[EVENT] China’s 99%

A man contemplates a map showing all real estate projects in Chengdu. Photo: Tong Lam

Please join us for a conversation about China’s 99%, in partnership with the India China Institute at the New School.

Wednesday, May 22, 6:00-8:00 p.m.
The New School
55 W 13th St., 2nd Fl. (Dorothy Hirshon Suite)
New York, NY 10011

The latest issue of Dissent magazine offers a behind-the-headlines view of China, focusing on how those belonging to the country’s laobaixing (“the 99%”) have been responding to complex and challenging times. Edited by Jeffrey Wasserstrom, the collection of articles overturns received wisdom in the U.S. about dissent within China—dissent about gender, labor, youth, and nationalism. Join us for an in-depth conversation about emerging currents of dissent in China.




Jeffrey Wasserstrom is Chancellor’s Professor of History at UC Irvine and a regular contributor to newspapers, magazines, blogs, and journals of opinion. He is the author of China in the 21st Century: What Everyone Needs to Know (Oxford University Press, 2010), an updated edition of which will appear in June, and co-editor (with Angilee Shah) of Chinese Characters: Profiles of Fast-Changing Lives in a Fast-Changing Land (University of California Press, 2012).

Ross Perlin is a writer and linguist based in Brooklyn. He has written on language, labor, and China for publications large and small. His first book, published in 2011, was Intern Nation: How to Earn Nothing and Learn Little in the Brave New Economy.

Maura Elizabeth Cunningham was editor of The China Beat from 2010 to 2012, and her writing has appeared at Forbes.com, Dissent, the Ms. Magazine blog, Los Angeles Review of Books, and Time Asia. She was the 2011-2012 ChinaFile Fellow at the Asia Society’s Center on U.S.-China Relations in New York and is currently a visiting scholar at the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences.

Megan Shank is a Brooklyn-based freelance writer and translator of Chinese language materials who is co-editor of the Asia Section of the Los Angeles Review of Books.  Her work has appeared in periodicals such as Ms., Newsweek, the Washington Post, the Washington Independent Review of Books, and Dissent, and is also featured in the books Women Worldwide: Transnational Feminist Perspectives on Women (2010) and  Chinese Characters (2012).

Mark Frazier is Professor of Politics and Co-Academic Director of the India China Institute. His research focus is on labor and social policies in China, and more broadly on state-society relations, urban politics, inequality, and public policy. He is the author of Socialist Insecurity: Pensions and the Politics of Uneven Development in China (Cornell University Press 2010) and The Making of the Chinese Industrial Workplace (Cambridge University Press 2002).

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The Kurds

[W]hen we refer to all Kurdish fighters synonymously, we simply blur the fact that they have very different politics. . . right now, yes, the people are facing the Islamic State threat, so it’s very important to have a unified focus. But the truth is, ideologically and politically these are very, very different systems. Actually almost opposite to each other. —Dilar Dirik, “Rojava vs. the World,” February 2015

The Kurds, who share ethnic and cultural similarities with Iranians and are mostly Muslim by religion (largely Sunni but with many minorities), have long struggled for self-determination. After World War I, their lands were divided up between Iraq, Iran, Syria, and Turkey. In Iran, though there have been small separatist movements, Kurds are mostly subjected to the same repressive treatment as everyone else (though they also face Persian and Shi’ite chauvinism, and a number of Kurdish political prisoners were recently executed). The situation is worse in Iraq, Syria, and Turkey, where the Kurds are a minority people subjected to ethnically targeted violations of human rights.  

Iraq: In 1986–89, Saddam Hussein conducted a genocidal campaign in which tens of thousands were murdered and thousands of Kurdish villages destroyed, including by bombing and chemical warfare. After the first Gulf War, the UN sought to establish a safe haven in parts of Kurdistan, and the United States and UK set up a no-fly zone. In 2003, the Kurdish peshmerga sided with the U.S.-led coalition against Saddam Hussein. In 2005, after a long struggle with Baghdad, the Iraqi Kurds won constitutional recognition of their autonomous region, and the Kurdistan Regional Government has since signed oil contracts with a number of Western oil companies as well as with Turkey. Iraqi Kurdistan has two main political parties, the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), both clan-based and patriarchal.

Turkey: For much of its modern history, Turkey has pursued a policy of forced assimilation towards its minority peoples; this policy is particularly stringent in the case of the Kurds—until recently referred to as the “mountain Turks”—who make up 20 percent of the total population. The policy has included forced population transfers; a ban on use of the Kurdish language, costume, music, festivals, and names; and extreme repression of any attempt at resistance. Large revolts were suppressed in 1925, 1930, and 1938, and the repression escalated with the formation of the PKK as a national liberation party, resulting in civil war in the Kurdish region from 1984 to 1999.

Syria: Kurds make up perhaps 15 percent of the population and live mostly in the northeastern part of Syria. In 1962, after Syria was declared an Arab republic, a large number of Kurds were stripped of their citizenship and declared aliens, which made it impossible for them to get an education, jobs, or any public benefits. Their land was given to Arabs. The PYD was founded in 2003 and immediately banned; its members were jailed and murdered, and a Kurdish uprising in Qamishli was met with severe military violence by the regime. When the uprising against Bashar al Assad began as part of the Arab Spring, Kurds participated, but after 2012, when they captured Kobani from the Syrian army, they withdrew most of their energy from the war against Assad in order to set up a liberated area. For this reason, some other parts of the Syrian resistance consider them Assad’s allies. The Kurds in turn cite examples of discrimination against them within the opposition.