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


  • 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.


  • All maxxed out: The biggest Ponzi scheme the world has ever seen?

    41 mins

    China’s recent impressive economic growth has been built largely on massive debt. According to some estimates, in just over a decade China has managed to rack up debt in excess of 300% of its GDP, effectively placing a ticking time-bomb under the world economy. Is China heading for a financial crisis, and if so when? In this episode, Graeme and Louisa are joined by Dinny MacMahon, the author of China’s Great Wall of Debt, and Tim Murray, co-founder of J Capital Research, who make predictions about China’s financial future and explain how Beijing’s strategy may be driving a stealthy re-nationalization of the Chinese economy.

  • Shaken but not stirred: The Chinese State and the Sichuan earthquake

    45 mins

    On 12 May 2008, a 7.9-magnitude earthquake hit Wenchuan in Sichuan, claiming more than 85,000 lives, many of them schoolchildren whose classrooms collapsed. It was a paradoxical moment of great tragedy and great hope, with a new sense of openness and civil society emerging in the quake’s immediate aftermath. A decade on, its legacy has proved much darker including Great Leap Forward style urbanisation drives and an entrenchment of stability maintenance. In 2008, during the brief window of openness, Louisa reported on the quake for NPR. In March of this year, she convened a panel on the Sichuan Earthquake at the Association for Asian Studies in Washington D.C., featuring Colorado College’s Christian Sorace, Georgia State University’s Maria Repnikova, Emory University’s Xu Bin and Yi Kang from Hong Kong Baptist University. A special issue of Made In China was also produced to mark the anniversary

  • Tinker, tailor, student, spy? Inside Australia’s Chinese student boom


    Universities in Australia have an addiction: overseas student fees. Nearly half of overseas students in Australia are from China, rising to 60% at some institutions. Against the backdrop of new legislation to counter foreign influence, we talk to Chinese students, who find themselves caught in a geopolitical battle—accused by some of acting as ‘spies’ and restricting intellectual freedom in Australia’s classrooms, while others fear those student revenues are becoming a tool of China’s economic coercion. Louisa and Graeme and joined by Linda Jakobson of China Matters and Fran Martin from the University of Melbourne to discuss the future of Australia’s third largest export.

    Tinker, Tailor, Student, Spy? Inside Australia’s Chinese Student Boom by The Little Red Podcast is licensed under a  Creative Commons License.

  • #LRP 20: How to Make Friends And Influence People: Inside the Magic Weapon of the United Front

    44min 24

    The Communist Party’s shadowy United Front Work Department has emerged stronger than ever before after the most recent government reshuffle. This body, whose job has historically been to win hearts and minds among the Party’s opponents, is now also responsible for all work related to ethnic minority groups, religious management and contact with overseas Chinese. But exactly how does the United Front Work Department gain support for China abroad? In this episode, Graeme is joined by Gerry Groot from the University of Adelaide, who demystifies the inner workings of the body dubbed a Magic Weapon by Xi Jinping.

    How To Make Friends And Influence People: Inside the Magic Weapon of the United Front by The Little Red Podcast is licensed under a  Creative Commons License.

  • Policing the Contour Lines: China’s cartographic obsession

    28min 06sec

    China’s preoccupation with cartography now seems to be reaching into classrooms, websites and academic journals around the world, with an increasing number of demands for retractions and apologies for maps that do not comport with Beijing’s view of its borders. In this episode, John Zinda, a sociologist from Cornell University, and James Miles, China editor for The Economist, join Louisa and Graeme to discuss the politics of cartography in China.

  • Bitter Medicine: China’s New Pacific Frontier

    27min 51sec

    China’s aid and its growing influence in the South Pacific is causing alarm. In this month’s episode, Louisa and Graeme are joined by award winning journalist – and editor of The Citizen – Jo Chandler to discuss the challenges brought by a wave of Chinese aid and migration to the Pacific’s largest nation, Papua New Guinea.