As 2013 draws to a close, we’ve gathered links to all the best longform reporting on China that you meant to read during the year, but maybe did not. Never fear, with the holidays coming up, you’ll have the time to catch on the 10 (and change) stories we’ve selected.
Here they are, in no particular order:
“The Price of Marriage in China” by Brook Larmer in The New York Times
Larmer follows both an elite “love hunter”, a matchmaker who helps rich men find wives that suit their criteria (young, pale-skinned, and virginal, of course), as well as an elderly rural migrant who is looking for a wife for her son, a hardworking salesman approaching his forties. The story is both entertaining to read and informative, painting a vivid picture of the state of the marriage market in Beijing, at two ends of the spectrum.
“Carjack victim recounts his harrowing night” by Eric Moskowitz, The Boston Globe
In the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombing and the killing of one of the suspects and the capture of the other, Moskowitz’s suspenseful piece for The Boston Globe tells the story of the 26-year-old Chinese entrepreneur who was carjacked and held hostage for hours by the Tsarnaev brothers shortly before Tamerlan Tsarnaev, the elder brother, was killed in a confrontation with police. This thing’s been compared to a Tarantino film for a reason.
“Do Some Harm” by James Palmer, Aeon
Palmer’s piece for Aeon is a in-depth look at Traditional Chinese Medicine, how it works and, mostly, how it doesn’t work. While Palmer carefully explains the theory and beliefs behind TCM, as well as its appeal, he does not hesitate to call bullshit on quackery, some of which quite dangerous. Palmer wrote two other great pieces for Aeon this year, one on China’s “post-80 generation” and the other on women who’ve chosen to be mistresses to powerful Chinese men.
“China’s Internet: A Giant Cage” by Gady Epstein, The Economist
Probably the longest entry on this list (at 14 pages in the print edition), Epstein’s special report for The Economist is really 9 shorter pieces strung together to offer the most comprehensive and clear-eyed view around of the issues surrounding China and the internet. Be sure also to listen to Epstein’s guest appearance on the Sinica podcast, in which he discussed in detail his report.
“A Day in the Life of a Beijing ‘Black Guard'” by Lan Fang and Ren Zhongyuan, Caixin
Talk about a voice we don’t normally hear from in western media. Lan and Ren tell the story of a guard for a black jail, starting from how he got into this peculiar line of business, his gradual disenchantment and how he came to decide on a change of career.
“A Game of Shark and Minnow” by Jeff Himmelman and Ashley Gilbertson The New York Times
This is one of those New York TImes interactive stories with moving graphics and sounds and all sorts of geegaws. It’s beautifully done, and helps create the atmosphere of the story, which is set on an unbelievably decrepit, rusting hulk of a ship long ago run aground against a reef in the Spratly Islands, on which a group of Filipino sailors have essentially been left to fend for themselves, with minimal supplies, in order to watch over the islands, which are claimed by both the Philippines and China, but also by Taiwan, Brunei, and Malaysia.
“AIDS Granny in Exile” by Kathleen McLaughlin, Buzzfeed
McLaughlin profiles Dr. Gao Yaojie, an 85-year-old former gyneacologist living alone and in poverty in Harlem, who, in the 90s, helped expose the AIDS epidemic then sweeping Henan.
“The heartbreaking saga of Zhu Ling” by Kevin Morris, The Daily Dot
The story of Zhu Ling, a Qinghua University student who was poisoned with thallium in 1995, and whose poisoner was never caught. Her story is a fascinating case of the power of the internet, as her original illness was diagnosed through crowdsourcing via usenet, and decades later, an amateur online manhunt is launched to find her former roommate, the only suspect in the case.
“Hackers in China Attacked The Times for Last 4 Months” by Nicole Perlroth, The New York Times
In a slightly surreal meta-story, The New York Times reported on its own battle with hackers located in China, after it had previously reported on the personal wealth of members of then Premier Wen Jiabao’s family. The story is surprisingly thrilling and fully of juicy tidbits like the fact that the hackers worked standard workday hours, Beijing time, and ends with an ominous warning by a computer expert warning ““This is not the end of the story (…) Once they take a liking to a victim, they tend to come back.” Just like a horror film.
The Spring 2013 issue of Dissent had as its theme “China’s 99%”, and contained articles on China’s apolitical youth by Alec Ash, women’s rights by Leta Hong Fincher, nationalism by Helen Gao, workers’ rights by Ross Perlin, with an introduction by Jeffrey Wasserstrom. Each and every one of those is worth checking out as well.
Feel free to let us know if there’s anything else you think we should have included. (Just kidding. Of course you’ll feel free to do so whatever I say!)