Watching a film about communism, I realised I had been lied to as a child in China

I was born in north-east China in a province that was particularly heavy-handed with party propaganda. I learned to march in formation before knowing how to write, and maybe even count. Every morning at school started with a flag ceremony and obligatory salutes to Mao Zedong. Textbooks were illustrated with watercolour Lenins and Stalins, drawn to look much more handsome than they actually were. The propaganda made its way home as well. I think that, even to this day, my father knows only socialist songs. The life I’ve just described…

‘They took my world’: fashion giant Shein accused of art theft

Vanessa Bowman paints the world around her: the 19th-century village church, her back garden, the leaves on the trees in the fields where she walks her dog. Once she has chosen a scene from her rural Dorset idyll, she puts brush to canvas, sometimes poring over the details for days in her studio. Over three decades she has honed a unique style and earned a loyal fanbase, with 20,000 followers on Instagram and commissions from House & Garden, Prince Charles’s Highgrove shop and Farrow & Ball. But when she received…

Pet parties: the surprising – and occasionally dangerous – trend for animal birthday celebrations

Appearance: Either very jolly or entirely hellish, depending on your sensibility. Legality: Woolly. It cannot possibly be illegal for me to have a lovely birthday party for my adorable kitten. Let me ask you this: have you tried throwing a birthday party for a pet in China? Of course not. Well, don’t. A recent party for a dog named Doudou, in the city of Changsha, ended with the police threatening to open fire if something similar happened again. On the dog? No, on any drones used without permission. Doudou’s owner…