The five articles in this issue of China Currents deal with current and unfolding topics.
Vijaya Subrahmanyam’s piece explains how China’s new digital currency differs from commonly used virtual payment systems. She argues that the e-CNY, issued by the People’s Bank of China, has the potential to be a global leader in digital currencies and push financial inclusiveness across China, but also creates new ways for the government to control society.
Xiangyuan Li and Haizheng Li analyze the pandemic’s impact, particularly the government’s strict Zero Covid policy, on China’s economy. The results are not good. They point out long-term economic challenges, which were known before, but argue that the pandemic will lead to even slower growth than expected, along with some unexpected negative outcomes.
In his piece on foreign policy and U.S. public opinion about China, Tom Petersen shows that public attitudes toward China have shifted dramatically negatively. China now outranks North Korea, by far, as the biggest worry in people’s minds. He argues that this shift gives policymakers the room to act decisively to counter China’s potentially destabilizing actions regionally and globally.
Reflecting on rural life, Jin Liu reviews the now-banned movie Return to Dust. Although a slow-moving, artsy film, it was well-received by Chinese audiences for several months. Then the film disappeared from theaters. Jin explores the film’s themes, relating them to the rural transformation occurring in China today. Rural life is disappearing as farmers are pushed off the land and into town apartment towers. Her characterization of the protagonist as “China’s last peasant” helps us grasp the powerful message of this film.
Similarly, Marin Ekstrom explains the assault on linguistic and cultural identity in the autonomous region of Inner Mongolia. Despite being considered a “model minority” by Beijing, in 2020, the central government began requiring schools to use Mandarin Chinese exclusively instead of the traditional Mongolian language. This policy has been extended to TV shows regarding language, as well as replacing Mongolian themes with Chinese cultural and historical programming. Ekstrom cites evidence of resistance to Beijing’s encroachment on minority rights but sees it as another tool of central authority across China.