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The past two years have not been particularly good for China’s global image. The repugnance of Trumpian references to “the China virus”, thick with yellow-peril bigotry, made many of us err on the side of resisting the denigration of Chinese people — perhaps at the cost of criticising the Chinese government. But there’s no question that the authoritarian regime’s prevention of Chinese scientists from sharing what they knew about SARS-CoV-2 resulted in thousands of deaths and aggravated the many severe consequences of the subsequent Covid-19 pandemic.

Aside from a reignited Sinophobia via the joking-not-joking discourse of the “Wuhan Flu” (thanks Borat), there are other reasons for China’s branding problem. When I heard about the participation of SA gallery Guns & Rain in an exhibition taking place at the Qingdao Art Museum — Qingdao is a large port city midway between Beijing and Shanghai — a series of unflattering associations came to mind...

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