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Reworded: The essay titled “Peter Hessler’s Car Sale” has been censored.
Reworded: The essay titled "Peter Hessler's Car Sale" has been censored.

Reworded: The essay titled “Peter Hessler’s Car Sale” has been censored.

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Renowned author Peter Hessler is currently offering his vehicle for sale in Chengdu, following his departure from China in 2021 due to the sudden termination of his teaching contract.
. Online, the sale of his Honda CRV has spurred a series of reflections on Hessler’s impact on China and on the closing of a chapter in U.S.-China relations. Hessler wrote three famous books on China: “River Town,” on his Peace Corps service in rural Chongqing; “Oracle Bones,” a portrait of China past and present with the recurring eponymous motif of China’s oldest recorded writing system; and “Country Driving,” a travelogue detailing his journeys across China. (A fourth, “Other Rivers,” is on the way.) Some of the reflections on Hessler have proven politically sensitive. In an essay that was later censored, the writer Zhang Feng took to WeChat to lament Hessler’s departure as a symbol of China’s loss of confidence


I came across a post on my WeChat Moments about Peter Hessler, a writer from the United States, seeking assistance from a friend in Chengdu to sell his Honda SUV. The vehicle has only been driven for 10,000 kilometers and is in excellent condition.

This news is very sad.

Hessler likely envisioned a lengthy stay in China and extensive travels to distant locations when he purchased the Chengdu car. However, it is surprising that the vehicle’s journey has already come to an end.

Reflecting on it now, I remember Chengdu as a truly captivating city.

When Tzu-i Chuang Mullinax, the wife of then US Consul General [Jim Mullinax]

She formed a band with her friends to perform on the streets of Chengdu. Despite her background, nobody gave them special attention or considered it a sensitive matter. She is a chef and Chengdu used to be known as a food hub. However, not many people knew her identity; they were simply captivated by her musical talent as she sang songs for children.

In the past, students were able to calmly attend Petter Hessler’s lecture at Sichuan University where he shared his ideas on the craft of writing. It is important to note that this represents the pinnacle of a city’s potential: a place that is accepting, inclusive, and most importantly, confident in itself.

Hessler has been absent for a while and his car has been parked at an apartment complex’s parking garage. He is now publicly selling the car, signifying the end of his plans to drive through China in it.Chinese]

A Weibo screenshot of a person sharing a screenshot of Zhang Feng's censored essay with the caption saying it left them heartbroken. A Weibo screenshot of a person sharing a screenshot of Zhang Feng's censored essay with the caption saying it left them heartbroken.

A picture of a Weibo account holder posting a censored essay by Zhang Feng.

Screenshot of various Weibo comments underneath the above post Screenshot of various Weibo comments underneath the above post

A captured image of Weibo users expressing their sadness over Hessler’s departure.

The censors removed the essay, but screenshots of Zhang’s writing were shared on Weibo. One post that shared the essay was accompanied by the caption, “This piece that I saw on my WeChat feed really moved me.” A commenter responded, “I feel helpless. China today is becoming more and more like ‘1984’.”

“the

Zhang Feng published a second essay in response to the censorship of his initial piece. In the still available article, Zhang stated that “the

Hessler’s true talent was offering Chinese readers an American viewpoint on China.

The essay “Peter Hessler Sells His Car” from yesterday is now gone, as predicted.

Was his comprehension of China accurate? Or thorough? However, that is not the main concern. China is incredibly complex, making it impossible to give a straightforward response to those inquiries.

With that being said, it is certain that his comprehension of China was widely impactful.

Hessler’s significance lies in his ability to offer the Chinese people a new perspective: “This is how an American sees China.” This viewpoint allowed many to have a unique and positive experience, filled with warmth, encouragement, and humor.

readers] of this [article], that is the most valuable moment.

For readers, this is the most valuable moment in the article.

The inventor of pinyin.] Zhou Youguang stressed: “We must view China from the world, rather than view the world from China.” Practically speaking, as a Chinese person, when leaving the country is difficult and you’re not well versed in foreign languages, how is one to view China from the world? Peter Hessler was a heaven-sent pair of eyes, sharing wisdom with us all. [Chinese]

the author’s ideas were

The author’s ideas were not censored in the essay.

A recently developed tool by Citizen Lab is capable of monitoring censorship of keyword searches on various Chinese platforms.10

I discovered that it references 10.Hessler’s writing on Wu Ningkun and the book “A Single Tear,” which Wu co-authored with his wife Li Yikai, tripped censorship across a number of Chinese platforms. All searches for Wu plus “A Single Tear” were censored on the discussion forum Baidu Zhidao, while the search engines Baidu and Sogou “soft censored” them by limiting returned results to authorized sources only. To learn more about how these censorship rules were discovered, see the Citizen Lab report “

Uncovering the Absent Connections: A Contrast of Search Suppression in China.

Some recollections of Hessler may not have been as positive as Zhang Feng’s. In a written reply to Zhang’s censored essay, the experienced journalist and editor expressed a different viewpoint.Sun Xuyang

The author expressed his disappointment in Hessler’s apparent support for China’s strict COVID containment measures in a 2020 article published in The New Yorker. Hessler’s reporting received harsh criticism from various sources in the China-focused community, particularly in Geremie Barmé’s essay.The Good Caucasian of Sichuan and Kumbaya China
In his essay, Sun discusses Hessler’s work.

He mentioned both Hessler’s lack of knowledge and innocence, while recognizing his significance to specific parts of the Chinese intellectual society and Hessler’s great abilities.

During the Masking Era [2020-2022], Hessler wrote a few essays that came under fire from his readers who felt that he was overly partial to coercive COVID control measures. I read an essay he published in The New Yorker and was deeply disappointed to see what Hessler had written: 

In my opinion, education and diligence are also important factors. Despite the political influence in Chinese education, the system promotes a culture of valuing science. Hard work is also a fundamental value, and somehow society has managed to achieve prosperity without sacrificing its drive.

Orwell expertly blends factual reporting and personal perspective, a skill that few writers possess. The excerpt from Hessler’s writing clearly demonstrates his lack of knowledge and naivety when it comes to certain aspects of China.

I made a promise to myself not to continue reading his written work.

The person who initially popularized narrative non-fiction in China and lives in Chengdu, the city that Fuling (the location where Hessler served in the Peace Corps) is considered his ancestral village, may have a unique perspective on the red armband-sentries, corrugated metal walls, constant PCR swabs, temperature checks, and QR code scans. It is understandable that he defends them despite experiencing them firsthand.

There is a Stockholm

In the heart of every individual.

COMPLEX

Evaluating Hessler is a challenging task as some may find him to be bothersome. He has good intentions, but in certain situations, his accurate reporting may be seen as complicated.malicious


For Zhang Feng and his colleagues, Hessler served as a symbol of hope and resilience. He showed that despite the challenges faced in this harsh land, there is still a shared understanding that allows individuals, even foreigners, to deviate from the dominant narrative and maintain a sense of civility and self-respect.

Hessler is not deserving of malice or hope. His departure is fine. With his talents, the entire world is a stage. [Chinese]