Listen up: 19 brilliant podcasts about China

Get to know China better with our pick of the pods

Image: Devon Divine via Unsplash
From Pod Save America to How Stuff Works and S-Town, podcasts have firmly established themselves as a mainstream entertainment medium – but what of China? Its huge scope is a challenge to cover, resulting in a graveyard of defunct series that either never took off or withered when their hosts left town.

But for all those that fell by the wayside, we've found a number of pods that have stood the test of time. And with Beijingers spending on average 52 minutes commuting to work each day, there’s plenty of time to try them all.

Here’s a guide to some of our favourites, with links to listening on the original websites or on iTunes. If you want to make your own playlist but don't use iTunes, just search the name of the podcast in whatever your go-to listening medium is and playlist away.

News and current events

NEWS

The Little Red Podcast
The Little Red Podcast features an academic and a journalist talking China with various guests. Celebrating all things China, the podcast aims to discuss current issues and how they impact the world at large, especially from little known corners of the Kingdom often unmentioned in the media. Hosted by Graeme Smith (a China studies academic at ANU's Department of Pacific Affairs) and Louisa Lim (former BBC and NPR correspondent in China), the show most recently won the 2018 Australian Podcast Award in the News & Current Affairs category. Listen on iTunes here.

The Beijing Hour
Each morning, every morning, The Beijing Hour presents an hour-long news debrief. While the podcast does cover major international headlines, it focuses on the news in and around China relating to the country. As well as the top news, it also covers business, sport, entertainment and the weather. Get your daily dose of the news straight to your ear. Listen on iTunes here.

China in the World
Brought to the world by the Carnegie-Tsinghua Center in Beijing, China in the World talks foreign policy, international relations and China's role in the world. Director of the Center, Paul Haenle, talks to Chinese and international experts. Listen on iTunes here.

Sinica
Established in 2010, Sinica is a veteran on the scene and the calibre of guests suggests that hosts and long-time Beijing residents Kaiser Kuo and Jeremy Goldkorn have built up some considerable guanxi over that time. The content is accessible, featuring the kind of conversations about modern business, culture and politics that you might expect to overhear at an informal dinner following a formal lecture. Listen on iTunes here.

Harvard on China
From the China faculty of this prestigious university comes a podcast featuring new research and analysis on topics from censorship to same-sex marriage, President Xi to urban waste removal. The format varies between interviews, panel discussion and recorded live talks, with new releases each month. Listen on iTunes here.

China Unscripted
From the team that brought us the rather, erhm, un-Chinese TV show China Uncensored comes a podcast with probably just as much irreverence (with episode titles such as 'How to Get Better at Persecuting People'). China Unscripted is just what it sounds like: an unscripted look at what's going on in China, from discussions with experts to random thoughts of the day by host Chris Chappell. Listen on iTunes here.

Culture


CULTURE

NüVoices
Hosted by Alice Xin Liu and Joanna Chiu, NüVoices tells the stories of self-identifying women throughout China. They explore the role of women in media, the arts, abuses of power, international and domestic politics, and so much more. Episodes explore themes such as China's #MeToo movement, technology and bias, as well as screenwriting, fantasy writing and translating Chinese poetry. Listen on iTunes here.

Environment China
This weekly, bilingual podcast is supported by the Beijing Energy Network and covers all sorts of topics relating to China's environment. Environment China hosts discussions on new strategies, solutions and changes, as well as interviews with activists (including our very own Bulk House entrepreneurs). Listen on iTunes here.

Men
Produced and hosted by Yajun Zhang and Jingjing Zhang, the Wǒ Men podcast talks about all things concerning women in China. From topics such as sexual consent and pregnancy to tackling mental health stigma, the podcast runs the gamut of diversity and variety in today's female China. Listen on iTunes here.

Bottled in China
Although pretty Shanghai heavy, this podcast looks at the F&B scene in China, with interviews from bartenders, brewers, restaurant owners and more. Hosted by Emilie Steckenborn, Bottled in China provides insights you never knew you needed into what it's like doing business in the food and drink world of China. Listen on iTunes here.

B-Side China
Ever wonder what life on the flip side was like? Luckily, the folks over at Radii have come through again and now host B-Side China, a podcast that tells all about the other side of culture in China. Featuring episodes on the underground scene in Chengdu as well as tensions between art and club worlds in Beijing, this podcast is sure to open your eyes and ears up to a whole new way of life. Listen on iTunes here.

History

HISTORY

Chinese Characters
This series of essay-podcasts takes you through a stunning journey of Chinese history, told through the lives and deeds of key figures in the nation's long life. From Deng Xiaoping to Confucius, Chinese Characters will help you brush up on your Chinese historical knowledge with this quirky take on retelling the past. Listen on BBC Radio 4 here.

China History Podcast
With an incredible rate of productivity that sees episodes turned out on a weekly basis, Lazlo Montgomery is like that jovial uncle who knows how to sprinkle on just the right amount of humour and storytelling finesse to his informative pods. From an eight-part series on the Cultural Revolution, tea and Deng Xiaoping, to an analysis of traditional Chinese idioms (成语 chengyu), the China History Podcast a fun springboard into an understanding of some of China's most significant moments in history. Listen on iTunes here.

Intrigue: Murder in the Lucky Holiday Hotel
If true crime is the vehicle for podcasting success, the story of the mysterious murder of British businessman Neil Heywood in Chongqing in 2011 provides the perfect material. With its juicy combination of sex, death and elite politics, the story is brought to life by journalist Carrie Gracie in a fast-paced, racy five-part series. Listen on BBC Radio 4 here.

Lost Voices of Tiananmen
Ex-BBC correspondent James Miles was an eyewitness to the events leading up to the Tiananmen Square protests in 1989. Using his own archive materials from the time, this two-part series is a fascinating insight into the key trigger points that led to the Beijing Spring. Listen on BBC here.

Technology

TECH

Digitally China
Another Radii production, and one of the newest on the list, Digitally China tackles all the latest and juiciest topics about tech. As innovation is the name of the game, and China's looking to win it, this podcast walks you through the key facts and figures you need to know to stay on top of one of the world's largest industries. Listen on iTunes here.

China Tech Talk
Those with an interest in China’s tech or startup ecosystem can’t fail to have heard of tech media giant Technode. They've teamed up with China Channel to bring you China Tech Talk, a regular podcast discussing emerging trends, business advice and general news. Keep an eye out for some notable names and faces from the Beijing scene. Listen on iTunes here.

Language

LANGUAGE

Learning Chinese through Stories (听故事学中文)
We’re surprised this series hasn’t had more traction, as it’s a great way to practise listening skills with ‘chicken soup for the soul’-style tales. Each episode in Learning Chinese through Stories is broken down into a full read-through followed by a recap that uses simple Chinese to explain the more difficult vocabulary and grammar. The range of proficiency levels and accompanying transcript are also useful. Listen on iTunes here.

Slow Chinese (慢速中文)
Articles on contemporary topics are read out by Chinese natives at a slow speed (2-3 characters a second), hence the name Slow Chinese. From pop culture to song lyrics, recent episodes discuss the sharing economy, hip-hop and popular folk artist Zhao Lei. Read by both men and women, there’s also a handy option to view a transcript with multiple language translations. Listen on iTunes here.

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