Image by Yohan Cho

the podcast: silver lining

Episode 1. (Yanjie Huang): Sacrifice in China

In our first episode of the Silver Lining podcast, Columbia Chinese history doctoral student Yanjie Huang discusses the notion of sacrifice and how it has evolved since the 1960s to the present day in China.


[0:00] Introduction to the Podcast 
[0:24] Introduction by Yanjie
[0:58] Yanjie’s Research: sacrifice and the social history of the PRC
[3:11] Q: what led you to research the social history aspect of China?
[4:51] Q: in your opinion, how does the notion of sacrifice inform how Chinese people view their country in the present day in contrast to the 1960s or 70s?
[8:10] Q: in terms of the pandemic, how do you think the notion of sacrifice has been used by the Chinese government in their approach to handling the pandemic? 
[9:37] Q: do you think the financial and social promises of the Chinese government will be enough for people to be OK with the sacrifice they have made? 
[10:48] Q: do you think there’s a difference between the notion of sacrifice in the 1970s/modern China and during the pandemic? How is the current one being informed by previous versions and how is it different?
[12:14] Q: given your experience in studying the political economy, what is your opinion about current Chinese + U.S. relations (e.g. the trade war and Chinese tech companies)?
[15:12] Q: what has been your experience studying China in different environments such as Singapore and the U.S.? 
[16:04 - 16:11] Unintended silence - our apologies
[17:53] Conclusion


Additional Readings


Yanjie's first book, co-authored with a Chinese political scientist, studies the historical roots and contemporary institutions of the Chinese political economy. The electronic version can be accessed via libraries here.

Yanjie's current dissertation at Columbia University examines the ”revolutionary austerity” underlying urban family life (focused on Shanghai) amid the Cold War and Cultural Revolution as the historical contexts for the rise of the contemporary Xiaokang ideology. His bio from the Columbia Department East Asian Languages & Cultures can be found here

Episode 2. (Peter Moody): When the Medium Becomes More Powerful Than the Message

Episode 2. In our second episode, we talk with Peter Moody - a Columbia doctoral student in Korean history - about the ideological use of music in North Korea, sports diplomacy between North and South Korea, and North Korea during the pandemic.


[0:00] Introduction to the Podcast
[1:09] Introduction by Peter
[3:46] Q: could you walk us through what the concept of the
"Discourse of Plenty" as it relates to your research in NK?

[6:57] Q: how does this discourse of abundance distract North Koreans from their drastically different reality? 
[9:19] Q: under this current regime, what is the
popular music in NK characterized by?
[13:10] Q: where do North and South Koreas' interests in engaging in
sports + music diplomacy diverge and converge?
[17:10] Q: how do the
geopolitical tensions of 2020 affect NK?

[20:18] Q: what can we learn more abt NK’s reaction to the virus? How does having a central leadership figure affect their approach?
[23:28] Conclusion

Additional Readings


Peter has published across numerous journals. His article titled "Evolving Strategies at Reconciliation: Inter-Korean Sports and Music Diplomacy in Historical Perspective (1985-2017)" can be found here. Additionally, his paper on "From Production to Consumption: The Socialist Realism/Personality Cult Divide in North Korean Popular Music" can be found here. Some of his unpublished work can also be found here


Peter is currently working on a dissertation chapter about North Korea's music diplomacy in East Asia, particularly in China and Japan. He has also planned a future research project on the fertilizer industry in North Korea, which began with Japan's colonial industrial policies on the Korean peninsula. His bio from the Columbia Department East Asian Languages & Cultures can be found here

Episode 3. (Charles Chang): The Skepticism and Creativity of Chinese Internet Users

Episode 3. In this episode, Charles Chang, PhD and Assistant Professor of Environment and Urban Studies at Duke Kunshan explores the relationship between Chinese Internet users and their government. We discuss how skepticism towards government information compares in China and the U.S., how Chinese Internet users self-censor or use coded language to get around restrictions, and how movements for Internet transparency and privacy are evolving in China today. His bio can be found here


[0:00] Introduction to the Podcast
[0:37] Q: Can you tell us more about Weibo and who its main users are?
[3:50] Q: Your paper on self-censorship on Weibo focuses on the spatial-temporal dimensions of online expression. Could you help us understand what this concept is and why you think it's significant?
[6:17] Q: What are the political risks that Chinese netizens are scared of? 
[8:53] Q: Have you noticed any shifts in netizen activities during the COVID-19 outbreak in China?
[10:13] Q: Can you tell us more about Li Wenliang? 
[12:14] Q: We know that both the expression of Chinese netizens and their reception of information is shaped by the authoritarian nature of the national government. Could you walk us through your research findings on how netizens respond to practical information disseminated by the Chinese government? When do they find government information to be credible and when do they begin to be suspicious of it?
[15:32] Q: In recent years, we have noticed increasing distrust of government information in the U.S.; do you see any parallels between the Chinese and American situations? If so, how are the two types of mistrust similar or different?
[17:25] Q: What role does commercial media play in China? Are commercial media companies entirely responsive to and cooperative with the state’s agenda?
[20:35] Q: In this paper about the credibility of state information, you make brief references to both the 2003 SARS and 2020 COVID-19 public health crises. For instance, you mentioned how in both cases, the CCP dismissed major leadership to convince the public of their credibility. Could you speak more to the rationale and consequences of the CCP making such a decision?
[25:10] Q: We have observed, (and as you also mentioned in your paper), that the government is now soliciting public opinion on social media about policy issues as well (such as the polling feature on Weibo). What do you think are the motivations for such, at least on appearance, public consultation? And to what extent do you think it is effective, especially given the many complications we have discussed so far?
[27:30] Q: As you cited in your paper, Weibo is a very entertainment-focused, and de-politicized social media tool, especially compared to its international equivalents. Could you tell us more about how the nature of Weibo has changed over the years in perhaps a political manner?

[32:10] Q: In recent years, we have noticed many (and increasingly creative and complicated) strategies by users to circumscribe censorship: inserting symbols in between sensitive words, using romanized spelling instead of Chinese characters, using images instead of words, sometimes inverting the images, etc. What do you think of this present-day digital culture in China, and how do you see it evolve in the future?
[35:23] Q: Are there any privacy movements in China?
[37:08] Q: What’s your own experience doing research in China? Do you fear censorship?
[39:40] Conclusion 

Episode 4. (Isaac Tan): Eugenics - the Japanese Brand of Racism in the Guise of Science

Episode 4. In this episode, Isaac Tan, Columbia PhD candidate in East Asian History, takes a close look at the formation of modern Japan in the interwar period. We discuss the country's history with eugenics and how blood types continue to be used as an indicator of personality traits. His academic blog can be found here


[0:00] Introduction to the Podcast
[0:30] Q: In your paper about eugenics in interwar Japan, you claim that “the development of eugenics in Japan paralleled how modernity was perceived and influenced by mass culture.” Could you explain what modernity meant to Japanese society during the interwar period (1923-37)?
[1:35] Q: Is there a difference between Western and Japanese perceptions of modernity? If so, what were some key examples?
[2:45] Q: In the context of emerging from seclusion and coming to terms with a new identity, where did the notion of eugenics emerge from?
[3:57] Q: We know that in America, race is very much based on skin color. How do the Japanese externalize other East Asian races to perpetuate their kind of racism?
[6:21] Q: Who are the people that are maintaining this notion of racial purity
[8:25] Q: Could you explain what the blood type personality hypothesis is and why it’s significant? 
[12:27] Q: What is the present day perception of blood types in East Asia and Japan? Are there still racial implications with blood types?
[15:32] Q: What is your take on how societies create knowledge, and on the other hand, how they blur the line between fact and fiction?
[19:16] Q: What interested you about researching Japan and the interwar period?
[25:06] Conclusion

Episode 5. (Stephen Choi): Japanese Children's Literature - why do children read what they read?

Episode 5. Stephen Choi, a PhD candidate at Columbia University, explores with us the historical evolution of Japanese children's literature: how the notion of children came about in modern Japan and how the literature for children had turned from nationalistic themes towards individualism in post-war Japan. We also talked about the use of gendered language in Japan and its influence on children's literature. His bio can be found here. 


[0:00] Introduction to the Podcast
[0:30] Q: What is the modern notion of childhood and how has it evolved in Japan?
[3:45] Q: We were interested in the shojo genre of girl’s literature as an example of the modern notion of childhood in Japan. When it was created at the beginning of the twentieth century, it was targeted at a small minority of privileged schoolgirls. How did that affect the development of the shojo genre and how has it transformed since then?
[6:05] Q: Why are some Japanese books separated by gender?
[8:00] Q: You’ve talked about how children's literature in Japan took a turn away from nationalism and militarism of the 1930s and 40s towards individualism and democracy in the postwar period. Can you talk about what precipitated this change? 
[14:35] Q: If Japanese children’s literature came to mirror the ideologies and characteristics of children’s literature in America, what made it different as a genre?
[16:53] Q: There exists both women’s and men’s language in Japanese - how does that play into children’s literature? 
[20:50] Q: Does the western setting of Japanese children’s literature affect how well it is received overseas?
[23:00] Q: Japan has an aging population and a low fertility rate - how does this affect the perception of children and role of children in Japanese society and literature?
[28:40] Conclusion