The Little Red Podcast

By Graeme Smith and Louisa Lim

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The Little Red Podcast: interviews and chat celebrating China beyond the Beijing beltway. Hosted by Graeme Smith, China studies academic at the Australian National University's Department of Pacific Affairs and Louisa Lim, former China correspondent for the BBC and NPR, now with the Centre for Advancing Journalism at Melbourne University. We are the 2018 winners of podcast of the year in the News & Current Affairs category of the Australian Podcast Awards. Follow us @limlouisa and @GraemeKSmith, and find show notes at

Episode Date
Cambodia: China’s first client state?

The Southeast Asian nation has historically been seen as China's first client state, with the Khmer Rouge's hardline interpretation of Maoism leading to the horror of the Killing Fields.  Four decades on, Cambodia still enjoys the best and the worst of what the People’s Republic can offer.   While aid from Beijing has built world-class infrastructure and provided clean drinking water to Cambodians, Chinese companies are also responsible for a tidal wave of scams, illegal casinos and even recent cases of human trafficking. China's building a military base at Ream on the Gulf of Thailand, only its second overseas base, amid public denials from Cambodian officials.  To delve into the history and complexity of China’s relationship with Cambodia, we’re joined by Matthew Galway of the Australian National University and the author of The Emergence of Global Maoism: China’s Red Evangelism and the Cambodian Communist movement 1949-1979, and Andrew Mertha, director of the SAIS China Global Research Center at John Hopkins University and the author of Brothers in Arms: Chinese aid to the Khmer Rouge 1975 to 1979.


Image: Prince Sihanouk visits China, November 1964. c/- Wikimedia Commons and People’s Daily.

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Sep 19, 2022
Herbal Gold: Chinese medicine, COVID and the CCP

Chinese households under lockdown have lacked food, company, and access to medical care.  But they’ve had an almost endless supply of a traditional Chinese medicine treatment called Lianhua Qingwen, made by Yiling Pharmaceuticals. Chinese students abroad even have this drug delivered to their doorsteps in healthcare packages, and demand for it among diaspora communities has seen panic-buying and hugely inflated prices. In this episode, we explore why the Chinese state has invested huge sums in promoting such traditional remedies that have not been subject to rigorous clinical testing. To unpack the history and the politics, Louisa and Graeme are joined by Michael Stanley-Baker, historian of Chinese medicine and religion at Nanyang Technological University and Altman Yuzhu Peng, researcher of intercultural communications at the University of Warwick. 



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Aug 02, 2022
Cheongsams and Coppers:  Beijing's Stealth Infiltration of Hong Kong

It’s now been twenty-five years since Hong Kong returned to Chinese sovereignty with a pledge not to change Hong Kong’s way of life for fifty years. In actual fact, Beijing's stealth infiltration of Hong Kong began long before the territory's return, with United Front work targeting certain sectors of the population. In this episode, we delve deep into Hong Kong's history to pinpoint how Beijing used the cheongsam makers and policemen - among others - to infiltrate society.  Graeme is joined by Ho-fung Hung of Johns Hopkins University, author of City on the Edge: Hong Kong Under Chinese Rule, Newsweek journalist Didi Kirsten Tatlow, and for the first time as a guest, Louisa Lim, whose book Indelible City: Dispossession and Defiance in Hong Kong is now out. 

Image: Black Bauhinia with wilted petals, c/- Jacky CTensd, Wikimedia Commons, 2019


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Jun 30, 2022
Shanghaied: Living with Zero Covid

After two long months, Shanghai's brutal lockdown is over in name, but Xi Jinping is telling officials to ‘unswervingly adhere’ to Zero COVID, despite the costs. Shanghai’s lockdown brought chaos to global supply chains and torpedoed China’s once-sacred economic growth targets. It’s also taken a toll on the city’s residents; once the nation’s most privileged, they had a front row seat to the arbitrary nature of government decrees. To unpack what happens next, Louisa and Graeme are joined by Jennifer Pak, the Shanghai-based correspondent for Marketplace and Victor Shih, political economist at the University of California, San Diego whose new book Coalitions of the Weak: Elite Politics in China from Mao’s Stratagem to the Rise of Xi is just out.  

Image: c/- Wikimedia Commons. Hubei medical team aid Shanghai COVID-19 community testing on 4 April 2022.


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Jun 06, 2022
Gimme, gimme, gimme a Han after midnight: China’s masculinity crisis

For the past year, China has been in the grip of a crackdown on niangpao, or ‘sissy men’, with the People’s Daily warning that effeminate men are ‘corrupting a generation.’ It’s a movement that is having a chilling effect well beyond influencers having their social media accounts closed, with the Ministry of Education even issuing guidelines on how to ‘cultivate masculinity’ in boys from kindergarten onwards. To discuss what lies behind the masculinity crisis, Louisa and Graeme are joined by UNSW’s Kam Louie, the author of Chinese Masculinities in a Globalising World, Ting Guo, researcher of gender and politics at the University of Toronto and co-host of the podcast Shicha, and Xiaogang Wei, a filmmaker who is also a board member of the Beijing LGBTQ centre.

Image: Screenshot of Feng Xiaoyi, c/- Neihin Ng, YouTube

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May 11, 2022
Kevin Rudd: Is War With China Inevitable?

As Australia’s Defence Minister warns his nation to ‘prepare for war’ with China, there’s a growing feeling of inevitability about a future conflict between China and the United States. Against this rather bleak backdrop, we hear from one global figure who has had unusual access to China's leaders: Australia's former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd. The President and CEO of the Asia Society, he describes himself as a Sinologist at the tables of power.  He's probably the only Mandarin-speaking world leader to have one-on-ones with Xi Jinping and hear Jiang Zemin's rendition of O Sole Mio at Sydney Opera House. Rudd is publishing a book called The Avoidable War: The Dangers of a Catastrophic Conflict Between the United States and Xi Jinping’s China. This episode is a live recording of his Melbourne book launch, hosted by Louisa. In it, Rudd unpacks the logic of a future war, warns of Xi's biggest vulnerability and predicts a rocky few months ahead.  This event was co-hosted by the Asia Society, the Wheeler Centre and RMIT Live. 


Image: Kevin Rudd and Louisa Lim at the Capitol Theatre c/- The Wheeler Centre, 2022

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Apr 28, 2022
Ukraine: A Win-Win for China

How is Putin’s brutal invasion of Ukraine redrawing the geopolitical landscape?  In this episode, we examine China’s interests in the conflict and explore the limits of their ‘no limits’ agreement with Russia. To ask whether the geopolitical balance is shifting in favour of an ‘axis of autocracies’, Louisa and Graeme are joined by Alexander Gabuev, senior fellow and Russian chair in the Asia-Pacific Programme at the Carnegie Moscow Centre and Maria Repnikova, assistant professor in global communication at Georgia State University.

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Apr 06, 2022
Elite Capture: A CCP Primer in Making Friends and Influencing People

America's elites love to talk about China's '5000 years of civilization', but such language - which could come straight from the pages of the China Daily - serves to amplify Beijing's talking points. In this way and due to their own business dealings with China, some American elites are helping Beijing grow more powerful. In his book, America Second: How America's Elites Are Making China Stronger, journalist Isaac Stone Fish zeroes in on the case of the former US secretary of State Henry Kissinger, casting him as an agent of Chinese influence. In this episode, Louisa and Graeme talk to Isaac about how the CCP exploits the blurred line between politics and business to capture US elites.

Image: c/- Wikimedia commons. Henry Kissinger and Chairman Mao, with Zhou Enlai behind them in Beijing, early 70s.

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Mar 09, 2022
Caste Aside: The Future for China's Peasants

By any metric, China's rural residents face massive disadvantages compared to their urban counterparts.  More than half of rural teenagers are cognitively delayed, and longstanding policies restrict their mobility and access to vital services.  China's peasants were one of Chairman Mao's favoured classes and the backbone of his Revolution, but what place is there for the half-a-billion rural dwellers in Xi Jinping's China?  To discuss whether common prosperity can trickle down to the countryside, Louisa and Graeme are joined by sociologist Mindi Schneider from Wageningen University, and economist Scott Rozelle, the author of Invisible China: How the Urban-Rural Divide Threatens China's Rise

Image: Rural primary school in Anhui, c/- Graeme Smith

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Feb 02, 2022
Shakeup or Shakedown?  China's New Red Economy

As China's economy slows down, Xi Jinping's charting a new economic course that will redefine the country's future.  From reining in tech giants to redistributing wealth in the name of “common prosperity”, the Party's economic policy is moving away from the Deng reform era.  Economic analysts are sharply divided on what it portends for China and the world.  This month, Louisa and Graeme hear two completely opposed takes on China's economic strategy, from Andy Rothman, an investment strategist at Matthews Asia, and Anne Stevenson-Yang, the co-founder of J Capital Research. 

Image: Caofeidian, Hubei Province. c/- Anne Stevenson-Yang

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Jan 02, 2022
The Great Reconciler and the End of Chinese History

Become an instant expert on the new historical resolution issued by China's Communist Party for all your cocktail season smalltalk needs. It's only the third such move in the party's century-long history, and the first in forty years. This resolution introduces a new slogan: Xi Jinping's Two Establishments, signalling the Chairman of Everything's elevation to helmsman status. In this episode, Louisa and Graeme turn to two authorities on party history for elucidation: Patricia Thornton of the University of Oxford and Geremie Barmé, editor of China Heritage and the founding director of the Australian Centre on China in the World.

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Nov 21, 2021
The CCP Goes Outback? The Century of Humiliation in Australia

China’s Communist Party’s rewriting of history doesn’t stop at their own borders, but has even reached as far as Wandiligong, a town of 453 people four hours north of Melbourne. It’s home to a memorial bridge to Chinese goldminers built with the assistance of the Australia China Friendship Society. The information panels use racist language for the Chinese such as “chinks and chows to be ridiculed and baited”, illustrating one example of how the CCP is exporting the notion of a century of humiliation to other countries. In this episode we ask whether various attempts to rewrite Chinese Australian history represent a coordinated campaign and to what end. Louisa and Graeme are joined by Karen Schamberger, vice President of the Young Historical Society, historian Louise Edwards from the University of New South Wales and Paul Macgregor, former curator at the Chinese Museum of Melbourne.

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Oct 13, 2021
The Endless Purge: Reassessing June 4 1989

The purge that followed the killings by PLA soldiers in and around Tiananmen Square three decades ago has continued into the present, even permeating Western academia.   A host of new sources, including leaked diaries by Chinese leaders, have emerged in recent years, but few Western scholars appear willing to break the taboo surrounding June 4.  The jailing this month of nine Hong Kongers, for as much as ten months, for taking part in a banned Tiananmen vigil indicates how the purge is spreading to Hong Kong, where police raided the Tiananmen Massacre museum, confiscating exhibits as evidence.   Against that backdrop, Louisa speaks to Simon Fraser University's Jeremy Brown, whose recent book June Fourth: The Tiananmen Protests and the Beijing Massacre reframes the events of 1989, shifting the focus from elites and students to ordinary people.   This is a recording of a live conversation that was hosted by Harvard University’s Fairbank Centre for Chinese Studies.

Image credit: Holly Angell

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Sep 20, 2021
Lone Wolves or Xi Wolves? The Evolution of China’s Nationalistic Diplomats

Nationalism in China seems to have taken a feral turn, with Chinese netizens viciously turning on Olympic athletes, celebrities and even the über-nationalist Global Times for letting down the motherland. This month we’re talking about the evolution of Chinese nationalism and the factors driving the emergence of a new cadre of aggressive diplomats known as wolf warriors. Louisa and Graeme are joined by Bloomberg journalist Peter Martin, who's just written China’s Civilian Army: The Making of Wolf Warrior Diplomacy and Cornell University’s Jessica Chen Weiss, who’s also the China editor at the Washington Post and has written a book called Powerful Patriots: Nationalist Protest in China’s Foreign Relations.  

Image: Vladimir Putin with Wang Yi, website of the President of the Russian Federation, Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License

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Aug 18, 2021
The Little Red Podcast Turns Five: Agony Aunt Edition

For our fifth anniversary, we’ve thrown the floor open to our audience.   This month we’re doing an Agony Aunt edition for China nerds. We've gathered your burning China questions and then hunted down the world’s leading experts in search of answers. From support for the government to statistical elasticity, from clothing habits to tea-drinking titillations right at the very top, we are parrying listener questions. In search of answers, Louisa and Graeme are joined by Arunabh Ghosh and Anthony Saich from Harvard University, Antonia Finnane from the University of Melbourne, and Lawrence Zhang from Hong Kong University of Science and Technology.  

Image: c/- Seb Danta

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Jul 19, 2021
Jack be nimble: the Party-State Vs. the Tech Titans

China’s once untouchable tech billionaires suddenly find themselves in the unfamiliar position of being roughed up the state. Just at the time when the Party needs its homegrown tech firms to sell Xi Jinping’s new ‘lovable’ image of China, previously toothless regulators are issuing billion dollar fines and ordering companies to restructure—or else. To ask whether the state’s cozy relationships with companies like Alibaba and TenCent are on the rocks, we’re joined by Hong Kong University’s Angela Zhang, University of Leiden’s Rogier Creemers and John Lee from the Mercator Institute of Chinese Studies. This episode was recorded live as part of the ANU’s Digital Politics in the Asia Pacific seminar series.

Image: Jack Ma c/- ピロシキ, flickr, October 10, 2011.

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Jun 21, 2021
Let's get this party started: China's global propaganda push

For a Party chosen by history, the CCP spends a lot of money targeting foreign media outlets and governments. In this episode, a panel of researchers discusses why China—or any autocracy—cares what the world thinks of it, and how it tries to shape its global image. We ask whether the CCP’s media outreach and lobbying operations bear fruit, or are readily seen through as clumsy propaganda. This week, Graeme is joined by Louisa and the Little Red Podcast’s researcher Julia Bergin, discuss a survey on China’s global media outreach that they've just conducted for the International Federation of Journalists, as well as political scientist Erin Baggott Carter from the University of South California, and Alex Dukalskis from University College Dublin who has just written a book called Making the World Safe for Dictatorship.

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May 10, 2021
Out of their league? China’s online gaming conundrum

China is home to 661 million online gamers, easily the world’s biggest market. Cities like Shanghai now boast some of the world’s most talented game developers. Yet the Chinese government has long been uncomfortable with online games, fretting about Internet addiction and young people wasting their energies on ‘spiritual opium’, leaving their schoolbooks for seedy Internet cafes. To explore how China is coping with the tension between molding productive citizens and cashing in on a hugely lucrative gaming industry, Louisa and Graeme are joined by game developer Allison Yang Jing, who writes about Chinese video games, Hugh Davies from RMIT, a video game curator, and Pace College’s Marcella Szablewicz, author of Mapping Digital Game Culture in China.

Image: Game On, Hugh Davies

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Apr 21, 2021
Remaking Hong Kong: Keep the Fishbowl, Change the Fish

China is now remoulding Hong Kong at speed.  Forty-seven Democratic politicians and activists have been arrested on national security charges for participating in last year’s primary polls, and only people Beijing deems ‘patriots’ allowed to run for office.  One prominent pro-Beijing figure has even warned that the electoral reforms risk ‘killing the patient’.  With the legislature muzzled, the authorities are turning their attention to the media, the arts and the education sector.  This month we're joined by a high-profile political exile, former Democratic party legislator Ted Hui, who's the first Hong Kong politician to flee to Australia, and former Democratic party chairperson, Emily Lau, who’s still in Hong Kong.

Image c/- Flickr, Studio Incendo_DSC5956, 3 March 2021

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Mar 24, 2021
Tibet: Colonialism with Chinese Characteristics?

With the world’s attention focused on industrial-scale oppression in Xinjiang, developments in Tibet are passing beneath the radar.  But activists are warning of a full-spectrum assault on the Tibetan way of life, as Tibetan language teaching is outlawed and urbanisation campaigns relocate nomads from their ancestral pastures.  The CCP has underlined its determination to choose the next Dalai Lama, and Tibetans were recently urged by their Party Secretary to ‘reduce religious consumption’ to build a ‘new modern socialist Tibet’.  To hear about the sophisticated ‘rolling repression’ that characterises Chinese rule in Tibet, Louisa and Graeme are joined by Barbara Demick, author of Eat the Buddha: Life and Death in a Tibetan Town, Benno Weiner, Associate Professor of History at Carnegie Mellon University who has just published The Chinese Revolution on Tibetan Frontier and Tendor Dorjee, a Senior Researcher at the Tibet Action Institute.

Image credit: Tashi Tsering at Labrang Monastery, ÓUte Wallenbök

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Feb 24, 2021
Fandom Untamed: The Business of Boys’ Love

This month we’re delving into boys’ love or BL fiction. From niche online novels to TV shows such as the Netflix fantasy epic The Untamed, their storylines revolve around male relationships with a tinge of sexual tension. But there’s a quirk. It’s not gay fiction; the stories are often written by women for women. This genre is incredibly popular in China, making BL fans an intimidating political and economic force, creating and destroying celebrities and the brands they endorse. To unravel the drama behind BL drama, Louisa and Graeme are joined by Hong Kong University’s Angie Baecker and boys’ love author Huanxiang Zhenghuanzhe 幻想症患者.

Image: The Untamed, Wikipedia

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Jan 12, 2021
Inventing China: The Pick and Mix Approach

China's five thousand years of history has become a fact, repeated ad nauseum by the state-run media and Chinese textbooks alike, but could it be a national myth?   In his recently published book, The Invention of China, Bill Hayton argues that “China” was cooked up by a small group of intellectuals who brought notions of sovereignty, citizenry and borders back from Europe just over 100 years ago, using a 'pick-and-mix' approach to history to invent their own past. But how does this interpretation sit against China's long historiographical tradition? In this episode, Hayton, a former BBC journalist now with the Asia program at Chatham House, tests his claims with Esther Klein, a senior lecturer in Chinese intellectual history at the Australian National University.

Image: Yellow Emperor, Xinzheng. Wikimedia Commons 2017

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Dec 14, 2020
Xi Dada and Daddy: Power, the Party and the President

A quick glance at the headlines suggest that only one man seems to count in today’s China – the Chairman of Everything, as he’s been dubbed - Communist party leader President Xi Jinping. He’s helmed China’s reemergence as a world power through his aggressive foreign policy, while consolidating power at home. In this episode, we delve into his own princeling past, looking at his relationship with his father, former Vice Premier Xi Zhongxun, and how his family background has influenced his political philosophy. To discuss how Xi’s revolutionary past is shaping China’s future, we’re joined by the Chinawatchers' Chinawatchers, Frederick Teiwes from the University of Sydney and Joseph Torigian from American University in Washington DC.

Image: Xi Jinping, Xi Yuanping and Xi Zhongxun in 1958, Wikipedia Commons

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Nov 02, 2020
See the difference? CGTN in the dock

Last year China's international state-run broadcaster, CGTN, spent millions opening a state-of-the-art London headquarters. Just one year on, it may already be scrambling for an exit strategy. CGTN may even lose its licence in the United Kingdom after the British regulator found it breached the broadcasting code. This episode we interview two people who have brought complaints against CGTN after it broadcast their forced confessions: Peter Dahlin from Safeguard Defenders and private investigator Peter Humphrey. Along with Sarah Cook of Freedom House, they join Louisa and Graeme to discuss whether China's global media ambitions are being stopped in their tracks.

Image: Peter Humphrey's TV appearance, c/- Alexey Garmash, Safeguard Defenders

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Oct 06, 2020
The New Compradors? Hong Kong's Taipans Face a New Era

Even before they had seen its contents, Hong Kong's family-run firms - including two non-Chinese business empires that have shaped Hong Kong - were lining up to pledge support to the New National Security legislation.  Even in 2020, Hong Kong remains an oligopoly with a handful of wealthy conglomerates controlling vast swathes of Hong Kong's economy.  But these family-run firms no longer have the luxury of remaining silent about Chinese politics.   To look at two of these commercial dynasties and their role in creating Hong Kong as Asia's global city,  Louisa and Graeme are joined by Robert Bickers who has written China Bound: A History of John Swire & Sons and Its World, and Jonathan Kaufman, former Wall Street Journal correspondent who examines the Sassoons and the Kadoories in the Last Kings of Shanghai: the Rival Jewish Dynasties that Helped Create Modern China.  

Photo credit:, B&S Shanghai Staff 1883. Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution Noncommercial Share Alike 3.0 License.

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Aug 26, 2020
Trump's F*** China Moment: An Attitude, Not a Strategy

China-US ties are in a tailspin, spiralling ever deeper into an abyss. Just one short month has seen US sanctions on senior Chinese officials for atrocities against the Uyghurs, Hong Kong’s special status for trade and diplomacy revoked, and consulates closed in Houston and Chengdu respectively. There's even been talk of a travel ban on China's 92m Communist party members and their families. Is armed conflict really a possibility, and if so when? Louisa and Graeme are joined by Gady Epstein and Stanford University’s Oriana Skyler Mastro to discuss the strategy behind the belligerence and the timeline for war.

Photo credit: Flickr. USS San Antonio alongside USS Carter Hall. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Corbin J. Shea/Released) 130321-N-SB587-349

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Aug 01, 2020
Hong Kong No More: The National Security Law and the Dual State

On June 30, Hong Kong will be subject to a new National Security Law. No one, not even Hong Kong’s Chief Executive, knows what will be in the bill, but details are slowly coming into focus. For critics, the legislation will create a ‘dual state’ that will undermine Hong Kong’s legal system and allow Beijing to target its opponents at will. For proponents, the bill will only affect a handful of people, and bring stability after a year of unrest. To ask whether the law spells the end of Hong Kong’s autonomy, Louisa and Graeme are joined by NYU legal expert Alvin Cheung, Lingnan University’s Ho Lok-sang and digital activist Glacier Kwong.

Photo credit: Jonathan van Smit, Hong Kong Protests 2019, Flickr

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Jun 26, 2020
Hong Kong: Anything We Say Could Be A Crime

For the first time since 1989 Hong Kongers are banned from holding their annual June Fourth vigil in Victoria Park. Despite this provocation, Hong Kong establishment figures—from vice chancellors to movie stars to religious figures—have been lining up to pledge their loyalty to China and their support for the proposed National Security Law that will be enacted in Beijing, bypassing the local legislature. Only one newspaper in Hong Kong opposes it: the popular Apple Daily. Today we speak to its chairman and founder, Jimmy Lai-Chee-ying to discuss the impact of that decision.  Lai has already been called a traitor and accused of ‘subversion’ by China’s Global Times newspaper, even though this crime is not yet on the statute books in Hong Kong.  

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Jun 04, 2020
Inside Job: How China is Changing Global Governance

The byzantine rules and procedures of multilateral institutions form the backdrop for China's global power play, following President Xi Jinping's 2018 call for China to “lead the reform of the global governance system with the concepts of fairness and justice.” As the US pulls back from its global obligations, there's increasing evidence that China is simply changing the rules inside these global bodies. In this episode, we explore whether China is influencing three international organizations: the U.N. Human Rights Council, the World Trade Organization, and the World Health Organization. To ask whether Xi’s vision of a new global order is being realized, Louisa and Graeme are joined by Sophie Richardson, the China director at Human Rights Watch, trade expert Weihuan Zhou from the University of NSW’s law school, and freelance journalist Hinnerk Feldwisch-Drentrup who is the co-founder of MedWatch.

Credit: UN Photo / Yun Zhao
Caption: Secretary-General Meets with President of China. Secretary-General António Guterres (left) meets with Xi Jinping, President of the People's Republic of China, in Great Hall of the People during the 2nd Belt and Road Forum in Beijing, China.
26 April 2019

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May 27, 2020
Killing Me Softly: the Power Pandemic

China's Covid diplomacy dispatching facemasks and respirators overseas is being hailed as the ultimate soft power play. But is this really soft power? To answer this question, we're joined by the man who coined the term, Joseph Nye, the former dean of Harvard Kennedy School of Government as well as Bates Gill, professor in the Department of Security Studies at Macquarie University, and Natasha Kassam, a research fellow in the Diplomacy and Public Opinion Program at the Lowy Institute.


Image credit: "AMCHAM Cares Co-Vid 19" by United States Embassy Kuala Lumpur is licensed under CC PDM 1.0

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Apr 21, 2020
Viral Disruption; The Pandemic That's Rewriting the Global Order

COVID-19 isn't just destroying economies, it's also reshaping the global order.  In less than a month, the novel coronavirus has moved from being China's Chernobyl to being an advertisement for China’s brand of governance. As Western governments, in particular the US, fail to grapple with this enormous public health challenge, China is presenting itself as the world’s saviour.  Beijing's multipronged approach includes using facemask diplomacy donating medical equipment to the West, while its diplomats try to sow doubt about whether the outbreak began in Wuhan.  To discuss the geopolitics of COVID-19 against the backdrop of deteriorating US-China relations, we’re joined by Ian Bremmer, president and founder of the political risk consulting firm Eurasia Group and G-ZERO Media, and host of the podcast “GZERO World with Ian Bremmer”, as well as Bill Bishop, the founder of the Sinocism China newsletter, and Simon Rabinovitch, the Economist’s Shanghai-based correspondent.

Photo credit: “Corona Virus” by danielfoster437 is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

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Mar 28, 2020
"Round Up All Those That Should Be Rounded Up": State Violence in China

The “people's war” on COVID-19 has brought enforcers in hazmat suits onto the streets of Wuhan, where they're bundling ordinary citizens into vans, giving Han Chinese urbanites a taste of the kind of state violence that is normally reserved for dissidents and troublesome ethnic groups. In this episode, we discuss the changing nature of state violence in China, and how it manifests in the re-education camps of Xinjiang, on the streets of Hong Kong and on demolition sites across rural China.  Is President Xi Jinping's China becoming a thug state?  To address this question, we're joined by Lynette Ong, associate professor of Political Science at the University of Toronto, and Michael Clarke, associate professor at the National Security College of the Australian National University.


Photo Credit: Tyrone Siu, Reuters

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Mar 10, 2020
High Noon for Xi Jinping: The President Vs The Virus

The coronavirus that has infected 70,000 people is being compared to China's Chernobyl in its political and economic fallout, but just how much of an inflection point will it be?  This crisis is threatening the previously unchallenged authority of President Xi Jinping. It could reshape domestic policy imperatives and embed techno-authoritarian tendencies at local levels.  It also has ramifications far beyond China's borders, potentially accelerating Beijing's economic decoupling with the outside world.  To discuss what happens when a leader obsessed with control faces an uncontrollable foe, Louisa and Graeme are joined by Orville Schell, the Arthur Ross Director of the Centre for US China Relations at the Asia Society, Shaun Roache the chief Asia-Pacific economist at Standard & Poors, and from Wuhan by the New York Times’ Chris Buckley.

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Feb 19, 2020
Seedy Business: The Future of China's Industrial Espionage

Judging by the news headlines China is ramping up its industrial espionage efforts: secret payments to high-profile scientists, massive hacks of foreign universities and clumsy attempts to steal trade secrets the old-fashioned way. Intelligence agencies in the US and Australia have both issued dire warnings about the existential dangers posed by this sort of activity, but how much of a risk does China's espionage even pose? And should the FBI be devoting huge resources to protecting multinational corporations when they can be acquired by Chinese interests through mergers and acquisitions? In this show, Graeme and Louisa talk to Mara Hvistendahl, the author of the newly released book The Scientist and the Spy, as well as Yun Jiang, a former Australian civil servant and now co-editor of the Neican China newsletter about the future of Chinese economic espionage.

Image Credit: rabesphoto, Flickr

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Feb 05, 2020
Freedom is Restraint: How Core Socialist Values are Changing Language and Remoulding Humans

In the Xi Jinping era, China is quietly embedding core socialist values into every aspect of life, including the judicial system.  When core socialist values were introduced in 2013, they sounded like one more slogan in the pantheon of forgettable party dogmas, but now they're gaining teeth.  In this episode we examine how core socialist values are recoding language, legitimising CCP rule and could even pose a threat to Western civilisation.  To explore what these values mean and how they are reshaping the way China is governed, Louisa and Graeme are joined by Delia Lin of the University of Melbourne.

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Jan 06, 2020
Ten Years Becomes Four as Life Imitates Art in Hong Kong

When the Hong Kong film Ten Years (Sap nin) came out in 2015, it was pulled from cinemas after Chinese state-run media described it as a 'virus of the mind'.   Once seen as dystopian with its scenes of mass protest and police brutality, it now looks prophetic in a world where 88% of the Hong Kong population has been exposed to teargas.   In this episode, we explore post-election, post-dystopian Hong Kong, and whether it's already too late for Beijing to reassert its control over an 'independence movement that cannot say its name'.  This month Louisa Lim hosted a live recording after a screening of Ten Years with a panel consisting of Monash University anthropologist Kevin Carrico, Melbourne University's Victor Yim who studies Hong Kong's pan-democratic movement and Eric Lai, Vice Convenor of the Civil Human Rights Front.

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Dec 03, 2019
Power Projection: China’s Hollywood Dream

With cinema takings in the United States at a 22-year low, Hollywood moguls are looking to an unlikely saviour: China. With box office revenues growing at 9 percent, Hollywood is scrambling to find the formula for movies that make the cut of China’s 34 approved films and appeal to Chinese audiences. For every surprise hit, like The Meg and Warcraft, there are flops like The Great Wall. Like many an autocrat before him, Xi Jinping is enamoured of the silver screen, elevating film above radio and television in his 2018 overhaul of the propaganda apparatus. To discuss the special place of film in China’s global soft power push, back in March Louisa and Graeme were joined by City University of New York’s Ying Zhu and Variety Magazine’s Beijing bureau chief Rebecca Davis.

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Nov 13, 2019
Hong Kong Burning: The Rise of a Nation

As China's leaders gathered in Beijing to survey troops, fireworks and their latest missiles, a different scene was unfolding in Hong Kong.  Police shot an 18-year old protestor in the chest and unleashed a staggering 1400 rounds of tear gas on the population.  The protests originally targeted the extradition bill and then grew into democratic protests, but now protestors increasingly identify as a Hong Kong nation.  What does this mean and how does it affect the endgame? Graeme and Louisa hear voices from the streets including the Civil Human Rights Front's Wong Yik-mo, activist Johnson Yeung Ching-yin and Brian Fong from the Education University of Hong Kong.

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Oct 03, 2019
Big Bad China? The New Cold War

On the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China, has CCP Chairman Xi Jinping overreached? He's facing blowback everywhere from Hong Kong to Xinjiang amid an escalating trade war with the US. Even his signature infrastructure project, the Belt and Road Initiative, has run into trouble. Is the world entering a new cold war? We ask former Obama administration Asia advisor Charles Edel, now with the University of Sydney, and the Lowy Institute's Richard MacGregor, who is the author of Xi Jinping: The Backlash.

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Sep 30, 2019
Should I stay or should I go now? Inside the Solomons’ Big Switch

The South Pacific nation of the Solomon Islands may be on the verge of switching diplomatic allegiance from Taiwan to China, which would leave only sixteen nations recognising Taiwan.  When Manasseh Sogavare was appointed prime minister of the Solomons for the fourth time in April, he vowed to review the country’s relations with Taiwan, even though he has been a longtime supporter of the Republic of China.  In this episode, Graeme speaks to all the major players in the Solomon Islands, including the Prime Minister, to investigate the reasons behind the switch.  He found the background to the switch was far murkier and more complicated than has been previously reported. 

Photo credit: Terence Wood. Solar panel batteries, given to every Solomon Islands MP


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Sep 09, 2019
Be Water: Hong Kong vs China, with Denise Ho, Badiucao and Clive Hamilton

As the news broke that Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Carrie Lam had withdrawn the extradition bill that had sparked three months of unrest in Hong Kong, Little Red Podcast co-host Louisa Lim was moderating the event 'Be Water: Hong Kong vs China'. This panel event, featuring Hong Kong popstar and activist Denise Ho, Chinese artist Badiucao and author Clive Hamilton, was a discussion about resistance and art in Hong Kong, but also included this breaking news. An edited version of the event comprises this episode.

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Sep 05, 2019
Desperate Hong Kong: The Movement Behind The Mask

As Hong Kong enters its eleventh week of turmoil, we hear voices on the ground.  From 15-year olds who can hardly remember how many times they have been teargassed to thirty-somethings ready to serve prison sentences, the consensus is that Hong Kong is playing out its endgame.  We also travel across the political divide, to hear from attendees at a pro-police rally who feel their voices aren't being heard.  Last weekend saw 1.7m protestors taking to the streets without any violence.  So who are the protestors, and what will they accept?  Research by a team led by political scientist Samson Yeung of Lingnan University, which has surveyed 8000 protestors, indicates any compromise may be hard to strike, given a high degree of support for radical action within the movement.

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Aug 20, 2019
Chose Your Own Dystopia Part Two: Cashing in on Social Credit

By 2020, less than half a year from now, a social credit scheme will cover people and companies across China, “allowing the trustworthy to roam everywhere under heaven while making it hard for the discredited to take a single step.” It’s long been assumed the Chinese state would take the lead, but favored companies will doubtless profit from a database that will house every citizen’s tax records, criminal history, traffic offenses, family background and marriage details.  There are signs these companies are likely to export a surveillance-for-profit regime to other regimes keen to keep a close eye on their people. To ask whether China’s future looks like Lei Feng, Black Mirror or Dave Egger’s The Circle, Louisa and Graeme are joined by Gladys Pak Lei Chong and David Kurt Herold of Hong Kong Baptist University.

Photo credit: Kevin Hong (

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Jul 24, 2019
Hong Kong’s Dirty Little Secret: Is One Country Two Systems Dead?

Our third Hong Kong emergency episode comes in the wake of the storming of the territory's Legislative Council on the 22nd anniversary of its return to mainland China. Louisa reports from the floor of the Legco chamber as it is occupied and vandalized by hundreds of demonstrators, all risking hefty jail terms. With Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Carrie Lam still refusing to scrap the extradition bill which inspired millions of Hong Kongers to take to the streets, the territory could be set for further waves of radical action and repression. Protestors at the scene, as well as activists Johnson Yeung and Kong Tsunggan, legislator Eddie Chu Hoi-dick, and former Chief Secretary of Hong Kong Anson Chan join us to ask what the endgame for Hong Kong might be.


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Jul 02, 2019
Sing Hallelujah: The Miracle of Hong Kong’s March

We’re bringing you a second emergency podcast from Hong Kong, which has seen more record protests over the weekend. According to organisers, two million people—nearly one-third of Hong Kong residents—marched on Sunday, despite the Hong Kong government’s promise to shelve its unpopular extradition bill.  With public faith in its institutions shattered and a pattern of popular mobilization and radical action in train, we’ll be asking if Hong Kong is now governable at all.  Louisa reports from the protest frontlines, and we’ll be hearing calls for more democracy from Civic Party legislator Alvin Yeung and Cardinal Joseph Zen, the 87-year-old cardinal of the Catholic Church.

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Jun 17, 2019
Hong Kong's Darkest Hour

We bring you an emergency podcast from Hong Kong, one day after extraordinary police violence saw 79 people injured by baton charges, rubber bullets and over 150 rounds of tear gas. This dark turn comes only a few days after one million Hong Kongers—one in seven residents—took to the streets to protest proposed legal amendments that would allow citizens to be extradited to mainland China. Louisa reports from the protest frontlines and talks to Antony Dapiran, author of City of Protest: A Recent History of Dissent in Hong Kong as well as Jeffrey Ngo, chief researcher of the political group Demosisto. 

Photo credit: Louisa Lim 2019

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Jun 13, 2019
Tiananmen's Final Secret

Tuesday June 4 marks the 30th anniversary of the deadly crackdown ordered by Deng Xiaoping, which killed hundreds – maybe thousands – of people in Beijing and Chengdu. While the campaign to erase all memory of the event continues, explosive new information has emerged in the lead up to the anniversary.  It reveals new details about resistance to the crackdown among the military and how the Communist Party managed the aftermath of Tiananmen. Former student leaders Wang Dan and Zhou Fengsuo as well as the publisher of The Last Secret, Bao Pu and Joseph Torigian of American University join us in this episode to discuss these revelations and what life is like in exile for the student leaders.

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Jun 03, 2019
Choose your own Dystopia Part One: Social Media and Surveillance Capitalism

With Chinese citizens’ lives increasingly coded into data streams, the question of who owns this data and how it gets used is largely up to private companies. They control massive volumes of personal information and are tasked by Xi Jinping with everything from astroturfing public opinion to monitoring one-to-one chat in real time. As these companies expand beyond China’s borders, their operations and relationship with the Chinese state bear further scrutiny. To shed light on how China’s tech giants do the Party’s work, Louisa and Graeme are joined by Fu Kingwa from Hong Kong University, Masashi Crete-Nishihata from the University of Toronto’s Citizen Lab and Blake Miller of London School of Economics and Political Science, formerly of Dartmouth College.

Photo credit: Weiboscope 2016

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May 06, 2019
Resignation Syndrome? Democracy and Jail in Post-Umbrella Hong Kong

Hate mail, death threats and shadowy surveillance are facts of life for Hong Kong’s pro-democracy activists, five years after the Umbrella movement brought a million people onto the streets calling for greater democracy.   Since then, 48 legal cases have been brought against 32 different activists, often on colonial-era public order offences.  Louisa and Graeme are joined by two leaders of the Umbrella Movement to talk about jail, democracy and political repression.  They are Chan Kinman, one of the co-founders of Occupy Central, who faces a verdict in his trial with eight others on 8 April, and Nathan Law, the disqualified lawmaker from the Demosisto Party, who is also one of Hong Kong’s first political prisoners.

Photo credit: AFP/JIJI

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Apr 07, 2019
Leveraged to the Limit: Power Shifts in Xi Jinping's China

The Chairman of Everything Xi Jinping has emerged from the annual parliamentary meetings facing a rough year ahead.  China's economy is growing at its slowest in nearly three decades, amid a massive trade war and spiralling local debt, with rumblings of discontent from delegates about everything from the Belt and Road Initiative to Made in China 2025.  Louisa and Graeme are joined by Andrew Collier of Orient Capital Research and Ryan Manuel of Hong Kong University, who argue that both political and economic decentralisation is underway, laying Xi vulnerable to forces beyond his control. 

Photo credit: Hindustan Times

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Mar 25, 2019
Step Up or Be Overrun: China’s Challenge for the Pacific

The Pacific is seeing a flurry of diplomatic activity: Australia is ‘stepping up’, New Zealand has ordered a ‘Pacific reset’ and even Great Britain is reopening missions in its former Pacific colonies. The reason for their sudden interest is simple: China. If Beijing comes good on $4 billion in aid pledges, it could overtake Canberra as the largest donor to the Pacific. Often missed in this new Great Game are the concerns of Pacific Islanders, looking to make the best of this fresh interest in their blue Pacific. To discuss the Pacific’s China challenge, Graeme and Louisa are joined by Vanuatu’s Foreign Minister Ralph Regenvanu, Secretary-General of the Pacific Islands Forum Dame Meg Taylor, as well as Pacific academics Patrick Matbob and Transform Aquora and former Chinese diplomat, Denghua Zhang.


Photo Credit: Shaun Gessler 2016

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Mar 05, 2019
Hotpot Wars: Tensions bubble in the battle for China’s Culinary Soul

China has been engulfed by a controversy that strikes at the very heart of the nation—forget the South China Sea, rampant human rights abuses, even a looming economic crash. Last month food critic Chua Lam, otherwise known as the Food God, called for the end to the PRC’s most beloved dining craze: hot pot. The backlash has been immense, with enraged Weibo users calling for Chua Lam’s abolition. To discuss whether hotpot is indeed an uncultured blight on China’s rich culinary landscape, cookbook author extraordinaire Fuchsia Dunlop joins Louisa and Graeme.   Also there's a chance to win a Little Red Podcast mug in our first ever competition.   Snap a pic of the dish you'd like to disappear and send it to us on Twitter or Facebook to be a contender.

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Feb 04, 2019
#XiToo: Chinese Feminism and The Party’s Hyper-Masculine Reboot

China is becoming a more unequal place for women, in 2018 slipping for a fifth consecutive year in the World Economic Forum's Gender Gap index.  Chairman Mao may have proclaimed that women can hold up half the sky, but the Communist party under Xi Jinping holds a far narrower view of female roles, cracking down on feminist activists and backing traditional values.  The impact is economic too, with research showing that being born female in China has a bigger impact on your earnings than any other variable, including family wealth.  This month, Louisa and Graeme are joined by two experts on the origins of China's gender divide, Leta Hong Fincher, who's just published a book called Betraying Big Brother and economist Jane Golley from the Australian National University.

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Jan 08, 2019
Keeping the Faith? Xi's Deal with the Holy See

The Vatican and China have signed a deeply controversial agreement on the appointment of bishops, ending the cold war that has frozen ties since 1950.  That deep freeze led to schisms between the official and underground churches, with some clergy persecuted for decades and the church refusing to recognise Beijing's handpicked bishops.  But the new agreement has divided the faithful yet again, with some fearing Catholicism is facing calamity as President Xi Jinping tightens control over religion.  To explore what’s behind this sudden rapprochement and what it could mean for China’s 12 million Catholics, Louisa and Graeme are joined by Jeremy Clarke, a former Catholic priest who has researched China's historical relations with the Holy See.

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Dec 05, 2018
Xi Jinping’s War on Uighurs. Part 3: The Endgame

"Domestically I don't think the Uighur culture will survive." China now acknowledges the existence of mass indoctrination camps in Xinjiang - which it calls 'vocational training centres' - after months of denial. Its latest propaganda campaign showcases Uighurs inside the camps thanking the Party for teaching them skills and saving them from Islamic extremism. In this episode, Louisa and Graeme are joined by Nury Turkel, chairman of the Uyghur Human Rights Project, and James Leibold of La Trobe University to explore the reasons behind the Communist Party’s about-face. The traditional Uighur way of life now faces an existential threat inside Chinese borders, both through standardisation campaigns and the despatch of a million (largely Han Chinese) citizens into Uighur homes.


Photo credit: Kashgar People's Square (c) Tom Cliff 2002

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Nov 06, 2018
Xi Jinping’s War on Uighurs. Part 2: The New Frontier

The language used by the Chinese state in Xinjiang pathologises Islam, seeing it as an "ideological virus" which needs eradication by transformation through education.  In recent days, China has publicly justified the mass internment of Uighurs as necessary in its struggle against the "three evils" of terrorism, separatism and religious extremism.  In part 1, Louisa and Graeme heard testimony from Australian Uighurs describing how Uighur communities are being destroyed by mass detentions.  In part 2, they explore the Chinese Communist party's historical relationship with its New Frontier with  Sydney University’s David Brophy and the Australian National University’s Tom Cliff.

Photo credit: Tom Cliff 2002 (

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Oct 16, 2018
Xi Jinping’s War on the Uighurs. Part 1: The Witnesses

‘We seem to be normal, but we are not.’ A United Nations human rights panel says it has credible reports that more than a million Uighurs are being held in reeducation camps in the northwestern Chinese province of Xinjiang. As evidence emerges of massive human rights violations from satellite photos, procurement bids and state-run news reports, the voices that have not yet been heard are those of Uighurs themselves. In this episode, Louisa and Graeme hear how the close-knit Uighur community in the Australian city of Adelaide have become long-distance witnesses to an unfolding human rights catastrophe that has torn their families apart. One brought his motherless children to the interview; others brought lists of missing friends and relatives. As they wrestle with anxiety and guilt, they're now starting to raise awareness of their plight. 

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Sep 24, 2018
Stranger than Fiction: China’s Espionage Industrial Complex

“Use your spies for every kind of business.” This 2500 year-old stratagem from Sun Zi's Art of War still informs Beijing’s modern day approach towards intelligence gathering. Today China’s espionage industrial complex appears to be taking spying mainstream by blurring the boundaries between spying, interference and influence projection. To explore the shadowy realm of Chinese spycraft, Louisa and Graeme are joined by two top-notch journalists-turned-spy-novelists who have written extensively about Beijing’s army of spooks. Adam Brookes, former China correspondent for the BBC and Chris Uhlmann, chief political correspondent for Channel Nine in Australia unpick how Beijing is redefining espionage for the cyber age.

Pic: Sam Geall

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Sep 04, 2018
The Han-Opticon: Social Credit and AI in the Surveillance State

China today is Black Mirror through the Looking Glass. A national video surveillance network is promised in just two years, while new technologies are being rolled out at speed on the frontier of China’s surveillance regime, in Xinjiang, ranging from iris scans to phone surveillance apps. Simultaneously the Chinese state is building a nationwide social credit system, to be launched in 2020, which provides incentives for citizens to participate in their own surveillance. To unpack China’s dystopian present, Louisa and Graeme are joined by Elsa Kania from the Center for a New American Security, Lotus Ruan from the University of Toronto’s Citizen Lab, and Samantha Hoffman from the Mercator Institute for China Studies in Berlin.

Image:  Oliver Jeannin (Flickr)

All three guests have recently written reports for the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, links below

Elsa Kania:

Lotus Ruan:

Samantha Hoffman:

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Aug 07, 2018
Come Dance with Xi: Who Can Resist the Belt and Road's Embrace?

There’s no escaping China’s Belt and Road Initiative. It’s been written into China’s constitution, and more than 70 countries from Pakistan to Papua New Guinea have signed up.  But what is it? A modern-era Marshall Plan, a geopolitical bid for China to build a new international power bloc, a new model for Chinese colonialism, or an all-encompassing bumper sticker for Chinese-brokered development projects? To unpack the motivations behind Xi Jinping’s highest profile foreign policy initiative, Louisa and Graeme are joined by Peter Cai of the Lowy Institute and Dirk van der Kley from the Australian National University. And a warning: this episode contains some truly awful music.

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Jul 11, 2018
All Maxxed Out: The Biggest Ponzi Scheme The World Has Ever Seen?
China's recent impressive economic growth has been built largely on massive debt. According to some estimates, in just over a decade China has managed to rack up debt in excess of 300% of its GDP, effectively placing a ticking time-bomb under the world economy. Is China heading for a financial crisis, and if so when? In this episode, Graeme and Louisa are joined by Dinny MacMahon, the author of China’s Great Wall of Debt, and Tim Murray, co-founder of J Capital Research, who make predictions about China's financial future and explain how Beijing's strategy may be driving a stealthy renationalization of the Chinese economy.

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Jun 12, 2018
Shaken But Not Stirred: The Chinese State and the Sichuan Earthquake
On 12 May 2008, a 7.9-magnitude earthquake hit Wenchuan in Sichuan, claiming more than 85,000 lives, many of them schoolchildren whose classrooms collapsed. It was a paradoxical moment of great tragedy and great hope, with a new sense of openness and civil society emerging in the quake's immediate aftermath. A decade on, its legacy has proved much darker including Great Leap Forward style urbanisation drives and an entrenchment of stability maintenance. In 2008, during the brief window of openness, Louisa reported on the quake for NPR. In March of this year, she convened a panel on the Sichuan Earthquake at the Association for Asian Studies in Washington D.C., featuring Colorado College's Christian Sorace, Georgia State University's Maria Repnikova, Emory University's Xu Bin and Yi Kang from Hong Kong Baptist University. A special issue of Made In China was also produced to mark the anniversary

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May 11, 2018
Tinker, Tailor, Student, Spy? Inside Australia's Chinese Student Boom
Universities in Australia have an addiction: overseas student fees. Nearly half of overseas students in Australia are from China, rising to 60% at some institutions. Against the backdrop of new legislation to counter foreign influence, we talk to Chinese students, who find themselves caught in a geopolitical battle—accused by some of acting as ‘spies’ and restricting intellectual freedom in Australia's classrooms, while others fear those student revenues are becoming a tool of China’s economic coercion. Louisa and Graeme and joined by Linda Jakobson of China Matters and Fran Martin from the University of Melbourne to discuss the future of Australia’s third largest export.

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May 08, 2018
How To Make Friends And Influence People: Inside the Magic Weapon of the United Front
The Communist Party's shadowy United Front Work Department has emerged stronger than ever before after the most recent government reshuffle. This body, whose job has historically been to win hearts and minds among the Party’s opponents, is now also responsible for all work related to ethnic minority groups, religious management and contact with overseas Chinese. But exactly how does the United Front Work Department gain support for China abroad? In this episode, Graeme is joined by Gerry Groot from the University of Adelaide, who demystifies the inner workings of the body dubbed a Magic Weapon by Xi Jinping.

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Apr 09, 2018
Policing the Contour Lines: China's Cartographic Obsession
China's preoccupation with cartography now seems to be reaching into classrooms, websites and academic journals around the world, with an increasing number of demands for retractions and apologies for maps that do not comport with Beijing's view of its borders. In this episode, John Zinda, a sociologist from Cornell University, and James Miles, China editor for The Economist, join Louisa and Graeme to discuss the politics of cartography in China.

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Mar 08, 2018
Bitter Medicine: China's New Pacific Frontier
China’s aid and growing influence in the South Pacific is causing alarm with an Australian minister recently complaining about Chinese-funded 'roads to nowhere'. In this month's episode, Louisa and Graeme are joined by award winning journalist Jo Chandler to discuss the challenges brought by a wave of Chinese aid and migration to the Pacific’s largest nation, Papua New Guinea. From migrant shopkeepers and counterfeit drugs to rumours of bases and political corruption, China's footprint is expanding, leading to burgeoning anti-Chinese sentiment among ordinary Papua New Guineans.

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Feb 06, 2018
Lies, Damned Lies and Police Statistics: Crime and the Chinese Dream
Xi Jinping's Chinese Dream has a dark side exemplified by the emergence of villages specialising in a single type of crime from 'hand-cutting' pickpockets to 'cake-uncles' specialising in accounting fraud. Officially China boasts one of the lowest murder rates in the world, claiming a 43% drop in severe violent crime over the past five years. But Børge Bakken, a specialist in Chinese criminology, argues that all Chinese crime statistics are falsified for political, propaganda and administrative reasons. With the authorities focussing on clamping down on civil society and seemingly turning a blind eye to criminality, is China becoming an ‘uncivil society’?

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Jan 08, 2018
BDM: Not As Sexy As The Shark
Reviled in the West, the slimy bottom-feeders known as sea cucumbers or bêche-de-mer (BDM) have recently been described as the ‘the gold of the sea’. Skyrocketing demand for this prized feature of Chinese wedding banquets has driven up the price of bêche-de-mer (lit. ‘worm of the sea’), causing knock-on impacts ranging from sea cucumber smuggling rings to a collapse in sea cucumber stocks to starvation in some parts of the world. In this episode we examine the cautionary tale posed by the fate of the sea cucumber with Kate Barclay and Michael Fabinyi from the University of Technology Sydney. China’s growing appetite for these slow-moving slugs has sparked ecological and social crises, with at least 24 countries trying to close their sea cucumber fisheries following the sudden collapse of stocks. Photo credit: Sarahhsia, flickr.

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Dec 04, 2017
Party Poopers: Can Art Bring Down the Government?
A new brand of Chinese political artists is using the once borderless expanse of cyberspace as a virtual studio, a collaboration space and a digital museum, crowdsourcing and sharing work about China that could never be shown there. But as Beijing’s influence - and censorship – extends beyond China’s borders, being in exile is no longer is a guarantee of safety. As these artists struggle to find ways to vault the Great Firewall, the Chinese government is developing increasingly sophisticated censorship methods. In this episode, Graeme and Louisa talk to the mysterious Chinese artist, Badiucao, who works under a pseudonym, and Sampson Wong from Hong Kong’s Add Oil Team about how the Chinese state corrals and controls the imagination of its people.

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Nov 06, 2017
Muzzling the Academy: Policemen, Spooks and Vanishing Archives
Beijing's failed attempt to force Cambridge University Press to censor its own catalogue is just one prong in an escalating campaign to tighten control over China's recent historical record. Western scholars of China are struggling to function in an environment with little access to historical records and increasingly sophisticated censorship of electronic archives, as well as more overt surveillance of their activities and pressure on their Chinese research partners. With censorship and intimidation reaching ever-greater levels of intensity, some are even drawing comparisons with Emperor Qianlong's literary inquisition of the 18th century. Louisa and Graeme are joined by Glenn Tiffert from the Hoover Institution, Dayton Lekner from the University of Melbourne, and Timothy Cheek and Morgan Rocks from the University of British Columbia to discuss their recent experiences researching China.

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Oct 04, 2017
Haters Gonna Hate: Nationalism on Demand in China and Japan
Under Xi Jinping, history in China is a moving feast. This year, China’s Ministry of Education increased the length of the Second World War by six years, to ‘place a greater emphasis on China’s ‘red revolution.’ And from September, China's rolling out new school textbooks which claim disputed islands in the East China Sea as their own. To drill down into bitter history between the two countries, Louisa and Graeme are joined by Richard MacGregor, who is releasing a new book called Asia's Reckoning: China, Japan, and the Fate of U.S. Power in the Pacific Century and a scholar of Chinese nationalism, the University of Melbourne’s Sow-Keat Tok. In this episode, we unpick the toxic relations between China and Japan, and ask what role the United States has played in fueling tensions. Could the world’s three largest economies be sleepwalking towards war in the East China Sea?

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Sep 05, 2017
Cooking the News: Xi’s Digital Future
The Chairman of Everything is tightening his grip over the media, pushing control into new spheres ahead of the 19th Party Congress. As the state-run media – traditionally the tongue and throat of the party – moves onto digital platforms, innovations in control include a welter of new regulations and theoretical concepts like the idea of cyber-sovereignty. Louisa and Graeme are joined by David Bandurski and Qian Gang of the China Media Project to discuss innovations in news production and control in China. Also the question of Xi: he’s no longer Xi Dada, but will President be Xi be defined by a Theory, a Thought or an Ism?

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Aug 07, 2017
Class: the new dirty word
Chairman Mao urged the Chinese people to never forget class struggle. But they not only forgot, they stopped using the word at all. Louisa and Graeme talk to Wanning Sun from the University of Technology, Sydney and and Yingjie Guo from Sydney University about how class has become a dirty word in China. So much for the workers, peasants and soldiers; in today's China, everyone wants to be middle class, even the new rich. Class anxiety is rife as class mobility is ever harder as traditional routes of advancement shut down. And class is at the heart of one of the Communist party's biggest conundrums: how to square its official Marxist-Leninist ideology with the consumption-centered society that's emerging on the ground. Will President Xi Jinping, who often finds himself compared to Mao, ever be tempted to revisit this part of the Chairman's legacy?

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Jul 09, 2017
Hong Kong: the new Tibet?
As Hong Kong gears up to mark the 20th anniversary of its return to Chinese sovereignty, the country's number 3 leader Zhang Dejiang has made clear Beijing's intention to tighten its control over Hong Kong. He has spoken recently of the need to enact anti-subversion legislation and warned against any attempts to turn Hong Kong into an independent entity. But Hong Kong localists made a strong showing in the September 2016 election, winning six seats and securing 20 percent of the vote. In this episode, we look at the roots of the localism movement, and what impact China’s approach is having. As Beijing signals greater control, are parallels emerging between the Basic Law and the 17-point Agreement for the Peaceful Liberation of Tibet signed in 1951? Louisa and Graeme discuss Hong Kong’s future with Kevin Carrico of Macquarie University, who is writing a book on Hong Kong's localist movement.

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Jun 11, 2017
Feng Chongyi: Research Is Not A Dinner Party
Sydney academic Feng Chongyi, whose detention in Guangzhou created international headlines, warns that his experience is designed to intimidate academics researching topics deemed sensitive by Beijing. He describes heightened surveillance by China's state security apparatus and increasing curbs on his research into human rights lawyers. Feng, who is still a Chinese citizen and Communist Party member, attributes his release to the fortuitous timing of Premier Li Keqiang’s visit to Australia, combined with media attention and a high-profile campaign. He firmly rejects the notion that backroom negotiations were instrumental in securing his release. Feng is issuing a warning that China's influence risks influencing academic and press freedom in Australia.

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May 03, 2017
The best officials money can buy: China's crony capitalism
Is President Xi Jinping’s anti-corruption campaign working, or is it simply driving corruption underground? This episode we're joined by Minxin Pei from Claremont McKenna College, who's released a forensic analysis of China's corruption market, with insights gained from an examination of court cases. Among his insights are the fact that 84% of convicted officials were promoted while engaged in corruption, those caught taking bribes had been doing so for an average of nine years, and the higher the level of corruption the longer officials get away with it. Pei not only argues that China has reached the late stage of regime decay, he's even willing to estimate how much longer he believes Communist rule can last.

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Apr 18, 2017
To Be Demolished Is Glorious: China's Resettlement Industry
China is a world leader in resettlement, having resettled 80 million people since 1949. Before 2020, a further 100 million people will be moved for environmental protection, poverty relief and development. So who ultimately benefits from China's massive resettlement programmes? And has China invented an entirely new academic discipline - resettlement science - to provide academic respectability to its far-reaching resettlement campaigns. This episode we're joined by Brooke Wilmsen, an expert on the Three Gorges Dam from LaTrobe University and Sarah Rogers from the University of Melbourne, who has worked extensively in Inner Mongolia and Shaanxi, to drill down into China's resettlement industry.

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Mar 14, 2017
China's Little Emperors: Art Vs Science
In this episode we visit a theatre, a prison and an analyst's chair to ask: are China's little emperors really spoiled and lonely, or is this just lazy stereotyping? We meet Wang Chong, who's directing Little Emperors; a play written by Australian playwright Lachlan Philpott about how one family has been affected by the One Child policy. It's now playing at the Malthouse Theatre in Melbourne. We're also joined by Lisa Cameron, a behavioural economist from Monash University, who has tested how altruistic, risk loving and neurotic the little emperors are, and come up with surprising findings that suggest the One Child policy could be one factor driving China's lonely hearts to crime.

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Feb 20, 2017
China, East Timor and the New Great Game
In this episode, Graeme and Louisa talk with Michael Leach from Swinburne University about China's increasingly close military and diplomatic ties with Asia's newest country: East Timor or Timor Leste. Unresolved maritime boundaries, aid on tap, and millions of barrels of oil make for a new Great Game on the boundary of Asia and the Pacific.

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Jan 16, 2017
Trashing The Brand? Australian universities and the lure of Chinese money
Graeme and Louisa are joined by James Leibold, Paul MacGregor and Louise Edwards to discuss the impact of mainland Chinese money on Australia's higher education sector. What happens when a cash-strapped university sector meets mainland Chinese investors with deep party connections and even deeper pockets?

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Dec 14, 2016
Control and Capture: Taming Overseas Chinese Media
“China’s not trying to influence, it’s trying to change Australia.”
This week we hear from insiders about the range of strategies used by the Chinese government to tame the Chinese-language media in Australia, from cooption to intimidation to outright censorship. Speakers: Raymond Chow, Sameway Magazine; John Fitzgerald, Swinburne University; Yan Xia, Vision China Times
Correction: During the podcast, Professor Fitzgerald mentions a deal between "Fox" and CCTV. He was referring to Sky News, an Australian 24-hour news channel.

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Nov 02, 2016
The Politics of Language on the Tibetan Plateau, Remastered
Gavin, our sound maestro, couldn't live with the distortion on the intro music any long, so here's an updated version. It's even catchier than the first time around!

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Aug 25, 2016
The politics of language on the Tibetan plateau
In this episode, Graeme and Louisa talk with anthropologist Gerald Roche about the prospects for the survival of non-Tibetan languages in the Tibetan areas of the PRC. You can follow Gerald's research at

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Aug 18, 2016
Have China's greenhouse gas emissions peaked?
For the first episode of The Little Red Podcast, Graeme interviews Fergus Green, former research assistant to Prof. Nicholas Stern, who explains how changes in the Chinese economy are affecting China's greenhouse gas emissions

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Jul 21, 2016