Chinese Corner: Best of 2018 — the nonfiction stories that captured China’s reading public

This year, SupChina launched a new weekly column called “Chinese Corner,” where we introduce and review interesting nonfiction writing from the Chinese internet. A little more than six months into its existence, we’ve built a solid collection of impressive investigative pieces, thought-provoking commentaries, and emotion-filled personal essays that chronicle some of the biggest events in 2018 and illuminate how the public reacted to them.

We’ve selected our favorite articles from the past six months and broken them down into categories. Just scrolling through the topics provides a good sense of what Chinese people read and discussed in 2018 (sometimes quite different from what overseas media focus on — though this generally applies more to educated, middle-class Chinese). If you read Chinese yourself, we think these are among the most interesting essays from the past year to help you understand what is on the Chinese public’s mind heading into 2019.

Happy reading!

Zhang HaichaoBest profile writing:

ofo 2Best technology and business writing:

one child policyBest culture writing:

xuanziBest stories about women:

QigongBest stories that teach you wisdom:

  • The enduring appeal of Qigong 永不消失的气功
    In the 1980s, Qigong, a science-defying tradition defined by supernatural powers, psychic abilities, and outright lies, captivated a generation of Chinese scientists. In 2018, the outdated practices found some a new wave of followers who use it as a channel to vent their anger at the state of the society.
    董指导 | 虎嗅APP | December 5, 2018
  • The myth of Yuan Longping 袁隆平神话
    A deep dive into the history of Yuán Lóngpíng 袁隆平, who is dubbed as “the father of hybrid rice” by Chinese media and textbooks, reveals that his status as “national superhero” in China is actually more of an “unprecedented political spectacle.”
    黄章晋 | 大象公会 | August 24, 2018
  • 中国人为什么选择了筷子 Why Chinese people chose to use chopsticks
    In November, Italian luxury fashion house Dolce & Gabbana (D&G or 杜嘉班纳 dùjiā bānnà) came under fire after producing a video featuring a Chinese model who struggles to use chopsticks to eat some Italian food. The clip was widely criticized for its disrespect for Chinese culture, which, as this article explains, has a complicated relationship with the utensils.
    陈宝塔 | 浪潮工作室 | November 23, 2018
  • The mystery of Chinese agriculture 中国农业产量之谜
    A mismatch between production and consumption figures released by the central government clearly indicates that some data has been fabricated by local branches, whose performance is largely assessed by volume of agricultural production.
    兔透射 | 大象公会 | August 6, 2018
  • Why China is obsessed with dual-SIM phones 中国人为什么痴迷双卡双待
    While Apple’s launch of dual-SIM support for iPhone confuses users in the West, such devices debuted in China almost 15 years ago and retain an enduring appeal for Chinese people. But the obsession is not a matter of choice, but a compromise that Chinese phone users have to make because of pricey data roaming charges, decades-long competitions between carriers, and carefully designed obstacles to switching networks.
    秋意寒 | 浪潮工作室 | October 11, 2018

han hanBest entertaining read:

  • 18 years ago, Han Han’s battle on Bright Peak 18年前韩寒的光明顶之战
    18 years ago, Hán Hán 韩寒, then an 18-year-old high school dropout whose debut novel had just become a massive hit among teen readers, walked into CCTV’s talk show Dialogue, which was set up deliberately to destroy his ego and set him as an outcast who refused to comply with the conventional rules made by close-minded adults.
    莽山烙铁头 | X博士 | October 23, 2018
  • An observation of balding men in China 中国大爷秃顶观察
    “I have no idea what will come out of this project in the end. But I feel like I have learned a carefree lifestyle from these balding men.”
    thebaldmanproject | 看客inSight | September 24, 2018
  • 1818 Golden Eyes: A meme generator or a rebellious pioneer?
    One of the best memes on the Chinese internet this year is Wú Zhèngqiáng 吴正强, an 18-year-old real estate agent who gave an upset and confused look with his caricature-like facial features and expressions when interviewed by a local tv station in Hangzhou. It later turned out that the viral gif was extracted from a segment of 1818 Golden Eyes, a quirky and funny news program dedicated to covering some of the most bizarre stories at Chinese society.
    阿饼 | X博士 | September 3, 2018
  • ‘If you want to learn to hate people, study from Zhou Shuren’ — Lu Xun 要想学怼人,就找周树人——鲁迅
    One of the chief appeals of Lǔ Xùn 鲁迅, a prominent figure in modern Chinese literature, is that the vast majority of his arguments and scathing critiques never feel outdated, and even sound more refreshingly on point in a contemporary setting. This is a practical guide, in comic book form, to using some of his classic quotes, if one ever feels the impulse to savage someone in real-life situations.
    周国平 | September 14, 2018
  • A guide to the ‘big middle class’ 大中产阶级鉴别指南
    A new socials class has emerged in China in recent years and it’s called “big middle class.”
    GQ实验室 | August 27, 2018