China watchers to watch

I read mainstream world news, but western headlines about China don’t really do justice to the reality here as they don’t offer many nuances. They also generally stick with a fairly negative China bias. This is of course often justified, but not always. I’ve found some great newsletters that give daily or weekly updates on the political, economic and cultural nuances of China.


Trivium China sends a very concise daily politics and policy tip sheet.  It highlights news, offers a bite-sized bit of context, some bullet points, and very good insights on why certain things matter and links to further reading.

Bill Bishop is a renowned China watcher. He writes the free Axios China newsletter and the paid Sinocism newsletter.

SupChina offers ‘China in 2 minutes’, compiled by an impressive team of experts with decades of China experience. It also offers the Sinica podcast. 

Chinafornia is another newsletter that is mostly aimed at analyzing the USA-China relationship. Matt Sheehan is the former China correspondent for the Huffington Post. He also wrote The optimists guide to China.

Sixth Tone is one of my favourites: thoughtful articles about social issues such as changing norms around sex and dating. The articles are written by critical Chinese or foreign academics. It is based in Shanghai so it can’t be too critical.

Mingbai‘s daily tiny newsletter aims to tell you a little something that everyone in China but no foreigner knows. 明 (ming)  means bright, 百 (bai) means white, and together they mean knowledge.

Changpian is the opposite of Mingbai: it offers a monthly selection of Chinese feature and opinion writing, curated and partially translated by Tabitha Speelman. 

Gokunming has handy job-, housing- and personals listings, an event calendar and also a wealth of articles exploring the news, history, nature and culture of Yunnan.

I follow Chinese media such as ChinaDaily on wechat. This is basically a mouthpiece for the government so the opposite of free press. It’s interesting to read what the government wants us to believe, and it’s just as interesting what they omit. If you know of any more, please let me know in the comments below.

A short book update

I loved reading Jung Chang’s biography of the empress dowager Cixi. The love and respect for her shine through.

Empress Dowager Cixi
Empress Dowager Cixi

The opposite is true of her biography of Mao. The disdain for him is palpable from page one, and it makes the reading rather hard going. I will give it another go as it is impossible to understand China without knowing what happened under Mao’s reign. Next up: a bit more light but insightful reading from one of Peter Hessler’s excellent books on contemporary China.

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