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


  • 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 (

  • Xi Jinping’s War on the Uighurs. Part 1: The Witnesses

    48 mins

    ‘We seem to be normal, but we are not.’ A United Nations human rights panel says it has credible reports that more than a million Uighurs are being held in reeducation camps in the northwestern Chinese province of Xinjiang. As evidence emerges of massive human rights violations from satellite photos, procurement bids and state-run news reports, the voices that have not yet been heard are those of Uighurs themselves. In this episode, Louisa and Graeme hear how the close-knit Uighur community in the Australian city of Adelaide have become long-distance witnesses to an unfolding human rights catastrophe that has torn their families apart. One brought his motherless children to the interview; others brought lists of missing friends and relatives. As they wrestle with anxiety and guilt, they’re now starting to raise awareness of their plight.

  • Stranger than Fiction: China’s Espionage Industrial Complex

    56 mins

    “Use your spies for every kind of business.” This 2500 year-old stratagem from Sun Zi’s Art of War still informs Beijing’s modern day approach towards intelligence gathering. Today China’s espionage industrial complex appears to be taking spying mainstream by blurring the boundaries between spying, interference and influence projection. To explore the shadowy realm of Chinese spycraft, Louisa and Graeme are joined by two top-notch journalists-turned-spy-novelists who have written extensively about Beijing’s army of spooks. Adam Brookes, former China correspondent for the BBC and Chris Uhlmann, chief political correspondent for Channel Nine in Australia unpick how Beijing is redefining espionage for the cyber age.

    Pic: Sam Geall

  • The Han-Opticon: Social credit and AI in the surveillance state

    47 mins

    China today is Black Mirror through the Looking Glass. A national video surveillance network is promised in just two years, while new technologies are being rolled out at speed on the frontier of China’s surveillance regime, in Xinjiang, ranging from iris scans to phone surveillance apps. Simultaneously the Chinese state is building a nationwide social credit system, to be launched in 2020, which provides incentives for citizens to participate in their own surveillance. To unpack China’s dystopian present, Louisa and Graeme are joined by Elsa Kania from the Center for a New American Security, Lotus Ruan from the University of Toronto’s Citizen Lab, and Samantha Hoffman from the Mercator Institute for China Studies in Berlin.

    All three guests have recently written reports for the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, links below
    Elsa Kania:
    Lotus Ruan:…nd-battle-privacy
    Samantha Hoffman:

  • Come dance with Xi: Who can resist the Belt and Road’s embrace?

    58 mins

    There’s no escaping China’s Belt and Road Initiative. It’s been written into China’s constitution, and more than 70 countries from Pakistan to Papua New Guinea have signed up. But what is it? A modern-era Marshall Plan, a geopolitical bid for China to build a new international power bloc, a new model for Chinese colonialism, or an all-encompassing bumper sticker for Chinese-brokered development projects? To unpack the motivations behind Xi Jinping’s highest profile foreign policy initiative, Louisa and Graeme are joined by Peter Cai of the Lowy Institute and Dirk van der Kley from the Australian National University. And a warning: this episode contains some truly awful music.