EventsNüStories Magazine

RECAP: London “China Unbound” launch with Joanna Chiu in conversation with Megha Rajagopalan


NüVoices Chair and author Joanna Chiu shared her fascinating perspective on China’s rise and global influence in a diverse Q&A moderated by Pulitzer-prize winning journalist Megha Rajagopalan.

The London chapter of NüVoices held its first in-person event for the first time in months for the launch of Joanna’s book, China Unbound. About 50 people filled the lecture theatre at SOAS University in London on November 30th for the panel.

China Unbound can be ordered here. For a 25% discount, use the code CHINA25.

Joanna spoke about the makings of China Unbound, describing it as an attempt to demystify Bejing’s global aims and explain what China was really like on the inside. In her book, she examines the human consequences of China’s moves to become a dominant world power, placing it within a broader picture of its global relations with democratic countries. She also provides the social, political and historical context for developments like the Hong Kong pro-democracy protests, as well as state policies such as Beijing’s crackdowns on Uyghurs in Xinjiang.

The China story is a global one that cannot be compartmentalized, Joanna said. Developments that have been happening for decades within China and Hong Kong are precursors to what is now happening on the global arena, she added.

Both Megha and Joanna reflected on how human rights stories on China rarely go viral when they do not involve foreign nationals not of Chinese descent. It took the detainment of white male Canadians Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor by Beijing to finally serve as a “wake up call” for western democracies on the implications of China’s actions to extend its influence.

The wide-ranging conversation included Joanna’s experiences of covering the protests in Hong Kong and witnessing China’s increasing clampdown on civil rights. Both also discussed the challenges of reporting on the ground in China, particularly as a growing number of foreign journalists are being expelled, leaving very few people who could objectively chronicle mainland China from within. And in cases where sources are still available, there is also the worry of ensuring their safety, they explained.

The discussion also highlighted how there is a still a lack of real understanding of China among many in the western world, and stressed the need for more nuanced and explicit reporting on China-related issues and not fall into stereotypes that could stoke Sinophobia. 

China Unbound can be ordered here. For a 25% discount, use the code CHINA25.

About Joanna

Joanna Chiu is an internationally recognised authority on China, whose work has appeared in The GuardianForeign Policy, BBC World, The AtlanticNewsweekQuartzAl Jazeera, GlobalPost, CBC and NPR. For seven years she was based in China as a foreign correspondent, reporting for top news agencies such as AFP and Deutsche Presse-Agentur; in Hong Kong, she reported for the South China Morning PostThe Economist, and AP. In 2012 her story on refugees in Hong Kong won a Human Rights Press Award, and in 2018 her report on #MeToo cases in Asia was named one of the best Foreign Policy long-form stories. She is the founder and chair of the NüVoices editorial collective, which celebrates the creative and academic work of women working on the subject of China. She is currently a senior journalist covering China-related topics for the Toronto Star, Canada’s largest newspaper, and previously served as bureau chief of The Star Vancouver. She speaks frequently at major events and conferences.

About Megha

Megha Rajagopalan is an award-winning international correspondent for BuzzFeed News, based in London. She has been a staff correspondent for BuzzFeed News based in China and Thailand as well as in Israel and the Palestinian territories, and before that she was a political correspondent for Reuters in China. She has reported from 23 countries in Asia and the Middle East on stories ranging from the North Korean nuclear crisis to the peace process in Afghanistan. Rajagopalan was the first journalist to find and visit an internment camp for Uighur Muslims in China’s far west — work for which she won the Human Rights Press Award in 2018. In 2019, she won a Mirror Award for an investigation uncovering the links between Facebook and religious violence in Sri Lanka. Previously she was a Fulbright fellow in Beijing and a research fellow at the New America Foundation in Washington DC. She speaks Tamil and Mandarin Chinese.

About the author

Connie Foong is an educator-turned-journalist from Southeast Asia currently based in London. Before pivoting to journalism, she was a public school teacher and co-founded an education social enterprise in Kuala Lumpur. She’s passionate about telling stories from underserved communities and socioeconomic issues. She previously wrote for The Christian Science Monitor, covering topics from education to food economy. Connie holds a Master’s degree from Columbia Journalism School and a BA and BMus from the University of Melbourne. She speaks Mandarin and Malay.

About the photographer

“Perseus (a pen name) is a Hongkonger, born in Hong Kong and based in the United Kingdom. He is a lawyer, having contributed to the Hong Kong Bill and the BNO visa scheme. He also does freelance work as a photojournalist, and writer / blogger. He has recently published a short photobook presenting a visual record of some of the protest events which have taken place in the United Kingdom in solidarity with the Hong Kong pro-democracy movement.”