Chinese foreign policy – had opened up. Instead of the US being a policeman of the world, it was the rising power, China, that was stepping into that

Play 43 mins

Chinese Whispers

Does China care what Britain thinks?

In 2010, David Cameron and George Osborne ushered in what they called ‘a golden era’ with China, the world’s rising superpower. They argued that Britain could be China’s best friend in the West. Thirteen years later, after a global pandemic, up to a million interned in Xinjiang, and a Communist Party General Secretary seemingly keen

Play 62 mins

Chinese Whispers

What we know about Beijing’s spies

Two years ago, Richard Moore, head of MI6, said that China was now the organisation’s ‘single greatest priority’. Parliamentarians and the British public have been starkly reminded of this by last week’s news that a parliamentary researcher had been arrested on suspicion of spying for China. On this episode, we won’t be commenting on the

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Chinese Whispers

Is China still a Confucian country?

For thousands of years, Confucianism has run through the fabric of Chinese society, politics and culture. Decades of Communism has taken its toll on China, so can it still be considered a Confucian country? Joining the episode is one of the world’s leading experts on the philosophy, Professor Daniel Bell. In 2017, he was appointed

Play 29 mins

Chinese Whispers

What Beidaihe reveals about the changing nature of Communist leadership

178 miles to the east of Beijing, there’s a beach resort called Beidaihe. The water is shallow and the sand is yellow and fine. Luxurious holiday villas dot the coastline. Starting from the 1950s, leaders of the Chinese Communist Party have moved their families and work to Beidaihe in the summer, making the beach resort

Play 26 mins

Chinese Whispers

Does China need a new economic playbook?

At the end of last year, some thought that the Chinese economic recovery after three years of zero Covid could happen just as fast as zero Covid itself ended being government policy. I admit, that included me. And yet, more than halfway into 2023, that recovery looks increasingly elusive. The Chinese economy has failed to

Play 41 mins

Chinese Whispers

Did some good come from the Qing’s dying century?

In the 1800s, Qing China’s final century, European powers were expanding eastwards. The industrialised West, with its gunboats and muskets, and the soft power of Christianity, pushed around the dynasty’s last rulers. But was this period more than just a time of national suffering and humiliation for China? The British Museum’s ongoing exhibit, China’s hidden century,

Play 37 mins

Chinese Whispers

Beijing and Prigozhin: what does China think of the Wagner uprising?

It’s now a week since the Wagner Group revolted against the Kremlin. Though the dramatic uprising was quelled within 24 hours and the group’s leader, Yevgeny Prigozhin, is now exiled to Belarus, the episode will have lasting impact on President Putin’s authority. Among those closely watching the events unfold would have been the Chinese leadership,

Play 36 mins

Chinese Whispers

How divided is Europe on China?

The word ‘West’ is often used as a shorthand to describe liberal democracies in Europe, and perhaps in Asia too, such that we’ll often talk about ‘the West’s attitude to China’, or the ‘West’s relations with China’. But this is at best a lazy shorthand – because when you dig a little deeper, it’s clear

Play 39 mins

Chinese Whispers

Why China won’t invade Taiwan

In much of the conversation surrounding China and Taiwan, the question of invasion seems to be a ‘when’ not an ‘if’. But is an invasion really so inevitable? No one knows for sure, of course, but there are good reasons to think that speculations of a war have been overblown. For one, the economic links

Play 41 mins

Chinese Whispers

How China’s mail-order brides are taking back control

The mail-order bride industry is booming – but today’s international dating doesn’t look as it used to. It turns out that it’s not so much young and uneducated Chinese women looking to marry out of the country anymore, and more middle aged and financially well off divorcees, looking for something different. The mail order bride

Play 36 mins

Chinese Whispers

Young and jobless: Is the government letting down China’s Generation Z?

Hidden in March’s GDP figures was a shocking statistic – a fifth of Chinese 16 to 24 year olds are out of work. This is a near record high, and the economic background to a fresh wave of disillusionment among China’s young. It has led to the creation of a new meme – you’ve heard

Play 32 mins

Chinese Whispers

Japan’s role in the making of modern China

Just before Christmas, it was reported that the billionaire Jack Ma had moved to Tokyo after getting into trouble with the Chinese authorities. If he’s still living there, he’d be one of several well known Chinese who seems to have made Japan their home after run ins with Beijing. In so doing, they’re following in

Play 49 mins

Chinese Whispers

Hollywood and China: happily ever after?

Until a few years ago, Hollywood dominated Chinese cinemas. In the People’s Republic, Marvel’s superhero romps were the people’s favourite, with Avengers: Endgame taking in over £510 million at Chinese box offices. Hollywood is desperate to crack the Chinese market – after all, it’s a country with a fifth of the world’s population and a

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Chinese Whispers

What Beijing wants out of the Russian invasion

As Xi Jinping visits Vladimir Putin in Russia this week, this episode of Chinese Whispers is returning to one of the missions of this podcast series – to look at things as the Chinese see them.  My guest today is Zhou Bo, a retired Senior Colonel of the People’s Liberation Army whose military service started

Play 52 mins