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


  • 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

  • Resignation Syndrome? Democracy and Jail in Post-Umbrella Hong Kong

    52mins 38secs

    Hate mail, death threats and shadowy surveillance are facts of life for Hong Kong’s pro-democracy activists, five years after the Umbrella movement brought a million people onto the streets calling for greater democracy. Since then, 48 legal cases have been brought against 32 different activists, often on colonial-era public order offences. Louisa and Graeme are joined by two leaders of the Umbrella Movement to talk about jail, democracy and political repression. They are Chan Kinman, one of the co-founders of Occupy Central, who faces a verdict in his trial with eight others on 8 April, and Nathan Law, the disqualified lawmaker from the Demosisto Party, who is also one of Hong Kong’s first political prisoners.

    Photo credit: AFP/JIJI

  • Leveraged to the Limit: Power Shifts in Xi Jinping’s China

    45mins 19secs

    The Chairman of Everything Xi Jinping has emerged from the annual parliamentary meetings facing a rough year ahead.  China’s economy is growing at its slowest in nearly three decades, amid a massive trade war and spiralling local debt, with rumblings of discontent from delegates about everything from the Belt and Road Initiative to Made in China 2025.  Louisa and Graeme are joined by Andrew Collier of Orient Capital Research and Ryan Manuel of Hong Kong University, who argue that both political and economic decentralisation is underway, laying Xi vulnerable to forces beyond his control.

    Photo credit: Hindustan Times

  • Step Up or Be Overrun: China’s Challenge for the Pacific

    36 mins 18 secs

    The Pacific is seeing a flurry of diplomatic activity: Australia is ‘stepping up’, New Zealand has ordered a ‘Pacific reset’ and even Great Britain is reopening missions in its former Pacific colonies. The reason for their sudden interest is simple: China. If Beijing comes good on $4 billion in aid pledges, it could overtake Canberra as the largest donor to the Pacific. Often missed in this new Great Game are the concerns of Pacific Islanders, looking to make the best of this fresh interest in their blue Pacific. To discuss the Pacific’s China challenge, Graeme and Louisa are joined by Vanuatu’s Foreign Minister Ralph Regenvanu, Secretary-General of the Pacific Islands Forum Dame Meg Taylor, as well as Pacific academics Patrick Matbob and Transform Aquora and former Chinese diplomat, Denghua Zhang.


    Photo Credit: Shaun Gessler 2016

  • Hotpot Wars: Tensions bubble in the battle for China’s Culinary Soul

    35 mins 7 secs

    China has been engulfed by a controversy that strikes at the very heart of the nation—forget the South China Sea, rampant human rights abuses, even a looming economic crash. Last month food critic Chua Lam, otherwise known as the Food God, called for the end to the PRC’s most beloved dining craze: hot pot. The backlash has been immense, with enraged Weibo users calling for Chua Lam’s abolition. To discuss whether hotpot is indeed an uncultured blight on China’s rich culinary landscape, cookbook author extraordinaire Fuchsia Dunlop joins Louisa and Graeme.   Also there’s a chance to win a Little Red Podcast mug in our first ever competition.   Snap a pic of the dish you’d like to disappear and send it to us on Twitter or Facebook to be a contender.

  • #XiToo: Chinese Feminism and The Party’s Hyper-Masculine Reboot

    35 min 50 sec

    China is becoming a more unequal place for women, in 2018 slipping for a fifth consecutive year in the World Economic Forum’s Gender Gap index.  Chairman Mao may have proclaimed that women can hold up half the sky, but the Communist party under Xi Jinping holds a far narrower view of female roles, cracking down on feminist activists and backing traditional values.  The impact is economic too, with research showing that being born female in China has a bigger impact on your earnings than any other variable, including family wealth.  This month, Louisa and Graeme are joined by two experts on the origins of China’s gender divide, Leta Hong Fincher, who’s just published a book called Betraying Big Brother and economist Jane Golley from the Australian National University.

  • Keeping the Faith? Xi’s Deal with the Holy See

    37 mins

    The Vatican and China have signed a deeply controversial agreement on the appointment of bishops, ending the cold war that has frozen ties since 1950. That deep freeze led to schisms between the official and underground churches, with some clergy persecuted for decades and the church refusing to recognise Beijing’s handpicked bishops. But the new agreement has divided the faithful yet again, with some fearing Catholicism is facing calamity as President Xi Jinping tightens control over religion. To explore what’s behind this sudden rapprochement and what it could mean for China’s 12 million Catholics, Louisa and Graeme are joined by Jeremy Clarke, a former Catholic priest who has researched China’s historical relations with the Holy See.

  • Xi Jinping’s War on Uighurs. Part 3: The Endgame

    42 mins

    “Domestically I don’t think the Uighur culture will survive.” China now acknowledges the existence of mass indoctrination camps in Xinjiang – which it calls ‘vocational training centres’ – after months of denial. Its latest propaganda campaign showcases Uighurs inside the camps thanking the Party for teaching them skills and saving them from Islamic extremism. In this episode, Louisa and Graeme are joined by Nury Turkel, chairman of the Uyghur Human Rights Project, and James Leibold of La Trobe University to explore the reasons behind the Communist Party’s about-face. The traditional Uighur way of life now faces an existential threat inside Chinese borders, both through standardisation campaigns and the despatch of a million (largely Han Chinese) citizens into Uighur homes.

    Photo credit: Kashgar People’s Square (c) Tom Cliff 2002

  • Xi Jinping’s War on Uighurs. Part 2: The New Frontier

    44 mins

    The language used by the Chinese state in Xinjiang pathologises Islam, seeing it as an “ideological virus” which needs eradication by transformation through education. In recent days, China has publicly justified the mass internment of Uighurs as necessary in its struggle against the “three evils” of terrorism, separatism and religious extremism. In part 1, Louisa and Graeme heard testimony from Australian Uighurs describing how Uighur communities are being destroyed by mass detentions. In part 2, they explore the Chinese Communist party’s historical relationship with its New Frontier with Sydney University’s David Brophy and the Australian National University’s Tom Cliff.

    Photo credit: Tom Cliff 2002 (