ISSUE: VOLUME 50.01 SPRING 2021
China: A century of silencing dissent

This summer the Chinese Communist Party celebrates its 100th birthday

Index will not be celebrating the anniversary but it is important to mark it – especially as it coincides with a renewed crackdown on internal dissent and foreign journalists inside China. Earlier this year we witnessed the removal of the BBC World Service’s licence to broadcast in response to a similar move by the UK regulator regarding Chinese state broadcaster CGTN. Veteran media commentator Ian Burrell writes for us about this media war and the distinction between independent national broadcasters and state-controlled propaganda outlets. The centrepiece of our special report is a highly personal essay by Chinese-born British writer Ma Jian, who writes of his own teenage experience of the Great Famine – in which 45 million of his fellow citizens died – and his belief that the CCP and China are not one and the same. Former Index editor Rachael Jolley sets the context by talking to prominent historians studying China today. China’s desire to control the narrative of its global economic brand is the subject of a number of pieces, including Issa Sikiti da Silva’s examination of China’s economic influence in Africa Contributing editor Kaya Genç looks at Turkey as it struggles with the geopolitical challenge represented by its Uighur refugees, and Stefano Pozzebon writes of the pressure placed on Paraguay to end its special relationship with Taiwan and switch allegiance to Beijing. Meanwhile, Sally Gimson assesses how Chinese cultural colonialism reaches into the heart of British academia. Technology is crucial to China’s control of its people but, at the same time, it offers new possibilities of resistance. We talk to one of the founders of GreatFire which monitors Chinese state control of the internet and provides the means to circumvent the country’s Great Firewall. And Tianyu M Fang explains how young people’s allegiance to the party is being reinforced but also tested by digital technology. While authoritarian regimes such as China still pose the greatest threat to free expression around the world, the big technology companies provide challenges of their own. Index trustee Sarah Sands, former editor of the Evening Standard and BBC Radio 4’s Today programme,  interviews Facebook vice-president Nick Clegg about how the company grapples with censorship issues. Index also takes pride in publishing the work of writers and artists themselves. In this edition you can read exclusive stories by American novelist Shalom Auslander and Syrian writer Khaled Alesmael, poetry by Ukrainian national hero Vasyl Stus, and lyrics by exiled Iranian singer Gelareh Sheibani.

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Ma Jian
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Gelareh Sheibani
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Sarah Sands
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