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Dispatches from China

Summary:
Censorship is hard: Fight Club is getting an entirely different ending in a new online release in China, where imported films are often altered to show that the law enforcement, on the side of justice, always trumps the villain. The 1999 film by David Fincher originally ends with the Narrator (Edward Norton) killing his split personality Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt). With the female lead Marla Singer (Helena Bonham Carter), he then watches all the buildings explode outside the window and collapse, suggesting Tyler’s anarchist plan to destroy consumerism is in the works. The exact opposite happens in the edit of the same film released in China. In the version on the Chinese streaming site Tencent Video, the explosion scene has been removed. Instead, viewers are told that the state

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Censorship is hard:

Fight Club is getting an entirely different ending in a new online release in China, where imported films are often altered to show that the law enforcement, on the side of justice, always trumps the villain.

The 1999 film by David Fincher originally ends with the Narrator (Edward Norton) killing his split personality Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt). With the female lead Marla Singer (Helena Bonham Carter), he then watches all the buildings explode outside the window and collapse, suggesting Tyler’s anarchist plan to destroy consumerism is in the works.

The exact opposite happens in the edit of the same film released in China. In the version on the Chinese streaming site Tencent Video, the explosion scene has been removed. Instead, viewers are told that the state successfully busted Tyler’s plan to destroy the world.

“Through the clue provided by Tyler, the police rapidly figured out the whole plan and arrested all criminals, successfully preventing the bomb from exploding,” a caption said. “After the trial, Tyler was sent to lunatic asylum receiving psychological treatment. He was discharged from the hospital in 2012.”

See the full story from Viola Zhou in Vice. At first I thought this was just a cute post. Then I looked at her other pieces. It’s such rich and unusual reporting.

Here is an excerpt from a piece on the hardships revealed by contact tracing.

After his 19-year-old son went missing in 2020, a Chinese man surnamed Yue quit his job as a fishing boat sailor and embarked on a searching trip across north China. Along the way, he took up all sorts of physical work to support his wife and a younger son and pay for his sick parents’ medical bills.

The 43-year-old toiled day and night. This month, in Beijing, he worked at construction sites, restaurants, office buildings, residential compounds, a trash collection point, and a shopping mall. Over the course of two weeks, he did 31 gigs, including many overnight ones, and only ate out once.

The migrant worker’s extraordinary hardship was accidentally exposed this week after he tested positive for COVID-19 and had his detailed itinerary released to the public, a routine practice by health authorities seeking to trace a patient’s possible contacts.

Yue’s tough life came as a shock to many middle-class Chinese, reminding them of an entire class of underprivileged workers who did not enjoy the prosperity brought by China’s economic boom as they did.

“This was the first time I cried reading contact-tracing information,” a person wrote on the microblogging site Weibo, where many users have expressed sympathy and sadness.

On Jan. 10, for example, he worked at a chain restaurant from midnight to 1:45 a.m., and moved to work at another branch at 2 a.m.

At 3 a.m., he started working at an office building in Beijing’s central business district. One hour later, he arrived at a suburban industrial zone 20 kilometers away. At 9 a.m., he went to work at a villa compound.

And if you wondered what the crackdown did to Hong Kong’s journalists:

For Stanley Lai, driving a cab is a lot like being a breaking news photographer. Both jobs require overnight work, skilled driving, and a good sense of direction navigating Hong Kong’s disorienting urban space. The biggest difference is speed. He used to hit 180 km/h (112 mph) in a company Toyota Corolla speeding to the scene for the best shots. Now he follows the traffic rules—being a few seconds slower wouldn’t matter to his passengers as much as it would to his newspaper’s readers.

Following three decades of being a photojournalist, Lai was forced to make a career change at the age of 53. Last summer, police raided the newsroom of Apple Daily, Lai’s employer and Hong Kong’s most popular pro-democracy newspaper, accusing it of endangering national security. The paper was forced to shut and several hundred journalists were laid off.

Some of the reporters found jobs at other news outlets, but Lai chose to become a night-shift taxi driver. “I have always been driving,” he recalled. “It seemed to be the fastest, easiest switch.”

Her stories and her Twitter profile. Hat tip to FP’s Morning Brief.

Chris Blattman
Political economist studying conflict, crime, and poverty, and @UChicago Professor @HarrisPolicy and @PearsonInst. I blog at http://chrisblattman.com

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