Challenges to authoritarian states’ control of language can be so complex that they exceed the states’ ability to manage them all. Electronic expression of resistance and increasing embrace of non-Mandarin linguistic varieties reveal powerful linguistic insights in China, which are evident too in the so-called Umbrella Revolution that took Hong Kong by storm (hah!) in fall 2014.
While a controlling state wishes to limit expression, citizens creatively employ every possible communicative modality—music, video, images, Arabic numerals, puns, Chinese characters, Roman letters, foreign words, writing, speech, sound, vision—and choose among varieties of speech and writing at their own discretion. The resources they employ reveal limits to the officially enforced boundaries—linguistic and conceptual—of China.
Also posted on Huffington Post
After his James Bond-like escape from house arrest with a broken foot in the dark last spring, self-trained blind Chinese lawyer Chen Guangcheng slipped to the US embassy in Beijing. Stealthy arrangements, including a deal brokered by Gary Locke, Hillary Clinton, and others, got him a passport—hard to get in China—and special arrangements through Jerome Cohen took him to asylum at NYU Law School. And now Chen is being asked to leave NYU.
The Chinese winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature, Mo Yan, has been surrounded by controversy: he is too cozy with the Communist Party. He spoke up once about Liu Xiaobo but did not use his platform to do so in his acceptance speech. He did, however, address the controversy, by telling stories.
So is he simply a party hack and stooge?
[Also posted on Huffington Post]