The Little Red Podcast

The Little Red Podcast: interviews and chat celebrating China beyond the Beijing beltway from the University of Melbourne’s Horwood Studios. Hosted by Graeme Smith, China studies academic at the Australian National University’s Coral Bell School of Asia Pacific Affairs and Louisa Lim, former China correspondent for the BBC and NPR, now with the Centre for Advancing Journalism at Melbourne University.

Many thanks to Chinoiresie for their generous support.

Follow us @limlouisa and @GraemeKSmith, and find show notes at


  • Power Projection: China’s Hollywood Dream

    34mins 28secs

    With cinema takings in the United States at a 22-year low, Hollywood moguls are looking to an unlikely saviour: China. With box office revenues growing at 9 percent, Hollywood is scrambling to find the formula for movies that make the cut of China’s 34 approved films and appeal to Chinese audiences. For every surprise hit, like The Meg and Warcraft, there are flops like The Great Wall. Like many an autocrat before him, Xi Jinping is enamoured of the silver screen, elevating film above radio and television in his 2018 overhaul of the propaganda apparatus. To discuss the special place of film in China’s global soft power push, back in March Louisa and Graeme were joined by City University of New York’s Ying Zhu and Variety Magazine’s Beijing bureau chief Rebecca Davis.

  • Hong Kong Burning: The Rise of a Nation

    40mins 23secs

    As China’s leaders gathered in Beijing to survey troops, fireworks and their latest missiles, a different scene was unfolding in Hong Kong.  Police shot an 18-year old protestor in the chest and unleashed a staggering 1400 rounds of tear gas on the population.  The protests originally targeted the extradition bill and then grew into democratic protests, but now protestors increasingly identify as a Hong Kong nation.  What does this mean and how does it affect the endgame? Graeme and Louisa hear voices from the streets including the Civil Human Rights Front’s Wong Yik-mo, activist Johnson Yeung Ching-yin and Brian Fong from the Education University of Hong Kong.

  • Big Bad China? The New Cold War

    43mins 36secs

    On the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China, has CCP Chairman Xi Jinping overreached? He’s facing blowback everywhere from Hong Kong to Xinjiang amid an escalating trade war with the US. Even his signature infrastructure project, the Belt and Road Initiative, has run into trouble. Is the world entering a new cold war? We ask former Obama administration Asia advisor Charles Edel, now with the University of Sydney, and the Lowy Institute’s Richard MacGregor, who is the author of Xi Jinping: The Backlash.

  • Should I stay or should I go now? Inside the Solomons’ Big Switch

    37mins 11secs

    The South Pacific nation of the Solomon Islands may be on the verge of switching diplomatic allegiance from Taiwan to China, which would leave only sixteen nations recognising Taiwan.  When Manasseh Sogavare was appointed prime minister of the Solomons for the fourth time in April, he vowed to review the country’s relations with Taiwan, even though he has been a longtime supporter of the Republic of China.  In this episode, Graeme speaks to all the major players in the Solomon Islands, including the Prime Minister, to investigate the reasons behind the switch.  He found the background to the switch was far murkier and more complicated than has been previously reported.

    Photo credit: Terence Wood. Solar panel batteries, given to every Solomon Islands MP

  • Be Water: Hong Kong vs China, with Denise Ho, Badiucao and Clive Hamilton

    45mins 10secs

    As the news broke that Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Carrie Lam had withdrawn the extradition bill that had sparked three months of unrest in Hong Kong, Little Red Podcast co-host Louisa Lim was moderating the event ‘Be Water: Hong Kong vs China’. This panel event, featuring Hong Kong popstar and activist Denise Ho, Chinese artist Badiucao and author Clive Hamilton, was a discussion about resistance and art in Hong Kong, but also included this breaking news. An edited version of the event comprises this episode.

  • Desperate Hong Kong: The Movement Behind The Mask

    39mins 40secs

    As Hong Kong enters its eleventh week of turmoil, we hear voices on the ground.  From 15-year olds who can hardly remember how many times they have been teargassed to thirty-somethings ready to serve prison sentences, the consensus is that Hong Kong is playing out its endgame.  We also travel across the political divide, to hear from attendees at a pro-police rally who feel their voices aren’t being heard.  Last weekend saw 1.7m protestors taking to the streets without any violence.  So who are the protestors, and what will they accept?  Research by a team led by political scientist Samson Yeung of Lingnan University, which has surveyed 8000 protestors, indicates any compromise may be hard to strike, given a high degree of support for radical action within the movement.

  • Chose Your Own Dystopia Part Two: Cashing in on Social Credit

    40 mins 7secs

    By 2020, less than half a year from now, a social credit scheme will cover people and companies across China, “allowing the trustworthy to roam everywhere under heaven while making it hard for the discredited to take a single step.” It’s long been assumed the Chinese state would take the lead, but favored companies will doubtless profit from a database that will house every citizen’s tax records, criminal history, traffic offenses, family background and marriage details.  There are signs these companies are likely to export a surveillance-for-profit regime to other regimes keen to keep a close eye on their people. To ask whether China’s future looks like Lei Feng, Black Mirror or Dave Egger’s The Circle, Louisa and Graeme are joined by Gladys Pak Lei Chong and David Kurt Herold of Hong Kong Baptist University.

    Photo credit: Kevin Hong (

  • Hong Kong’s Dirty Little Secret: Is One Country Two Systems Dead?

    45mins 45secs

    Our third Hong Kong emergency episode comes in the wake of the storming of the territory’s Legislative Council on the 22nd anniversary of its return to mainland China. Louisa reports from the floor of the Legco chamber as it is occupied and vandalized by hundreds of demonstrators, all risking hefty jail terms. With Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Carrie Lam still refusing to scrap the extradition bill which inspired millions of Hong Kongers to take to the streets, the territory could be set for further waves of radical action and repression. Protestors at the scene, as well as activists Johnson Yeung and Kong Tsunggan, legislator Eddie Chu Hoi-dick, and former Chief Secretary of Hong Kong Anson Chan join us to ask what the endgame for Hong Kong might be.

  • Sing Hallelujah: The Miracle of Hong Kong’s March

    49 mins 17 secs

    We’re bringing you a second emergency podcast from Hong Kong, which has seen more record protests over the weekend. According to organisers, two million people—nearly one-third of Hong Kong residents—marched on Sunday, despite the Hong Kong government’s promise to shelve its unpopular extradition bill.  With public faith in its institutions shattered and a pattern of popular mobilisation and radical action in train, we’ll be asking if Hong Kong is now governable at all.  Louisa reports from the protest frontlines, and we’ll be hearing calls for more democracy from Civic Party legislator Alvin Yeung and Cardinal Joseph Zen, the 87-year-old cardinal of the Catholic Church.

  • Hong Kong’s Darkest Hour

    44mins 51secs

    We bring you an emergency podcast from Hong Kong, one day after extraordinary police violence saw 79 people injured by baton charges, rubber bullets and over 150 rounds of tear gas. This dark turn comes only a few days after one million Hong Kongers—one in seven residents—took to the streets to protest proposed legal amendments that would allow citizens to be extradited to mainland China. Louisa reports from the protest frontlines and talks to Antony Dapiran, author of City of Protest: A Recent History of Dissent in Hong Kong as well as Jeffrey Ngo, chief researcher of the political group Demosisto.

    Photo credit: Louisa Lim 2019

  • Tiananmen’s Final Secret

    42mins 34secs

    Tuesday June 4 marks the 30th anniversary of the deadly crackdown ordered by Deng Xiaoping, which killed hundreds – maybe thousands – of people in Beijing and Chengdu. While the campaign to erase all memory of the event continues, explosive new information has emerged in the lead up to the anniversary.  It reveals new details about resistance to the crackdown among the military and how the Communist Party managed the aftermath of Tiananmen. Former student leaders Wang Dan and Zhou Fengsuo as well as the publisher of The Last Secret, Bao Pu and Joseph Torigian of American University join us in this episode to discuss these revelations and what life is like in exile for the student leaders.

  • Choose your own Dystopia Part One: Social Media and Surveillance Capitalism

    42 mins 11 secs

    With Chinese citizens’ lives increasingly coded into data streams, the question of who owns this data and how it gets used is largely up to private companies. They control massive volumes of personal information and are tasked by Xi Jinping with everything from astroturfing public opinion to monitoring one-to-one chat in real time. As these companies expand beyond China’s borders, their operations and relationship with the Chinese state bear further scrutiny. To shed light on how China’s tech giants do the Party’s work, Louisa and Graeme are joined by Fu Kingwa from Hong Kong University, Masashi Crete-Nishihata from the University of Toronto’s Citizen Lab and Blake Miller of London School of Economics and Political Science, formerly of Dartmouth College.

    Photo credit: Weiboscope 2016