David Ownby of ReadingtheChinaDream.com on the intellectual mood in China


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This week on Sinica, Kaiser chats with David Ownby, the University of Montreal historian who runs the always excellent ReadingTheChinaDream.com website — a trove of translations of writings by mainstream Chinese intellectuals. David talks about the website’s mission and tells about his recent three-week trip to Beijing and Shanghai, in which he met with many of the people he translates on his site. Many of them are profoundly disillusioned with the leadership’s handling of the end of COVID-zero, he found.

03:38 – Genesis of the project Reading the Chinese Dream

09:32 – The choice of intellectuals being translated

14:11 – An overview of common ideological denominators for the New Confucians, the Liberals, and the New Left.

24:19 – The emerging groups as a direct response to certain phenomena happening in the West

25:58 – How did we fail to understand the intellectual life in China?

30:30 – An overview of David’s recent trip to China

35:12 – How does the post-COVID reality in China affect Chinese intellectuals?

45:34 – Are we observing a turning point in the intellectual community and its relationship with the Chinese government?

47:41 – The attitudes of Chinese intellectuals towards the U.S.

56:04 – Will the negativity currently observed among Chinese intellectuals a temporary or enduring issue?

A complete transcript of this podcast is available at TheChinaProject.com.


David: Ties by Domenico Starnone, translated by Jhumpa Lahiri

Kaiser: The Thirty Years War: Europe’s Tragedy by Peter H. Wilson


Translating Myself and Others by Jhumpa Lahiri

Simplicissimus by Johann Grimmelshausen