Editor’s note for February 17, 2023

A note for Access newsletter readers from Jeremy Goldkorn.

Dear reader,

“China has created a miracle in human history, in which a highly populous nation has successfully pulled through a pandemic…It has been proven through practice that the CPC Central Committee has been right in its judgment of the pandemic situation.”

That is the pat on the back China’s top leaders gave themselves at a meeting chaired by Xí Jìnpíng 习近平 yesterday. This verdict of success was the top story on central state media today (Chinese, English).

Not everyone shares this rosy view. One of the doubters is Mùróng Xuěcūn 慕容 雪村. He rose to fame as an internet writer, and then won a prestigious official literature award in 2010. But then the state turned on him, scrubbing him from the internet and making it impossible for him to live as a writer.

His most recent book, Deadly Quiet City, tells the stories of eight people in Wuhan in the spring of 2020. I spoke to him about the book, and his travels from Beijing to Wuhan, then on to exile in Australia. Here is an abridged, edited transcript of our conversation.

Breaking news today: Bāo Fán 包凡, the founder of investment bank China Renaissance and one of China’s most prominent tech dealmakers has gone missing.

Most informed observers believe he has been detained by government agents, which would make him the latest in a series of cases of financiers and executives who have gone missing in the Xi Jinping era.

We won’t send a newsletter Monday — it’s Presidents’ Day in the U.S., but we’ll be back in your inbox on Monday.

Our Phrase of the Week is trembling with fear (瑟瑟发抖 sèsè fādǒu), which is what some tech workers say they are doing as they worry about the explosion of ChatGPT clones in China.