Is Chinese feminism losing momentum?

Access Archive

Dear Access members:

An offer exclusively for you: We would like to offer you a free trial of our new SupChina Direct conference-call dialogue series. If you would like to join me for our timely analysis of the Two Sessions with Cheng Li on March 12, please email me at

—Jeremy Goldkorn, Editor-in-Chief

1. Is Chinese feminism losing momentum?

Lǚ Pín 吕频, a leading feminist activist and thought leader for over 20 years who is currently based in the U.S., thinks so. Today, in honor of International Women’s Day — and exactly one year after the government shut down Lü’s influential Feminist Voices (女权之声 nǚquán zhī shēng) communications platform — SupChina published an exclusive interview with Lü. A key passage:

No one can foresee the future of Chinese feminism at this point. The movement is clearly losing momentum, though some people refuse to admit it. We’ve passed the pinnacle of the #MeToo movement, where Chinese feminists achieved unprecedented success. The #MeToo movement brought the public’s interest in Chinese feminism to an unprecedented peak, but the buzz is gone and the energy has been exhausted. While people are still talking about women’s issues on the Chinese internet, I don’t know how soon the next wave of collective activism will take place.

For a slightly more optimistic angle, see this op-ed in The Guardian by Leta Hong Fincher, author of Betraying Big Brother: The Feminist Awakening in China:

China’s women’s movement has not only survived an intense crackdown, it’s grown

On the eve of International Women’s Day in 2015, Chinese authorities jailed five feminist activists for planning to hand out stickers against sexual harassment on subways and buses…

Four years later, against all odds, the fledgling women’s rights movement has not only survived an intense crackdown by the government, but grown larger.

Other reporting focused on Chinese women today:

—Lucas Niewenhuis

If you are interested in learning more about women’s empowerment in contemporary China, check out the SupChina Third Annual Women’s Conference, an event to be held in New York City on May 20, 2019. Information and early-bird tickets are available here.

Access members get an additional 10 percent off any ticket with the promo code SCWCACCESS2019.

2. What underwhelming trade deal slouches to Mar-a-Lago to be born?

The ever-wobbly progress toward a trade deal that Donald Trump will likely sign, and assuredly call a “big win” despite it really not changing much in U.S.-China economic relations, has continued this week. See our summary of news from March 4, “An underwhelming trade deal forms,” and an update on March 5, “Trump’s failing trade war.”

A few more links

—Lucas Niewenhuis


Our whole team really appreciates your support as Access members. Please chat with us on our Slack channel or contact me anytime at

—Jeremy Goldkorn, Editor-in-Chief

Here are the stories that caught our eye this week (other than the trade war, updated above):

  • The spin doctors of the Chinese Dream outdid themselves with a Two Sessions rap music video that truly defies all belief. SupChina’s Anthony Tao describes it as “simultaneously awful and also awesome, for it is its own grand parody,” and “a hypnagogic trip, fantastical and bewildering.”

  • Huawei CFO Mèng Wǎnzhōu 孟晚舟 reacted to the Canadian government approving her extradition hearings to the United States by suing the Canada Border Services Agency, the RCMP, and the federal government. Meanwhile, the two Canadians still detained as hostages by Beijing in reaction to Meng’s December arrest were accused of stealing state secrets.

  • Huawei then sued the United States government directly in a district court in Texas, where the company’s North American headquarters is located. Huawei hired a Trump-connected law firm, Jones Day, and is arguing that a federal ban on its equipment is unconstitutional.

  • Premier Lǐ Kèqiáng 李克强 announced there would be more tax cuts in his work report at the Two Sessions; also at the political gathering, China announced that its military spending would rise by 7.5 percent this year.

  • The economic chattering classes are chattering about the conclusion of a Brookings Institution-published analysis, “A Forensic Examination of China’s National Account,” which the SCMP reports concludes that China “exaggerated” GDP data by 2 percentage points for at least nine years.

  • Google continues to develop a censored search engine for China, according to anonymous employees who identified hundreds of changes in the project source code since work was reportedly suspended in December. “I think they are putting it on the back burner and are going to try it again in a year or two with a different code name or approach,” Colin McMillen, one named employee who resigned in protest of the censorship project, told The Intercept, which published the news.

  • China is developing hypersonic weapons, and is much further along in developing the technology than the United States. Lyle J. Goldstein, a research professor who focuses on China at the United States Naval War college, argues that the American news media needs to pay much more attention to this technology, while avoiding jingoism.

  • China’s crackdown on Twitter users has silenced the account @AirMovingDevice, which had for the past year or so published innovative data science research based on publicly available information in China.

  • New Zealand China scholar Anne-Marie Brady was barred from testifying before a parliament committee on foreign interference in the country’s elections. The chair of that committee was named in Brady’s work as someone who “works very publicly with China’s united front organizations.” The committee backtracked on the decision to block Brady after pushback, Radio New Zealand now reports.

  • China’s diplomats have acted very undiplomatically in recent months, a trend Bloomberg covered in a piece titled “Diplomatic outbursts mar Xi’s plan to raise China on world stage.” Today, Foreign Minister Wang Yi bluntly defended his department’s hardline tactics: “Chinese diplomats, wherever we are in the world, will firmly state our position.”

  • Tesla encountered a customs holdup for Model 3 cars being shipped to China, which was quickly resolved, but is likely the first of a thousand cuts that Elon Musk will have to endure as he seeks to make his new Shanghai Gigafactory profitable.

  • Following a string of high-profile vaccine scandals in recent years, Gāo Fú 高福, the director of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, recently urged the public not to lose trust in domestically produced vaccines.

  • In some good news on wildlife trafficking, the BBC reported, “Authorities in China are prosecuting 11 people for smuggling $119m worth of fish swim bladders from Mexico.”

  • Chinese ride-hailing giant Didi Chuxing recently conducted a WeChat poll to gauge the public’s thoughts about minors using ride-hailing services alone. The poll ended on March 3 with an aggregation of over 4.2 million votes, with 57 percent of the voters expressing approval.


  • Video game approvals
    China regulator approves 95 new video games, including from Tencent, NetEase / CNBC
    “China’s content regulator on Friday said it has approved the monetization of 95 new video games, including titles from Tencent Holdings Ltd and NetEase Inc… China has approved 726 video games since December.”

  • A report from Design Shanghai 2019
    At Shanghai’s biggest design event, China meets the zeitgeist / Sixth Tone
    “Just six short years into its existence, the annual exhibition already claims for itself the title of ‘Asia’s leading international design event.’ Since Wednesday, over 400 high-end design brands from 32 nations have been congregating under the vaulted ceilings and neoclassical columns of the Shanghai Exhibition Center to socialize, network, and flaunt their latest wares. On its first day, the exhibition took in over 14,000 visitors.”

  • Fracking
    China experiences a fracking boom, and all the problems that go with it / NYT (porous paywall)
    “The first earthquake struck this small farming village in Sichuan Province before dawn on February 24…”


The US ambassador for religious freedom, Sam Brownback, on Friday (March 8) called on Beijing to end religious persecution in China, while requesting a visit to the country’s mass internment camps in the western region of Xinjiang.

In a strongly worded speech during a visit to Hong Kong, Mr Brownback said Beijing was waging a ‘war with faith’ and that it needed to respect the fundamental and ‘sacred right’ of people to worship…

…He declined to say whether the US is currently weighing up any fresh policies or sanctions against China over the crackdown in Xinjiang… But he reiterated a request for an open visit to such camps.
“I would like to have the opportunity to go, but not to just to be given a show. I want to get into the actual camps themselves and talk to people and interview them freely.”

  • Bugs in the plugs?
    Spy fears spread to power cords, driving shift from China / Nikkei Asian Review
    “U.S. technology companies, concerned that server power cords and plugs could be used by China to access sensitive data, have asked Taiwanese suppliers to shift production of these components out of the mainland.”

  • Trumpworld
    The Asian spa founder who joined Trump’s MAGA movement / Miami Herald
    “The woman who snapped the blurry Super Bowl selfie with the president was Li Yang, 45, a self-made entrepreneur from China who started a chain of Asian day spas in South Florida. Over the years, these establishments — many of which operate under the name Tokyo Day Spas — have gained a reputation for offering sexual services…
    …Yang has shown considerable political largesse. Since 2017, she and her close relatives have contributed more than $42,000 to Trump Victory, a political action committee, and more than $16,000 to the president’s campaign…
    …In February 2018, Yang was invited by the White House to participate in an event hosted by the Asian American and Pacific Islander Initiative, an advisory commission Trump established by executive order the year before. Later in the year, she attended at least two more AAPI events in Washington D.C., according to her Facebook page.”

  • Taiwan defense
    U.S.-Taiwan council supports Taiwan’s request for F-16V fighters / Focus Taiwan
    “The U.S.-Taiwan Business Council has expressed support for Taiwan’s request to purchase a fleet of new fighter jets from the United States, saying it would be consistent with the Taiwan Relations Act (TRA).”

  • Pakistan-India tensions
    China takes credit for helping de-escalate simmering India-Pakistan tensions / SCMP
    “Beijing said it played a ‘constructive role’ in defusing tensions between India and Pakistan over the terrorist attack on Indian security forces in Pulwama, ahead of a United Nations vote to condemn the head of the Pakistan-based terrorist group that claimed responsibility.”

  • Chinese state media in the U.S.
    Facing legal scrutiny, China’s state TV recalls its U.S. head / NYT (porous paywall)
    “China’s state broadcaster is recalling the head of its American arm and more than a dozen other employees back to China in a leadership shake-up as scrutiny grows in the United States over the unit’s connections to Beijing.”

  • South China Sea incident
    Vietnam says fishing boat sunk by Chinese ship / AP
    “A Vietnamese government official says a Vietnamese fishing boat in the South China Sea’s contested Paracel Islands capsized after being rammed by a Chinese vessel.”

  • Italy’s endorsement of Belt and Road
    Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi urges EU to stay ‘independent’ in dealings with Beijing after U.S. warning to Italy / SCMP
    “China’s Foreign Minister Wáng Yì 王毅 has urged Europe to stay ‘independent’ in its dealings with China and called for strong ties in the face of increased US pressure.”
    How Italy’s ruling class has warmed to China investments / FT (paywall)
    “China has attracted powerful supporters in Italy not only among populists but in the establishment, too, as it has snapped up important assets, including power grids and high-tech manufacturers in the eurozone’s third-largest economy.”

  • Government officials and academic fraud
    Top Chinese officials, including former vice-president, plagiarized university theses: Review / AFP via Straits Times
    “Top Chinese Communist Party officials plagiarized parts of their university theses, an AFP review has found, testing the government’s pledge to crack down on academic misconduct.”


The camera lingers on the lovebirds as they stand, naked and tied to a tree, before it slowly pans to show a crowd of onlookers craning their necks for a better view.

It’s a pitiful scene, but when the video of the couple’s plight went viral on Chinese social media this February, the reaction wasn’t sympathy, but approbation: Comment sections quickly filled with users castigating the man — who police later confirmed had been caught in flagrante with his mistress — and applauding his wife and in-laws for supposedly having orchestrated the pair’s public shaming.

These zealous enforcers of propriety are part of what is known as the sān guān dǎng 三观党, or “Three Outlooks Party.” Together, they form one of the most distinctive and surprising groups in China’s internet ecosystem: strict moralizers in an increasingly amoral world.

Despite what the name may suggest, the party is not a close-knit organization with a clearly defined platform. Rather, it’s an umbrella term for a wide array of netizens — mainly young women — who share a similar outlook on life, the world, and morality, the “three outlooks” of the party’s name. At its core, however, their mission is simple: Re-sanctify traditional marital and familial values by any means necessary, which includes attacking anyone deemed to have violated either institution.

For China’s northeasterners, a bathhouse can fulfill all of life’s needs — from meals, mahjong, afternoon tea and chitchat to R+R, makeovers, catching up with relatives and even matchmaking.


Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi stakes out foreign policy positions

At the press conference on the sidelines of the annual legislative session in Beijing on Friday, Chinese State Councillor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi praised Huawei for “refusing to be victimized like silent lambs” and outlined China’s diplomatic positions. Here are some highlights.

We also published the following videos this week:


Comeback kid: Wang Yafan wins first WTA title in dramatic fashion

Women typically take the lead when it comes to the Chinese sports landscape, and Wang Yafan 王雅繁 certainly demonstrated why recently. The unseeded 24-year-old moved into the world’s top 50 after winning her first WTA title in dramatic fashion. Also, Chinese soccer got another kick in the balls this week, this time from former Chelsea player Jon Obi Mikel, who, after returning to England after a two-year stint with Tianjin TEDA, had some harsh criticism of the Chinese Super League.

Film Friday: Humanity amid massacre: ‘City of Life and Death,’ reviewed

City of Life and Death 南京!南京! is a 2009 historical drama about the 1937 Nanjing Massacre, and is told from multiple perspectives, through the experiences of both perpetrators and victims. What director Lu Chuan 陆川 does that his predecessors were unable or unwilling to do is bring multidimensionality to an unfathomable tragedy, to depict the Nanjing Massacre as perpetrated by human beings — those with agency, hope, and camaraderie — who buckled under the monstrosity of war.

Chinese state media editorials, written by no one ever

In China, what happens when you find your name attached to an editorial you didn’t write, expressing opinions that aren’t yours? Last month, an editorial carrying the byline of former prime minister of New Zealand Jenny Shipley appeared in the People’s Daily, a Chinese Communist Party mouthpiece. The problem was, she never wrote it — the paper simply rearranged a past interview with her and published it under her name. Shipley is not the first victim of this practice of journalistic malfeasance from Chinese media.

‘The night is thick’: Uyghur poets respond to the disappearance of their relatives

Poetry has a long and proud tradition in Uyghur culture. But it is being threatened in Xinjiang, where the Chinese state has been attempting to re-engineer Uyghur society by silencing and eliminating Uyghur cultural thought. Poets, such as Abdushükür Muhemet, talk about anger and sorrow in their works: “I express this sorrow with my poems. The grief and longing are interlocked in all my poems.” Others say the guilt of having escaped and survived the vast internment camp system for Uyghur, Kazak, and other Muslims in northwestern China is sometimes overwhelming, especially because everyone knows a relative or a friend who was not so fortunate.

Must-see China-focused panels at SXSW 2019

Going to South by Southwest (SXSW) and interested in China? Check out these events to understand how the country reshaping the world is also changing technology.

Why Chinese students don’t need ‘English’ names

Rebeka Fergusson-Lutz has taught English to native and non-native students of all ages for the past 16 years, and 98 percent of her Chinese students have taken an “English name.” Those names range from the sublime — Athena and Artemis — to the ridiculous — Potato and Bluebuff. While most foreign teachers of English in China accept this name duality as the status quo, as a foregone reality, Fergusson-Lutz has never been comfortable with this, and doesn’t think students ever need to go by anything other than the name given by their parents. She explains why.

How WeChat’s new ‘Wow’ and ‘Top Stories’ features have made the app worse

WeChat’s pursuit of traffic with two new features, “Wow” and “Top Stories,” rolled out in its most recent update in December, are altering the way users use the platform. In particular, self-publishers such as corporate accounts and individual content creators find themselves facing both opportunities and pitfalls. With that, there is risk that these features will only further amplify the platform’s problems of misinformation and “click farming.”

Chinese Corner: The unapologetic patriotism of Wu Jing, the Wolf Warrior

Wu Jing, who directed and starred in Wolf Warrior 2, is unstoppable at the moment. He is bound to make more commercially successful, and probably critically acclaimed, movies in the future. But on his path to becoming a true movie legend, one label he’s struggled to shrug off is “patriotic.” Also in this week’s Chinese Corner: male makeup, Math Olympiad, and Chinese parents’ greatest fear.

Kuora: China’s New Culture Movement and the intellectual framework for the CCP

Chinese communism was directly connected to the New Culture Movement mainly because some of the prominent intellectuals of the New Culture Movement — chiefly Chen Duxiu 陈独秀 and Li Dazhao 李大钊 — were co-founders of the Chinese Communist Party in 1921. During that time, not only had science and democracy appeared to commit mass suicide on the battlefields of Flanders and France in the mechanized horror of the Great War, but the treaty that settled the war, Versailles, represented a complete betrayal of China. No wonder some intellectuals turned to Marxism-Leninism, which filled a void left by the traditional worldview.

China made a rap song about its annual ‘Two Sessions’ political meeting

Behold “Two Sessions,” a jaw-dropping rap published yesterday on Xinhua’s website that is simultaneously awful and also awesome, because it is its own grand parody. It is galaxy-brain-level brilliant, destined to hook eyeballs to an otherwise dull exercise of Chinese political unity. It is the apex of propaganda, the meeting point of earnestness and satire. There is nothing on the other side but dystopia, a world where we can’t differentiate a well-meaning, fun, lighthearted “compliment song” from an attempt to commit capital murder of culture in broad daylight.


Sinica Podcast: Everything you ever wanted to know about Taiwan but were afraid to ask, Part 2

This week, we feature the second half of an extensive interview with Shelley Rigger, a political scientist at Davidson College and the leading U.S. expert on the politics of Taiwan. This second half of the interview, which covers the history of Taiwan from the 1990s to the present, was conducted by Neysun Mahboubi of the UPenn Center for the Study of Contemporary China Podcast (one of our favorite China podcasts), and is republished here with the Center’s permission.

ChinaEconTalk with special guest Russ Roberts

This week’s guest is Russ Roberts. He’s a research fellow at Stanford’s Hoover Institution and the host of the EconTalk podcast, a weekly interview-based show that’s vaguely about economics but that has, over time, evolved into an extended meditation on the human condition. Its diverse topics in the last few weeks have included Solzhenitsyn, the 2008 financial crisis, and gratitude. Even though this conversation will have little or nothing to do with China, seeing as Russ served as the inspiration for the ChinaEconTalk podcast, I hope you all find it interesting.

Middle Earth: China’s soft power with Anthony Kuhn

Today, we are trying another format of the show, a “case study episode” where one guest will go over a specific project or a theme in China’s culture industry. And to kick off this new format, we start with Anthony Kuhn, who works at NPR.

The Caixin-Sinica Business Brief, episode 78

This week on the Caixin-Sinica Business Brief: MSCI’s decision to increase the weighting of mainland China in its indexes, Didi Chuxing’s joint venture with Volkswagen, Saudi Arabia embracing Huawei’s 5G infrastructure technology, and more.


A hazy Laoshan Reservoir from afar

Looking over Laoshan Reservoir, the main water supply for Qingdao, Shandong Province. The coastal city is usually spared the worst of the smog that blankets many parts of China in the winter. However, the air quality in Qingdao this winter has been particularly bad.

Jia Guo