Philip J. Cunningham

Philip J. Cunningham

Philip J. Cunningham has been a regular visitor to China since 1983, working variously as a tour guide, TV producer, freelance writer, independent scholar and teacher. He has conducted media research in China as a Knight Fellow and Fulbright Scholar and was the recipient of a Nieman Fellowship at Harvard. He is the author of Tiananmen Moon, a first-hand account of the 1989 protests in Beijing.

Latest from Philip J. Cunningham

Opinion | America’s universities will welcome fewer Chinese students this year, thanks to rock-bottom Sino-US relations

For many Chinese students, the dream of an American education has lost its lustre. Some have had their study plans disrupted by the pandemic and tougher travel policies, others are put off by reports of anti-Asian hate crimes in the US.

For many Chinese students, the dream of an American education has lost its lustre. Some have had their study plans disrupted by the pandemic and tougher travel policies, others are put off by reports of anti-Asian hate crimes in the US.

25 Aug 2022 - 6:45AM
Opinion | Why China’s ambitions in space should not be underestimated

While China was excluded from the International Space Station, it is building its own, has constructed the world’s largest radio telescope and expects to launch a powerful space telescope next year. Its accomplishments will benefit science in general and remind the US not to be complacent.

While China was excluded from the International Space Station, it is building its own, has constructed the world’s largest radio telescope and expects to launch a powerful space telescope next year. Its accomplishments will benefit science in general and remind the US not to be complacent.

23 Jun 2022 - 1:17AM
Opinion | How Chinese state media paints an alternative picture of the Ukraine war

The Beijing media sphere has created a parallel universe where the Russians are the good guys and the real villains are the US and Nato. This narrative accords with Moscow’s contempt for the idea of Ukraine’s sovereignty and gives viewers a twisted, incomplete view of events.

The Beijing media sphere has created a parallel universe where the Russians are the good guys and the real villains are the US and Nato. This narrative accords with Moscow’s contempt for the idea of Ukraine’s sovereignty and gives viewers a twisted, incomplete view of events.

24 Apr 2022 - 9:15AM
Opinion | A bipolar world is re-emerging, as China and Russia join hands

In a joint statement on a new era of international relations, Xi and Putin have thrown down the gauntlet to the US-led world order. Those who thought history had come to an end with the collapse of communism in the USSR might have another think coming.

In a joint statement on a new era of international relations, Xi and Putin have thrown down the gauntlet to the US-led world order. Those who thought history had come to an end with the collapse of communism in the USSR might have another think coming.

20 Feb 2022 - 3:30AM
Opinion | US extends rivalry with China to the moon as it resists cooperation and seeks control over mining

Nasa claims its Artemis lunar programme will promote diversity and cooperation, but fellow space powers China and Russia have been left out in the cold. With the US attempting to lay down rules for mineral extraction, the new space race looks set to divide the world – and the moon – along Cold War fault lines.

Nasa claims its Artemis lunar programme will promote diversity and cooperation, but fellow space powers China and Russia have been left out in the cold. With the US attempting to lay down rules for mineral extraction, the new space race looks set to divide the world – and the moon – along Cold War fault lines.

23 Jan 2022 - 11:00AM
Opinion | US-China war of words is fuelling rise in anti-Asian hate

The ongoing battle between Washington and Beijing is grating heavily on a world already worn down by two years of Covid-19. As nationalist sentiment puts Asian Americans at increasing risk of xenophobic attacks, both countries must start acting responsibly.

The ongoing battle between Washington and Beijing is grating heavily on a world already worn down by two years of Covid-19. As nationalist sentiment puts Asian Americans at increasing risk of xenophobic attacks, both countries must start acting responsibly.

9 Jan 2022 - 3:30AM
Opinion | How the Indo-Pacific became the new arena for US-China rivalry

As Washington ups its interest in Southeast Asia, it has made ‘Indo-Pacific’ its preferred term for the vast region that stretches from India to Australia. The name is an attempt to align geographic and political categories as the US competes with China for influence.

As Washington ups its interest in Southeast Asia, it has made ‘Indo-Pacific’ its preferred term for the vast region that stretches from India to Australia. The name is an attempt to align geographic and political categories as the US competes with China for influence.

22 Dec 2021 - 9:15AM
Opinion | As China brings Laos into its fold, will the US seek to reset relations to counter Beijing?

The China-Laos railway may have all but sealed Laos’ fate as a satellite state of Beijing, but it isn’t too late for the US to compete for influence – and the Southeast Asian country could benefit from the added competition.

The China-Laos railway may have all but sealed Laos’ fate as a satellite state of Beijing, but it isn’t too late for the US to compete for influence – and the Southeast Asian country could benefit from the added competition.

9 Dec 2021 - 9:15AM
Opinion | Why Joe Biden’s criticism of Xi Jinping’s COP26 no-show is out of line

Given the pandemic, it’s reasonable for leaders to think carefully about international travel. More importantly, summits such as the UN climate event, which require thousands of people to fly in, are hardly environmentally friendly.

Given the pandemic, it’s reasonable for leaders to think carefully about international travel. More importantly, summits such as the UN climate event, which require thousands of people to fly in, are hardly environmentally friendly.

12 Nov 2021 - 3:30AM
Opinion | In the West, China the villain is a narrative few dare to challenge

Vitriol heaped on the contrarians who point out the lack of evidence for claims of genocide in Xinjiang reflects how much the Biden administration’s approach to China resembles its predecessor’s.

Vitriol heaped on the contrarians who point out the lack of evidence for claims of genocide in Xinjiang reflects how much the Biden administration’s approach to China resembles its predecessor’s.

27 Apr 2021 - 11:06AM
Opinion | Why the US should look to Jim Sasser as a model for its new ambassador to China

Sasser’s conduct during the siege of the US embassy in Beijing in 1999 shows toughness is not everything. Rahm Emanuel lacks the calm and R Nicholas Burns the verve and autonomy needed for the job.

Sasser’s conduct during the siege of the US embassy in Beijing in 1999 shows toughness is not everything. Rahm Emanuel lacks the calm and R Nicholas Burns the verve and autonomy needed for the job.

13 Mar 2021 - 5:52AM
Opinion | Late to the space race, China is making strides with Chang’e 5 moon landing

China may be a late contender in the space race but the success of Chang’e 5 is an important milestone that moves it ever closer to building a base on the moon

China may be a late contender in the space race but the success of Chang’e 5 is an important milestone that moves it ever closer to building a base on the moon

28 Nov 2020 - 11:53AM
Opinion | Why a US senator’s attack on Chinese writer Liu Cixin and Netflix smacks of nationalistic double standards

US senators, including Marsha Blackburn, have called Netflix out on Liu Cixin’s comments on the Chinese government’s policies in Xinjiang. Yet Blackburn, a supporter of Donald Trump’s ‘Muslim ban’, is no friend of Muslims in Xinjiang or anywhere else.

US senators, including Marsha Blackburn, have called Netflix out on Liu Cixin’s comments on the Chinese government’s policies in Xinjiang. Yet Blackburn, a supporter of Donald Trump’s ‘Muslim ban’, is no friend of Muslims in Xinjiang or anywhere else.

30 Sep 2020 - 1:30AM
Opinion | Closure of China’s Houston consulate shows danger of desperate US behaviour

Given the sharp decline in US-China diplomacy, the positive energy of the relationship’s early days has been replaced by petty bickering and recriminations. The brazen disrespect of science and international law by the Trump administration is akin to insisting American exceptionalism be respected at the risk of endangering public health.

Given the sharp decline in US-China diplomacy, the positive energy of the relationship’s early days has been replaced by petty bickering and recriminations. The brazen disrespect of science and international law by the Trump administration is akin to insisting American exceptionalism be respected at the risk of endangering public health.

23 Jul 2020 - 8:01PM
Opinion | Trump’s student visa rules have been rescinded, but the damage is done

Cultural exchange has long been a core element of US diplomacy, and the business of educating the world is big business. The ill-conceived policy ploy to deport students, though reversed, still puts a serious dent in the US’ reputation as a desirable place to study.

Cultural exchange has long been a core element of US diplomacy, and the business of educating the world is big business. The ill-conceived policy ploy to deport students, though reversed, still puts a serious dent in the US’ reputation as a desirable place to study.

16 Jul 2020 - 6:19AM
Opinion | Does brash, rash Zhao Lijian really speak for the Chinese government?

China’s old-school diplomats are being drowned out by new voices like the Foreign Ministry spokesman. Mixed messaging is, of course, part of the diplomatic toolkit, but given the stakes in US-China relations, some tact and prudence would go a long way.

China’s old-school diplomats are being drowned out by new voices like the Foreign Ministry spokesman. Mixed messaging is, of course, part of the diplomatic toolkit, but given the stakes in US-China relations, some tact and prudence would go a long way.

18 Apr 2020 - 1:49AM
Opinion | Carlos Ghosn fled Japan’s legal system. Is Canada’s star prisoner, Meng Wanzhou, taking notes?

There are parallels between Ghosn’s and Meng’s cases. Both were business leaders detained at an airport and placed under house arrest. The charges against both seem politically motivated. But one of them is more likely to get a fair trial.

There are parallels between Ghosn’s and Meng’s cases. Both were business leaders detained at an airport and placed under house arrest. The charges against both seem politically motivated. But one of them is more likely to get a fair trial.

25 Dec 2021 - 5:54AM
Opinion | Hong Kong protest paradox: can a democracy movement backed by bigotry and vigilantism succeed?

The humour and humility evident in protest art is sorely lacking in the vigilantes at the forefront of street violence. Protest supporters who brush aside the violence are doing the movement no favours.

The humour and humility evident in protest art is sorely lacking in the vigilantes at the forefront of street violence. Protest supporters who brush aside the violence are doing the movement no favours.

4 Dec 2019 - 7:17PM
Opinion | Li Peng wasn’t the butcher of Tiananmen, just the man who took the fall for Deng Xiaoping

Li’s arrogance made him easy to hate in 1989, but he was picked on because his boss Deng Xiaoping had a no-nonsense manner that intimidated even rebels.

Li’s arrogance made him easy to hate in 1989, but he was picked on because his boss Deng Xiaoping had a no-nonsense manner that intimidated even rebels.

25 Jul 2019 - 5:22AM
Opinion | The Trump-Kim summit failed, but Kim Jong-un’s China train trek taught us the truth about Beijing’s role

When Kim, surrounded by lavish praise and rapt attention, took care to avoid dropping cigarette ash or a match on his host’s’ land, it was a reminder that China’s place atop the hierarchy of communist East Asia is as strong as ever.

When Kim, surrounded by lavish praise and rapt attention, took care to avoid dropping cigarette ash or a match on his host’s’ land, it was a reminder that China’s place atop the hierarchy of communist East Asia is as strong as ever.

5 Mar 2019 - 9:07AM
Beijing’s ban on gatherings of foreigners in restaurants raises eyebrows, and questions

Beijing’s ban on foreigners congregating in restaurants may be rooted in the fear that they could be a terrorist target, but clampdowns based on racial differences come across as intolerant.

Beijing’s ban on foreigners congregating in restaurants may be rooted in the fear that they could be a terrorist target, but clampdowns based on racial differences come across as intolerant.

19 Mar 2018 - 5:31PM
Tiananmen was a tragedy Beijing won’t face up to, regardless of death toll

Whether or not 10,000 is an accurate account of the number killed at the Tiananmen uprising, we know the crackdown was horrific and that Beijing won’t give a clear account

Whether or not 10,000 is an accurate account of the number killed at the Tiananmen uprising, we know the crackdown was horrific and that Beijing won’t give a clear account

28 Dec 2017 - 7:27PM
Living with the snoops in China

Part of the folklore of being a foreign student in China in the 1980s was that Big Brother was watching, all the time. Very few people had first-hand knowledge, fewer even had proof, but the discomfort, if not fear, was pervasive.

Part of the folklore of being a foreign student in China in the 1980s was that Big Brother was watching, all the time. Very few people had first-hand knowledge, fewer even had proof, but the discomfort, if not fear, was pervasive.

26 Jun 2013 - 3:44AM
The US security state laid bare

Sales of George Orwell's works are said to be enjoying a small boom ever since the National Security Agency spy story broke, suggesting that, in confusing times, people still find solace in aphorisms and essays, fiction and fantasy, seeking to get a better grip on the uncharted and unclear dangers of the present.

Sales of George Orwell's works are said to be enjoying a small boom ever since the National Security Agency spy story broke, suggesting that, in confusing times, people still find solace in aphorisms and essays, fiction and fantasy, seeking to get a better grip on the uncharted and unclear dangers of the present.

17 Jun 2013 - 4:23AM
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20 May 2013 - 1:52AM
10 May 2013 - 4:51AM
Beware the overzealous response to acts of terrorism

To follow the drama of the manhunt for the Boston Marathon bombers online through Twitter, Reddit, television news, police scanners and newspaper updates was to be inundated with an abundance of almost real-time information. Anyone with a computer and internet access could get a virtual view of events, blow by blow, and connect the dots, rightly or wrongly, along the way. To follow the tweets of Watertown eyewitnesses, in particular, was to be thrust into a front-row seat of a real-life movie of guns popping in the dark and bodies falling, police cars racing and bystanders mistakenly apprehended.

To follow the drama of the manhunt for the Boston Marathon bombers online through Twitter, Reddit, television news, police scanners and newspaper updates was to be inundated with an abundance of almost real-time information. Anyone with a computer and internet access could get a virtual view of events, blow by blow, and connect the dots, rightly or wrongly, along the way. To follow the tweets of Watertown eyewitnesses, in particular, was to be thrust into a front-row seat of a real-life movie of guns popping in the dark and bodies falling, police cars racing and bystanders mistakenly apprehended.

25 Apr 2013 - 3:03AM
15 Apr 2013 - 5:01AM