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


  • 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.

  • Lies, Damned Lies and Police Statistics: Crime and the Chinese Dream


    Xi Jinping’s Chinese Dream has a dark side exemplified by the emergence of villages specialising in a single type of crime, from ‘hand-cutting’ pickpockets to ‘cake-uncles’ specialising in accounting fraud. Officially China boasts one of the lowest murder rates in the world. But Børge Bakken, a specialist in Chinese criminology, argues that all Chinese crime statistics are falsified for political, propaganda and administrative reasons. Is China becoming an ‘uncivil society’?

  • BDM: Not As Sexy As The Shark

    26min 12sec

    Reviled in the West, the slimy bottom-feeders known as sea cucumbers, or bêche-de-mer (BDM), have recently been described as the ‘the gold of the sea’. China’s growing appetite for these slow-moving slugs has sparked ecological and social crises, with at least 24 countries trying to close their sea cucumber fisheries following the sudden collapse of stocks.  In this episode we examine the cautionary tale posed by the fate of the sea cucumber with Kate Barclay and Michael Fabinyi from the University of Technology Sydney.