‘It’s Hopeless But You Persist’: An Interview with Jiang Xue

Ian Johnson in the New York Review of Books:

The forty-five-year-old investigative journalist Jiang Xue is one of the most influential members of a group of journalists who came of age in the early 2000s, taking advantage of new—if temporary—freedoms created by the Internet to investigate pressing social issues. She worked at Chinese Business View (Huashangbao) until 2014, when she quit as its opinion-page editor over censorship. Since then, she has kept writing to an ever-shrinking audience on social media, most notably about the wives of several high-profile civil rights lawyers who have been arrested.

Jiang lives in Xi’an, the northwestern Chinese city I recently visited to explore how public intellectuals in the provinces are surviving the current crackdown on civil society and independent thinking. I found a thriving, if small, community of free thought centered on a public arts and speaking space called Zhiwuzhi, which is the Chinese for the Socratic paradox “I know that I know nothing.” Jiang is also a mainstay of this space, helping to suggest speakers and regularly attending events with her friend, the videographer Tiger Temple (interviewed previously in the NYR Daily) and Zhiwuzhi founder Chen Hongguo.

Jiang talked about how Mao’s Great Leap Forward famine shaped her family, the heyday of independent media in China, and her faith as a devout Buddhist, which sustains her in what she feels is a hopeless cause.

More here.