Maritime Mess: China & Vietnam
Left to Suffer: Hospice Shortfall
Deal Brokers: Nixon, Mao & Kim Il-Sung
A resurgence of extremist violence in a province of contrasts
Volume No. 072 August 2014
Published by China Newsweek Corporation Publisher: Liu Beixian Executive Director: Liu Beixian
Innovation will boost science and technology research
Editor-in-Chief: Wang Xiaohui Editorial Office Managing Editor: Zheng Zhonghai Advisor: Liu Dizhong Senior Editor: Yang Yi Copy Editors: Jack Smith, Alex Taggart Lead Writers: Yu Xiaodong, Li Jia Editors: Wang Yan, Yuan Ye, Xie Ying, Sun Zhe, Du Guodong First Reader: Sean Silbert Address: 5th Floor, 12 Baiwanzhuang South Street, Xicheng District, Beijing, China Post Code: 100037 Tel: 86-10-88395566 Fax: 86-10-88388045 Email: email@example.com www.newschinamag.com Art Department Art Director: Wu Shangwen Art Editor/Designer: Zhang Dawei Publishing and Development Office China Newsweek Corporation President: Wang Xiaohui Chief Executive: Fred Teng Publishing Associate: Zhang Tianli Tel: 1-212-481-2510 Fax: 1-212-481-2503 Address: Suite 1101, 15 East 40th Street, New York, NY 10016, USA Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Toronto Office Director: Lai Hailong Address: 51 Halstead Drive, Markham, ON Canada L3R7Z4 Tel: 1-905-604-6150 Fax: 1-905-604-6170 Email: email@example.com 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: Wang Yongzhi, Ruan Yulin, Li Yang Washington Office: Wu Qingcai, De Yongjian Los Angeles Office: Mao Jianjun San Francisco Office: Liu Dan Houston Office: Wang Huan London Office: Zhou Zhaojun Tokyo Office: Sun Ran Paris Office: Long Jianwu Bangkok Office: Yu Xianlun Kuala Lumpur Office: Huang Hongbin Moscow Office: Jia Jingfeng Manila Office: Zhang Ming Berlin Office: Huang Shuanghong Sydney Office: Zhu Daqiang Legal Advisor: Allen Wu ISSN 1943-1902
NEWSCHINA I August 2014
t a recent meeting of academicians from China’s reform of its science and technology systhe Chinese Academy of Sciences and the tems has fallen behind – a hindrance to technologiChinese Academy of Engineering, two of cal advances and innovation. The time is right for China’s foremost research institutes, President Xi China to break conceptual and institutional barriJinping emphasized that stickers, improve relations between ing to the old path of economthe government and the marChina’s reform of its ic growth will not work. But ket, establish a State innovascience and technology what, many have asked, is the tion system, and train more systems has fallen new path? personnel. The “old path” refers to ChiPushing forward systemic behind – a hindrance to na’s extensive, mainly investscience and technology retechnological advances ment-driven economic growth form requires a deepening of and innovation. model, which has become ineconomic and social reform creasingly unsustainable and – including improvements is in dire need of transformain government performance tion. But while this issue was evaluation and the establishfirst raised in the 1990s, little has changed. Insti- ment of an incentive system. The overreliance on tutional constraints are partly to blame, including GDP growth at the cost of public livelihood should the fetishization of GDP growth statistics. Another be halted. Deepening collaboration between firms, problem lies in restrictions on scientific research. universities and research institutes are important The history of global economic growth has repeat- to make key scientific and technological breakedly shown that without technological advances, throughs. it is virtually impossible for a nation to change its A solid talent-training system is crucial to pushgrowth model and restructure its economy. ing forward this reform. For a long time, malpracXi Jinping has stated that innovation should be tice in the selection of university academicians and the principal focus of China’s development. Top their life-long tenure has been a widely recognized priority should be deepening systemic reform of loophole in the training of science and technology the science and technology sectors. Institutional re- workers. It is highly important to incentivize them form and progress in these fields have proven to be to make full play of their enthusiasm and creativity the two most important factors driving economic in pushing forward Chinese science and technolgrowth in China since the country kicked off its ogy. Reform and Opening-up Policy in the late 1970s. It should also be pointed out that the relationInstitutional reform refers to the transition from a ship between government and market should be planned economy to a socialist market economy, adjusted – the market should play the leading role boosted by the improvement of the rule of law and in the allocation of resources, while the governgovernment management. A market economy is ment can focus on building research infrastructure characterized by the free flow of production factors and providing financial support and preferential and limited government. policies. In the 1990s, the US saw an Internet As for technology, China can profit from follow- revolution that set its economy on a fast track to ing in the footsteps of developed countries, buying economic growth and low inflation rates for at least their technology or opening its tech exchange mar- 10 years. Even though bubbles eventually formed, kets, which can rapidly bridge the knowledge gap that boom reshaped the US economy. What will be while boosting economic growth. But following the next technological revolution? Nuclear fusion? trends is not always reliable. Without innovation, Nanotechnology? The much discussed “third inthe country’s backwards economic growth trend is dustrial revolution?” Things are difficult to predict, unlikely to change. and the market has the final say.
face the future
01 Innovation will boost science and technology research 10 Petition Reform: Laying Down the Law
12 Xinjiang History: Complex Problems/Where Cultures Collide
26 Gao Shining: “There is a consensus that religion can provide an impor tant resource for the rebuilding of social morality.” 28 30 34
Greenpeace: A Storm in a Rice Bowl UFC in China: Everybody Was Cagefighting Cults: Murder in God’s Name
P42 NEWSCHINA I August 2014
Photo by CFP
Xinjiang, China’s westernmost frontier province, has seen a resurgence of extremist violence in the last two years. NewsChina uncovers the complex web of factors behind the new radicalism redrawing its incomparable cultural landscape
P64 36 Hospice Gap: A Grim Prognosis
40 China and Britain: Driving Forces 42 South China Sea: Holding Our Breath 45 Advertorial: Industrial Park to Facilitate Growth economy
Crowdfunding: Failure to Kickstart Bespoke Tourism: Beating the Crowds
52 North Korea and the UN: A Bang, a Whimper
60 Soccer Mania
64 Heady Hangzhou: Steeped in Culture 67 Flavor of the Month: Summer on a Stick
72 The problem with China’s finance sector is too much regulation, not a lack of it 04 MEDIA FOCUS 05 What They Say 06 NEWS BRIEF 08 Netizen Watch 51 China by numbers 66 real chinese 68 ESSAY 70 CULTURAL LISTINGS
56 Lung Ying-tai: Crossing Over
NEWSCHINA I August 2014
NewsChina Chinese Edition
China Economic Weekly
June 23, 2014
June 10, 2014
More Young Entrepreneurs
According to media reports, 10 percent more young people (born after 1990) chose to start their own business in 2013 in comparison to the number in 2012. Aside from the poor employment prospects of recent graduates, major reasons behind the rising rate, according to observers, are burgeoning creativity and less concern for parental and societal expectations among the younger generation. More opportunities for private investment have further reduced the financial risks of going into business, whether selling bespoke products or launching websites.While these startups typically begin and end small-scale, they are gradually changing the business landscape in China, though some observers have noted that many would-be young entrepreneurs give up when they encounter difficulties and settle for a traditional 9-to-5 desk job. It is believed that advances in management practices and commercial research will help China’s new-wave businesspeople to create enterprises that can withstand the rigors of the country’s unique market.
Caijing June 6, 2014
Telecoms Trial Pressured by increasing construction costs and the growing scarcity of land resources, China’s three State-owned telecommunications giants, China Mobile, China Unicom and China Telecom, plan to jointly establish a telecoms tower company to unify the construction, operation and supervision of the country’s entire network. According to the State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission, this company will allow private investors to hold up to 49 percent of its stock, though the State will retain a controlling interest. As private investors will consequently have no control over the company, which will effectively be yet another State monopoly, analysts have warned of the risks of corruption, the cost of which will most likely be passed on to China’s millions of end users. Some have consequently called for the establishment of a separate, private company to increase competition. However, opposition to such a move from the powerful interests at the heart of the telecoms industry is expected to be fierce.
New Rust Belt Yulin, Shaanxi Province, Shuozhou, Shanxi Province and Erdos, Inner Mongolia, three cities formerly known as “China’s Golden Triangle of Coal,” have suffered a virtual “ice age” since the end of 2012, with the combined GDP of the three regions dropping from 18 percent over the past decade to less than 8 percent in 2014. Many analysts have attributed the decline to over-exploration which set off a price war among China’s coal producers. Nearly all coal producers in Shuozhou and Erdos, for example, including State-owned and private concerns, are now reportedly losing money. Yulin, which provides higher-quality coal with lower emissions, also saw the price of its product shrink to only one third of the price it sold for five years ago. Many struggling private coal producers have appealed to the government to rescue them by loosening restrictions on loans to private businesses and offering more tax incentives, but central authorities, already struggling with pollution and overcapacity crises, have little to gain from such actions. Caixin June 2, 2014
Unwelcome Urbanization Zhenggezhuang, a sizable village located in a Beijing suburb, has become renowned nationwide for its unauthorized program of so-called “self-urbanization” which effectively subverts the State-mandated system of collectively-owned land. Villagers moved into apartment blocks and pooled their land for sale to the village-owned enterprise, allowing all residents to share in the profits. Despite the technically illegal practice, the village soon got rich and was hailed as “a representative for new village construction” by providing better social welfare than was available even in major cities. However, China’s first independent “model village” might soon fall apart as the government is now tightening restrictions on unauthorized construction. As rural collectives are forbidden from commercially building on their land without the State’s permission, a major source of income for Zhenggezhuang is about to be officially outlawed. Experts revealed that many similar villages around the country are facing the same issues, exposing the conflict between rural desire for the right to self-determination and the government’s reluctance to loosen its grasp on national land resources. Oriental Outlook May 26, 2014
Gray Dawn China has in recent years invested a lot in its network of senior care homes, though supply continues to lag way behind demand in the world’s largest aging population. Due to a lack of money and talent, many residential communities, though equipped with specialized senior care teams, can only provide basic low-level services, such as helping with housework or constructing lean-tos in public spaces to enable seniors in the same community to gather and play games. As many of the employees recruited by local communities to assist seniors are poorly-educated migrant workers or the long-term unemployed, specialized training is almost nonexistent. Experts have estimated that China needs at least 10 million senior care professionals if it is to meet the future needs of its millions of graying citizens. NEWSCHINA I August 2014
Illustration by Wu Shangwen
“Many people, myself included, believed that society would be purified if we imprisoned or executed more corrupt officials. However, it turns out that apples always go bad unless you change their soil.” Deng Fei, former chief reporter for Phoenix Weekly, discussing corruption in Southern Metropolis Weekly.
“It is sheer bullying to try to prevent a price drop in the real estate market.” Billionaire real estate magnate Pan Shiyi decrying attempts by local governments to avert a housing crash.
“People are fortunate not to have lived through the Cultural Revolution, but they are unfortunate to be utterly ignorant of that period in history.” Shi Hang, editor of Zhang Yimou’s Cultural Revolution-themed Coming Home, on young people’s inability to comprehend the historical context of the movie. “Given that most historical records remain restricted in China, Chinese readers have grown accustomed to learning history from fiction. Don’t fear‘dull’history books – if you have a chance to read them, take it.” Inner Mongolian writer Alai on the poor uptake of non-fiction books in China. “Netizens should not be blamed. They awoke me to the conflict between private and State employees. It is time for us to change our public image.” He Xiangjiu, a member of the CPPCC (Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference), responding to an outcry in response to a mooted pay rise for government employees. NEWSCHINA I August 2014
“I would much rather own a State-owned enterprise than have shares in it, as it’s the only way to have any say in how they are run. I’d hate to lose all my money when it went bust.” Zong Qinghou, chairman of food and beverage giant Hangzhou Wahaha Group, on the government’s bid to tempt private capital into State business.
“Why can’t the next generation inherit the land from their parents?” Hundreds of employees at the Daqing oilfield protesting a new policy discontinuing the practice of allowing children to inherit their parents’ jobs.
“If a bad student abused family connections to get enrolled into a prestigious school, get a good job and climb the ladder, it would be a slap in the face of both the education system and the country.” Shanghai teacher Xiong Bingqi calling for more careful vetting of candidates to China’s top universities.
“As a businessman, I did not see my rights and interests guaranteed and I often got confused about what a Chinese businessman was supposed to do. So I pursued my studies abroad.” Chinese entrepreneur Wang Shi on leaving his homeland.
Media “Tiger” Caged
China’s anti-corruption campaign appears to have reached State media outlets after Guo Zhenxi, the director of the finance channel under State broadcaster CCTV was detained June 1 on bribery charges. Known as one of the most influential figures on the network, Guo, now 49, gained fame for his involvement in CCTV’s market-oriented reform of its advertising business since the end of the 1990s – an effort that many have alleged to be the major source of his corruption.
According to domestic media reports, Guo allegedly accepted bribes worth at least two billion yuan (US$330m) in his 22 years at CCTV, most of which were received since he took charge of the advertising business in 2005. Some media speculation also related his corruption to the notorious World Consumer Rights Day program aired on March 15 every year, in which the network typically levels allegations of fraud or product quality problems at various – almost always private – companies.
Insiders have reportedly revealed to media that Guo’s appointment as head of the finance channel resulted in an increased emphasis on corruption and nepotism, and less attention paid to the quality of programming. “If you have enough money, you won’t be attacked by the March 15 program, and you could even be named as one of CCTV’s annual ‘prominent economic figures,’” Zhou Peng’an, a popular political blogger, told the media. Besides Guo, another four suspects have also been detained on similar charges, including Tian Liwu, producer of the popular entertainment program Lucky 52, and Wang Shijie, a producer and financial director at the finance channel. Unconfirmed reports suggest that over 100 employees have been asked to talk with the police in connection with the matter, resulting in a climate of fear and uncertainty at the channel. The case is still under investigation. Similar to the families of many government officials, Guo’s wife and daughter have been living abroad for several years. For the public, the revelations are yet more evidence of State media outlets abusing their influence in pursuit of illegal gains.
Group Fraud in College Entrance Exam A total of 127 people in Henan Province were exposed to have been recruited as surrogate examinees for the gaokao, China’s national standardized college entrance exam. According to State media CCTV, the suspects were backed by a “cheating agency” who paid college students to take exams, and bribed exam proctors to help surrogates pass the identity authentication – the agency even manufactured fingerprint films for the exam takers. One of the suspected organizers told the media that most of those buying their services were wealthy people or officials, and that the business has been operating for three years. The college enrollment office of Henan Province has sent an investigation team to help the police, and has pledged to expel any teachers or candidates found to be connected to the case, while critics are already calling for an investigation into whether corruption has spread to other regions, higher-level teachers or education officials.
NEWSCHINA I August 2014
China’s official think-tank, the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, recently issued the country’s first report on the credibility of Chinese government officials, revealing that chengguan, or urban management officers, have the worst reputation among the public, largely due to their frequent use of violence to discourage unlicensed street hawkers. By analyzing over 2,000 cases exposed in 2013, the report labeled the Chinese government’s public security image as “risky,” its social order image as “chaotic,” its environmental image as “dirty,” and its public service image as “poor.” The report also ranked provincial and municipal officials in their public images, with Guangdong Province, Beijing and Henan Province listed as the three worst cities.
Alibaba Invests in Chinese Soccer
Liable to falsify credentials: 17.4%
Likely to abuse power: 10.5%
Public image rankings of officials (left to right, worst to best)
Urban management officers
State-owned enterprise leaders
Civil affairs officials
Chinese Millionaires Sue Canada A total of 1,335 Chinese millionaires have brought a lawsuit in Hong Kong against the Canadian government for rejecting their immigration applications. The suit originated from Canada’s abolition of its old investment and entrepreneur immigration policies, which has reportedly resulted in the rejection of around 66,000 immigration applications, over 50,000 of which were from Chinese people. Lawyer Tim Leahy, representing the 1,335 plaintiffs, said that most of these Chinese applicants had been waiting for between one and five years for a decision on their applications. According to Leahy, his clients demand the Canadian government re-check their applications or compensate them by up to 5 million Canadian dollars (US$4.6m) each. Analysts have said the Canadian government is highly unlikely to overturn its new policy, which has already been approved by its majority party. The case is still under review. Analysts have said that if the Chinese side loses the lawsuit, the US and European countries will likely be the preferred alternative immigration destinations. Politics
Windows 8 Excluded from Government Procurement The Chinese government announced in late May on its official procurement website that no computer used by any government department will be permitted to install the Windows 8 operating system. Official sources attribute the ban to Windows 8’s allegedly poor performance and high price, but many Chinese analysts believe security issues are a bigger concern, claiming that Windows 8 is comparatively vulnerable to cyber-espionage since it allows too many online-based applications, and requires Microsoft authorization to install third-party software. Microsoft has said China’s ban is “unexpectNEWSCHINA I August 2014
ed,” and that it will work with the government to find a possible solution, as it did for the Vista and Windows 7 systems. Meanwhile, Chinese domestic media have revealed that several State-owned enterprises, including Huawei and Lenovo, have been developing special operating systems for government departments. In this year’s government work report, China for the first time listed “network security” among its focuses.
China’s biggest e-commerce enterprise Alibaba has spent 1.2 billion yuan (US$200m) to buy a popular Chinese soccer club, 2013 Asian Champions League winners Guangzhou Evergrande. According to the deal, signed on June 5, Alibaba Founder Jack Ma and Evergrande Group Chairman Xu Jiayin will each hold a 50 percent share in the club. Xu told the media that co-operation with outsiders will bring something new to the club, and revealed plans to bring in 20 more shareholders, each with a 60 million yuan (US$10m) stake. Analysts have suggested that Alibaba’s investment in soccer may be related to its US IPO scheduled for August, speculating that owning a successful soccer club will garner international media attention for Alibaba, while potentially generating more interest in its other new businesses, such as online lotteries and personal financial products. Many sports critics, however, have criticized the deal, saying that the overwhelming dominance of a single club would be detrimental to the health of the Chinese Soccer League.
Photos by CFP
China Ranks Public Image of Officials
What do people think of officials?
Surprising After winning the city’s annual dragon boat race for the past three years in a row, a team comprising the Guangzhou Party chief, the city’s mayor and other senior officials was beaten by a team of foreigners. Netizens joked that the foreigners did not understand the unwritten rule in China that prohibits beating your leaders at anything.
Poll the People With the Chinese housing market cooling off and prices starting to fall, are you planning to buy a house?
Yes, it’s a good time to buy. 9.43% 2,806 No, they’re still too expensive. 77.19% 22,974 I’ll keep waiting. 13.38% 3,983 Source: www.weibo.com
Most Circulated Post
Police in Rizhao, Shandong Province detained a man surnamed Li for attempting to fake his own death by staging a hit-and-run using a dog carcass dressed in his clothes. At press time, no official charges had been pressed against the man who was allegedly trying to escape his marriage and start a new life.
Parents of students without a Beijing hukou or residence permit with no access to local schools knelt before city officials to beg for their children to be permitted to attend school in Beijing. The city is limiting access to education for students without a local hukou in accordance with population controls.
Retweeted 29,369 times This June 16 post by Sanxingdui Museum’s official Weibo account right before Germany’s first game in the 2014 World Cup, consists of two pictures, one of the museum’s most famous ancient bronzes, the other of German midfielder Mesut Ozil, who allegedly resembles the artwork.
Put on a good show and don’t let us down. NEWSCHINA I August 2014
Top Five Search Queries On
HOT? WHO’S NOT?
over the week ending June 19 World Cup Fixture List 141,821 Chinese like football as much as the rest of the world. Huang Yi 101,158 The renowned actress filed for divorce on grounds of domestic violence. Young Nun 94,972 The diary of a college graduate documenting her life in a temple after she became a nun a few years ago went viral online.
Academic Alpaca This former beast of burden was bizarrely named the highestscoring student from the affiliated high school of Shandong Normal University during the college entrance exam held in early June.
Young Hostess 55,047 An unidentified female anchor with State broadcaster CCTV was reportedly placed under investigation in relation to a corruption case implicating the head of the network’s finance and economy channel.
Top Blogger Profile Xu Xin Followers: 10,258,000 The 44-year-old law professor and public lawyer with the Beijing Institute of Technology is one of China’s most renowned public intellectuals. Xu is the academic with the most followers on Sina Weibo, China’s Twitter-style microblog service, and rarely hesitates to speak out on current affairs or cases of social injustice.
NEWSCHINA I August 2014
Some of the images used in this section are from the internet
Synthetic Eggs 90,832 Mayonnaise made from fake eggs and distributed through a venture belonging to Hong Kong billionaire Li Ka-shing caused a stir.
Duck Stealers More than half the rubber ducks used in this urban art installation were stolen by passersby less than a week after the work was unveiled.
Solo Graduate Xue Yifan, a paleobiology major and recent graduate from Peking University could not find anybody else to take a graduation photo with her, as she was the only student in her class.
Red Light Knight A driver from Guangdong was found to have run 102 red lights within six months, along with committing other traffic violations.
Laying Down the Law China is trying to guide growing legions of petitioners away from Party and government departments and towards the judiciary in a bid to create greater “rule of law” By Xie Ying and Wang Quanbao
Photo by Xinhua
ang Hui, the mothtral Committee of the Chinese er of a 19-year-old Communist Party (CPC) held woman from Hunan in November 2013, during Province, who attempted to which the government prosecure justice against two men posed to reduce Party and government interference in the who trafficked her then underjudiciary. age daughter into prostitution The new regulations demand may return to her former life that the SBLC and its suboras a petitioner after a Supreme dinate departments refuse to Court review of the case determined the men’s crime was not The new petition reforms aim to separate legal disputes from the petition system accept any petitions relating to a capital offense. legal disputes, and refrain from “My previous years of peany interference in due process. titioning were so I could see “It effectively means that them sentenced to death,” she court cases can no longer be told State media after the ruling was an- ments due to public opinion or pressure from initiated or promoted by senior officials or nounced. “I am very sad and disappointed at petitioners,” claimed the Supreme Court jus- top-level administrative departments,” an ofthe judgment. I will turn to my lawyer and tice which has returned the case to the local ficial from the SBLC spoke to NewsChina on perhaps resume petitioning.” court. the condition of anonymity. Dubbed “Petitioner Mom,” Tang Hui has In March, the Chinese government issued For millennia and regardless of changes in made her case several hundred times to of- new regulations on petitioning, denying citi- the national political system, Chinese people ficials both in Hunan Province and Beijing zens the right to petition over legal cases. have generally retained the right to directly over the past seven years. From kneeling berepresent their grievances to officials by pefore her local chief of police to distributing Petition Boom titioning them one-to-one or appearing in flyers in Beijing, she brought her daughter’s According to the State Bureau for Letters person before higher-level magistrates. Popucase to national attention, actions that earned and Calls (SBLC), China’s highest body au- lar belief is that the further up the Party and her criticism from conservatives who claimed thorized to officially receive petitioners, the government ranks one goes, the likelier it is that she was subverting judicial process. new regulations originated with a resolu- that one’s voice will be heard. From the im“We should not make any illegal judg- tion at the Third Plenum of the 18th Cen- perial era to the modern day, China’s central
NEWSCHINA I August 2014
leaders are typically held up as paragons of benevolent virtue while their local counterparts are broadly seen as irredeemably corrupt and self-interested. Since 2000, when social problems arising from the transition out of a planned economy became more acute, and increasing openness emboldened grassroots protest, petitioners have flocked in increasing numbers to China’s capital to attempt to address complaints directly to the country’s top leadership. Official statistics published in 2004 showed that petition departments at various levels heard 13.74 million petitions that year, with the number of petitioners to Beijing growing by nearly 60 percent. More recent data showed that petition departments nationwide now accept an average 600,000 petitions per month, around 60 percent of which are directly related to violations of law. “Lacking a sound system of rule of law, we have concentrated too much power in the hands of senior officials,” remarked Li Fangqing, a judicial official from Hubei Province, in a report on petition reform. “Around 90 percent of petitions addressed by senior leaders or higher-level departments are resolved, leading people to prefer petitioning over the courts.”
Suppression and Corruption
Getting attention for one’s cause has led to many extreme and unorthodox measures characterizing modern petitioning in China. Petitioners kneeling naked outside government departments, blocking traffic or using violence have frequently led to major disruption and embarrassment to the State. Successive administrations’ unswerving obsession with “stability maintenance” has thus led to mounting pressure on local governments to do whatever they can to prevent “abnormal petitioners” from making it to the capital. Few officials take the time to distinguish potentially dangerous activists from legal petitioners. In the last decade, numerous reports have emerged of legitimate petitioners being forced into mental hospitals or extrajudicial prison camps simply to spare the blushes of those in power (see: “Halfway House of Horrors,” NewsChina, March 2013, Vol 056). In August 2012, Petitioner Mom herself,
NEWSCHINA I August 2014
Tang Hui, was sentenced to “re-education through labor” (laojiao in Chinese) for one and a half years for “disturbing social order.” According to the local government, she had camped out in the hall of the middle court of Hunan Province for 15 days and had also blocked the progress of vehicles from relevant departments in order to call attention to her daughter’s case. A massive public outcry ensued, and Tang’s sentence was overturned on appeal due to a lack of evidence. However, some claim that it should not be possible for petitioners to influence the outcome of legal trials, and that China is failing to ensure that its justice is “blind,” thus undermining faith in the entire system. Despite continued public support for her cause, Tang was criticized harshly by some, particularly media outlets. “The public should no longer support Tang Hui’s re-petitioning and build her into a ‘hero.’ Petitioners should aim to pursue justice and not place personal demands and animosity above the law,” commented State publication Global Times. “The current petition system has misled the people into believing that the more dramatically they petition, the more likely it is that their demands will be met,” said Li Kejun, an anti-corruption official from Heilongjiang Province. “Meanwhile, the heavy responsibility for ‘safeguarding social stability’ has pushed local officials to resort to extreme measures, including bribery, simply to curb petitioning.” During an investigation conducted at the end of 2013, Xu Jie, a vice director of the SBLC, was named as being suspected of accepting bribes. Media reports revealed that many local officials would bribe higher-level officials in order to clear receipt records for petitions – a clean slate being a major factor in securing promotions. Current reforms have proposed to remove the petition rate from performance appraisals for local officials and to abolish national league tables for petitions which reward provinces for reducing their annual number of petitions. In order to encourage more people to directly turn to the judiciary for help in legal
cases, 3,300 middle and high courts nationwide have now launched online appeal services and set up remote video links to communicate directly with petitioners. According to Xu Erfeng, an official from the Commission of Politics and Law of the CPC Central Committee, which controls China’s judiciary, petitions to administrative departments relating to legal cases have fallen to 18 percent of the total received, compared to 44 percent last year. He claims that appeals made directly to courts have risen by 40 percent in the same period, data which he believed indicates that a growing number of petitioners are choosing to resolve disputes in court.
However, despite the reforms, many believe campaigners like Tang Hui will return to petitioning if unsatisfied with a court judgment. In its new regulations on petitions, the government designed a system of “compulsory settlement,” under which neither the courts nor petition departments will hear any cases in which a final judgment has been given in a court of law. If any petitioner involved in such cases continues to petition, the new text states, it becomes the responsibility of their local authority to resolve the dispute. Such rules, according to the anonymous official from the SBLC, are designed to “defend the authority of law,” but critics argue that they are tantamount to using legal force to silence petitioners, and such measures are more likely to aggravate rather than resolve conflicts. Consequently, yet another judicial reform has led to deadlock. China’s leaders continually reinforce their intention to establish rule of law, but as long as the Party and the government determine how, where and when the law applies, popular confidence in the judiciary remains weak. “These reforms won’t take full effect unless the government designs a top-down scheme to improve the legal assistance, and tighten supervision of [judicial] officials,” Jiang Ming’an, a law professor from Peking University, told NewsChina.
NEWSCHINA I August 2014
We are XINJIANG
The Grand Bazaar in Urumqi, capital of Xinjiang NEWSCHINA I August 2014
Increasing militancy among sections of Xinjiangâ€™s Uyghur population goes deeper than disaffection with rule from Beijing. In part the legacy of a complex cultural and political history, recent violence is symptomatic of a rising global tide of radical political Islam, a movement gaining ground in Xinjiang in particular thanks to decades of aggressive State secularization
complex Problems A renewed wave of violence and terrorism across China stemming from Xinjiang has awakened Beijing to the arrival of radical Islamism within its own borders By Wang Bowen, Anwar Yasen and Yu Xiaodong
n the past year, China’s volatile region of Xinjiang has witnessed a series of terrorist attacks on both law enforcement personnel and civilians. On April 23 last year, 15 law enforcement officers and civil servants in the town of Selibuya in Kashgar Prefecture were killed by armed men. Just over a month later, on June 26, another attack on a police station in Lukqun Township of Turpan Prefecture, resulted in the deaths of 24 policemen and local residents. While terrorist attacks carried out by extremist militias and separatist groups are not new to Xinjiang, last year saw these horrific acts spread to the rest of China. On October 28, 2013, a jeep carrying three ethnic Uyghurs plowed into tourists before crashing and catching fire in Beijing’s Tian’anmen Square. One Chinese tourist and a Filipino, along with all three people in the jeep, died, and 40 bystanders were injured. This marked the first time terrorists had managed to strike at China’s symbolic heart, and the unprecedented nature of the incident left the authorities shaken. Then on March 31, in a apparently random attack, eight ethnic Uyghurs wielding knives and machetes burst into the central train station in Kunming, capital of Yunnan Province, hacking 29 passengers to death and injuring 143 others. Barely days later, a similar attack in Urumqi, capital of Xinjiang, killed three and injured 79.
With such attacks occurring with unprecedented frequency, officials and academics are engaging in a renewed round of soul-searching
to ascertain the root causes of renewed extremism on China’s western frontier. Based on materials found in the possession of captured suspects and the similarities between recent attacks and those that have hit foreign countries in recent years, the most cited reason among China’s academic circles is the global penetration and spread of radical Islam, particularly Wahhabism. Observers have concluded that this pan-continental movement has now spread to the formerly moderate Muslim Uyghur communities in Xinjiang. Originating in the 18th century, Wahhabi Islam, a strict Sunni sect, encourages the personal interpretation of the Qur’an and advocates the “purification” of Islam by violent means if necessary. Today, the movement has its strongest support base in Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the UAE, and international organizations including the European Parliament and the US State Department have identified it as a source of global terrorism. In recent decades, the Wahhabi movement has gained ground among diverse groups, including Afghanistan’s Taliban regime and tribal leaders in Pakistan, and has provided guiding principles to Osama Bin Laden, Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood and Ayman AlZawahari. Wahhabism’s endorsement of militant Islam and violent jihad has manifested itself in armed insurrections throughout the Islamic world, sweeping through historically moderate and secular Islamic cultures from Turkey to Indonesia. According to Turgunjun Tursun, associate researcher from the NEWSCHINA I August 2014
Photo by Ng Han Guan
The Beytulla Mosque, built under the Qing Dynasty and the largest place of worship in Yining, capital of Yili Kazakh Autonomous Prefecture, Xinjiang
Academy of Social Sciences of Xinjiang Autonomous Region, Wahhabism has until recently lacked widespread support among Uyghurs, who have historically adhered to a more moderate version of Islam than their Central Asian neighbors. Islam arrived in Xinjiang relatively late, and thousands of years of pre-Islamic cultural development drawing on Turkic, Central Asian and Chinese influences led to Islam being adopted into Uyghur culture, rather than the reverse. Until recently, Uyghurs had developed an Islamic tradition noticeably different from that in the Middle East and South Asia, an example of which being their tolerance for alcohol consumption to the point that Xinjiang’s Muslims became famous for their quality wines. Gender segregation in schools is rare, and Uyghur women have typically never worn the veil. Uyghur culture has a rich cultural tradition of music, dance, poetry and art, and while Islam is central to life in Xinjiang, the region has retained a strong cultural and social identity. In recent years, however, there are signs that Uyghur communities have become increasingly influenced by the Islamic conservatism that has radiated from its heartland in the Middle East. While smoking and drinking was previously widely tolerated, it has gradually become taboo in major Uyghur settlements. “In Khotan [a major Uyghur city in southern Xinjiang with a population of 200,000], no stores and restaurants owned by Uyghurs sell alcohol. And in Kashgar, I am told that there are only three that sell alcohol.” Tursun told NewsChina, “In the past, drinking alcohol was an integral part of major celebrations [among Uyghurs]. Now, people NEWSCHINA I August 2014
can only drink in their own homes.” Other noticeable changes within the Uyghur communities include increasing numbers of women wearing the hijab or burqa, as well as men wearing long beards, a habit historically restricted to imams and other senior religious figures. Many ancient cultural practices are also facing censure. Music and dance is increasingly considered inappropriate at formal occasions such as weddings and festivals, and weeping at funerals is also being discouraged. “It is clear that the Uyghur community is becoming more and more conservative,” Tursun told our reporter. However, Tursun also argues that China’s domestic policies in the region have also facilitated the spread of militant Islamism in the region by marginalizing its formerly moderate and diverse population.
For historical reasons (see: “Where Cultures Collide,” Page 18), the bulk of China’s population of ethnic Uyghurs are concentrated in the Tarim Basin of southern Xinjiang, while Han Chinese have a heavy presence in the north, the region’s political and economic power base. As Xinjiang’s industrialization in recent years has been dominated by Han Chinese entrepreneurs and has largely remained in majority Han areas of the north, Uyghurs have been left out. It is estimated that the rate of urbanization in southern Xinjiang is only 10 percent, compared to 44 percent in the north and China’s national average of over 50 percent. Given the huge cultural differences dividing Uyghurs and Han Chinese in terms of language, customs,
diet and even physical appearance, Han Chinese have a far better chance of landing a job than ethnic Uyghurs. The result has been a vast influx of Han Chinese immigrants to northern Xinjiang, accompanied by soaring unemployment among ethnic Uyghurs in the south. According to Turgunjun Tursun, the percentage of ethnic Uyghurs in Xinjiang’s total industrial workforce has declined from an already low level of 5.9 percent in 2000 to 4.6 percent in 2010, a period when Xinjiang witnessed its most rapid urbanization and industrialization. In the meantime, the number of unemployed ethnic Uyghurs aged 15 and over rose from 1.35 to 1.78 million, a stark increase of 31.6 percent, accounting for 18 percent of the total Uyghur population. Moreover, the distribution of educational resources, a key factor in narrowing the income gap, has been also unequal between northern and southern Xinjiang. In 2009, only 23 percent of junior high school graduates entered senior high school in Kashgar, Khotan and Kizilsu Kirghiz Autonomous Prefecture in southern Xinjiang, a fraction of the 80 percent recorded in the rest of the province.
As religious activities in China are officially approved by the Bureau of Religious Affairs, the penetration of Islamic radicalism in Xinjiang has mostly been facilitated by what the government calls “underground Islamic centers.” Experts blame a restrictive central religious policy for driving many potentially moderate Muslims underground. Professor Li Xiaoxia from the Xinjiang Academy of Social Sciences, for example, argues that the spread of the Islamic radicalism has a lot to do with the lack of a home-grown religious elite among the Uyghurs, resulting from China’s ban on independent mosques and Islamic schools. According to Professor Li, Islamic education both at home and in schools has traditionally served an important cultural role, helping to shape the development of values and cultural identity among Uyghur communities. But after the People’s Republic of China was founded in 1949, its secular communist doctrine demanded that Islamic classes in elementary and junior high schools be abolished, essentially making Islamic studies illegal for minors. Despite socioeconomic liberalization in China since the 1980s leading to greater tolerance for religion, Xinjiang today has only one Islamic college and five Islamic senior high schools serving the needs of an estimated 10 million Muslim Ugyhurs. Communist Party policy, designed to accelerate the secularization of Xinjiang society, was initially successful, as it came alongside social liberalization in many neighboring Islamic cultures. Today, however, the religious and cultural landscape in Central Asia is increasingly drawn along radical Islamist lines, and the spiritual vacuum left by
The hijab is a relatively recent addition to Uyghur dress
Beijing’s policy in its westernmost region is being filled by underground Islamic schools and training centers espousing extreme interpretations of political Islam. As the ability of previous generations of Uyghurs to counter these radical interpretations is limited by their own limited knowledge of Islam, young Uyghurs, unemployed and frustrated, are easily attracted by underground radicals.
However, contrary to how others might interpret her findings, Li argues against further religious liberalization as a counter to the spread of religious radicalism. According to Li, China has already missed the opportunity to nurture a moderate Uyghur religious elite. Li warns that with no religious authority, religious liberalization can only result in further spread of radicalism, simply giving a broader platform to the preachers who have cut their teeth underground. This is particularly dangerous when Islamic radicalism is gaining support even in other officially secular societies such as Turkey, Malaysia and Indonesia. According to Li, the only realistic way for the Chinese government to counter the spread of Islamic radicalism is to push forward the secularization of Xinjiang, while addressing the socio-economic disparity between ethnic Uyghurs and Han Chinese. This is a view shared by many in the central government. Such arguments are based on observations made in the brief period of religious liberalization in the 1980s following China’s launch of its Reform and Opening-up policy in late 1970s under Deng Xiaoping. During this period, formerly closed mosques were reopened and new ones constructed. Although still technically illegal, private Islamic studies were tolerated to varying degrees by local authorities. Then on April 5, 1990, an armed uprising took place in Baren NEWSCHINA I August 2014
Photo by MAGNUM
Today, the veil is a common sight, Kashgar, Xinjiang
Township of Kizilsu’s Akto County. A protest by Uyghur separatists turned into an armed revolt, during which hundreds of militiamen and Chinese soldiers were killed. Many Chinese officials perceive a causal link between this riot and the rise of Islamic radicalism and nationalism in Central Asia that blossomed following the Soviet Union’s withdrawal from Afghanistan. Radical Islamic teachings spread across China’s border with Afghanistan, and by the time the authorities began to crack down on underground religious centers, the religious radicalism has taken roots in the Uyghur communities. Li estimated that despite ongoing crackdowns on radicalism, attendance in underground Islamic schools is believed to have increased eightfold between 1990 and 2000.
In response to the recent escalation of violence, the Chinese government has remained unswerving in its resolve to continue to crack down on extremism, further tightening security across the region. It is reported that in May alone, more than 200 terror suspects belonging to 23 alleged gangs were arrested. On June 16, the authorities announced the execution of 13 terrorists convicted of organizing, leading and participating in terrorist organizations, murder, arson and other crimes. Taking religious radicalism as the major reason behind escalating violence, the Chinese government has also adjusted their regional and national policy. In the past, the Chinese government often referred its challenges in Xinjiang as a struggle against the “three forces” of separatism, radicalism, and terrorism. Now, this language has been modified, with officials referring to the “three illegalities,” namely: illegal religious activities, illegal religious publications, and illegal religious activity online. NEWSCHINA I August 2014
Amid calls for party cadres of all ethnicities to fight against extremism, 14 government officials in various prefectures including ethnic Uyghurs, Hui and Han were sacked for “conducting unlawful religious activities” and “making comments harmful to national unity.” In the wake of these sackings, Beijing launched a policy package specifically designed to compete with religious radicalism. Following a policy launched in 2009 to offer free senior high school education in Kashgar, Khotan and Kizilsu Kirghiz Autonomous Prefecture, which local authorities claim has increased the enrollment of junior highschool graduates from 23 percent to 60 percent, the Chinese government recently announced plans to extend the policy to Xinjiang in its entirety. As 90 percent of those who attend underground Islamic schools are believed to be teenagers, observers believe that the measure may keep at-risk youngsters out of underground education and increase their exposure to secularism, as well as improving their chance of landing a job upon graduation. Following an earlier pledge to set up labor-intensive industry in southern Xinjiang to boost Uyghur youth employment, the Chinese government also launched a policy that mandates companies in Xinjiang to reserve at least 70 percent of their new job vacancies for local residents, with at least 25 percent of positions given to ethnic minorities. Local authorities are also being compelled to intervene in community affairs if regulations are being flouted. Xie Wuzhong, a grassroots level law enforcement officer in Selibuya Township of Kashgar Prefecture told NewsChina that his officers would intervene if they found people forcing others to follow sharia law. Police are increasingly vigilant about forced marriages, the disruption of traditional weddings or funerals and the abuse of women and girls who refuse to comply with conservative rules of dress. The wearing of the burqa has also been banned in local schools throughout Xinjiang. The authorities have also tightened their controls over “suspicious individuals.” In Selibuya, Xie said that the local authorities conducted regular visits with individuals of what they call “two groups,” those formerly convicted of extremist crimes and known ultra-conservatives, often targeting Uyghurs who wear burqas or long beards. But Uyghur academics like Turgunjun Tursun warn that the focus on religious radicalism can lead to the abuse of police power, as local law enforcement personnel often simply consider all religious conservatives to be “radicals.” In Selibuya, for example, “suspicious individuals” are subject to strict security measures and are required to report to the police if they leave town. Such policies, Tursun warns, can alienate local Uyghurs and push them towards radicalism. Nevertheless, a hardline policy is, in the view of many local officials, the only response to extremism. “It is true that not every ultra-conservative Uyghur is a terrorist, but we found that all identified terrorists are ultra-conservatives,” a local security official told NewsChina.
Where Cultures COLLIDE
Xinjiang’s rich and lengthy history is one of cultural integration as well as conflict By Yu Xiaodong
s violent attacks by Uyghur extremists spilled from Xinjiang into other parts of China in recent months, stemming the bloody tide has become top of the central government’s
agenda. While the Chinese government and the State media primarily blame violent attacks on interference by external forces and the influence of religious extremism in Xinjiang, Western media and the overseas Uyghur diaspora have highlighted China’s domestic policies and ethnic tensions resulting from mass migration into the region from other parts of China. However, the complete picture of what is happening in Xinjiang is far more complex. Located at the midway point on the ancient Silk Road and caught between contending powers in all directions, the region that is now Xinjiang has been a flashpoint for ethnic, religious and political turmoil, as well as profound cultural interaction, throughout its known history, resulting in a complicated relationship with the various powers that have ruled this diverse swath of territory throughout the centuries.
Constant cultural, religious and commercial mingling continues to shape regional identities, as well as public perceptions of Xinjiang and its people. To fully grasp the complexity of Xinjiang and its many problems, a solid understanding of the region’s ancient and modern history is essential.
Today, people often talk about Xinjiang as a unified entity, but Xinjiang as a single polity is a comparatively recent phenomenon. For most of its history, Xinjiang only existed as a loose conglomeration of competing and cohabiting cultures within borders that shifted and changed with the rise and fall of civilizations. Geographically, Xinjiang broadly consists of two distinct regions divided by the Tian Shan ranges, regions given different historical names by their various inhabitants. The southern half, dominated by the vast Taklamakan Desert, has long been known as the Tarim Basin, a region historically inhabited by sedentary oasis dwellers of different ethnicities and traditions. The northern half, with its steppes and river valleys, has traditionally provided a homeland for nomadic NEWSCHINA I August 2014
Photo by PANOS
Preparation for the festival of Eid al-Fitr in a household in Kashgar, Xinjiang
tribes of herders, giving the area stronger ethnic and cultural ties to the Mongolian plateau and the Central Asian steppes than to the desertdwelling cultures of the old Silk Road. The region, known as Xiyu or “western Regions” durign the Han Dynasty in the 1st Century BC, was treated as an integral part of China’s territory since the Han Dynasty eventually repelled the nomadic Huns from repeated raiding and plundering northern China. Contemporary Han scribes noted that the region was inhabited by what modern scholars now recognize as an Indo-European people, records supported by archeological evidence from the Tarim Basin proving the presence of agricultural communities with strong genetic ties to the Indus Valley and Central Asia since the paleolithic era. After defeating the Huns, the Han Dynasty established a regional protectorate to bring the Tarim Basin and much of Central Asia under its direct administration. In the following centuries, the protectorate was maintained with varying degrees of control by successive Han emperors, and then alternately by regional kingdoms established by both ethnic Han Chinese and nomadic tribes following the collapse of the Han in 220 AD. NEWSCHINA I August 2014
In the 6th century, the oasis states of the Tarim Basin became vassals to powerful Turkic khanates which emerged to dominate a vast region stretching from Mongolia deep into Central Asia. When the Tang Dynasty emerged in China in the 7th century, these oasis states once again became a battleground for imperial rivalries. Tang armies defeated the khanates in modern-day Mongolia and much of the Central Asian steppe before annexing the Tarim Basin and establishing citadels to cement its governance. Under the Tang policy of religious and ethnic pluralism, Mahayana Buddhism, which spread to China via the Silk Road during the Han Dynasty, entered a golden era in China. As the new faith flourished in a vast region including much of Central and East Asia, it became a focal point of cultural exchange between China and peripheral civilizations, eventually blending into indigenous belief systems. But after the Tang suffered a devastating defeat to an Arab force at the battle of Talas in 751 near the present-day border between Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, Chang’an gradually lost control of the Tarim Basin, marking the beginning of the decline of Buddhism and the rise of Islam in the region.
scholars to adopt a clash-of-civilizations perspective on Xinjiang’s later history, focusing on the rise of Islam and its eventual total displacement of Buddhism from the Tarim Basin.
Rawak Stupa in Hotan Prefecture, Xinjiang, an important holy site for early Buddhists, was built between the 2nd and 3rd centuries AD
Photo by CORBIS
It was in the period following the decline of the Tang that the Uyghur ethnic group emerged as a major player in the region’s history. Formerly a loose confederation of nomadic tribes that owed allegiance to the Turkic Khanates, the Uyghurs established their own khanate on the Mongolian Plateau. As followers of Manichaeism, an ancient Gnostic religion originating in Mesopotamia and Central Asia, the Uyghur Khanate allied with the Tang Empire in their campaigns against the re-established Turkic Khanates, Arabs and the
Photo by CORBIS
Following the Tang’s eventual collapse in the 10th century, it would take several centuries before China could play a dominant role in the region again. Despite taking place in the remote past, China’s earlier presence in the region for centuries prior to the arrival of Islam continue to play an important role in shaping Chinese perceptions of the western frontier, as it was under the Han and Tang dynasties that China’s identity as a civilization and a unified political entity was forged. Some practices introduced by early Chinese conquerors, such as the establishment of fortified farms, have persisted in Xinjiang into the 21st century. The fact that early cultures in Xinjiang were broadly Buddhist and may consequently have embraced aspects of Chinese cultural practice for over a millennium has encouraged some contemporary Chinese
The Mazazr ancient village at the Tuyugou Canyon, Turpan area is the oldest surviving Uyghur settlement with distinctly Islamic cultural characteristics in Xinjiang. The village is also close to several Buddhist grottoes NEWSCHINA I August 2014
Buddhist fresco in a Tang dynasty temple in Xinjiang
powerful Tibetan Empire that frequently invaded both China and the Tarim Basin. After breaking its alliance with the Tang, the Uyghur Khanate was smashed by the ascendent Kyrgyz in 840, forcing the survivors to migrate from the Mongolian Plateau to present-day southern and eastern Xinjiang, establishing a number of smaller kingdoms. Historians still dispute the relationship between ancient Uyghurs and their modern-day counterparts. Despite historical records that show a splinter group of 15 clans migrating into Central Asia and the Tarim Basin, the term “Uyghur” (translated as Huihu or Huihe in ancient Chinese texts) was usually associated with Buddhist Uyghur states in Qocha in present-day Turpan, eastern Xinjiang and other Uyghur kingdoms in the Hexi Corridor linking Xinjiang with China’s interior. The ever-changing borders in the area and frequent confusion between myriad ethnicities and cultures in historical accounts has compounded the problem of sorting out the ethnic and cultural history of this diverse area. Beginning in the 15th century, the term Uyghur disappeared from historical texts, until it was re-introduced by Russian scholars in the 19th century. A commonly held view is that modern-day Uyghurs are a Turkicized amalgamation of ancient Uyghurs, Turks, the original Indo-European residents of the Tarim Basin who have disappeared from history and other ethnic groups who have resided in the region at different times.
Regardless of their ethnic origins, present-day Uyghurs are culturally and politically associated with the Kara-Khanid Kingdom, the first Islamic Turkic state in Asia, which emerged in the 11th century. Very little is known about the kingdom’s early history, though it is generally believed to have been established by both ancient Uyghur migrants and other Turkic tribes already present in Central Asia. Following the Turkic tradition, the kingdom was divided into NEWSCHINA I August 2014
eastern and western khanates, with the Eastern Kara-Khanid Khanate, which would go on to be perceived by separatists as East Turkistan, with power centered on Kashgar. It was from Kashgar that the Kara-Khanid Khanate launched a series of jihads against neighboring Buddhist kingdoms in the Tarim Basin. The decline of both the Tang Dynasty and the Tibetan Empire in the 10th centuries cleared the way for Islam in Central Asia and Xinjiang. After decades of war, a final hold-out Buddhist state in the Tibetan foothills called Yutian (later known as Khotan) was conquered. Today, Kashgar remains the Uyghur people’s religious and cultural center, despite its remote location in Xinjiang’s southwestern corner. It is estimated that 42 percent of Xinjiang’s mosques are concentrated in Kashgar. However, the Kara-Khanid conquest was strongly resisted by the predominantly Buddhist Qocha Uyghur Kingdom in Turpan and other Buddhist kingdoms in the region. As the region was soon subject to various non-Muslim rulers, the spread of Islam was held in check for centuries. Beginning in the 12th century, Kara-Khitan, a khanate established by the Khitan, a nomadic Mongolian people from northern China whose leaders subscribed to Buddhism and later to Nestorian Christianity, subdued the Kara-Khanids. Then, in the 13th Century, the Mongols absorbed both Turfan and Kashgar into the Mongolian Empire, to date the largest single land empire in human history which would ultimately stretch from China’s eastern coast all the way to Hungary. During this period, the Mongolians adapted the old Uyghur alphabet to write in the Mongolian language, the first of many written forms of Mongolian, a script still in use today in Inner Mongolia, now a province of China. Administering largely through proxy governors, the Mongolian rulers, who followed animist and shamanist beliefs, adopted a policy of religious plurality, under which Kashgar and Turpan continued to be Uyghur settlements that balanced Islamic and Buddhist cultural influences for another century.
After the Mongol Empire fractured into smaller khanates, however, the Mongols in the region were rapidly Turkicized. After the rulers of the East Chagatai Khanate (also known as Moghulistan) that ruled the region converted to Islam in the late 14th Century, Kucha and Turfan, the two enduring Buddhist strongholds in Xinjiang, were conquered by Muslims and their surviving inhabitants forced to convert. From the late 14th to 16th century, Xinjiang’s Buddhists continued their resistance to Islamicization, with many taking refuge in Hami, the last non-Muslim city in Xinjiang which was under the protection of China’s Ming Dynasty, the final ethnically Han dynasty in Chinese history that supplanted the Mongolian Yuan Dynasty. Struggling to hold the remote West against ferocious raids from Muslim kingdoms, Ming rulers eventually abandoned Hami in 1529,
indirectly completing the Islamicization of Xinjiang. In the following centuries, Islam would further spread to non-Uyghur communities in interior provinces of China, leading to the rise of the Hui people, an ethnically diverse group of Muslim Chinese.
Rise of the Manchus
Religious conflict in Xinjiang erupted again in the early 17th century, when another nomadic empire, Dzungaria, dubbed “the last nomadic empire” by historians, emerged in an vast area originating in present-day eastern Kazakhstan and encompassing the entirety of modern Xinjiang. Like other Oirat tribes, Dzungarian Mongols were followers of Tibetan Buddhism and centered their khanate in the steppes of northern Xinjiang, which at the time was inhabited mostly by Dzungarian NEWSCHINA I August 2014
Uyghur 46.42% Others 0.78% Manchu 0.12% Tajik 0.22% Xibo 0.20% Mongolian 0.83% Kyrgyz 0.88% Hui 4.54% Kazakh 7.02%
XINJIANG’S ETHNIC MAKEUP
Source: Baidu Map
herdsmen. Defeating Muslim Kazakhs and subduing the Yarkant Khanate in the Tarim Basin, the rise of Dzungaria challenged Islam in Central Asia and Xinjiang. But forays into Tibet and China’s Qinghai Province soon led to war with China’s ethnically Manchu Qing Dynasty, which at the time ruled the entirety of modern Mongolia as well as China proper. This conflict continued for several decades until the Qing armies broke the back of Dzungarian military might in 1759 and proceeded to brutally subdue northern Xinjiang in a campaign which came alongside a regional smallpox epidemic. This left the entire northern region of Xinjiang depopulated, with one Chinese source claiming that 90 percent of the population, mostly Dzungarians of Mongolian descent, were wiped out. The Qing proceeded to bring Xinjiang firmly within the empire’s borders, establishing Urumqi as its seat of regional power in 1763. Contrary to popular misconceptions that Urumqi was a Uyghur settlement, the city, originally named “Dihua,” was built by Han and Hui Chinese near a ruined 7th-century Chinese fortress. The name Urumqi, meaning “beautiful grassland” in Mongolian, was adopted in 1954 under the People’s Republic. Given the vulnerability of the region to external incursions as the result of depopulation and the ongoing presence of hostile nomadic tribes right along its borders, Qing rulers adopted distinct policies in NEWSCHINA I August 2014
northern and southern Xinjiang. Wary of the loyalty of the Uyghurs, at the time mostly concentrated in the Tarim Basin, the Qing adopted a policy of ethnic segregation in the South to restrict interaction between Uyghurs and other ethnic groups. Conversely, Manchu governors in northern Xinjiang encouraged immigration of all ethnicities including Han, Hui, Mongolian and Uyghurs into the lands left empty by the Qing’s elimination of the Dzungarians. This led to the high degree of ethnic and cultural diversity which has persisted in the north in contrast to the relative homogeneity and social segregation still seen in southern Xinjiang. However, the Qing Empire was facing far greater threats than those posed by its restive western extremities. The British and Russian Empires were expanding into South and Central Asia, with their respective spheres of influence drawing ever closer to China’s borders. Russian incursions into Mongolia and Central Asia, and British India’s response with campaigns in Afghanistan and Tibet, led to a renewed struggle for control over the area in which Qing interests were sidelined. Pan-Turkism and Pan-Islamism, ideas respectively advocating the political unity of Turkic- speaking peoples and Muslims, emerged amid the demise of the Ottoman Empire. These theories, boosted both by Western concepts of eugenics and global nation-statism began to penetrate Central Asia in the early 20th century. In 1865, taking advantage of a multi-ethnic rebellion, the Kokand general Yaqub Bek, born in present-day Uzbekistan, sacked Kashgar and established a de facto independent state in the Tarim Basin, leaving much of northern Xinjiang under control of Hui Chinese rebels. After heated debate over whether or not to abandon Xinjiang entirely, an army comprised mostly of Han and Hui Chinese led by
General Zuo Zongtang regained control of the region in 1884, while forcing Russia to withdraw from the area surrounding Ili in northern Xinjiang. For the first time in history, Xinjiang was established as an official province of China.
The 20th Century
After the Qing Dynasty was overthrown in the republican revolu-
tion of 1912, local Han Chinese warlords maintained an unsteady hold on Xinjiang, battling both ethnic unrest and incursions by British and Russian forces. In 1930, a short-lived, British-backed Uyghur state, the first East Turkestan Republic, was destroyed when its capital at Kashgar was sacked by Hui warlords nominally allied with the Republican government in Nanking. In 1944, the Soviet Union supported another armed uprising to establish the second East Turkestan Republic in northwestern Xinjiang to contain Sheng Shicai, a voraciously anti-communist Han warlord. With its own government and army, the republic endured until 1949, when the Liberation Army of the newly established People’s Republic of China marched into Xinjiang. As the Soviet Union withdrew its support, rebel leaders agreed to join the new communist-led government, though many later fled to the Soviet Union and Turkey. To reassure the various ethnic groups who were wary of the new Xinjiang government, Mao Zedong proposed to change the region’s name from “Xinjiang Province” to the “Xinjiang Autonomous Region.” This epithet was opposed by Saifuddin Azizi, the region’s first chairman, who argued that “autonomy is not given to mountains and rivers, but to particular nationalities.” Mao agreed with Azizi’s position, and the region was officially named “Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.” This decision, made with little consultation with the the dozens of diverse ethnic groups present in Xinjiang, has come under increasing attack from academics, who argue that the equation of the Uyghur ethnic group with Xinjiang in its entirety, enshrined in its official name, has allowed Uyghurs to claim the entirety of Xinjiang as their homeland. Even today, about 80 percent of Xinjiang’s Uyghur population are concentrated in the southern prefectures of Kashgar, Khotan, and Aktu, while 75 percent of Han Chinese in Xinjiang, who account for 40 percent of Xinjiang total population, live in northern Xinjiang. It is based on these arguments that the Chinese government refutes claims that its own policies coupled with mass Han immigration are the principal cause of Xinjiang’s persistent unrest. As has been seen in other moderate Islamic cultures living in officially secular but diverse societies worldwide, many Uyghurs have begun to identify with the conservative brand of politicized Islam with roots in the Arabian Peninsula that is today sweeping through historically moderate civilizations from Turkey to Indonesia. Xinjiang, as throughout its complex history, will remain a flashpoint for clashes between cultures, values and the powerful interests of global geopolitics. NEWSCHINA I August 2014
NEWSCHINA I August 2014
Photo by MAGNUM
“There is a consensus that religion can provide an important resource for the rebuilding of social morality.” Religion can do more for social progress in China, according to one leading academic By Li Jia
t is estimated that about 23 percent of Chinese people have religious faith. Professor Gao Shining, with the Institute of World Religions at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, is a prominent sociologist in the field of religion, and one of a small number of scholars conducting pioneering research into China’s “New Religious Movement.” In an exclusive interview with NewsChina, Gao talks about her views on the changing role of, and attitudes towards, religion in China, while explaining how a more relaxed environment for religious groups could be good for Chinese society.
NewsChina: Over the 35 years since Reform and Opening-up began, China has seen a rapid rise in the pursuit of material happiness. Has this reduced the demand for religion? Gao Shining: It is true that religion’s influence over modern society has been diminished by the increasing human pursuit of secular happiness and the separation of Church and State, among other factors. However, the other side of the story is that some sociologists have found that in recent years the influence of religion has been growing in non-European societies, with China being a typical example. Religions and religious groups have mushroomed in China over the past 35 years. This can largely be explained by three underlying reasons. Firstly, for 30 years between the foundation of the People’s Republic of China in 1949 and the end of the Cultural Revolution in 1976, religion was blacklisted as “backward superstition incompatible with socialism.” As a
result of relentless crackdowns on religious organizations and the clergy, religion was devastated to the extent that some counties and cities were declared “religion-free” areas. However, beginning immediately after the Cultural Revolution the rebound from this low starting point was dramatic. Secondly, the [economic and social political] reform brought about tremendous changes to private life and society. Many people felt lost at a crossroads in their life, and began to look for some sort of psychological support to cope with difficulties. Thirdly, changes in social structure and the relaxing of policies governing religion have made religion an available option for different groups of people in need of such help. According to very preliminary estimates widely agreed upon by scholars, about 300 million Chinese describe themselves as having religious faith, a dramatic rise from the number before the founding of the People’s Republic. NC: Disadvantaged groups with poorer education and lower incomes are more vulnerable in times of rapid social transition. Are they more inclined to turn to religion? GS: In China this was the situation during the 1980s and 1990s when religion was in the process of a robust recovery, and most appealed to the rural population. However, notable changes have taken place since the turn of the century. Now, Buddhism is labeled as the “religion of the rich,” since many wealthy people are in the habit of “blessing” themselves. Though rural areas retain the largest population of Christians, more and more well educated
people are joining Christian churches. Many entrepreneurs have told me about the hardship and sense of guilt they have experienced on their way to building their wealth. They choose religion in the hope of earning God’s blessing and redemption, whatever god they worship. The average age and gender of religious people have also changed. Poor, elderly women used to be the majority in religious groups. Now we can see many young people at places of worship, or in classes preaching Buddhism or the Bible. The gender gap is also narrowing. NC: Activities of religious groups are part of the public life of a society, and religious followers are members of society. What positive role can religion play in China’s society? GS: We can see that religions – or mainstream religions at least – advocate kindness, care for the disadvantaged and concern for social inequality. Thus, upholding morality among their devotees is one way that religion helps our social progress. In recent years, behavior that breaks a common moral or even legal bottom line has shocked and alarmed Chinese society. There is a basic consensus among scholars that religion can provide an important resource for the rebuilding of social morality. Charity is another contribution. After the Wenchuan earthquake in Sichuan in 2008, groups associated with the five religions allowed by the Chinese government – Buddhism, Taoism, Islam, Catholicism and Protestantism – donated about US$81 million to the disaster relief. In my field research two years after the quake, I found that the NGOs that were still NEWSCHINA I August 2014
Chinese society has begun to take a normal, rational outlook on religion. However, the positive, but very minor, role played by religion in Chinese society is extremely disproportionate to the massive human resources controlled by religious groups in China. Religion has not been recognized as an indispensable force in society. Charities related to religious groups rarely receive media coverage. There is still distrust and even antipathy towards religion in society, and there are many barriers to religious groups wishing to engage in charity work. For example, various restrictions make it very difficult for them to establish retirement homes and orphanages, for which there is an urgent need. Groups associated with all five officially approved religions have a strong desire to provide public services. If they are allowed to do more in this regard, it will greatly improve the public understanding of religion. Professor Gao Shining
there providing psychological and physical support for victims were mainly religious groups. Moreover, any citizen, with or without religion, is equally entitled to the political right to express their opinions on public affairs. About 17,000 members of the clergy are delegates at various levels of the People’s Congress and the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, respectively China’s legislative and political advisory bodies. It is their right and obligation to participate in public policymaking. NC: What is the general attitude towards religion in China? GS: When I began my study of religion in Beijing in the 1980s, most people’s idea of religion was praying on one’s knees while burning incense. Now, things are quite different. When natural disasters have occurred in the past few years – the earthquakes in Sichuan and Qinghai, for example – there were media reports of religious rituals held for victims. Religious expressions like blessings and the giving of thanks were widely used by people around the country to express their goodwill. These things have improved the understanding of religion among the public. The positive role of religion in building a “harmonious society” was recognized in top political documents at the 17th and 18th CPC National Congresses in 2007 and 2013. NEWSCHINA I August 2014
NC: Recently, a number of organizations have been labeled “cults” by the government, and cracked down upon, particularly since some of their members are facing criminal charges including murder. These are not conventional mainstream religions. What are they? GS: In English, the word “cult” was originally used by Christians to refer to new belief groups they thought to be unorthodox. In recent years the term “New Religious Movements” has become more popular among researchers. Many Christians also stopped using the word “cult” in order to avoid any derogatory implications against other religions. In our research, any religious groups born after the late 19th century, with different religious doctrines and practices from conventional mainstream religions, are defined as being part of the New Religious Movement. In China, these “new religions” are both imported and indigenous. The public, and even scholars, know little about them, since they are illegal entities and their members are difficult to approach. But clearly they have been growing fast. Two points have to be clarified concerning new religions. Firstly, the term “cult” is a religious concept, not a legal one. Secondly, when some of their members break the law, any judgment of the potential threat to society posed by their organizations can only be justified by sufficient evidence establishing a direct causal link between their beliefs and their legal trans-
gressions. This judgment has to be made on legal grounds and by proper judicial institutions, within their capacity. NC: Do you think that restrictions on new religions should be tighter or more relaxed? GS: Ways of thinking and worldviews that are different from the zeitgeist exist in any society. The rights of these minorities have to be guaranteed. A new religion may end up on either a good or a bad path. Two characteristics are often found in those that are very likely to go bad. One is the presence of a founder who proclaims him or herself to be a god with divine powers, including over individual followers. If a founder has any political ambitions or a fanatical personality, then the organization may well be on a destructive path. The second is an organization’s designation of a specific date as “Doomsday.” For fear of losing followers’ faith, its founder will sometimes ask them to sell off their property or even commit suicide as “the day” approaches. External environment also has an impact. New religions often have some characteristics that are regarded as deviant, and are disapproved of by the society in which they exist. Their members may respond to this pressure by uniting around these characteristics, and at the same time become more resistant and more defiant in the face of society. Any religion has to win the hearts and minds of as many people as possible to grow. It cannot attract followers if it does damage to society. This is similar to market competition. This being so, it is better to provide an easier environment where various religious groups can compete more fairly and more freely. They will find they are unable to survive unless they get rid of their practices that society finds unacceptable. Mormonism, for example, was not only strongly opposed by Christians, but marginalized by society partly due to its acceptance of polygamy. It has gradually become accepted by society since its leaders outlawed polygamy in accordance with the law. All of these have proved that opening up the religious market step by step would make it possible for factors in a religion potentially detrimental to society to be eliminated in the competition for social recognition and followers. Compared with more stringent restrictions, a more relaxed environment for religious groups is better for society.
A Storm in a Rice Bowl
A seemingly innocuous incident in an experimental rice paddy has re-ignited public debate over the ethics of genetically modified crops A GM crop laboratory at Huazhong Agricultural University in Wuhan, Hubei province
Photo by CFP
By Qian Wei
ai Yun, a senior campaigner for Greenpeace, never imagined that collecting a handful of grains of rice would lead to accusations of theft being leveled at his employer by Huazhong Agricultural University. The academic institution claimed that Greenpeace employees “plotted to steal” rice seeds and leaves from the school’s experimentation base in Sanya, on China’s tropical island province of Hainan. For Lai, this was just another unsuccessful undercover investigation – a fairly common occurrence throughout his 13-year career as an environmental activist. Lai posted on his Weibo, China’s Twitter equivalent, that Greenpeace had been closely watching the illegal research and sale of genetically modified (GM) goods over the years, and that undercover investigations were a common practice. He claimed that it was not rare for Greenpeace to “catch out” enterprises that were illegally polluting the environment, and that the organization was “not ashamed” of this practice. Greenpeace has yet to receive any communication from law enforcement concerning the matter, but the incident re-ignited the perennial debate between those in China in favor of GM products and their opponents, especially in the online realm.
The “theft” incident can be traced back to Cui Yongyuan, a popular former anchor on State broadcaster CCTV and a vehement oppo-
nent of GM food. Cui even made a field trip to the United States late last year to solicit opinions and shoot a documentary on the security of GM food, funded at his own expense. In February, Cui posted on his Weibo claiming that GM rice was being cultivated illegally – that is, experimental strains were being planted without the required government approval – in Hainan. A month later, the province’s agricultural department issued a circular confirming Cui’s allegation – 15 samples from 13 enterprises were found to be GM. Soon after, Greenpeace dispatched three employees to Hainan to investigate further. On April 10, the trio nosed around the premises of several seed companies in Sanya, but failed to identify the illegal sale of GM seeds. They then visited several nearby farms, to no avail. Sanya’s Lingshui County is home to fields belonging to several of China’s foremost crop research institutes, including those affiliated with Wuhan University and Huazhong Agricultural University, one of the country’s leading research institutes on crop genetics. The Greenpeace workers decided to find out whether or not illegal cultivation was being carried out, and whether GM seeds from the experimental field had found their way onto adjacent farmland. A day later, the group hired a local driver and set off in search of Huazhong Agricultural University’s research base. This was not the first scrap between the environmental lobbying group and the university. In 2005, Greenpeace published a report on the illegal sale of seeds and rice in Hubei Province, where the univerNEWSCHINA I August 2014
sity’s main campus is located. It further alleged that GM seeds were produced by New Technology Company, a firm owned by Huazhong Agricultural University. The report instantly grabbed media headlines and public doubts over the security of GM rice have been mounting ever since. In a survey conducted by the Center for Agricultural Policy under the Chinese Academy of Sciences in 2010, 53 percent of respondents welcomed the concept of GM food, with only 16 percent in opposition, and 27 percent expressing neutrality. However, the report added that the public’s acceptance of GM food was on the decline compared to results in previous years because of growing safety concerns. In November 2009, the Ministry of Agriculture granted biosafety certificates for two pest-resistant strains of GM rice and one variety of corn, making China the first country in the world to give the nod to field trials of GM staple foods. But the country approved neither commercial cultivation nor the import of GM grains, according to a report by State news agency Xinhua. Zhang Qinglu, a teacher at Huazhong, told NewsChina that at about 5 PM on the day of the alleged theft, a man and a woman came to the experimental base, asking the way to the Wuhan University institute. Zhang said he courteously pointed them in the right direction and told them that the nearby courtyard was home to the experimental base of Huazhong Agricultural University. The yard was surrounded by a wall, and outside it lay tracts of GM corn. Beyond, separated by a country road, were large rice paddies. “If we had asked directly where Huazhong Agricultural University was, only to be told we were already there, it would have been embarrassing,” Lai told NewsChina, explaining the impromptu dialog. At nearly 10 PM, a member of security staff spotted two people sneaking into the field. Together with other security guards, he apprehended the intruders. “Two people were caught red-handed in the field, and in the distance, another man was acting as lookout. It was obvious that the woman had hidden three envelopes of seeds and leaves in her clothes,” Zhang said. Campus staff at the site stopped them and demanded they return what they had taken, adding that the land outside the experimental field also belonged to the university. The Greenpeace employees obliged, and were allowed to leave. Lai told NewsChina that when the conversation began, staff at the university were aggressive, suspecting that they were from a seed company. According to Lai, when he and his colleague showed their work permits, the tension eased. He said he then telephoned his colleagues at the Greenpeace office in Beijing to explain what happened.
“I thought we had made a compromise. I gave them my phone number and told them that they could call me if they needed anything. But after several days, I had not received a call,” Lai told NewsChina. The saga took a dramatic turn on April 17 when Yan Jianbing, a professor of crop genetics in charge of the university’s GM research base in Lingshui County, launched a tirade at Greenpeace on his
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Weibo feed, labeling the incident as a “night-time break-in.” Shortly afterwards, the university published an article on its website accusing Greenpeace of stealing rice seeds, claiming that the incident was a significant one, and calling Greenpeace “an overseas organization trying to steal the school’s scientific secrets,” a violation of China’s intellectual property law. Greenpeace hit back, denying the accusations, emphasizing that it was only an investigation and they had just picked a handful of rice seeds and leaves and did not intend to damage the field or take the seeds out of China. The samples had to be collected through “undercover field investigation” as it was virtually impossible to get access any other way, claimed Wang Jing, senior food and agricultural campaigner for Greenpeace. Wang said that Greenpeace was investigating the safety management of GM food after reports of “illegal plantation of GM corn” in Hainan. Greenpeace China soon released an official statement through its website, claiming that there had been no violation of intellectual property law, and that sample information would not be distributed. “If Huazhong thought our acts were in violation of the law, litigation would be the correct option, rather than malicious speculation,” Wang added. It was not the first time such an investigation has landed Greenpeace in difficulties recently. On August 8, 2013, activists backed by Greenpeace destroyed an experimental field of GM rice in Thailand. Moreover, Greenpeace alleged that the poor management of the experimental fields at Huazhong Agricultural University was also to blame, noting that its test site was located less than 20 meters from surrounding farmland – an apparent breach of China’s biological safety regulations, which require a minimum buffer zone of 100 meters. In a statement to the media, Huazhong emphasized that if Greenpeace took issue with the university’s management, they should report to the GM safety office affiliated with the Ministry of Agriculture. “We condemn such ‘theft,’ regardless of the purpose,” said Fan Jingqun, deputy director of the university’s biological science media center. Professor Yan Jianbing told NewsChina that Huazhong’s experimental base had received plaudits from international biotechnology experts, including those from the EU, and that the 100-meter buffer zone is required only if no other separation measures are taken. However, Yan said, the 2.7-meter-high wall at Huazhong’s base put the university on the right side of regulations. “Rice plants can grow to nearly one meter high and pollinate to a limited distance. The 2.7-meter wall is enough to block the spreading of pollen to other plants,” he said. “Without a permit from the school, no-one is allowed to remove seeds or leaves. It would be like turning up to an engineering company and taking away blueprints.” As yet, the public security bureau has not filed a case concerning the incident. On May 5, China’s Ministry of Agriculture said in a statement that security around areas of GM plants should be enhanced, to prevent the leaking of trade secrets, and that any unidentified vehicles and personnel approaching an experimentation field should be treated with caution.
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UFC in China
Everybody Was Cagefighting
In China – a country with a distinct lack of modern action heroes – mixed martial arts franchise UFC has caught the attention of a population struggling to place its proud kung-fu history into a modern context By Xie Ying
n a daze of exhaustion and elation, Zhang Lipeng fell to his knees as the referee raised his hand, declaring him victorious in the final of mixed martial arts (MMA) reality TV show The Ultimate Fighter China in Macau this March. The burly 6-foot cagefighter buried his head in his hands, and wept. According to the rules of the competition, Zhang, as champion, won a contract with the show’s producers, Ultimate Fighting Championship, or UFC, the world’s highest-level professional MMA promoter. Currently, only four Chinese fighters, Zhang included, have contracts with UFC, which is based in the US. Zhang’s victory did not come easily. According to the match commentators, he went into the fight at a disadvantage. In the third and final round of the fight, his opponent Wang Sai knocked Zhang to the floor of the cage, and delivered a flurry of savage blows to the face. Though bleeding profusely from one eye, Zhang fought on to win the match, relying mainly on Brazilian jiu-jitsu techniques. “The UFC contract was the ultimate goal of my fighting career so far. I had to win,” Zhang told NewsChina. After its inception in 1993, UFC quickly came under fire, including from prominent figures such as US Senator John McCain, due to its lack of rules, referee intervention and protective gear. In 2001, American fitness instructor Dana White bought the broadcast rights to UFC, and brought it into the mainstream by giving referees a greater role, and introducing rules such as bans on strikes to the spine and the back of the head. However, due to the extreme levels of violence – most fights end with either by submission or knock-out – to this day NEWSCHINA I August 2014
UFC remains the subject of controversy. This has been no obstacle to UFC’s global expansion, though – its broadcasts are available in 130 countries and 22 languages. China is no exception – UFC has said that broadcasts of its fights are watched by around 4.5 million people in the country, and that The Ultimate Fighter China averaged 10 million viewers per episode. The franchise aims to begin hosting matches on the Chinese mainland by 2015.
However, UFC has proven divisive within China’s kung-fu community. While some see the global popularity of UFC and mixed martial arts as a way to revitalize the somewhat stagnant image of kung-fu (and its codified competitive sport, wushu), many kung-fu traditionalists regard the discipline as an over-commercialized bloodsport. “Since it shies away from international inter-disciplinary competition, Chinese kung-fu has gradually lost its popularity with the global martial arts community. UFC may be a good chance for us to prove ourselves,” Meng Fanjun, a Chinese kung-fu enthusiast in Shanghai and long-time practitioner of sanshou (Chinese boxing), a combination of Chinese and foreign fighting styles developed with Chinese government support in the late 1970s, told NewsChina. In 2010, 30-year-old Zhang Tiequan, from Inner Mongolia, became China’s first ever UFC signing. When Zhang, or “The Mongolian Wolf” as he is known in UFC circles, scored his first UFC knock-out, domestic audiences and the Chinese media suddenly
Photo by CFP
MMA rankings after a defeat to a Brazilian jiu-jitsu blackbelt. Pundits have commended Zhang for his willingness to compete with high-ranking international fighters – most of Zhang’s domestic counterparts only compete against other Chinese fighters. “Chinese wushu perhaps tries to avoid direct combat and confrontation. So, to Chinese sanshou fighter Li Jiasheng takes on an Australian fighter in a bout at the Chinese Fighter Championship, April 2013 some extent, it is not as ‘real’ as MMA,” UFC’s Asian manbegan to take notice. Many within China erroneously dubbed the ager Mark Fischer, who previously spearheaded the NBA’s Asian diviMMA fighter a “kung-fu star,” and some began holding up banners sion, told Xinhua News Agency in 2013. at his fights exclaiming: “Chinese kung-fu is unbeatable.” However, while Zhang has long practiced Chinese kung-fu, his fighting style Fight or Flighty owes just as much to other disciplines, such as Mongolian wrestling Fischer’s comments caused a stir among Chinese wushu experts and and Brazilian jiu-jitsu. fans, some of whom argue that true traditional Chinese kung-fu is Zhang – who served as one of two head coaches on The Ultimate just as useful in combat as any other discipline, referring to its historiFighter China – seems daunted by the idea of being an ambassador for cal use in warfare. Chinese martial arts on the global stage. In 2012, he was on the brink “Traditional Chinese wushu values basic skills which would be of being released from his UFC contract after losing two consecutive helpful to an MMA fighter,” Chen Yijun, a traditional Chinese wushu bouts. instructor from Beijing told NewsChina. “Although I have defeated quite a few foreign fighters before, [those “Many martial arts were actually designed based on traditional Chimatches] were nothing in comparison to the UFC,” he told the media. nese wushu, and I have seen a few foreign MMA fighters using tradiWith kung-fu playing such an integral role in China’s culture, the tional Chinese boxing in competition,” said Meng Fanjun. government has engaged in various efforts to try to boost its profile – However, according to Hao Chen, a student of baguazhang, a form the Chinese-governed International Wushu Federation has in recent of traditional Chinese kung-fu, Chinese wushu schools seldom teach years held or supported various domestic and international contests, actual combat skills. but with little success. Sanshou fighters have also been participating “I was practicing wushu at a sports school before I found my masin matches held by Hong Kong-based mixed martial arts platform ter [well-known kung-fu practitioner Wang Shixiang] in a park. He K-1 since 1999, but have won less than half of them. Decades of ex- convinced me of his prowess by throwing me to the floor with a secret hibition matches against muay Thai fighters have yielded even worse move,” he told NewsChina. “If practiced properly for 10 years, I beresults, and according to Meng Fanjun, domestic promoters often de- lieve that a traditional kung-fu fighter could fight off at least 10 men,” liberately mismatch low-ranked foreign fighters against comparatively he added. strong Chinese opponents in order to stoke enthusiasm for kung-fu Such apocryphal stories of borderline-supernatural powers are comand increase audience numbers. mon within the Chinese wushu community. However, on the occa“The Chinese fighters lag far behind the world-leading MMA fight- sions when self-professed kung-fu masters do pit themselves against ers in both strength and combat skills,” said Zhang Lipeng, the victor international opposition, the results can be embarrassing. of the Macau fight, who recently fell out of the top 10 of the domestic In 1999, Liu Yilong, a Chinese sanshou fighter claiming to have
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been a monk at Henan Province’s lengendary Shaolin Temple – often called the birthplace of Chinese kung-fu – participated in a televised fight series shown by domestic broadcaster Henan TV. Liu defeated a number of foreign fighters and gained a significant following in China, but was knocked out by an American policeman early in the second round of a small-scale, Chinese-promoted bout held in Las Vegas in 2010. Liu was swiftly disavowed by the Shaolin Temple administration, which claimed that he was not a Shaolin monk, since real Shaolin masters “keep away from the noise of the outside world.”
ished backgrounds of the majority of Chinese MMA fighters, such as Zhang Lipeng, as evidence of the discipline’s low status. Indeed, Zhang admits that he fights in order to support his family, and at the gym where Zhang trains, there is a palpable atmosphere of aspiration. Jiang Hua, the gym’s owner and also the founder of Kunlun Fighter, a China-based international MMA platform, told NewsChina: “I tell them money will come to them as long as they fight every match well. MMA is big business. I teach them how to fight in a fashionable and flowery way,” he added. On a wall-mounted video screen, a motivational video plays on rotation. A voice-over booms: “Grasp this flash of hope in your colorless life. You might fall, bleed or get hurt, but your name will be chanted by thousands. You will be a figure of pride, a hero. You will be famous. You will be somebody. Fight for your fame.” Regardless of their motives, MMA’s Chinese stars are steadily rising along with the sport’s popularity in China, and the UFC franchise has designated the country as a key market – Asia Manager Mark Fischer has told the media that he is on the lookout for “MMA’s Yao Ming.” Whether in a contest of strength or popularity, UFC may just have traditional kung-fu and its more conservative adherents beaten.
NEWSCHINA I August 2014
Photo by IC
Many kung-fu experts and fans attribute the lagging performance of Chinese kung-fu to a lack of standardized training methods, particularly in terms of sparring. Hao Chen told NewsChina that the biggest obstacle to the development of Chinese wushu is that the community consists of a large number of separate “schools” that rarely carry out any exchange with one another on a meaningful level. “Different from [martial arts] in other countries, kung-fu remains aloof within its home country, and has tended to cut itself off from the outside world. Without sound training and instructors, it is hard for fighters to improve [within China],” said Wang Sai, the Chinese UFC (Liu Danqing and Wan Jiahuan also contributed research) fighter who lost the Macau bout. This is perhaps a major reason why the Wushu Administrative Center, under China’s General Administration of Sports, has tried to boost interdisciplinary exchange by promoting professional clubs and leagues such as the WMA (Wushu Masters Association) and the UFC. However, not all Chinese kung-fu enthusiasts are optimistic about this prospect. “Many traditional wushu practitioners are too proud to participate in professional leagues. They see it as shameful to be watched like animals,” said Hao Chen. Wei Min, an editor of kung-fu magazine The Soul of Wushu agrees. He told our reporter that over the course of his career with the magazine, he had met with over 100 Chinese wushu masters, most of whom, he said, steer clear of professional leagues, ostensibly due to their distaste for the concept of being paid to fight. Many traditional kung-fu adherents often point to the impover- Traditional Chinese wushu is now most often performed on stage
Murder in God’s Name The brutal and unprovoked murder of a woman, in public, by members of a fringe religious group, has resulted in renewed media interest in China’s underground “cults” By Yang Di and Yuan Ye
Photo by CFP
She’s a demon! Kill her!” Zhang Lidong reportedly shouted, kicking and stamping on the woman lying on the ground in front of him. Another two women, Zhang’s accomplices, warned bystanders against trying to aid the victim, who was screaming in pain and bleeding profusely. The sudden violent commotion had already caused many to flee from the restaurant. The attackers ultimately murdered their victim, 37-year-old Wu Guizhen, who they had met only five minutes earlier. Mother to a six-year-old son, Wu Guizhen worked as an assistant in a dress store at a mall in Zhaoyuan City, Shandong Province. At 5 PM on May 28, Wu clocked off, and went straight to her mother-in-law’s home to help with household chores, as usual. Later that evening, she and her husband took their son to play video games at the mall where the McDonald’s was located. Wu hadn’t eaten dinner yet, and told her husband to take their son to the video arcade on the 6th floor of the mall, while she ate in the McDonald’s on the first floor. Inside the McDonald’s, Zhang Lidong’s daughter Zhang Hang was going from table to table asking for phone numbers from customers. Eventually, Zhang came to Wu’s table, but Wu refused to give her phone number. According to police reports, Zhang Hang didn’t insist, and returned to her seat to meet her father and the other four of their group. Eventually, Zhang Hang returned to Wu, this time banging her hand on the table and
Citizens of Zhaoyuan place flowers in front of the McDonald’s to mourn the victim of the incident, June 1, 2014
demanding Wu’s phone number. Wu refused again, this time posting an update on social media platform WeChat: “I’ve encountered a bunch of crazies!” Zhang Lidong and the rest of his group, all of whom were later identified as members of fringe religious group The Church of Almighty God, rushed over to Wu at about 9 PM. “The bald guy [Zhang Lidong] shouted at and kicked the woman, and beat her with a metal mop handle,” one witness, who declined to be identified, told NewsChina. “It was terrifying.” At 9:19 PM, local police received a call reporting the incident. Four minutes later the police arrived at the restaurant. “After we got the bald man under control, the other four women were still attacking Wu,” The first police officer to arrive on the scene said in an interview with State broadcaster CCTV. “We had to line up four police officers in a row to keep the attackers away from Wu.” By this time, Wu had stopped moving. She died after being taken to hospital.
Zhang Lidong attacks Wu Guizhen in the McDonald’s, May 28, 2014
“I didn’t know her,” Zhang Lidong told CCTV from his detention cell. “My daughter [Zhang Fan] said she could tell at first sight that Wu was bad. She was a demon with an evil spirit. I had to beat her to death,” said Zhang Lidong, speaking to camera in the CCTV report. Zhang lived in a rented apartment fitted with external security cameras in a high-end NEWSCHINA I August 2014
community in Zhaoyuan. According to a security guard at the community, he was rarely seen except when walking his dog or leaving the compound in his car. The public was surprised to learn that four of the six suspects came from one family – Zhang Lidong, his two daughters, and a son, a juvenile below the legal age for criminal prosecution. Eyewitness accounts suggest that before the attack was carried out, the attackers had been walking around inside the McDonald’s restaurant, trying to persuade diners to convert to their religion. In the living room of the Zhang’s residence, police reportedly found a whiteboard with the words “slaughter,” “brutal murder,” “kill pets,” and “kill dogs” written alongside daily household chores. None of the local residents interviewed by NewsChina knew exactly when Zhang Lidong had moved in, or why he and his whole family moved to Zhaoyuan from his hometown in Wuji County, Hebei Province. Zhaoyuan city is known for its rich gold seams, which account for one eighth of the country’s reserves. The annual gold output of Zhaoyuan makes up one seventh of the national total. According to police reports of the incident, Zhang Lidong is 55, none of his family are employed, and his 12-year-old son has dropped out of school. In an interview with CCTV, Zhang Lidong said that he was living on savings from his former medical business. Zhang claimed that he “fear[s] no law, and believe[s] in God.” He also said that the woman he murdered was “a demon and an evil spirit” who “deserved” to be beaten to death. Another suspect, Zhang Qiaolian (no relation), is also from Wuji County. Zhang Qiaolian’s relatives in her hometown told reporters that Zhang had left home suddenly about six months earlier, claiming she was going to find work in Shandong Province. “No one else in [our] family believed in such strange things,” said a relative of Zhang Qiaolian. They thought it was “inconceivable” that Zhang Qiaolian could have been involved in the incident, let alone have beatNEWSCHINA I August 2014
en somebody to death.
Belief in God?
According to domestic media, the Church of Almighty God, also know by other names including Eastern Lightning, was founded in 1989 by a man named Zhao Weishan, a former follower of a quasi-religious group banned by the Chinese government since the 1980s known as The Shouters. Zhao’s followers believe that the Christian God has returned to Earth as a Chinese woman named Yang Xiangbin, who Zhao and his followers refer to as the Almighty God, or Eastern Lightning. However, Zhao himself remained relatively unknown until 2001 when he absconded to the US and applied for political asylum claiming “religious persecution.” The Chinese government has made repeated attempts to disband the Church of Almighty God. In 1995, the Ministry of Public Security denounced the church as an illegal cult. In the following years, several incidents were reported to be related to the church. In 1998, members of the church allegedly triggered eight violent riots lasting a total of twelve days in Tanghe County, Henan, with followers reportedly mutilating bystanders at random. In 2010, the group’s members allegedly murdered an elementary school student, leaving a lightning-shaped mark on the victim’s foot. A police investigation revealed that the boy was killed because one of his relatives, a member of the church, tried to leave it. Given that the church’s literature advocated the belief that the world would end on December 21, 2012, the date of the so-called “Mayan Apocalypse,” its members became increasingly active in that year. More than 40 riots in 2012 were alleged to have been caused by the group’s Doomsday rumors and propaganda materials. Also on December 14, a man named Ming Yongjun, said to be motivated by the church’s Doomsday prophecies, stabbed an elderly woman and 23 students at a school in Henan Province. These incidents led to the arrests of 400 members of the church in central China, and as many as 1,000 across the country.
However, even today, on the website of the “Anti-Almighty God Union,” an NGO devoted to opposing the group, complaints continue to mount from the family members of followers of the church, many of whom left home or caused other family disruptions in order to join. These family members share their experiences on the website, and seek ways to save their relatives. Wan Gang, a man from Hubei Province, told NewsChina that he was deeply worried about his cousin Lai Ke. Wan told NewsChina that Lai, a reportedly stable 31-year-old father-of-one who worked as a plasterer, was recruited into the Church of Almighty God in 2012. At this point, Lai’s life changed completely – he stopped working, and showed little concern for his son. He often shut himself up at home and listened to what the church called its “gospel” – audio and video ruminations on its doctrines. Lai would only go out of the house to attend church gatherings. “The gatherings seem quite secret. The followers address each other as ‘brother’ and ‘sister,’ but they are wary of non-believers in their midst, and do not like to disclose what happens at these gatherings,” said Wan. Wan Gang told NewsChina that in March 2014, Lai Ke packed up his belongings and said he was leaving town to look for a job. “We reported it to the police, and asked his fellow workers, but no-one knew where he was.” “What on earth is this religion?” Wan asked. “How did it turn a person into such a thing? He was a normal person before. And now he has just disappeared.” “The Church of Almighty God tends to recruit Christians,” a Christian preacher, surnamed Hou, from Fujian Province, told NewsChina. After the May 28 Zhaoyuan murder case, the Christian Church of Zhaoyuan announced to its followers that Almighty God believers had been targeting Christians. Reverend Hou told NewsChina that he had been preaching anti-Almighty God sermons in his church for three years. “I hope that the Zhaoyuan tragedy will remind people of the nature of this ‘cult’ and keep them away from it,” he said.
A Grim Prognosis
A shortage of palliative care centers and ingrained taboos surrounding death have made dying with dignity a virtual impossibility in China By Du Guodong
NEWSCHINA I August 2014
“Palliative care is a comprehensive pro-
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gram aiming to provide patients with quality of life and dignity in their final days. It focuses on relieving patients’ pain rather than curing them,” Dong told NewsChina. “Palliative care offers relief to those with incurable conditions, and most have a life expectancy of three to six months.” “In Chinese tradition, talking about death and dying is taboo,” she continued. “The priority is given to a ‘good birth’ rather than a dignified death.” A study conducted by the Chinese Association for Life Care (CALC) has showed that 5.6 million people died per year in China, of whom some 3.3 million were in need of palliative care in their last months of life. The same study warned that 90 percent of patients with late-stage cancers did not receive professional help to relieve their suffering. According to a report in 2012 by the National Center for Cancer Registries, 3.5 million people were diagnosed with cancer in China, with 2.5 million cancer patients dying every year. China’s aging society and the collapse of the traditional family structure resulting from the One Child Policy have made traditional caregivers for the terminally ill – the patient’s children and grandchildren – simultaneously heads of households and primary breadwinners. Statistics from the Ministry of Civil Affairs showed that as of the end of 2012, China was home to 198 million seniors over the age of 60, accounting for 14.3 percent of the population. Of these, some 30 million are seen as physically or mentally unable to take care of themselves. Wang Liping, a doctor with the Jiaxing Maternity and Child Health Care Hospital in Zhejiang Province, told NewsChina that China has only 200 official hospices, most of them in big cities including Beijing and Shanghai. Zhejiang, with a total population of 54.8 million people, doesn’t have a single one. Wang, who also serves as a delegate to the Zhejiang Provincial People’s Congress, told NewsChina that the majority of China’s hospices are small, adding that palliative care is mainly carried out by self-financing
Photo by CFP
tarting from early this year, a spate of public protests against the establishment of hospices and palliative care centers have swept through communities in China. In May, local residents discovered that Infinite Care, a senior care home in Beijing, was planning to open special wards offering specialized care for the terminally ill. In response, protesters blocked the road to the center and smashed stands set up to advertise the new service. In April in Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province, over 200 residents signed a petition opposing the opening of a hospice in their community. In February, the district government of Yangpu, Shanghai halted plans to build a palliative care center following an outcry from residents living nearby. This nimbyism regarding any facility associated with the death industry is not new to China. Since the country’s first hospice, Songtang, was set up in 1987 in Beijing, it has been relocated seven times because of both protests and funding shortfalls. It is currently located a long way from residential areas in an eastern suburb of the city. Dong Wei, the head of Songtang’s nursing staff, told NewsChina that nowadays the hospital is free from harassment at the hands of superstitious locals, but the hospital insists that their ambulances silence their sirens and that all hearses originating at the facility do not display floral tributes, in order to avoid a public backlash. Deep-set taboos in China, many originating fairly recently, prohibit the “mixing of the living and the dead.” The equation of palliative and hospice care with death, rather than improving the living environment of the terminally ill, consequently puts them in the eyes of many Chinese in the same category as cemeteries and crematories. Chinese traditional beliefs hold that it is unlucky to be in proximity to death or the dead, and living near a cemetery is a sure-fire way to ensure poverty and calamity.
A terminally ill patient rests in a hospice in Taiyuan, Shanxi Province, April, 2012
grassroots community hospitals. She also remarked that China has no specialized hospice targeting late-stage cancer patients, despite the very specific needs of this large group. Compared with senior care homes, which are under the administration of provincial and municipal civil affairs departments and thus receive subsidies, hospices are under the nominal administration of China’s Ministry of Health, but unlike hospitals, have so far been allocated no subsidies whatsoever, making running a hospice a hugely expensive undertaking. To make matters worse, China’s limited social security provision does not extend State health insurance to palliative or hospice care. China’s health insurance plans typically focus on the costs of medical procedures and medications as nurses and doctors receive relative-
“Palliative care adds life to days instead of days to life. It is a yardstick by which we measure whether a society is civilized.” “The gap between the number of terminally ill patients and the availability of hospice care in China is so wide. It has turned into a serious social problem,” she told NewsChina. “Many patients simply have no hope of dying with dignity.”
Li Wei, the director of Songtang Hospice, told China Economic Weekly that Songtang spends an average of 3,000 yuan (US$477) per patient, and struggles constantly to make ends meet. To cut costs, most of Songtang’s 20 medical staff are retirees from public hospitals, while many caregivers are migrant workers, supplemented by a growing number of social workers and volunteers. The hospital has nearly 400 beds and over the past
Photo by CFP
ly low government salaries. However, palliative care nursing is expensive, due in part to a chronic shortage of Chinese people willing to work in hospices. According to a 2013 survey of 18 hospices in Shanghai by the Shanghai Municipal Commission of Health and Family Planning, the average spending on a single patient is 5,478 yuan (US$876), including 2,337 yuan (US$374) for medicines, nearly 43 percent of the total. As the cost of hospice care will not be covered by most Chinese insurers, the bulk of facilities have an occupation rate of only 43 percent. According to a report published jointly by the Economist Intelligence Unit and the Lien Foundation on the quality of end-of-life care in 2010, China came near the bottom of a table ranking palliative care in 40 countries worldwide. In China, most terminally ill people die at home, in pain, cared for by family members who also find the responsibility placed on them too much to bear. Many Chinese families relate to the trauma caused by the lingering death of a beloved relative, and yet few people would countenance the presence of a palliative care facility anywhere near their home.
Two Olympic torch bearers pass the torch to a patient at Songtang Hospice in Beijing, April, 2008
27 years, 32,000 people have died there. The mean age of patients is 81, and most spend a little over a month at the facility. A report by China Daily said the majority of caregivers at hospices in Beijing are not fully qualified and most of them have no specialized training or certification, instead being hired from low-end housekeeping companies. A lack of passion derived from a relatively low salary as well as physically and emotionally heavy workloads have made it tough for caregivers to take pride in their work. Cheng Wenwu, director of Comprehensive Treatment at the Fudan Cancer Hospital in Shanghai said the lack of hospice care in China is mainly due to the difficulty for hospices to turn a profit, as patients with terminal illnesses occupy beds but rarely make use of the biggest money-spinners for China’s healthcare industry – surgical procedures and expensive pharmaceuticals. “Under the current medical system in China, the main source of doctors’ incomes is derived from medicine sales, lengthening the odds for hospices to turn a profit,” remarked Cheng in an address to the International Ethics and Practice Symposium on Palliative (Hospice) Care held in Shanghai in late April. “As a result, many hospitals, including public ones, devote all their medical resources to ‘curable’ patients simply because it is more lucrative,” he added. China launched its first official palliative care service in 1988 – a related research center was set up at Tianjin Medical University. From 2001 to 2011, the Hong Kong-based Li Ka-shing Foundation invested 25 million yuan (US$4.1m) every year in establishing 20 organizations specializing in hospice care service in 15 provinces and municipalities. The foundation is currently partnering with at least 30 hospitals nationwide to alleviate pain for the terminally ill. In 2012 and 2013, China Association for Social Work Education (CASWE) has cooperated with the foundation to train social workers at 18 universities nationwide to provide counseling to dying patients. NEWSCHINA I August 2014
In China’s biggest urban centers, where a small, young and relatively wealthy working population is burdened with caring for a large, impoverished older generation, demand for assistance in end-of-life care appears to be creating supply. Shanghai, China’s economic capital, has taken the lead in promoting hospice care in China. In 2012 the city announced plans to provide hospice care for all terminal cancer patients — under the plan, each of Shanghai’s 18 districts and counties would have a dedicated community health center providing 10 permanent beds for dying cancer patients. In 2014, the city pledged to step up its hospice care by adding another 1,000 beds. In November 2012, Li Baoku, Chairman of the China Aging Development Foundation, said at the National Caring Project Con-
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ference in Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province, that the country will build more than 600 hospices by the end of 2015. In March 2013, CALC unveiled China’s first entry standards for hospices. The institute has trained more than 400 caregivers in recent years. In spite of these recent developments, however, Shi Bonian, secretary-general of CASWE, said during an interview with gmw. cn that the role and influence of hospices in China is still desperately constrained. Shi and many analysts predict an explosion of demand as a huge percentage of China’s present workforce retires in the next decade, and warn that the government needs to take steps to ensure these people are cared for. “It is the social responsibility of public hospitals to invest more in palliative care,” he told our reporter. “The government should
incentivize them to do so through the introduction of preferential policies and financial backing.” “Putting hospice services under the umbrella of basic medical insurance should be the first step, one which shows respect for death.” In addition to policy support, Wang Yifang from the medical school of Peking University has become a passionate advocate for death awareness education – something uniformly neglected at all levels of Chinese society. He told NewsChina that Chinese prejudices surrounding the dying are currently “unavoidable,” and that death awareness is currently limited to certain medical schools. “Palliative care adds life to days instead of days to life. It is a yardstick by which we measure whether a society is civilized,” he said.
China and Britain
For Britain, China is no longer just a source of cheap imports. It is a major client that needs to be wooed By Chertwell Zhou
ix months after Prime Minister David Cameron’s China tour, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang conducted an official visit to the United Kingdom, bringing along with him a 250-strong business delegation. This was Li’s first trip to Britain since he took office in March last year. In a sign of Britain’s eagerness to woo the Chinese, the British government made arrangements for Li to meet the Queen for tea at Windsor Castle (reportedly at the request of the Chinese government, though Beijing denied the allegation), an honor usually reserved for heads of state rather than heads of government.
During Mr Li’s trip from 16 to 19 June, the two sides signed business deals worth over nearly US$24 billion in diverse areas including finance, technology, energy and infrastructure. China is now investing in real estate and major infrastructure projects in Britain, including those in sensitive areas such as nuclear power. Li’s visit marks a noticeable warming in Sino-British relations since David Cameron’s meeting with the Dalai Lama in May 2012 caused an outcry from China. When Chinese President Xi Jinping visited Europe in March and April 2014, his itinerary excluded the UK, choosing instead the Netherlands, France, Germany and Belgium. Some saw this as a deliberate snub.
Li Keqiang’s high-profile visit appears to have put former disputes to bed, at least for the moment. The Times of London ran an article attributed to Li on the first day of his visit in which he called the United Kingdom “a great country and an important partner of China.” During his meeting with David Cameron on 17 June, Premier Li proposed that China and Britain should expand two-way trade to reach a target of US$100 billion in 2015. Cameron, for his part, said bilateral cooperation had “borne rich fruit” since the two countries forged a strategic partnership a decade ago. At a joint press conference following the summit, Li said China and Britain, two major world economies, shared broad common interests. “China is the world’s largest developing country, while Britain is the world’s first industrialized nation. The deepening of Sino-British cooperation is not only conducive to the two countries, but also carries global significance.”
Indeed, in terms of economic ties, Li’s visit proved instantly productive. The City of London, still recovering from the 2008 financial crisis, announced during the visit that the China Construction Bank had been appointed as London clearing house for trading in Chinese yuan, part of a long-term plan to make London a hub for yuan-denominated
transactions. All eyes are now on London as frontrunner to become China’s main offshore base for yuan-denominated trade, and the deal with the China Construction Bank has granted the City a distinct advantage over other mooted centers such as New York and Frankfurt. On 18 June, at a meeting in London’s financial district, Li told policymakers and bankers, “London is the largest offshore [yuan] market, so the UK should really seize this momentum.” UK Chancellor George Osborne compared the growing importance of the Chinese currency to the emergence of the dollar as the world’s reserve currency after the Second World War, saying the yuan’s growth would be one of the major changes in global finance over the coming decades. Among all the Chinese investment deals signed in Downing Street, the most eyecatching were agreements allowing Chinese companies to own and operate a Chinesedesigned nuclear power station and to build and operate railway lines in the UK. Ed Davey, the UK’s energy and climate change secretary, wrote in The Guardian: “Given the boost to low carbon electricity, to energy security and to jobs, the Chinese interest in taking forward investment at Hinkley Point C, the UK’s first nuclear station in a generation, is hugely welcome.” A joint statement between the two counNEWSCHINA I August 2014
overhaul of the Home Office’s visa applications system, allowing Chinese visitors to apply for British and Schengen visas to the EU simultaneously. The scheme, under which details recorded for the Schengen application can be automatically transferred onto the British form, is currently only available to those traveling to Britain as part of an organized tour group. A 24-hour fast-track visa option will also be made available, along with expanded Chinese-language support. Despite general approval from the Chinese delegation, some British business leaders, however, criticized the proposed reforms, saying that they “lacked substance” and that the government is just “tinkering.” Some voiced claims that Britain’s prohibitively restrictive visa system is losing the country some US$2 billion in annual tourist revenue.
Photo by AFP
Queen Elizabeth II meets with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang at Windsor Castle on June 17, 2014, on the first full day of Li’s three-day visit to Britain
tries on high-speed rail (HSR) claimed that “both sides agree to promote substantive cooperation between the UK and China… in areas including design, engineering, construction, supply operation and maintenance on projects [both] in China and the UK.” In addition, a US$20 billion gas contract will see BP supplying the China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC) with liquefied natural gas (LNG) for 20 years, and Royal Dutch Shell extended a global cooperation agreement with China’s State-owned oil giant CNOOC. Speaking at a gathering of some 600 elite Chinese and British businessmen and poliNEWSCHINA I August 2014
ticians held at London’s Natural History Museum on 17 June, Premier Li said that Sino-British cooperation in nuclear power and high-speed rail will combine China’s enormous market and advantageous equipment with Britain’s advanced technology and innovative strength to realize joint creation and joint exploration of third-party markets.
Visa restrictions on non-EU visitors to the UK, a major bugbear of the Chinese authorities, also saw some changes in the wake of Li’s visit. On the premier’s first day in London, Home Secretary Theresa May announced an
Optimism ruled the day, with politics barely mentioned by either side as they focused on the relatively safe territory of commerce. As Li said in his article in The Times, the UK and China have “complementary strengths,” at least in terms of economics. Shujie Yao, head of the School of Contemporary Chinese Studies at the University of Nottingham, holds that China and the UK share common interests in investment, trade, healthcare and education. He sees pharmaceuticals and healthcare infrastructure, sustainable energy, high-end manufacturing and the education sector as particular strengths the UK can use to pry open the China market. At the same time, China’s growing clout in telecommunications, HSR and infrastructure offer affordable investment to cashstrapped British authorities keen to jumpstart regional economies. Despite all the smiles and hand-shaking, however, the UK still lags behind Germany and France in terms of trade relations with China. However, Yao argues that Britain’s unique strengths in areas where China suffers chronic deficiencies could place it ahead of European rivals. As the Chinese economy moves up the value chain, he confidently predicts, the momentum for Sino-British cooperation will only get stronger.
South China Sea
Holding Our Breath
Is there any hope for a peaceful solution to the situation in the South China Sea?
Photo by CFP
By Li Jia
On June 8, 2014, sailors from the Filipino (right) and Vietnamese (left) navies engage in a tug-of-war on a disputed island in the South China Sea, which is also claimed by China
n oil rig deployed by China in the South China Sea on May 2 has made waves throughout the region. At the Shangri-la Dialog in Singapore on May 31, US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel labeled the move as one of China’s “destabilizing, unilateral actions asserting its claims” in the area, and vowed to strengthen “emerging defense ties” with Vietnam. The next day Wang Guanzhong, deputy
chief of the General Staff of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army, slammed Hagel’s speech as “the language of hegemonism and words of intimidation.” Such blunt exchanges between senior Chinese and US military officials are rarely seen in public. By mid-June, more than 1500 “collisions” took place between Chinese and Vietnamese flotillas that have gathered around the oil rig, with each side accusing the other of provoca-
tion. Both sides published video footage to prove the law was on their side, each depicting the other as sole aggressor. Both countries’ officials and observers declared to the rest of the world that their opponent was lying over sovereignty claims and infringing international law in one of the most verbally intense standoffs between China and Vietnam since the end of the Cold War. Things were no less tense on land. A Chinese manager who gave his surname as Shen, a worker at a private Chinese-invested factory in Vietnam was advised by his interpreter not to speak Chinese on the street when he arrived in March. Anti-China protesters looted and burned down several factories displaying Chinese-language signage in mid-May, after which Shen was told not to go out at all without a local guide. According to China’s Foreign Ministry, four Chinese were killed in the violence, while 300 more were injured. Thousands were reported to have left the country out of concern for their safety. Shen told NewsChina that he had to stay behind only because he spoke no Vietnamese and was unable to guarantee himself safe passage out of the country. Despite the unprecedented escalation of rhetoric, however, few expect force to be used to resolve this dispute once and for all. Typical of such crises, diplomats have remained cool and collected while the media on both NEWSCHINA I August 2014
sides have sounded the horn of nationalism. Both China and Vietnam have sent various messages to each other and the rest of the world pledging willingness to explore peaceful solutions. But they remain divided on what such solutions should be and, crucially in China's case, who should be involved in making them.
The controversial rig is located 17 nautical miles off what China has named Zhongjian Island, a part of the Xisha (Paracel) archipelago, known as Hoang Sa in Vietnam. Both countries claim they hold “indisputable sovereignty” over the islands. While China recognizes the nearby Nansha (Spratly) islands as “disputed,” it extends no such terminology regarding the Xisha, which the country is pushing to develop into an inhabited outpost of its southernmost island province of Hainan. China’s Foreign Ministry said that the Chinese company in charge of the rig conducted seismic operations and well site surveys in the area for ten years. Vietnam’s response to the rig’s launch, however, was far more extreme than even the Chinese had anticipated, seriously hampering its operations. Wu Shicun, director of the National Institute for South China Sea Studies, told NewsChina that he feels Vietnam is more confident over its claims to the Xisha than the Nansha. In his view, this confidence has made the government in Hanoi reluctant to give any ground whatsoever, which could possibly undermine its claim over the Nansha and fuel a domestic backlash against government “weakness.” As it was ordinary citizens, not government agents, who torched Chinese businesses across Vietnam in May, such fears are well-grounded. Emotions in the country over China’s perceived encroachment are running high. As this year marks the 40th anniversary of the naval campaign fought over the Xisha between China and Vietnam in 1974, Wu added, the Vietnamese government has seized a chance to further promote public support for its sovereignty claims. Opponents of Vietnam’s ruling Communist Party, meanwhile, NEWSCHINA I August 2014
see nationalist opposition to China as a boon to creating difficulties for the government in Hanoi. The sudden appearance of a Chinese oil rig in what Vietnam perceives as its own waters is proof that China is ready and willing to actively conduct oil exploration in disputed territory, further deepening the need for Vietnam to show the strongest possible opposition. Military conflict, however, is not thought to be an option. Beijing and Hanoi recently
confirmed that more than 30 diplomatic communications at various levels have been made since May 2, typically the behavior of countries keen to avoid military incidents. “Keeping in contact is crucially important in times of crisis; otherwise, even if all parties involved in a crisis agree on peaceful solutions, a lack of communication can still result in misunderstandings heightening the risk of military conflict,” said Zhang Tuosheng, chairman of the Academic Committee of the China Foundation for International and
Strategic Studies, an expert on international crisis management. In practice, Zhang added, the vessels at the forefront of the ongoing confrontation are not warships and thus the conflict remained largely a civilian matter. According to English-language reports appearing in Vietnamese state media, criminal charges have been filed in Vietnam against hundreds of looters who took part in the anti-China riots in May. The Vietnamese government also shut down a planned antiChina demonstration. The fact that it did so publicly was an indication that Hanoi is keen to avoid allowing flashpoints to develop on its own turf. Zhang stressed that since the end of the Cold War, dialog has always been China’s first choice for directly resolving territorial disputes with the relevant parties. He argues that this continues to be the case, including in maritime disputes which potentially involve more complex and wide-ranging interests than those based on land. In 1999 and 2000, for example, China and Vietnam successfully reached agreements on land and ocean territory in the Beibu Bay (Gulf of Tonkin) after decades of negotiations. Both Beijing and Hanoi have repeatedly reaffirmed their long-term commitment to dialog and even cooperation on the South China Sea disputes both before and during the current crisis. During Chinese Premier Li Keqiang’s first visit to Hanoi in October 2013, both sides agreed to set up a working group for consultation on joint maritime development. “The last thing China wants is any turbulence in its neighborhood,” ran a Chinese statement to the UN on June 8. Two days later, Vietnam's Ambassador to the UN Le Hoai Trung was quoted in Vietnam’s party mouthpiece Nhan Dan Online as having told international media in New York that, after decades of war, the Vietnamese “always want peace.”
Chinese analysts believe there are enough channels in place for China and Vietnam to manage this current crisis without significant escalation. Wu Shicun stressed that disputes
Photo by CFP
US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel meets with Vietnam’s Defense Minister Phung Quang Thanh during the 13th Asia Security Summit in Singapore, May 31, 2014,
over the South China Sea are only one aspect of bilateral ties, and with this in mind, Chinese and Vietnamese leaders have repeatedly pledged to take “strategic and broader relations” into account in solving their maritime disputes. Chinese Premier Li Keqiang has commented that he expects China’s trade with Vietnam to reach US$100 billion in volume by 2017, nearly double the amount in 2013. The Vietnamese government’s hardline response to the anti-China riots shows unwillingness to lose foreign investors, including those from China. The sheer number of Chinese who were evacuated from Vietnam in May gives a small indication of the scale of Chinese interests in the country – and thousands more remained behind. Zhang Tuosheng noted that relations between the two communist parties, though not amiable on the surface, can prove helpful in difficult times. Both parties have a common ancestry and their internal procedures are often complementary. In early 1999, for example, top leaders of both parties agreed to set a deadline on concluding their drawn-out land and maritime demarcation negotiations, giving a crucial boost to a process that stalled in government-to-government talks. The two sides now are divided on what kind of talks should be conducted and who should be invited to the table. The Philippines have brought their own separate disputes with China to the International Tribunal on the
Law of the Sea set up by the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). Vietnam is closely following the case and, depending on its outcome, may consider following suit. China argues that the UNCLOS governs maritime, not littoral, sovereignty – the basis of any claims over maritime sovereignty and interests. Moreover, in 2006 China submitted a declaration to the UN under a relevant article in the UNCLOS, following precedents from other countries such as South Korea, which would prohibit international arbitration in maritime disputes. Commitment to bilateral consultation on territorial disputes was included in both a Sino-Vietnamese joint statement on maritime issues in 2011 and the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea signed by China and the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) in 2002. These two documents are also frequently cited by China as banning outside arbitration in negotiations. Although China has stated flatly that it will not discuss the sovereignty of the Xisha Islands as it does not consider them to be in dispute, it has also shown itself to be open to universally accepted principles in international law, including the UNCLOS, in bilateral communications, if not official negotiations. If China was as resolute as it claims to be on such issues, the UNCLOS would be unlikely to have been mentioned in its communications with other parties, nor would it be declaring itself open to dialog. Yi Xianliang, a senior official with the Chinese Foreign Ministry, indicated at a press conference recently that successful experience built up during previous, lengthy negotiations of land and maritime sovereignty could be useful in bilateral consultations seeking a permanent settlement. Although plenty of hawks continue to predict a further escalation of tensions, few of these commentators are party to the complex, lengthy and largely amicable discussions continually taking place behind closed doors. Until these doors are opened, therefore, both parties will continue to walk a delicately balanced tightrope between saber-rattling and conciliation. NEWSCHINA I August 2014
Giancarlo Innocenzi Botti, head of Invialia, and Ningbo Mayor Lu Ziyue at a press conference in Beijing, June 11
Photo by Dong Jiexu
Industrial Park to Facilitate Growth The southern city of Ningbo is on the frontier of the grand project to upgrade China’s industry By Qin Zheng
jointly invested 40-square-kilometer industrial park in Ningbo, Zhejiang Province illustrates the underlying foundation of an emerging partnership between China and Italy. According to Italian and Ningbo municipal officials, the 502 million euro (US$679m) investment in 10 cooperative projects is in the best interests of both sides. Italian companies and their Chinese partners inked their deals on June 11 to develop a number of high-tech industries in the area, including renewable energy, waste treatment, medical and healthcare, machinery and finance. Italian investment, technology and managerial expertise is needed to accelerate the pace of business in Ningbo and allow local enterprises to move up the value chain, according to Mayor Lu Ziyue. Ningbo, like many other Chinese cities, is undergoing a painful, yet inevitable, process of upgrading and overhauling its industries. Rising labor costs and land prices have further squeezed the already paperthin profits out of traditional manufacturing sectors. Ningbo has initiated a three-year plan to grant about 2 billion yuan (US$321m) in subsidies to automation projects in an attempt to boost efficiency. Meanwhile, the city is faced with mounting pressure to curb energy NEWSCHINA I August 2014
consumption and industrial pollution. In 2013 the city shut down a number of high energy-consuming plants, including stainless steel, paper making and electroplating. What appeals to Italian companies is Ningbo’s emerging middle class, skilled workforce and well-established infrastructure which benefits from access to China’s second largest port. The city thus serves as a major point of access to the rapidly growing China market. Giancarlo Innocenzi Botti, head of Invialia which promotes business development on behalf of the Italian government, said as parts of Europe struggle to create jobs, Italy has stepped up its efforts outside the eurozone, especially in China, to fuel domestic economic growth. China is Italy’s third-largest trading partner after Germany and France. Sino-Italian trade totaled 33 billion euros in 2013, with about 9.9 billion euros’ worth coming from Italy and 23.1 billion from China, according to data from the Beijing-headquartered China-Italy Chamber of Commerce. The new park was unveiled right after Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and visiting Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi issued a three-year plan pledging cooperation in the areas of trade, industry and investment, finance, business, tourism and technological innovation.
Failure to Kickstart
A lack of original ideas and concerns over intellectual property protection are standing in the way of crowdfunding’s successful transplantation to the Chinese market By Sun Zhe
n China’s IT circles, C2C means “copied to China” just as often as it means “customer-to-customer.” Both have proven a fairly safe bet – provided they make adjustments to meet local tastes and policy requirements, most popular foreign dot-com models boom soon after their transplantation. Success stories have emerged in various fields, including e-commerce (Taobao), social networking (Renren), web portals (Sina), microblogging (Weibo) and group buying (Lashou). There is one notable exception, though – crowdfunding. In the West, crowdfunding sites allow users to post their venture proposals – anything from documentaries to flying bicycles – and solicit cash from Internet users, who then receive a pre-determined gift if and when the project reaches its funding goal. Three years after the first Chinese crowdfunding knockoff was launched, crowdfunding remains largely unpopular in the country. The funds raised over the last year by Chinese crowdfunding sites are estimated to total about 1.2 billion yuan (US$194m), less than half the US$480 million raised in 2013 by Kickstarter, the US pioneer and one of the world’s most prominent
Some believe that a lack of originality – the very reason why Chinese web entrepreneurs copy from Silicon Valley in the first place – is stalling crowdfunding’s development in the People’s Republic. He Feng, co-founder and former CEO of Demohour, China’s first crowdfunding portal, has said that the lack of great original ideas is the most important reason behind the industry’s sluggishness. It does not take an investment expert to determine that projects posted on Chinese crowdfunding sites are far less attractive than those on Kickstarter or Indiegogo, another major US crowdfunding site. While projects launched on Kickstarter have included the world’s first full 360-degree high-definition video camera and a movie that was later nominated for an Academy Award, on China’s largest crowdfunding site, the “projects” on offer tend to be conventional commercial ventures – business schools selling MBA programs, or farmers touting oranges – that use the site to promote pre-sales. On some portals, the proposals are so conventional that the user experience is no different to a group buying or e-commerce site. Concerns over intellectual property protection may be discouraging those with real creative ideas from posting their projects on the crowdfunding portals, said Sun Hongsheng, CEO of zhongchou. com, by far the largest player in the Chinese crowdfunding market, which currently occupies about half of the market. “In the worst cases, pirated products were already on sale on Taobao [the country’s largest C2C e-commerce website] before the original projects got fully funded,” said Sun. “There is a high NEWSCHINA I August 2014
probability that the project’s initiator will be driven out of the market even before they manage to file a lawsuit against the infringer.” Though fraud has been reported since the inception of crowdfunding in China, a lack of faith in the protection of intellectual property rights is no doubt an obstacle to the development of crowdfunding in the country, according to Sun. A lack of basic business skills among venture teams in China also adds to the challenge of creating growth, accounting for the slowness of the industry. “Unlike their counterparts in the US, Chinese venture teams are often naïve when it comes to funding, financial management, marketing and other skills vital to the success of a startup,” Sun said. Crowdfunding sites find themselves acting as entrepreneurship and financial consultants for venture teams, making their business model far more challenging than that of their US counterparts, who have no need to train venture teams. “When you’re heavy, you’re slow,” Sun said, who revealed that though the industry has grown more than 100 times larger over the past year in China, it is still nowhere near the size of the US market.
Li Zichuan, industry analyst with IT research consultancy International Analysys, thinks that there are also cultural factors at play – he believes that the “Chinese mindset” is also another factor preventing the industry from booming. “Chinese have yet to become accustomed to paying for a product that has yet to materialize. They prefer mature products that have been approved by the market.” He added that Chinese people are more likely to be interested in investments that result in monetary NEWSCHINA I August 2014
gains, rather than a product. Consequently, crowdfunding projects that offer equity make up more than 80 percent of the market in China, according to Sun Hongsheng of zhongchou.com, with a total funding of about 1 billion yuan (US$162m) over the past year. In contrast, in the US, the majority of donors to crowdfunding projects donate a small amount of money and are rewarded with anything from a product – an electronic gadget, a film ticket, or a DVD for example – to a “thank-you” in the credits of a film or the sleeve notes of a CD. However, the model of rewarding crowdfunding donors with equity was confronted with policy setbacks as soon as it became popular in China, since unlisted companies are forbidden from selling equity to more than 200 individuals. This sets a funding limit for project initiators, who usually aim to solicit a small amount from as many contributors as possible in order to expand the reach of their idea. Regulation measures are reportedly under consideration at the China Commission of Securities Regulation, and the entire industry is looking forward to measures similar to the JOBS Act in the US, a regulation on crowdfunding for small businesses and startups that took effect in September 2013, allowing ventures to launch general solicitation from qualified investors. “So far, the lack of clear regulation measures is making industry players, as well as potential players, hesitate to make any aggressive moves,” said Li. Aside from legal uncertainty, a lack of trust in strangers is another obstacle Chinese crowdfunding sites need to overcome. “To prevent fraud and put the contributors at ease, we wire money to the project initiator part by part, in accordance of the progress of the project,” said Sun.
Beating the Crowds Increasingly adventurous elite Chinese tourists are fuelling a market for high-end bespoke travel agencies
Photo courtesy of Cheng Lei
By Li Junqing
Locals pose for a photo with a wealthy Chinese tourist in Egypt
s dusk fell over St. Petersburg’s opulent Catherine Palace, and the former summer residence of the Russian tsars closed its doors to the public, one tour group remained inside. A small champagne reception, exclusively for a cohort of Chinese tourists, was held in the palace’s garden, before a guide showed the group around every room, introducing the palace’s history and artwork. The tour concluded with a private ballet performance in the ballroom. Cheng Lei, an investment consultant from Shanghai, was
among the select group. “[The tour] may have been expensive, I can’t remember the specific cost,” she said. Cheng has spent most of her life immersed in her work in the finance industry. Now, she says, like many of her contemporaries, she is taking time away from business to enjoy life – her hobbies range from photography to antiquing to collecting incense. Above all, though, Cheng has a passion for travel. She takes numerous vacations every year, and her travels have taken her to every continent. The rise of the Chinese tourist overseas is perhaps one of the biggest trends in global tourism this century, although few can expect the type of treatment that Cheng receives – most Chinese overseas tourists expect to be herded onto red-eye flights and into budget hotels as part of a tour group of dozens of strangers, to be ferried from landmark to landmark taking photographs. Cheng is a different class of tourist altogether – flush with time, cash, increasingly refined tastes and an urge to splurge, and people like Cheng are propelling a high-end tourism industry within China that offers made-to-measure travel services to the country’s ultra-rich. The Catherine Palace visit is only one stop on the bespoke itinerary Cheng commissioned for her jaunt to Russia. Besides the after-hours Catherine Palace soirée, her travels have taken her to prestigious Burgundy chateaus and have secured her reservations at Michelin-starred restaurants all over the world. “My understanding of travel is to go around the world and NEWSCHINA I August 2014
Photo courtesy of Guang Jincheng
A Chinese tourist jumps into near-freezing cold waters in the Southern Ocean
see things for yourself.” Cheng told NewsChina. “I don’t care about the photographs taken on the trip. I want to see different things, hear new ideas and understand different places.”
Far from the Crowds
While Kenya recently launched an advertising campaign in China, to attract Chinese tour groups to witness the Great Wildebeest Migration, Cheng chose to avoid the crowds, flying with a few friends to a small African country, largely un-
NEWSCHINA I August 2014
heard of in China. Boutique hotels are top of Cheng’s priority list when booking a vacation. She refuses to stay in chain hotels, trusting her bespoke travel agent to book lodgings more suited to her taste. On a trip to Egypt, she stayed at the Mena House Hotel, since the building was used in the filming of the 1978 film version of the Agatha Christie novel Death on the Nile. While Cheng was familiar with the hotel’s history, she was
Photo courtesy of Guang Jincheng
A Chinese tourist plays with a seal in the Antarctic
still surprised to learn that it was the site where Roosevelt, Churchill and Chiang Kai-shek signed the Cairo Declaration after World War II. Guo Ming, co-founder of bespoke travel agency Trip TM, believes that people like Cheng represent a growing high-end niche in China’s tourism market. Guo, who has been in the travel business for more than three decades, was one of the first Chinese businesspeople to recognize the commercial potential for bespoke travel. About 2.9 million Chinese possess personal assets of 6 million yuan (US$970,000) or more, a number that is expected to reach 3.35 million over the next three years to come, according to a report by Hurun, China’s Forbes equivalent, released May 2014. Guo sees great potential for his business. “A lot of rich people are willing to learn about the wider world and experience new things. They have a greater thirst for knowledge than the average tourist, which means a niche market for value-added services,” said Guo. Guiding a group of Chinese entrepreneurs on a trip to a Belgian museum, Guo found that while the average visitor spends around half an hour sweeping past the antiques and leaves with no more than an album of photographs, his clients wandered the halls for eight hours, inquiring about each piece
in the museum’s collections. “Those who got rich earlier than their compatriots have higher standards,” said Guo. Previous tours conducted by Trip TM include meditation with Bhutanese monks, camping with Aborigines in the Australian Outback, rubbing shoulders with movie stars at independent film festivals, and listening to tales of Fidel Castro told by his ex-bodyguard while puffing on premium cigars in Cuba. Guo’s first cohort of clients included top Chinese entrepreneurs like Jack Ma, Feng Lun and Shi Yuzhu, all three of whom later became shareholders in Trip TM. The company has benefited greatly from exclusive networks – rich clients brought their rich friends along, and the company broke even three months after its foundation. Revenue topped 100 million yuan (US$16.2m) two years later. Guo is skilled at capitalizing on the company’s members themselves, many of whom are among the most resourceful people in China. For instance, the trip to meet the chief abbot of Bhutan was orchestrated by one of Trip TM’s members who is on good terms with His Holiness. Another visit, a sojourn to Dubai to visit local landmarks and their designers, was made possible by Feng Lun, a real estate tycoon and Trip TM shareholder, who provided the necessary contacts.
More Than Travel
Trip TM now has a standard membership of more than 2,000 and around 100 elite members, and it sees big potential growth in the high-end tourism market. The threshold for elite membership is high. Aside from possessing a personal fortune of at least 1 billion yuan (US$161.9m), applicants are required to have run an enterprise for a minimum of three years, and must be vouched for by at least two of the company’s 19 shareholders, all of whom are among China’s most successful entrepreneurs. Some of Trip TM’s more peculiar packages include trips to South Korea for plastic surgery or to Singapore for health checks, alongside more conventional activities such as rock climbing, skiing, parachuting and mountain climbing. Two of the most popular destinations for wealthy Chinese are the north and south poles, as Zhou Mo, general manager at Tripolers Club, another bespoke travel agency focusing on travel to the polar areas, has realized. Founded in 2008, at a time when polar travel had long been an option – albeit not a popular one – in the Western tourism market, the service found demand among newly rich Chinese NEWSCHINA I August 2014
bynumbers US$36bn people eager to break away from regular travel in search of an exclusive experience. Bespoke trips have also proven to be good networking opportunities for participants, bringing together entrepreneurs from the same industry, or mixing up tourists from mature industries with ones who run startups. Deals are often cut during the course of a trip. More forward-thinking members are even sending their children on bespoke trips in order to prepare them for careers in business. Chinese teenagers – and even young children – are beginning to appear on cruise ships bound for the north and south poles. A trip to the South Pole costs more than half a million yuan (US$80,930) per person, or about five years’ salary for an average white-collar worker in Beijing. Despite seemingly huge market potential, Guo also sees potential difficulties for his business – it costs a great deal of time and money to develop the connections required for a bespoke tour route – resources which may never be re-used. From this year, China’s tourism giants, such as Ctrip, one of China’s largest tourism websites, as well as the State-owned China Youth Travel Agency, have made respective forays into the high-end bespoke travel market, with far greater resources at their disposal than the small-scale players currently dominating the sector. Fortunately for Guo, this has resulted in a collaboration with Ctrip – Trip TM’s more mature tour routes will be offered through the website, with slight adjustments according to customer preference, creating a “semibespoke” model for the mass market. The world’s most popular tourist destinations are by now used to the phenomenon of Chinese tour groups, but with the growing middle class growing tired of cookie-cutter vacations, it seems that the Chinese may soon be cropping up in places they weren’t expected. NEWSCHINA I August 2014
China’s foreign trade surplus in May, 70% up on the same month in 2013, and the largest since its historic January 2009 peak of US$39bn. Source: General Administration of Customs of China
40 35 30 25 20 15 10 5 0 -5 -10 -15 -20 -25
China’s trade surplus between January 2013 and May 2014, US$bn
Month-on-month change in average price of newly-built residential housing, %
Month-on-month price decrease, recorded in May, for newly-built residential housing in 100 major Chinese cities, the first decline since June 2012, according to a leading property market data provider.
Source: China Index Academy
06/2012 07/2012 08/2012 09/2012 10/2012 11/2012 12/2012 01/2013 02/2013 03/2013 04/2013 05/2013 06/2013 07/2013 08/2013 09/2013 10/2013 11/2013 12/2013 01/2014 02/2014 03/2014 04/2014 05/2014
US$1.263tn China’s holdings of US Treasury securities, including bonds, bills and notes, at the end of April 2014, its smallest reserves since March 2013. Month-on-month changes in China’s holding of US Treasury debts, US$bn 30 25 20 15 10 5 0 -5 -10 -15 -20 -25 -30 -35 -40 -45 -50
The share of 2013’s US$81bn y-o-y increase in international tourism expenditure represented by tourists from China. Source: UN World Tourism Organization
Tons of waste material including iron and steel, plastics, nonferrous metals, paper, tires, electric and electronic products, autos and ships, recycled in China in 2013. This entire haul has been valued at US$79bn.
Source: US Department of the Treasury
Source: Ministry of Commerce / China Resources Recycling Association
North Korea and the UN
A Bang, a Whimper
The rarely-told story of how prominently North Korea figured in China’s attempts to establish relations with the US in the 1970s offers a valuable insight into both historical and contemporary issues affecting all parties with interests on the Korean Peninsula By Shen Zhihua
efore Henry Kissinger’s groundbreaking secret visit to China on July 13, 1971, a watershed which paved the way for China-US rapprochement, China’s then-premier Zhou Enlai had to ensure at least nominal diplomatic support from China’s only three international allies at the time – North Vietnam, Albania and North Korea. Zhou first flew to the North Vietnamese capital Hanoi on July 13 and then rushed back to meet with the Albanian ambassador in Beijing. His last stop was Pyongyang for a July 15 audience with North Korea’s Supreme Leader Kim Il-Sung. North Vietnamese leaders, still at war with US-supported South Vietnam, expressed great dissatisfaction with China’s outreach to the US. Beijing’s former Southeast Asian ally would not only go on to deepen its ties to the Soviet Union but would also face Chinese support for the anti-Viet Cong Khmer Rouge in Cambodia and even a brief border war in 1979.
In Europe, the Central Committee of the Albanian Communist Party sent a letter to the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China to voice their “strong opposition” to Sino-American “collusion,” accusing China of “opportunism” and leading to an acrimonious and ultimately unresolved diplomatic split between Beijing and her only European supporter. As a result, from the corridors of power in Beijing, assuring the support of North Korea, now China’s sole international ally, seemed all-important.
During his first closed-door meeting with Henry Kissinger, then President Richard Nixon’s National Security Advisor, Zhou Enlai had raised the question of the US withdrawing its troops from the bases in South Korea they had occupied since the end of the Korean War in 1953. Kissinger responded by declaring that if the Sino-US relationship improved as both sides hoped it was “conceiv-
able” that the US would pull “a majority of its troops,” if not all of them, from South Korea once hostilities in Vietnam were concluded. In a communiqué to Kim Il-Sung delivered July 15, Zhou reiterated that China “had not changed its original proposition” and “would not barter away its principles.” Kim Il-Sung immediately agreed to the continuation of talks, but reportedly “showed surprise and anxiety about the situation.” Hundreds of thousands of Chinese troops had assisted the North during the Korean War, and this seeming about-face by Pyongyang’s sole international ally unnerved the military establishment. Kim said Nixon’s imminent visit to China was “a new question” for North Korea, and that the Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK) “would have to explain it to the Korean people.” His concerns were apparently assuaged by his generals, who saw improved Sino-US relations as their best chance at achieving the North’s goal of reunification of the Korean Peninsula through diplomacy rather than by NEWSCHINA I August 2014
Photo by Xinhua News Agency
A photo of the US delegation led by Henry Kissinger with their Chinese hosts before a meeting, October 20, 1971
force. On July 30, Kim Il, then Deputy Premier of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), visited China and met with Zhou, saying that the WPK understood that the opening of Sino-US talks was “extremely beneficial in promoting world revolution,” and the WPK’s belief that “the Chinese Communist Party will not change its antiimperialist stance.” Zhou in turn promised that he would relay North Korean demands to Kissinger on his next visit to Beijing. These demands were included in a new program for “peaceful reunification” drafted by the North Korean Supreme People’s Assembly on April 12, 1971. Central were demands for the withdrawal of all foreign troops in South Korea, immediate cessation of US shipments of nuclear weapons, missiles and other arms to South Korea, dissolution of the US-South Korean military alliance, dissolution of the United Nations Commission for the Unification and Rehabilitation of Korea (UNCURK) and unconditional repreNEWSCHINA I August 2014
sentation of the DPRK in UN debates over Korean issues. From August 18 to September 7, a military delegation of 26, led by O Chin-u, then Kim Il-Sung’s chief of general staff, was invited to visit China. Aside from formal engagements such as meetings concerning ongoing bilateral military cooperation, on September 6 an agreement was signed promising “free military assistance” to the DPRK. Soon, another North Korean military delegation of 29 would visit Chinese armament factories all over the country. The agreement received front-page coverage in the People’s Daily, China’s leading State newspaper, and was subsequently viewed as a move to placate North Korea over the US issue while also demonstrating ongoing Chinese support for the Kim regime. On September 12, 1971, North Korea’s State media released a statement to urge the upcoming twenty-sixth plenum of the UN General Assembly to include on its agenda two matters relating to the Korean Peninsula,
namely the withdrawal of US troops from South Korea and the dissolution of the UNCURK, which the country saw as “a prerequisite for the peaceful reunification of the Korean Peninsula.” The People’s Daily came out in support of North Korea’s demands with a bombastic editorial on the subject, but the global response was lukewarm, and on September 25th the UN General Assembly decided that discussion of the Korean problem would be postponed until the following year. Perceived rejection from the UN led Pyongyang to throw its full weight behind China’s planned rapprochement with the US as its best hope of securing reunification. During interviews with Japan’s Asahi Shimbun and the Kyodo News Agency on September 25 and October 8, Kim Il-Sung publicly expressed his feelings on the subject. Henceforth, he claimed, North Korea would “stick to its independent foreign policy which would be unaffected by changes in Sino-US relations;” DPRK-US relations would “depend solely” on changes in American atti-
tudes toward the DPRK; Kissinger’s public visit to China “signaled the retreat of the vanquished, not the advance of the victor;” and expressed his belief that “China is a socialist country and could not compromise on matters of principle.” While he hailed the Sino-US dialog “if it relaxed international tensions,” adding that the DPRK did not intend to protest the talks, Kim stated that Korea needed to “remain vigilant to the US’ two-pronged strategy.” During his public visit, from October 20 to 26, 1971, Kissinger met with Zhou Enlai a total of 10 times, with the two men spending 23 hours and 40 minutes together, mainly in discussion over the proposed text of the China-US joint communiqué that would be released during the upcoming State visit by President Nixon. Kissinger also relayed Zhou’s position that, in terms of issues relating to China’s direct interests (Taiwan was given as an example), Beijing “could wait,” but issues relating to “minor allies,” such as Indochina and Korea, were “immediately pressing.” Nixon was also told that, while China “was interested” in giving equal status to both Koreas, perhaps the question of reunification should be left “for another time.” Soon after Kissinger left China, Kim Il-Sung conducted a secret three-day visit to Beijing beginning November 1. Kim met both with Mao Zedong and Zhou Enlai. While both China and the DPRK denied such meetings took place, Soviet officials publicly declared that not only had Kim met with China’s top leaders, he hadn’t even ruled out the possibility of North Korean officials meeting secretly with Nixon during the president’s upcoming visit. While it is now established beyond doubt that Kim Il-Sung spent three days in Beijing in November 1971, the transcripts of his meetings have yet to be published. A speech made by Kim shortly after his return, however, demonstrated a softening of his stance on China-US relations. While he repeated his “vanquished” remarks about Kissinger’s visit, Kim stated that the Communist Party of China “would never abandon the revolution nor do anything to undermine the interests of socialist countries.” In other words, Kim was satisfied of ongoing Chinese support. Despite Kissinger’s advice to skirt the issue of North Korea with the Chinese, transcripts of Nixon’s visit to China in February 1972 show that Zhou Enlai openly discussed the Korean problem with the president. After complaining that North and South Koreans were “both extremely emotional,” Nixon expressed hope that China and the US could mutually pressure both Koreas into avoiding further conflict.
When the Sino-US Joint Communiqué was signed on February 27, both parties reiterated support for their respective allies, while the two Koreas issued their own responses. While pushing for the cancelation of the UNCURK, China did not demand the withdrawal of US troops from South Korea. The US statement made no mention of the UNCURK, and also skirted the issue of its military bases in
Former Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai meets Kim Il-Sung on a visit to Pyongyang, April 1970
South Korea, a move roundly condemned in an editorial by the WPK mouthpiece the Rodong Sinmun that was otherwise supportive of the talks. While many North Korean newspaper articles were reprinted in China’s People’s Daily at the time, this editorial was studiously avoided. Nixon’s visit led to the greatest thaw in relations between China, North Korea and the US since the beginning of the Korean War. International media called 1972 the “Year of Korea.” In January, Kim Il-Sung proposed a substitution of the Armistice Agreement with South Korea with a formal peace accord. In February, a Soviet diplomat in Pyongyang inferred that North Korea’s opposition to the US was mainly due to the presence of US troops. On May 26, Kim told a New York Times reporter that Washington should “not only improve relations with big countries but also with small ones.” On June 22, Kissinger returned to Beijing, where he reportedly clashed with Zhou Enlai over the question of whether or not to allow debate over the cancelation of the UNCURK to reach the floor of the United Nations. Kissinger was concerned that any debate could derail the fragile commencement of dialog between the two Koreas, while also perceiving that despite its public opposition, China saw the presence of US troops in South Korea as preferable to potential Japanese military involvement in the defense of Seoul. Behind closed doors, however, bilateral dialog between both Koreas was proceeding faster than either the US or China could have expected. On July 4, North and South Korea issued a joint statement announcing “three principles of reunification” which enshrined the doctrine that reunification would be achieved “beyond ideological and institutional difference,” by “peaceful means” and “without external interference.” In response to this acceleration of affairs on the Korean Peninsula, on July 19, Huang Hua, China’s chief representative to the UN, wrote to the UN Secretary General saying that the Chinese delegation supported a proposal tabled by Algeria and 12 other member states to have Korea listed as an “emergency issue” on the agenda of the 27th UN General Assembly. NEWSCHINA I August 2014
Photo by AP
On July 26, Kissinger met with Huang in New York and told him that the US did not want the UN General Assembly to discuss North Korea in 1972. Kissinger said that the US would use its influence to promote the dissolution of the UNCURK if direct confrontation between the two Koreas on the floor of the UN could “be avoided.” Huang, however, remained noncommittal. North Korea continued its attempts to force the issue. On, July 31 Pyongyang issued a statement supporting the Algerian proposal, with China coming out in open support. On August 4 Huang met Kissinger and asked the US to change its official stance, but in an election year, Kissinger was determined not to have the issue raised, again hinting that, if China played along, the UNCURK could be dissolved as early as the following year. In response, Beijing switched its stance and began attempts to placate Pyongyang. From August 22 to 25, during another secret visit by Kim Il-Sung to China, both Mao Zedong and Zhou Enlai attempted to convince the North Korean leader of the need to engage directly with the US while offering China some flexibility in its relations with both Pyongyang and Washington. Some sources claim that these entreaties were sweetened with a reiteration from Zhou that China was ready, if necessary, to support the North in a second Korean War, though US archives do not support this account.
What was clear in 1972 was that while the Korean issue would not be immediately resolved on the floor of the UN, North Korea was about to find an international voice. What also became clear was that China would be a decisive figure in securing Pyongyang a place in ongoing international attempts to resolve the Korean question. By the time the 28th UN General Assembly was convened, China had replaced the Soviet Union as de facto spokesperson for North Korea. By April 1973, more than 10 countries had established formal diplomatic relations with North Korea, which had even begun a tentative outreach to former arch-enemy Japan. On May 17, the World Health Organization accepted the DPRK as a full member, and Pyongyang announced on June 4 that it would establish a formal presence in Geneva. On June 23, South Korean President Park Chung-hee said in a statement that his country “did not object” to being admitted into the UN alongside North Korea as separate political entities. On the same day, Kim Il-Sung made a speech to propose a “Federal Republic of Koryo” – a reunified, centralized Korean nation. Then, on September 26, Huang met Kissinger again, newly appointed as US Secretary of State, and was told that the US had agreed to dissolve the UNCURK, but that the United Nations Command Headquarters, a peacekeeping organization whose presence on the Korean Peninsula was strongly opposed by Pyongyang, would remain deployed for at least a year until a diplomatic alternative could be found. Huang suggested Washington dissuade South Korea from NEWSCHINA I August 2014
joining the United Nations, while hinting that China might also similarly pressure the North, however Kissinger refused to state an official position. Shortly afterward, two draft resolutions on the Korean issue were presented to the UN General Assembly. One, proposed by China and Algeria, demanded the dissolution of the UNCURK and revocation of the United Nation Command headquarters along with all US military deployments in South Korea. The second, proposed by the US, UK and Japan, mandated the maintenance of the United Nations Command Headquarters and the immediate and simultaneous admission of both Koreas to the United Nations. On November 14, the United Nations Political and Security Committee began formal debate on the Korea issue, with representatives from more than 50 countries engaging in the heated sessions, including North Korea, for the first time. On November 21, the Political Committee of the UN General Assembly adopted a declaration that determined the immediate dissolution of the UNCURK. Chinese and North Korean State media immediately printed editorials expressing satisfaction with this outcome. However, according to a report leaked on November 22, 1973, apparently issued by the Hungarian embassy in North Korea to the Hungarian Foreign Ministry, Vietnamese diplomats stationed in Pyongyang had learned that a senior Chinese military delegation, visiting the North in secret, had promised to provide the North Korean military with an unprecedented array of high-tech arms, perhaps even including tactical nuclear warheads. It appeared that after a promising start, the damage to a diplomatic resolution to the Korean question had already been done. Talks between the North and South stalled in the summer of 1973, and meanwhile domestic upheaval in Cultural Revolution-hit China and the Watergate scandal surrounding the Nixon administration development hampered development of Sino-US relations. With Zhou Enlai sidelined in the Party after being attacked by leftists during a session of the Politburo, and Nixon facing impeachment, two key players in this fledgling diplomatic relationship were largely powerless to further their ambitions. With the US public turning against an active and interventionist foreign policy, on his seventh visit to China in November 1974, Kissinger deliberately avoided discussing the Korean problem. Chinese leaders largely saw Nixon’s successor Gerald Ford as a poor replacement for the man credited with bringing the two former enemies together. China withdrew almost entirely from attempts to resolve the disputes between the two Koreas. On December 17, 1974, the 29th session of the UN General Assembly passed a US proposal on resolving the Korean issue, with 61 votes in favor, 43 against and 31 abstentions. (The author is a professor with the Cold War International History Research Center of East China Normal University.)
One of Taiwan’s most recognizable public figures, Lung Ying-tai has made the daunting transition from popular media critic to policymaker. Our reporter met with Lung in Taipei in May, for an exclusive interview focusing on her experiences over her past two years in office, and her hopes for Taiwan By Su Jie and Yuan Ye
Which is the right thing to do, writing, or what I’m doing now?” asks Lung Ying-tai, after serving as Taiwan’s minister of culture for two years and three months. Lung, a critical yet humanistic writer and one of Taiwan’s most influential public figures, is known for wielding the island’s “most powerful pen.” In May 2012, Lung took office as Taiwan’s minister of culture, her second stint as a government official after serving as the director of the Taipei Bureau of Culture, under the invitation of then Mayor Ma Ying-jeou from 1999 to 2013. In 1984, Lung began writing a column in the Taiwanese newspaper the China Times, titled “Wild Fire.” Her articles, sharply critical of many aspects of life in Taiwan, particularly of the authoritarian Taiwanese government of the time, became widely popular. The next year, Wild Fire was published as a book. It sold out quickly, with a record-breaking 24 reprints in one month, and an eventual total of 100 re-prints. Lung kept writing for three decades, publishing over 20 books including collections of essays, critiques and other works. In 2009, she published Big River Big Sea – Untold Stories of 1949, an interview-based documentary-style publication that describes the cruelty of the civil war between the Communist Party of China and the Kuomintang (19451949). Though banned on the mainland, the book still raised heated discussion on both sides of the Taiwan Strait. Even now, it still ranks among the best-selling books on the island. In China, becoming a prominent intellectual has long been recognized as an expedient path to becoming a government official. However, the first time Lung became an official in 1999, she met with controversy. Critics worried that her sharp edge might be blunted by dealing with the various competing interests in the political game, potentially dousing her “wildfire.” Also, Lung herself was completely new to the day-to-day work of politics. While she called the experience “exhausting,”
she pushed through policies that developed local culture and protected forestry. In 2003, Lung left her post, and took up teaching jobs at colleges in Taiwan and Hong Kong. In 2012, shortly before Ma Ying-jeou was elected to his second term as Taiwanese leader, Lung accepted an invitation from Ma to take over as minister of culture. “I thought nothing could be harder than what I experienced from 1999 to 2003… But I was mistaken,” she says of the experience. Lung was facing a very different Taiwan. The media placed her under intense scrutiny, and members of Taiwan’s Legislative Yuan questioned her harder than her colleagues in Taipei City Council had. Lung says that at the time, Taiwanese people seemed more “anxious” than they had previously been. Street movements, she says, were threatening to destabilize democracy. Meanwhile, as Taiwan’s first ever minister of culture, 60year old Lung was having to carve out a new path while simultaneously uniting a ragtag team of two thousand civil servants from disparate ministries including cultural construction, news, administrative evaluation and education. “We didn’t even know what the ministry was going to be,” she said. “Section chiefs had no idea what their supervisors looked like. How could you expect them to ‘fight’ together?” Lung says the feeling was like “standing on wet sand, facing the waves without a steady footing.” Still, before long, Lung issued a guideline on Taiwan’s cultural policy, with four main aims – being both rural and local, being international, increasing output value and integrating cultural resources. She made efforts to open community bookstores, reforming grassroots communities, encouraging the production of traditional handicrafts, and boosting local literature. “I grew up in the rural areas of southern Taiwan,” she said. “I felt that if you want to go around the world, you have to NEWSCHINA I August 2014
NewsChina: What do you mean by “gentleness” in your article “Gentleness: the Most Valuable Quality of Taiwan?” Lung Ying-tai: If you’ve been immersed in Taiwan’s culture long enough, you’ll understand. Taiwanese have high standards for manners and politeness. These are not just external behaviors. It’s a kind of reflection of internal gentleness. To go a little deeper, if you compare Taiwan to the rest of Greater China, you will find that Taiwan is a place where tradition and modernity combine very well. When you go to a metro station in Taiwan, you will find there might be a very traditional market above ground. There are people selling vegetables, perfume and flowers. There are cages of chickens and ducks. The pork butcher will give you a handful of chopped scallions for free with your cut of meat. It is a very traditional way of living. But when you take the elevator to the subway, it becomes totally modern. Everyone is waiting in line – an orderly modern society. Tradition and modernity are integrated naturally in Taiwan. There is no conflict between the two. Because of this natural integration, you can feel its gentleness. It is a result of the familiarity of tradition and the convenience of modernity. NC: You have previously pointed out that Taiwanese are becoming more and more anxious, caring more about shortNEWSCHINA I August 2014
Photo by IC
start from a village, which remains constant in your heart while you wander. It is the ground that you stand on. It is tradition and culture.” Also, Lung spurred the re-election of the boards of directors and supervisors at Taiwan Broadcasting System (TBS), driving this once heavily politicized tool back towards its intended neutrality. She also helped to establish the Taiwan Art Bank, which buys artworks and lends them to airports, train stations, hospitals, hotels and other public spaces at subsidized prices. In February 2012, as a “dark horse” in the Ma Ying-jeou administration, Lung topped public approval polls. However, two years later, her ratings began to drop. This May, Lung held a celebration for her two-year anniversary of having taking office as minister of culture. She also published her first article in two years titled “Gentleness: the Most Valuable Quality of Taiwan,” in which she stated that “civil servants are those who do their jobs to keep society stable and progressive. In its first two years, the budget for the Ministry of Culture consisted of only 0.83 percent of the central government’s total expenditure. It was the smallest of all the ministries… Two years of irrigation have resulted in a very young sapling.” She wrote about her hope that Taiwanese society would give civil servants more encouragement since “virtue leads to virtue, and sunshine reflects sunshine.”
Lung Ying-tai hugs a performer at the Taipei TV Festival, September 2012
term interests. What changes do you hope to bring to Taiwan? LY: Taiwan has become a comparatively mature and open society. Culture has the power to develop itself within society. The government’s role in the formation of culture was not important. You will find that the most active groups [in the cultural sphere] are Taiwanese non-governmental funds and all sorts of philanthropy organizations. Their contribution to
Photo by Li Zhiyuan/CNS
Lung Ying-tai (second from right) talks with Taiwanese poets about the “revival of poetry” at a poetry club in Taipei, April 15, 2014
the construction and mobilization of Taiwan’s social culture is far beyond the reach of the government. From this point of view, Taiwan has entered into a stage where the government takes a “soft” role. As an official, I need to identify where social power cannot reach, and provide help. The first thing would be to cultivate fertile soil for the development of Taiwan’s social culture. It would largely be a case of leveraging government powers. For example, the development of independent theater has been slow in Taiwan, since it is difficult for companies to find suitable venues. Laws and regulations on fire safety, construction and urban planning present obstacles to development. So we could use our power to coordinate with the relevant government departments. The Ministry of Culture can use rules and coordination to spring these deadlocks one by one, giving these small private theater companies a reasonable and legal place to live. Another example is the art bank, which could never have been accomplished through private power alone. Through a series of regulations and budgets, we are trying to find more public spaces to exhibit more works from our local artists, to allow more Taiwanese people to see their work. NC: You have said that the art bank is the project you are most proud of over your two years in office. It has been reported that the idea faced early opposition, and operations weren’t smooth? LY: There were many years of discussion before the birth of the art bank. The most difficult thing was to make it happen. Realizing a dream takes a lot of work on the details. The behind-the-scenes work was very hard. For example, there was a lot of time spent on selecting art-
works. It was necessary to set standards for things like the age of artists and their works. There was a lot of consultation involved. How do we make it sustainable – can we sell off the works we buy? If we do, how should we respond to claims of unfair competition from private dealers? If we don’t sell, what should we do with works no one has rented in ten years? If the price of a work rises, should the bank sell it? There are endless discussions on buying and selling. Actually, the problems that the art bank is facing are a microcosm of the problems the ministry itself faces. The most typical one of these is the establishment of regulations and standards. For example, if a painting is damaged during transportation, should we throw it away or have it repaired? If we repair it, will it change the original look of the work? After we buy a work, what rights and responsibilities do we have? If the work has not been touched for ten years, can I just destroy it or donate it? All these eventualities must be provided for in agreements. For the ministry, the promotion of culture has a lot to do with such tedious administration. NC: You have done a lot to protect traditional culture. However, it is undeniable that traditional culture is becoming more and more distant from the younger generation. What do you think should be done to make it easier for traditional culture to survive in modern society? LY: It is true that the younger generation tends to accept trendy foreign culture very quickly. Now they like reading e-books. Their methods of communication have been completely digitized. But there is still room for a traditional culture and way of life. I think protecting traditional culture is like flying a kite. As the kite flies higher, the wind becomes stronger. When you feel you are going to lose the kite, you hold it tighter. So you can see that when a historical building is to be demolished, it is the younger generation who are protesting – they still care. Besides, there are people who promote traditional culture using popular and modern methods, for example, the music of [popular Taiwanese singer] Jay Chou and Lin Hwai-min’s Cloud Gate Dance Theatre. In today’s families, there are still parents who read Buddhist sutras to their children, letting them know more about traditional religion. So in Taiwan, “reincarnation” of traditional culture is literally going on everywhere. NC: When taking office two years ago you said you were like “standing on wet sand, facing the waves without a steady NEWSCHINA I August 2014
NC: Do you think it is necessary to be softer to fit into politics? LY: [Laughs] Am I soft enough? It’s hard to say. Communication is important. Facing the Legislative Yuan now, I am making myself softer in the sense that whenever you have a question about my policies, I can come to you at any time and give you an explanation. But if I regard the question as unreasonable, or if you try to buy me off with budgets or resources, I won’t agree. Budgets should be used for the benefit of Taiwan’s people, not in exchange for my policies. Many politicians do this for the sake of “harmony.” I think that is one way in which they are softer than I am. But I would rather be hard in this respect. NC: Being an official in Taiwan, one must learn to face “scoldings.” During the two years, how did you deal with questioning and misunderstanding? LY: There were insults too! [Laughs.] In these two years, I have made significant adjustments. In fact, Taiwan has changed a lot, too. During 1999 and 2003, when I was working for the Taipei government, I was an official, and they were the media. One reason for my coming back is that I though nothing could be harder than what I went through from 1999 to 2003. So what did I have to fear? But later I found I was mistaken. Why? Because the media has changed. It changed because many other things changed. The biggest difference was that thirteen years ago, though the work was as hard as it is today, the media had a healthy NEWSCHINA I August 2014
Photo by CFP
footing.” Has that feeling changed? LY: That was the truth [laughs]! But there have been changes. The reason I had that feeling in the first years was that the Ministry of Culture consisted of people from different departments. We didn’t even know what we were going to be doing. But externally, expectations were high. So, on one hand, there was pressure to achieve. On the other hand, I had not even begun training the staff – they didn’t even know the people sitting opposite them in the office, let alone have a sense of common goals or working methods. Section chiefs had no idea what their supervisors looked like. How could you expect them to “fight” together? So the first two years were the most difficult time. Now, to my relief, we’ve built a team. We have developed chemistry. We have formed basic methods of expressing opinions and reaching agreements.
Lung Ying-tai gives a speech in Shanghai, November 2011
sense of justice. When I, as a writer and intellectual, became a civil servant, that sense of justice made me feel like I was cared for and cherished. The media had an attitude of comprehension, expectation and encouragement. When you were hurt in a political struggle, you would thank the media for being a force for justice. However, when I returned to politics two years ago, I found that everything had changed. It’s a change of essence, which, even for me, was difficult to understand. There must be more profound reasons. Of course, there are still voices for justice. For example, in the run-up to the re-election of the boards of directors and supervisors at the TBS. Some media couldn’t stand it anymore, and after one failed re-election, both the United Daily News and China Times criticized the issue harshly. There are voices for justice, but the overall ecosystem has changed. NC: Do you regret your choice? LY: Not really. But I cannot help thinking whether I am in the best place to make contributions to Taiwan and the Chinese world. Which is the right thing to do, writing, or what I’m doing now? Writing has always been my natural field. NC: Do you miss your writing days? LY: Of course. In the past two years and three months, I have lived under extremely high pressure. But what is important is that I have made this decision. And I will not regret, especially right now, after the two years of work. I feel that we have built the foundations of a mansion. Now the frame has become clear. The work of constructing this base could never be achieved through writing.
Soccer Mania W
hile China has never qualified for a World Cup finals tournament held outside of Asia in the competition’s 84-year history, the global sporting extravaganza is nothing short of a national obsession in the country. Because of the time difference between China and Brazil, most matches took place in the wee hours of the morning. However, this minor inconvenience did little to dampen the enthusiasm of Chinese soccer fans, many of whom tuned in despite having to to work the next day. Bars, subway cars, department stores, schools and streets all became venues for soccer fanatics to enjoy the matches and soak up the World Cup atmosphere. Promotional events were rife, providing a miniature boom for businesses in various sectors. The manufacturing hub of Yiwu, Zhejiang Province, has been exporting large quantities of goods related to the quadrennial tournament to Brazil and around the world for the past seven months and beyond. The city, the world’s largest marketplace for small commodities, has been exporting sporting accessories worth more than US$10 million every month since September, according to Yiwu Customs Office.
A soccer fan paints the Brazilian flag on a Chinese man in São Paulo, June 13
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A child takes a picture behind a cut-out figure of a soccer star in Xiangyang, Hubei Province, June 15
Pupils at an elementary school in Linâ€™an, Zhejiang Province, present their paintings of the flags of the 32 teams competing in the 2014 World Cup, June 9
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1. Chinese watch the Spain-Netherlands game projected onto the city wall in Nanjing, Jiangsu Province, June 14 2. Young Chinese cheerleaders dance aboard a metro train in Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province, June 5 3. A 10-meter-tall statue of the Titan Cup at Xujiahui, Shanghai, June 4 4. Visitors take pictures of giant figures of soccer players outside a shopping mall in Tsim Sha Tsui, Hong Kong, June 12 5. Workers show newly-made miniature FIFA
World Cup trophies at a factory in Dongguan, Guangdong Province, June 11 6. A woman with the colors of the Iranian and Chinese flags painted on her face smiles in Curitiba, Brazil, June 16 7. The World Cup fixture list is a common sight in Xiangyang, Hubei Province, June 15 8. Soccer fans play on a miniature field in a department store in Shanghai, June 13 9. Students at Shenzhen University in Guangdong Province watch Brazil vs Croatia on June 13
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OUTSIDEIN perspectives from within China
Steeped in Culture
China has several tea-tourism destinations, but few can claim the pedigree enjoyed by the area around Hangzhou, capital of Zhejiang Province. Our writer sets off on a tea binge across town and country, braving hawkers and insect bites, in search of the perfect leaf By Lisa Gay
haps the comparatively softer sell compared to the hawkers. The reason the National Tea Museum is in Hangzhou, and not, say, the capital, is to do with Imperial pedigree. It was a favorite of the Qing emperors, especially Qianlong (17111799), who was said to have enjoyed a cup of Longjing tea, the local variety, while relaxing at Hugong Temple. So impressed was he with the quality of the brew that he conferred special status on the 18 tea bushes that contributed to his legendary cuppa. These plants are purportedly still in existence at the reconstructed Hugong Temple at Longjing Village, just outside of Hangzhou, though the tea made from those royal plants is way out of reach of the unwashed masses (by which we mean practically everyone). While visitors can sip an atmospheric cup of tea at Hugong, we’d also recommend just stopping by for a quick look at the original Longjing well, from which the surrounding village derives its name. Photo by Lisa Gay
hina may not be the world’s only producer of tea these days (the British can breathe a sigh of relief over that), but it is still immensely prolific. From the bitter buckwheat brews of the north to the earthy Pu’er of the south, nearly every inch of the country produces some local variation on the humble Fried Longjing tea leaves and shrimp tea leaf. A quick education can be had at Hangzhou’s National Tea Museum. Entrance is free, and you get an open-air classroom on a working tea plantation. All displays are bilingual, and present a fascinating look at the history and culture behind China’s national drink. There’s also a refresher for those not aware of the difference between different tea types, which has nothing to do with variety (it’s all the same tea leaf), and everything to do with how long it is roasted. There’s also a free tea tasting, but in Hangzhou, with tea merchants on nearly every corner, this really isn’t anything special, except per-
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How to Get There: A taxi from Hangzhou city center takes about twenty minutes, depending on traffic. There is just one subway line in Hangzhou. It doesn’t go to any tourist spots just yet, but is convenient for those heading into and out of the city. Where to Stay: Although simple accommodation can be found in various tea villages scattered around Hangzhou, we recommend staying in the city itself for a broader range of hotels. Wyndham Grand Plaza Royale is undoubtedly the best hotel in town, but those who want “red luxe” can check into the Xihu State Guesthouse, once a private club for top Party officials. Those on a budget will find a number of mid-range hostels on Nanshan road, but the cheapest (and not necessarily the worst) backpacker hotels are located near the Hangzhou Zoo.
Photo by Long Wei/IC
seem to mind crowds of people Though the well water itself watching them at work. Even seems unremarkable (perhaps if the pickers have wrapped up it was more impressive in for the year, it’s worth making Qianlong’s day), there is a quithe climb to see rows upon et, almost spiritual atmosphere rows of tea bushes up and to the place. down the surrounding hills. Once you set foot in On most days, a heavy mist Longjing village, you will be envelops the valley, making the immediately set upon by tea greens seem even more vibrant, hawkers. It’s not a bad idea to and on the rare clear day, the knock back a quick cup with Chinese farmers show baskets of Longjing tea leaves harvested before the a particularly friendly villager Qingming Festival at a tea plantation in Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province, March view extends all the way to the fabled West Lake, the center of – or even a meal, as nearly ev- 24, 2014 Hangzhou, and the premier eryone seems to offer relatively cheap homecooked dishes to accompany tea. But to truly appreciate tourist destination of the city. If you keep going over the hill, you’ll eventually end up at another the scale of tea cultivation in Hangzhou, find the cement pailou, or traditional Chinese arched gate, near the center of town, and start tea village, known as Meijiawu. The hour-long walk from Longjing is pleasant, with plenty of gorgeous vistas over misty hills and deep valyour ascent. It’s not the easiest of climbs, but those who make a living cultivat- leys. Meijiawu itself has a less touristy and more relaxed atmosphere ing tea have to make this steep hike up the hillside everyday during than Longjing, and fewer locals try to pressure you into buying their harvest. Laborers on these elevated plantations are tasked with picking tea. If you want to take home a canister of Longjing tea, we recomonly the most delicate leaves for harvest, although they certainly don’t mend buying from this village, as they are less aggressive than their NEWSCHINA I August 2014
oxidation, causing the tea leaves to darken and become more robust (some say bitter) in taste. During the harvest, you’ll see many households roasting leaves in front of their homes – and some of the friendlier villagers will allow you to join in. Again, it is hard, and at times tedious, work. Traditionally, the harvest ends by early summer, though to keep tourists entertained, tea tours can be arranged throughout the summer into early fall. On these tours, you can try your hand at picking tea leaves, which sounds a lot more fun than it actually is. Insects seem to cloud together in an annoying cluster all over the tea bushes, and the footing isn’t always solid. But this is probably by design. It becomes much easier to appreciate the knowledge and labor that produces a delicate cup of tea once your feet ache and your skin itches, raw and red from the heavy sun and insect swarms. We still heartily recommend the experience – even as we type with shaky, unsteady fingers. Photo by Long Wei/IC
counterparts on the other side of the hill. And if all you want is to sip a languid cuppa, we recommend Meishan Teahouse at No. 139 for their outdoor patio that overlooks a bubbling stream that cuts through a working tea plantation. There are also a number of traditional farmhouses offering tea and simple dishes at the Yunxi Bamboo Forest nearby. The best time to witness tea pickers is in March and early April, when the very first spring leaves unfurl from the bushes. These tender leaves fetch the highest prices. Each subsequent harvest degrades somewhat in quality, although the hauls are also cheaper to buy. After the tea is picked comes the most crucial part of the process: the roasting of the leaves. Now, if you’ve Fresh Longjing tea leaves learned how to “read” tea leaves during your session at the National Museum of Tea, then you know what this is all about. Roasting the green leaves right after harvesting stops the oxidation process, which helps Longjing tea retain a potent range of antioxidants. It’s healthier than other varieties of tea, like black or Oolong, which have undergone a longer period of
Gao, Da, Shang High-end, Noble, Classy
An online translation tool distributed by search engine Baidu has allowed Chinese netizens to translate anything they wish to post into ancient Chinese, despite most of them having little acquaintance with old China’s rarefied written language. This fast food approach to creating largesse has been dubbed gao, da, shang by advocates and critics alike. A compound term of three positive adjectives, gao, da, shang usually describes anything the speaker believes to be unique, distinguished and classy. Ancient Chinese, once the language of literacy in China and now only understood by top academics, falls easily into this category. The buzzword gao, da, shang originated with
costume drama My Own Swordsman which first aired in 2005 and centered on life at a roadside inn in imperial China. In one episode, the inn’s cook amused his audience by making a modernlooking hamburger after being asked by his boss to prepare a “cake” that was “gao, da, shang.” However, the term did not catch on until a designer complained on the web that he had no idea what clients were asking for when they demanded work that was “gao, da, shang.” Now, the term is synonymous with high quality goods, and is particularly used when comparing the real deal to cheap rip-offs. Apple’s iPhone 5 is held up as an examplar against China’s myriad imitations. Five-star international hotels are gao,
da, shang in comparison to low-end flophouses. Even people find themselves described using the term, with gao, da, shang the natural antonym of diaosi, the pejorative of choice for describing unattractive, impoverished young men. China’s quest for gao, da, shang even extends to the selection of one’s English name – Mary, Lucy and Kevin are out, Fiona, Margaret and Harry are in. This term has become so ubiquitous that it is already beginning to be a sarcastic way of referring to a lofty person with ideas above their station – thus, if you find yourself described by a Chinese person as gao, da, shang, it’s worth checking to make sure they are being complimentary before thanking them. NEWSCHINA I August 2014
flavor of the month
Summer on a Stick By Sean Silbert
eijing’s government is determined to beat back the death cloud of pollution that regularly blots out the sun. It’s a serious problem, with residents compelled to keep kids indoors and foreign executives refusing assignments in the capital. This February saw the air swim with particulate matter small enough to directly enter the bloodstream at levels 15 times the volume considered to be safe. Consequently, the powers that be have run through their clean air playbook for solutions that won’t cripple GDP. From limiting traditional fireworks displays to cutting automobile usage, they’ve tried a number of extreme measures. But the city’s next step could be the most drastic: banning outdoor barbecue. Is slapping a fine of up to 20,000 yuan (US$3,200) on a shirtless local slaving over some red coals really going to guarantee blue skies and fluffy clouds? This is not the first time the city authorities have scapegoated Beijingers grills for the atrocious air: The hammer of the people’s government smashed 500 cookouts in 2013, a gesture that was later widely derided as “meaningless” on Chinese social media. To many, an attack on outdoor grilling is tantamount to an assault on what is an essential feature of Beijing’s summer street life. As the weather warms, the sidewalks and alleys fill up with impromptu nooks serving spiced lamb kebabs, or chuanr. The smell of the sizzling meat draws in crowds that gather around plastic tables to chow down in the cool of the evening. Hearty chunks of fatty lamb are skewered and grilled over coals topped with cumin seeds and chili powder to taste. The standard cubes of lamb are often paired with a number of less conventional options, from volcanically spicy chicken wings to savory garlic cloves or entire roasted chili peppers. Gather your friends over a bouquet of meat sticks, sip on an ice-cold beer and there you go; Summer has arrived. In Chinese, chuan, one of the language’s few characters which can genuinely be said to be a pictogram, literally means “to string together.” NEWSCHINA I August 2014
Beijingers add the essential “r” to the pronunciation to unequivocally indicate meat threaded onto skewers. It’s also a measure word, used to describe the amount you ordered – you can gobble a chuan of chuanr. The ideogram looks like a kebab: two oblate rectangles pierced vertically by a solid line. Typically, the character is seen executed in fairy lights, dangling perilously close to a sizzling, smoldering grill. I don’t know how many long, hot nights have ended with me out on the street with a plate, but such enchanted evenings are a hallmark of the hot season. Chuanr are the classic late night munchable, something that’s a minor ritual after heavy drinking. Chuanr joints are open until the wee hours and can stay packed until closing time. The experience is easy to romanticize. You can stuff spicy lamb into grilled bread in Tianjin, pull hunks from a full barbecued flank in the freezing Harbin winter or ogle monster slabs charring on the barbecues in Xi’an’s Muslim quarter. One of my favorite twists is the trend towards chicken wings, where lip-smacking flavors like garlic, black pepper or chili dominate, particularly in the devilishly fiery “perverted” wings. This latter delicacy is completely encrusted in pepper flakes, driving all but the boldest hot-
heads to tears and coughing fits. The popularity of the grilled kebab is also tied to its makers – Chinese Muslims. Wherever chuanr are found at the side of the road, a whitecapped Hui or bearded Uighur man is rarely far away. Chuanr is a transplant from the far-flung western provinces bordering central Asia, and fits both halal dietary requirements and the geographic needs of the herding community. Arab traders introduced exotic spices like cumin and cardamom through the Silk Road, which have made greater inroads into China than the Qur’an ever did. These Muslim groups gradually fanned out all over China, though the largest concentrations are found today in the north – particularly Beijing (where the lamb is better). A sizeable community exists around Chegongzhuang subway station in an area which was casually known as “Little Xinjiang” until it was demolished to make way for new high-rises. The more familiar Muslim quarter, and the city’s oldest, still hangs its hat in the alleys around Ox Street, which is where you can find some of the juiciest, most piquant skewered lamb around. Be prepared to wait in line. This wealth of culture, much of it courtesy of the Muslim diaspora, is partly what makes the grilling ban so nefarious. Suspicious eyes aimed at the Islamic minorities doing the cooking can sour the experience of eating chuanr, even if the little barbecue stall down an alley didn’t have anything to do with recent events. And driving grillers inside might only make this essential feature of Beijing life more dangerous, raising the risk of fire in small kitchens, often in overcrowded hutong communities filled with flammable garbage and wood-framed houses. A bus converted into a mobile chuanr truck recently caught fire not long after the ban went into effect. But this hot local tradition will be a hard one to snuff out. It’s one of this admittedly unhealthy dish’s lasting virtues: Through food safety scares, ethnic discrimination and rising prices, everyone still loves a night on the town, skewered.
The Red Guard and the Landlady By Alec Ash
When I asked Auntie what she did as a Red Guard, she waved vaguely to the south. “We struggled against landlords.”
Illustration by Liu Xiaochao
It’s always a lovely surprise when my landlady drops by unannounced at some ungodly hour in the morning. It’s a lottery whether I’m up or not at 7:30 AM. Usually I am still in my pajamas, and drag myself to the door only to be met by her incredulous greeting, “Still haven’t got out of bed yet?” I’m familiar with her rap-tap knock by now, and my response time is getting quicker. I can leap out of bed, throw on a pair of pants, splash my face, put on the kettle and open the door in less than a minute, giving the appearance that I get up at 6 AM daily. This probably doesn’t fool her for a moment. This time, rap-tap-tap, she had arrived for a chat. She had ambushed my neighbor while he too was still in bed, to collect rent he hadn’t yet prepared. He said to give him an hour or so to shower and wait for the bank to open. So she came up one floor to pass the time at my place, and have a natter. I live in a dazayuan or “miscellaneous courtyard” in one of Beijing’s hutong alleyways, in one of a number of unmarked flats tucked away past laundry lines and dusty bikes inside the street entrance. My landlady is 65, Beijing-born, with a squat frame, plump cheeks and a cackling, infectious laugh. Greeting her at the door in a ratty dressing gown, I offered a cup of tea which she refused, ever suspicious of English-style tea with milk. She stubbed out her cigarette in the narrow stairwell, and kicked off her sneakers before coming in. It wouldn’t do to get ash or dirt on her property. The first thing my landlady does whenever she visits my flat is to take a brisk and silent survey of what I’ve done with the place. A new shelf, a shoe rack, different fish in the tank – any change is commented on with either hao (good) or bu hao (not good). No further observation is given, and her criteria for judgment are a mystery. This time, she asked what the contraption behind the sofa was. I said it was a movie pro-
jector, and pointed at the blank wall opposite it. After a nerve-racking pause … hao. As usual, we talked about my romantic prospects. She’s keen to see me settle down with a nice Chinese girl, and reminded me with a hand on my shoulder that it’s good to marry early, “Or else when you’re old who will you have to give your money to?” I changed the topic and asked after her newest grandson, Chen Jiaming, who will be one next week and to whom I gave an English name (Jamie). Next, she started to complain about young Chinese today. “They haven’t eaten bitterness,” she said, a familiar refrain. “They just think about eating, drinking, smoking, clothes.” The kids these days – if they weren’t kenlaozu (the
“bite the old tribe,” living off their parents) they were yueguangzu, spending all their monthly wages. And then she started talking about her own youth. Auntie Wang – as she likes me to call her – was born in the spring of 1949, and grew up alongside the People’s Republic of China. Her family is from Jiangtai in northeast Beijing, an area which is now home to the fashionable 798 art district and the Lido hotel. Back then, it was mostly farmland, and every year she would help her parents plant and harvest wheat. As a teen, she joined the Red Guards and cut her hair short, though it had once reached to her waist. She never grew it out again. When I asked Auntie what she did as a Red Guard, she waved vaguely to the south. “We struggled against landlords.” They would hang heavy wooden signs over their necks, denoting them as capitalists, and make them take the “airplane” position: body bent forwards at the waist, arms held out straight behind you. Then...da si tamen. We beat them to death. If Auntie saw the shock in my eyes, she didn’t let on. She just went on. The Cultural Revolution ended, and in 1978, at the age of 29, she married. The land I was living on was her husband’s, and she inherited it when he died four years ago. Now she was old, and forgetting things. The changes of the last few decades were thick and fast. I saw an opening to make the obvious point. “The changes really are big,” I said. “Before, you were struggling against landlords. And now you’re a landlady...” “No I’m not,” Auntie said, simply. “I’m not a landlady, I just collect your rent.” Lost for a reply to that piece of doublethink, I was relieved when my neighbor knocked on the door, back from the bank. Auntie Wang put on her sneakers and went downstairs. She told me she would drop in again sometime, to show me little Jamie. I said I would try to be up in time. NEWSCHINA I August 2014
My Friend, the Boss By Andy Knowles
NEWSCHINA I August 2014
I told him where I was from and he leaned over to grab the nearest guitar
Illustration by Liu Xiaochao
Boss runs a coffee shop in the port city of Dalian, up in China’s northeast. His name isn’t “Boss” (laoban), of course. He’s also been known to go by Adam, which isn’t really his name either. His real name is Daidai. At least, I think it is. In fact, thinking about it, that may also be a nickname, I was never quite sure. He once introduced me to one of his friends as “Old Fat” and to another as “Little Monkey.” Chinese people often have the luxury of many identities, and fixing down an appellation can be amusing and confusing in equal measure. I know dozens of “Little Sisters!” Anyway, whatever his real name, I always called him Lao Ban, and he always seemed to be happy to respond to that. I arrived in Dalian one hot and sticky night in late summer, 2011. This was my first time in China and, in fact, my first time outside of Europe. I was quickly conned into taking a fake taxi for a terrifying race through the city, where I careered around the backseat seatbelt-less while the driver screamed through every stoplight on the way. Thoroughly overcharged and dumped at a seedy, windowless hotel, I collapsed, exhausted and isolated onto the stained mattress wondering when I was going to wake up from this weird and confusing dream. I was truly culture-shocked. This was my year abroad from the dreaming spires of the University of Edinburgh, Scotland, and in one short hour I had already realized that my two previous years of Chinese language study amounted to next to nothing once put to the test. Over the next few days, once settled into my dorm room at the Dalian University of Technology, I wandered the neighbourhood, sweating and jet-lagged, desperate to get online to contact my family back home. Why I couldn’t use the Internet café (wangba) because I didn’t have an Internet card (wangka), I was on the verge of despair when I encountered a young Chinese hipster who told me in English past the cigarette hanging from his lips to go to “Blackbeans,” a
café near the campus which he assured me had Wi-Fi. “Buddy, it’s ku [cool]!” I entered the darkened café, where the blazing sun outside failed to penetrate. The room stretched away into the gloom, a ramshackle assortment of low couches and tables with a few shadowy patrons smoking silently over their laptops. I sank deep into a couch, barely able to reach the table, and a stern young woman materialized and dropped a large menu in front of me, waiting impatiently for me to choose something. I pointed to an Americano and asked about the Wi-Fi. She huffed and walked away only to return with a slip of paper and the password (this young woman turned out to be an absolute gem and yet another “little sister”). I spent an hour or so battling with the connection and, finally, my family learned that their son was still breathing. There was little movement or noise from the other patrons, and any other noise was drowned out by a selection of Western rock dinosaurs blasting over the speakers. Dire
Straits, Cream and the Stones all came and went as I tapped away. I noticed the murky, peeling brown walls of the café were adorned with posters of guitar gods like Hendrix and Clapton. There were actual guitars hanging here and there as well as odd bits of memorabilia like helmets, old cigarette ads and even a boomerang. It was like a knock-off, post-apocalyptic version of the Hard Rock Café. Suddenly the door banged open and a short, stocky Chinese guy staggered in under the weight of a crate of Harbin beer. He barked at the waitress and they started rapidly shouting at each other whilst bringing in several more boxes. Dressed in cut-off jeans, a lime green Zeppelin t-shirt, with Lennon shades and long messy hair, the guy then sat on a bar stool and took an iPhone from his fanny pack. After 20 minutes of yapping with the waitress, he then took in the rest of the café. He walked around, clapped a couple of shoulders and joked with the silent smokers. He then walked up to my table, sat right down and asked, in pretty good English, if I was American. I told him where I was from and he leaned over to grab the nearest guitar. “You know George Harrison, the Beatles?” he asked. Before I could answer he started playing “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” flawlessly on his old, battered acoustic. After singing the whole thing through he grinned at me and said, excitedly, “This is my bar! I’m the laoban!” Several hours and several glasses of oily, pungent baijiu later, I staggered back to my dorm. Lao Ban had held court all evening, including me in all his interactions with the various characters who came to Blackbeans that day. As the evening had progressed I had noticed that unsettling feeling I had had since my arrival start to drift away. I was still a foreigner in a very foreign land but, through Lao Ban, I was being invited to stay, relax and enjoy myself. I might be okay, this year, after all.
Cultural listings Cinema
Overheard 3 A work by Hong Kong director-screenwriter team Sui Fai Mak and Felix Chong, Overheard 3 features all of the duo’s usual hallmarks – complex storylines, fierce action and plenty of conflict. Released at the end of May on the mainland, this crime thriller starred a host of famous actors and actresses from both Hong Kong and the mainland. While the Overheard series has been billed as a trilogy, the three movies in fact have no connection to one another apart from the fact that they all involve wiretapping. The stories of all three center around two pillars of the Hong Kong economy – the first two are set in the finance industry, and the third in the real estate industry. Sui Fai Mak and Felix Chong have been cooperating since the highly critically acclaimed 2002 crime thriller Infernal Affairs, often referred to as the film that brought hope back to Hong Kong’s declining film industry. While Overheard 3 received a relatively lukewarm reception compared to the two preceding films in the series, it still netted a respectable 300 million yuan (US$48m) at the box office in its first three weeks in theaters.
Spirits of Tea and Zen Inspired by an ancient royal tea set excavated from the underground palace of the Famen Temple in Shaanxi, dance performance The Tea Spell is set against the backdrop of the Tang Dynasty (618–907), bringing the cultures of tea and Zen Buddhism to audiences through both ancient and modern styles of dance. Choreographed by Zhao Liang, one of China’s most prominent dance performance artists, the dance is part of the Twelve Days of Chinese Dance event held at the National Centre for the Performance Arts from July to August. Using Tang and Buddhist music, dressed in traditional Tang costume with painstaking emphasis on historical accuracy and applying imaginative lighting, The Tea Spell is seen as having adopted an ethos of utmost refinement through a minimalistic esthetic.
A History of China By Various Authors
China Through French Lenses More than 200 mostly black-and-white photographs of China and its people taken by French missionaries, soldiers, diplomats, businessmen, artists and travelers are showcased from June to July at Guangdong Museum of Art. With the first taken in 1844 and the last in 2014, these photos capture key moments in the past 170 years of Chinese history, and the vast changes unfolding around them. Portraits, scenery and scenes of the daily lives of Chinese people are recorded vividly through these works, revealing many seldom told stories.
The recently published Chinese-language edition of A History of China, a ten-volume work by Japanese historians covering China from mythology to modern society, has received wide attention among Chinese intellectuals, readers and critics. Each volume of the work is written by a different Japanese historian prominent in his or her field. A country with probably more interaction with China than any other for more than a thousand years, Japan has always kept up keen research and observation of China. The work provides Chinese readers with a familiar yet fresh angle from which to understand and examine themselves. However, another two volumes of the work, the eleventh and twelfth, respectively on the history of the People’s Republic of China and “what China is to Japan and the Japanese,” were pointedly not included in the Chinese edition. NEWSCHINA I August 2014
NEWSCHINA I August 2014
The problem with China’s finance sector is too much regulation, not a lack of it In order to bring vitality, competition and innovation to the domestic finance market, China should deregulate it By Zhang Weiying
ecently, China’s central bank issued a warning against the more competitive interest rates, is beneficial to the health of China’s risk involved in Internet finance, suggesting that it would banking system in the long term. The regulator should adopt a new way of thinking regarding the reform step up its regulation of the of the financial sector, and take a more booming industry, which it said “often liberal view towards Internet finance. enters a legal gray area.” It is pointless to rely After all, no innovation is risk-free. But despite the existence of fraud in on China’s big banks While discussing the risks posed by the online finance sector, the problem to conduct meaningful Internet finance, the central bank must with China’s financial market is not a innovation also be aware that many of the problack of regulation, but too much of it. lems are caused by over-regulation. For China’s financial sector, one of the most example, China’s cap on deposit rates regulated markets in the world, is also home to some of the world’s biggest banks. Most Chinese banks are at banks has been causing money to flood into a shadow banking State-owned, and enjoy comfortable profit margins thanks to their system, masquerading as a collection of trust funds. Some of the central bank’s concerns also stem from its efforts to monopoly status. However, in the past a couple of years, the rise of Internet bank- minimize default risk associated with financial products offered by ing has presented an increasingly serious challenge to conventional banks. Out of a consideration to prevent a financial crisis, the cenbanks. Offering interest rates up to 10 times higher than those al- tral bank chooses to strengthen its monitoring, and sometimes bails lowed at regular banks, online funds have attracted large sums of out individual banks when there is a default, rather than allowing the market to take its full effect. The result is a distorted assessment money from private individuals. Recent moves from the central bank indicate that the industry of the risks involved in a financial product, a problem that can inregulator also considers the rise of Internet banking a challenge fluence people’s decisions in the Internet finance market. To create a healthy financial market, China’s financial regulator to its ability to control the financial sector. But what the regulator should really be concerned with is its own hijacking by vested inter- should scale back, rather than escalate, their regulation. For China’s ests within the financial sector. financial market, the enemy is not a lack of regulation, but a lack of For many years, the government has been talking about reform- marketization. ing the financial sector with the use of innovation. But it is pointless to rely on China’s big banks to conduct meaningful innovation. The (The author is a professor from Peking University’s Guanghua School rise of online funds, which have forced conventional banks to offer of Management.)
NEWSCHINA I August 2014
NEWSCHINA I August 2014
NEWSCHINA I August 2014