Although he was demoted by Tsinghua University in March 2019 and banned from teaching, writing and publishing, Xu has remained defiant. His latest polemical work—“When Fury Overcomes Fear”—translated below, appeared online on February 4, 2020 as the coronavirus epidemic swept China and infections overseas sparked concern around the world.
Xu‘s writing style combines elements of classical Chinese in which references to or quotations from philosophy, history and literature are seamlessly interwoven in an elegant but highly personalized literary form commonly employed by members of China’s élite from the late-19th to the mid-20th centuries. It is a prose free of Party jargon, although the author frequently makes mocking reference to officialese and to the kind of Europeanized Chinese popularized in the 1910s when the vernacular was promoted by political and cultural progressives. Although the written language became more expressive of modern ideas it was soon overwhelmed by a kind of Communist Partyspeak that now dominates China’s media.