Your Tuesday Briefing: Anxiety in China

Your Tuesday Briefing Anxiety in China

On Sunday, protesters gathered in the cold in Beijing, calling for an end to coronavirus restrictions. “We don’t want lockdowns, we want freedom!” they shouted.

Similar scenes played out across the country. Covid restrictions, which have dragged life to a near standstill, have united Chinese people like no other cause in decades.

But in a country where dissent is quickly smothered, many were unsure what to ask for, let alone what could actually happen. Despite their sense of urgent, giddy solidarity, many young attendees were anxious after their extraordinary display of dissent.

“Our ability to organize is still too weak,” a filmmaker said at the Beijing protest. “We don’t have the experience or the knowledge.” The filmmaker added that “this” — the ability to gather at all — “is already really hard-won.”

Yesterday, the streets were quiet again. And attendees don’t know if reprisals will come.

Context: The uprisings began last week after 10 people died in a fire in Urumqi, Xinjiang’s capital. Many suspected that Covid restrictions had contributed to the tragedy, and protests often begin as vigils.

Tactics: Chinese are using elusive, creative and often ironic tools. A blank white paper makes reference to censorship. A math equation refers to its creator, Alexander Friedmann, whose surname is a homonym for “free man.” In Beijing, after the police bristled, protesters used sarcasm: “Continue lockdowns! I want to do Covid tests!”

World Cup: China appears to be limiting shots of the mostly unmasked crowd.

Yesterday, President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman said that Russia had no plans to end its occupation of the nuclear plant, Europe’s largest, which provided 20 percent of Ukraine’s electricity before the war.

The unusual announcement came after some pro-Russian military bloggers suggested that Moscow’s forces would withdraw, and after Ukrainian officials said there were indications that Russia was taking steps to leave the facility. Military analysts said there was no immediate indication that Ukraine was threatening Russia’s grip on the plant.

Details: The plant has been shelled repeatedly and has cycled down all its reactors as a safety measure. Ukrainian staff members have reported abuse and detention by Russian soldiers.

Fighting: In the south, Russia is fortifying lines of defense, a research group said, after pulling out of Kherson. In the east, Ukraine is struggling to hold Bahkmut.

From Opinion: Alyona Synenko wrote about her wedding in Odesa, amid blackouts and bombs.

But the U.S. and Iran are also locked in an existential fight and geopolitical tensions hve spilled onto the field. Last weekend, the U.S. Soccer Federation scrubbed Iran’s official emblem and Islamic script off Iran’s red-white-and-green flag in images it posted on social media, which it said was to show support for the women of Iran. It later deleted the posts after Iran called for the U.S. to be expelled from the World Cup.

Now the main question is what Iran’s squad will do with its next turn on the field. Will the players stay silent during the national anthem again — a symbolic gesture of dissent after two months of relentless anti-government protests — or risk alienating millions of fans?

Context: At Iran’s two earlier matches, people booed the national anthem and waved flags with a protest slogan — “Woman, life, freedom” — only to be escorted out.

Other updates:

Women at Japan’s top universities regularly compete in beauty pageants. Student groups at the schools, considered training grounds for elite leaders, have long sponsored the events.

Participation can yield social media followers, corporate sponsorships and paths to modeling or television. Some of the events are slowly changing, in response to critics who say they impose rigid beauty standards and do not fit universities’ values.

In 2017, my colleagues Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey broke the news about Harvey Weinstein’s long history of sexual abuse. Five years later, the story of their reporting is the subject of a feature film.

I spoke with Megan about the film and her reporting. Our interview has been lightly edited.

How did it feel to be portrayed?

We have been quick to talk about our journalism publicly. But we haven’t spoken publicly about our personal lives.

At the end of the day, even though it made us feel a bit vulnerable, we also saw an opportunity. I think it’s really rare for working women, and especially working mothers, to see that experience reflected back on the screen.

And one of the themes of this movie, and the story more broadly, is how tragic it is when women suffer in isolation. And how empowering it can be when they’re able to come together and share their experiences.

What pushed you and Jodi to write about the reporting process itself?

Jodi and I have been journalists for more than 20 years. We have worked on other big stories, but nothing that had this kind of impact, and we saw a huge value in people meeting these incredible sources that we encountered.

We were also drawn to having a realistic depiction of journalism portrayed on the big screen. So often with movies, journalists are shown as having questionable motivations and employing questionable tactics.

There can be a mystery around what exactly it is that journalists do, especially as our country becomes more polarized.

I think that we also saw an opportunity for viewers to get an education in how we do what we do — and why we do what we do.

Here’s a review of “She Said,” a Times Critic’s Pick. It’s playing in theaters across the world.

That’s it for today’s briefing. See you next time. — Amelia

P.S. The Times and four major European outlets urged the U.S. to drop the charges against Julian Assange.

“The Daily” is on the World Cup.

Email us at [email protected].

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