Panda-monium: DreamWorks Charms China
Rift in the Gulf: China's Middle East Gameplan
Permit Kingdom: The Hukou Divide
TOMB OF THE UNKNOWN KING The archeological dig that is rewriting Chinese history
Volume No. 092 April 2016
Published by China Newsweek Corporation Publisher: Zhang Xinxin Executive Director: Zhang Xinxin
China needs a comprehensive approach to addressing demographic challenges
Editor-in-Chief: Wang Xiaohui Editorial Office Managing Editor: Zheng Zhonghai Advisor: Liu Dizhong Senior Editor: Ruan Yulin Copy Editors: Jack Smith, Brittney Wong Lead Writers: Yu Xiaodong, Li Jia Editors: Wang Yan, Yuan Ye, Xie Ying, Du Guodong First Reader: Wesley Jacks Address: 5th Floor, 12 Baiwanzhuang South Street, Xicheng District, Beijing, China Post Code: 100037 Tel: 86-10-88395566 Fax: 86-10-88388045 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org www.newschinamag.com Art Department Art Director: Wu Shangwen Art Editor/Designer: Zhang Dawei Publishing and Development Office China Newsweek Corporation President: Peng Weixiang Tel: 1-212-481-2510 Fax: 1-212-481-2503 Address: 820 2nd Ave, 3B-C, New York, NY 10017, USA Email: email@example.com Toronto Office Director: Xu Chang'an Address: 51 Halstead Drive, Markham, ON Canada L3R7Z4 Tel: 1-905-604-6150 Fax: 1-905-604-6170 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Marketing Director: Wang Chenbo Account Manager : Ren Jie Tel: 86-10-88388027 Circulation Manager: Yu Lina Tel: 86-10-88311834 Advertising Director: Gao Weiwei Tel: 1-212-481-2510 Marketing Promoter: Jerry Meng Tel: 1-212-481-2510 New York Office: Tan Hongwei, Ruan Yulin, Deng Min Washington Office: Zhang Weiran, Diao Haiyang Los Angeles Office: Mao Jianjun San Francisco Office: Liu Dan Houston Office: Wang Huan London Office: Zhou Zhaojun Tokyo Office: Wang Jian Paris Office: Long Jianwu Bangkok Office: Yu Xianlun Kuala Lumpur Office: Zhao Shengyu Moscow Office: Wang Xiujun Manila Office: Zhang Ming Berlin Office: Peng Dawei Sydney Office: Lai Hailong Brussels Office: Shen Chen Astana Office: Wen Longjie Rio de Janeiro Office: Mo Chengxiong Johannesburg Office: Song Fangchan Jakarta Office: Gu Shihong Kathmandu Office: Fu Yongkang Legal Advisor: Allen Wu ISSN 1943-1902
NEWSCHINA I April 2016
n January 1, China officially scrapped major reason behind China’s declining birth rate is its Family Planning Policy, allowing all a declining marriage rate. As only married couples married couples to have two children. are legally allowed to have children, the rise in ChiThe landmark change came as a response to loom- na’s unmarried adult population means that many ing demographic challenges as China’s population are deprived of their rights to become parents. Fully of 1.37 billion rapidly ages, placing additional pres- liberalizing family planning policies will achieve the sure on a burdened social security system and the dual objective of boosting birth rates and improvcountry’s ability to maintain economic vitality. ing human rights protections. By adopting a “two-child Secondly, the government policy,” the National Health and should endeavor to provide adThe government equate and affordable childcare Family Planning Commission predicted that around three milshould consider to all its citizens. Currently, publion extra babies could be born licly funded childcare services are completely every year for the next five years. only available in urban areas. As liberalizing the However, experts believe that these services are limited and mifamily planning adopting a two-child policy withgrant workers are often ineligible policy to allow out additional reforms will do for them, the system not only people, married discourages people from having little to address China’s population problems. more children, but has also creor unmarried, China’s economic developated a variety of social problems, to decide how ment in the past three decades, such as the phenomenon of “leftmany children which has dramatically improved behind children” who are effecthey want to living standards while significanttively abandoned in rural areas by have. ly increasing the cost of raising their migrant parents. By increasa child, has transformed a tradiing the quality and availability of tional culture that once favored public childcare, the government large families. The generation could boost the birth rate and imthat has just reached childbearing age is made up prove the general wellbeing of the next generation. of only children, meaning couples are expected Thirdly, to address economic concerns regardto care for up to four elderly people – both sets of ing the cost of raising a child, particularly in cities, grandparents – when the latter retire, placing an the government should initiate policy reforms in additional financial burden on families that might various fields to provide economic support to famialready struggle to raise one child, a problem ex- lies with more children. For example, the number acerbated by an inadequate social security system. of children should be taken into consideration as Related surveys show that less than 30 percent part of general taxation policies. The government of couples of childbearing age are interested in should also step up its efforts to protect women’s having two children. Analysts project that China’s rights in China’s male-dominated workplace, as birth rate may remain at a low 1.5 live births per women who are pregnant often risk losing their woman, even after the implementation of the two- jobs. child policy. If the government fails to take swift action, ChiTo effectively tackle its demographic challenges, nese society may eventually follow the developChina needs a more drastic and more comprehen- ment pattern of other Asian economies, such as sive approach. Firstly, the government should con- Singapore, Japan and South Korea, where societies sider completely liberalizing the family planning with far higher average incomes than those in Chipolicy to allow people, married or unmarried, to na are increasingly struggling to provide adequately decide how many children they want to have. A for their aging populations.
01 China needs a comprehensive approach to addressing demographic challenges 10 13
Military Reform: The Top’s Priorities Hukou Reform: Points Of No Return
16 Guanxi Necropolis Tomb of a Lost Emperor?/The Pain of Preservation
Middle East: View from China US-ASEAN Summit: Long Shot
33 Cloned Meat: Sci-fi No More
NEWSCHINA I April 2016
Photo by CFP
A Han Dynasty necropolis unearthed in Jiangxi Province is overturning China’s knowledge of one of the most vibrant and tumultuous periods in its formative history. NewsChina enters the tomb of China’s forgotten emperor
P64 36 Drug Trafficking: Endless Battle
60 Rural Recreation
40 X+Q Boutique: Old Dog, New Tricks 42 Migrant Children: Unintended Consequences Economy
48 Drone Regulation: Tighter Controls 50 SOE Categorization: The Sweet Spot Culture
Kim Young-hee: Godfather of Variety Kung Fu Panda 3: Doubling Down
NEWSCHINA I April 2016
64 Seeking Fortune Commentary
72 China needs to broaden its scope to stabilize the real estate industry
04 MEDIA FOCUS 05 What They Say 06 NEWS BRIEF 08 Netizen Watch 52 China by numbers 66 real Chinese 67 Flavor of the Month 68 ESSAY 70 CULTURAL LISTINGS
NewsChina, Chinese Edition
February 1, 2016
January 30, 2016
Mental Health in Higher Learning
In December, Chen Yixin, Party chief of the flourishing city of Wenzhou, was promoted to the position of deputy director of the Central Leading Team for Comprehensively Deepening Reform. Chen is just one of several Wenzhou officials who have risen to prominence in recent years. Since 2000, at least six Wenzhou Party chiefs advanced to positions at the provincial level, with a few securing provincial governorships in Sichuan and Zhejiang provinces. Shenzhen, Suzhou and Tibet have also been key proving grounds for senior officials who have been able to sustain rapid economic growth, push political reforms or weather tough local conditions. Common breeding grounds for future senior officials have traditionally been in the prosperous southeastern coastal cities, but recently inland cities have begun to stand out. In addition, social and environmental factors are becoming increasingly important in the formation of China’s highest ranks.
China Weekly January 25, 2016
Waste Invasion About 46 million tons of electronic waste – discarded computers, televisions and other gadgets – were produced worldwide in 2014, according to the most recent data available from United Nations University (UNU). The United States, China and Europe as a whole produce the most electronic waste. At the same time, China’s southeastern regions have become a dumping ground for global e-waste. According to a UNU report, 50 percent of the world’s electronic waste ends up in China, even though China took measures to strictly control imported e-waste in 1995, banning the importation of waste from 11 specific electronic devices like TVs and computers in 2000, and adding more devices to that list in 2009. Yet enterprising Chinese have already created a large industrial chain to deal with this debris. Experts pointed out that e-waste recycling has become a pillar industry for some local governments, so locals are working around the law in order to pursue economic growth, but at a cost to the environment.
The mental health of college students is a growing concern on the Chinese mainland. Media outlets covered the stories of several students with depression who committed suicide in Beijing and Guangzhou toward the end of 2015, reigniting discussions on mental illness and suicide prevention. According to research by the Beijing Suicide Research and Prevention Center, 63 percent of young adults who committed suicide and 40 percent of those who attempted suicide suffered from a mental illness, particularly clinical depression. Nearly one in four Beijing college students suffer from depression, according to a 2006 study. While 92 percent of China’s 2,845 universities say they have established mental health centers, only 2,000 full-time counselors are employed by colleges nationwide. Experts said depression can impede college students’ ability to study, date and look for post-graduation employment, and that deep-seated stigma surrounding mental illness in China has kept students from receiving timely intervention. China Economic Weekly January 26, 2016
AIIB Debut After more than two years of preparation, the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) launched in Beijing on January 16. The bank’s 57 founding member countries, including India, South Korea, Germany and France, invested a total of US$100 billion in authorized capital, with the aim of boosting infrastructure construction and Asia’s economic integration. According to Asian Development Bank estimates, developing infrastructure construction projects in Asian countries will require US$8 trillion in investment funds between 2010 and 2020, which averages out to about US$730 billion a year. However, the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank and other financial institutions have an annual Asia investment volume of only US$10-20 billion. AIIB’s first batch of loans, which will be in a similar range at US$10-15 billion annually for the first several years, will be issued in late 2016. China will not apply for financial support from the bank during this initial stage. To prevent malfeasance, the bank will have an ethics committee to supervise operations and keep a watchful eye out for official misconduct. Oriental Outlook January 21, 2016
Bottled Concerns China’s bottled water industry has been booming since 2010, amid frequent reports of worsening water pollution and tap water safety scandals. According to the NGO China Water Risk, bottled water consumption in China rose to 39.5 million tons in 2013, more than 14 times the 2.8 million tons purchased in 1997. China is now the world’s top bottled water consumer, accounting for 15 percent of the global market. As a result, environmental pressure has been on the rise in Changbai Mountain in China’s northeast as well on the Tibetan Plateau, two of the country’s main producers of bottled water. The industry has caused the acceleration of groundwater recession and affected local glaciers. What’s more, the National Bureau of Statistics reported in 2012 that of the top 10 water-producing provinces, six were already facing water shortages. NEWSCHINA I April 2016
Illustration by Wu Shangwen
“China now possesses the world’s largest high-speed rail network. The Chinese have done something that Japan, France, Germany and the US have not. China achieved more in 10-plus years than developed countries did in half a century… What’s wrong with calling this a miracle?”
Wang Yongping, former spokesman for China’s Ministry of Railways, speaking highly of the country’s achievements in transportation. “I have helped millions of people, 90 percent of whom are not grateful. They think it is what I should be doing.” Chinese philanthropist Chen Guangbiao revealing that he will propose legislation that “protects good people”to the Jiangsu Provincial People’s Congress in his capacity as a delegate.
“As long as we continue to view medical care as a product, doctors as business people and hospitals as malls, we will not stop this chaos in the medical sector.” Li Ling, director of Peking University’s China Center for Health Development Studies, saying health care problems like overpriced medications and “scalpers” who illegally sell appointment times can be attributed to healthcare’s position in the market economy, where it doesn’t belong.
“Look, your father did not become an official for nothing!” Lan Jun, former Party secretary of Songyuan, Jilin Province,
writing in a letter of remorse what he allegedly once said to his son after taking a bribe.
“In many cases, the direction of reform is determined by the whims of policymakers or the urgency of a situation, making Chinese reforms zigzag left and right and leaving much up to chance.” Wang Yong, a professor at China University of Political Science and Law, appealing for a more sincere reform process.
NEWSCHINA I April 2016
“Compared to national annual housing sales of up to 1.3 billion square meters, an unsold inventory of nearly 700 million square meters is not that big. The problem is that most of these unsold properties are very difficult to sell. In other words, the only way to get rid of them is to blast them away.” Chinese real estate mogul Ren Zhiqiang predicting that the government will prioritize reducing unsold inventory over curbing housing prices.
“Many parents still regard their child’s marriage as a means to optimize capital; they believe that it will safeguard them in their old age.” Journalist Hu Han explaining why many Chinese parents pressure their single children to marry.
“The stark difference between urban overcrowding and the complete standstill that happens during [Chinese New Year] highlights the crux of the problem. Only when we implement macroscopic policies that effectively break down the concentration of resources within China’s cities can there be any hope of gradually resolving this conflict.” Fan Zijun, a writer for Southern Metropolis Daily, analyzing the reason behind why big cities become ghost towns during Chinese New Year, when migrant workers return home for the holidays.
“Preaching or force-feeding a message won’t help promote it. In order to prevent these problems, the government’s monopoly on propaganda needs to be broken up.” Wang Xiao, a columnist for financial magazine Caixin, commenting on CCTV’s Chinese New Year Gala this year, which viewers believed was too“red.”
Korea in Crisis
North Korea announced on February 7 that it had successfully lomatic challenge to China. launched what it claimed was an orbital observation satellite Seoul is already in talks with Washington about deploying using a carrier rocket which, observers believe, could be adapted US Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD), an adinto a nuclear-capable ballistic vanced anti-missile system, in missile. South Korea, viewed by China The launch took place just as a potential threat to national one month after the North security. China’s foreign ministest-fired what it called an Htry accused the US of “targetbomb, leading to further wideing” China rather than North spread condemnation from the Korea, citing the system’s longinternational community. range detection capabilities. “The North has greatly China, meanwhile, has atchallenged the peace of Northtempted to refute claims that east Asia and the world, and Beijing is not taking sufficient its power will collapse if it responsibility for the actions of continues to develop nuclear its neighbor, with Ministry of weapons,” warned South KoForeign Affairs spokeswoman rean President Park Geun-hye. Hua Chunying stating that Following Park’s statement, the China has “always opposed South suspended its operations nuclear proliferation and has at the Kaesong Industrial Zone, made obvious, constructive which was jointly developed efforts to help make the KoTop: Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi with US Secretary of State John with North Korea – an unprec- Kerry at a joint press conference in Washington, DC, February 23, 2016 rean Peninsula free of nuclear Bottom left and right: North Korean footage of the controversial rocket edented move by Seoul. weapons.” launch The US echoed the accusa“However,” she continued, tions of its ally, and Congress “the Six-party Talks require approved a bill on February efforts from all parties. Those 14 to impose sanctions on who doubt China’s efforts individuals and organizations should ask themselves how maintaining relationships with North Korea in the areas of much they have done on this issue.” arms, ammunition and luxury goods, while also vowing to According to Wang Yi, China maintains three “basic princiclamp down on those abetting Pyongyang in Internet-related ples” on the issue of nuclear weapons on the Korean Peninsula. criminal activity and human rights violations. The first holds that both the North and South should not make, Even China, the North’s biggest backer, appeared to take a equip, develop or introduce nuclear arms. The second pledges harder line on Pyongyang. In an interview with Reuters on Feb- to avoid violence or all-out war. The third is a pledge that China ruary 12, Wang Yi, China’s minister of foreign affairs, claimed will “effectively protect its national interests and security.” that China supports the UN’s sanction plan to “let the North China has consistently opposed any unilateral sanctions pay the necessary price” for what it has done. Such a rare expres- against North Korea without UN approval, with officials decrysion of annoyance was viewed by foreign analysts as a signal that ing any attempt by other countries to “advance their own interChina may change its policy toward the North. ests” under the pretext of disarming Pyongyang. Chinese observers seem to be in agreement that North KoHowever, with the launch of more satellites already imrea’s ongoing nuclear tests have negatively impacted Sino-South minent, analysts predict that tensions on the peninsula will Korean relations, which had previously warmed due to frequent continue to mount, further undermining China’s relations meetings between President Park and President Xi Jinping. In with neighboring countries. Wang Yi paid a visit to the US remarks on Phoenix TV, Zhang Baohui, an Asia-Pacific affairs from February 23 to 25, and the North Korean nuclear issue, expert from Hong Kong’s Lingnan University, said that the which his ministry continues to insist can only be resolved by a North’s nuclear testing will push the South to strengthen its resumption of the Six-party Talks already dormant for almost a military alliance with the US and Japan, signifying a major dip- decade, was believed to have been the main topic of discussion.
NEWSCHINA I April 2016
Apple Pay Launches in China
Agricultural Reform Plan Unveiled
Apple’s mobile payment system, Apple Pay, officially launched in the Chinese mainland on February 18, making it the first foreign competitor in a mobile sector currently dominated by Alipay and WeChat Wallet. Unlike Alipay, owned by online retail giant Alibaba, and Tencent’s WeChat Wallet, which both allow customers to make payments by scanning QR codes, Apple Pay uses NFC (near field communication) technology, which does not allow retailers to collect customers’ private financial information, an innovation which Apple argues allows for safer transactions. Altogether, 19 Chinese banks, including the four leading State-owned banks, have announced support for Apple Pay. Many popular supermarkets, restaurants and ecommerce platforms also quickly enabled the new system. Media reports said that over 30 million bank cards were bound to Apple Pay on the first day of its debut in China. Yet analysts remained conservative about Apple’s ability to gain dominance in the Chinese mobile payment market, citing the paucity of NFC support in both the retail sector and the telecommunications manufacturing industry, as well as the ubiquity of Alipay and WeChat Wallet. Economy
Four Oil Wells Shuttered The Sinopec Shengli Oilfield Company, China’s third most productive with accumulative proved reserves of 5.4 billion tons, announced it would close four of its oil wells as of February 17. According to a statement from Shengli, the closures, the company’s first since the oil fields were discovered in 1961, were the result of the global crash in the crude oil price. Executives to close their four least productive wells, which accounted for only 0.23 percent of total output. Falling oil prices caused Shengli to run its first-ever deficit in 2015, with the company losing more than 9.2 billion yuan (US$1.5bn). Given current oil prices, the closure of the four fields is expected to save the enterprise 130 million yuan (US$20.6m) in costs. A report by Deloitte predicted no rally of oil prices in the foreseeable future, and that possibly one-third of oil fields worldwide will soon be on the verge of bankruptcy.
CAS Publicizes GW Plan The Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) recently publicized a plan to detect gravitational waves (GW), nicknamed “Taiji,” a Chinese philosophical term signifying the “origin of things.” The plan was made public five days after the US’s Laser Interferometer GravitationalWave Observatory (LIGO) announced their detection of GW, a spatial and temporal fluctuation that was one entity cited by Albert Einstein as proof that the universe was formed by the explosion of a singularity, commonly termed the Big Bang Theory. Unlike LIGO, which focuses on ground-level research, CAS’s “Taiji” plan, first initiated in 2008, aims to launch an orbital satellite programmed to detect low- to medium-frequency GW using laser-jamming technology. Last July, Guangzhou’s Sun Yat-sen University also launched a similar GW detection plan named “Tianqin.” The project team publicized its schedule on February 21, claiming that they will launch the satellites within 15-20 years. NEWSCHINA I April 2016
The Chinese government issued its “No 1 Document,” the government’s first work plan of the year, on January 27, highlighting “supply-side agricultural reform.” 2016 marked the 13th year that the government listed its “three agricultural issues” (agriculture, rural areas and farmers) as a top policy priority. As part of so-called “structural reform on the supply side,” first proposed at a government economic conference held last November, officials aim to narrow the gap between overcapacity in grain production, specifically corn, and a shortage of homegrown, high-quality agricultural products. On the premise of guaranteeing domestic supply of wheat and rice, the document proposes to cut corn production in areas unsuited to its cultivation, and encourages the growth of more hardy staples, such as potatoes. Efficiency in pastoral farming, particularly increasing the scale of pastures, was also cited as a priority. The document also called for a reduction of “imbalanced development” in different rural areas by further exploring agricultural specialization and promoting the integration and cooperation between primary, secondary and tertiary industry sectors to help farmers better share the profits made in China’s expanding food sector.
Photos by Xinhua and CFP
Displeasing State broadcaster CCTV’s 2016 Chinese New Year Gala, aired on February 7, evoked waves of criticism from its audience for what many saw as its excessively “preachy” attempts to promote what the government’s propaganda organs term “core socialist values.” Many netizens decried the traditionally lighthearted show’s “political elements,” claiming it felt as if they were watching a four-hour special from Xinwen Lianbo – CCTV’s nightly 7 PM news broadcast used to announce government policies. State media outlets, such as People’s Daily and Xinhua News Agency, however, made no mention of the angry public reaction to the gala, instead disabling comment threads on related microblog entries and praising the show’s content in commentaries and news editorials. Moves to whitewash the issue further outraged netizens, with many accusing the government of “backsliding” by failing to allow public commentary on an official media production.
Poll the People On February 11, the US’s Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) claimed that they had detected gravitational waves, a spatial and temporal fluctuation first proposed as measurable evidence that the universe was formed by a singularity explosion, also called the Big Bang Theory. The discovery, predicted by Albert Einstein, captured imaginations around the world, and led many in China to question why so many scientific breakthroughs continue to be made in the West. Arguments raged over whether the government should invest more in fundamental research for the benefit of humanity, sentiments far from fresh in China, with opponents arguing that a market-focused approach to science and technology remains China’s strongest area of expertise. Do you think that China should increase funding for fundamental scientific research?
Yes 31,915 77% No 9,405 23%
Controversial A girl from Shanghai posted a picture of a Chinese New Year’s Eve dinner served to her by her boyfriend’s rural family, saying that she was too shocked by the poor living conditions in her boyfriend’s hometown in Jiangxi Province to maintain their relationship. The post triggered fierce argument online, with some slamming the woman for “despising the poor,” while others argued that everyone has the right to choose his or her partner and that it is preferable to seek someone from a similar social background. Although the post was later proved to be fake, many believed that it highlighted genuine prejudices, arguing that even moving to a big city after graduation does not necessarily mean rural residents can make a lasting improvement in their family’s living conditions.
Most Circulated Post Retweeted 215,773 times by February 16
Chinese author Zhao Yu has sparked controversy with an expose claiming that Ma Junren, a former coach of the women’s marathon team of Liaoning Province, has allegedly forced his athletes to take amphetamines for years. Given the team’s remarkable successes in domestic and international competitions in the 1990s, the revelations have led to a crisis in confidence in the celebrated coach formerly lauded for his “unique” training style and “nourishment” of talent. Zhao disclosed that he actually knew about Ma’s secret methods as early as 1995, but had his work censored by his publisher due to the success of Ma’s team being viewed as a point of national pride.
At a typical Chinese family gathering, a young person is often bothered by probing questions from relatives. “Do you have a boy/girlfriend?” “Why not get married? I have someone for you to meet.” “When are you going to have a baby? Do you want to be lonely all your life?” One popular blogger made a video before the Chinese New Year holidays, during which time migrant people return home for their annual family reunion, offering suggestions for “counterattacks,” but arguing that most Chinese youth would never dare to stand up to invasive questions from relatives. The clip struck a chord among young people and soon went viral. “Chinese New Year is approaching. Are you prepared to respond to your annoying relatives? I really hope that our country will issue a law to shut these relatives out of the New Year holidays!”
NEWSCHINA I April 2016
Top Five Search Queries On
HOT? WHO’S NOT?
by February 18 “Tower” on the Moon? 671,214
Amateur astronomers claim to have spotted a mysterious “tower” on the surface of the moon, which they suspected might be a transmitter built by aliens. Scientists dismissed the “structure” as simply a shadow cast by a nearby crater.
Riot in Hong Kong 309,398
On February 8, street vendors in Mong Kok, an area on Hong Kong’s Kowloon Peninsula, found themselves in a scuffle with food safety officials that soon escalated into a riot in which police clashed with protestors.
Cost of a Wife 297,752
Chinese media recently ranked Chinese cities by the average cost of marriage for a bachelor, factoring in a dowry, wedding party, and housing prices. Shenzhen topped the list with an average cost of US$330,000.
A Chinese cruise ship designed to be a life-size replica of the RMS Titanic was recently unveiled, with its maiden voyage, from Jiangsu Province to Dubai, scheduled for 2018.
Zika Virus 190,921
As of February 24, the Chinese mainland had recorded five cases of Zika virus, a disease spread by Aedes mosquitoes. All of the patients had reportedly recently returned from South America or the South Pacific.
Top Blogger Profile Zhang Jinlai (Liuxiaolingtong) Followers: 4,557,968 by February 20 The iconic face of the legendary Monkey King in the 1986 TV adaptation of classic novel Journey to the West, Zhang Jinlai (known by his stage name Liuxiaolingtong), found himself in the spotlight at the dawn of the Chinese Year of the Monkey. Zhang’s impressive, lifelike performance – learned from his grandfather, father and elder brother, all of whom were traditional opera performers who specialized in the role – remains by far China’s best-known portrayal of the Monkey King. Disappointed that State broadcaster CCTV failed to invite Zhang to perform in its traditional Chinese New Year Gala this year, nostalgic young people who grew up watching Zhang’s TV series turned to their beloved star’s Sina microblog account to reminisce about his performances and their childhoods. Zhang himself expressed delight that so many young people, particularly children, still love his take on the Monkey King, and he willingly obliged his fans with photos and other memorabilia. The 57-year-old Zhang took to the stage as the Monkey King in Liaoning provincialTV’s rival gala, footage of which was soon being shared across the country. Zhang also performed for overseas Chinese at a special show in New York’sTimes Square, moving many Chinese people in attendance to tears. “I don’t want myself to be the last Monkey King. The culture of the Monkey King should be passed on to future generations,” Zhang said in a recent interview with Hong Kong’s Ta Kung Pao. NEWSCHINA I April 2016
Some of the images used in this section are from the internet
Titanic II 202,121
Wang Youqun, a 50-year-old woman in Duyun, Guizhou Province, recently rescued an eight-year-old boy who fell into a local river while roller-skating nearby. After making sure the boy was safe, Wang swam back across the river and disappeared. When media tracked her down, she refused to be interviewed, saying she did not help the boy for recognition or reward.
Hair Plucker A 21-year-old woman in Zhejiang Province, after spending eight years compulsively pulling out her hair, is now almost bald and has to wear a wig. Her psychologist told media that she might have developed the obsessive-compulsive behavior in response to pressure from an overbearing mother.
Eternal Love On Valentine’s Day, an 84-yearold man in Xiaoshan, Zhejiang Province, declared his love for his wife by writing “I Love U” in lights on an exterior wall of a local hotel. Bystanders were moved to tears, with some voicing hopes they would find themselves as happily married in the future.
Grisly Mystery On February 15, rural residents in a village in Shaanxi Province discovered the smoldering body of a man on a local highway. Police claimed the body was that of a middle-aged man injured in a motorcycle accident, whose unharmed uncle had left the scene to get help, only to return and find his nephew had been burned to death. Netizens speculated that the driver of the other vehicle involved in the accident had returned to silence a potential witness. The case is still under investigation.
The Top’s Priorities
In the wake of a high-profile pledge from Xi Jinping in November, details of China’s ambitious military reform program aimed at turning the PLA into a modern army have gradually been unveiled
Photo by Xinhua
By Xi Zhigang
A squad of PLA officers participate in an electromagnetic warfare training exercise, February 3, 2016
n December 31, Chinese President Xi Jinping, in his role as chairman of the China Central
Military Commission (CMC), announced that China would create a Rocket Force and a Strategic Support Force in addition to exist-
ing branches of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA). The PLA Rocket Force (PLARF), which NEWSCHINA I April 2016
will take over the functions of the PLA Second Artillery Force (PLASAF), will take charge of China’s land, sea and air-based nuclear arsenal and its array of intercontinental ballistic missiles. Unlike Russia’s similarly named Strategic Rocket Forces, the PLARF will also have command over China’s conventional missile systems. General Wei Fenghe, former commanderin-chief of the PLASAF, was named the new force’s first commander, indicating that the PLARF will largely inherit the role and structure of the PLASAF, while simultaneously consolidating efforts to boost China’s nuclear deterrent, counter-strike capabilities, and its ability to conduct intermediate- and longrange precision strikes. While the creation of the PLARF has been considered a straightforward re-branding of the PLSAF, analysts have shown considerable interest in the country’s new Strategic Support Force (SSF). In his introduction to this new branch of China’s military, Xi offered no specifics beyond describing it as a “new-type combat force.” Yang Yujun, spokesperson for the Ministry of National Defense (MND), was equally vague on the actual role of the SSF, simply stating that it will play a “strategic, fundamental and supportive” role in China’s military. According to several Chinese military pundits, the SSF will serve to centralize China’s cyber, information and space-based military capabilities. Military theorist Song Zhongping, a former PLASAF officer, suggested that the SSF, as the PLA’s “fifth service,” will comprise units specializing in space, cyber, electronic and psychological warfare, while maintaining that existing missile and satellite defense units will remain under PLA Air Force command. While Song argues that the SSF will serve as an integrated force, Yin Zhuo, another PLA military expert, contended that the SSF will not be a single combat force, but will instead be “included in the operations of the army, navy, air force and rocket force… so as to conduct integrated joint operations.” Although opinions publicly expressed by NEWSCHINA I April 2016
PLA military experts are generally viewed as semi-official, the CMC’s decision to remain tight-lipped on the role of its newest combat force has turned their comments into a major focal point as China’s military reform program is fully unveiled in the coming months.
Besides restructuring China’s combat forces, the CMC also unveiled its blueprint for a new institutional structure for central military organs. A major stated goal of military reform has been to establish a streamlined command structure under the direct control of the CMC. It has long been argued that a major problem with the existing command structure of the PLA is the existence of the so-called “four general departments” answerable to the CMC: the General Staff Department, the General Logistics Department, the General Political Department and the General Armament Department. Enjoying considerable autonomy from the CMC and from one another has allowed each department to accumulate strong political clout within the military and led to inefficiencies, both factors that have turned the four general departments into chief obstacles to reform. According to the CMC announcement on January 11, the four departments and other agencies previously under their control have now been integrated into 15 organizations that report directly to the CMC. Instead of dividing its power between four departments, the CMC now operates directly through the CMC General Office. According to a source close to the CMC, based on the military rank of their leaders, the remaining 14 organizations will each be placed into one of three categories corresponding to their relative importance within China’s military infrastructure. The first tier in the new command structure includes the Joint Staff Department, the Political Work Department, the Logistic Support Department and the Equipment Development Department. Dubbed “the new four departments,” these bodies will take
over the technical responsibilities of the old “four departments” but be permitted far less autonomy and power within the PLA command structure than was enjoyed by their predecessors. In addition to the new four departments, these first-tier bodies also include the newly established Training and Administration and National Defense Mobilization departments, developments which analysts believe demonstrate an increased focus on training and defensive mobilization capabilities. It is notable that the new CMC National Defense Mobilization Department is a regrouping of the National Mobilization Committee, which was previously subordinate to the State Council, China’s cabinet. Second-tier organs within the CMC are the Discipline Inspection Commission, the Politics and Law Commission, and the Science and Technology Commission. As the military’s version of its civilian namesake, the PLA Discipline Inspection Commission (DIC), charged with rooting out corruption in the military, was previously subordinate to the General Political Department. Under the new institutional arrangement, the DIC appears to have gained more independence and authority within the CMC command structure. In the run-up to the launch of the new military reform program, dozens of generals and senior officers were disciplined or relieved of command as part of Xi’s ongoing high-profile anti-graft drive. According to a defense ministry spokesman, the Discipline Inspection Commission, along with the Politics and Law Commission, would be subject to “dual leadership” from both the CMC and the central government. The third-tier organs are five operational offices in charge of administration, auditing, international military cooperation, strategic planning, and reform and organizational restructuring. The role of the defense ministry has, meanwhile, become even more awkward. Long considered a “virtual” ministry, with no power over actual decision making, China’s
Photo by Xinhua
President Xi Jinping presents the commander of one of China’s new military zones with his colors, February 1, 2016
Ministry of National Defense, nominally responsible for military diplomacy, drafting and defense education, has in practice had its functions appropriated by various agencies under the CMC. Even defense ministry spokespersons reported directly to the CMC’s former General Staff Department. Under the new institutional structure, even offices nominally subordinate to the defense ministry have been officially absorbed into the CMC. For example, the ministry’s Office of Foreign Affairs will be incorporated into
the third-tier CMC International Military Cooperation Office. Under the new system, China’s defense ministry will literally become an almost virtual entity through which the CMC communicates with both the civilian governments and the armed forces of other countries.
More recently, on February 1, Xi announced the establishment of five new “strategic zones” – the North, South, East, West
and Central Battle Zone Commands – set to replace China’s original seven “military regions.” This highly anticipated move, which defense ministry spokesperson Yang Yujun described as “a historic moment,” is believed to have gone far beyond a simple renaming and reshuffling of geographical realignment. According to a vision Xi outlined when he first announced the CMC’s military reform plan in November, the regrouping of China’s regional commands is aimed at strengthening the ability of the PLA’s various branches to conduct joint operations. While the previous seven regional commands were established with a definite priority given to the PLA Army ground force, the new five battle zones will act as a regional platform for joint operations between all PLA branches. According to a report in the Party’s flagship newspaper People’s Daily, each battle zone command will “be responsible for certain strategic directions and priorities” and each “is designed to streamline joint operations with land, naval, air and rocket forces.” According to a report in the State-owned Global Times, China’s three major fleets, the North, East and South Sea fleets, will be made subordinate to the commanders of the North, East and South Battle Zones. While more details will continue to emerge, the effort to fashion China’s military into a modern force has gained momentum. The rearrangement of the PLA’s new command structure, streamlining of its decisionmaking organizations, regrouping of regional commands and reconfiguration of personnel have revealed the overall framework of China’s ambitious military reform program, as well as the vision driving it. NEWSCHINA I April 2016
Points Of No Return
The Beijing municipal government has issued a draft regulation offering the chance to obtain permanent residence, or hukou, to the city’s vast number of migrants. Few, however, are likely to make the grade By Wang Shan
iu Ye’s daughter is six months away from graduation from her Beijing junior high school, but Liu is already anxious about her daughter’s secondary education. Although Liu has been living in Beijing for nearly 20 years, neither she nor her husband have a Beijing hukou, or permanent residence permit, so they have limited access to welfare and other benefits.
NEWSCHINA I April 2016
Without a hukou, Liu’s daughter cannot attend a senior high school in Beijing, and will thus face disproportionately fierce competition in the gaokao, China’s national college entrance examination, a grueling test she will have to take back in her hometown (gaokao standards are lower for Beijing students). In today’s China, access to education, healthcare, the right to home ownership and even driver’s licenses are
restricted according to hukou status, particu(US$15,200) annually in income taxes for larly in big cities like Beijing and Shanghai. three consecutive years can obtain additional ‘It is an obvious punitive On December 10, a draft regulation re- measure, unfavorable to lower- points. This would translate into over 8,333 leased by the Legal Affairs Office of the Bei- end manual laborers.’ yuan (US$1,270) in individual income tax jing municipal government was opened to paid per month, and thus only applies to public feedback. If passed, this regulation those earning a monthly salary in excess of would allow non-residents to claim a hukou 40,000 yuan (US$6,080), a threshold few through a points system. But one look at the in China, including Liu, could ever hope to proposed system’s scoring system soon dampened Liu’s hopes of per- cross. manent residency in China’s capital. Wang Taiyuan, a professor at the People’s Public Security Univer“It is impossible for me to get enough points [according to] the new sity of China, argues that it is necessary to raise the thresholds of the hukou policy, and there are too many people who are much more points-based hukou system to prevent a population explosion in Beicompetitive than me,” Liu told NewsChina. jing. Wang has been studying China’s household registration system for more than 20 years and has frequently participated in the drafting Reform of related social policies in the capital. He is also a member of the Liu has lived in Beijing since she graduated from college in 1998. panel responsible for the latest draft regulation. At that time, Beijing had an official population of 12 million, but 17 “The criteria for gaining a Beijing hukou by obtaining enough years later, the population has nearly doubled. points is unfortunately high for many people, but this is a necessary There are currently a few avenues to obtaining a Beijing hukou, evil and we have no other options,” Wang told NewsChina. including graduating from a local university (provided one obtains On December 10, during a lecture, Wang received a call informing a local job almost immediately), identification as a “high-caliber tal- him that the latest draft regulation would have to be revised. He told ent,” passing the civil service examination (on the condition one does NewsChina that a number of experts read the regulation again, word this in the capital), and returning from studying abroad. According by word, and changed it in several places. The final document was to the latest draft regulation, applicants for a Beijing hukou should released at 5 PM that day. have a temporary residence permit, be aged under 45, have made “For the government, a promise, when made public, is a promise, social security contributions in Beijing for at least seven consecutive and cannot be withdrawn,” he said. “Beijing is under the same popuyears and have no criminal convictions or recorded violations of fam- lation pressure felt all over the country, and the draft regulation has to ily planning policies. be made to sustain the capital’s healthy development.” At least 15 big cities in China have introduced a points-based hukou policy incorporating requirements such as age, academic back- Population ground, skillset, social insurance, length and status of residence, work The draft regulation on hukou reform is actually a continuation history and personal credit score. In Guangzhou, over 6,000 people of incremental policy adjustments regarding Beijing’s estimated obtained a hukou through the points system from 2013 to 2014, and eight-million-strong migrant population. A regulation applicable to in Tianjin’s Binhai New Area, more than 1,000 people have acquired non-residents in Beijing issued in 1995 stated that the purpose of a hukou in the same way since 2014. However, with migrant popu- the municipal household registration policy is to “control population lations in both cities numbering in the millions, such numbers are growth.” cold comfort to most of those seeking to settle permanently in one of Three days prior to the release of the latest draft regulation, the China’s major metropolises. Communist Party of China (CPC) Beijing Municipal Committee The total points required for eligibility for a hukou in Shanghai, unveiled its 13th Five-year Plan (2016-2020), which pledged to cut Qingdao and Guangzhou are 120, 100 and 60, respectively, reflect- the population in the capital’s six downtown districts by 15 percent, ing each city’s relative desirability and economic status. Quotas shift and cap total population at 23 million. From 2000 to 2014, 7.88 mildepending on fluctuations in urban populations. So far, the new draft lion people were added to Beijing’s total population, including 5.63 regulation has not specified how many points will be needed to ob- million migrants – or 70 percent of the total increase. tain a hukou in Beijing. In July 2014, the State Council, China’s cabinet, issued a directive After reading each requirement carefully, Liu was disappointed to to further reform China’s household registration system in order to find that the likelihood that she will accrue enough points is very strictly control what experts frequently term a “population explosion” slim. Although Liu fulfills the basic requirements to apply for a in the country’s major urban centers, and establish a points-based hukou, she is ineligible for “bonus points.” According to the new household registration system in all cities with a population above draft regulation, applicants who have paid more than 100,000 yuan five million. According to official statistics, China is home to 22 such
NEWSCHINA I April 2016
cities and, for many of them, overcrowding is exerting downward pressure on sustainable development. During a Politburo meeting on June 30, 2014, Chinese President Xi Jinping announced that the goal of hukou reform is to “adjust measures to local conditions.” In other words, obtaining a hukou by accruing points looks set to become the country’s principal method for controlling urban population growth. Zhang Yi, deputy director of the Institute of Sociology, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS), is pessimistic about the net impact of Beijing’s points-based hukou system. He told our reporter that considering Beijing’s large migrant population, the draft regulation will influence only a small number of people and “it is unlikely to achieve an obvious effect in controlling population growth.” Zhang added that as Beijing has unveiled multiple measures to curb population growth in recent years, it has also witnessed its fastest-ever period of population growth. From 1994 to 2005, Beijing introduced a total of 15 regulations in areas including employment, residence and family planning to rein in the influx of migrants, yet the city’s migrant population expanded from 1.8 million to 3.6 million over the same period. Before that, population growth was concentrated in the local, registered population. In recent years, Beijing introduced further restrictions on non-local home buyers and added a license plate lottery for private vehicles, yet neither measure appeared to do anything to depress population growth. In the latest draft regulation of the municipal points system, applicants who have been working and living in any of Beijing’s six downtown districts will have points deducted, while those who relocate to the suburbs can accumulate up to 12 bonus points. Wang said that the space within the city’s Fifth Ring Road, generally viewed as downtown Beijing, is 670 square kilometers, a mere 4 percent of the municipality’s total land area, but home to almost half of Beijing’s total population. “Outstanding applicants who have made great contributions to Beijing will have ample opportunity to obtain a hukou,” Wang said. “The quota is likely to be 3,000 in the first year of enforcement, and in 10 or 30 years’ time, the number is likely to rise to 30,000.”
Of the other measures adopted by the Beijing government to curb urban population growth, relocating lower-end manufacturing and industrial enterprises, dependent on the cheap labor of migrant workers, has proven the most effective. In 2014, Beijing mayor Wang Anshun announced in a speech that Beijing will strive to be a center of high-end technology, upgrade its industry and “handle what to give up and what to pursue properly.” In the Blue Book of Urban Competitiveness released by CASS in March 2015, Beijing failed to make the top five list in overall competitiveness nationally, and was poorly ranked in terms of the quality of its labor force and its industrial advantages.
NEWSCHINA I April 2016
Seemingly in response to this, the latest draft regulation stipulates that hukou applicants working in the manufacturing industry, “specialized regional markets” and polluting industries will face a deduction of six points for each full year of service. Applicants who have pursued higher education and have high incomes and desirable skillsets, however, can earn additional credit. “It is an obvious punitive measure, unfavorable to lower-end manual laborers,” said Kang Lan, an assistant researcher with the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences. She said that even if lower-end workers do not meet the high standards set by the government, they have been contributing to the city and also deserve citizenship status. What worries Kang most is that the new draft regulation may, in her view, bring about serious social problems. She told our reporter that Shanghai used its education system to enforce strict population controls in 2014, forcing 50,000 migrant children to give up their schooling. The policy, she argued, did nothing to prevent migrant workers from coming to the city, but merely meant that their children were sent back to their hometowns, many of them becoming “leftbehind children” with minimal adult supervision. Hou Huili, an associate researcher with CASS’s Institute of Population and Labor Economics, is also worried that, against the backdrop of China’s rapid urbanization, tying hukou to a points-based system in Beijing will cause social fragmentation. “Obtaining a hukou through accruing points is nothing but a nationwide recruitment drive that will further widen the talent gap between developed and underdeveloped regions,” she said. Hou added that in Shenzhen in 2013 alone, of those who obtained a hukou through the points system, nearly 125,000, 80 percent of the total, held bachelor degrees. This, she told our reporter, meant “a serious brain drain” from the areas these applicants were leaving. In Beijing’s case, the new policies will primarily benefit high earners and freeze out migrant laborers, according to Yang Juhua, a professor of population studies at Renmin University of China. “The requirement for a migrant worker to pay social insurance for at least seven years is a very high threshold,” she told China Daily. In a recent survey conducted by China Youth Daily of over 3,000 non-locals living and working in Beijing, 81.6 percent thought that the standards of the points-based hukou system are “too high,” and 59.1 percent of them felt that it was “unlikely” that they would obtain a hukou under the new policy. Wang Taiyuan, meanwhile, argues that the draft regulation was not unveiled to “address the issue of social justice.” He told NewsChina that educational background is a decisive factor in obtaining a hukou, with the current system awarding 15 points to those with bachelor degrees and 39 points to those with doctorates. “Experts involved in the drafting of the points system have racked their brains to take into account demands from all sides,” he said. “It is impossible to solve at a stroke all the problems in China’s decadesold household registration system.”
graves of glory Possibly Chinaâ€™s most important archeological find in decades, the necropolis of the man believed to be one-time Emperor the Marquis of Haihun is now being excavated in Jiangxi Province. An unprecedented array of grave goods, personal effects and precious metals unearthed at the site now looks set to revolutionize perceptions of one of the most venerable and ancient dynasties in Chinese history.
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NEWSCHINA I April 2016
3 4 1. Portrait of Liu He, Marquis of Haihun 2. Ancient timber in the tomb’s main chamber 3. A chariot burial, complete with sacrificed horses – the only find of its kind to be discovered south of the Yangtze River
4. Excavation of the main burial chamber begins 5. A total of 25 solid gold hoof-shaped ingots were discovered at the site
Photo by CNS
NEWSCHINA I April 2016
Tomb of a Lost Emperor? A four-year archeological dig in southern China has unearthed what is believed to be the 2,100-year-old burial site of one-time emperor, the first Marquis of Haihun
Bronze chimes discovered inside the tomb
NEWSCHINA I April 2016
Photo by CNS
By Wang Yan, Chen Wei and Long Longfei
Photo by CNS
It was in March 2011 when local farmers in Guanxi village alerted the authorities to the sudden appearance of an odd protuberance on top of what is known locally as “Guoguo,” or Guodun Hill. The small hill, overlooking the paddy fields around Boyang Lake, has long been regarded as having auspicious feng shui, and has served as Guanxi village’s main cemetery for generations. Local villager Qiu Yilong, 41, told NewsChina that he had heard from some village elders that a former royal was buried beneath the hill, yet nobody knew where the entrance to the tomb might be. When an odd bump appeared atop the hill, Qiu and a few other villagers decided to investigate. They discovered a pit, surrounded by scattered water bottles, some food and tools like hammers, crowbars and gloves. Qiu climbed down into the pit, using the footholds already chiseled into its walls, before stepping onto a wooden platform at the bottom. Qiu immediately realized that looters were responsible for the haphazard excavation. Qiu This votive lantern in the and his companions recalled that a shape of a goose, one of two discovered in the tomb, is few years earlier, a neighboring burial formed so the neck catches smoke and vapor NEWSCHINA I April 2016
mound, later identified as belonging to the wife of the Marquis of Haihun, had been robbed after villagers failed to notify the police about the obvious signs of digging around the site, including an imAn archeologist cleans Wuzhu coins, a currency in wide promptu shelter. circulation during the Western When Yang Jun, an Han Dynasty archeologist with the Jiangxi Provincial Institute of Cultural Relics and Archaeology, heard about the discovery of the tomb in Guanxi village, the site’s location piqued his interest. The so-called Iron River region where the tomb is situated was listed as a provincial-level protected historic zone as early as 1987, when archeologists estimated that around 100 ancient tombs dating from the Han Dynasty were likely located in the area. A cursory survey of the Guanxi site confirmed Yang’s suspicion that something special lay beneath the mound. In April 2011, local archeologists began a low-key, systematic survey of the entire site. The necropolis, surrounded by 900-meter-long walls, covered a total area of some 40,000 square meters, equivalent to more than four football fields, and was the site of eight tombs and a chariot burial site. Before the team even began to dig, they knew they were dealing with a site of extraordinary historical importance.
From 2012 to 2013, preliminary excavations began in peripheral areas of the site, including the chariot burial site, three affiliated tombs, two monumental gateways and the necropolis’ internal drainage and road system. Other than a jade sword, fragmentary lacquerware and some broken earthenware, the three tombs were found to have been emptied by looters. Nevertheless, on November 4, 2015, the Jiangxi provincial government announced the discovery of one of China’s most complete royal necropolises. Viewed from above, the main mausoleum consists of a rectangular inner chamber surrounded by separate structures – described as “treasure houses” – along its four sides. Gold and jade items were even crammed into the space between the outer and inner sarcophagi, where archeologists also discovered a piece of lacquerware decorated with gold leaf. Altogether, a total of over 10,000 objects were unearthed, including 10 tons of copper coins, ceremonial chimes, bamboo strips covered in writing, tomb figurines and other rare objects. Royal burial customs of the Han Dynasty were extravagant, making suspected Han tombs a magnet for grave robbers, but, if found intact, an archeologist’s dream. The fact that looters had managed to miss the main chamber
Photo by CNS
ian Zhuang was dumbfounded. Digging underneath a burial mound near the city of Nanchang, Jiangxi Province, he had uncovered the lid of an immense sarcophagus. Upon lifting the lid, rather than coming face-to-face with an ancient cadaver, he discovered that the two-meter-deep chest was filled with copper coins. “I’d seen bronze coins excavated from other archaeological sites,” he recalled to NewsChina. “But, this time, there were mountains of coins! I’ve never seen so much money in my life!” Further digging in the tomb in late December 2015 uncovered 75 gold coins and hoof-shaped ingots in the tomb. The gold objects – comprising 25 gold hoofs and 50 gold plates – constituted the largest Western Han Dynasty (206 BC-9 AD) hoard ever discovered. A young, ambitious archeologist in his early 30s, Tian had spent more than four years with his colleagues on the Tomb of the Marquis of Haihun dig site. Tian’s diligence paid off when he became one of the first people in 2,000 years to look into this royal burial chamber, one of the best-preserved examples ever found.
Archeologists at the site have surmised that the tomb belongs to Liu He, grandson of the Wu Emperor of the Western Han Dynasty. The extravagance of the tomb, they believe, is in accordance with Liu He’s special status at the imperial court – he received the title Marquis of Haihun after his extremely brief, 27-day reign as emperor was nullified, placing him in a unique sociopolitical position that might explain his lavish funerary accommodations.
Historical texts agree that the Marquis of Haihun died in Changyi, some 30 kilometers northwest of Jianchang and close to where the newly excavated tomb is situated. Some accounts suggest the existence of one big tomb and 200 minor satellite tombs surrounding it. Historical texts, which tended to view short-lived emperors with disdain, describe Liu as tall but “ugly and unhealthy-looking” with “a dark complexion, small eyes and no facial hair.” Liu reportedly suffered from rheumatism and “struggled when moving around.” These two factors might explain why two couches were unearthed in two separate parts of the tomb, according to Xin Lixiang, head of the excavation team. While the identity of the man buried in the main chamber remains unconfirmed, careful analysis of the artifacts discovered indicated that a royal personage is indeed interred at Guanxi. In the northeastern corner of the tomb, 10 ancient bronze cauldrons were found, perturbing Chinese archeologists accustomed to finding a maximum of nine such artifacts in the tombs of emperors, with smaller numbers for those lower down on the pecking order. Finding 10 at Guanxi, some have concluded, indicates the burial of a person of considerable rank. Xin Lixiang, who is also a specialist on the Qin and Han dynasties with the National Museum of China, posited that the 10 cauldrons might be two sets of “seven and three” or “five and five.” More surprises were to come. On November 14, archeologists working at the site unearthed and restored a bronze engraving of Confucius on a broken lacquer screen found in the western part of the tomb’s A conservationist cleans main chamber. Xin Lixiang exa gold ingot marked plained that this portrait is the earwith the character for ‘above’ liest surviving portrait of the Great Sage. “This shows the contemporary cultural environment of the nobility,” Zhang Zhongli told our reporter. “The lacquer screen Confucius portrait Photo by CFP
of the Marquis of Haihun was pure luck – the shaft discovered by local villagers passed within inches of the outer edge of the Marquis’ sarcophagus. As the main chamber was submerged beneath the water table, it was protected from oxidization, an inundation that possibly occurred during an earthquake recorded in 318 AD that flooded areas around Boyang Lake. Zhang Zhongli, a senior archeologist from the Shaanxi Archeology Research Institute, described finding surviving wooden structures – believed to be monumental gateways – in the 2,000-year-old tomb as a particular thrill. Despite the waterlogged, acidic soil and humid climate around Nanchang, organic material, including five wooden chariots still flecked with colored paintwork accompanied by the remains of 20 horses, were discovered – the first such find in a southern Chinese tomb of such an early date. However, the water that had preserved some artifacts had devastated others, washing ink off handwritten bamboo slips and causing waterlogged lacquerware items to disintegrate upon contact with the air. Archeologist Guan Li described tagging the interiors of once-splendid lacquerware chests and bamboo baskets to mark where long-rotted silk garments were once folded and stored. “The tomb’s occupant was probably someone very careful about his dress and appearance,” Guan told NewsChina. As work progressed, quadrant by quadrant, a complete picture of the layout of the tomb emerged. Along with the hoard of bronze coins, a large number of gold plates, elegant jade articles and more than 3,000 accessories embellished in gold and silver were excavated. According to bronze conservation expert Yang Xiaolin of the National Museum of China, the gold excavated at the Guanxi tomb was of considerable purity, with most individual pieces weighing around 250 grams. “People were joking that we’d dug up a bank,” Yang Jun told our reporter.
NEWSCHINA I April 2016
is likely a piece of furniture used by the Marquis of Haihun in his lifetime, since lacquer screens were not usually used as grave goods.” A bronze still unearthed at the site has also proven that the Chinese were distilling liquor at least a thousand years earlier than previously believed – the secondoldest surviving still in China dates from the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368), as do the earliest written descriptions of Chinese distilled spirits. “This discovery has altered our understanding of distillation in China,” Zhang told China Daily, adding that distilled liquor was likely a luxury enjoyed only by aristocrats during the Western Han Dynasty. A number of intact musical instruments were also discovered, including bronze chimes, a se (a 25-string plucked instrument), pan flutes and sheng (reed pipe wind instruments), as well as terracotta figurines demonstrating how the instruments were played. On January 15, the inner sarcophagus was carefully encased in a wooden crate and transported to a nearby laboratory for further examination. The coffin will be analyzed in a hermetically sealed environment, with researchers searching for specific items such as seals or engraved jade raiments that might help identify its occupant. According to Li Cunxin from the Institute of Archaeology, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, initial scans of the sarcophagus detected gold, jade items and textiles within. Li added that the earliest possible confirmation that the mummy is that of Liu He would not come until March, 2016. The research team’s final report will probably not be published for a decade. According to Yang Jun, “two generations” will be needed to fully realize the importance of the Guanxi tomb. Qiu Yilong, the villager who discovered the tomb, has found new employment as an adviser to the archeological team. Villagers from neighboring areas often come to the site, approaching the police guarding the dig to claim kinship with the Marquis of Haihun and, potentially, a share of the wealth found in the grave of their “ancestor.” “Many people want to find a way to profit [from the site],” Yang Jun told NewsChina. “[This is] either through seeking compensation or purely finding an excuse to get a look inside the tomb.” NEWSCHINA I April 2016
Who Was the Marquis of Haihun? If the Guanxi tomb is indeed that of Liu He, grandson of the Wu Emperor, then it holds a scion of the greatest ruling family of the Han Dynasty and dates from one of the most prosperous and culturally rich periods in Chinese history. Liu He was given the title “Haihun hou” (Marquis of Haihun) after he was dethroned by the royal clan after serving only 27 days as emperor, due, according to contemporary records, to his alleged lack of talent and morals. Haihun is an ancient name for a diminutive contemporary dukedom located in northern Jiangxi. Liu He’s father, Liu Bo, was the fifth son of Liu Che (the Wu Emperor), and inherited the title of Duke of Changyi (modern-day Shandong Province) in 97 BC. Situated thousands of miles away from the imperial capital of Chang’an, the governorship of Changyi was a far from auspicious posting, and the humble contents of Liu Bo’s tomb, which was excavated in the 1970s and remained untouched by looters, suggest a royal down on his luck. In the year 87 BC, the fatally ill Wu Emperor abdicated in favor of his eightyear-old son Liu Fuling, appointing three ministers as co-regents. Within the space of a few years, only one minister, Huo Guang, remained alive. After Liu Fuling died suddenly at the age of 21, Huo Guang appointed Liu He as emperor. According to historian Xin Lixiang, Liu’s youth and his longtime removal from the political hornets’ nest of Chang’an likely made Huo Guang view him as the perfect puppet through which the minister could continue to rule. In 74 BC, Liu He became the ninth emperor of the Western Han Dynasty, only to be dethroned 27 days after his coronation. The ancient Book of Han briefly explains Liu’s dethronement: “Upon arriving in the capital, once enthroned, Liu He began to conduct himself wrongly.” Xin Lixiang is unsatisfied with this simplistic explanation. “The records describe Liu He as a good-for-nothing,” Xin told NewsChina. “Yet he governed as Duke of Changyi for 13 years before becoming emperor. If all the descriptions of him were accurate, he would never have been chosen as emperor.” A more likely explanation, according to some academics, is that Liu He proved not to be the pliant catspaw Huo Guang had hoped. Liu He was accompanied to the capital by his Changyi cabinet ministers, who were generously remunerated from the national treasury. He failed to ingratiate himself with Huo Guang and other prominent ministers, leading Huo Guang to compile a list of 1,127 “ridiculous” misdeeds attributed to Liu He during his four weeks in office. As part of the Chang’an court elite, Huo Guang easily outmaneuvered Liu He, who was dethroned and exiled to Changyi. In 63 BC, Liu He was stripped of his title of Duke of Changyi, and was instead named Marquis of Haihun to Yuzhang (in modern-day Jiangxi Province) by the Xuan Emperor. Liu He died in 59 BC at the age of 33, only four years after his departure from Chang’an. The title Marquis of Haihun endured among his male descendents until the fall of the Eastern Han Dynasty. While an undistinguished emperor, Liu He has the unique distinction of having served as a duke, an emperor and a marquis, in that order. It is hoped that relics unearthed from what is expected to be confirmed as his tomb, particularly bamboo-strip books and epigraphed bronzes, as well as the general layout of his mausoleum, could shed light on the social order of the Western Han Dynasty, and, indeed, on Liu He’s character. This jade seal indicates Photo by Xinhua
Photo by CFP
Excavation work in the main chamber, November 2015
that the tomb’s occupant may have had imperial connections
The Pain of Preservation By Wang Yan
More than 110 relics from the Haihun mausoleum go on public display at the Jiangxi Provincial Museum in Nanchang in late 2015
Photo by Liu Zhankun
The excavation of the ancient tomb of a nobleman believed to be one-time emperor the Marquis of Haihun is providing China with an opportunity to showcase its latest breakthroughs in the field of conservation
NEWSCHINA I April 2016
Photo by CNS
The artifacts removed from the tomb include tapestries, embroidery, metal containers, lacquerware and other objects of cultural and artistic significance. Most pieces are too fragile to be cleaned on-site, and thus the focus of the conservation effort is gradually shifting to the nearby lab A jade disc complex. edged with dragonCovering a total area of some 4,000 phoenix square meters, the Guanxi lab inmotifs cludes five workstations. Particularly impressive is the anoxia workstation, which utilizes aerospace technology to remove oxygen from the atmosphere and suspend vulnerable artifacts in an almostpure bubble of nitrogen with climate control technology allowing humidity to be adjusted to between 20 and 80 percent. Conservationists, armed with oxygen masks, work in a 20-square-meter glass tank pre-fitted with hermetically sealed containers for the most fragile relics, including human remains. At another workstation, broken pieces of lacquerware still bearing black and red markings are soaked in water and kept in individual “crispers” designed to prevent their brittle outer layers from completely disintegrating. But their preservation is not guaranteed. “We are not sure yet if all these fragments can be restored and reassembled according to their original appearances,” conservationist Guan Li told our reporter. Lacquerware is notoriously vulnerable to environmental damage, and the Guanxi pieces spent millennia submerged in an underground midden, which preserved them but could not prevent them from beginning to crumble immediately upon contact with the air. Consequently, sterile deionized water is used to keep each piece of lacquerware soaked, with restoration work focused on reinforcement, careful removal, cleaning and dechromatizing, with conservationists using infrared scanning to reveal otherwise-invisible motifs and patterns. Each piece is then dehydrated and sealed in Plexiglas for long-term preservation. Research work in the Guanxi lab only began in early 2016 and is expected to continue for years to come. Staff members are recording NEWSCHINA I April 2016
vast amounts of information from their study of the relics, including images, text, chemical and biological data, and three-dimensional models. Experts from Beijing’s Palace Museum, an institution housed in the Forbidden City, were invited by the Jiangxi Provincial Cultural Department to participate in conservation work. “There are over 3,000 bronze or iron pieces and thousands of bamboo strips, all of which require timely modern technical protection to ensure their stability for further scientific research and analysis,” said Palace Museum curator Shan Jixiang. According to Shan, the Palace Museum team will commence their work in Guanxi by helping to repair bronze vessels unearthed from the site (See “Grand Ambitions,” NewsChina, April, 2015, Vol. 080). The Palace Museum is internationally renowned for its work restoring ancient bronzeware, paintings, calligraphy and other artifacts. According to Li Cunxin, researcher at the Institute of Archeology, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS), not everything can be restored to its original appearance. During a recent interview with State newspaper People’s Daily, Li referred to the example of a rotten canopy from an excavated horse-drawn carriage. With the assistance of modern technology, he explained, archeologists can extract information and conduct a comprehensive analysis of the materials, structure and technology employed to produce an artifact in order to “make an analog restoration” and complete its “physical rehabilitation.” Archeologist Yang Jun admitted that the indoor conservation process would be “tedious” in terms of the time it would take to properly catalog and protect so many artifacts. Just restoring the lacquerware found in the tomb, he said, will take three to five years, with the final work report likely published no sooner than 2021. “Considering the large number of artifacts from the tomb of the Marquis of Haihun, it might take one decade or two, or even the input of future generations to complete this research,” Yang told NewsChina.
While China is routinely described as a “civilizationstate” with 5,000 years of history, the country’s stringent Cultural Relics Protection Law discourages the active excavation of known important large-scale mausoleums, leaving widespread discussion of what lies within these sites largely speculative, much to the chagrin of historians both in
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ince January 15, the process of opening and preserving the inner sarcophagus of the man believed to be the Marquis of Haihun commenced in a hermetically sealed laboratory one kilometer west of the dig site in Guanxi, Jiangxi Province, where the Han Dynasty tomb was discovered. Off-limits to media and the public, the excavation process involved state-of-the-art preservation technology aimed at protecting and cataloging some 10,000 artifacts in what some are terming a “conservation ER.”
A bronze crockpot containing chestnut residue, indicating that Chinese hotpot may have been enjoyed by Han Dynasty aristocrats
each layer photographed and mapped so that, ultimately, “we can reconstruct the building process used by our ancestors,’ Tian explained, adding that the cleared earth would be kept and used to resurface the necropolis in the future. Li Wenhuan, a graduate student specializing in artifact conservation, emphasized the care taken to use bamboo sticks and brushes, rather than bare hands, to separate dirt from buried artifacts. Each item unearthed was scanned and photographed before being numbered in sequence, marked with their position in situ, date of excavation and the names of the excavators and conservationists. “The geographical location will facilitate the construction of a database, and, in the future, assist the restoration of the original layout of the whole necropolis,” Li added. Each process is laborious, with five conservationists spending a month removing corrosion from 10 tons of copper coins unearthed at the site. Chemical solvents are banned from the lab, to avoid further corrosion of grave goods. Xu Changqing, director of the Jiangxi Provincial Institute of Cultural Relics and Archeology, told NewsChina in mid-January that, historically, only two excavation projects have led SACH to form a national archeological team. One was the 1970s excavation of the Mawangdui tombs in Changsha, Hunan Province, and the other was the 1980s excavation of the Mausoleum of the Nanyue King in Guangzhou, Guangdong Province. Some key members of the expert team dispatched by SACH include Xin Lixiang from the National Museum of China, an expert in the history of Qin and Han dynasties; Zhang Zhongli, former team Photo by Xinhua
China and abroad. The most famous example of this is the halting of archeological work at the main burial mound of the Qin Shihuang Mausoleum, believed to house the tomb of China’s first emperor, Qin Shihuang (See “The Warriors’ Code,” NewsChina, November, 2009, Vol. 016). Dong Mingkang, deputy director of the State Administration of Cultural Heritage (SACH), expressed publicly that the government has three main reasons underscoring its prohibition of the excavation of royal mausolea. The first obstacle is “inadequate preservation technology,” the second is an insufficient number of archeologists to meet existing demand and the third is “the need to leave some things for posterity” to allow future generations “to make discoveries of their own.” The sudden “emergency excavation” of the tomb of the Marquis of Haihun was given the green light after it was revealed that grave robbers had attempted to break into its main chamber in 2011. Yang Jun admitted to NewsChina that the tomb was not a protected cultural relic site prior to that year, and thus could not be adequately protected from thieves without assigned funding, management and institutional support. Considering the threat of looting, a common phenomenon throughout Chinese history, provincial officials gained the central government’s approval to start excavation work. On January 6, SACH officially elevated the status of the archaeological dig at Guanxi from a provincial to a national level project, listing it, along with the excavation of the Song Dynasty (960-1279) shipwreck Nanhai I, as one of China’s most important archeological projects of that year. SACH also dispatched a national team of archeologists to offer guidance at the dig site. To date, excavation work on one of two main burial chambers and three of The main seven satellite tombs conservation lab has been completed. Starting in 2014, the initial team spent almost half a year clearing the sevenmeter-high rammed earth burial mound, its layers painstakingly stripped away “like a layer cake,” according to archeologist Tian Zhuang, with
The inner coffin, encased in a crate, is lifted from the site
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An archeologist works to preserve a mummified horse
In late 2015, more than 110 relics from the Haihun mausoleum went on public display at the Jiangxi Provincial Museum in Nanchang, drawing throngs of visitors. According to some estimates, around 100,000 Han Dynasty tombs still survive in China. That era’s extravagant burial customs make those that have remained undisturbed an irreplaceable treasure trove that could revolutionize knowledge of the period. So far, 60 royal tombs from the Han Dynasty have been legally excavated for research purposes, but the tomb of the Marquis of Haihun has already eclipsed them all in terms of the number, quality and range of artifacts recovered. Lu Xinshe, governor of Jiangxi Province, commented in a work report issued January 25 that the province will develop the area surrounding the royal tombs into a major tourist attraction. From 2016 on-
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Photo by CFP
Photo by Chen Wei
leader for the archeological team responsible for the Qin Shihuang Mausoleum; Hu Dongbo, Peking University professor and an expert in the restoration of ancient bronzes; Wang Yarong, researcher in tapestry and embroidery; and Li Cunxin, a CASS expert specializing in laboratory archeology. Shan Jixiang described the excavation process at Guanxi as “calm and controllable,” applauding the involvement of local villagers and nationwide media coverage for raising the site’s profile. “It is highly important for the general public to enjoy the right to know, participate in, supervise and enhance the protection of the country’s cultural relics,” said Shan. Artifacts on “Neither the government nor display in the Jiangxi the academia should have a Provincial monopoly on the protection of Museum cultural relics,” he continued. “Instead, it requires the participation of people from across the country.”
Photo by Liu Zhankun
wards, a national archeological park will be established on the site. According to Xu Changqing, Jiangxi Province is also looking to file an application to have the tomb of the Marquis of Haihun listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Covering more than 3.6 square kilometers, the Guanxi necropolis dwarfs the 0.72-squarekilometer Forbidden City. Additional tombs belonging to scions of the marquis’ household are also believed to dot the surrounding area. “All these tombs represent a single cultural phenomenon, and no single one should be kept separate, thus the future archeological park will be a grand one and include exuberant cultural relics,” commented Shan Jixiang. “[There], people will be able to find sources of Chinese culture and deepen their knowledge and understanding of our ancestors.” Chen Wei also contributed to this story.
Chinese President Xi Jinping (left) and Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud launch the Yasref oil refinery, a joint venture between Saudi Aramco and Sinopec, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, January 20, 2016
View from China
Shifts in regional power and pride add fuel to the growing fire raging between Saudi Arabia and Iran, in the eyes of Chinese analysts. The old game will continue, but the long-standing foes will not come to blows By Li Jia
ometimes one’s friends are not themselves friends. Chinese President Xi Jinping’s first Middle East trip – a tour of Saudi Arabia, Iran and Egypt – took place shortly after the world had been stunned by the sudden escalation in tension between Saudi Arabia and Iran, two of the region’s major rivals. On January 3, Saudi Arabia broke off diplomatic relations with Iran. The day before that, Saudi Arabia executed Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, a Shiite cleric known for his criticism of the Saudi royal family. He
had been accused of sedition and was killed along with 46 other prisoners who had been charged with terrorism. Protesters in Shiitemajority Iran then attacked the Saudi embassy in Tehran, and Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, warned Saudi Arabia its actions would bring about “divine revenge.” The US and the EU immediately expressed concern over the consequences of inflamed sectarian conflict in the region and denounced the mass execution as an abuse of human rights. Such open criticism of Ri-
yadh is rare among Western leaders. The UN, China, Germany, France and Russia all urged restraint and open dialog between the rivals. Their shared fear is that the heightening tensions would hamper the hard-won, piecemeal progress made in the Syria peace process, the implementation of the Iran nuclear deal and the fight against Islamic State (IS). The feud between Sunni-majority Saudi Arabia and Shiite-majority Iran has a long history, due to ethnic, religious and geographic factors. To Chinese analysts, this latNEWSCHINA I April 2016
Photo by Xinhua
est flare-up is the two adversaries’ response to recent regional power shifts and policy changes, as well as to the reactions of other influential international players, but, the same observers argue, is unlikely to intensify into a military conflict.
Yu Haiyang, deputy head of the department of international politics at Jilin University, observed that both Saudi Arabia and Iran have benefited considerably from the regional chaos of the past few years. As he explained in an article for the Chinese edition of NewsChina, today’s Iran has secured its nuclear program, managed to get oil sanctions lifted and expanded its influence via its military presence in Iraq, Syria and, purportedly, Bahrain and Yemen. It has thus accomplished nearly all the goals of its former supreme leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. For its part, the House of Saud, Saudi Arabia’s ruling royal family, has not only weathered Arab Spring shockwaves, the rise of IS and the global economic recession over the past several years, it has also hit Russia and US shale oil producers hard on the world oil market and restored the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) as the leading force opposing Iranian expansion. With the exception of Oman, all other GCC members – Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Kuwait – have cut off or downgraded diplomatic relations with Iran, proving Saudi Arabia’s powerful influence over the coalition. Yu concluded that neither Tehran nor Riyadh would back down easily from the fray, especially when this recent increase in power has buoyed both nations’ sense of pride. Saudi Arabia has regarded the Iran nuclear deal, which aims to restrict, but not dismantle, Iran’s nuclear facilities, as a clear sign of the US’s strategic retreat from the Middle East, which in turn has called into question the US’s commitment to the security of its biggest regional ally. In addition, there is little hope that world oil prices will rebound in the near future, which could leave Saudi Arabia
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with a budget deficit of nearly US$100 billion in 2016 and force the cutting of fuel and water subsidies, feeding public frustration. The execution of Shiite cleric Sheikh Nimr could further upset the country’s Shia minority, a not-insignificant 10-15 percent of the total population. Despite nearly a year of military operations against Houthi rebels in a divided Yemen, the Saudi-led military coalition of 10 Sunni-majority Arab nations has not made substantial progress toward ending the Yemeni civil war. Worse still, terrorist groups have taken advantage of the chaos. IS bombings and public executions have killed hundreds in Yemen, and Al Qaida now occupies three southern Yemeni cities. Given this, Riyadh may benefit from ramped up tensions with Tehran. He Yafei, China’s former deputy foreign minister and deputy director of the Overseas Chinese Office of the State Council, said in his article for NewsChina’s Chinese edition that Saudi Arabia could use this friction to unify Sunni countries against Iran’s expansion and distract its people from their diminished financial situation. He added that Saudi Arabia executed the Shiite dissident despite strong opposition from the US and the EU in order to assert Riyadh’s independence and push the US to reconsider withdrawal from the Middle East.
Chinese analysts generally agree that neither Saudi Arabia nor Iran intends to further intensify or prolong tensions under the current circumstances, nor are either of them capable of it. Yu Haiyang wrote that due to Saudi Arabia’s awareness of its own social and military weaknesses, it “has never been, nor vied for, the status of Sunni leader.” Instead, it has acted as a “cooperative player in the geopolitical game in the Middle East.” This has been reflected, he explained, in the royal family’s support for Egypt in the early years of the nationalist Nasser regime in the 1950s, and Iraq’s Saddam Hussein during the eightyear war with Iran in the 1980s. It has always attached great importance to its close ties to the West, particularly its relationship with the
US. Yu described Saudi’s interventionist military actions in the Middle East, particularly in Bahrain and Yemen, as “defensive.” They are attempts to keep Shia forces away from Saudi borders, not desperate strikes like those the country has carried out the oil war. As for Iran, its rivalry with Saudi Arabia is hardly its top priority. He Yafei stressed that Iran regards the end of isolation from the international community as a paramount desire. Although Iran’s response to Saudi Arabia’s execution of Sheikh Nimr looked tough –Iranian leaders banned Saudi imports and prohibited its citizens from journeying to the sacred sites of Mecca and Medina in Saudi Arabia – it exhibited more restraint than Riyadh. He Yafei pointed out that Iranian President Hassan Rouhani advocated for the trial of the “criminals” who ransacked the Saudi embassy, and Iranian officials have called for a de-escalation of tensions between the two countries. On January 4, Iran even sent a letter to the UN expressing “regret” over the Saudi embassy attack and vowed to prevent such incidents in the future. Besides, Yu Haiyang noted, Iran’s Persian ethnic majority makes it harder for the country to build a strong foothold in Arab societies, even Shiiteled ones. For the US and Russia, the two foreign countries exercising the most influence in the Middle East, determining who should be the dominant regional power, be it Iran, Saudi Arabia, Egypt or Turkey, is low on the to-do list. At a January 9 panel discussion on Hong Kong-based Phoenix TV, Ma Xiaolin, a prominent Chinese expert on the Middle East, said that the US believed the fight against IS and hedging China’s rising power were more urgent issues, while Russia is concentrating on dominating the Syria peace process. He concluded that neither of them would like to see the Iran-Saudi row disturb their own agendas. Instead of rushing to take the side of American ally Saudi Arabia, US Secretary of State John Kerry and White House press secretary Josh Earnest have repeatedly urged the two sides to solve their disputes through diplomacy. Russia has
Photo by Xinhua
China’s national flag flies over Cairo in honor of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit to Egypt, January 19, 2016
offered to act as a mediator between Riyadh and Tehran, according to a report by Sputnik News, a state-run Russian media agency.
Although the US and Russia are often viewed as the biggest hitters in the Middle East, they do not hold that decisive power today. During the Phoenix TV broadcast, Feng Yujun, director of Russian studies at the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, said he agreed with the “G0” concept that illustrates the lack of global leadership in today’s world, a term first coined by author and political scientist Ian Bremmer. As Feng explained, in the Middle East, the US is reducing its direct involvement, while Russia’s advancement in the region, though successful, remains limited. In this context, signs of realignment
among local powers have attracted the attention of international and Chinese observers. Saudi Arabia and Israel, which do not and never have had formal diplomatic relations, have reportedly cooperated on intelligence matters for years. In the past two years, the open, albeit rare, meetings of both sides’ senior officials have not gone unnoticed by international media. These “frenemies,” as some news outlets put it, are believed to be bonding over their common interest – combating the rising strength of Iran and Islamic extremist groups, particularly IS. Since the death of Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz in early 2015, “Turkey and Saudi Arabia have pushed aside their rivalry for Sunni preeminence and built a closer partnership in Syria and Iraq in a bid to counterbalance Iran,” wrote Gönül Tol, founding director of The Middle East Institute’s Center
for Turkish Studies, in a January 24 article in a journal published by the Sino-Israel Global Network & Academic Leadership, an Israeli non-profit organization promoting academic exchanges with Chinese experts. One example of their cooperation is that Saudi Arabia reportedly stationed warplanes at Turkey’s Incirlik Air Base in February in order to launch strikes against IS. Feng Yujun said all of these factors show that, as global powers shrink, regional powers are playing a bigger role than ever before in Middle Eastern geopolitics. Chinese analysts and the international community at large will also continue to watch China’s movements in the region. The fact that President Xi Jinping’s first state visits of 2016 were to countries in the Middle East is itself proof that China has decided to take a more active role. NEWSCHINA I April 2016
China’s Middle East Agenda C
hinese President Xi Jinping spent January 19 to 23 touring Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Iran, the first time a Chinese head of state has set foot in those countries for seven, 12 and 14 years, respectively. He was the first foreign head of state Tehran received after sanctions imposed on the country by the UN, US and EU were lifted on January 16. China’s State media said Xi’s Middle East visit signified that China’s diplomatic efforts now reached all corners of the globe. China’s first Arab Policy Paper, unveiled on January 13, highlights the importance of the Middle East in China’s One Belt, One Road vision, an economic project that aims to link Asia and Europe as well as parts of Africa, making the Middle East literally central to the plan. When commenting on Xi’s trip, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi described Xi’s three destinations as “natural partners” for the One Belt, One Road initiative, due to their geographic locations and historical ties with China. All three countries are founding members of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, which will help finance One Belt, One Road projects. Maintaining good relationships with Middle Eastern countries is crucial for China’s national security, both within and beyond its borders. The country’s northwestern regions, particularly the tumultuous Xinjiang, have large Muslim populations. Islamic State (IS) has put China on its long list of target countries after claiming “infringement of Muslim rights”, and has included Xinjiang on the map of IS’s envisioned “future caliphate.” On November 19, China’s foreign ministry confirmed that Chinese citizen Fan Jinghui was “kidnapped and cruelly killed by the Islamic State extremist group.” Hundreds of Chinese nationals, mostly ethnic Uyghurs from Xinjiang, have reportedly fought alongside IS combatants in Syria and NEWSCHINA I April 2016
Islamic State (IS) has put China on its long list of target countries after claiming “infringement of Muslim rights”, and has included Xinjiang on the map of IS’s envisioned ‘future caliphate.’
Iraq, with some involved in violent attacks in Xinjiang after returning to China. While the Saudi-led Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) member states are China’s largest source of oil, lessening reliance on oil exports is an urgent task for Arab economies as global oil prices plummet. According to Saudi Arabia’s finance ministry, the world’s largest oil exporter has projected a US$87 billion budget deficit in 2016, following a record deficit of US$98 billion in 2015. In this context, business and security were clearly the focus of Xi’s trip to the Middle East. China and all three of the countries Xi visited signed bilateral memoranda of understanding regarding the One Belt, One Road initiative. The parties reached a total of 52 bilateral deals on subjects ranging from trade, investment, energy and finance to aerospace, high-speed rail, telecommunications and climate change. In his January 21 speech at the League of Arab States headquarters in Cairo, Xi announced China would provide up to US$55 billion to support the industrialization process in Arab countries. In 2009, the GCC suspended all free trade agreement negotiations with 17 trading partners, including China, but, on January 17, China and the GCC announced
the resumption of those talks and the intention to conclude them within the year. Xi also invited Egyptian President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi to attend the G20 summit that will take place this September in the Chinese city of Hangzhou. In its Arab Policy Paper, China clearly stated its stance on security issues in the Middle East, including the establishment of “an independent state of Palestine with full sovereignty, based on the pre-1967 borders, with East Jerusalem as its capital,” and “political solution[s] to regional hotspot issues.” When speaking to the Arab League, Xi said China will hold a roundtable within the China-Arab States Cooperation Forum, a body established in 2004, with the goal of opening dialog and moving toward expunging extremism. He also pledged US$35 million in humanitarian aid to Syria, Jordan, Lebanon Yemen and Libya, as well as US$300 million to fund counterterrorism efforts in Arab countries. During the trip, all three countries and the GCC agreed to build or consolidate their strategic partnerships with China. Xi also stressed in his Arab League speech that China would not seek “a proxy” in the Middle East, nor would it attempt to “fill the ‘vacuum.’” Chinese analysts generally think China’s diplomatic advantage lies in the country’s development experience and good relationships with nearly all parties within regional conflicts. They also emphasize that China can only play a bigger role when those parties are drawn away from the fracas and shift their attention to economic development, or when they are strongly motivated to reach a deal at the negotiation table. For example, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi confirmed that China put forward “helpful” proposals for core issues during the Iran nuclear negotiations, including modification of Iran’s Arak heavy-water reactor.
Despite all parties failing to adopt a tough, united stance against China at the most recent US-ASEAN summit, the meeting nonetheless reflects a long-term trend of developing ties between the US and its Asian partners
Photo by Xinhua
By Yu Xiaodong
A patrol vessel berthed in Sansha City, a settlement built on disputed Yongxing (Woody) island in 2012, departs on an environmental survey mission, August 14, 2015
n February 15 and 16, US President Barack Obama hosted top leaders from the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in Sunnylands, California. As the first-ever stand-alone US-ASEAN summit, the event was widely deemed a watershed event marking a new era for ties between the US and the Southeast Asian trading bloc. Many believe that by having the summit take place on the same estate where Obama previously hosted Chinese President Xi Jinping, the US was attempting to convey the symbolic message that the US considers China and Southeast Asia as equal priorities.
In recent years, the US has been trying to push ASEAN nations to adopt a unified position opposing China in its territorial disputes with several bloc members, pressure that has been interpreted as a major strategy within the US’s “rebalancing” policy in Asia. In response,
China insisted that disputes should only be resolved between claimant countries, and warned “outside interests” against “meddling.” As the joint statement released after the Sunnylands summit made no mention of either China or the South China Sea, merely agreeing that any territorial disputes should be resolved peacefully and “through legal means,” some have described the summit as yet another failed attempt by the US to rally ASEAN countries to collectively adopt tougher language on China. Given the complexity of the relationship between the US, China and ASEAN, deeper examination of the long-term impact of closer ties between the US and ASEAN, seemingly cemented at Sunnylands, offers more insight than knee-jerk responses in the press. To a large extent, the vagueness of the Sunnylands joint statement was unsurprising. Despite rising tensions in the disputed waters, only half of the ASEAN member states – Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Brunei – have territorial claims in the South NEWSCHINA I April 2016
China Sea. Of these, only Vietnam and the Philippines have actively opposed Chinese claims in recent years. Another layer of complexity is the fact that some individual member states’ claims overlap with one another. Meanwhile, the non-claimant ASEAN countries – Singapore, Myanmar, Laos, Thailand and Cambodia – have close economic ties to China, and are thus reluctant to get involved in a fight they don’t view as theirs. The vagueness of the joint declaration issued after the summit simply reflects enduring divisions within ASEAN about how unresolved territorial disputes should be handled. Instead of turning the spotlight to China, the joint statement appears to emphasize broader principles as it reaffirmed “a shared commitment to peaceful resolution of disputes.” It also reaffirmed “a shared commitment to maintain peace, security and stability in the region, ensuring maritime security and safety, including the rights of freedom of navigation and overflight.” Analysts believe the rhetoric of the joint statement that focuses on “legal means” and “rule-based order” heralds future courtroom maneuvers, particularly with a ruling on the status of maritime features implicated in the South China Sea dispute expected from the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) in a judgment in March. China has refused to participate in the arbitration or to accept the result of the ITLOS ruling. However, if the decision turns out to be unfavorable towards China’s claims, it would not only exert more pressure on Beijing, but also make it harder for non-claimant ASEAN countries to continue to sidestep moves by the US and its allies to push for a tougher line on China from ASEAN.
Indeed, intentional vagueness and emphasis on broader principles may pose a greater challenge to China’s stance and strategy in the South China Sea than any strongly worded communique issued by US allies. From China’s perspective, by adopting globally accepted principles in a joint statement with ASEAN, the US can interpret these principles in a way that supports and favors its own actions on identified issues, giving Washington the semblance of acting with the blessing of a united ASEAN. As the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) does not legally underwrite the US definition of freedom of navigation (FON) operations, the US is not a signatory to one of the few international treaties some see as relevant to the current disputes in the South China Sea. Many experts argue that it is still controversial to view passage of military warships through another country’s territorial
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waters as “innocent.” While the US has warned against China “militarizing” the South China Sea, China argues that the appearance of advanced American weapon systems such as warships and military aircraft in disputed areas is itself an act of “militarization,” and a violation of the principle of “peaceful resolution of disputes” advocated by the US during its engagement with ASEAN. On January 30, after the guided missile destroyer USS Curtis Wilbur sailed within 12 nautical miles of Zhongjian (Triton) Island in the Xisha (Paracel) archipelago, China called the deployment an escalated provocation. Unlike the situation in the Nansha (Spratly) islands, where islands, reefs and shoals have fallen under the de facto control of several countries including China, Vietnam, the Philippines and Malaysia, the Xisha chain is only disputed by China and Vietnam. China first established its control over Yongxing (Woody) island, the largest island in the Paracel chain, in 1956, finally gaining the entire archipelago after defeating the then South Vietnam in a naval skirmish in 1974. Declaring a territorial sea baseline around the Xisha/Paracel islands in 1996, China only acknowledges dispute over the sovereignty of the Nansha/Spratly islands, maintaining that the status of the Xisha/ Paracels is not up for discussion. Apparently in response to the US FON operation near the islands, China reportedly deployed an advanced surface-to-air missile system to Yongxing/Woody Island. On February 22, in response to a question regarding the deployment of missile systems to the Xisha/Paracels, Hua Chunying, spokesperson for China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said that such a deployment on “China’s own soil” would be comparable to US defense systems deployed in Hawaii, though she did not confirm the placement of the missile defense system in question. Given the existing divisions within ASEAN, it appears that the US has adopted a different strategy than the one favored in the past. Instead of focusing primarily on establishing a unified position, it now seeks consensus on broader principles, which, once established, might allow the US to take unilateral action with the apparent support of ASEAN. In forming its own response, China may no longer be able to maintain a vague position on its claims in the South China Sea, and will increasingly be forced to choose between taking a more assertive position, at the risk of alienating its ASEAN partners, or compromising. Neither option appeals to Beijing.
Trade and TPP
In addition to the South China Sea, another major issue discussed
Photo by CFP
US President Barack Obama and ASEAN leaders attend a plenary session on innovation and entrepreneurship at the Sunnylands estate in Rancho Mirage, California, February 15, 2016
during the Sunnylands summit was trade and economic engagement between the US and ASEAN. Compared to the rapidly developing security exchanges between the US and ASEAN member states, Washington has been in a disadvantaged position in terms of trade and economic ties, as China has been the bloc’s number one collective trading partner since 2009. The recent summit provided an important opportunity for the US to narrow this gap. Obama talked about mutual prosperity, a phrasing which echoed Xi’s “common destiny” rhetoric during his Southeast Asia tour in 2015. As if in answer to China’s One Belt, One Road and Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) initiatives, Obama announced that the US would launch the so-called US-ASEAN Connect initiative, which he said would aim to utilize a network of three urban hubs across Southeast Asia – Singapore, Jakarta and Bangkok – to better coordinate US economic engagement in the region and connect entrepreneurs, investors and businesses. The summit also addressed the prospect of ASEAN countries’ joining the US-led Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement, signed by 12 Pacific Rim states last year. Dubbed an “economic NATO” by some, the TPP is widely considered an attempt to counter China’s rising economic influence, as China is excluded from the agreement, and a rival to the China-backed Regional Comprehensive Economic
Partnership (RCEP), which, if signed, would include all 10 ASEAN countries, as well as China, Australia, India, Japan, South Korea and New Zealand. Originally initiated by ASEAN, RCEP negotiations achieved major progress in August 2015. However, despite the perceived TPP/RCEP rivalry, many ASEAN countries have appeared to give equal emphasis to participating in both. Currently, four ASEAN countries, including Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam and Brunei, have signed the TPP, and Thailand and Indonesia have also expressed interest in the trade deal. The rationale behind the interest in both deals from ASEAN countries is well established. Although China is the ASEAN bloc’s biggest trade partner, the existing trade imbalance in China’s favor means the RCEP looks set to further advantage Beijing. Moreover, as Chinese growth has slowed, trade volume between China and ASEAN countries in the first 11 months of 2015 has fallen by 2.1 percent to US$394 billion, while China’s imports from ASEAN countries dropped by almost 10 percent, leading to a 50 percent increase in the ASEAN trade deficit with China. Against this backdrop, the US, which is the ASEAN bloc’s fourthbiggest collective trade partner, and other TPP member countries, can look equally appealing. As the US continues to devote more diplomatic, military and economic resources to the Asia-Pacific region, ASEAN is likely to become an increasingly important channel for US diplomacy. On the back of a scheduled visit to Vietnam in his last months in office, Obama is expected to visit Laos, chair of ASEAN in 2016, which would make him the first sitting US president to visit both countries. In the meantime, still struggling with its recent economic difficulties, China may find it increasingly difficult to strike a balance between economic engagement with ASEAN and managing disputes over sovereignty with its member states, especially with the US seemingly on the offensive. From this perspective, the US-ASEAN summit in Sunnylands may indeed prove to be a landmark event that kicked off an intensified rivalry between major Asian powers. NEWSCHINA I April 2016
Sci-fi No More
Some scientists say cloned meat is the answer to Chinese consumers’ voracious appetite for beef, but safety concerns and high costs remain two major hurdles they need to overcome before cloned beef will grace the dinner table By Wang Shan and Xie Ying
A cloned cow named Niuniu and her calf graze at a cloning facility run by Beijing University of Agriculture, September 15, 2015 NEWSCHINA I April 2016
Photo by Xinhua
n his own words, Xu Xiaochun is a “high-tech butcher.” In November 2015, the biologist’s company, Boyalife Group, unveiled plans to construct the world’s biggest animal cloning factory in Tianjin. It will start out producing about 100,000 cloned cow embryos every year, with a goal of reaching one million annually by 2020. For each one, a scientist will take a non-reproductive cell from a donor animal, inject that cell’s nucleus into another cow’s egg cell that has already had its DNA-filled nucleus removed, and then implant the altered egg cell into the uterus of a surrogate animal. The newly born calf will be the donor animal’s genetic identical. “Cloning is duplication, just as the Monkey King turns one of his own hairs into 200 monkeys,” Xu explained, referring to the renowned Chinese folk hero. According to Xu, it is just a matter of time before Boyalife brings cloned beef to grocery store aisles. As cloned meat has never been commercialized before, Boyalife’s cloning factory has caused a stir in scientific circles. Many questioned its feasibility, given cloning’s high rate of failure, while others expressed concerns over the safety of eating cloned beef, especially when China has not yet enacted legislation regulating cloned food products.
According to Xu, Boyalife’s grand plan was based on the country’s high demand for beef. China produced 6.7 million tons of beef in 2013, 31.2 percent more than in the year 2000, while local demand for beef grew by 60.3 percent over that same period. Gao Guan, deputy secretary-general of China Meat Association, told the media in 2014 that for the past two years, China has faced a two-millionton shortage of beef and lamb each year, and that demand just keeps rising. The dearth of meat is exacerbated by the fact that Chinese farmers raise such varied breeds of cattle. Steep demand for high-quality meat cannot be sated with low-quality cuts. Despite 30 years of crossbreeding, China cannot keep pace with the market’s clamor for high-end beef. “It takes over 10 years to breed good-quality cattle, while cloning shortens that time to one year,” Xu told NewsChina. If he is right, cloning could solve a problem that has troubled scientists for decades. Boyalife’s cloning factory is currently 80 percent complete and has yet to be opened to the public, but Xu has already revealed that the company’s first move will be to dominate the high-end beef market. Once finished, the cloning factory will not only possess the world’s largest clone production line, it will also house the world’s higheststandard cloning center, a biodiverse gene repository and an exhibition center for science education. Besides cloned beef, the factory will also clone drug-sniffing dogs and racehorses. “Boyalife is not merely an exhibition hall or a laboratory – that is too ordinary,” Xu said. “We aim to do something extraordinary... Boyalife is the future, as cloning itself is a futuristic technology.” Xu’s father is Xu Zhihong, a former Peking University president and academician with the Chinese Academy of Sciences. Xu junior said that his father hoped that he would use technology to give back to society by helping improve cattle breeding in China.
Many Chinese scientists, however, are taking Xu’s words with a giant grain of salt. Some doubt the feasibility of cloned beef and regard the future factory with skepticism. “It makes sense to use cloning technology to improve breeds on a small scale… but it would be hard to commercialize them,” said Dai Yunping, a China Agricultural University biologist who participated in China’s first cow-cloning research project. One major problem is cloned animals’ low rate of survival. “If a normal cow fetus makes it two months [through the nine-month pregnancy], there is little chance of a miscarriage,” he told NewsChina. “But a cloned fetus faces a high risk of miscarriage throughout the entire pregnancy.” Chen Dayuan, who was part of the team that bred China’s first cloned cow, Weiwei, in 2002, echoed this sentiment. “We cloned 14 cattle at that time, only five of which survived,” he told NewsChina.
Chen later performed tests on the animals that died and found that all of them were born with developmental defects in their chests, lungs or kidneys. Although the world-famous sheep Dolly, the first successfully cloned mammal, lived for more than six years, her relative longevity still remains the exception that proves the rule. It took British biologist Ian Wilmut 277 tries before Dolly was born, a success rate of around 0.36 percent. Even Wilmut termed Dolly’s birth “a miracle.” Two years before China bred Weiwei, Japan had successfully cloned 121 cattle, yet almost half of them died due to health problems similar to those Chen found through his tests. Unlike animals that are born naturally, cloned fetuses develop from a cell foreign to the mother, which leads to high instability. Many media reports once misreported Boyalife’s objective of producing one million cloned embryos every year as producing one million cloned animals every year, a tweak which makes a world of difference. Irina Polejaeva, an associate professor in the veterinary sciences department at Utah State University, told Guangzhou-based Southern Weekly that of the one million bovine embryos, about 30 percent will develop into embryo sacs, and 5-10 percent of those will ultimately develop into cows. Based on this ratio, which Polejaeva described as “optimistic,” one million bovine embryos would produce only 15,000 to 30,000 cattle, despite the high production cost. “Agriculture is not limited to laboratory tests,” a Chinese biologist who has participated in cow cloning told Southern Weekly. “We have to consider a lot of practical things. If Boyalife realizes its initial objective, say, 100,000 cow embryos, it needs at least 200,000 high-quality cows for breeding, a number we could not reach even though we had access to all of the cows in Beijing, [neighboring municipality] Tianjin and Hebei Province.” Given that China has imported many high-quality bulls and quickened the crossbreeding process through a method that stimulates ovulation, many interviewed scientists believed that cloned cattle, at an estimated 200,000 yuan (US$31,000) a head, do not give nearly enough bang for their buck. Xu, however, argued that cost will be largely reduced when production scales up. “The fact that other scientists around the world have no way [to increase clones’ survival rate] does not mean that we at Boyalife don’t, either,” he said. “I believe that Boyalife’s technology is mature enough to be commercialized, even though many other ‘pioneers’ have fallen before us.”
Xu’s strong confidence in Boyalife’s technology may come from his business partner Hwang Woo-suk, a South Korean biologist who bred the world’s first cloned cow in 1999. Hwang later fell from grace after his claims that he had successfully extracted stem cells from NEWSCHINA I April 2016
the Tianjin government that South Korea had already permitted him to commercialize cloned police dogs, offering the city further reassurance that the factory was a good idea.
Photo by Xinhua
Hwang Woo-suk introduces the world’s first cloned canine, a dog which he named “Snuppy”
cloned human embryos were proven in 2005 to have been fabricated. After being expelled by Seoul National University and defunded by the government, he turned his focus to animal cloning instead. Besides cloning cows, Hwang’s institute, Sooam Biotech Research Foundation, is cloning police dogs and endangered animals, now at the South Korean government’s request. “We possess the world’s most advanced cloning technology, and China is an ideal place for research, given its vast area and geographic diversity,” he said. Overtaking China’s animal husbandry industry is only a small part of Hwang’s plan. He explained his full ambitions to NewsChina: “We will launch many other projects in China… We will utilize our advanced bioengineering technology and leading model for commercialization to create high-quality biotechnology products that are most trusted by consumers, and then distribute them all over the world.” Before coming to Tianjin, Hwang told South Korean media that China had a looser regulatory environment for his biotech research projects and his objective is not merely “to make a profit,” but “to be remembered by history.” According to Southern Weekly, the local government of Tianjin felt reluctant to cooperate with Boyalife until Xu and Hwang led officials and engineers around the company’s cloning factory. It probably didn’t hurt that Tianjin is trying to bill itself as a center for stem cell research, an area of study that has previously been a focus of Boyalife’s and is also both Xu’s and Hwang’s strength. Despite the academic fraud, Hwang’s cloning technology prowess is acknowledged worldwide. In addition to initial cattle cloning, he took the lead in breeding a cow that was resistant to mad cow disease in 2003 and also was the first to clone a dog in 2005. He informed NEWSCHINA I April 2016
Cloning animals is one thing, but cloning them for consumption is another, especially in a country where food safety is a top concern. Since Dolly the Sheep came down with a serious case of pneumonia and had to be euthanized at age six, discussions over the health of cloned animals have never ceased. The UK’s Food Standards Agency, for example, came under fierce fire after local media exposed that beef from a cow cloned in the US “accidentally” entered the British market in 2009. Xu, however, said that he had eaten cloned beef before and it had an excellent flavor. “Cloning does not change anything in physiological function or structure, so cloned beef is no different from ordinary meat,” he said, emphasizing that cloned vegetables are now used worldwide, and cloned meat will be, too. In 2008, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced it would permit the sale of cloned animals’ milk and meat products, saying that there is no difference between clones and naturally born animals and that people cannot distinguish between the two. Previously, Japanese scientists had reached a similar conclusion after tracking 171 cloned cattle and the descendants of another 32 cloned cattle. The EU, however, has held a very cautious attitude toward food products from cloned animals. Last August, the EU passed a bill that forbid the import and sale of cloned meat, saying that the descendants of cloned animals have a higher-than-average rate of health issues. “If China produces high-end cloned beef on a large scale, it will surely impact the European beef market, which I think is the true reason behind the EU’s ban,” Xu said. China Meat Association director Li Shuilong, however, disagrees. He told Economy & Nation Weekly, a magazine under State-operated Xinhua News Agency, that all consumables should undergo repeated testing to assess whether they could lead to cancer or birth defects, testing which may not produce reliably comprehensive results for another 30 to 50 years. Therefore, it is far too early to say that cloned food items are safe. A larger concern is that China has yet to issue any regulations or laws governing cloned animals and food. The fact that cloning technology has huge commercial potential just adds to the urgency for legislation, said China Agricultural University professor Zhu Zheng’en, adding: “We need to accelerate the completion of these laws.” According to Economy & Nation Weekly, Boyalife has not yet obtained an official license from China’s Ministry of Agriculture to produce and sell cloned beef, dimming the potentially bright future of the controversial cloning plant.
Local police in Miaocha, Anhui Province, publicly incinerate seized narcotics, June 26, 2015
Photo by Chu Yuewu
Drug traffickers have plagued every corner of the county of Linquan, Anhui Province, for more than 30 years. Despite waves of crackdowns, the local government and police have found ferreting out the criminals is only getting harder By Gong Longfei from Linquan, Anhui
t was dawn on October 22, 2015. Xue Ming (pseudonym), an alleged drug trafficker, was being escorted from the railway station in Linquan, Anhui Province. He was in such a daze that he had wet his pants. Police had caught him selling drugs in a bar in neighboring Jiangsu Province the day before. He was found with a kilogram of methamphetamine on him, an amount that carries a capital charge under Chinese law. Standing behind Xue was Wu Hai (pseudonym), the director of Linquan’s narcotics squad. Deep purple blotches sagged under his eyes. He had stayed up for two nights in order to nab the trafficker. Xue was the 142nd suspected drug offender that Wu had escorted back to his or her hometown – in this case, Linquan, labeled by domestic media as China’s largest inland drug hotspot. Altogether, 447 Linquan natives were hauled
back home for drug trafficking offenses in 2014, 2.5 times more than in 2013. Linquan has waged a war on drugs since heroin manufacturing was introduced to the region in the 1980s, but repeated attempts to curb the crime rate have always fallen short of government expectations. In May 2014, China’s Ministry of Public Security (MPS) and National Narcotics Control Commission (NNCC) held an urgent meeting with leaders and officials in charge of narcotics control in both Linquan and Anhui Province, pressing them to clamp down harder on local drug traffickers. Ever since, the regional battle between the government and traffickers has only intensified.
The MPS named Linquan a key drug control zone for a second time in 2011, after it
had spent seven years off the hit list. Yet, in spite of the resultant crackdown, the number of Linquan residents involved in trafficking and selling drugs rose by 20 percent in 2013. MPS data show that suspected Linquan drug dealers had been located in 26 provinces and regions around the country in 2015 alone. Given that drug crime generally necessitates an airtight, single-route chain that links manufacturing, transportation and distribution, it is believed that Linquan drug traffickers may have already established distribution networks in at least these 26 areas. “You have no idea about what’s going on [in your jurisdictions]. You are completely ignorant of the real situation – all of your answers are just empty words,” then NNCC director Liu Yuejin reportedly said to relevant Linquan and Anhui leaders at the May 2014 meeting. NEWSCHINA I April 2016
Following Liu’s reprimand, the Anhui government ordered all provincial and city-level public security groups to dispatch personnel to Linquan for a comprehensive inspection. The Linquan government also set up drug control offices at each administrative level below the county (comprising towns, townships and villages) and dispatched personnel from 42 government departments to supervise 42 individual villages that were targeted for their high poverty rates. The action could not have been more desperately needed. Linquan is home to 2.3 million people, but has only 636 police officers. The resulting ratio of 2.8 officers for every 10,000 residents is only a sixth of the national average. Two towns within Linquan, each with a population exceeding 100,000, had five police officers apiece. Last September, newly elected Linquan Magistrate Deng Zhenxiao put “drug control” on the top of the county’s list of priorities, followed by “poverty relief.” Overnight, banners bearing the county’s new slogan, “Breaking away from drugs and poverty,” were taped up all over the county, often including other words like “death” and “execution” to scare off the cartels’ potential new recruits.
facturing and selling opium. Although opium was outlawed along with other narcotics after the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949, heroin returned to Linquan about 30 years later, when the county was hit by flooding for five consecutive years. At that time, many refugees migrated to the southern province of Yunnan, a major center for drug manufacturing that borders the infamous “Golden Triangle” of Laos, Thailand and Cambodia. Former Linquan residents went south to turn their hands to watermelon cultivation, but when the watermelon crop failed, their employers often paid them in heroin, which made its way back to the refugees’ hometown. Due to famine caused by the flooding, nobody in Linquan could afford drugs at the time, except for the leather dealers who frequently did business in Miaocha, which was then home to China���s third-largest leather market. After the work day ended, the leather vendors did drugs under the cover of darkness and simultaneously became involved in drug trafficking to support their new habit. Lured by immense profit margins, a growing number of locals got wrapped up in the ille-
gal business and expanded their distribution networks throughout the country. Yunnan served as the product’s entry point, Miaocha as the distribution center and leather vendors as the traffickers. Because of local economic problems, the Linquan government turned a blind eye toward this emerging “industry” for the sake of fiscal growth. In 1981, Myanmar and Cambodia both cracked down on drug rings in their corners of the Golden Triangle, pushing Miaocha to become a drug production site as well as a distribution hub. It wasn’t until China’s State Council issued two written warnings about Linquan’s drug problem in 1981 that the local government began to take action. According to county records, Linquan uprooted altogether 97.5 mu (6.5 hectares) of poppies in 1982, only to find that the number of poppy fields grew to 400 mu (26.7 hectares) the following year – compared to wheat, poppies are much more adaptable to poor conditions and yield a much bigger profit. Half of one mu of poppies (333 square meters) could earn over 10,000 yuan (US$1,587) in the 1980s, 400 times the earnings from one half-mu of wheat.
A State-defined poverty-stricken county, Linquan encompasses 823 administrative villages that comprise 4,552 natural villages. All of the villages are reportedly involved in drug trafficking, with the geographically advantageous Miaocha, the county’s westernmost town, serving as the operation’s distribution center. According to Linquan’s county records, the local drug scene traces back to the postimperial era, when China was ravaged by warlords. The warlord who ruled Fuyang, the city in which Linquan resides, pushed locals to cultivate opium poppies. After the second Sino-Japanese War (1937-1945) broke out, a gang of bandits controlled the region and continued to support themselves by manu-
NEWSCHINA I April 2016
Photo by Chu Yuewu
Linquan’s narcotics squad poses with several suspected drug traffickers at the border between Henan and Anhui provinces, January 3, 2015
“Jiangzhai [a small town in Linquan county] was strewn with poppies in 1987, so many that all of the local students and workers were ordered to suspend class and production to help root them out,” former Jiangzhai official Li Xiaohua (pseudonym) told NewsChina. “Every April, we would be sent to the fields, and every time we shifted corn or wheat aside, there would be poppies underneath.” Without sufficient time and resources to dispose of all the poppies properly, the government later used iron rods to smash the poppies on sight. Many locals snuck back into the fields at night to collect juice from the fruits and turn it into “bathtub” opium at home. After years of trying to choke out the local crop of hardy flowers, Linquan’s poppy fields gradually dwindled. Yet, as many locals were accustomed to curing some ailments with poppy extracts due to a lack of other medicines, it was impractical for the government to fully forbid it. Worse, many local police officers were found to have colluded with drug traffickers, making it harder to tackle crime. According to Li Xiaohua, many police officers in his town wore Japanese watches in the 1980s, a luxury that no average police officer’s wage could afford. In 2009, a network of corruption was uncovered in Linquan’s police system, with the then public security director reportedly taking bribes worth 2.67 million yuan (US$424,000) from drug traffickers. The narcotics squad director at the time took bribes of about 192,000 yuan (US$30,476), nearly eight times his annual salary. By the end of the 1990s, the Linquan leather market had gone downhill, but the underground drug network that it established was still thriving. Media reports said that there are now four major drug trafficking routes going between Linquan and other drug hotspots: Laos (mainly for bulk cargo), North Myanmar (specifically for 99.9 percent pure heroin), Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region (a transport point for goods moving through the Golden Triangle and the Golden Crescent, the world’s second-biggest
Photo by Chu Yuewu
Members of the local public security bureau investigate an opium poppy farm in Linquan, April 24, 2015
production base of drugs along the borders of Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran), and Guangdong and Fujian provinces (meth production bases). The drug world’s reach extended all over the country. Police from Shanxi Province told the media that around 80 percent of the drugs seized in their province originated in Linquan. In March 1999, the drug problem in Linquan once again attracted the attention of the central government, which defined it as one of the country’s “six key zones for drug control” for the first time. Before the year’s end, more than 100 Miaocha natives were executed or sentenced to life imprisonment for drug trafficking in Yunnan Province.
Linquan established its narcotics squad that same year, a team that quickly zeroed in on Linquan residents living in Yunnan. According to Zhou Qiang (pseudonym), an undercover narcotics detective, the drug-trafficking organizations adhered to strict rules. They only trusted Linquan locals related to certain families, for example, something that restricted Zhou’s access. In his year of underground work as a bottom-rung trafficker, Zhou received four tasks from the organi-
zation, all of which involved about 10 kilograms of product, but he never gained the ringleaders’ full trust. As China did not establish an identification database until late 1999, the drug crackdown mainly depended on undercover officers and informants to single out suspects. In 1999, county officers seized 15.8 kilograms of meth in total. In 2003, police caught local trafficker Qiu Heshui, who was reportedly transporting 22.3 kilograms by himself, leading the media to dub him one of China’s top five drug lords. With more drugs off the streets, Linquan was removed from the list of key drug control zones in 2004, but once the local government eased back surveillance and enforcement to a normal level, drug rings resurged. In 2007, the police detained female trafficker Feng Liurong, who had single-handedly moved 31 kilograms of product. The record of drugs involved in a single case leaped to 58 kilograms in 2011. In 2014, three years after Linquan was re-listed as a key zone, local police caught Gu Shanjin, a large-volume trafficker who had allegedly moved 130 kilograms of highpurity heroin, valued at about 300 million yuan (US$47.6m) at market price. Given that Linquan remains a povertyNEWSCHINA I April 2016
stricken county that cannot afford to repair its roads, when police were dispatched to the 42 targeted villages in 2015, they focused their attention on residents who had amassed large amounts of wealth from unidentified sources. Officers closely inspected each villager, especially those who lived in Westernstyle apartments and owned luxury cars, as well as their relatives, since drug rings in Linquan were almost always family operations. The county’s estimated 19,000 drug users were another major target for inspection. Since July 2014, police papered all of Linquan’s towns and villages with 300,000 leaflets pledging to offer sizable cash rewards to anyone who reported drug users. For the sake of safety and convenience, the government developed an app to facilitate reporting, enabling anyone to upload photos of suspicious people or cars at any time. Thanks to the reporting system, Miaocha police detained 164 drug users by November 2015. Linquan police caught 1,033 drug users from July 2014 to July 2015, a 251 percent increase year-onyear.
More than 80 percent of Miaocha drug users are adults over the age of 35, displaying a demographic trend completely contrary to those in other parts of the country. Local police attribute this to the fact that Linquan residents are keenly aware that drug addicts who start using in childhood have a much higher chance of dying at a young age. That children should be kept away from drugs is the one idea upon which officials and traffickers agree. “Linquan actually has a lower rate of drug users than some other regions of China,” Fuyang director of public security Wang Minghua told NewsChina. “Its ‘chronic disease’ is drug trafficking, which is positively correlated with the local economy.” Still struggling with poverty, the Linquan government is at a loss when it comes to helping its residents find other ways to make a living. The destitute county is devoid of enterprises, with the exception of a small plas-
NEWSCHINA I April 2016
tic-processing plant and a slab stone factory. The government once sent some rehabilitated traffickers to work at these plants, but they quickly quit because of the low wages. Wangfazhuang, a small village within Miaocha, is home to many residents who sold blood to support their drug habits in the 1990s and became infected with HIV. It has since become a drug distribution center. The government deprived drug users of the basic allowance typically granted to the unemployed poor, so users turned to drug dealing as their source of income. During the 2015 crackdown, police raided Wangfazhuang five times. They seized a total of 1.5 kilograms of various narcotics, 1.6 kilograms of opium and 0.4 kilograms of drug-manufacturing materials.
Under the Spell
Selling drugs typically garners a 1,000 percent profit, according to narcotics squad leader Wu Hai, and is usually a dealer’s sole source of income. Many newly released traffickers will try every means possible to return to the industry in order to compensate for time and money lost behind bars. It’s as if they are “under a spell,” he said. Feng Liurong’s entire family had been enchanted. After the trafficker was caught in 2007, she escaped the death sentence because she was pregnant at the time. Although the court confiscated her property, people suspect that she possessed a large amount of hidden assets, significant enough to stage a comeback after her release. Feng’s husband, Liu Yuanshan (pseudonym), was put in prison on the same charge 10 years ago, but he picked up where he left off after he was freed in 2011. Feng’s brother, Feng Guozhi, was apprehended twice for trafficking. His second arrest occurred just one year after his first incarceration. Data from Linquan police showed that officers caught an average of 1.03 suspects for each drug case in 2013. That number rose to 2.3 by July 2015 and then began to drop dramatically. “It is getting harder and harder to catch traffickers,” Wu Hai told NewsChina. According to Wu, the government crack-
down has forced Linquan’s drug distribution center to expand into neighboring regions, and many of the dealers have started to complete transactions by riding motorcycles to predetermined places on the highway, so catching them on the spot is even more difficult. His theories were corroborated by an online report about Linquan released by Phoenix New Media, which revealed that drug traffickers had reformed their organizations in recent years, weaving much more complicated and secretive webs and tightening cooperation with traffickers in other parts of the country, and those abroad as well. Compared to these criminal organizations, the police and local governments seem to lack cohesion. In October 2015, after an informant gave two neighboring public security bureaus the same information in order to reap more reward money, they barely cooperated with each other, each bureau wanting to keep the glory for itself. Misapplied incentive programs didn’t help matters. Lower-level government officials were often castigated if the number of traffickers caught exceeded a certain number, in a misguided bid to push them toward prioritizing preventative measures. But the real result was that the affected officials actually helped traffickers escape arrest when police neared their arrest quota. Linquan has since repealed this regulation, effective as of 2016. Yet keeping in mind Linquan’s threadbare police force, narcotics officers have dealt severe blows to the drug underworld while remaining undetected by traffickers. For instance, when Liu Yuanshan, Feng Liurong’s husband, was finally caught by local police last November in possession of 15 kilograms of high-purity heroin, he had no idea they had been tracking him for two years, jotting down the details of his daily life. Although this most recent anti-drug campaign was scheduled to end several months ago, it persists, with the dispatched provincial and city-level officials still camped out in Linquan. Nobody knows when they will be able to leave.
Old Dog, New Tricks
Pioneering designer boutique X+Q is adjusting its scope to carve out a bigger market share
Photo by CFP
By Yuan Ye
“Oath in the Peach Garden,” a limited edition reproduction of a 2009 work by Qu Guangci
pposite the Starbucks in Beijing’s Yintai Center, X+Q’s first flagship store has been open since 2011. Its shopping mall neighbors include luxury brands such as Hermès, Cartier and Giorgio Armani, to name a few. The store’s founders, Qu Guangci and his wife Xiang Jing, are two of China’s most influential sculptors, with
their works commanding impressive price tags. In 1994, at the age of 25, then college student Qu Guangci won the top award at the 8th National Art Work Exhibition, one of China’s top art showcases. In 2010, a piece by Xiang Jing broke mainland auction records, selling for more than 6 million yuan (US$948,000 at the time).
X+Q’s stores stock facsimiles of their sculptures in various sizes, along with designer bags, scarves and accessories. While some items can be snapped up for a few hundred yuan, the average price ranges between 3,000 and 10,000 yuan (US$456-1,521). X+Q was just awarded Brand of the Year by the China General Chamber of Commerce – USA, with Qu collecting the accolade on January 20, 2016. When he returned to Beijing, he was welcomed at the airport by a group of fans of X+Q and the artists themselves. “It was the first time I had received such an organized welcome,” Qu posted to WeChat, along with a photo of himself holding a bunch of flowers.
Not long before the brand received its US award, Qu and X+Q had just wrapped up Maison&Objet Paris, one of the world’s most important design and interior décor expositions, where X+Q had a stall. X+Q’s presence marked the first time a Chinese brand had appeared in such a prominent place at the exposition – exhibiting in the prestigious Hall 7 alongside Japanese brand Arita, Normann Copenhagen, Ibride and &Tradition. Qu arrived in Paris with some 70 X+Q products including sculpture, lamps and accessories. Pride of place was reserved for Qu’s signature works in his “Angel” series. Qu’s NEWSCHINA I April 2016
“Angel” is a depiction of a corpulent man wearing a vintage Mao suit, a pair of angel’s wings protruding from his back. First created in 2005, the sculpture was developed by Qu into a series incorporating similar figures in various positions and executed on a range of scales. In 2009, Qu brought his “Angels” to an exhibition in Hong Kong, and his work was snapped up by luxury department store Lane Crawford, who invited Qu to sell copies of his original “Angels” in its Hong Kong flagship store. “They sold well. In just half a year, I made 700,000 to 800,000 yuan [about US$100,000 to 120,000],” Qu told NewsChina. At Maison&Objet, “Angels” were placed to be one of the first sights greeting visitors to Hall 7. Nearly 30 of the now iconic figures, all executed in blue, surrounded the “white box” that served as X+Q’s exhibition platform. Five versions of Xiang Jing’s signature work, a figure of a “bunny girl” titled “I Have Seen Happiness,” each in a different color, were also on display at the center of the white box. Almost all the products Qu brought to the exhibition sold out. In his view, “the exhibition brought X+Q more overseas business opportunities in one morning than [we] had had in the previous four years.” X+Q now has three stores in China, in Beijing, Shanghai and Shenzhen. They also cooperate with 15 boutiques in China and six abroad, including the Guggenheim Store in Manhattan.
started with a simple product – quality coffee.” X+Q started from Qu’s “Angels,” and, once an icon had been established, began to diversify. “The product is the core of a brand,” he continued. “It needs to be magical.” The company’s design philosophy is to create different “experiences” for each customer. Qu mentioned Starbucks’ tactic of turning all its staff into shareholders, hinting that this might be a future model for X+Q. However, unlike Starbucks, X+Q is very much a top-end brand, and brands, Qu believes, will determine the future of Chinese consumer culture. “Who are China’s largest group of consumers?” Qu asked. “It’s those who earn 5,000 to 10,000 yuan (US$760 to 1,520) a month. The past decade belonged to art and literature. The next decade belongs to brands.” Thus, he reasons, his store needs to reach a broader clientele. “Our current customers are mainly middle-aged rich people who like art and literature,” Qu t o l d
NewsChina. “Luxury brands from abroad are intentionally expensive in China, while the best-selling domestic goods usually lack quality.” Therein, Qu continued, lies X+Q’s potential niche – more mid-range, quality products marketed to the growing middle class. X+Q came into being, Qu admits, almost by coincidence. Despite its successful trajectory, Qu told NewsChina he was actually “stuck in the mud” a lot of the time. “I didn’t understand business at all in the past. My team and I were into art instead of commerce.” This year, however, he says, “I finally realized what business is and what a businessman is. Commerce means to maximize, whether it’s craftsmanship, technique, quality or interest.” Expansion consequently awaits. “X+Q will begin financing,” Qu said, though, like Starbucks, he doesn’t want to sacrifice that which has provided his company with the momentum to grow. “A good product should give people a sense of nobility, originality and magic,” Qu said. “X+Q is like a dog – from the outside it seems to be of no practical use, but once you have it, it becomes indispensable.”
X+Q has few competitors in its home market. Most design houses in China either lack the fame of the store’s celebrity owners, or their experience. Qu saw an opportunity to capitalize on the spending power of China’s middle class, but meeting his own expectations is proving tricky. “I like Starbucks a lot. They did something most other brands didn’t,” Qu told NewsChina while sitting in the eponymous coffeehouse, opposite X+Q’s Beijing store. “They
NEWSCHINA I April 2016
Photo by CNS
‘I Didn’t Understand Business’
Qu Guangci with a white variant of his signature work, “Angel”
Unintended Consequences An admissions policy that keeps most migrant children from enrolling in Beijing schools has pushed many to leave their families for boarding schools in surrounding areas, effectively creating an “education belt,” to the chagrin of overstretched public schools and the delight of thriving private ones By Yang Di, Liu Ziqian and Gao Min
n a cold, rainy November day, a few hundred students huddled under their parents’ umbrellas to say their monthly good-byes at Beijing West Railway Station. They were not going hiking or traveling; they were shipping off to a boarding school in the neighboring province, Hebei. Unwilling to tear themselves away from their families, they either cried while holding onto their parents’ hands or squatted on the ground, refusing to follow their teachers.
Their parents, however, had to steel themselves. In 2013, the Beijing government implemented a significant policy change by setting more stringent enrollment requirements for children of parents who do not have a hukou, a Beijing permanent residence permit. As a result, a great number of migrant workers have to send their children to neighboring cities or towns for school. Unlike those who choose to send their children back to their home provinces, these parents can still see their children periodically, albeit generally about once NEWSCHINA I April 2016
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Non-local parents often need to hire companies who specialize in shuttling migrant children to and from school
a month, and still keep their jobs in the capital. More importantly, the Hebei provincial regulations allow any student to take the gaokao (China’s national university entrance exam) there as long as he or she has studied in a Hebei high school for at least two years. Typically, students are not allowed to take the gaokao in a specific province unless they have the corresponding hukou. “Although the [gaokao] score requirements in Hebei are higher than those in Beijing [making it harder to get into a good college], my family remains intact,” one of the parents at the train station told NewsChina. According to media reports, the 2013 restrictions have already caused an “education belt” to form around the capital. Students at these schools are “sitting on the threshold” of Beijing. No matter whether it is a burden or an opportunity for the capital’s neighboring regions, the children and their parents have learned to deal with this consequence of China’s ballooning urban population.
Before her son reached school age, Li Yun (pseudonym), a migrant white-collar employee of a public relations company in Beijing, did not realize how different her life would be compared to those who have a Beijing hukou. Since settling in the capital in 2004, she has found a steady job, gotten married and even bought a house, all without a residence permit. That illusion of equality broke completely when Li was told her son
NEWSCHINA I April 2016
could not enroll in a Beijing school until she submitted 28 required certificates and permits, including records that she paid social insurance in Tongzhou District, where she resides. “My insurance is paid in Haidian District, where I work,” Li said. “How could I have such records in Tongzhou?” Her son cannot enroll in a Haidian school, either, because that is not their district of residence. She was stuck. A great number of parents are caught in this same conundrum, especially those living in suburban districts where residential housing is much cheaper than apartments in downtown areas. These restrictions trace back to 2013, when the Beijing government first proposed new measures to curb the city’s swelling population. The following year, the government defined “controlling disorderly population growth” as one of its primary tasks. In 2015, the government announced the goal of capping the population at 23 million by 2020, allowing only two million more residents than the number recorded in 2014. Tightening up restrictions on education is one of the measures the government is adopting to clamp down on population growth. Starting in 2014, all Beijing elementary schools have required new students to submit an array of up to 28 certificates and permits for a spot in class. In addition, at least one of the child’s parents must have paid social insurance in that school’s district for at least six months. “I have lived in Beijing for 11 years, and paid as much in taxes and social insurance as a normal Beijinger. Why is my son refused enroll-
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ment just because I don’t live and work in the same district?” Li Yun exclaimed. “How many people actually meet that requirement?” Liu Ning (pseudonym), an engineer who also lives in the capital without a Beijing hukou, agreed. He told NewsChina that he had tried every means possible to communicate with schools in both the district where he works and where he lives in order to enroll his son, but always received one simple reply: You do not meet the requirements. “Even if I planned to move right now, it would be too late [for my son to attend a Beijing school],” he said.
Because of the new policy, Beijing elementary schools reportedly admitted just 55,233 kids without a Beijing hukou in 2014, about 16,000 fewer than the previous year. Admitted migrant students made up less than 38 percent of those registering for school, a 7 percent drop compared to 2013. Li Yun’s Tongzhou District enrolled a total of more than 7,000 new elementary students in 2013, but the next year only about 3,000 new students entered Tongzhou’s classrooms. Some parents who succeeded in enrolling their children in a Beijing school fought tooth and nail to claim their kid-sized desk. They fabricated the necessary certificates and permits, or even faked a divorce in order to meet the harsher requirement some districts have implemented, which call for both of the married couple to have paid social insurance in their preferred school’s district. Many others turned toward Beijing’s private schools, which have looser restrictions for prospective students, but were frightened off by sky-high tuition fees or poor conditions. Thus, schools in neighboring cities or towns have become the best choice for those parents who are neither willing to quit their jobs in
More than 70 student desks are crammed into a classroom in an elementary school, Yanjiao, Hebei Province
the capital nor amenable to leaving their children behind in their hometowns. Many families have availed themselves of this option. Official 2014 data from Beijing-adjacent Langfang, Hebei Province, showed that its local elementary schools admitted about 11,000 more students than they had the previous year, and its middle schools enrolled about 23,000 more. Hebei’s county-level city of Sanhe saw a 9.8 percent year-on-year increase in elementary school student intake in 2014. One Langfang middle school principal who declined to give her name said that her school accepted 1,200 new students in 2015, only half of whom live in Langfang. She said some parents who work in Beijing have forged certificates that show they have bought a house in Langfang in order to make the enrollment process easier. “I actually don’t know how those students got admitted,” she said. “I find these parents both pitiable and frightening.”
“About to Break”
Flooded by this deluge of students flowing out of Beijing, the capital’s neighboring regions, which are comparatively underdeveloped, are overwhelmed by the increase in demand. And resources are running low. Zhang Dong, a resident of Yanjiao, a town within Sanhe, told NewsChina that the Huifu Experimental Elementary School, a public school near his residential community, had planned to move some students to another campus located far away from the first to accommodate the newcomers. Parents protested adamantly against the change. “We have a severe shortage of classrooms,” Huifu vice principal Li Liqiang told NewsChina. “In 2009, when the school was established, we only had 700 students from first through seventh grade, but by NEWSCHINA I April 2016
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New non-local enrollments in Beijing elementary schools
Students crowd an elementary school classroom in Yanjiao, Hebei Province
2015, we had enrolled 1,000 students in first grade alone. The school was designed to accommodate 2,500 students, but now it holds 5,300.” To respond to the student boom, Huifu is using many multipurpose and activity rooms as classrooms, and has expanded the size of each class from 45 students to 80. Teachers now use loudspeakers in class. Sun Shimeng, deputy director of Sanhe’s local education bureau, told NewsChina that the city has long insisted that both local and non-local students be treated equally, only to find that the number of students has skyrocketed in recent years due to the area’s relaxed admission policies and lower housing prices. Official data showed that the elementary schools in Sanhe’s Yanjiao area enrolled 6,000 new students in 2014, three times the 2013 number. Under pressure from protesting parents, Huifu finally kept all children in Zhang Dong’s residential community at the original campus, but it could not supply enough teachers. “The local education bureau did not allocate us enough staff, and it is hard to employ temporary teachers due to the stiff hiring requirements and low salary,” Li Liqiang told NewsChina. “All of the teachers in our school are now overburdened with work, even though we suspended some activities.” Li added that his school has demanded its vice principals also teach classes until the education bureau approves its application for an increase in teachers. “The pressure from the student boom is a frequent topic of discussion amongst us school principals,” said the head of a Langfang school who declined to give his name. “It’s like a string pulled so tight it’s about to break.”
The outpouring of students from Beijing has played out very dif-
NEWSCHINA I April 2016
ferently for neighboring regions’ private schools, however. Instead of starvation, they are experiencing a period of plenty. Because these schools do not usually have hukou- or insurance-related admission requirements, they view the recent policy shift as an opportunity for development. That is why migrant parents Li Yun and Liu Ning both decided to send their kids to Yingcai, a private boarding school in Hengshui, another city within Hebei Province. Although the overall quality of the school was not as good as the parents expected, it had the advantage of being only a short distance away from Beijing – two to three hours by train. Though still underdeveloped, Hengshui has been branding itself as a “city of education” since the 1990s. “Hengshui possesses more than 30 private schools in one district alone,” Yingcai principal Zhang Zhenyou told NewsChina. “As supply has not yet met the educational demands of the migrant population, there is a lot of room for private schools to grow.” Yingcai students are allowed to return home once a month. The school’s student body has increased from 40 students during its first year in 1996 to 6,000 this year, one-fifth of whom commute from Beijing. To better serve the migrant student population, the school has expanded dormitories and arranged for special train services to transport Yingcai students from Hengshui to Beijing and back. In September, the local government of Gu’an, a county within Langfang that is only 50 kilometers south of Beijing’s Tian’anmen Square, co-founded a new private school with Beijing No. 8 Middle School and the private firm China Fortune Land Development Co. Ltd. Despite the expensive tuition (nearly US$6,000 per year), the school has enrolled about 436 elementary school students and 268 middle schoolers.
No matter which Hebei school Beijing-dwelling parents choose, they suffer the trauma of separation and an extra financial burden, leading Beijing’s school admissions policy for migrant children to come under fierce fire since its implementation. On June 16, 2014, over 120 Beijing parents without a local hukou gathered before the petition office of the capital’s Chaoyang District Education Bureau to protest the harsh restrictions. Many were involved in a physical altercation with police. On May 14, 2015, another 200 parents held a demonstration at the same education bureau, holding slogans saying “Please lift the restrictions” and “Please give our children a chance for an education.” Similar incidents also occurred in several other districts, according to media reports. The protests have aroused sympathy among observers, with many saying the policies discriminate against migrant populations and violate children’s right to an education, as guaranteed in China’s constitution. Beijing natives, however, tend to stand on the government’s side. For a long time, those with a Beijing hukou have complained that migrant people have contended with them for limited resources. On tianya.cn, a popular Chinese online forum, some Beijingers described outsiders as “a swarm of flies buzzing around a fat piece of meat.” In response, Beijing migrants questioned why so many resources are so centralized within the capital. The change in requirements in 2013 represented a big policy shift for the Beijing government. From 2001 to 2012, the city had a much more lenient school admissions policy in place for migrant students. It allowed school admission to children who met two criteria: their parents had worked in Beijing for more than six months and they did not have guardians available in their hometowns. Kids in these circumstances received a temporary residence permit so they could attend a local school. Official data shows that this policy had been in place for nearly a decade before any huge influx of students occurred; it wasn’t until 2010 that the capital started seeing the number of elementary school students shoot up by 10,000 to 20,000 each year. “This indicates that the post-2010 wave of students was not due to the loose admission policy, but to the 2008 Olympic Games baby boom and migrant worker demographics – 90 percent of those who moved to Beijing are aged 16 to 59, so their children tend to be schoolage,” said Lin Bao, a deputy researcher at the Institute of Population and Labor Economics, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. Many analysts, including Lin, believe that population growth in big cities like Beijing and Shanghai will continue in the long term due to those cities’ abundant resources, so simple and crude administrative measures targeting migrant workers will not be as effective in controlling the population as government officials might expect. The data back this up. A report from Beijing-based Caixin magazine, for example, revealed that after a local private school for migrant
students was demolished, although 85 percent of its former students returned home, nearly all of their parents stayed in Beijing because of the better job opportunities. By contrast, a recent Peking University survey on the education of disadvantaged children showed that nearly 70 percent of children without a Beijing hukou did not vacate the capital even after they had to leave school for various reasons; in 2015, it was nearly 73 percent. Instead of attempting to control the population through a single aspect of governance, such as education or housing, many analysts favor transferring an entire city function, from top to bottom, to Beijing’s surrounding area. Xu He, director of the environment appraisal center of Tianjin-based Nankai University, even suggested moving eight Chinese ministries out of the capital. “We should also notice that the pressure from overpopulation is not only related to the growth of the migrant population, but also to the demographics – over 21 percent of the population with a Beijing hukou are over 60 years old, while [more than 90 percent] of the migrant population is under 60,” Lin Bao added. Some other analysts think Beijing is not suffering from over-urbanization, arguing that the capital could support an even bigger population than planned, given its size and resources. “The student-teacher ratio is not as low as the media reports have said,” wrote Fu Weigang, a researcher at the Shanghai Institute of Finance and Law, in an online commentary for the Chinese version of the Financial Times. “For example, the number of elementary schools in Beijing dropped from 2,867 in 1995 to 1,093 in 2013, and the number of teachers also reduced by about 20,000 during this same period of time. The reason for this decrease was a lack of students.” In his opinion, the education system is akin to the transportation system: If you have more passengers on the subway, the subway’s cost per passenger greatly decreases, and similarly, more students in the Beijing school system reduces per student expenditure. Yang Dongping, director of the NGO 21st Century Education Research Institute and a member of the State-run consultative commission on education, cited similar data in a commentary for NewsChina on migrant children’s education. “We need to create a system to help migrant children enjoy the same rights as locals..., a system in which the central, provincial and local governments all share the financial burden of migrant students’ education.” “It is better for both the government and the residents of Beijing to accommodate migrant workers and make them more educated, rather than marginalizing them and fueling their resentment toward the city,” he warned. “If cities shortsightedly deprive migrant children of an education as a means to control the population, the consequences will undoubtedly be dangerous.” Liu Mingzi contributed to this story. NEWSCHINA I April 2016
NEWSCHINA I April 2016
Tighter Controls Chinaâ€™s new regulations on the use of commercial drones reflect a cautious approach toward a controversial emerging industry
A commercial drone shooting aerial footage shares airspace with a passenger plane in Nantong, Jiangsu Province, October 20, 2015
NEWSCHINA I April 2016
Photo by CFP
By Yue Fei
ith the rise in ownership of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), commonly known as drones, over the past few years, concerns over privacy and security resulting from their use by both individual hobbyists and commercial businesses have become a global issue, as countries around the world step up their efforts to regulate airspace’s newest occupants. China has emerged as a world leader in this ascendant industry. Shenzhen-based company DJI, manufacturer of the popular Phantom drone, claims to hold 70 percent of the global market for civilian drones. Many have hoped that this market prominence would lead to the widespread commercial use of drones in China itself, which could provide smarter and less costly solutions to various industries such as agriculture, shipping and surveillance, as the country faces the challenge of rising labor costs resulting from an aging population. However, on December 30, 2015, the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC), the country’s aviation authority, released a draft regulation governing use of small civilian UAVs that substantially tightens its control over the sector. Now, many are concerned that the prospect of a boom in the commercial use of civilian drones has been effectively grounded.
According to the provisional regulation, drones will be allowed in a variety of fields, including package delivery, crop spraying, power, mine exploration, aerial surveillance, aerial advertising, oceanic monitoring, meteorological exploration, scientific research and aerial photography. However, a business must comply with 10 mandatory conditions and procedures before it can legally operate drones for commercial purposes. The most controversial requirements mandate that drone users obtain an airworthiness license, a general aviation operation license and an aviation radio license from the CAAC before taking flight. Before this draft was released, there was a lack of specific rules that regulated the use of civilian drones, so most drone operations conducted by Chinese companies had been largely unauthorized. Unsurprisingly, the strict new regulations have been met with strong criticism from those already flying UAVs. Days after the CAAC made its announcement, 180 drone-operating professionals and companies, most of them small or mid-size, signed a petition that urged the authorities to postpone the implementation of the regulation, which was set for February 1, and to consult with industrial professionals about more reasonable rules. Yu Jingbing, president of a Shenzhen-based drone-using company, initiated the petition. He said that the signatories are not protesting regulation; they are protesting poor regulation. “Based on my experience, it would take at least a year or two to obtain a general aviation operation license, and it may take several years to obtain all the necessary permits, which would be a death sentence for small businesses,” Yu told NewsChina. “The reality is that commercial operators of civilian drones tend to be individuals and small businesses, such as farmers and rural pest-control cooperatives,” Yu added. “To have them follow the same administrative procedures as general aviation companies simply does not make sense.” Besides strict licensing requirements, Yu also bemoaned the lack of
NEWSCHINA I April 2016
logic in the new rules. “Under the [new] regulations, a company is required to purchase drones before it can apply for a license to operate them. But to purchase a drone for commercial purposes, one needs to first register as a drone-operating company with the authorities, which itself requires a drone operation license,” said Yu. It is a classic Catch-22. “In short, it would be impossible to open a business that operates drones should the regulation come into effect.”
Yu’s complaints are widely shared by industry experts. Ke Yubao, secretary general of Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association of China (AOPA), for example, pointed out that the requirements laid out in the new rules largely follow the same administrative procedures required for airlines, which operate in one of the most strictly regulated sectors in China. “The current licensing system in the general aviation sector was established to regulate the airline industry in 1995, a time when every airline company was State-owned,” Ke told NewsChina. “But as 95 percent of drone-operating companies are privately owned, it would be inappropriate to apply the same set of rules governing airline companies to the emerging drone industry.” In Ke’s view, effective regulations should not focus on licensing, but on technical and practical issues closely related to actual drone use. Ke said that the authorities made no attempt to consult with the AOPA, a major industrial association, prior to launching the regulation. Amid strong protests from within the industry, it appears that the CAAC may be having second thoughts about its decision. In response to a NewsChina inquiry regarding whether the new regulation will come into effect on February 1 as originally scheduled, an official who declined to give his name said that the date was “a typo,” and that the regulation is in fact still “under revision.”
China appears to have decided on a more conservative attitude towards the development of the commercial drone industry, prioritizing security concerns over enterprise. The country’s air force shot down a drone over a Beijing suburb in December 2013 after the device, which was being operated by a local company for a geographical survey, delayed commercial flights. Three people were later convicted of endangering public security. In the runup to the high-profile World War II military parade that Beijing held last September, drone sales were temporarily banned in the capital. Then, in December, the CAAC announced another provisional regulation that governs the flights of all civilian drones, both commercial and noncommercial. It states that people using drones over seven kilograms in weight must acquire a permit before getting authorized to fly. The requirement is substantially stricter than many industry experts’ previous expectations. Ke Yubao originally projected that drones under 25 kilograms, which would account for approximately 90 percent of all civilian drones currently in use in China, would be exempted from preflight permits. As concerns over security remain the authorities’ top priority, many commercial drones in China look likely to stay earthbound.
The Sweet Spot
Chinese State-owned enterprises can no longer have their cake and eat it, too – each is being forced to choose between being a market competitor or a public service provider. A tangled web of interests arising from mixed operation has made this a tough decision to make By Min Jie and Li Jia
Photo by CFP
he key to solving a sophisticated problem is often found at its root. After more than 30 years of effort to get China’s State-owned enterprises (SOEs) in order, the central government has now decided that it needs to answer some pretty fundamental questions. What is an SOE? How should it operate? Is it a market competitor or a public service provider? Should it be a tool through which to implement national strategies? On December 29, a guideline on redefining the functions of China’s SOEs was issued by three ministries overseeing SOE operations. These were the State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission (SASAC), the Ministry of Finance and the National Development and Reform Commission. All Chinese SOEs are supposed to play a role as “market entities,” but just how market-oriented an SOE will be depends on its position on the spectrum ranging from commercial to social. In a statement from the SASAC issued on the same day, sorting out SOEs is the “prerequisite” for any future reform program, such as implementing modern corporate governance in public companies, allowing for non-State ownership in such
companies and building State-owned investment holdings. While there is consensus it is time to organize China’s SOEs into well-defined cate-
gories, the entanglement of special interests due to the size, scope and interconnected nature of this mammoth sector means that moving forward will be very difficult. NEWSCHINA I April 2016
Previously, SOE reform was focused on helping State companies survive and thrive in an increasingly competitive marketplace. Beijing Normal University’s Gao Minghua, an expert on corporate governance in Chinese SOEs, found in his research that previous government reform programs in the State sector have, for over 30 years, been geared towards improving profitability. As he explained to NewsChina, this reform principle has led to a distortion of the role played by SOEs. Those in sectors that would otherwise be highly market-oriented, such as roadbuilding or telecommunications, have made little progress on cost effectiveness and technological innovation due to the lack of fair competition in their respective sectors. China’s oil industry is a prime example. Sinopec, China’s largest oil refinery company, boasted the second-highest annual revenue among the Fortune Global 500 in 2015. However, its total profits were only 35 percent as high as those of the third-ranked Royal Dutch Shell, which has 10 percent of the payroll of its Chinese competitor. Simultaneously, Chinese public sector enterprises, including rail transportation, healthcare and education, are so market-oriented that they have a net negative impact on public welfare, costing so much to maintain that they continue to be blamed for constraining consumption in China. Alongside an expectation of profitability, a Chinese SOE might also be expected to further public interest. During harvest time each year, Sinopec, along with China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC), is required to guarantee a “fast track” oil supply at reduced prices to fuel agricultural machinery in China’s major agricultural areas. At the same time, China National Cereals, Oils and Foodstuffs Corporation owns and manages real estate, hotels and food processing plants, all assets in highly competitive markets. At the end of 2014, it acquired China Huafu Group, another SOE specializing in managing strategic national reserves of meat and sugar. Some local SOEs, meanwhile, according to Zhou Fangsheng, deputy director of the China Enterprise Reform and Devel-
NEWSCHINA I April 2016
opment Society, have interests in mass transit and utilities as well as real estate. One of the incentives to work for an SOE in China is that employees can rely fully on the employer to provide all kinds of benefits for themselves and their families. In December, the central government determined that these practices would begin to be phased out in 2016, starting with subsidized electricity, water, heating and property management services, and followed by healthcare and education provision. These reforms are expected to ease the financial burden on SOEs and to pave the way for further moves towards making them viable market entities. Analysts believe that it is necessary to clarify that an SOE can be either commercial or social, but not both. Otherwise, said Gao Minghua, “an SOE could ask for subsidies from the public purse in the name of public services, and actually pursue their own interests in the name of the market.” This, according to Gao, gives special privileges to commercial SOE executives, who enjoy both much higher salaries than civil servants and equivalent political status. Many SOEs, therefore, face an identity crisis. A report published on November 30 by Party mouthpiece People’s Daily noted that SOEs in China never seem to “do right” in the eyes of the public, with the profitable blamed for having an unfair market advantage, and the unprofitable slammed for inefficiency. SOE investment in overseas markets is also a sensitive subject, particularly the biggest State firms, with one survey by PricewaterhouseCoopers demonstrating that more international business leaders thought State ownership “distorted market competition” in 2015 than the number recorded in 2010. All this embarrassment is currently seen as par for the course if an SOE makes money, offers preschools and hospitals for its staff, takes on some relief work during national emergencies and branches out into other business unrelated to the company’s original purpose. This latest policy, however, looks set to change the status quo.
According to the new policy, SOEs in Chi-
na will be split into two categories. The first is labeled “public interest,” classified for businesses focused on providing the public with goods and services, and basically operating under full State ownership. All the others are to be placed in the second category, defined as “commercial.” The SASAC explained in its December 9 statement that this broad classification is intended to allow for flexibility of implementation as situations differ greatly among SOEs, regions and even within individual enterprises. Performance evaluation, salaries and market access vary considerably between the two categories, and even within the second. There is concern that SOEs engaging in public services harken back to the planned economy era, during which the quality of services provided by SOEs was given little attention. After conducting field research on waste disposal plants in Tokyo, Zhou Fangsheng concluded that SOEs of this kind must be assessed by their end users, even though they are fully funded and run by the government, following the Japanese model of public ownership. Setting a clear boundary between the two categories within the same SOE, however, is thought to be much more difficult than portioning the sector company by company. The process of internally dividing a company can only be possible when an enterprise in the “public interest” category is broken up, with its commercial assets reclassified under the “commercial” category. Employing a Chinese idiom, Zhou Fangsheng remarked to our reporter, “only one end of the sugarcane is sweet.” In other words, such companies can’t have it both ways any longer. Getting beneficiaries of the status quo to give up some of their perks will be difficult. Gao believes that the only effective way to accomplish this is to immediately stop treating senior staff in commercial SOEs as civil servants, instead allowing the market to assess their net worth. Tangled interests will also make it hard to subcategorize SOEs defined as “commercial.” Although all SOEs in this category are supposed to “maintain and increase State-owned assets” through “independent” business op-
Breakdown of yuan deposits in China
Increase in yuan-denominated deposits from nondepository financial institutions in China in 2015, compared with a 12.4 percent rise in total yuan deposits, an 8.7 percent uptick in household deposits and a 5 percent decline in deposits from fiscal revenue
Non-depository financial institutions
Source: People’s Bank of China
Year-on-year growth in China’s Consumer Price Index, an inflation indicator, in January 2016, the highest rate recorded since it hit 2 percent in August 2015
Amount of US Treasury securities sold by China in December 2015, the largest amount since December 2013
Increase in prices of main index-drivers, %
Monthly changes in China’s US Treasury securities holdings, US$bn, 2015 40
erations, according to the central guideline, the extent to which each individual company is expected and even permitted to do so, as well as their relative openness to private investment, varies. Where specific sectors fall on the publiccommercial spectrum has not been defined, and in many cases SOEs have already expanded their business assets across the board. For example, public utilities, including electricity, water and Internet, are generally treated as “natural monopolies” in other countries, and are thus often run by a single firm in order to minimize inefficiency in areas such as building too many pipelines or fiber-optic cables. There is little doubt that the China State Grid is a typical example of this sector. However, unlike most of its foreign equivalents, the China State Grid has developed an extensive financial network, with interests in insurance, securities, trust funds and futures – all of which are highly, if not fully, competitive sectors. It is likely that the definition of how competitive a sector can be will make more sense to the private sector than to SOEs. The guideline of SOE classification says areas of the natural monopoly sectors, such as pipeline operation, will be open to the market. China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) restructured its pipeline assets at the end of December. This move was immediately interpreted as a clear sign of the market’s imminent opening, which will bring about competition that CNPC has never faced before, thus explaining the advance preparations. Indeed, market openness was always either an intended or unintended result of previous SOE reforms. The textile industry, for example, is now dominated by private companies. It is not a coincidence that zombie SOEs today are mostly in the steel and coal industries, where they compete intensely with private companies. To a much higher degree than private companies, SOEs around the world have to balance between their financial and social missions. How well they can do this will cause a ripple effect throughout the broader economy and society. This is particularly true for Chinese SOEs, whose influence will remain significant, both in China and around the world.
Source: National Bureau of Statistics of China
201 metric tons China’s demand for gold bars for investment purposes in 2015, making China the world’s top single market in this category and helping China regain its position as world’s largest gold consumer after India superseded it in 2014
US$723m Amount of US investment in the Chinese mainland in January 2016, a soaring increase of 464 percent year-on-year, but less than half of the US$1.57 billion that the Chinese mainland invested in the US over the same period Source: Ministry of Commerce of China
Source: World Gold Council NEWSCHINA I April 2016
NEWSCHINA I April 2016
Godfather of Variety
One of South Korea’s leading impresarios has arrived in China to tap into a seemingly unquenchable thirst for reality TV By Fu Yao
Photo provided by Kim Young-hee
ith Chinese TV largely dependent on foreign formats, South Korea, East Asia’s modern entertainment powerhouse, has emerged as a leading source of Chinese variety shows, even usurping the status once commanded by all-conquering Korean soap operas. A number of exceedingly successful reality shows, such as Go Fighting! and Hurry Up, Brothers, are inspired by or simply copied from South Korean originals. Kim Young-hee might not be a household name in China, but his work has swept the nation’s screens. This South Korean TV producer created two extremely popular variety shows – reality singing contest I Am a Singer and celebrity parenting reality show and travelogue Where Are We Going, Dad?, both of which were imported and adapted by Hunan provincial TV and immediately became smash hits. After working at South Korea’s MBC network for 29 years, Kim officially relocated to China in 2015, with his aim being to raise homegrown Chinese reality TV to new heights. His first pilot is a show centered on filial piety. While it is shot in the same “documentary variety show” style as Where Are We Going, Dad?, it is, in Kim’s words, “100 percent real” and unprecedented in global TV history.
Kim looks much younger than his 56 years. Dressed in a preppy Korean fashion, with a backpack slung across his shoulder and a cup of Starbucks coffee in hand, he interrupts our reporter to talk into his Samsung smartphone decorated with a Hello Kitty sticker. Kim’s amiable personality and polite smile have earned him the NEWSCHINA I April 2016
NEWSCHINA I April 2016
content design. In 2013, both shows aired and triggered a craze for copycat formats across China. Kim received offers from a number of Chinese TV production companies. “At first I declined all the invitations, for I never thought about working in China before. But later the huge success of Where Are We Going, Dad? in China made me realize that my works have been welcomed and appreciated in this country,” Kim told our reporter. “The possibility that my work could be acknowledged by more audiences in a much larger market made me feel a strong sense of ambition and fulfillment.” In April 2015, Kim Young-hee resigned from MBC and came to China to embark on his new venture full-time. “If MBC is a small ‘crowded house’ then China’s TV stations can be seen as enormous ‘bleak houses,’” he said. “I believe that from now on a number of excellent shows can be produced based on collaboration between China and South Korea.” In July that same year, Kim launched a new company (BlueFlame & Rice House) with China’s Guangdong BlueFlame Culture Media group.
Photo from Internet
nickname “Uncle Rice” in South Korea, with fans claiming he reminds them of the image of a good-natured next-door neighbor always willing to share food. Known as the godfather of Korean variety shows, Kim spent nearly three decades working for MBC, one of the three largest TV stations in South Korea, producing a series of extremely popular programs. In 2005, Kim, then 45, became the youngest general director of MBC’s variety show department. As one of the few top PDs (Producer-Directors) in Korean TV, Kim has been long acknowledged as an old hand in the industry. Ever since arriving at MBC in 1986, Kim has directed and produced a series of classic variety shows, including Hidden Camera, Conscience Wins Refrigerator and Exclamation Point, helping usher in the golden age of variety and reality shows on MBC. Within his 29-year career, Kim has produced over 30 original programs, 90 percent of which have proven to be hits. Kim has received more accolades than any TV producer in South Korea, twice claiming the coveted Korean President’s Award. In March 2011, Kim launched a new reality TV singing competition, I Am a Singer, open to professional billboard artists (rather than the general public), with voting power turned entirely over to the audience. Viewers relished the pitting of star against star on a highly competitive “battlefield.” The show’s ratings quickly eclipsed all other TV singing contests in Korea at the time, with even then President Lee Myung-bak speaking highly of the show and requesting a ticket to a live taping. In January 2013, Kim made a foray into family entertainment with Where Are We Going, Dad?. In each season, five celebrity fathers travel with their children to the remote countryside where they compete with one another. The show’s instant success lay in warm and fuzzy scenes of dads cooking meals, playing with their kids in the mud, tucking them in at night and singing them to sleep. At its peak, the show commanded 20 percent of the Korean viewing audience. I Am a Singer and Where Are We Going, Dad? were the two shows that brought Kim Young-hee’s work to Chinese audiences. Hunan TV, already known for its reality series, bought the rights to both shows and set about localizing them. In 2011, Kim began to shuttle between Seoul and Changsha, Hunan’s capital. Kim instructed the Chinese studio on how to improve every phase of the production process, ranging from camera angles and lighting to formatting and
Publicity for The Greatest Love
An eight-person, top-level Korean production team followed Kim to China, including six top PDs and two distinguished scriptwriters.
Kim’s opening gambit in China is a new reality show revolving around the theme of filial piety. “Filial piety is a core value deeply etched into traditional Chinese culture,” Kim told NewsChina. “In contemporary China, however, people seem to pay much less attention to it. My intention in creating this program is to remind people of the importance of this virtue.” Kim added that today’s China is in great need of a reality show that can “exert positive influence on people’s spiritual world.” Cooperating with a Chinese team led by Hunan TV producer Yan Dianya, the project started shooting in October 2015. Titled The Greatest Love and co-produced by Hunan TV and BlueFlame Culture Media, the show invites six celebrities and their parents to return to their respective hometowns for six days. The first season featured a lineup of household names, including Huang Xiaoming, Chen Qiao’en, Zheng Shuang, Cao Ge, Bao Bei’er and Du Chun. Kim told our reporter that he is striving for authenticity in his latest venture. “Strictly speaking, up to now, no reality show has been 100 percent real,” he continued. “In every show, including Where Are We Going, Dad?, guest stars are actually performing in certain given personalities or roles – it’s half real, half faked. But The Greatest Love is a show that is 100 percent real. Such a ‘documentary reality show’ has never appeared before.” The Greatest Love is shot according to a principle of “non-interference.” Guest stars will not be given any instructions or assigned tasks. While at home, no cameras or crew will be permitted to enter. Instead, over 40 concealed cameras will record the guests’ activities 24 hours a day. The theme of filial piety and Kim’s “100 percent real” idea were met with skepticism from Chinese TV industry insiders and even Kim’s own Chinese colleagues. “Many insiders are worried about Kim’s model. If the show follows the documentary format, it will turn out to be mild and slow, lacking excitement,” Peng Kan, the director of the research and development department of Legend Media, told NewsChina. Unlike Korean audiences, Peng claimed, Chinese TV viewers prefer more dramatic shows interspersed with “thrilling” games and heated competitions. Kim’s collaborator, Li Hongshan, the CBO of BlueFlame, also admitted that he had many initial reservations about the show. Uncle Rice himself was insistent and stood his ground. Kim’s persistence impressed Yan Dianya, and left him resolved to realize the idea. “When everyone questioned the practicality of the project, he was the only one who firmly believed. His decisions, in the end, always proved to be right. Without his insistence, we wouldn’t have had such a wonderful result,” Yan told NewsChina. Kim told our reporter that he is a great believer in the power of sincerity and emotions to move audiences. His years of experience have shaped Kim’s sharp sense of empathy. Although he knows Korean and
Chinese audiences have different tastes and preferences, he believes that humans are united in their love for their parents. As a result of Kim’s “non-interference rule,” every subtle change of emotion and every almost imperceptible movement and expression have been captured in their entirety which, he believes, makes for an authentically powerful viewing experience. The Greatest Love premiered on January 23. The show got a generally positive reaction, topping the ratings charts for its time slot with an audience share of 1.36 percent and over 20 million views on Hunan TV’s online platform. Schools were even said to have assigned watching the show as homework. Certain scenes were singled out for praise, including when heartthrob actor Huang Xiaoming took his mother back to the 12-squaremeter room in the city of Qingdao in which he was raised. In order to cook good food for his mother, Huang bought dozens of cookbooks and spent his nights planning the next day’s meals. Singer Cao Ge, meanwhile, returned to his grandfather’s home in Guangdong Province with his father in tow, kneeling on the ground and bursting into tears when he saw the framed photographs of his late grandfather. Actor Du Chun and his father, who is also an actor, on the other hand, faced an awkward situation – discovering that, other than work, they had no common topics of conversation.
Kim Young-hee claims that a good TV show needs to have a positive social impact. “Entertainment, in fact, can be a wonderful weapon,” he told our reporter. “Nobody likes being lectured, but watching a variety show doesn’t feel like that. A good show can deliver social messages, touch its audience and make them think. Audiences are more willing to accept an entertaining variety show with 10 to 20 percent instructive content.” Kim sums up his philosophy as “20 percent education and 80 percent entertainment.” Tapping into the unstoppable pulling power of celebrity, as palpable in China as anywhere, also helps. A predecessor to The Greatest Love, Let’s Read, sparked a reading craze in South Korea when celebrities appeared on TV chatting with schoolchildren about books. The production team also helped establish 15 libraries with profits from the show. In Asian, Asian, Kim once again assembled a group of celebrities to work with South and Southeast Asian migrant laborers, who are only permitted to remain in South Korea for three years. In one episode, the production team flew to Pakistan to bring one worker’s mother to South Korea for a rare family gathering. In response to the episode, the speaker of South Korea’s National Assembly called the production company, and within six months, South Korean migrant labor laws had been amended. Kim still receives fan mail from South Korea, with sentiments including: “You are much better than 100 politicians.” Kim’s focus is now on The Greatest Love. “I hope that after watching the show, people will remember to call their parents. If people do, I think the show can be considered successful.” NEWSCHINA I April 2016
Still from Kung Fu Panda 3
Photo by CFP
Kung Fu Panda 3
The decision to release two separate versions of Kung Fu Panda 3 – one for China, one for other world markets – proves how far Hollywood is willing to go to tap into the meteoric Chinese box office By Wan Jiahuan, Wen Tianyi
ucking the global trend towards lower box office receipts, China’s movie market has continued to grow in recent years, putting it on course to overtake that of the US in the next few years. Allured by China’s booming box office, Hollywood’s top studios are increasingly shifting their focus to the Middle Kingdom. Co-productions, a neat solution to government quotas on imported films, have emerged as the principal means by which Hollywood can tap into China’s marketplace. DreamWorks, one of the world’s leading animation studios, is now at the forefront of this trend with Kung Fu Panda 3, the first American-Chinese animated feature-length co-production in history. In the third installment in the Kung Fu Panda franchise – with both predecessors smash hits in China – the “bloodline” of the series’ protagonist, the lovable, chubby, dumpling-eating panda Po, will be NEWSCHINA I April 2016
more than “one-third Chinese,” according to some observers. Moreover, in contrast to previous co-productions and Hollywood blockbusters partly funded by Chinese companies, such as Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation and Transformers: Age of Extinction, Kung Fu Panda 3 has been “organically indigenized,” with Chinese involvement in every phase of production.
Kung Fu Panda 3 is produced by DreamWorks Animation, the State-run China Film Group and Oriental DreamWorks (ODW), which was launched in Shanghai in 2012 and in which Chinese partners hold a 55 percent stake. Jeffrey Katzenberg, CEO of DreamWorks Animation, stated that the franchise’s third installment would “make history” as the first animated feature which will have a tailor-
made version for a non-English speaking market. In addition to the English-language cut of the film that was released worldwide and featured the vocal talents of Jack Black, Dustin Hoffman and Angelina Jolie, a Mandarin-language version has also been produced, featuring an all-Chinese cast, specifically for the movie’s China audience. A distinct difference between the two versions lies in the dubbing process, according to the film’s senior creative consultant Raman Hui, a DreamWorks veteran and a noted Hong Kong animator and director best known for co-directing Shrek the Third and helming the domestic blockbuster Monster Hunt. For the first time, the characters’ lips will be in sync with their Mandarin dialog. Even facial expressions and mannerisms will differ from the film’s English version. “In the very beginning, our Chinese dubbing artists were not quite used to [the process],” Hui told NewsChina. “In the past, they were always required to follow the lip movements of English-speaking characters. But this time, they were allowed to deliver their own performances.” Actor Jiang Wu voices Kai, the film’s primary villain. He also provided physical inspiration for the character’s expressions and movements in the Chinese cut, just as the English-language version of the character is inspired by actor J.K. Simmons. “It is Jiang Wu himself who plays the role of Kai, instead of simply lending his voice to the character,” said Hui. The reason why executives felt a Mandarin version of the film was needed, Hui pointed out, is that DreamWorks has learned lessons from previous experiences – notably that Chinese audiences often miss punchlines when watching dubbed animated films. To help get the joke across, the Chinese production company wrote Kung Fu Panda 3 to incorporate Chinese idioms, dialects and slang. Big domestic names such as Jackie Chan, Jay Chou, Yang Mi, Huang Lei, Zhang Guoli, Jiang Wu, and the Chopstick Brothers have all been cast to up the box office ante. Chan, who provides the voice for Monkey in all three English-language installments of the franchise, has been cast as Po’s father in the Chinese version. Pop icon Chou has instead been cast as Monkey, with domestic animators even incorporating his mannerisms and catchphrases into the character. To better demonstrate the authenticity of Chinese culture in the film, DreamWorks formed a Chinese production team consisting of over 200 staff from ODW, including screenwriters and animators. A renowned Chinese director, Teng Huatao, was brought onboard to direct the Mandarin version. Teng, known for his frothy romantic comedies, helmed the project in concert with Jennifer Yuh Nelson, who directed all three films. His presence helped secure big names for the Chinese vocal cast. Yuh Nelson remembered the first time her team members met with their Chinese colleagues at ODW – the Chinese animators, she told NewsChina, donned ancient costumes representing different imperial dynasties as a greeting. Yuh Nelson picked their brains on the minutiae of tea culture, incense, martial arts and wedding
celebrations, which further enriched the setting of the franchise’s third installment. The design of Po’s home village in Sichuan Province was based on the real scenery and architecture of the province’s Qingcheng Mountain. The local pandas, like their real-world, human counterparts, are fans of hacky sack – a detail worked out by the Chinese and US production teams. The involvement of the Chinese crew in particular was unprecedented. “Because they are scattered in every single department, they’ve touched every part of the movie,” Yuh Nelson told NewsChina, adding that every frame contains contributions made by both American and Chinese artists. “There are two things that really struck me in working with the Chinese crew,” said Yuh Nelson. “First is their enthusiasm. There was so much joy on the part of the Chinese crew in helping create this movie. There is a real sense of national pride that Kung Fu Panda should be done by the Chinese.” The other characteristic that impressed Yuh Nelson was the depth of her colleagues’ knowledge – “our Chinese artists know much more about Chinese culture than a lot of specialists in the US. That level of access to all of these small details and big details... has been amazing.” As a huge fan of Chinese martial arts movies who has watched a number of works from Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan, Jet Li, Tsui Hark and the Shaw Brothers, Yuh Nelson told NewsChina that she and her team derived a great deal of inspiration from Chinese martial arts movies when choreographing the franchise’s fight sciences. “That’s something that we really took care to do,” said Yuh Nelson. “The tone of the movie, the excitement, the fun... and the humor during a battle are something that Jackie Chan does a lot in his movies. Props like chairs or ladders, we used those a lot in our films.”
Creating a distinct Chinese version of Kung Fu Panda 3 significantly increased the budget and the length of time required to complete the film. But Katzenberg insisted that the extra effort was worthwhile. Indeed, it is clear that DreamWorks has set high hopes of a big return on its investment in China. The series’ debut grossed 150 million yuan (US$22.8m) at the mainland box office, the first animated feature to break the 100 million yuan (US$15.2m) mark in China. Its sequel, Kung Fu Panda 2, grossed 617 million yuan (US$93.8m), making it the highest-grossing animated film, foreign or domestic, in Chinese cinematic history, until it was finally unseated in July 2015 by the domestic production Monkey King: Hero is Back, which took in 956 million yuan (US$145.3m) at the box office. Kung Fu Panda 3, DreamWorks seems to be hoping, will break that record. Katzenberg in particular is paying close attention to the rise of Chinese animation. “I see everything. I’ve seen many of the successful [Chinese] animated movies... in the past five years,” he said, naming Monkey King: Hero is Back as a favorite. Katzenberg sees the film as a sophisticated, “bold” comedy packed with imagination and fantasy that signifies “a big step forward for local animation,” he said. NEWSCHINA I April 2016
Photo by dong Jiexu
Jennifer Yuh Nelson
According to statistics from Box Office Mojo, a US box office returns aggregator, total US takings in 2015 stood at 11 billion dollars, up 5.8 percent from 2014. Total box office revenue in the Chinese mainland grew to 44.1 billion yuan (US$6.6bn) in 2015, a year-onyear increase of 48.7 percent. China is consequently tipped to soon eclipse the US as the world’s biggest movie market, and, with import quotas still in place, Hollywood is eyeing the best means by which to tap into it. DreamWorks appears to be part of an advance guard of US studios embracing the co-production route, with Kung Fu Panda 3 the debut offering of this model. Katzenberg told our reporter that he has been making at least one monthly flight to China for the past several years to expand DreamWorks’ local projects. His schedule in China, in his own words, is always “packed,” including visits to the ODW studio, recruitment, coordination with animators, writers, filmmakers and other people or entities in the domestic film industry, ranging from distributors, movie theater management companies, his company’s partners from the China Film Group and, crucially, high-level officials from the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television (SAPPRFT), the government body that determines which films can appear, and in what form, in mainland theaters. As for ODW’s future prospects, Katzenberg outlined his “ambitious” plan. Two kinds of original movies will be made by the studio: one kind for the local market, which will start production in 2017, and the other kind aimed at the global market, starting in the second half of 2018, with one release every 18 months or so. NEWSCHINA I April 2016
For Kung Fu Panda 3, gaining co-production status meant that the film could be treated as a domestic production, giving DreamWorks a larger share of its revenue. China’s domestic movie industry follows a strict import policy, a quota system allowing only 34 foreign movies access to the mainland market each year. Producers of imported movies can only receive a maximum 25 percent of the box office take in the Chinese market. For co-productions, however, the share rises to as much as 43 percent. In 2014, Transformers: Age of Extinction, produced by Paramount, grossed more in China than in the US. Critically panned in its home market, the movie’s impressive 1.98 billion yuan (US$300m) haul at the Chinese box office also overturned conventional wisdom that a US-made movie, regardless of its critical reception, would always perform best at home. By the end of 2014, Hollywood’s six major production companies had all established joint ventures in China. The relative quality of co-productions, however, remains a bugbear of critics and moviegoers alike. So-called “Chinese elements,” usually additional supporting characters, locations, plot points and, particularly egregiously in Transformers, product placement, have been slammed as having been unnaturally shoehorned into place, with additional content often cut partially or entirely from a movie’s international release. Plot and production design, meanwhile, generally have little or no domestic input. In August 2012, during a conference hosted by the China Film Channel, Zhang Pimin, deputy director of SAPPRFT, stated that his bureau would carry out a strict examination of each co-production in accordance with related rules. “Co-productions must meet certain standards,” said Zhang. “An utterly American story, with a touch of Chinese [culture] or a Chinese actor – how can you call such a film a co-production?” Since 2012, a stricter policy has been carried out regarding how coproductions are approved. A qualified co-production, the rules state, should involve investment from both sides, with the side that invests less still contributing more than 20 percent of the total budget. In addition, both sides need to be “fully involved” in the filmmaking process, with the movie’s story “organically related” to China. Another stipulation mandates the presence of Chinese characters or performers. Few co-productions have been fulsome in their inclusion of these strict requirements – until Kung Fu Panda 3. Of Chinese involvement in DreamWorks’ latest offering, Katzenberg said that “such thorough cooperation is unprecedented.” In addition to Kung Fu Panda 3, another upcoming AmericanChinese co-production, The Great Wall, starring Matt Damon and Andy Lau and directed by Zhang Yimou, will hit theaters in 2016. Whether this, the largest-scale Chinese-American co-production to date, along with Po the panda’s latest outing, will truly be gamechangers will likely depend on how they’re received and, more importantly, how much bang the filmmakers get for their buck.
NEWSCHINA I April 2016
Traditional cultural practices in rural China are in decline as the country shoots toward modernization and urbanization. Zhang Xiaowu, a 44-year-old art teacher and photographer, used his camera to preserve scenes from his rural hometown, Rui’an, a small county near Wenzhou, Zhejiang Province. His collection of images, “Rural Entertainment,” captures the various games and activities that local residents favor. Funny or absurd, refined or vulgar, all of these forms of recreation, such as mahjong, poker, billiards, karaoke and juggling, demonstrate an important aspect of rural Chinese culture – what people do for fun.
The purpose of choosing this subject, as the artist states, is not to judge or criticize whether the cultural values and ethical ideas displayed in these scenes are right or wrong, but to objectively represent the various cultural landscapes of rural China. His camera lens captures the paradoxical and complicated issues beneath the fun – the conflicts between new and old forms of recreation, the clash between rural and urban forms of entertainment, and the polarization of the rich and poor. By observing and recording rural entertainment, Zhang shows audiences the changing and unchanging characteristics of Chinese people’s lifestyles and cultural preferences in those rural areas that will inevitably disappear with urbanization and industrialization. Photo by CFP
1. A father and daughter sing at an open-air mobile karaoke stand in a public square in front of the Rui’an railway station 2. Locals gather in a newly built ancestral temple to watch a play 3. Gambling, which is illegal in China, is one of Rui’an residents’ favorite ways to pass the time
NEWSCHINA I April 2016
NEWSCHINA I April 2016
2 3 4 1. Kids learn how to operate an excavator at a village farm on National Children’s Day 2. The owner of a private carnival ride in Rui’an waits for customers 3. A wealthy merchant practices riding in Rui’an – the equestrian sport, a new status symbol, has recently become a favorite recreational activity for the county’s nouveau riche 4. During the Lantern Festival, men play with toy guns at a fair 5. Beside the highway, local residents watch two dogs fighting and film it with their smart phones
NEWSCHINA I April 2016
OUTSIDEIN Perspectives from within China
Seeking Fortune Spirituality, superstition and commercialism blend together at Beijing’s temple fairs, where visitors hope for health and wealth in the Year of the Monkey
f the 18 deity halls in Beijing’s White Cloud Temple, the only one requiring a yellow sash to cordon off its long line of supplicants is that of the god of wealth. The sizable figurine looks down solemnly at me. His golden robes and black, isosceles triangle of a beard only add to his austere demeanor. A short-haired woman arrives at the front of the line. Her puffy down jacket has the word “LUCK” stamped on the back. She shakes out three sticks of incense from a rectangular packet and holds them ramrod straight between clasped hands before bowing and placing them on the table in front of her, an offering to ensure her financial wellbeing in the Year of the Monkey. It’s February 16, 2016, a good nine days into the lunar new year, but White Cloud Temple’s temple fair is still in full swing. This annual event is just one of the capital’s many such celebrations – for the first week of the lunar year, these explosions of red and yellow pop up all around the country, with market vendors,
dance troupes and candy-eating children typically weaving in and out of the crowd. The tradition of temple fairs reaches back to the Wei Dynasty (220-265), according to The Market and Temple Fairs of Rural China: Red Fire, by University of Southern California academic Gene Cooper. At that time, the seeds of Buddhism and Taoism had already been sown and organized religion had started to sprout. The first events consisted of early practitioners leading religious processions throughout local towns to draw out more potential followers. The relative political stability of the Sui (589-618) and Tang (618-907) dynasties left more room for spirituality and culture to flourish, so temple fairs expanded and added a market to the festivities, allowing a commercial aspect to branch off from this fundamentally religious event. Singing and dancing were stirred into temple fair repertoires during the Song Dynasty (960-1279). Vocalists began performing operas to entertain the deities. During the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), temple
Photo by Kevin Frayer/Getty Images
By Brittney Wong
Chinese performers dance on stilts at a local fair during Chinese New Year celebrations, Beijing, February 10, 2016
fairs started to take a shape recognizable as the full-blown affairs they are today.
White Cloud Temple
Beijingers have myriad options when choosing a temple fair to attend come Chinese New Year. The one held at the White Cloud Temple, a Taoist structure originally built about 1,300 years ago, is perhaps the most spiritual. Bluish clouds of incense smoke cover the temple grounds in a translucent mystique. Cheery Chinese melodies chirp from loudspeakers. NEWSCHINA I April 2016
Capital celebrations During the first five days of the lunar new year, Beijing is host to a large handful of temple fairs throughout the city, each with its own trademark characteristics. Apart from the fairs at White Cloud Temple, Dongyue Temple and Ditan Park, here are some other festivities the capital has to offer: Daguanyuan Red Chamber Temple Fair: Daguanyuan, a southwestern Beijing garden, was modeled after a site in the famous Chinese novel Dream of the Red Chamber. The culture surrounding that story imbues the garden’s annual temple fair, which features actors dressed in ancient garb and Red Chamber-style performances. Longtan Park Temple Fair: In the past, attendees of this fair have participated in snow activities, enjoyed cultural exhibitions and watched performers on four different stages at this sprawling park near the famous Temple of Heaven.
Photo by CFP
Chaoyang International Fengqing Festival: Catering to Beijing’s expat community, this not-so-traditional temple fair hosts acts like a Romanian dance troupe and an American clown. It takes place in the expansive Chaoyang Park, which, while it includes an artificial beach and a rope course, does not actually have a temple.
Photo by Brittney Wong
A father holds his child on his shoulders at the temple fair in Beijing’s Ditan Park, February 10, 2016
Visitors to Beijing’s Dongyue Temple first walk through the Road of Fortune, lined on both sides with red blocks bearing fairgoers’ wishes, February 10, 2016
Four-character benedictions like “May you have all that you desire,” “Wishing you good health” and “May you have a prosperous New Year” bless fairgoers from 10-feet-long golden banners. Familial clumps migrate from one deity hall to another, small children in hand, as family members take turns paying their respects to the different gods. Believers lay sticks of incense at the feet of the three Kings of Medicine to ward off illness. They bow their heads at the powerful Jade Emperor’s shrine, which followers have adorned with auspicious NEWSCHINA I April 2016
fruits and flowers. A metallic rain of clinks and clangs rings out from below the Wofeng Bridge in the temple’s central courtyard. Hanging underneath the small bridge, about 12 feet from the surrounding stone balustrade, is a fist-sized bronze bell suspended in the square opening of a massive replica of an ancient Chinese coin. For 10 yuan (US$1.54), visitors can buy a stack of 50 circular tokens to fling at the bell. Managing to make its bronze curves sing signals the successful thrower will have good fortune in the Year of the Monkey. Apart from the token vendors and a pair of indoor stalls selling Taoist prayer beads and deity figurines, this spiritual celebration is otherwise unmarked by the spirit of commerce.
This small Taoist temple, conspicuously situated in the midst of one of Beijing’s busiest commercial districts, doubles as the site for the Beijing Folklore Museum, so event attendees not only pay their respects to Taoist deities,
they also learn about their Chinese zodiac signs from the museum’s Chinese-language exhibits. Separate exhibition rooms display zodiac animal-related artifacts alongside texts detailing information about that animal’s personality traits, specifying individual characteristics according to blood type as well. I first walk onto temple grounds through a red-drenched pathway called the Road of Fortune. Flanking the walkway are two railings heavy with bunches of hanging red tablets upon which fair-goers have written their wishes and desires. Different Chinese New Year sayings mark each wooden block, which are purchasable for 30 yuan (US$4.60) inside the temple. More expressions of hope – “I hope I test into my desired middle school” and “I wish for good health for my entire family” – are inked over a dozen large red cylinders of fabric lined up in an inner courtyard. Visitors can also ensure their financial fortune for the year by tossing metal tokens at the Money Eye booths, a slightly easier version of the Wofeng Bridge toss.
Along the periphery of the temple, which was originally constructed in the 14th century, are 76 grottoes, each one displaying a different department within the spiritual hierarchy known as the Taoist Pantheon. Each chamber holds huge figurines related to that particular department’s function, be it the Longevity Department (with its many gray-haired inhabitants) or the Department for Implementing 15 Kinds of Violent Death (with its decapitated soldier). The faithful slip bills into the donation boxes at the front of each chamber to show their respect to each part of the Taoist underworld.
“Whatever you do, do not come,” the middle-aged woman behind me says into her rose gold iPhone. I don’t need to strain to hear her conversation. We are pressed together in the middle of a slow-moving mass of thousands of
Ditan fairgoers, two extra crayons stuffed into a Crayola box. “It’s people mountain, people sea here!” she exclaims, using a four-character Chinese idiom to describe crowds so large they begin to resemble geological features. Ask any Beijinger about temple fairs and the first one he or she will bring up is Ditan’s. I’m visiting on the fifth day of the lunar calendar, the last day the Ditan temple fair opens its doors. Procrastinating fairgoers flood the park to savor traditional snacks, buy monkeythemed handicrafts and watch the graceful flow of water-sleeve dancers at the city’s largest and most famous temple fair. Yet a set of red booths labeled “Traditional Handmade Crafts” offers nothing but plastic Chinese masks, dime-a-dozen plush monkeys and factory-made ocarinas. A row of stands marked “30 yuan [US$4.60] area” and “60 yuan [US$9.20] area” bear merchandise from recent blockbusters Monster Hunt and Kung Fu
Panda 3. Plastic, bright-pink cherry blossoms attempt to dress up a few sparse, winter-bare trees. After tired-looking water-sleeve dancers finish their afternoon number, only three people clap among an audience of hundreds. An unsupervised toddler defecates nearby. The original commercial arm of temple fairs birthed in the Sui and Tang dynasties has grown so strong at Ditan that it’s strangled everything else. Not only can kids buy Minionsfrosted cupcakes while staring at the advertisements on booths’ outer walls, they can play carnival games with the hope of winning a red monkey toy or a SpongeBob SquarePants figurine. The actual temple area is the least crowded section of the park. When I return home and begin doing research for this story, I type the characters for “temple fair” into the Chinese search engine Baidu. The first suggested search result? “What can I sell at temple fairs to make money?”
chuangke inventor or creator
As China tries to transition from a manufacturing powerhouse to a services-based center for creation, the Chinese government continues to shine a very prominent spotlight on the power of innovation. As a result, the new term chuangke, which can be interpreted as “inventor” or “creator,” has increasingly penetrated ordinary parlance. With chuang meaning “create” and ke loosely translating as “person,” the word chuangke originated from a concept propagated by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology program Fab Lab – anyone can be an inventor. The Fab Lab global network of public, equipped labs encourages anyone who has a strong interest in innovation to design anything that caters to users’ demands. Fab Lab hopes to shorten the distance between idea
conception and product production. In a sense, chuangke are also similar to the makers of maker culture, the social movement of do-it-yourselfers initiated in 2005 with the founding of Make magazine. But while the label “maker” applies to anyone who creates something with his or her own two hands, be it an animatronic robot or strawberry jam, chuangke focuses more on a project’s technical innovation. In other words, someone who sews a stylish coat may be a maker, but not a chuangke. Chuangke typically create within high-tech sectors in China. The chuangke concept has been spreading around China for years. Many PC game makers, for example, make their games’ source codes available for chuangke to add in their own functions or even make their own ver-
sions. There are now many Chinese chuangke websites and platforms that provide original source codes and other tools for people to create and innovate their own games and software programs. Still in its infancy, chuangke, at least in China, have not yet formed a mature industrial chain, with many ideas or projects lacking a clear path toward profitability. However, many chuangke claim that passion, not profit, pushes them to create, and the culture of chuangke, if developed fully, will make a significant contribution to the creative potential of the entire country. The Chinese government even mentioned the term in its March 2015 work report, hoping the new concept will help China through the process of industrial upgrading. NEWSCHINA I April 2016
flavor of the month
Street Eats By Olivia Contini
NEWSCHINA I April 2016
with a drizzle of light molasses syrup for an additional sugar hit. North by northwest in Xi’an, on the other hand, a different snack scene greets the globetrotting gastronome. The main snack street bisects Xi’an’s Muslim quarter and is the belly and the heart of the old city. The bustle of people and sting of sizzling charcoal draw you into a real food experience, with noisy rhythmic chanting accompanying the pounding of sesame candy, overlaid with bad pop music and yells of “try this!” and “taste that!” From early lunchtime until late at night, the narrow streets are crowded with performance artist cooks beset by hungry customers. It’s worth seeking out the family businesses fronted with smiles and usually packed with customers, but aimless wandering can also lead to rich rewards – this maze of delicacies is the perfect place to get lost. Away from the street food stalls, freshly butchered lamb carcasses are hung as advertisements for the provenance of meat threaded onto the ubiquitous lamb kebabs, or chuan’r, which are cooked slowly over smoking coals and basted with layers of oil. Sumac and cumin are added in turns, forming a flavorsome, fragrant crust. The ever-popular roujiamo, deceptively and somewhat unfairly marketed to Westerners as “Chinese hamburgers,” is a soft, white grilled bread bun stuffed with strips of cumin-spiced beef or lamb and tenderized onions, served dripping with oil. Every other stall offers one or the other, so join the longest queue! Again, those with a sweet tooth will find themselves catered to – indeed, both Chengdu’s and Xi’an’s snack streets serve as a lesson to those who believe China doesn’t do desserts. In Xi’an, ginger-flavored, sugared rock candy is perfect for salivating over between bites. The sugar is stretched out, saltwater taffy style, across half the street before being thrown onto a hook, always a hair’s breadth from touching the ground. For those in the mood for something more sickly, try meigui jinggao. These glutinous rice cakes are individually steamed before sesame paste, cinnamon sugar or a variety of luminous sweet spreads are slathered on at the customer’s discretion. Much of China’s indigenous snacking culture has been “cleaned up” to serve the tourist trade. When looking for a local bite, it’s worth tracking down the local buzz – Xi’an’s Muslim quarter has held on to its raucous atmosphere better than many of Chengdu’s more famous al fresco dining spots. Better sanitation is never a bad thing, but if the true, noisy essence of Chinese street food culture is lost along the way, a major aspect of the culture could also irretrievably disappear.
Photo by CFP
Photo by CNS
ot only do the Chinese love grand mealtime gatherings, they also love to snack in between. My travels have led me to two cities renowned for their snack food, Chengdu and Xi’an. As usual with Chinese cuisine, it pays to expect the unexpected. These two cities couldn’t be more different. I was very excited to visit Chengdu and sample some of the famous spicy foods I’d heard so much about. However the snacking scene surprised me. For anyone concerned about street food hygiene, Chengdu’s well-worn snack streets are the place for you. Located in the modernized tourist areas of Jinli Ancient Street and Kuanzhai Alley, everything’s very smart and ordered, with clean work stations behind glass frontages. However, what was provided in terms of sanitation costs something in atmosphere. There was little customer-vendor interaction and the streets, though busy, were oddly quiet for a central eating place in an overcrowded metropolis. With few enticing aromas or offerings of free samples, it’s hard to get in the mood. A little digging, however, turned up some unmissable flavors. I ordered a bowl of dandan noodles and was very confused when handed a dish that was seemingly sauce-free. A glance around showed me how it was done – I was meant to mix the sauce, lurking in the base of the bowl, into the noodles by myself. When I did, the combined flavor of ground pork, vinegar, crushed peanuts, chili flakes, soy sauce, sugar and salt was good enough to warrant another bowl! But I still craved a more down-to-earth, grimy dining experience, and I had a feeling I knew where to get one. The area around Chengdu’s Wenshu Monastery is host to a more authentic snacking vibe, with open-air stalls and plenty of noise and smells wafting through the air to whet the appetite. The customary tourist-baiting array of insects on sticks was on display (I declined), but a nearby stall groaned beneath towers of bamboo steamers laden with homemade vegetarian dumplings. On the stall next door were large blue-and-white ceramic bowls, Sichuanese snacks spilling over the rims; crispy, deep-fried broad beans, peanuts in chili oil and chili peppers stuffed with sesame seeds, delivering the best bang for my chili buck so far. But what about dessert? In Chengdu, the making of the sweet san dapao is as much about spectacle as snacking. These balls of sticky rice are served three at a time after being tossed in the air by a dexterous jugglerchef and coated in candied yellow bean powder. Bells are attached to the cook’s basket, mimicking the sound of a dapao, big cannon! They come
An Uphill Struggle By David Green
There was a chance we would not make it before the first snowfall rendered access to the mountain even more perilous.
Illustration by Liu Xiaochao
Climbing Jade Mountain (Yushan), Taiwan’s highest peak at almost 4,000 meters, is one of those things you feel you ought to do before leaving Ilha Formosa. The hike itself is one of the most picturesque on the island, and on a clear day, the views are breathtaking throughout. While the route is one of the world’s easiest as far as gaining significant elevation, the paper trail that needs to be negotiated before setting foot on the slope is a thing of marvelous complexity. For a start, the pages on the Yushan National Park website are as dangerously unintelligible as the most hard-to-read alpine weather system. In the English version, information is repeated, contradicted or omitted entirely (when compared with the Chinese), leaving baffled team leaders to scour the web for firsthand accounts. The first order of business was to ask my team of 12 (later whittled down to seven due to timing and people being lost forever in the maze of red tape) to complete a mandatory online safety test, the answers for which are secreted within three videos, each about 45 minutes long. Every member has as many chances as they like to get eight out of 10 questions correct, with puzzlers ranging from the fines commensurate with feeding the monkeys, to the symptoms and alleviative measures for altitude sickness, and the appropriate action if you encounter a Formosan black bear (answer: exit stage left, quietly). Access to the mountain is so oversubscribed that berths within Paiyun Lodge, the retreat perched on the edge of the vegetation line in which weary hikers can pass a night and acclimatize, are allocated by lottery exactly one month in advance of the date hikers intend to make their ascent. This adds an extra frisson of disquiet due to the time pressure related to getting your application in order, particularly as with winter fast approaching, there was a chance we would not make it before the first snowfall rendered access to the mountain even more perilous and permitorientated. Having analyzed the composition of applicants to the lodge on various days, it became clear that odds of about 10 to one meant there
was little chance of winning a place on a Saturday evening. The uncanny similarity of the team names applying for places also suggested that some people were adopting an “apply early, apply often” approach, which, while not entirely in the spirit of the thing, was admirable for the sheer bloodymindedness required to complete the applications multiple times. After twice failing to win the lottery, and having to ask my team to resubmit their details each time, I resorted to calling the national park directly and asking them for guidance. This approach is highly recommended. The park representative acknowledged the lottery system is almost comically frustrating, and suggested that our team take the option available to groups of
foreigners (plus a maximum of one Taiwanese national) of skipping the queue by booking even further than a month ahead. I readily agreed, calling only twice more just to confirm that, yes, everything was in order and our places were secure. A couple of weeks later, I received a reminder to complete all my team members’ details. Just for giggles, a system glitch ensures that once a request is accepted, all team members must re-enter their emergency contact details or risk having the entire application nullified. I was also asked to submit a list of passport page photos as a single PDF, a task I dutifully fulfilled. I won’t go into the meal-ordering process, suffice it to say that single PDFs are the way to go here as well, despite this not being mentioned at any point in the web instructions. It is possible to circumvent these torments by hiring a tour company to handle the bureaucracy for you. One suspects these entities are responsible for block-booking the lodge. The tours will furnish you with a guide for the princely sum of US$360 for trips from Taipei, but for those with the required patience and fortitude, the whole expedition for a small group, including van rental, can be done for about US$60. On the day of the ascent, we arrived early and negotiated obtaining a permit to enter the park from the local police headquarters, which sits at the bottom of the trail. All that was left was to actually climb the mountain. After a solid fivehour march up to an altitude of 3,700 meters on a beautiful, crystal-clear day, we arrived at Paiyun Lodge tired, hungry and elated. Given the arduous nature of the process that had gotten us there, the group agreed we should make the most of our time on the mountain and climb as many of the four or five peaks around Jade Mountain itself as possible. We sidled up to the desk in the lodge to ask about the conditions on the route and which extra peaks they recommend we tackle in the time we had. “Well,” they said. “We would recommend the North Peak and the West Peak, but you should have applied for permits to climb them back at the police station…” NEWSCHINA I April 2016
The Three Stages of Celebrity By Lilja Saeboe
NEWSCHINA I April 2016
I suddenly caught sight of the crowd of people standing behind my friend also taking pictures of me, without asking. Suddenly, the adoring fans had become the paparazzi.
Illustration by Liu Xiaochao
I look like a typical Norwegian – down to the blonde hair and blue eyes. Traveling outside Europe I tend to garner a lot of attention from the locals. Until I came to China, this attention was mostly negative and uncomfortable. There would be a lot of whistling, cat-calling and commentary from men who passed me in the street. After I came to China, however, I realized that in terms of public treatment of women, as with many other things, the Chinese are often rather different. In China there have been no comments and no wolf-whistling. I tend to get as much attention from girls as from boys, and instead of feeling objectified, one inevitably starts to feel more like a celebrity. In my imagination at least, when a real celebrity walks down the street, people point and whisper “Isn’t that that actress from that movie?” As a foreigner in China, you overhear the word laowai (foreigner) everywhere you turn. Instead of discussions about which movies you have appeared in, you can hear people asserting with great confidence which country you are from. I have yet to hear anyone get it right; most label me as Russian. So often, in fact, that hearing the phrase eluosi de (Russian), like laowai, triggers a Pavlovian response in me. Moreover, as I’m sure most true celebrities know, people will occasionally walk up, camera in hand, and shyly ask to have a picture taken with me. The first time this happened, I misunderstood their intention and thought they wanted me to take a picture of them. But no, they wanted me in the photo, and, bewildered, I duly struck a pose, smiling my biggest smile, not understanding why someone would want to take a picture with a complete stranger. Over time, of course, this public attention slowly goes from being incredibly flattering, to being routine, and then to being a little bit of a hassle. Sooner or later, you realize you actually don’t want strangers to take pictures of you. For me this turning point came during
a trip to Beijing, when a friend was going to take a picture of me in front of the Forbidden City, and I suddenly caught sight of the crowd of people standing behind my friend also taking pictures of me, without asking. Suddenly, the adoring fans had become the paparazzi. Simply saying “no” in such situations is rarely effective – people often just take your picture anyway, so after some deliberation my traveling companions and I concocted a plan. We would ask people for money to take a picture of us or with us. We didn’t really think anyone would actually want to pay, but still we set the price at 10 yuan (less than US$2),
and agreed to make exceptions for children. The next time we were approached, we all froze up. We had agreed to ask for money, but we all felt very embarrassed. How would people react to such a demand? Was it very rude? Was it really that exhausting to just pose for a few pictures? Eventually one of my friends got up her nerve, and, when a camera-toting tourist made his move, curtly countered with “shi kuai qian” (10 yuan). To our great surprise, the target just nodded as if this was perfectly normal, handed us a 10yuan note, and stood beside us so his friend could take the picture. When our mark walked away, we were left dumbstruck. Someone really gave us money? And that’s when we realized; we were onto something here! 10 yuan might not be much, but to students every little bit helps, and when you're in a country where 10 yuan can fill your stomach, our scheme seemed ingenious. We kept asking for money. Partly because we didn’t want to take pictures, and partly because we did want to earn money. About 30 percent of the people who sidled up for a snap were actually willing to pay, and when we went to Beijing’s Temple of Heaven we managed to earn back half of the entrance ticket price by taking pictures with people. The people who didn’t pay, however, were visibly contemptuous of our little scam. And I couldn’t blame them. Slowly, however, the novelty of even this monetized form of pseudo-celebrity life too wore off, and I started letting people just take a picture every now and then. The presence of kids, or having a brief conversation with people beforehand, often made charging seem exploitative. Thus, what I can only assume is the third stage of celebrity was reached – resignation. Is it a bit of a hassle to get stopped for pictures? Yes, a little. But that minute of hassle for me might make another person very happy, and send them back home with a story to tell, and if that is the case, isn’t it worth it?
Cultural listings Cinema
New Box Office Champion The Mermaid, a new romantic comedy by iconic Hong Kong actor and director Stephen Chow, has made Chinese box office history. In just 12 days, it leapfrogged China’s reigning box office champ, Monster Hunt, which had held the record with US$375.6 million in ticket sales. The Mermaid premiered on February 8, 2016, New Year’s Day on the Chinese lunar calendar. Telling the unlikely love story of a rich, polluting businessman and the mermaid who wants to kill him to protect her clan and habitat, the movie blends comedy with themes of human avarice and environmental protection. Its lineup includes mainland actor Deng Chao, actress Zhang Yuqi, Taiwanese actor Show Luo and even Hong Kong director Tsui Hark. Moviegoers immediately recognized The Mermaid as a quintessentially Chow movie, exhibiting the director’s signature traits: exaggerated expressions, absurdist comedic acts and an illogical plot. However, some were still disappointed, claiming that Chow’s inspiration has dried up. On douban.com, one of China’s most popular cultural social networking sites and movie review aggregators, The Mermaid’s ratings have been fairly tepid, reaching a modest 7.3 out of 10.
Fuzz Forward Though based out of historic Xi’an, an ancient city that was the imperial capital of several Chinese dynasties, four-piece band The Fuzz prefers to look forward and explore some of the most pioneering genres of rock music. Combining mainly noise pop, shoegaze and post-punk, their alternative sound wraps listeners up into a looping world with repeating guitar riffs and steady-yet-dynamic rhythms. Unlike many of the band’s domestic peers who also delve into avant-garde genres, The Fuzz insisted on writing most of its lyrics in Chinese instead of English. In late January 2016, the band’s second album was released by Beijing’s alternative label Maybe Mars. Titled The Root of Innocence, the album received a rating of 8.1 out of 10 on xiami.com, one of China’s largest online music platforms. In March, the band plans to begin a twomonth tour and will perform in a total of 42 cities nationwide.
Passing Days By Chen Hui
Abstract Analysis Abstract art emerged in China in the late 1970s, around the time the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976) was coming to an end. In the following years, as knowledge of Western art increased in China and more local artists returned home after studying abroad, a large number of Chinese artists experimented with their versions of abstract art. “The Research Exhibition of Abstract Art in China,” held from late January to mid-March 2016 at Beijing’s Today Art Museum, discusses the formation, development, influence and future potential of Chinese abstract art. Works from 16 of the country’s most representative abstract artists were selected and are on display at the exhibition. A touring exhibition and more discussions and forums have been scheduled for the rest of the year.
The Guanzhong Plain, cradle of the state of Qin, which unified China in 221 BC and established the first Chinese imperial dynasty, lies in the country’s central region. Its fertile land and inland location formed a solid agricultural tradition in the area. Even in the face of today’s trends of rapid modernization and urbanization, these agrarian roots still deeply affect local people’s way of life. Passing Days: The Narrative and Ethics of Peasants’ Daily Life in the Guanzhong Plain, published in early January 2016, analyzes the traditions that govern local peasants’ lives through observations and fieldwork. As China’s transformation from an agrarian society to an industrial one is still ongoing, such research might provide helpful background to those interested in gaining a thorough understanding of modern China. NEWSCHINA I April 2016
NEWSCHINA I April 2016
China needs to broaden its scope to stabilize the real estate industry Recent efforts to shrink inventories of unsold real estate can only work in the short term By Min Jie
he real estate industry was one of the most prosperous amounted to 9.6 trillion yuan (US$1.5tn) in 2015, barely above sectors during China’s recent period of rapid economic the 2014 figure (9.5 trillion yuan). growth. But with the country currently mired in an If the trend continues, the real estate industry may fall into a economic slowdown, the prospect of a collapse of the real estate recession in 2016, which would have a significant impact on the market has become a major concern for government’s efforts to maintain a healthy decision makers, as such an event would growth rate, in turn further dampening trigger a dangerous chain reaction. In the investor confidence. The government’s efIn Jiangxi, reducing past month, reducing unsold inventory has forts to slash inventory may boost housing real estate inventory become a top priority for both the central sales in the short term, but as economic has become a government and its local counterparts. uncertainty looms, it may prove ineffective political task, as the In February, China’s central bank lowered at solving the real estate market’s long-term provincial government the down payment requirement rate for problems. home loans. On February 17 and 19, the To solve those issues, the government has decided to hold central bank, the Ministry of Finance and should not focus solely on encouraging the officials accountable the Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural sale of new homes. Since new home sales for failing to achieve Development co-launched several policies are more profitable for both the governdesignated goals. favorable to home buyers, including increasment (in terms of taxes) and land developing the interest earned by public housing ers, the entire real estate industry has been funds, which help low- and middle-income primarily focused on selling homes in past home buyers purchase homes, and lowering years, which has led to various problems, various tax rates on real estate transactions. such as poor construction and relatively In the meantime, local governments in low safety and energy-efficiency standards. many provinces, including Gansu, Jiangxi, In stabilizing the real estate industry, Shanxi, Shandong and Anhui, have folthe government should take a more holowed this up by launching similar stimulistic approach to better the business enlus packages to boost the real estate market. In Jiangxi, reducing vironment. It should improve the comprehensive development real estate inventory has become a political task, as the provincial of the industry and encourage new areas of growth, such as the government has decided to hold officials accountable for failing to renovation of existing homes, construction of public retirement achieve designated goals. homes and real estate management, all of which have been largeTo a certain extent, similar policies appear to have worked in ly neglected. the past. Following various policies initiated in 2015 to bolster the Moreover, the government needs to tackle some institutional housing industry, the annual sales of commercial and residential problems deep-seated within China’s urbanization process. For exhousing increased by 14.4 percent and 16.6 percent, respectively. ample, when migrant workers relocate to a new city, they lack access However, the increase in housing sales contrasts sharply with the to adequate public services, affecting both their ability and willingdeclining confidence of land developers in the market. In 2015, the ness to purchase a home in their new city of residence. total area of new land development and the area of new residenOnly by resolving these issues can China’s real estate industry tial construction was 1.54 billion and 1.07 billion square meters, achieve stable and sustainable development, key to the wellbeing of respectively, marking a 14 percent and 14.6 percent decline from China’s overall economy. the previous year. At the same time, land developers only purchased 228 million square meters in 2015, a 31.7 percent drop from The author is a columnist with China Newsweek, NewsChina’s sister 2014. All in all, total investment attracted by the housing industry publication.
NEWSCHINA I April 2016
NEWSCHINA I April 2016
NEWSCHINA I April 2016