INTERNATIONAL The Odd Couple: When Obama Met Xi SOCIETY Dead Tired: White Collar Exhaustion
Three academics struggling to keep the peace in the fight for a new Chinese political ideology
Volume No. 060 August 2013
POLITICS Off the Bench: The Judges Who Never Hold Court
Published by China Newsweek Corporation Publisher: Liu Beixian Executive Director : Liu Beixian 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 Writer: Yu Xiaodong Editors: Wang Yan, Yuan Ye, Xie Ying, Sun Zhe, Li Jia 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 Marketing Office China Newsweek Corporation President: Wang Xiaohui Chief Executive: Fred Teng 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 2013
An economic slowdown makes reform more urgent
t is now clear that China’s economic growth is wise first step would be to lower the barriers currently slowing down faster than expected. The impact preventing private capital from entering key industries. of this slowdown will be felt beyond the realm Another would be to loosen the State’s monopoly on of economics. In the last few decades, rapid growth land resources. As income disparity remains one of the most presshas prevented many social problems from erupting ing problems underpinning into crises. But now, as growth social tensions, the governslows, these problems will take ment must take this issue secenter stage. As an economic slowdown riously. The State should conIt is reported that the unmay lead to dissent, the tinue to increase investment in employment rate among government should push social welfare while also relaxnew university graduates is ing its control over various poparticularly high this year. As forward with the political litical institutions, such as the China’s exports weaken due reform it has promised. household registration system, to a strengthening yuan and to facilitate social mobility. stagnating foreign demand, As an economic slowdown unemployment is expected may lead to dissent, the govto increase further. Moreernment should push forward over, with local governments drowning in debt and State banks sitting on bundles with its promised political reforms. The key is to allow of bad loans, a severe and protracted slowdown could the public to have a say in policymaking. In mitigating destabilize the financial system. tension between different social groups, the governAs the legitimacy of the Chinese government is ment should endeavor to establish a communications largely built upon its ability to deliver economic pros- mechanism where different stakeholders can openly perity, a downturn can easily spawn unrest, especially debate major government decisions. when the authorities are struggling to raise the revenue Above all, the government should take political needed to deal with protests. equality and justice as its guiding principles, to proIt is reported that the central government’s revenue mote rule of law and build a service-oriented governwas in steady decline in the first four months of 2013. ment, regardless of the cost. When it resumed growth in May, the growth rate was The current economic slowdown will not be a only six percent, far less than the annual 20-plus per- temporary phenomenon. Various factors sustaining China’s three decades of rapid economic growth, such cent maintained throughout the last decade. To overcome its current difficulties, the Chinese as the demographic dividend, low cost of labor, cheap government must tackle the root causes of various eco- resources and persistent international demand, have einomic and social problems. Such an undertaking re- ther weakened or disappeared altogether. China must quires a strategic perspective and a proactive approach be aware of these long-term challenges, which leave only a small window of opportunity to fix a multitude in pushing forward economic and political reforms. The government is aware that the fundamental of social problems. To prevent economic jitters from developing into reason behind the current slowdown is its own lonstanding distortion and manipulation of resource dis- political turmoil, the Chinese government must protribution. Therefore, to invigorate the economy, the actively conduct the comprehensive reform it has long authorities must first further liberalize the market. A promised its people.
As extremist ideologues have gained in prominence, academic forums frequently descend into fistfights. Can China’s “public intellectuals” keep a cool head when political debate turns ugly?
01 An economic slowdown makes reform more urgent 10 China-US Summit : Sunshine Through the Stormclouds 12 Sino-Japanese Relations : A Zero-Sum Game?
14 AGREEING TO DISAGREE: Mao Yushi/Yao Zhongqiu/Wang Hui/Left and Right
28 Supreme People’s Court : Deaf Justice 30 Avian Flu : Playing Chicken
P43 NEWSCHINA I August 2013
Photo by CFP
Minds in the Middle
P34 34 40 43
Maotanchang School : Exam Boot Camp White-collar Exhaustion : Worked to Death Gold in Ghana : Paying the Price
Pharmaceuticals : Up For Review FTA : Swiss Bliss
52 Powered by IT/ The Financial Center of China’s West culture
60 All the World’s a Stage outside in
Terraced Taishan : How to Live a Hundred Years Flavor of the Month : Dim Sum 24/7
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 72 Commentary
56 Cultural Revolution : Staged Struggles, Posed Politics
NEWSCHINA I August 2013
NewsChina Chinese Edition
June 17, 2013
May 27, 2013
Temporary Workers as Scapegoats
Not Ready for Shale
After several “temporary” chengguan (urban management and enforcement officials) in Yan’an, Shaanxi Province were caught on camera viciously assaulting a bicycle store owner, debate over the use of so-called temporary government workers - individuals employed to fulfill staffing quotas - has been rekindled. In recent years, the media has exposed many cases involving abuse of citizens by law enforcement personnel only to be fed the excuse that the offending officials were “temporary workers,” and thus unfamiliar with standard procedures. Growing numbers of temporary workers are being given influential positions in law enforcement, but few receive adequate training or supervision. Their lack of concrete official status makes them an easy scapegoat when a scandal breaks. Some media have called for better management of this group to revive public faith in security personnel.
In China, only three State oil giants (CNPC, Sinopec and CNOOC) are licensed to extract regular natural gas. Shale deposits, defined as “independent ores” by the government in 2011, have thus become hot property for local governments attempting to break the central fuel monopoly. In the country’s second round of bidding for shale gas exploitation projects, smaller enterprises backed by local governments snapped up all China’s 19 known key shale gas seams, though many have yet to commence exploration. Experts have attributed the delay to concerns over barriers in technology and financing, as well as environmental consequences. Experts warned that exploiting shale gas before the country has hashed out any specific policies on this resource would be a reckless move.
Sanlian Lifeweek May 29, 2013
Is it Worth Going Abroad? China has seen record numbers of high school students choosing to skip the national college entry examination, instead opting for overseas study as a more useful alternative. Some parents reportedly believe that this will save their child from the rigors of cutthroat competition for places at top colleges, while students appreciate the reduction in pressure. State media have attempted to argue that advance study and preparation for language exams like TOFEL or IELTS is no less difficult than cramming for the college entry exam. Some claim that some Chinese youngsters are unable to adapt to life overseas, and that lacking domestic qualifications will hurt their chances of employment if they return to China. With more Chinese studying abroad than ever, a degree from an overseas university, while still an advantage, is now no guarantee of gainful employment in China.
May 27, 2013
Report on Judicial Corruption Caijing magazine recently ran a report on corruption cases implicating Chinese judges, warning that corruption in the Chinese legal system is both endemic and difficult to rein in. A summary of 200 case studies led the report to conclude that the bulk of corruption was concentrated in local courts, while those taking the largest bribes were mostly judges in middle and high courts. Notably, the suspects are generally senior justices who, according to the report, hold too much administrative power. This enables them to influence both the outcome of cases and to cover up scandals. Judicial independence and openness is one of the major keys the media believe to change the ex officio doctrine prevailing in the Chinese judiciary.
Xinmin Weekly June 6, 2013
The Power of Words As US-based TED talks grow in popularity in China, they have inevitably spawned imitators. Chinese people, often viewed as traditionally averse to public speaking, are turning their hand to this new form of communication which has swept online video sharing websites. Many see business potential in a TED talk, with almost as many public speaking training videos flooding the market as the talks themselves. While veterans claim that it is what one says, not how one says it, that is key to a good TED talk, many Chinese Internet users are instead using the genre as a platform for self-promotion, particularly for jobs. Media reports have revealed that many television stations have planned to launch reality shows based on TED talks to further capitalize on this growing trend. NEWSCHINA I August 2013
Illustration by Wu Shangwen
“Every TV program is full of people crying – matchmaking shows, talk shows, reality shows – everyone’s in tears. I sometimes have no idea why.” CCTV anchor Zhu Jun on the sudden rise of the sob-story as a cornerstone of Chinese TV.
“Although the Chinese movie market is the second largest in the world, few overseas audiences watch Chinese movies, and this is nothing to do with GDP.” Renowned director Peter Chan bemoaning China’s lack of cultural clout.
“Only one team was playing in this match.” The Spanish coach of China’s national football team, José Antonio Camacho Alfaro, on the team’s humiliating 5-1 home defeat to Thailand.
“If the government starts maintaining mounted police, what else will the taxpayer have to pay for?” Zhao Mingyi, a retired police officer in Dalian, Liaoning Province, arguing against the formation of a new local force of female “Mounties.”
“I am deeply hurt and shocked. Should privacy, trust and affection between people be traded like a commodity?” Yang Jiang, widow of Chinese writer Qian Zhongshu, on the unauthorized auction of her husband’s private letters.
NEWSCHINA I August 2013
“Would it kill them to let audiences vote with their remote controls?” Ha Wen, chief director of CCTV’s Spring Festival gala,
responding to criticism in the People’s Daily which claims that mainstream TV shows use “presenter antics” to boost ratings.
“The government’s procedures and orders no longer fit with China’s market economy. Reins can stop a horse, but they cannot stop a train.” Pan Shiyi, president of real estate giant SOHO, on the Chinese government’s continued attempts to control the pace of growth.
“To the post-1980s generation, the Iron Rice Bowl [a job for life] was important. To the post1990s generation, it is the only thing that is important.” Employment director of Beijing City University Fu Lili on the aspirations of young jobseekers.
“I have nothing to tell my fans. Do I have to kowtow to them? I just lost a match, it’s no big deal.” Chinese tennis player Li Na after crashing out of the French Open.
Chinese Schoolchildren at Risk of Sexual Abuse
Since early May, when media revealed that the principal of an elementary school in Wanning, Hainan Province had taken six pupils to a hotel, allegedly intending to commit sexual assault, a total of eight child abuse scandals have been exposed, triggering discussion among the Chinese public about how to protect children from sexual abuse. “Principal, if you want to get a hotel room, get in touch with me. Leave the kids alone!” read the words on a placard held by feminist
activist Ye Haiyan in a photo that went viral on China’s blogosphere. A great many netizens imitated her stunt, questioning why Chinese children are so vulnerable to sexual abuse. There is little public information about the extent of child abuse in China. In 2000, the All-China Women’s Federation revealed that they had received over 3,000 complaints of child abuse that year, nearly eight times the number recorded in 1997. But the organiza-
tion has released no data since 2000. According to a survey by the People’s Public Security University of China, one in eight cases of child abuse goes unreported. Following the recent cases, it has come to light that some of the children involved were abused over months or even years. A report in the Legal Evening News attempted to explain the reason behind the high incidence of cover-ups. It claimed that 45 percent of child abuse is committed by teachers or officials, enabling abusers to keep cases quiet. Blame has also been placed on Chinese parents. Influenced by conservative Confucian thinking, they are often reluctant to talk to their children about sex, making them easy targets for potential abusers. Worse, viewing abuse as a shameful for the family, many parents choose to cover up such crimes rather than report them. On June 18, Li Xingong, the former office director of the local CPC committee of Yongcheng, Henan Province, was executed for raping more than 10 children, his harsh punishment serving to ease public outrage to a certain extent. But the public is still demanding that the government implement measures to protect China’s children.
China Launches Shenzhou-X Spacecraft China’s fifth manned spacecraft Shenzhou-X blasted off on June 11 from Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in Gansu Province, successfully dock- ing with the unmanned orbit module Tiangong-I. According to the official schedule, the spacecraft will remain in space for 15 days, during which time the three astronauts, two men and one woman, will mainly carry out tests of Tiangong-I’s transportation functions between earth and space, and broadcast lectures using the station’s communication system. Different from Shenzhou-IX launched last June which focused on docking technology, Shenzhou-X is being used to develop and test the functions of Tiangong-I, enabling astronauts to remain on the space station for longer periods of time. According to experts, it signifies that China’s space technology is beginning to move toward commercial applications.
NEWSCHINA I August 2013
121 Dead in Jilin Fire A poultry supplier in Dehui, Jilin Province, caught fire on June 3, killing a total of 121 and leaving 77 injured. The fire broke out around 6 AM, while several hundred employees were at work in closed workshops. Witnesses told the media that three explosions were heard, followed by heavy smoke billowing into the sky. Though the cause of the explosion is yet to be confirmed, an ammonia leak is thought to be to blame. The State Council’s investigation team has defined the fire as a serious accident resulting from negligence. According to the team, the poultry company packed several hundred workers into two workshops without any safety measures, making it difficult to find an exit when the fire broke out. Since May, China has seen seven accidents caused by negligence or poor safety management, the most recent of which occurred June 11 when a gas leak caused an explosion in the canteen of a gas company in Suzhou, Jiangsu Province, killing 11 and injuring nine. The media have called for tightened supervision on safety measures and an investigation into any potential corruption leading to these accidents.
On June 7, the first day of China’s national college entrance exam, a bus in Xiamen, in southern Fujian Province, was suddenly set ablaze while on the road, leaving 47 passengers dead and 30 injured. DNA tests have revealed the suspected arsonist to be Chen Shuizong, a 59-year-old local resident who boarded the bus with a can of gasoline and died in the fire. The police found a suicide note at Chen’s home, saying he was too depressed to continue living. According to Chen’s microblog, he had supported his family on a meager income from a small roadside stall, which had recently been shut down due to his lack of a license. His application for government aid was also refused by the authorities. The victims included 15 high school students on their way home from the national exam. Eight died and seven were injured who, according to the government, may qualify for direct college enrollment based on their grades at school.
Kuomintang Elder Visits the Mainland Wu Po-hsiung, honorary chairman of the Kuomintang (KMT), Taiwan’s oldest political party, visited Beijing from June 12 to 14, triggering a new round of speculation over the relationship between the KMT and the Communist Party of China (CPC). China’s new President Xi Jinping met with Wu on June 13, where discussions focused on the “one-China” policy and the economic cooperation framework agreement (ECFA). The meeting, according to media, especially the Taiwanese media, sends a signal that the mainland and Taiwan may be ready to talk about politics in the near future. Prior to the trip, Taiwanese “President” and KMT Chairman Ma Ying-jeou met with Wu and his delegation, announcing that the two sides needed new ideas, new methods and catalysts to sustain relations. Having met with China’s former president Hu Jintao five times since 2008, Wu Po-hsiung is now regarded as an important “bridge” between the CPC and the KMT. Taiwanese media also revealed that Ma Ying-jeou hopes to establish cross-Straits government offices. NEWSCHINA I August 2013
Photo Credit: Top Story, IC; Science, CFP; Accident, Chang Shenggang; Politics, Xinhua
MyCos Data, a leading Chinese higher education consulting company, recently issued its annual report on Chinese graduates, warning of an employment rate of less than 40 percent. Chinese media have called 2013 the most difficult year in history for Chinese graduates, with a total of 6.99 million graduates flooding the labor market. From October 29, 2012 to April 10, 2013, only 26 percent of master’s graduates surveyed had found a job, 11 percent down on last year. The employment rate for bachelor’s graduates and those with vocational certificates stood at 35 percent and 32 percent respectively, both lower than last year. Along with the low employment comes a reduction in expectated monthly salary. A survey on 2013 graduates by Beijing Youth Stress Management Service Center showed that the average monthly salary of this year’s cohort of graduates stood at less than 4,000 yuan (US$636.9), the low point of the past three years, with graduates moving to secondtier cities, where housing is cheaper, to look for work.
Xiamen Bus Arson
Graduates under High Employment Pressure
What’s Making China Angry ?
Poll the People After a picture of a graffito scratched into an ancient Egyptian relief at the Luxor saying “Ding Jinhao was here” went viral, netizens swiftly identified the wrongdoer, a 15-year-old boy from Nanjing, via a “human flesh search.” After his birth date and school were posted online, the website of the boy’s middle school was hacked, despite pleas from his parents.
What do you think?
Organizers of the 2013 Fortune Global Forum in Chengdu forced scores of young children to welcome guests attending the opening gala dinner. The children, heavily made up, had to stand without food or water for hours smiling, singing and waving toy pandas.
What’s Amusing China ? A new type of stockings which give the illusion that the person wearing them has very hairy legs, thus billed as an “anti-harassment device” went viral in Chinese cyberspace. The stockings retail on Taobao, China’s eBay equivalent, for 100 to 200 yuan (US$16 - 33).
What’s Shocking China ? A microblog post revealed that the People’s Hospital in Guangxi invested 350 million yuan (US$57.1m) into an exclusive ward for treating government officials. The news was later confirmed by the Southern Metropolis Daily.
He should be condemned in a more civilized way. 1,198 (63%) A juvenile should not take all the blame for the uncivilized behavior of Chinese tourists. 112 (5.9%) Though he is in the wrong, the boy should be protected. 331 (17.4%) He deserves it. 526 (27.7%)
Most Circulated Post Retweeted: 130,201 time
China’s national soccer team released the following tweet after losing 2-1 in a friendly fixture against Uzbekistan. The team went on to lose the following two games, including a humiliating 5-1 defeat to Thailand which resulted in rioting around the host venue in Anhui Province.
Sorry! NEWSCHINA I August 2013
Top Five Search Queries On
over the week ending June 22 Wendi Deng 662,415 Her divorce from Rupert Murdoch aroused contempt and envy in her birthplace in China. Shenzhou-X 335,172 China’s latest space module was launched in early June.
HOT? WHO’S NOT?
Ji Yingnan 131,133 A former TV anchor posted nude pictures of herself with an official from the State Archives Bureau.
Brother Watermelon To save the trouble of dish washing, the high school boy from Wuhan, Hubei, served food on watermelon rinds
Li Baode 30,747 A low-level official from Anhui Province was photographed gambling at a casino.
Top Blogger Profile Hua Xinmin: Guardian of the Hutongs Followers: 29,997 Hua is the most renowned activist fighting to preserve Beijing’s few remaining hutong residential communities. The daughter of a Chinese architect and a French national, Hua was born in one of Beijing’s oldest hutongs. The 59-year-old has thrown her weight behind a public drive to secure official protection for Beijing’s alleyway communities since 1990. By exposing government officials and developers who have demolished Beijing’s unique cultural relics to build high rises and shopping malls, Hua still faces an uphill struggle, as more traditional communities continue to disappear as Beijing’s real estate market continues to expand. NEWSCHINA I August 2013
Some of the pictures used in this section are from the internet
Top 10 Most Polluted Cities 112,571 The list released by the Ministry of Environmental Protection included six cities from Hebei Province.
Tough Pigs Two skinny pigs were dug up alive 45 days after they were buried in the recent earthquake in Ya’an, Sichuan Province.
Dolphin Torturers These tourists in Sanya, Hainan lifted an injured, bleeding beached dolphin out of the ocean in order to take pictures with it. The dolphin later died.
Romance Spoiler Security guards at a university in Xi’an, Shaanxi, unceremoniously extinguished more than 100 candles lit by a sophomore in celebration of his girlfriend’s birthday, citing safety concerns.
Sunshine Through the Stormclouds The goal set by Chinese and US leaders – no less than a complete re-evaluation of the bilateral relationship – is too crucial to ignore and too big to be achieved in the course of a routine summit By Li Jia
Photo by Xinhua
eople get close to each other when they feel relaxed, even in the field of diplomacy. In 1971, an innocuous game of ping-pong sparked a thaw in US-China relations. In June 2013, after spending a weekend together at a beautiful retreat in California, Chinese President Xi Jinping and his US counterpart Barack Obama declared their commitment on building newly normalized relations between a rising superpower and the world’s only hyperpower. A “new model of major country relationships,” to use a rather bloated phrase employed by Xi Jinping at the joint press conference with Obama in Sunnylands, California, on June 8, meant, according to the Chinese president “something different from the inevitable confrontation and conflict… of the past.” Obama responded by highlighting his readiness for “working together cooperatively, rather than engaging in conflict.” The two men spent much of their eighthour get-together discussing specific issues such as cyber security and North Korea. As analysts and officials on both sides had made it clear, this meeting, however, was not designed to produce deliverables on those issues so much as to decide the trajectory of bilateral relations at a critical moment in their history. Strategic reassurance of the unlikelihood of a head-on confrontation, analysts and
Xi Jinping and Barack Obama chat before heading into their second meeting, at the Annenberg Retreat, California, the United States, June 8, 2013
decision-makers believe, must be made by the two leaders in the next four to ten years, coincidently the period in which China is predicted to catch up or even supplant the US as the world’s number one economy, though few expect Beijing to supplant Washington as the agenda-setter for global geopolitics.
Sense of Insecurity
The two presidents were slated to meet in September at the G-20 summit in Russia. As US National Security Advisor Tom Dolinon explained at a press conference on June 9, however, this would have allowed too much time to pass, reducing the possibility of bilateral contact until possibly next year. MoreNEWSCHINA I August 2013
over, the US had long been looking forward to such a summit free from protocol, which would make it possible for the two leaders to concentrate on one-to-one discussions rather than diplomatic niceties. No such lengthy, unscripted discussions between Chinese and American presidents at the beginning of their tenures had been conducted since Nixon’s groundbreaking visit to Beijing in 1972. Much has changed in US-China relations since the financial crisis, which unexpectedly catapulted China to the front of the economic pack, recording an even higher industrial output than the US. Neither country was prepared for this sudden shift, according to Professor Jin Canrong, associate dean of the School of International Relations of the Renmin University of China. Historically, the world’s number one economy typically finds itself at odds with the number two, typified by the events leading up to World War I, World War II and the Cold War. So far, a similar shadow has loomed over Sino-US relations, particularly since 2010, when the US began its “pivot to Asia.” China’s increasing entanglement in maritime disputes with US allies, its rapid modernization of its vast military and continuing support for North Korea have all unnerved US analysts. As China’s feuds with the Philippines and Japan have heated up, the South China Sea has become a potential flashpoint that could see Washington’s first military engagement with China since the Korean War. Despite such concerns, however, today’s hegemony is more about the power to make the rules, something seldom secured on the battlefield. China came late to the party in terms of globalization and trade, having sealed herself off under Mao. However the US is concerned that an ascendant China, already showing reluctance to play by the rules, could challenge the entire system were to become the world’s foremost economic power. Professor Li Xiangyang, director of AsiaPacific Studies Institute of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences believes that US enthusiasm towards the Trans-Pacific PartNEWSCHINA I August 2013
nership (TPP) and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), free trade agreements for Pan-Pacific and US-EU blocs, is born out of a desire to compel China to integrate itself more completely into global capitalism. In the political arena, too, China and the US share responsibilities and interests in tackling issues of global governance, particularly Syria, North Korea and climate change. However, according to Professor Yuan Peng, head of the US Studies department at the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, their divisions on the optimum solutions to these crises make it difficult to establish a common bond. The issues that once united the US and China, as Professor Yuan stressed, such as opposition to the Soviet Union in the 1970s, economic interdependence in the 1990s, or counterterrorism in the 2000s, have all faded into history. It is becoming harder and harder for the US and China to establish a mutually beneficial bilateral relationship, as both countries have continued to be, first and foremost, competitors.
A New Beginning?
The Xi-Obama summit has been regarded as a good salve for strategic mistrust. For the first time in history, China seemed to have come round to the idea of a deepening of military-to-military relations, something that the US has long been pushing for, as this remains the weakest area of cooperation between both countries. Visits and dialog between the US and Chinese militaries are routinely the first engagements to be cancelled and the last to be resumed, usually at the request of Beijing, whenever relations take a dive. President Obama disclosed that the next stop would be to “institutionalize and regularize” communication between the two militaries, preventing political blips from derailing the entire relationship. The US has also agreed to keep China informed about the progress of its closed-door TPP negotiations. Right before the summit, spokespeople from China’s ministries of com-
merce and foreign affairs implied that China would consider the possibility of joining the negotiations. Headway has also seemingly been made on the issue of North Korea. According to the White House website, Mr Dolinon noted that the two leaders agreed on identifying the issue as “a key area for enhanced cooperation,” and that both “stressed the importance of continuing to apply pressure” to Pyongyang. Many observers have noticed that denuclearization has replaced stability as the overarching goal of China’s Korea policy. However, optimism has been muted. It was not until six years after Nixon’s groundbreaking visit to Beijing that China and the US finally established diplomatic ties. Strategic reassurances ruling out military conflict is only the bottom line. Real cooperation and management of competition, Professor Jin said, will be much harder to secure. The bilateral annual strategic economic dialogue, the most important negotiation platform on nearly all tough bilateral issues, is scheduled for July. This summit is widely regarded as the first big test for Xi’s promised “new power relations.” The US has realized it has to concede some of its rule-making power to rising powers, particularly China, and China has made it clear it is ready to play a more active role in global governance. However, the structure of power and responsibility sharing remains at the mercy of bilateral competition. The ultimate result, according to Professor Li, will depend on how strong both China and the US are in the future. Presidents do not dictate relations. While President Obama is constantly having to fight legislation through Congress, President Xi is also having to balance political division between special interest groups with, for the first time in history, public opinion and the power of the Internet. Besides that, Professor Yuan highlighted, other emerging powers such as Russia and India, also have to be taken into consideration. As with all things, history will have the final say.
A Zero-Sum Game? China ponders its options as Japan launches a diplomatic offensive to contain Beijing
Photo by AP
By Yu Xiaodong
A US Marine Corps MV-22 Osprey lands on the deck of the Japanese helicopter destroyer Hyuga off San Diego, California, June 14, 2013
The Pacific Ocean is large enough to accommodate both the US and China,” said Chinese President Xi Jinping during his California summit with US President Barack Obama, according to Chinese State media. Contrary to expectations, however, China’s territorial dispute with Japan over the uninhabited Diaoyu island chain (known as the Senkaku in Japan) in the East China Sea, was not men-
tioned in any press releases, indicating that both leaders are keen to keep this issue behind closed doors.
This might explain why when Japan’s Asahi Shimbun newspaper reported that, according to Japanese officials, President Xi told Obama during the summit that the Diaoyu Islands were a
“core interest” for China, it raised eyebrows on both sides. If Beijing identifies the Diaoyu disputes as a “core interest,” a term reserved for sensitive policy areas such as Taiwan, Tibet and Xinjiang, it would mean that Beijing considers the issue one of preserving national integrity and thus nonnegotiable. But the Japan Times later reported that Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary, Yoshihide Suga, had denied the report’s claims. China’s State media, however, has been less than circumspect about labeling the Diaoyu Islands a “core interest.” An editorial published in 2012 in China’s flagship State newspaper and mouthpiece of the Communist Party the People’s Daily, explicitly called the islands China’s “core interest.” Hua Chunying, spokeswoman for China’s Foreign Ministry, also used the term regarding the islands dispute in a April press conference. Senior officials, however, have ensured the term remains off the table. People’s Liberation Army Deputy Chief of General Staff Qi Jianguo said on June 3 at the 12th Asia Security Summit Shangri-La Dialog, held in Singapore, that China still adheres to the principle of “passing issues into posterity,” a typical example of the moderate path being trodden by China’s military when compared to an increasingly hawkish press. The apparent discrepancy between Chinese official remarks about the importance of the islands and media hype may reflect the uncertainty or division among the Chinese leadership over its strategy in handling the Diaoyu dispute, which has the makings of a full-blown strategic confrontation as China continues to send its surveillance ships into disputed waters despite Japanese protests.
In recent months, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, emboldened by high approval ratings at home and US assurances that the islands fall under the Japan-US mutual defense treaty, has launched a diplomatic offensive to counter Chinese global influence to the extent that many in China have described it as “encirclement.” Following Xi’s high-profile visit to Russia in March during which China and Russia signed a wide range of agreements to forge what many Chinese, though few Russians, have termed a “quasi-alliance,” Abe paid a seven-day visit to NEWSCHINA I August 2013
Russia in early May. The first Japanese prime minister to visit Russia in ten years, this visit was interpreted as a further attempt to weaken China’s diplomatic standing by reaching out to former rivals. “Even though Japan has not signed a peace treaty with Russia, beginning discussions on China would serve as a way of countering Beijing,” a high-ranking Japanese diplomat told the Asahi Shimbun. Also, following Xi Jinping’s visit to Africa in late March and early April during which the Chinese president promised $20 billion in unconditional financial assistance to Africa in the next two years, Abe promised in a conference on African development held in Tokyo in late May that Japan would provide $32 billion in aid in the next five years, trumping China’s offer. Abe also stressed that Japanese projects in Africa would make use of local workforces, seen as an attack on China’s unpopular preference for using imported Chinese laborers in its African projects. In late May, Abe visited Myanmar, promising to offer US$537 million in official development aid and writing off US$2 billion in debt. The first visit made to the country by a Japanese prime minister in 36 years, this was further grist to the Chinese media mill, as Myanmar has, since launching political reforms, drawn away from its traditional friendship with China and deepened cooperation with the West. However, none of these actions by Abe have proven more unpalatable to the Chinese than Abe’s apparent questioning of Japan’s war record, long a point of contention between the country and its former occupied territories. During a session of the Japanese Diet in April, Abe was asked if he considered Japan’s wartime occupation of China to be an “invasion.” Abe’s evasive response, “The definition of what constitutes an ‘invasion’ has yet to be established in academia or in the international community,” following this up with “things that happened between nations will look different depending on which side you view them from,” his remarks raised hackles throughout Asia. On May 3, during a ceremony celebrating the anniversary of the day Japan regained sovereignty after its defeat in WWII, Abe further upset China after chanting “tenno heika banzai,” or “long live the emperor,” a phrase Japanese officials typically avoid using in public as it has NEWSCHINA I August 2013
overtones of wartime militarism.
As a response, Chinese premier Li Keqiang warned that the world “should not allow anyone to destroy or deny the postwar peace” and that “any attempt to deny or glorify wartime aggression during those years are nothing less than a challenge to international justice established in the German city of Potsdam, site of the 1945 conference that helped define national boundaries after the Nazi defeat.” Refraining from directly referring to the Diaoyu Islands, Li stressed that the Potsdam agreement reaffirmed Japan should return all territory seized from China, despite the questionable status of the Diaoyu Islands, which were occupied prior to Japan’s invasion of the Chinese mainland and thus not explicitly mentioned in Potsdam. Indeed, besides resorting to moralizing and occasional patrols, China’s strategic options are rather limited. Tokyo, under US security guarantees, can afford to concentrate its strategic resources on China, while Beijing is embroiled in a number of pressing strategic issues ranging from the South China Sea disputes to its tense relationship with major powers such as India and the US. The problem of an increasingly belligerent North Korea has also stretched China’s resources beyond usual limits. In early May, the People’s Daily published an editorial questioning Japan’s sovereignty over the entire Ryukyu archipelago, which includes Okinawa, on the grounds that the islands were vassal states of China before Japan invaded and annexed the Kingdom of Okinawa in 1879. Employment of this questionable argument is seen as an attempt to counter Japan’s claims that the Diaoyu islands are a geographic part of the Ryukyu archipelago, and an example of how hawkish China’s State media has become on this particular issue. On June 3, however, China’s People’s Liberation Army Deputy Chief of General Staff Qi Jianguo brushed the claim aside. Affirming that China does not dispute Japanese sovereignty over Okinawa, Qi said that “recent comments in Chinese newspapers merely reflect the views of some academics.” To many Chinese, “biding one’s time” remains the best option for China. In an editorial published on May 30, nationalist newspaper
Global Times argued that China “will eventually prevail over Japan” as a result of a shift in the balance of power in the Asia-Pacific region. “It will take time for Japan to face the reality that the once sole great power in East Asia has to give way to China, whose GDP and maritime strength will surpass that of Japan,” ran the editorial. However, such expectations are precisely why Japan seems to be consolidating its position in order to head off such a scenario. “The military balance between Japan and China will completely collapse in two years,” Abe recently told media, giving voice to public calls in Japan for full rearmament. As China continues to patrol disputed territorial waters, Japan has now started to step up its reaction. On May 30, lawmakers from Abe’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) called for a legal framework to allow Japan’s Self-Defense Forces to launch a preemptive missile strike at enemy targets to prevent an imminent attack on Japan. This recommendation, unthinkable in the past, marks a major step towards amending Japan’s pacifist constitution, as Abe’s party pledged during his election campaign. On June 14, citing Japanese sources, China’s State broadcaster China Central Television (CCTV) warned that Japan may “fire the first shot.” This was a response to the drafting of a law by the LDP which would authorize Japan’s military to forcefully eject foreign interlopers from territorial waters of the Diaoyu islands. Despite its increased military presence in the region and the howls of media pundits, China’s authorities seem to have little appetite for a military showdown. While Chinese calls to “leave this issue to posterity” were rejected by Tokyo, which denies that sovereignty over the Diaoyu islands is in dispute, bilateral talks have been resumed. For example, a Nikkei report on June 7 revealed that the two countries held a meeting in Beijing in April between the defense ministries at bureau chief level. Another Sankei Shimbun report on June 13 claimed that China initiated the establishment of a hotline between the two countries’ air forces to “avoid accidents.” However, given that Japan’s push for “normalcy” has come alongside Xi Jinping’s pledges of “revival” in China, antagonism and the prospect of conflict, if never manifested in actual war, will continue to shape East Asia’s security landscape for the foreseeable future.
AGREEING TO Ever since China launched its policy of Reform and Opening-up three decades ago, China’s intellectual community has been embroiled in a constant debate over the future of the nation’s development. In recent years, however, the rise of social media, particularly China’s Twitter equivalent Sina Weibo, has sometimes allowed reasoned academic debate to descend into abusive language and personal attacks. But while they embrace 140-character microblog posts as an expedient method of raising their profile, China’s “public intellectuals” have not yet abandoned the world of offline academia, and many remain committed to the belief that it is China’s thinkers who will guide the nation towards development. This month, NewsChina takes an in-depth look at three of China’s most controversial public intellectuals. While their ideologies span the political spectrum, each offers a thought-provoking take on China’s past, present and future. They may disagree completely on the details, but on one point, there is consensus: no one voice can speak for all of China.
NEWSCHINA I August 2013
NEWSCHINA I August 2013
Truth or Treason? The verbal abuse, protests and death threats leveled at elderly economist Mao Yushi demonstrate the huge ideological gulf that is hindering political debate in China
Photo by Li Qiang
By Liu Yanxun and Wang Chen
NEWSCHINA I August 2013
hen 84-year-old economist Mao Yushi gave a speech on private economy on April 25 in Shenyang, he was heckled by Wang Xinnian, a local Party history researcher. The heckling began when Mao claimed that hiring workers was not exploitation. The historian protested that an economic forum was neither the time nor the place to discuss politics. It was not the first time that Mao had been heckled or disrupted while making a speech. In 2008, a protester threw a shoe at him during a speech in Shanghai. Two years ago in Beijing, four protesters rushed onto the stage and attempted to drag him off.
Having won the 2012 Milton Friedman Prize for Advancing Liberty awarded by the Cato Institute, Mao is known for his pro-market views and his criticism of the Chinese government. While his economic theories are enough to provoke criticism from those who see him as an ideological enemy, what really riles the country’s conservative leftists is his denouncement of Mao Zedong. “He is not a god, and he will be removed from the altar, divested of all the myth shrouding him, and receive a just evaluation as an ordinary man,” Mao wrote in a 2009 essay titled “Restoring Mao to the Status of an Ordinary Person.” Since then, Mao Yushi has been under constant attack. In 2011, members of Utopia, one of the Chinese mainland’s leading leftist websites, petitioned authorities in Shanghai to outlaw criticism of Mao Zedong. In 2012, the website claimed to have collected thousands of signatures calling for Mao Yushi’s prosecution. Following the incident in Shenyang, word got out that Mao Yushi would be making another speech in Changsha, capital of Mao Zedong’s home province of Hunan, on May 6. In the run-up to the event, the octogenarian was bombarded with insults and death threats. But Mao was determined to deliver his speech as planned. On the day of the speech, a group of protesters showed up at the venue, chanting slogans like “Long live Chairman Mao” and “Down with the traitor,” forcing organizers to cancel the event. Song Yangbiao, a media professional in his 30s and leader of the protest, said that he opposed Mao Yushi not only because of the latter’s denouncement of Mao Zedong, but also because the economist “defends capitalism and the rich, and tramples on the poor.” Song cited a wide range of controversial comments made by Mao Yushi. For example, in a 2009 speech, he said that “commerce can create wealth, but hard work may not,” drawing immediate attacks from leftists for his NEWSCHINA I August 2013
“disrespect for the working class.” Mao later explained that he was quoted out of context. He was actually referring to Mao Zedong’s Great Leap Forward in the late 1950s, when the entire population was mobilized to produce iron and steel in backyard furnaces as well as meet unrealistically high grain yield targets, resulting in unequivocal and devastating economic disaster. This explanation, coupled with renewed criticism of Mao Zedong, further enraged his attackers. More recently, Mao Yushi’s comments on China’s territorial dispute with Japan over the sovereignty of the Diaoyu Islands also infuriated Chinese nationalists. Calling the Diaoyu “barren islands” that produce “no GDP, no tax revenue” and have “no real value,” Mao suggested that China give up the islands in case the dispute were to result in military clashes with Japan, since it was ordinary people who ultimately pay the price of war. “These are the statements of a traitor, who should be denounced by all Chinese, whether on the right or the left,” said Song, the protester.
What Makes a Rightist?
Many leftists argue that Mao Yushi’s attacks on Mao Zedong are driven by his desire to avenge his personal sufferings during Mao Zedong’s rule. Born in 1929, Mao Yushi had finished the better part of his higher education as a mechanic engineering major by 1949 when the People’s Republic of China was founded. In 1950, upon graduating, the young academic was sent to work at the railways bureau of Heilongjiang Province. In 1958, when the “Anti-rightist Movement” swept across China, Mao was labeled a rightist for his refusal to participate in brainwashing exercises known as “political study” sessions, and other behaviour seen as deviant at the time. Having survived the Cultural Revolution (19661976), Mao was rehabilitated and returned to the Beijing Railway Research Institute. By then, he had become so interested in economics that he began devouring books of economic theory, and gradually established himself as an economist. In 1981, he was transferred to the Institute of American Studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, where he continued his pursuit of economic research. In 1993, Mao founded the Unirule Economic Research Institute, a non-governmental think tank, together with several other economists. Mao Yushi told NewsChina that he cherished the years he spent in the countryside as a rightist pariah, where he obtained first-hand experience of how Chinese peasants went about eking out a living. This may explain Mao’s avowed sympathy for peasants that can often make him appear somewhat socialist in the eyes of the country’s pro-
Awarded the Cato Institute’s Milton Friedman Prize for Advancing Liberty for his work in classical liberalism and free-market economics in 2012, Mao Yushi is one of China’s most prominent and controversial economists. Born in 1920 in Nanjing, Jiangsu Province, Mao began a career as a railway engineer in 1950 after graduating from Shanghai Jiaotong University. In 1958, Mao was labeled a rightist, and was punished with forced labor, exile and “re-education” over the following two decades. In 1976, he was rehabilitated, and returned to the Beijing Railway Research Institute, where he gradually established himself as an economist. In 1981, he was transferred to the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. In 1993, Mao founded the Unirule Institute of Economics, a non-governmental think tank, together with several other economists. The author of several books and many scholarly and popular articles, Mao established some of the very first non-governmental organizations in China. His recent denouncement of Chairman Mao and his call to officially re-evaluate Mao’s role in China’s history have caused him to be both attacked as a traitor and applauded as the voice of justice.
Western liberals and democrats. ing for rural women and early-life education for children In a recent interview with the Financial Times, Mao of migrant workers, the institute has grown into one of bewildered many of his supporters by claiming that an the most prestigious NGOs in China. authoritarian regime, if made up of “good guys,” is better According to Mao, instead of pursuing ideological than a bad democracy. When asked what makes a good purity, one should “immerse oneself in reality and offer authoritarian government, Mao said “one that works for concrete solutions to specific problems.” Unfortunately, the people,” making him sound more with a huge ideological gulf between leftist than rightist. different factions of the public, avoiding Dubbed a “permanent critic” of the ideology is virtually impossible when Chinese government, Mao’s refusal to “I’ll speak for the discussing current affairs. label the Chinese government an evil rich, and work for For example, in a 2009 speech, Mao regime also disappoints the country’s the poor.” criticized the government’s subsidized ardent democrats. For example, in an housing project. He argued that considinterview with Foreign Policy in 2012, ering the current level of corruption, the Mao defended China’s human rights project should be dropped as it benefitrecord, saying that the Chinese govern- “Commerce can ed the rich and middle-income earners ment had not executed a political pris- create wealth, but far more than the poor. He argued that oner in 30 years. higher earners were using their money hard work may More recently, he endorsed Presiand influence to buy up cheap housing not.” dent Xi Jinping’s idea of “the Chinese originally meant for the impoverished. dream,” and said the hope of China’s fuAccording to Mao, it is more realistic ture still lies in the Chinese Communist for the poor to rent a room than to own Party, leading many liberals to abandon property. “I do not wish to him, labeling him a flip-flopper. He came under immediate attack for ‘annihilate’ those his alleged “discrimination against the who disagree with poor.” When Mao responded that disHandling the Truth crimination based on economic terms But Mao claims that he is simply tell- me, and I hope is a necessity in a free market economy, ing the truth as he sees it. Rather than they would not the attacks only intensified. seeking to achieve ideological integrity want to annihilate “All my suggestions and criticisms of in his arguments, Mao prefers to be rethe government are intended to make main obtuse and contrary. In a famous me, either.” the country better, which should be 2007 essay, for example, Mao prothe common goal of both the left and claimed that he would “speak for the rich,” but “work for the poor.” right,” Mao said. “We may disagree “Most people are afraid to speak with each other about how the goal for the rich, as speaking for the rich is should be achieved, but the bottom line politically incorrect given China’s political culture,” Mao is that we should remain reasonable.” explained. “But in reality, most people don’t want to work “I do not wish to ‘annihilate’ those who disagree with for the poor, as the rich can pay them more.” me, and I hope they would not want to annihilate me, Compared to Mao’s widely cited and highly pro- either,” Mao added. vocative “pro-rich” statements, his work for the poor is In his latest book, Where Does the Chinese People’s Anximuch less publicised. In 1993, the same year he set up ety Come From?, Mao warns that widespread bitterness the Tianze Research Institute, Mao, along with his wife, and resentment have made the public increasingly irratioalso launched a microloan project in a remote village in nal, a trend that will lead to great social tension. Shanxi Province to offer financial aid to local peasants in Tracing the reason for the radicalization of political need of money to send their children to school and pay opinion, Mao points the finger at government officials for healthcare. The project has been growing steadily ever again. “The fundamental problem is that many govsince. ernment officials do not respect social justice, and their In 2002, based on the experience gained through the brains are reason-free zones when dealing with ordinary project, Mao and several other intellectuals set up the people,” Mao said. “The result is that this freedom from Fuping Development Institute. Providing services includ- reason eventually translates into boiling resentment of the ing microloans, ecological agriculture, professional train- public.”
NEWSCHINA I August 2013
The Constitutionalistâ€™s New Robes Yao Zhongqiu, an outspoken advocate of liberal democracy, recently came out as a Confucianist â€“ robes and all. Is it cynical self-promotion, or a progressive attempt to blend Chinese and Western thought? NewsChina investigates
Photo by Liao Pan
By Liu Wanyuan
NEWSCHINA I August 2013
Yao Zhongqiu Born in the late 1960s in Shaanxi Province, Yao is one of the country’s most renowned media commentators, although he prefers to be known as an independent scholar. Since the 1990s, he has translated more than 20 works by Friedrich Hayek and various other economists of the Austrian School.
n April this year, at a seminar hosted by Peking University on the the I-Ching, a classical Chinese geomancy text, few were impressed with independent scholar Yao Zhongqiu’s interpretation of the ancient book. To the astonishment of traditionalists, Yao was claiming that the book’s contents, a mystical collection of 64 diagrams corresponding to the various patterns that a set of divination sticks could land in, stood for decidedly modern concepts like “a roadmap to political order” and “the enlightenment necessary for participation in modern political life.” Yao’s audience was, at best, skeptical. Some accused him of overanalyzing, and one warned that he was at risk of “ruining” the book. Yao explained he was only trying to interpret from the perspective of political philosophy, which he believed made good sense for China’s social governance and the rebuilding of humanitarian spirit in the country. For the past two years, Yao, a white-haired man in his forties, has been scouring the Chinese classics to seek ideological resources for the administration of a modern society. Given that Yao had established a reputation as a liberal with a particular interest in constitutional democracy and the writings of Austrian classical liberal writer Friedrich Hayek, his proclamation a few years ago that that he had become a “Confucian scholar” raised more than a few eyebrows. While Confucianism was an extremely important element in the statecraft of Chinese emperors over the past two millennia, it was denounced as the foundation of China’s backward ideologies by advocates of the New Culture Movement of the early 20th century. Since coming out as a Confucian, Yao, the bookish, bespectacled academic, has taken to wearing traditional Chinese robes when appearing in public. Controversy and criticism peaked when Yao, in full traditional garb and accompanied by dozens of followers, prostrated himself and kowtowed before a statue of the sage at the Confucius Temple in Qufu, Shandong Province, Confucius’s birthplace. Some claim that Yao’s spectacular transformation from Hayek scholar to advocate of “Confucian constitutional democracy” was motivated by a cynical desire to establish his own theory system and boost his academic profile. “Yes, I want to build up my reputation. Doesn’t everybody, especially ambitious scholars?” said Yao.
While he claims to have turned his back on Hayek, he still claims to be the late Austrian’s “academic soul mate.”
The Confucian Gene
Yao says that since the Confucian spirit is “in his blood,” his new image is perfectly natural. Born into a rural family in central Shaanxi in the 1960s, Yao won a place at Renmin University in Beijing to read history in 1984, largely thanks to the guidance of his father, a high school graduate and the most learned man in the village. Like other college students in the 1980s, Yao absorbed himself in the works of the Western humanities writers that became all the rage when China opened up to the outside world. “I made my way through a lot of Jean-Paul Sartre, Sigmund Freud and Martin Heidegger,” said Yao. In 1988, illness forced Yao to take a sabbatical, also causing him to miss the biggest event of the decade – the Tiananmen Square incident. It was during this time that he began reading the Buddhist and Confucian classics, a pursuit he claims to have continued ever since. Throughout the winter of 1988, he rose at daybreak to prepare and consume traditional Chinese herbal remedies. While he was preoccupied with his recovery and future, Yao claims the care he received from his family and fellow villagers reminded him of the value of China’s traditional culture. “Our village retained many traditions that even the Cultural Revolution could not destroy, and tradition had enabled the peasants to find peace in their tough lives.” After recovering from his illness, Yao returned to Beijing in the fall of 1989 to pursue postgraduate studies in historiography. His master's thesis was on the work of Chien Mu (1895-1990), a heavyweight Chinese historian and an expert on the ancient Chinese classics, who lived in Taiwan at the time. Chien’s influence on Yao was profound, especially Chien’s “sympathetic and respectful” attitude toward Chinese history, antithetical to the orthodox historical outlook prevalent in the Chinese mainland, which viewed ancient China as a feudal autocracy. After graduation, Yao took a government job, but soon resigned to start a business with a few friends. After the business failed, he worked for a number of media outlets before eventually settling down with NEWSCHINA I August 2013
a newspaper as a night-desk editor. and there is no creativity to speak of, a pitiable state This job offered the stable income and security of affairs,” Yao said. that enabled him to focus on reading up on the “Why is that? It’s because what we have is a set of Austrian school of classical liberalism, which was concepts, ideas and means that had nothing to do popular among the Chinese intellectual communi- with our own civilization in the first place. The conty at the time. Hayek became Yao’s cepts used in the research of ecospiritual mentor. nomics, politics and law are totally Since then, Yao has made a name irrelevant to the concepts Chinese for himself as a media commentator, “We must people use in thinking, which has paving the way for him to become a never pursue led humanities and social sciences “public intellectual.” Around 2000, constitutionalism to become disconnected from realYao quit his full-time job and be- in China. We ity in China,” he continued. came an independent scholar. Yao believes Chinese scholars may only The man was a highly prolific need to return to their cultural freelance commentator, churning pursue ‘Chinese roots – the Confucian classics. He out six or seven incisive pieces per constitutionalism.’” is trying to find a way to allow liberweek under the pseudonym Qiu alism, democracy and rule of law to Feng (literally “Autumn Wind” in take root in China, saying his ideals Chinese), usually revolving around boil down to three words: Confuthe themes of democracy, rule of “Confucianism is cian constitutional democracy. law and enlightenment. From the Han Dynasty (206 a vitally important Now, Yao’s business card boats a BC–220 AD) through the Qing element in statecraft (1644–1911), almost all Chinese long list of titles, including director of the independent thank-tank in today’s China.” rulers derived their principles of Unirule, professor at Beihang Unigovernance from the interpretation versity and director of the Confuand reinterpretation of the Confucianism research institute Hong cian classics, and Yao has set himDao Academy. self the ambitious academic goal of “We Chinese have While Yao had already succeeded to return to our reinterpreting all of these texts, an in becoming a popular commenta- own civilization endeavor he expects will take him tor, it was not until his high-profile the rest of his life to finish. to understand conversion to Confucianism, with By doing this, he hopes to offer a all the attending ritual and gim- ‘liberty.’“ complete picture of governance in micky clothing, that he became the ancient China since antiquity, and center of attention. He refuted his to come up with a brand of statecritics’ assertions that he had uncraft suited to today’s China. dergone an ideological transformaOnline, Yao tends to garner more tion, claiming that the Confucian opponents than supporters, and in him had simply become too pasoften engages in verbal battles with sionate to keep hidden. his critics on Sina Weibo, China’s Twitter equivalent. Confucius Says: Turn the Other Cheek “People attack me with abusive language online,” Yao claims to be exploring the roots of Chinese Yao said. “I’m no saint – I sometimes return in civilization in an effort to cope with modern prob- kind.” lems. In his opinion, contemporary Chinese scholHe sometimes regrets getting tough his critics, ars of humanities and social sciences have become and sometimes deletes his comments moments afrootless, and simply repeat what they have learned. ter posting them. But overall, he is becoming more “More than a century has passed since modern tolerant of criticism – at the I-Ching seminar at Pehumanities and social sciences were introduced into king University, under a barrage of insults, he simChina, but nothing original has been spawned here, ply smiled and nodded. NEWSCHINA I August 2013
In Conversation with Yao Zhongqiu NewsChina: How did you begin to reflect upon the relationship between China and Confucianism? Yao Zhongqiu: When I was an undergraduate, there were very limited academic resources. Most books we read were on German and French philosophy and culture. Few British or American social science books were available. The 1980s was an age of enlightenment, just like the New Culture Movement around 1919. In the cultural fever of the 1980s, many intellectuals were looking back, trying to figure out why so many disasters and so much humiliation were inflicted on China over the century beginning with the First Opium War (1839-42). Many came to the conclusion that something had gone wrong with Chinese culture. It was not until the 1990s, when political science started to gain importance in China’s academic circles, that people began to interpret China’s misfortunes from the perspective of political institutions, rather than from a cultural angle. It was in these circumstances that I began to reflect on the relationship between the country and Confucianism. NC: Did the writings of Hayek begin to take a back seat in your academic thinking from that time on? YZ: Not really. I have always felt a close link with Hayek because I’ve had a profound affection for tradition since childhood. For me, traditional values and institutions are heart-warming, and bring peace to people’s souls. But in our textbooks, the tradition I so admire had always been denounced as the legacy of feudal autocracy and as being out of date, a contradiction that caused great confusion in me. Hayek cleared this confusion, as his theory makes it clear that the order of freedom grows out of tradition alone, and that rational design often leads to totalitarianism. NC: In your eyes, what is the ideal method of governance for today’s China? YZ: Confucianism is a vitally important element in statecraft. NC: But Confucianism alone would not work. It must be combined with other elements. YZ: Confucianism as we see it today naturally incorporates modern Western ideas and knowledge. NC: Western thinking and Confucianism come from different civilizations, though they may ultimately lead to the same destination. You may be able to blend them by drawing on their essence, but it seems that your research is based on transplanting Western ideas into Confucianism and vice
versa. Does it have to be this way? YZ: Here we arrive at a very important question: how are we to understand the West? We Chinese people have been learning from the West for the past century or so, but we are not yet fully aware of the complexity and richness. Thus we have tremendously misunderstood the place we think we are learning from. This version of the “West” appears radically different from Confucianism and Confucian statecraft. But when you dig deep into Western civilization, you will find that the difference between the two is not as gaping as we may think. NC: Then why not allow this blending to work out on its own? YZ: This won’t work. We are Chinese, not Westerners. We are cultivated in the context of a Confucian civilization, and one simply cannot lift oneself off the ground by pulling one’s own hair. One may believe he understands the West and can think in the Western way. In fact, this is not thinking at all. That’s the predicament in which liberalism, the humanities and social sciences in China have found themselves over the past century. For instance, when a Westerner speaks of people being born free, we Chinese hardly understand the real connotations behind this. How are we expected to understand “liberty” in the mind of a Westerner? To put it simply, we Chinese have to return to our own civilization to understand “liberty.” Therefore, we must first of all root yourself to the spot before we can bring about the order of freedom that grants people more dignity. NC: You’re not only criticized by liberals, but by Confucians as well. YZ: So I’m boxed in by my “enemies.” Public intellectuals, Confucians, liberals and the government are all trying to find fault with me. The liberals think that as a Confucian, I should not get involved in politics, and Confucians, most of whom study Confucianism from a philosophical perspective and are averse to politically-oriented Confucianism, agree. NC: You have paid homage to Confucius by kneeling down before his statue, do you do the same to your parents? YZ: Yes. I went back to my home village in Spring Festival this year to pay respect to my ancestors. Some traditions remain intact in my village, but more are gone. Our clan does not have an ancestral temple, so I plan to pool some money from my extended family to build one.
NEWSCHINA I August 2013
The Left is Alright Social critic Wang Hui has been called an antireformist, a defender of authoritarianism, a crusader for centralization, and much worse. Outspoken, prolific, and with a strong international background, is he the cosmopolitan voice of Chinaâ€™s New Left?
Photo by Liu Guanguan
By Cai Rupeng and Yuan Ye
NEWSCHINA I August 2013
Wang Hui Born in 1959 in Yangzhou, Jiangsu Province, Wang Hui grew up in the chaos of the Cultural Revolution. In the 1980s, he was admitted to the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in Beijing to read a Ph.D candidate in modern literature. In 1991, he founded a magazine called The Scholar, and in 1996, he became executive editor at Dushu, a highly influential cultural review. He has been teaching as a professor at the School of Humanities of Tsinghua University since 2002.
China’s political system has its own unique historical context and path,” Wang Hui, reclining in an armchair, told NewsChina. “The crisis of China’s contemporary political system is a global one. We need to think about how to overcome the fundamental disconnect between the political system and social structure.” Wang Hui’s office is tucked away in the southwestern corner of Tsinghua Park, on the campus of Tsinghua University, a quiet spot surrounded by trees. He has been working here, as a professor in the School of Humanities, for eleven years. However, in contrast to the placid suroundings he enjoys at his day-job, Wang hardly gets a moment’s peace in his personal life. Over the past two decades, Wang has gained notoriety for advocating the expansion of State power as a cure for corruption and social injustice, for his denial of globalization, and his distaste for market economy. Meanwhile, he also supports what he calls “mass democracy,” a concept that liberals tend to call “populism.” Labeled a leader of the “New Left,” he has endured his fair share of heated debates. Wang, however, is reluctant to accept the mantle. “I am not the so-called ‘leader,’ since I have neither the capability nor the desire to be that,” he told NewsChina. “I am simply a fairly dedicated researcher.” In the 1980s, Wang Hui was admitted to the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences as a Ph.D candidate, and he has been involved in academic research ever since. In 1996, he became executive editor of Dushu – a highly influential cultural criticism magazine – steering its content away from the theoretical, and towards more realistic societal problems. In 2002, he began teaching at Tsinghua University. Since the early 1990s, Wang Hui has spent nearly half his time overseas, delivering lectures or conducting field research. However, despite his undeniably international outlook, he is adamant that China should not become “Westernized.” Unlike intellectuals of more liberal sympathies, Wang does not blame the current political system for China’s social tension and problems. Instead, he blames excessive privatization and neo-liberalism.
Wang Hui was born in Yangzhou, Jiangsu, in 1959. He studied Chinese Language as an undergraduate, before moving on to postgraduate studies in modern literature. In 1985, Wang entered the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, moving to Beijing to work on his Ph.D. In the 1980s, with the launch of China’s market-oriented economic reforms, many academics gradually turned
their attention to new social theories, and some took with enthusiasm to Western thinking. In Beijing, the political and cultural center of China, intellectuals participated in a series of cultural and ideological “enlightenment movements,” and many later became firm defenders of liberalism. Wang Hui was an exception. While he had experienced the newly broadened horizons and enthusiastic theoretical exploration in the capital’s academic circle, he “felt uncomfortable with certain exaggerated self-centered habits in this atmosphere.” Although he participated in various discussions on culture in Beijing at that time, he often found himself “mentally distant from the surrounding environment.” In 1988, Wang Hui took up a position at the Cultural Research Institute of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. At the end of that year, for the seventieth anniversary of China’s New Culture Movement, he published an article titled “Prophesy and Crisis,” in which he warned of a potential internal crisis formenting in Beijing’s “enlightenment movements,” and the factors that could lead them to self-deconstruct as the New Culture Movement had. In 1990, Wang was dispatched to work in Shanyang County, Shaanxi Province. This county, located deep in the Qinling Mountains, was one of the poorest areas in China. After leaving Beijing, Wang began to get acquainted with a China far from the ivory tower of Beijing academia. Twelve years after Reform and Opening-up, land reform in the countryside transferred land ownership away from rural communes, allowing individual households to rent land from the government. This greatly increased farmers’ enthusiasm for production, and resulted in a continued rise in agricultural output. However, in Shanyang, due to the dissolution of the People’s Communes, the local government was unable to organize and manage the towns and villages under its administration. According to Wang, this resulted in disorder and crime, and violent conflict would often flare up in cases where land ownership was in dispute. “In Beijing, we believed that the reform had solved all the problems in the countryside. The elite in Beijing were not discussing these problems,” said Wang. “I found we had become too elitist.” Life in the countryside provided Wang with a better understanding of the crisis left behind after the commune system was dissolved. The striking contrast between rural life and life in Beijing gave him a new perspective on China’s problems. Ten months later, Wang returned to Beijing, where he NEWSCHINA I August 2013
went on to found a magazine, The Scholar, with a group of friends. The magazine mainly featured essays on modern progressive ideologues.
In Search of an Alternative
At the end of 1991, China was shocked by the collapse of the Soviet Union, its socialist neighbor to the north. While liberal intellectuals celebrated the change, others were nervous. In October 1993, conflict between the Russian parliament and then President Boris Yeltsin came to a head when Yeltsin commanded the army to storm parliament, resulting in a deadly 10-day conflict later called the Russian constitutional crisis, from which Yeltsin emerged victorious. For Wang Hui, a visiting scholar in the US at the time, this was a decisive moment. Before this, many Chinese intellectuals had had high hopes for the process of democratization in Russia and the former Eastern Bloc. However, Yeltsin’s use of force made Wang begin to question the future of China’s own privatization drive. At the time, market reform was being promoted on a large scale in China, and the wealth gap was beginning to grow rapidly. Meanwhile, in the process of development, power had become a commodity, resulting in rampant corruption. Wang argued that just as the dissolution of rural communes had brought disorder in the countryside, marketoriented reform and privatization was to blame for corruption and the widening wealth gap. Meanwhile, the “democratized” former communist states of Russia and eastern Europe had failed to deliver economic prosperity and social justice to their people. Wang, who spent much time overseas in the mid- to late-1990s, began to argue that it was impossible for China to borrow its development model from the West, and had to find its own unique method of transformation. Beginning in the mid-1990s, Wang wrote a series of papers in response to what he saw as a crisis in Chinese society, criticizing the contemporary trend of neo-liberalism. In his view, by placing hope in marketization and the values of neo-liberalism, China’s intellectuals were losing the ability to understand and criticize contemporary issues.
In 1996, Wang Hui took the position of executive editor at Dushu, a magazine whose title literally translates as “reading books.” After taking over, Wang began to introduce coverage of contemporary issues that had rarely been discussed, ranging from rural problems, to feminism, to ecology. NEWSCHINA I August 2013
Although a wide range of conflicting opinions were voiced in Dushu, the magazine’s new direction angered many liberal scholars, who accused it of becoming the general headquarters of the “New Left.” In the view of his critics, Wang Hui’s support for the expansion of State power was tantamount to defending dictatorship. Also, critic Qin Hui pointed out that “neo-liberals,” who, in the West, argue against the expansion of government, do not exist in China, as the Chi- “The crisis of China’s nese government in fact provides very few public contemporary services. He accused Wang of inventing pseudo- political system is propositions, and pointed out that China’s “neo- a global one. We liberals” often insisted on increasing State welfare need to think about and responsibility. how to overcome In 1997, Wang Hui published an article titled “Ideological Situations and Modernity Problems the fundamental in Contemporary China,” in which he made an disconnect between overall analysis of the ideological theory circle in the political system contemporary China, and proposed that it was and social structure.” necessary to “reconsider China’s development pattern under new global conditions.” Many of the opinions in Wang’s articles became major “It is necessary to points of contention between liberals and the reconsider China’s New Left. Wang told NewsChina that as the division development pattern of the intellectual community intensified, his under new global “peaceful academic life began to become caught conditions.” up in an ideological tornado the likes of which had never been seen, and one that has continued to the present day.” “Over the past His opponents argue that his criticism of 20 years, I have modernization and globalization is ignorant of historical trends, and that he aims to defend cen- probably been tralization, while Wang claims that his rejection attacked more of these trends is the conclusion of his extensive than any other study. And although he is just as keen to criticize intellectuals….But this China’s political system as his opponents, he has may also prove that I never agreed that the problem lies in the system have touched on the itself. As the disputes have intensified, some of the real issues.” opinions expressed have begun to exceed the scope of academia and ideology, and have spilled over into personal attacks. However, faced with abuse, Wang Hui tends to stay silent, and seldom accepts interviews. “Over the past 20 years, I have probably been attacked more than any other intellectual. Nobody has ever been attacked on such a large scale, and a new round of attacks flares up every once in a while,” Wang said. “But this may also prove that I have touched on the real issues.”
Left and Right
“The voice of reason is easily drowned” The political exile of public thinkers, excluded from policymaking, has turned ideological debate into a futile exercise in extremist mud-slinging. Ideology needs to return to government By Gao Chaoqun, edited by NewsChina
ince China embarked on Reform and Opening-up in the 1980s, Chinese intellectuals have split into different ideological factions who disagree not only on the solutions to China’s manifold problems, but even what these problems are. As academic debate has spread via the Internet from the lecture hall to the grassroots, arguments have become increasingly skewed, emotional and unconstructive. This in turn has radicalized opinions, sidelined moderates, and turned reasoned engagement between ideologies into slanging matches rich in verbal abuse and even physical violence. In an era when some espouse a return to fanatical Maoism while others preach from the neoliberal prayerbook, debate has become polarized to the point of no return. As a result, ideological sparring sometimes turn into a genuine fist fight. This lack of dignity has tainted the public perception of academia and political discourse to the extent that even the appellation “public intellectual” has become a pejorative. Whither, then, China’s intellectual?
The ideological split between China’s intellectuals can be traced back to the public debate on Reform and Opening-up in the 1980s. “Conservatives” or “leftists,” who insisted that China should stick to Maoism clashed with “reformers” or “rightists” who aspired for greater economic and political liberalization. A similar battle was being fought in the corridors of power. In 1992, when
Deng Xiaoping, the architect of China’s reform, made a keynote speech in Shenzhen as his final salvo against the aggressive leftists in the Party who sought to derail reform, this argument was resolved with a certain amount of compromise. However, on the street and in the country’s seats of learning, the struggle never really ended. Having undergone decades of privation, persecution and humiliation, China’s intellectuals initially embraced the benefits of Reform and Openingup. However, as reform brought new challenges, the cultural elite began to split once more over ideology and, denied the opportunity for political participation, views began to harden over which direction China should take. The liberals, advocates of free market principles and western-style democracy, argued that China’s economic reform would be doomed to failure without fully-fledged political reforms. Neo-leftists, meanwhile, warned of the political chaos that would follow in the wake of widening income disparity. Hardcore nationalists, meanwhile, opposed China’s entry into the World Trade Organization, claiming that the move would derail domestic industry and ruin the lives of millions of small farmers. Party loyalists, as ever, lived in terror of the eventual collapse of the Communist Party’s supremacy. None of these doomsday scenarios has come to pass to the extent feared by these groups, though the problems of political stagnation, income disparity, the decline of Chinese industry and agriculture and wavering support for the Party’s rule are certainly a fact of life in modern China. More than a decade of double-digit growth did little to mitigate the disagreements between competing ideological factions. On the contrary, the unpredictable nature of China’s NEWSCHINA I August 2013
development has only fueled the debate. With a wide range of problems being exacerbated by rapid, unsteady and unequal economic growth, China’s intellectual elite are becoming ever more anxious about their country’s future. With such high stakes, few are in the mood for reconciliation with their ideological opponents.
puts them in direct opposition to the neo-leftists, however, their sympathy with the downtrodden and disenfranchised owes more to Karl Marx than to Ayn Rand. Indeed, what both extremes of China’s political spectrum seem to share in terms of ideology is a championing of populism over pragmatism.
One major ideological reshuffle in recent years is the revival and regrouping Meanwhile, China’s political elite, shielded by a State-controlled media of the “leftist” faction, which lost its grip on society following the disastrous and an absence of universal franchise, have remained in the dangerous state Cultural Revolution (1966-1976) of apathy. Following their final political “deOn the one hand, officialdom Ideological Map feat” in 1992, anti-capitalist and has refused to engage and officially pro-class struggle Maoists strugacknowledge the existence of the gled to connect with a newly-affluideological schism at the heart of Leftist: 38.1% ent and resurgent society enjoying Chinese public opinion. On the the fruits of market economics and other, they have been quick to seModerate: 51.5% greater sociopolitical liberalization. lectively intervene when a public Rightist: 8.0% However, as the income gap protest does not further their own has widened and corruption has agenda. Other: 2.4% become evermore egregious, the Excluded from the political proleftists have made a comeback. cess, China’s real opinion-formers Feeding on widespread resentare thus strictly confined to a virAccording to a recent survey of 1,750 urban residents conducted by Professor Zhang Mingshu ment against corrupt officials and tual online world. Dubbed a “temfrom the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, over a half of Chinese people identify themself China’s growing legion of superpest in a teacup,” any attempt to as politcally“moderate”(51.5%), while the majority of the rest labeled themselves leftist rich, the “neo-leftists” gathered influence society or politicians by (38.1%). While the study is by far the most serious attempt to establish an overview of Chinese momentum and began to mount genuine thinkers is laughed off by people’s ideological sympathies to date, it has itself become a point of ideological contention. Perhaps unsurprisingly, liberals have argued that Zhang’s alleged leftist standpoint led him attacks on the ideas of a free marthose actually making waves. to underreport the number of liberals among the population, while leftists argue that the ket, arguing for a stronger State Without the participation of exclusion of rural residents may have caused Zhang to underestimate the influence of leftist and the redistribution of wealth. the intellectual elite, China’s poliideology. Many from both sides agreed that the sample size was too small. These neo-leftists differ from tics remains the monopoly of its the old guard of Mao’s era in their officials. Refusing to engage in adoption of both democratic principles and their support for freedom of any ideological debate, the country’s leaders claim to be pragmatic. Howspeech, replacing the Stalinist bent of traditional Maoism with a different ever, without discussion and elaboration on the government’s ideological and brand of socialist egalitarianism at odds with the current political establish- political vision, politics has simply become another profession. As Max Wement. Nationalism is also a feature of the leftist camp, with anti-Western and, ber described almost a century ago, instead of living “for” politics, Chinese in particular, anti-Japanese sentiment growing in ferocity as China has risen politicians are now living “off” politics, with the entire officialdom riddled on the world stage. by materialism and utilitarianism, exemplified by the government’s utter inReformists, meanwhile, are now on the defensive. As political reform has ability to rein in corruption. stagnated, corruption has worsened and the “softly-softly” approach to reMoreover, it is precisely the exile of intellectuals that has led to the radiform has come under increasing attack. Though the doctrine of compromise calization of public opinion. Frustrated with their exclusion from political and restraint remains influential in the Party and in society as a whole, voices franchise and angered by the decay of the ruling class, many intellectuals start calling for calm are conspicuously absent from the public debate, with both resorting to simplistic, evangelical moralizing simply in order to have their left and right dismissing the prevailing political elite as having failed to deliver voices heard. In an ocean of populist radicalism, the voice of reason is easily drowned. what Deng Xiaoping promised in 1992. This sets in motion a vicious cycle. The more radical and abusive the politiIn contrast, a new group of self-claimed “democrats” is gaining ground, especially among the young. Shunning broader theory, they adopt a much cal debate becomes, the less the rational thinkers voice their opinions, and the simpler line of argument and often advocate swift and fundamental changes. less likely the political elite would engage with the intellectuals. In addition, Discarding the long-established debate paradigm and defying the Chinese the debate becomes more fascinating, if more distasteful, to the general public. It will require Herculean efforts from the political leadership to break such tradition of preferring realism over idealism, they tend to be more subjective, an entrenched cycle. And yet, they remain aloof. frequently arguing from their own emotional standpoint. Identifying themselves as “liberals” or “democrats,” these neo-rightists are often passionate advocates of Western-style democracy. While a commit- (The author is a professor from the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, and Chief ment to universal values, the right to self-determination and the free market Editor of Beijing Cultural Review magazine.)
NEWSCHINA I August 2013
China’s Chief Justice Zhou Qiang
Photo by IC
Supreme People’s Court
Deaf Justice Chinese justices are not trying cases themselves, which constitutes a stumbling block to boosting judicial credibility By Shen Xinwang
n recent months, the exposure of several high-profile wrongful conviction cases has fueled speculation over the direction of judicial reform in China (see “Victim of Justice,” NewsChina, Vol. 59). “Misjudged cases are being overturned at a rate seldom seen over the last five years,” Qin Qianhong, professor from the Law School of Wuhan University, told our reporter. “People cannot help but assume the involvement of the Supreme People’s Court.” In late April, Zhou Qiang, the new president and Chief Justice of
the Supreme People’s Court told a group of legal professionals attending a forum that “judicial fairness is the ultimate goal of the People’s Courts.” Zhou went on to state that the Supreme Court is planning to “promote judicial fairness and enhance judicial credibility.” In the eyes of China’s legal profession, such declarations, coming alongside the highly-publicized overturning of several wrongful convictions, are a sign that the country’s top leadership is committed to repairing the reputation of China’s court system. NEWSCHINA I August 2013
In China, the president of the Supreme Court automatically becomes Chief Justice, in line with the country’s political structure. The acting vice president holds China’s second-highest judicial office, with other vice presidents and high officials overseeing personnel and political affairs also holding the third-highest judicial post, along with the presidents of the provincial high courts. China has had four Chief Justices since the post was established in 1995 – Ren Jianxin, Xiao Yang, Wang Shengjun and Zhou Qiang. During their five-year tenure, each Chief Justice supervises 40 lesser justices. While technically the primary duty of these justices is to hear cases, in reality, only Supreme People’s Court Justices Luo Haocai, Tang Dehua and Huang Songyou, also vice presidents of the Supreme People’s Court, have ever presided over a hearing. This effectively means that China’s highest judicial officials have become bureaucrats rather than practicing legal professionals, severely hampering their ability to make well-informed decisions in relation to difficult cases. While most Supreme People’s Court justices will regularly review cases, examine appeals and amend convictions, these processes are largely conducted behind closed doors, with few plaintiffs given any additional days in court. After trying a case personally in 2002, Supreme People’s Court Justice Tang Dehua said, “The presidents and vice presidents of the courts are, first and foremost, judges. Hearing cases is their primary duty.” In his work report delivered at the 2002 National People’s Congress (NPC) sessions, Xiao Yang, the then president of the Supreme People’s Court, called for a change in the primary roles and responsibilities of his office’s justices, instead requiring them to hear cases as presiding judges on the collegiate bench. Since 2002, however, not a single justice of the Supreme People’s Court has personally presided over a trial or retrial. A senior judge with the Supreme People’s Court told NewsChina, “The Supreme Court’s 2011 plan to reform its judicial committee demanded that the president, vice presidents and members of the judicial committee be judges at the collegiate bench in the hope of reducing the number of cases heard by the judicial committee. But this eventually led nowhere.”
While it is difficult to ascertain the specifics of any public official’s work in China, open media reports have shown Zhou Qiang, president and Chief Justice of the Supreme People’s Court, participating in legal inspection tours, training grassroots judges, conducting “on-thespot research” and attending meetings of the NPC Standing Committee. Shen Deyong, acting vice president of the Supreme Court and the country’s number two justice, seems to focus entirely on managing the Supreme People’s Court in an administrative sense. Neither man has ever been seen presiding in a courtroom since being appointed to their current posts. “The president and vice presidents have a lot of work to do,” one Supreme People’s Court judge, speaking on condition of anonymity, told our reporter. “This involves the development of the court itself NEWSCHINA I August 2013
and external intervention in current trials,” In other words, the judicial role of China’s top justices is negligible, while their administrative role in the judicial bureaucracy is all-important. China struggles more than most countries to separate its judiciary from special political interests. The Chief Justice is primarily a Communist Party official, with the final authority to appoint or dismiss vice presidents of the Supreme People’s Court, members of its judicial committee and other legal personnel. As secretary of the leading Party members’ group at the Supreme People’s Court, Zhou Qiang is also a member of the CPC Central Committee, one of the highest organs of state in China. According to the organizational principle that the Party is in charge of cadres’ affairs, Zhou Qiang, as the Party secretary of the Supreme People’s Court, effectively determines its direction and professional culture through the system of appointments. In the eyes of law professor Qin Qianhong, no direct definition of the remit of the Supreme People’s Court president can be found in China’s Constitution, the law of judges, the law of court organization or the law of litigation. In his view, this makes the extent of the Chief Justice’s powers impossible to determine. In theory, China’s Supreme People’s Court justices are equal with all other judges insofar as having the right to try cases in their jurisdiction independently. In reality, however, Supreme justices, as leaders of the courts, enjoy sweeping powers far beyond those of an ordinary judge, particularly the power to determine whether or not a case comes before the Supreme People’s Court’s judicial committee. In fact, the judicial committee itself, controlled by the Chief Justice, effectively has the sole power of judicial interpretation, summing up and establishing legal precedent. Although the Chief Justice has the same voting rights as other members of the judicial committee, his or her extra procedural powers as the body’s president, along with the sole power to hire and fire committee members, discourage opposition. China’s bureaucratic and heavily administration-oriented Supreme People’s Court has effectively removed the country’s foremost legal authorities from the courtroom, while allowing them to retain the power to intervene in any trial, to any extent they wish. Hou Meng, a law professor at the China University of International Business and Economics, told our reporter: “In general, judicial credibility is proportional to the prestige of the judge. But in China, a judge’s prestige is not acquired by hearing cases and it is therefore difficult to boost their credibility.” Professor Qin Qianhong believes that the only way to enhance judicial credibility is to compel every justice in China, regardless of seniority, to preside in the courtroom. One presiding justice described his drive to excel in the legal sphere to our reporter. “The courthouse is just a few steps away from my office. I just can’t wait to try a number of important cases each year. That is how a judge makes history.” Doubtless there are other judges in China’s bureaucratic legal system who would much rather be in their courtroom than in their chambers. However, if they wish to start making history, they will first need to change the status quo.
Playing Chicken Given the ineffective government supervision and a shocking lack of mandatory hygiene measures in Chinaâ€™s poultry industry, the continuously evolving avian flu virus still poses a significant threat By Qian Wei and Xie Ying
arly on the morning of May 23, a convoy of trucks queued up in front of a live poultry market in Dongguan, Guangdong Province, waiting their turn to enter. Each vehicle was packed with hundreds of cages containing around 2,000 birds, their heads bowed, struggling to breathe.
The truckers were required to produce health certificates for their cargo, and local animal-hygiene inspectors conducted a final visual check to confirm that the birds were healthy before the trucks were allowed into the market. These measures were introduced after cases of human beings infected with the H7N9 avian flu
virus were reported in China earlier this year. Many Chinese people, especially in the south, are accustomed to buying poultry from markets, where they select live animals which are then killed on the spot. However, this longstanding habit has come under fire since H7N9, a new strain of the NEWSCHINA I August 2013
Photo by AFP
avian flu virus, was found to have infected human beings in parts of eastern China this spring. Official data showed that as of May 29, there had been a total of 131 confirmed cases of human infection with H7N9 in China, with 37 dead, once again highlighting the health risks inherent in China’s poultry industry chain. NEWSCHINA I August 2013
Live and Dangerous
Instead of closing down the live poultry markets in the face of H7N9 spread, the Guangdong health authorities chose to tighten up health checks and controls. But these measures, in the opinion of veterinary scientist Chen Bolun, are largely for show. “A cursory visual inspection actually cannot dis-
tinguish sick birds from healthy ones,” Chen, an expert in animal-borne epidemics from Foshan University of Science and Technology in Guangdong, told NewsChina. As the line of poultry trucks rolled through the disinfection pool one by one, Chen noted that this measure would have little effect on the hygiene of their cargo: “It sterilizes the tires of the trucks, but does nothing to kill the virus carried by the poultry or in their feces.” “But for a market where thousands of birds pass through every day, it is unfeasible to unload every single cage for a thorough disinfection,” he added. On May 28, the Henan provincial government called off its H7N9 alert, the last locality in China to end its state of H7N9 emergency and return to normal animal diseases surveillance on. The news was coupled with the re-opening of the live poultry markets in various southern Chinese cities. According to a report by the State-owned newspaper the People’s Daily, after Jiangsu Province lifted the ban on live poultry markets at the end of May, the price of poultry rose the next day. “We have to take into consideration the eating habits of residents,” Sun Lei, director of the Agriculture Commission of Shanghai, told the Legal News newspaper. In mid-April, the commission launched a survey asking Shanghai residents whether or not live poultry markets should be closed down. Opinion was divided almost equally. Hangzhou, capital of east China’s Zhejiang Province, also tried to abolish live poultry markets several years ago but had to drop the initiative due to strong opposition from both buyers and sellers. Experts are generally critical of the tradition. “The virus is likely to be transmitted between different species [of poultry] when they are put together in the same market, and the risk increases when unsold poultry stays in the market overnight or for days,” said Chen Hualan, director of the National Bird Flu Lab. Her words were reinforced by a statement issued by China’s health authority in April which revealed that live poultry markets
Photo by AFP
Animal-hygiene inspectors check trucks loaded with live poultry before they enter the city
might be a channel through which H7N9 could infect human beings who come into close contact with live poultry or their feces.
However, when economic benefits are at stake, local governments are reluctant to ban the sale of live poultry. According to the statistics from the Ministry of Agriculture, by May 10, the Chinese poultry industry has suffered an economic loss of over 40 billion yuan (US$6.5bn) due to the culls and poor sales resulting from H7N9 epidemic. “Thousands of baby chicks are killed every day, despite the fact that there is no evidence proving that they have actually been infected with H7N9,” exclaimed Lu Yan, vice-director of the Shandong Academy of Agricultural Sciences. According to Lu, Shandong, a major chicken farming province, was losing about 250 million yuan (US$40.3m) each day due to the H7N9 epidemic, 17 percent of the country’s total daily loss. This partly explains why Chen Bolun’s research on bird flu was discouraged by the local government. In 1994, Chen’s team first discovered and defined the H9N2 virus, only to find that the government issued an official document ordering them to cease their research. In China, vaccination is actually a more
popular means of fighting bird flu than culling. The government has now implemented mandatory nationwide vaccinations against H5N1 and H9N2, two particularly virulent strains of avian flu, since H5N1 hit 16 provinces in 2004, leaving nearly 190,000 dead. “China’s chicken farming is mostly small in scale, and carried out by dispersed, familyrun smallholdings, meaning that the culls preferred by large-scale Western farms are largely ineffective, and cost much more,” explained an expert from the Ministry of Agriculture, speaking on condition of anonymity. However, 100-percent vaccination coverage does not result in 100 percent immunity, according to experts. In an investigation in 2008, Professor Chen Bolun found that the same vaccine created different antibodies in different chickens, indicating that the birds had different levels of immunity to the same disease. “We rely too heavily on vaccination, which, however, cannot fully stop an epidemic in the absence of effective supervision of the chicken farming environment,” Cui Zhizhong, an expert on animal epidemic prevention from the Ministry of Agriculture, told NewsChina. His opinion was supported by Wu Yangong, a researcher from the Animal Health and Epidemiology Center. At a national forum on bird flu in 2012, Wu pointed out
that the H5N1 virus, lethal but inactive in transmission, is easily stopped by culling sick poultry. And while vaccination may prevent virus-carrying chickens on Chinese chicken farms from becoming sick themselves, they can spread the virus to other birds on the farm. This is the reason why H5N1 epidemics continue to erupt from time to time in China’s poultry industry. Although no government department has revealed any data on the topic since the 2004 epidemic, media reports show that in the latest case, which occurred in September 2012, over 14,000 ducks in Zhanjiang, Guangdong Province, were found to be infected with H5N1. 6,300 of these had already died from infection.
Several years ago, Professor Chen Bolun went to visit a chicken farm in Australia, only to find that visitors were not allowed to view the farm at close range in case they were to be carrying a virus. “Humans are the chief source of contamination for chicken farms. That is why the staff of chicken farms overseas are required to shower and put on sterile clothing before entering the farm,” said Jiang Chaowen, a chicken farmer in Sichuan Province with over 20 years of experience in chicken farming “But such strict measures are not practical on Chinese farms,” he added. According to Jiang, there are virtually no mandatory hygiene requirements on entry into chicken farms in China, a gaping procedural fault that reflects poor management. “Once bird flu hits, a great many farmers go bankrupt, which scares off many aspiring chicken farmers. But when the flu peters out and the poultry price starts to rise, many come rushing back. This sets in motion a vicious circle in the Chinese poultry industry,” he continued. The very low threshold to enter the poultry industry has led to a high concentration of chicken farms, according to Qin Zhuoming, president of a biopharmaceutical supplier in Shandong. He told NewsChina that over the NEWSCHINA I August 2013
past 20 years, the major poultry-producing provinces like Shandong, Henan and Guangdong, have seen a 2000 percent increase in the number of chicken farms. Individual chicken coops which, with an average capacity of over 100,000 birds, are ten times as densely packed as they were a decade ago. China’s chickens spend their lives in a cramped environment, with 15 birds crammed into one square meter of cage space, increasing the risk of disease and death. “In theory, when the chicken population density doubles, the chance of disease quadruples,” Qin warned. According to him, Chinese chicken farms have a mortality rate around 20 percent on average, four times than the average in the Western countries, with the fast-growing “white-feather hens,” a fast-growing breed of chicken with a low feed-to-meat ratio, being the most vulnerable. “The faster a chicken grows, the weaker its immune system,” Qin explained. In South China, it is common for farmers to raise both fish and ducks in a pool where the fish feed on the feces of the ducks. Besides the pool, some farmers will build a chicken coop and a pigpen, so chicken feces can be fed to the pigs. These traditional methods, though they cut costs, greatly increase the risk of viral transmission among different species, according to Chen Bolun, the veterinary scientist. Since the first H5N1 virus (also called the “goose strain”) was found in a goose carcass in Guangdong Province in 2003, the same virus has been found in other poultry. During an investigation between 1999 and 2002, Chen Hualan, the head of the bird flu lab, analyzed virus samples in ducks, and confirmed that they had originated from H5N1. On May 3, Chen’s team once again sounded the alarm for China’s multi-species farming methods, warning that H5N1 could be transmitted between mammals. Although there is no strong evidence of the H7N9 virus infecting any species except
NEWSCHINA I August 2013
Photo by AFP
Old Habits Die Hard
Even vaccinated birds can spread H5N1
chickens, the results of some genetics experiments have implied that the strain may have originated with ducks in southeast China, or with wild birds in east China. Judged by the biohazard rankings of the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization, most Chinese chicken farms placed in the most hazardous category. The official statistics show that nearly 98 percent of Chinese
poultry farming is small in scale and highly dispersed, making supervision difficult and the application of advanced technology unrealistic. “We really cannot define the essential cause of China’s bird flu, since each link, from provenance to feed, from vaccination to supervision, from farmers to managers, is questionable,” Qin Zhuoming said.
Exam Boot Camp
A middle school in Anhui province has earned a reputation for its high college entrance exam scores, and the military-style regimen it enforces in order to achieve them By Chen Wei in Liu An
NEWSCHINA I August 2013
NEWSCHINA I August 2013
Photo by Li Qiang
On the eve of their college entrance exams, students from Maotanchang Middle School watch as their traditional Chinese lanterns float into the sky
Student Tao Fei’s parents rent a single room near Maotanchang School
n June 5, two days ahead of this year’s national college entrance exam, a town in Liu’an city, Anhui Province erupted into celebration. In the small town of Maotanchang, tens of thousands of parents gathered to see their children off. A total of 70 buses hired by the Maotanchang Middle School carried over 10,000 students to Liu’an city to sit the all-important college entrance exam. Fireworks were set off, and crowds of well-wishers hoisted red banners emblazoned with slogans of encouragement. According to Li Zhenhua, vice-director of Maotanchang Middle School, the school had booked out 13 hotels for the students and arranged healthy, nutritious food for the two examination days. On June 7 and 8, some 9.12 million candidates sat this year’s college entrance exam. But nowhere else in the whole country is there a school quite so confident as Maotanchang Middle School.
Students have little time to call their friends amid the intensive study schedule
Maochangtan Middle School’s intensive exam training program and strict set of student regulations has earned it a significant reputation, and over the past decade, the school has been rapidly expanding its scale. This year, there are more than 20,000 students enrolled at the school, over half of whom are in their senior year. Businesses in the town have been happy to cash in on the school’s reputation with names like “Scholar’s Restaurant” or “Academy Supermarket,” and in the run up to the exams, a number of local shoe stores display banners touting their big sales in celebration of the exam period. Even the city’s tricycle-taxis carry large digital LED displays counting down to the exams. Due to the sheer number of students, the school has cancelled all sporting activities. There are CCTV cameras installed in all 160 classrooms, as well as at the school’s main gates, at major intersections of the town and even over the doors of Internet NEWSCHINA I August 2013
Photo by Li qiang
Banned from recharging their mobile phones in their dormitories, students overload free sockets in the campus supermarket
cafes, in order to ensure students are resisting the temptation to indulge in any extracurricular activity. All this seems to be paying off – for the past decade, the average university enrollment rate for the town’s students has been around 80 percent, an achievement that, in the words of Li Zhenhua, “has depended more on non-knowledge related initiatives.”
To ensure students put all their effort into exam preparation, the school enforces a military-style regimen. In student dormitories, all power sockets have been removed in order to prohibit students from wasting time playing with their phones and laptops – the school’s on-site supermarket, the only remaining place with free sockets, is littered with charging cell phones. The school’s ultra-strict regime shocked Wang Ling, a newcomer to the school who is preparing to sit the exam for the NEWSCHINA I August 2013
second time. After failing last year, she felt that her best hope of passing was by moving to Maotanchang. Last year, Wang scored 448 on the exam, short of the pass mark of 512. Maotanchang School charges a yearly fee of 48,000 yuan (US$7,800) for second-time exam candidates who scored below 450 the previous year. Wang Ling was taken aback when she stepped into her new classroom, a room festooned with slogans. On both the front and rear doors of the classroom, signs read: “Silence in the classroom. Those who cannot endure hardship need not enter.” Above the blackboard, a banner declares: “Heaven helps those who help themselves,” while signs on either side read: “Be confident, swear to strive hard, go to college, repay your parents; Treasure your time, lay strong foundations, practice with diligence, and achievement is assured.” Aside from studying, Wang Ling has little else to think about – her schedule, from 6 AM to 11 PM, is arranged en-
Students wish each other luck by signing their names on each other’s backs
tirely by the school. After evening class, most students continue studying until midnight, either at home or in their dormitories. Every day, the basic requirements for students hoping to read a science major include two sets of mathematics papers, four English reading tests, one physics paper and one chemistry paper. Students sit weekly and monthly practice exams, the results of which allow the school to publish student rankings. Teachers at the school believe that as along as students undergo enough rigorous training and repetitive practice, the exams will not be as difficult as they imagine. The training has proven to be effective. In 1999, only 98 students in the town passed the exam, but by 2005, that number had increased to over 1000. Since then, it has risen by almost 1,000 every year. By 2012, a total of 7,626 students were admitted to university, more than 80 percent of the town’s total number of exam candidates.
Students discard reams of revision notes before the exam
Even for teachers at the school, the growth of the past few years has come as a shock – five new buildings have had to be built to allow for the huge numbers of new students. A new stadium, a swimming pool and a shower block are also under construction. “We do not need bank loans for these projects, since we have a continuous supply of students,” Liu Ligui, the school’s president, told NewsChina. Hotels and rental apartments near the school are fully occupied. Wang Ling’s mother, like the parents of most students at the school, moved to Maotanchang with her daughter, and rents a room at a local guesthouse for 100 yuan (US$16) per day. Aside from cooking three meals a day for her daughter, Wang’s mother has almost nothing else to do. Normally, in the early evening, the mothers of students gather at the town square to gossip or practice group dance routines. NEWSCHINA I August 2013
Photo by Li Qiang
Parents gather to see their children into the examination hall
Li Jiajia, another Maotanchang student, lives with her grandmother in a rented house near the school. Her mother visits once a week. Li’s mother, an engineer with a college degree, does not approve of the school’s teaching methods. “But China’s One Child Policy, together with the exam-oriented education system has caused schools like this to emerge,” she told NewsChina. “Still, obtaining a university degree is a prerequisite for young people who want to get a good job.”
Carrot and Stick
Teachers at the school are incentivized with a generous rewards scheme. For each student in their class who earns a place at a top university, a teacher receives a bonus of 3,000 yuan (US$490), with some teachers earning bonuses as high as 50,000 yuan (US$8160), equal to one year’s salary. There are also punishments for teachers who let their pass rates slip. Each year, the school dismisses the teacher whose students
NEWSCHINA I August 2013
score lowest in the college entrance exam. Under this system, teachers focus all their efforts on finding ways to boost their students’ exam scores – no teacher dares to impart any knowledge unrelated to exams, regardless of what they feel is best for their students’ personal development. “The worst thing for me as a teacher is that I have to do things that I think are wrong,” a teacher at the school, speaking on condition of anonymity, told NewsChina. However, as long as China’s national college entrance exam system exists, exam-oriented education is here to stay. Indeed, in the countryside, the exam has become a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for children to escape poverty. On June 5, after seeing off her daughter for Liu’an, Wang Ling’s mother went back to her hotel, and began to pack for her return to Huai’an, a city 400 kilometers away in neighboring Jiangsu Province. “Now, I finally feel relieved,” she told our reporter.
Worked to Death A growing number of young Chinese white-collar employees are dying of exhaustion – is the culture of mandatory overtime to blame?
Photo by CFP
By Xie Ying
n May 13, Li Zheng, a 24-yearold employee at the Beijing office of global PR firm Ogilvy, died of a sudden heart attack. “He was lying lifeless on the stretcher with a sallow face and dilated pupils. [First-aid workers] attempted to resuscitate him, but were unsuccessful,” an anonymous witness revealed on Weibo,
China’s Twitter equivalent. According to Li Zheng’s supervisor, a woman surnamed Teng, Li had been on sick leave over the previous week, and May 13 was the young man’s first day back in the office. Another anonymous source at the company told media that Li had been working overtime for a month before falling ill and
taking sick leave. Although Ogilvy refused to reveal any further details about Li’s death, it was obvious from the 24-year-old’s public microblog posts that he was regularly to be found burning the midnight oil. In the personal description on Li’s Weibo, he called himself “an over-worker in overworking season,” and an earlier post NEWSCHINA I August 2013
revealed that the young man did not leave the office until 11PM on the day of his death. Li’s sudden death stunned his friends, family and co-workers, many of whom have subsequently made public appeals for the country’s young adults to place more importance on their lives, and less on their work. “On the surface, Li Zheng had an enviable job and had showed himself to be a capable employee, but no-one knows the price he paid to prop up that façade,” said an anonymous former schoolmate of Li’s.
All Options Exhausted
Originating in Japan in the late 1960s, the term karoshi, meaning “overworked-todeath,” has come to be defined as “a state of chronic overwork and over-fatigue that gradually heightens the blood pressure and hardens the arteries, often leading to death.” “In simple terms, over-fatigue is a pathological state of poor health – a critical state of imbalance. Overwork further aggravates this imbalance, sometimes leading to illness or death,” An Yang, a health expert from Tongrentang Clinic, a well-known traditional Chinese medicine clinic, explained to NewsChina. According to a 2006 study by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, around 70 percent of the country’s white-collar workers were at risk of being “overworked to death,” many of whom, according to experts, were at immediate risk of potentially fatal cerebrovascular diseases. A typical case was that of Pan Jie, a 25-yearold auditor at PricewaterhouseCoopers China, who passed away last April due to viral meningitis. Although the company attributed Pan’s death to her delay in treating a cold, the media revealed that Pan had spent much of her working life under immense pressure. Pan vented her stress on her microblog in posts such as “Why am I always getting a fever?” “How I long for a good sleep!” and “How I would love to have dinner at home!” One post in particular, written three months before Pan’s death, caught the attention of netizens: “I can accept overwork; I can accept [constant] business trips...but being overworked to death is beyond the pale.” “It is the norm at the leading accounting NEWSCHINA I August 2013
firms for employees to work until midnight, or even until dawn in the busy season or during a big project period,” Cai Lin, a former employee with global accounting firm KPMG in China, told NewsChina. “There are no exceptions. You can choose either to stay or to quit,” she added. A 2012 survey by hr.com.cn, a leading Chinese human resources website, showed that around 80 percent of Chinese whitecollar employees regularly worked overtime, especially those in the auditing, IT and PR industries. The same year, a Peking University report on employment came to a similar conclusion, finding that Chinese employees clocked an average 8.66 hours at work every day, with over 30 percent working more than 10 hours.
However, there is as yet no clear evidence confirming that Li Zheng died from overwork. Bob Pickard, the former Asia-Pacific CEO at global PR firm Burson-Marsteller, said in an interview with Campaign China, also a PR company, that it was perhaps unfair to place blame solely on Ogilvy, since overwork is very common in the industry as a whole, especially in heavily Confucianinfluenced cultures like China, South Korea and Japan. While the term “overworked to death” is a recent introduction into the Chinese vernacular, it could be argued that to some extent, the concept of sacrificing one’s health for the benefit of a collective or organization has long been on the way to becoming ingrained in Chinese culture. In the 1960s and 1970s, as China was in throes of the Cultural Revolution, the establishment was keen to propagate the idea of “revolutionary role models” – one subset of which were those who died, sometimes needlessly, in service of the Communist Party. One of these was Jiao Yulu, Party secretary of Lankao County, Henan Province, who, after contracting liver cancer, stayed at work until his dying day. “[Jiao Yulu] is a good example for other cadres to follow...We should learn from his loyalty and dedication to the Party and to the people,” claimed a commentary in the State
mouthpiece the People’s Daily at the time, initiating a nationwide propaganda campaign urging people to learn from Jiao’s example. Such sentiments are still officially endorsed today. Luo Yang, the 51-year-old designer of China’s J-15 fighter jet and a leading engineer of China’s first aircraft carrier the Liaoning, was honored as “a national role model” in 2012 after he dropped dead at work due to a heart attack shortly after the carrier’s first test. Luo had been leading a group of 15 engineers and designers on the aircraft carrier project, all of whom, in the words of State media reports, were “sacrificing their lives for work.” “[The 15 employees] spent 15 months finishing a workload equivalent to that of 30 months, since work had been delayed due to a particularly harsh frost,” Wang Zhiguo, the project’s designer-in-chief, told the media. Over recent decades, overwork has been spreading rapidly from government projects into private enterprise, with many even regarding it their unique corporate culture. Huawei, one of China’s homegrown telecommunications giants, for example, is noted for what is known as its “mattress culture.” “Many Huawei developers keep mattresses in their office in case they work too late to go home. Sometimes, they work day and night without returning home for months...They just sleep on the mattress, which they see as a kind of home,” wrote Xu Mingda, director of the economics department at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences Shenzhen Branch, in his book on Huawei.
However, not all can handle the strain. In March 2006, 25-year-old Huawei employee Hu Xinyu died of meningitis, for the first time triggering nationwide outrage at the culture of overwork. According to his girlfriend, Hu Xinyu had worked every day from 9 AM till 3 AM for nearly two weeks, only returning home four times during that period. “The heavy workload had forced him to work overtime, and Huawei makes working overtime one of the criteria in gauging an employee’s performance,” she told Southern Weekend, a current affairs magazine.
Huawei denied the accusations. But while no Chinese law specifically designates criminal responsibility in cases of death from overwork, the Regulation on Industrial Injury Insurance defines “any sudden disease that causes death contracted during working hours or in the line of duty, or that causes death within 48 hours of contraction” as an “industrial injury,” and mandates compensation. Since Hu Xinyu’s illness killed him outside of the 48-hour limit, the case ended with Huawei paying Hu’s family an undisclosed sum of money as “humanitarian compensation.” “Hu Xinju did not die of overwork, but of disease,” argued Pan Jun, a spokesman for Huawei. “It is hard to technically clarify ‘overworkto-death’ in law. For example, how do we define the correlations between overwork and someone’s death, and who is supposed to make the definition?” Lu Junxiang, a lawyer at the Beijing-based Crown & Rights law firm, explained to NewsChina. An Yang, the health expert, agreed. “We could say someone’s death was caused by excessive fatigue, but it is hard to prove whether that fatigue was caused by overwork, and how much it contributed to the person’s death,” she said.
China’s Labor Law sets strict rules on working hours – it is illegal for any employee to work more than 40 hours per week, and all employees are entitled to two days off work per week, in addition to national holidays. However, these provisions are rarely enforced. Under pressure following the death of Hu Xinyu, Huawei claimed to have reduced mandatory overtime, but insiders have told the media that the “mattress culture” still prevails in the company. “Huawei’s advantage lies in its low labor costs and rapid product development capabilities. Without ‘mattress culture,’ how can Huawei compete with other international giants?” said an anonymous Huawei employee. “When everyone is a violator, the law has failed,” Shen Jianguo, a deputy manager at a private pharmaceutical company in Zhejiang
Province, told NewsChina. “Every [private] enterprise in China has to work overtime to keep up with the competition. How could we afford to be the exception? I work overtime myself,” he continued. “Most companies would be punished if the Labor Law was strictly enforced, so the authorities have to turn a blind eye to the situation unless an employee files a complaint,” said Lu Junxiang. However, for the sake of money and employment pressure, official complaints are a last resort for employees. “My previous job generally did not require me to work overtime, but I changed jobs for a higher salary. Now, I seldom have dinner with my wife on workdays. But because of the money, I have no plans to quit,” Shi Gang, an IT engineer at a State-owned finance company in Beijing, told NewsChina. “Just today, our boss told us that we had to work overtime to develop a new game, and anyone who was unwilling to do so should quit. But in the end, only one person quit,” Chen Xi, a designer at a private online game producer in Beijing, told NewsChina. “Nobody wants to work overtime, but we need a job,” he added. This partly explains why Huang Zixuan, a 22-year-old college graduate, accepted a job offer from a private dress design studio in Shanghai, even though she was told she would have only one day off per week. “We have little to bargain with,” she told our reporter. According to media reports, nearly 7 million college graduates will enter the Chinese job market this year, 190,000 more than last year, while the number of available positions has dropped by 15 percent. “The government actually faces a conundrum. Were it to tighten the enforcement of the law, most enterprises would incur huge costs expanding their staff or lengthening their product development time, which would be a significant financial burden. While if the laws remains loosely implemented, and workers continue to be deprived of their right to rest, the physical and psychological health of workers will suffer,” Lu Junxiang said. “It is really not a simple problem of legislation.” NEWSCHINA I August 2013
Gold in Ghana
Paying the Price Thousands of illegal Chinese gold miners in Ghana have been ejected in the country’s crackdown on foreign migrants
Photo by Liu Gang/ IC
By Yang Di in Guangxi
Miners filter sand at a gold mine in Kumasi, Ghana, 1 November 2012
orty-year-old Meng Tianming finally heaved a sigh of relief when his flight touched down in Baiyun Airport, Guangzhou, on June 7. “I’d barely escaped death,” Meng later told our reporter. Stocky in build and heavily tanned, Meng has been mining in Ghana, Africa’s second-biggest gold producer, for the past three years. Like thousands of his fellow miners from Shanglin County, Guangxi Province, Meng was lured to this gold-rich West African country by the prospect of quick riches working for Chinese mining concerns. On May 14, Ghanaian President John Mahama ordered a crackdown on illegal gold and diamond mining. Mahama said to the Ghanaian media: “In organizing this inter-ministerial taskforce targeting illegal small-scale mining, I am sending a clear signal to the offending individuals and groups that the government will not allow their activities to cause conflict, dislocation, environmental degradation, and unemployment, when, in fact, the sector should benefit our commuNEWSCHINA I August 2013
nities and help develop Ghana.” In this clamp-down initiative, a total of 169 Chinese miners were detained, threatened and attacked, and over 100 million yuan (US$16m) worth of mining equipment was confiscated or destroyed by the Ghanaian taskforce. According to Meng Tianming, over half of the seats on his homebound plane were occupied by former miners from Shanglin.
Total gold reserves in Ghana are estimated to be over 1.75 billion ounces, enough to keep the country’s mines running for an estimated 700 years. Most of the large-scale ore mines are operated by Western mining companies or African local cooperatives including Greenwood Village, the Colorado-based Newmont Mining Corp. (NEM), Johannesburg’s AngloGold Ashanti Ltd. (ANG) and Gold Fields Ltd. (GFI).
Photo by CFP
Gold dust and nuggets filtered from Ghanaian sand
Ghana’s mining regulations decree that only Ghanaian citizens can hold small-scale mining licenses, and foreign companies are only allowed to work on large, open-pit operations or to provide technical support and equipment to Ghanaian miners. Accordingly, many Ghanaian-owned small-scale mining operations have sought Chinese funding and equipment. Tens of thousands of Chinese nationals, many of them illegal immigrants, have also flooded into Ghana’s gold industry. Cheap, Chinese-made gold mining equipment has quickly become popular in mining towns in Ghana and Chinese entrepreneurs are also controlling small-scale operations behind the scenes, typically through local intermediaries. Chinese shops and restaurants have begun to appear in the mining town of Ashanti Kumasi, the country’s gold hub.
Photo by Xinhua
Photo by IC
A group of 158 undocumented Chinese miners await deportation outside Accra’s immigration office, June 10
Two illegal miners in Kumasi finish a day’s work, November 3, 2012
The vast majority of Chinese gold miners working illegally in Ghanaian mines come from the small county of Shanglin in southern Guangxi, a province approximately the same size as Ghana. Chen Meilian, a spokeswoman for the Shanglin government, said recently that at least 12,000 local residents had left in the African gold rush that began in 2006. “We Shanglin natives are good at mining gold; this is our inborn talent,” said Meng Tianming, who has worked in gold mines for over 20 years, and learned his business in his early teens. While Shanglin’s alluvial gold reserves cannot hold a candle to Ghana’s rich seams, many locals cut their teeth in the gold industry in China in the early 1980s, relying on traditional picks, shovels and panning. Later, sand pumps were employed to pump gold-flecked silt through a filtration system. As Meng Tianming puts it, “Only we Shanglin people can master this technology.” When local gold resources dried up, Shanglin’s miners departed for other gold-rich areas of China, particularly Xinjiang, Shandong, and Heilongjiang provinces. Meng Tianming went to Heilongjiang at the age of 18 to work in gold mines. Unscrupulous mining in that province, coupled with inefficient equipment and a general lack of knowhow led the central government to clamp down on all but the biggest State projects, and private mining operations were banned. This forced Shanglin’s miners to look outside of China for opportunities, and they set their sights on gold-rich Ghana, prompting an exodus. Official statistics in Ghana indicate that over half of the country’s annual gold output is mined by Chinese laborers, most of them illegal workers. In the mid-2000s, the first group of Shanglin miners introduced their unique sand pumping technology to Ghana, which facilitated the small-scale extraction of gold dust. Seeing that more and more of his fellow countrymen had made a fortune in West Africa, Meng Tianming was itching to get in on the action. He and four of his relatives raised a total of two million yuan NEWSCHINA I August 2013
(US$326,222) in early 2010, buying sand pumps and shipping the equipment to Ghana before applying for visas. Following the advice of other Shanglin miners, upon arrival, Meng Tianming contacted a village chief in Kumasi, who helped Meng locate a small gold deposit owned by a local landlord. Meng spent 20,000 Ghanaian cedi (US$12,000) on obtaining a lease on 25 acres of land, and then paid compensation to local farmers for crop losses. Then, heedless of the Ghanaian government’s restrictions on smallscale private mining operations, he started work. Excavators would extract riverbank sand until the gold layer was exposed. Then, the sand pump would be fined up, sluicing silt down a trough and through a series of filters designed to trap gold nuggets and flakes. Meng took personal charge of collecting the nuggets.
Meng admits that he knew there was a risk in going into the Ghanaian gold business. “Ghana’s laws forbid foreigners to conduct smallscale gold mining,” he told NewsChina. “But in our contracts with the locals, we required the local chief and our Ghanaian business partners to fix any legal issues involving the government.” While such a strategy would might prove effective in China, where local notables typically have secured their positions through connections in high places, the same is not necessarily true in Ghana. Meng’s unfamiliarity with the existing political and social climate in his new place of business would quickly lead him into trouble. Before the fully-fledged crackdown on illegal mining operations, signs that the Ghanaian authorities were pushing back against the influx of Chinese were everywhere. Sporadic arrests of illegal Chinese miners began to occur, followed by deportations. In October 2012, a 16-year-old Chinese boy was shot dead while fleeing armed security personnel in the gold-rich Ashanti region. During that operation against illegal miners, more than 100 Chinese citizens were detained. In January this year, 41 illegal Chinese miners were detained by Ghanaian police. Tiny Chinese mining companies did not, however, withdraw from Ghana, trusting in their networks of local connections and ignoring the changing political landscape, believing their “friends” in village councils and police stations would protect them. In a previous interview with Bloomberg in 2012, Ghanaian Foreign Minister Alhaji Mohammed Mumuni was quoted as saying that in some areas, an “unholy alliance” between Chinese gold prospectors and local citizens was damaging the country’s economy and environment. The illegal mining “is affecting our environment in a very deleterious way and we need to work hard to stamp it out,” said Alhaji. According to the Guardian newspaper, as has happened in other African states, illegal Chinese workers have come under fire in Ghana for taking local jobs, polluting lakes and rivers, and arming their security personnel with rifles in a bid to deter robbers. Brigadier General Daniel Mishio, chairman of Ghana’s National NEWSCHINA I August 2013
Security Commission for Land and Natural Resources, complained to the media in April that due to Chinese mining activities, “people don’t even get clean drinking water, and in some areas you can see that most of the forest cover has been destroyed.”
On the morning of May 16, Meng Tianming was working on-site as usual when a friend called him to say that local newspapers had announced a government-led expulsion of all illegal gold miners. Although he could not read English, Meng had picked up hints of a coming storm from television reports in which the president had spoken out against illegal Chinese mining operations. From the end of 2012, rumors about an impending government crackdown were circulating in Ghana’s Chinese communities, and sporadic robberies and looting began to be reported at some mining operations. At the same time, Meng learned that the Shanglin County government had sent representatives to Ghana to negotiate with local officials. Meng believed the crisis would be resolved at the government level, perhaps with illegal mine bosses like himself being slapped with minor fines, as had happened before. “Because we have signed contracts with the landowner, and we are their contractor, we might still be illegal immigrants, but we are not illegal miners,” Meng told our reporter. On May 27, negotiations between the Shanglin county government and the Ghanaian government broke down. All illegal Chinese miners working in the country were advised to leave. A Shanglin County official told NewsChina that their representatives had tried to persuade the Ghanaian government to give Chinese miners two months’ notice to leave Ghana, in order to allow them to wrap up their businesses and transfer them to Ghanaian ownership. However, with public opinion now firmly against illegal Chinese immigrant laborers, their request was rejected. June 2, a total of 169 illegal Chinese immigrants were arrested or detained by police. Mines operated by Chinese in cities like Kumasi, Dunkwa and Obuasi were raided, and some were set on fire. On June 4, Meng Tianming learned that his mine site near Kumasi had been razed by Ghanaian security forces, with all his equipment and electronic appliances looted. “It’s a huge loss,” Meng said. As of June 13, all Chinese nationals arrested during the crackdown had been released, however they are unlikely to return to their former workplaces in Ghana. However, Shanglin County and its miners have become hooked on African gold, and few wish to remain in China when there might be opportunities in less hostile states. “I’m good at nothing other than gold mining,” Meng told our reporter. “I have to go where the gold is. My next stop might be Cameroon or Zimbabwe.”
Up For Review Chinaâ€™s sluggish new drug approval process is costing multinational manufacturers more than just market share
Photo by cfp
By Sun Zhe
hen multinational drug makers deal in China, the value of patience might come second only to guanxi - connections. A new foreign drug can only be approved for retail in China three to four years after hitting shelves in the US or Europe due to rigid regulations and a drawn-out review process, according to a survey by IMS Health, a medical consultancy based in Shanghai. China is one of few countries that require new foreign medicines to be tested according to local standards through domestic clinical trials. Typically, only drugs that have been marketed overseas or those that have passed primary clinical trials are approved for testing in China. Of course, there are always exceptions.
Novartis has become the first foreign pharmaceutical company to have one of its products approved for early-stage clinical trials by Chinaâ€™s State Food and Drug Administration (SFDA). The treatment in question, a lung cancer drug, is expected to be the first new foreign drug to hit the Chinese market at the same time as other world markets, according to a May report by the China Business News. This change comes at the same time as the SFDA has renewed efforts to streamline Chinaâ€™s new drug review process. In early March the SFDA stated in a guideline that, during the review process, priority would be given to new drugs that could address an unmet need or could promote market competition and thus lower prices for similar NEWSCHINA I August 2013
drugs on the Chinese market. However, this change is unlikely to have been made with the interests of Chinese patients in mind. According to reports, the SFDA had already decided to speed up the review process mainly because a State program of innovation in domestic pharmaceutical development drug innovation is beginning to bear fruit, according to Chen Changxiong, deputy secretary general of China Pharmaceutical Industry Research and Development Association.
China has set itself ambitious goals in pharmaceutical innovation targets rolled out in 2005, which demand that pharmacologists deliver 100 new medicines or medical treatments for the country’s most pressing health problems – particularly cancer, diabetes and cardiovascular diseases - by 2020. The program also set a target to transition China from a generic drug manufacturer to major leader in pharmaceutical R&D, specifically, to earn the country a place in the world’s top three by 2020. Currently, however, China is struggling to get new drugs onto the market, thanks to a bloated and bureaucratic approval system as well as a guanxi-centric network of healthcare providers. “To realize [the transition of the] Chinese pharmaceutical industry from imitator to creator depends upon the elimination of innovation bottlenecks,” said Alex Zuo, a spokesman for the R&D-based Pharmaceutical Association Committee (RDPAC), a non-profit organization representing 39 member multinational pharmaceutical producers in China under the China Association of Enterprises with Foreign Investment. It takes 10 to 18 months for a new drug simply to get the go-ahead from the SFDA to start clinical trials, in contrast to about one month in the US and two in the EU. The lengthy approval procedure disincentivizes drug innovation because it shortens the time left within the 20-year patent protection period for new drugs, a period vital for drug makers to recoup often immense R&D costs and actually turn a profit. According to Zuo, some domestic pharmaceutical enterprises even resort to clinical trials in other countries just to speed up the process. So far, China’s pharmaceutical industry has a low market concentration and weak R&D capabilities, particularly compared to India and other large developing economies. Almost all of more than 3,000 chemical medicines manufactured in China since the 1950s are imitations of foreign products, as are more than 90 percent of China’s domestically manufactured biopharmaceuticals. “Regulations have been improved over past two decades, yet one still finds vestiges of this generic background,” Chloe Liu, managing partner of Modular R&D, an industry consultancy based in Shanghai, remarked in a research paper. “The Chinese drug approval system was developed in the context of a large generic manufacturing industry,” she continued. “In the beginning, the drug regulator was faced with ensuring the production quality of thousands of small manufacturing facilities, instead of safety and efficacy concerns surrounding innovative new drugs.” NEWSCHINA I August 2013
Besides a strong copycat tradition, a feature of many Chinese manufacturing enterprises, the new drug approval procedure is also hampered by a lack of personnel in regulatory agencies. The Chinese Center for Drug Evaluation, the department of the SFDA in charge of approving clinical trials for new drugs, has only about 120 personnel screening over 6,000 applications per year, in contrast to some 3,300 working for the US FDA, which deals with far fewer applications. “The State Council sets employment quotas at the SFDA, so hiring more people is not that simple,” said Liu. This inefficiency has kept some life-saving drugs outside of China, at great cost to the country’s healthcare system. For instance, the HPV vaccine, which could prevent 70 percent of cervical cancer cases and has been included as a fundamental part of all healthcare provision in many countries since it was first marketed in 2006, remains unavailable in China. About 15 percent of Chinese women are infected with HPV, and 75,000 of them are diagnosed with cervical cancer each year. Apart from insisting on the factoring-in of racial differentials, an area of controversy in the medical field, China’s drug regulator requires additional localized clinical testing in part because the results of clinical trials conducted by domestic pharmaceutical companies struggle to be recognized overseas. This tit-for-tat approach to management is common in Chinese industry, but is particularly problematic in the pharmaceutical sector. China is now the world’s fastest-growing pharmaceuticals market, with total predicted revenue of 1 trillion yuan (US$162.5bn) this year, and is expected to grow about 12 percent annually, doubling in size by 2019 due to a combination of extended coverage and an ageing population, according to a research report by the China Academy of Social Sciences. While desperate for an inroad in the China market, foreign drug makers are confronted with far broader challenges than excessive bureaucracy. A major concern for international companies wishing to introduce new drugs into China is data leakage, given that the SFDA requires extremely detailed data prior to even beginning the review process, according to Chen. “One thing that the SFDA could do is strengthen its protection of data submitted by drug manufacturers,” said Zuo of the RDPAC. In 2012, only a year after Tygacil was approved by the SFDA, two Chinese copycats were greenlit by the SFDA, one of which was funded by the State drug innovation program. Tygacil is a super-antibiotic used to treat antibiotic-resistant bacteria and manufactured by Pfizer, which was marketed in the US in 2005 and Europe in 2006, with a patent that does not expire until 2016. The Chinese copycats of Tygacil are about 20 percent cheaper than the original, and there is little Pfizer can do to get them taken off the market. With cheap local copycat drugs being approved faster than legitimate imported ones, it’s little wonder that global pharmaceutical giants are reluctant to become entangled in China’s chaotic market.
Swiss Bliss A freshly-reached free trade agreement with Switzerland may help China move up the global value chain. But can China change enough to attract the biggest players? By Li Jia
ollecting European clocks was a predilection of the Qing Dynasty emperors. Some of these dainty knick-knacks are on display today in the For-
bidden City’s collections. Today, Chinese elites remain enamoured of European, particularly Swiss, timepieces. The watchmakers of Geneva, Zurich
and Bern, meanwhile, have been only too happy to indulge this expensive habit. “The importance of the Chinese market for Swiss watches goes without saying,” ran a May NEWSCHINA I August 2013
Photo by CFP
Models at a department store in Qingdao, Shandong Province, during an event marking the 150th anniversary of the Swiss watch brand Ernest Borel, October 29, 2006
that of any other major market, particularly the US and Germany, since 2012. Part of the reason, according to a report by the China Watch and Clock Association, lay in punitive import tariffs slapped by China on all luxury goods. Swiss Army Knives, Swissmade handbags and even Swiss chocolate were all prohibitively expensive items even for middle class Chinese. This gap is expected to be narrowed by the free trade agreement (FTA) between China and Switzerland, which is expected to be inked and go into force in July after negotiations concluded in May. The sweeping package of stipulations in the deal includes the removal of all bilateral tariff barriers, the opening of each country’s service sector to the other and the establishment of a framework for facilitating bilateral investment. Most Chinese media have only one question. Will this deal make Swiss watches cheaper in China? However, China’s interest in an FTA with Switzerland goes far beyond just satisfying the nouveau-riche hunger for flashy timepieces. The Sino-Swiss deal is the highest level FTA that China has ever established in terms of both the partner nation and the content of the deal itself. Chinese officials hope this agreement will pave the way toward more ambitious deals with similarly advanced economies. The most optimistic pundits see these hopes as a guarantor of further economic reform, as China applies itself to fair engagement in trade with developed economies.
press release from the Federation of Swiss Watchmakers. The growth rate of the Chinese mainland market for Swiss watches lagged far behind NEWSCHINA I August 2013
Few developed countries in the world can compare with Switzerland in terms of sheer openness to Chinese money. In 1980, when most Western companies were hesitant to enter a recently-opened China, Swiss elevator giant Schindler established China’s first industrial joint venture. UBS, a Swiss banking giant, secured licenses for all kinds of securities operations in China, holding 49 percent maximum equity in securities joint ventures, before these two policies were opened to foreign investors. In 2007, Switzerland became the first European country
to recognize China as a market economy, something that most developed economies, particularly the EU and US, still remain reluctant to do. Switzerland’s trade surplus with China has remained unchallenged for decades, a position that most of other Western countries, particularly the US and the EU, lost in the 1990s as cheaply-made Chinese manufactured goods flooded their markets. Swiss ingenuity has taken the appeal of its products beyond the fields of fashion and food. While Chinese textile and shoemakers may export tons of goods to Switzerland, many of these products are manufactured on Swiss-made textile machines. A recent report by Swissmem, the association of Swiss mechanical and electrical engineering industries, highlighted the role of the Chinese market in increasing the “significance of the Asian markets in the long-term comparison.” Switzerland is also an important source of hi-tech products for China, brought into the country either by direct investment by Swiss companies or import contracts. The bilateral FTA merely enriches an already sweet deal. Zero tariffs will be applied to all Chinese industrial exports to Switzerland, and 84 percent of Swiss imports to China. All other Swiss imports, mostly very high-end products, will have tariffs reduced to zero or by 60 percent gradually over five to 15 years. This is higher than the 90 percent trade in tariff removal and reduction laid down in previous FTAs, according to Ministry of Commerce (MOFCOM) official Yu Jianhua, China’s chief negotiator. Though details of the opening of both countries’ respective service sectors have not been disclosed, during his recent visit to Switzerland Chinese premier Li Keqiang expressed particular interest in Chinese cooperation with the world-leading Swiss financial sector. With Swiss brands already well-represented in China’s restrictive luxury consumer import market, according to Professor Zhang Jian with the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, Swiss exporters will gain more than ever
by accusations of government meddling in Chinese solar panel manufacturing, undercutting European competitors with massive subsidies. The FTA, Professor Zhang told our reporter, would help Swiss companies expand in China’s huge market and provide new opportunities for Chinese business presence, particularly investment, in the EU via the EU-Swiss FTA signed in 1972.
China’s trade decifit with Switzerland (US$bn)
Photo by xu dan / IC
Source: Chinese Ministry of Commerce
Visitors look at Swiss Army Knives displayed during a national consumer goods fair at the Shanghai Everbright Convention & Exhibition Center, 2003
from this FTA. China, meanwhile, can secure the high-tech goods it craves at a heavy discount, something it has failed to achieve in trade negotiations with the US and EU. The EU does, however, have a role to play in the new FTA. According to reports by the
Swiss Broadcasting Corporation, Switzerland is concerned that the prospect of a US-EU FTA would give European rivals a better foothold in the US market. Tension between China and the EU has been rising significantly due to trade disputes triggered
Before securing an FTA with Switzerland, Beijing had 10 FTAs in operation with 19 economies, mostly immediate neighbors such as the ASEAN group of nations and Pakistan. A few others had been signed with distant, small and developing economies such as Chile and Peru. More recently, however, China has begun to accelerate new FTA negotiations with larger, more influential economies, including Australia, Norway and South Korea. The recent deal with Switzerland has strengthened China’s resolve to see these deals through. The possibility of such deals with the US and the EU has already been raised by the academic and business communities in all three trade blocs, though officials have remained lukewarm. Professor Zhang believes that the Sino-Swiss FTA may encourage developed high-end manufacturing and service sectors, and more pro-free trade administrations such as those in Germany and the UK, to provide strong support for the EU-China FTA. Negotiations over the Sino-Swiss FTA were notable for several breakthroughs which saw China make guarantees on intellectual property rights, environmental protection and labor conditions, traditionally areas off the table in trade negotiations with China. Yu Jianhua of MOFCOM stressed that the Swiss FTA “has laid a good foundation” for China’s negotiations in other regional and global trade deals with advanced economies. The evident desire for closer business relations with advanced economies fits well with China’s current stated goal of moving up the supply chain, developing its weak high-end service sector while improving social conditions, according to Dr Huo JiNEWSCHINA I August 2013
NEWSCHINA I August 2013
bynumbers US$625bn The total outstanding debts of 36 provincial and municipal governments in China by the end of 2012, a 13 percent increase in two years. Source: National Audit Office
Borrowing before and in 2010: US$339bn
Borrowing in 2011: US$103bn
Borrowing in 2012: US$185bn 0
The average monthly salary earned by Chinese migrant workers employed outside the Chinese mainland in 2012.
The ratio of bond financing to loan financing in Chinese companies since 2012, compared with 1:50 in 2006
Monthly average salaries for Chinese migrant workers in 2012
Source: China National Association of Financial Market Institutional Investors
150 100 50
Central China: US$366
Western China: US$361
Eastern China: US$371
anguo, president of the Chinese Academy of International Trade and Economic Cooperation. However, in FTA negotiations China has also found itself under more pressure than ever to open its market to fair competition. Dr Huo noted that high-end manufacturing and the service sectors, particularly finance, logistics, healthcare and telecoms, represent the most meaningful area in which China can reform its trade practices, adding that a desire to secure more FTAs is likely to prelude genuine change. Huo, along with many academics, hopes that the proposed FTAs would facilitate unprecedented Chinese openness in these key sectors, allowing fresh impetus and competitive pressure to boost China’s flagging market reforms. “This is much more important than how many favorable conditions we [China] gain from FTAs,” Huo told our reporter. Professor Zhang added that guaranteeing pledges on labor conditions and other social situations in the process of securing FTAs is likely to lead to genuine progress in the field of employment and corporate law in China. The rule of law and equal market access to those sectors strongly protected by State intervention are what foreign players in China have been calling for ever since Deng Xiaoping conditionally opened China for business. The annual confidence survey by the EU Chamber of Commerce in China shows European companies are “unsure as to whether China’s leaders have the appetite to seriously address these necessary economic reforms.” Most members of the US Chamber of Commerce in China (AmCham China) responded in their survey that the increasingly challenging regulatory environment in China, their top concern, had been either “not improving” or “deteriorating” in the past three years. Without domestic tax reduction, Chinese consumers will not feel the benefit of cheaper Swiss imports. Without domestic reform, China would never have benefited from Opening-up. Now, if China can abide by the rules it sets down in FTAs with developed economies, the country could turn another page in its drive towards modernity.
0 Source: China National Bureau of Statistics
Increase in imports and exports in private Chinese companies over the first five months of 2013, compared with 0.7 percent growth recorded by foreign-funded companies and a 4.4 percent decrease recorded by State-owned enterprises. Chinese private companies: US$536bn; 32% Foreign-funded companies in China: US$755bn; 45% SOEs: US$302bn; 18% Others: US$8bn;h 5% Source: Chinese Ministry of Commerce
823 million The number of individuals whose credit information is included in the Chinese central bank’s database by the end of 2012. 1.86 million enterprises and other institutions also have their data stored with the central bank. Source: People’s Bank of China
Dell’s production facilities in Chengdu, Sichuan Province
Photo by liu zhen
Powered by IT “
Our aim is to build the Chengdu base into our global flagship,” declared Huang Yunfei, when the first Dell factory in Chengdu, capital city of Sichuan Province in southwestern China, went into operations in June. According to Huang, who is heading up Dell’s whole Chengdu project, the facilities will be equipped with the most advanced production processes and management systems that the world’s leading PC maker can provide. It will include 20-plus production lines for both desktops and laptops for global supply via a logistics network encompassing air, railway, sea and road. Dell’s operation and ambition are part of the strong position and vision of the electronic and information industry in Chengdu. The city produces 100 million laptops per year, more than anywhere else in the world, one out of every two China-made microchips, and 70 percent of the world’s iPads. 13 out of 20 global leading software companies have established operations there, and nearly half of the world’s Top 500 companies, such as Intel, Microsoft, Lenovo, Wistron, Huawei and Foxconn have set up regional headquarters in Chengdu.
Already integrated into the global high-end supply chain of the IToriented electronics and information industry, Chengdu is prepared to go even further.
In December 2011, Chengdu officially launched a mega-project to build a 1578-sqare kilometer special zone, known as the Tianfu New Area featuring high-end manufacturing concerns, tertiary industries and cosmopolitan residential communities. Tianfu is slated to become one of China’s most important inland platforms for openingup, which facilitates economic and cultural communication between China’s western hinterland and the rest of the world. At the core of Tianfu are two major bases, one for electronics and IT and the other for auto R&D. Each is expected to contribute output valued at more than hundreds of billions of US dollars. As a result, the total output of the Tianfu New Area is expected to reach about US$106 billion by 2020, rising to US$195 billion by 2030. Some sectors of the electronic and information industry have alNEWSCHINA I August 2013
Investors are attracted to Chengdu by efficient administrative procedures, preferential policies, a rich talent pool, a pleasant environment and great growth potential. Luo Xiaoyin, a leading figure in musical composition for China’s online gaming industry, is establishing his own studio in the zone. “Orders from Chengdu have been increasing rapidly in recent years because more and more online game developers are coming [here], including major ones from Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou,” he explained. In the mobile network sector, high-end talents like executives and technicians have found the salary gap in the Tianfu zone has narrowed significantly with those in China’s biggest cities. This has partly resulted from supportive fiscal, HR and services policies. About 500 mobile network companies with 20,000 employees have gathered there, covering various services, like telecommunications research, terminal R&D and manufacturing, app development, online payment initiatives and general e-commerce. According to the zone’s plan, by 2017 its mobile network sector will reach a total value of US$33 billion, with more than 1,000 companies and more than 100,000 personnel working from Tianfu. Windy Wing Animation is one of many companies attracted by favorable policies. “We got fiscal support when we started up in 2006, and many business communication platforms here are also very helpful for us,” said Windy Wing’s general manager Chen Jinjing, general manager. “We started by providing services for other companies,” she continued. “Since 2009 we shifted focus to our own projects.” Their efforts have apparently paid off. Their cartoons about a capricious 10-year old girl made in 2010 have proved a great success with readers. Chen and her team are now working on cartoons based on world classics of the genre for their march into the international market, and some new stories will boost their brand building efforts.
International giants already have a strong presence in Chengdu, and will expand their operations here in the future. By the end of May, Intel had manufactured 1.3 billion processors in the city. “There is one of the world’s largest microchip packaging and testing centers, and one of the three largest wafer pretreatment facilities [in Chengdu],” said Ge Jun, executive director of Intel China. “Half of Intel’s global supply of microprocessors for mobile equipment is from our
NEWSCHINA I August 2013
Michael Dell, CEO of Dell Inc., visits the company’s plant in Chengdu, Sichuan Province
Photo by wang wei
A Place to Grow
Photo by liu zhen
ready become established in the new zone, in particular integrated circuits, computing, optoelectronic displays, microelectronics and the Internet of things. Global IT giants are particularly interested in building a foothold there. “The Tianfu New Area’s focus on high-end manufacturing will make a difference to the IT industry,” said Wang Rui, an official with the Chengdu Municipal Government Economic and Information Committee.
Section D of the Tianfu Software Park, Chengdu, Sichuan Province
Chengdu plants. Intel has personally witnessed the fast growth of the IT industry in Chengdu over the years.” Pian Chenggang, general manager of Intel Chengdu, expressed satisfaction with their experience. “We believe we have made the right decision of operating in Chengdu, and we will continue growing with the city,” he remarked. Chengdu plays an important role in the global IT market as well as the local economy. It makes 20 percent of the world’s packaged PCs and tests 50 percent of laptops on top of 70 percent of Apple’s tablets. The IT industry created more than US$61 billion in revenue in 2012, compared with less than US$3 billion in 2001. The added value of this revenue contributed 13.7 percent to Chengdu’s GDP growth. Now Chengdu has become a fully-fledged electronic and information industry center, providing quality services for the whole supply chain on a large scale. In 2012, the output of the electronic and information industry in Chengdu was valued at nearly US$50 billion, accounting for more than one-third of the city’s US$132 billion GDP. The scale of local industry ranks only behind Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou on the Chinese mainland. “Chengdu has become the fourth largest center for the industry in China,” claimed Ye Zhijun, an official with the Chengdu Municipal Government Economic and Information Committee.
The Financial Center of China’s West
image courtey of Chengdu Hi-tech Industrial Development Zone
Rendering of the Financial Headquarters Business District, Chengdu, Sichuan Province
n 1996, Chengdu’s growing importance in China’s economy led Singapore-based OCBC Bank to set up the first foreignfunded bank in the city, the capital of Sichuan Province. “The Chinese central government has decided to make Chengdu a hub for finance, commerce, science and technology and transportation in the southwest of the country. A trial project of ruralurban integration reform is being implemented there, and with its growing attractiveness and ever-improving services, Chengdu is increasingly participating in international cooperation and communication, improving its global profile,” commented Li Huihui, general manager of the OCBC’s personal banking service. In recent years, more and more foreign banks are choosing to establish operations in Chengdu. With steady progress in its financial market structure and innovation, the city is on the fast track to becoming a financial center of China’s western region.
Pudong in the West
As planned, one part of the Tianfu New Area, a special economic zone in Chengdu, is designed to be an important center focusing on financial, commerce and exhibition services in the
west of China. The blueprint for this area was approved early this year, and the construction of a five-square-kilometer base for headquarters of financial companies broke ground in 2009. Many believe it has prospects of replicating the economic success of the Pudong area of Shanghai, which rose rapidly to become China’s most developed commercial places. More than 100 financial institutions, such as the Sichuan Provincial Banking Regulatory Bureau, Minsheng Bank and Anbang Insurance, have all established a presence in the area. The added value created by financial services has exceeded US$1.6 billion, and financial watchdogs, headquarters of financial companies and other financial service providers combine to establish a fullyfledged financial industry here. More are on the way. According to figures from the financial administration of the Chengdu Municipal Government, 25 projects with US$4.5 billion of total investment are either under way or will be launched this year. About US$1 billion will be invested this year. “Once fully completed, the whole area will cover more than 10 million square meters, with total investment exceeding NEWSCHINA I August 2013
US$16 billion, making the area a major pillar of China’s western financial center,” said an official.
so that local companies are able to provide this kind of business for international financial institutions. For example, multinationals will be encouraged to locate their settlement centers in Chengdu.
Photo by zhang lang
Photo byZhou didi
A report assessing financial markets in China’s major cities puts Chengdu Foreign Players ahead of any other city in the country’s With 13 banks, one representative mid-west. In 2012, Chengdu’s finanbank office, 11 insurance companies, cial sector reported US$12 billion in one insurance office, and one repreadded value, representing a year-onsentative office for securities, there are year increase of 13.7 percent and acmore foreign-funded financial institucounting for 9.1 percent of local GDP. tions in Chengdu than any other city Innovative services are growing fast. in China’s mid-west. By the end of 2012, 104 micro-finance “After 10 years of rapid growth drivcompanies had received licenses, and en by the country’s ‘Go West’ strattheir loans outstanding reached more egy, China’s western area has seen its than US$3 billion, outperforming economy at an historical turning point most other major cities of the same where it will move toward faster, betscale as Chengdu. Besides, there are The Chengdu branch of the South Korea’s Woori Bank ter development,” said Feng Shaoji, an 158 guarantee companies providing executive at Standard Chartered. The guarantees for US$23 billion in outbank has pleased with the strong perstanding loans. formance of its one branch and three Chengdu is the first city in China’s sub-branches in the city. west to launch a financial service out“OCBC Bank has witnessed Chengsourcing park. 14 centers for financial du’s rapid growth in our 17 years back-office services and 30 third-party of experience here,” Li Huihui said. financial outsourcing companies have Chengdu has not only recorded rapid been established there so far. GDP growth, but is increasingly atBy the end of 2015, according to the tractive to foreign investors. 223 of the plans for the financial sector, Chengdu world’s top 500 companies are doing will have become China’s western hub business in Chengdu, and more than for financial institutions and financial ten countries have set up consular offices and other representative offices in business. By 2015, added value in the Chengdu. financial sector in Chengdu is expected Chengdu recently hosted the Forto contribute more than 20 percent of the added value of the local service intune Global Forum, a gathering of global financial giants. Li Huihui bedustry, and 10 percent of local GDP. Chengdu Municipal Government Affairs Service Center lieves that hosting the forum was both The number of financial institutions is expected to reach 300 with more than a challenge and an opportunity for 300,000 employees, making the finanChengdu, and that it introduced the cial sector a pillar of Chengdu’s economy. city to the high-profile international business community. As a result of Chengdu’s great efforts to attract investment in “We will try to attract more financial legal entities to Chengdu and encourage the development of innovative financial services, recent years, “the city has already become the major financial thus improving the competitiveness of Chengdu as a financial center in the southwest of China,” commented Mr. Kwan Tat center,” said an official with the local financial administration. To Cheong, Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer of the achieve this goal, the government will support a number of local Bank of East Asia China. financial institutions, such as the Bank of Chengdu, the Chengdu Allianz China Life, a German-Chinese joint venture life inRural Commercial Bank and Jintai Insurance, to develop nation- surance company, is highly optimistic about the prospects of Chengdu’s financial sector. “Chengdu is a shining newcomer in al operations through listing, restructuring and expanding. The local financial administration also plans to boost the de- China’s financial sector; it has great potential,” said Chen Liang, velopment of local financial outsourcing and back-office services, the company’s CEO.
NEWSCHINA I August 2013
Photo by Wang Shuzhou
Farmers in Huixian carrying out a reclamation project, 1974
Staged Struggles, Posed Politics Can an exhibition of propaganda photos from the Cultural Revolution teach younger generations anything about the reality of the Ten Disastrous Years? By Wu Ziru
NEWSCHINA I August 2013
Communications militia from the Huixian Machineworks, 1975
Photo by Wang Shuzhou
Photo by Wang Shuzhou
Photo by Wang Shuzhou
Militia from Huixian’s foundry participate in rifle training, 1975
Students at a memorial, 1973
everal girls dressed in padded plaid cotton suits smile broadly as they smash huge rocks with iron hammers. This photo features prominently in the center of the Inter Art Center & Gallery in Beijing’s 798 Art District, where the exhibition “Photos of Rural China in the 1970s” was being held. Wang Shuzhou was the only photographer with work featured. The young women in the photo were from Huixian County, Henan Province, and were members of the area’s noted “Girl Quarry Team.” They were participating in a government-led drive for production called “Struggling Against Heaven and Earth.” Their work simply involved breaking rocks – work traditionally done by convicts. On the NEWSCHINA I August 2013
wall behind them is a slogan that reads, “Learn from Yugong! Remove mountains to Remold China.” Yugong was a semi-mythical historical figure who was reputed to have been able to move mountains. In the early 1970s, Wang Shuzhou was in his twenties and working at the Revolutionary Culture Propaganda Station in Huixian County. The station provided him with a Seagull 120 camera and asked him to visit the villages in the county. He was to take photos of locals participating in centrally-directed political movements in the area. However, as Wang Shuzhou revealed to NewsChina, the subjects of his photo were actually posing for the camera, and the scene was entirely staged. “I was asked only to take photos in this way. At the
time, I was only concerned with making my photos look like those in the People’s Daily or PLA [People’s Liberation Army] Pictorial,” he said. Those seeking to study the chaotic years of the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976) often struggle to find primary source material that isn’t either Party propaganda or unverifiable testimony. So few unaltered sources have survived that often academics have to pick apart staged photographs, like Wang’s, to learn the truth of what went on in China during the Ten Disastrous Years. For the Beijing exhibition, Wang Shuzhou selected more than 500 photos from his personal archive of several thousands.
In the late 1960s, Wang Shuzhou was an ordinary young man living at the foot of the Taihang mountains. He was occasionally picked up by the county’s Publicity Station because he was good at calligraphy and could write big character posters and leaflets. His first proper job was as a projectionist – a job which required a literate candidate who could read a quotation from Chairman Mao before commencing a screening of one of the three films approved for exhibition. Two of these three propaganda films Tunnel Warfare and Mine Warfare, were about the World War II resistance against Japan. The third, Fight Up and Down the Country, dealt with the Chinese Civil War. All other movies, whether foreign or domestic, were banned as “revisionist” by the Central Cultural Revolution Group. In the early 1970s, Huixian County was an exemplar of the campaign “In Agriculture, Learn from Dazhai.” The goal was to battle against nature, which orthodox Maoism saw as a fundamentally important responsibility of Communism, and to struggle for water conservation and soil enrichment. Tens of thousands of people were mobilized to “struggle against” the Taihang mountains. Several media outlets, including Party mouthpiece the People’s Daily and Xinhua News Agency sent their reporters to cover the event. Local authorities attached great importance to PR, and Wang Shuzhou was asked to set aside his film projector and learn how to be a photographer. In 1973, Huixian county was named a “progressive county” in the national “In Agriculture, Learn from Dazhai” drive. Dazhai township, Shanxi Province was held up by the Chinese Communist Party as a successful example of “collective agricultural cooperation.” Mao Zedong called for the whole country to learn from Dazhai, and at the height of the Cultural Revolution, whatever the Chairman said, went. In Huixian County, the quest to learn from Dazhai was reflected in the “struggle against the stone of Taihang Mountains.” Young girls formed the “Girl Quarry Team,” while boys joined the “Yugong Professional Team” which specialized in digging tunnels and building bridges and roads. However, to pose for the photos taken by Wang Shuzhou, the girls
were moved from deep in the mountains to beside a pond in their village from which the Taihang range would be visible in the background, lugging heavy boulders along with them. The girls were instructed to smile and look at ease while raising their heavy iron hammers. As requested by Wang’s superiors, one of the prettiest girls was centrally positioned in the photo, with two less attractive friends to her left and right. “Whose faces would be seen and whose wouldn’t be was the decision of the leaders,” said Wang Shuzhou, adding that those selected to pose were “overjoyed… as if they were participating in a festival.” In another photo, a middle-aged man is reading a newspaper. A smiling group of young men and women surround him. Wang took this photo at the county’s cement plant in 1976, the year the Cultural Revolution ended. Wang’s photography at the plant followed a strict script set by his superiors and the plant bosses. Some general interiors would be taken. Then, directors of the plant would pose as if they were performing manual labor. Several photos needed to be close-ups of workers. Then Wang would take a photo of workers in “political study” meetings. With the exception of the directors, all other subjects were chosen specifically for their looks. The political study photo, being the most crucial for propaganda purposes, meant Wang had to carefully select a good-looking foreman and some ten young workers. Wang Shuzhou asked the foreman to hold a copy of the People’s Daily and pretend to read it. The workers sat around him, looking on. When setting up the shot, the foreman quickly glanced at the newspaper and asked the workers questions like “Have you had your lunch yet?” or “Have you found a girlfriend?” so that they would appear enthused. When Wang Shuzhou saw the white clouds of smoke billowing from the plant’s chimney, he lost no time capturing the image. In order to thicken the smoke from the chimney and make the photo even more dramatic, he arranged for more coal to be loaded into the furnace. This would represent the zeal and productiveness of the plant. “I had to consider the weather. I wanted a strong wind to make the smoke billow, strengthening the image,” he said.
The thousands of photos taken by Wang Shuzhou encapsulate how his leaders wanted the Cultural Revolution in Huixian County to appear to outsiders. Most of the photos are square, backlit compositions carefully structured to give an air of jubilation. In photos of political campaigns, such as the ones against “Those in Authority Taking the Capitalist Road” and “Renegades within the Party,” a common theme is a weather-beaten old man in rags standing among the public, raising an indignant hand and shouting in anger. NEWSCHINA I August 2013
Photo Courtesy of Wang Shuzhou
were standing ankle-deep in muddy water. If something was not “in harmony,” it should not be seen. Wang soon became comfortable with excising even a hint of negativity from his photographs, instead boosting the “good and sunny” qualities of every staged image. On one occasion, Wang Shuzhou was dispatched to take a photo of the longest highway tunnel in Huixian County, named the “Cave of Victory.” He went to the construction site where the tunnel was being dug. As he was ready to shoot the mouth of the tunnel, however, he learned that a section had collapsed, crushing three workers to death. He entered the tunnel, saw the remains of the men lying in pools of blood, but instead of documenting the accident, he simply turned around and left. Despite being aware that such accidents happened all the time, Wang never considered capturing them for posterity. “It was unimaginable. I was too timid to take photos of such scenes. I would never do that.” He spread out his hands saying, “Photographers like me were required to report positive things only. There was no thought in my photos.” Na Risong, curator of Wang’s exhibition in the Inter Art Center & Gallery, holds that Wang’s photos have their own value, despite their lack of artistic accomplishment or journalistic integrity. “A native photographer in charge of publicity engaged himself in a long-term effort to take photos of almost all the local events during the Cultural Revolution,” Na Risong said, “Wang Shuzhou lived through all the political movements, large or small, from ‘In Agriculture, Learn from Dazhai’ to ‘Criticize Liu Shaoqi’ and ‘Criticize Deng Xiaoping.’” “Even in the later stages,” Na continued, “he witnessed ‘Thoroughly Criticize the Counter-Revolutionary Crimes Committed by the Gang of Four.’ The ten years of the Cultural Revolution in Huixian County was to some extent the epitome of that decade in China. Herein lies the value of these photos.” Wang Shuzhou’s attitude has changed since the end of the Cultural Revolution. In the mid 1980s, he went to Lu Xun Fine Art College in the northeast Liaoning Province to study photography. He then became aware that the photos he had taken over the past decades were “quite thoughtless and mechanical.” “Photography should be infused with emotion and connotations,” he told our reporter. “I regret that my early work wasn’t.”
Wang Shuzhou stands in front of his photos
Wang still remembers his lessons under the only local photographer, a man surnamed Zhou. Backlighting was emphasized, “just as it was in model revolutionary plays,” in order to give important subjects an “imposing” air. During the Cultural Revolution, most photos in the People’s Daily and People’s Pictorial were meticulously staged and backlit. “I came to understand that I must learn all these techniques,” said Wang. “Square composition and people posing in a horseshoe formation all help project an imposing air.” What impressed Wang Shuzhou most was to take photos of grand occasions, such as the completion of the Shimen Reservoir. Reporters from several provincial and national media outlets were invited to cover the event. Wang and other reporters stood side by side with their cameras set up. “The leaders would decide when photos would be taken.” Thousands of builders stood atop the reservoir with their pants rolled up, superfluous shovels still in their hands. The foreman stood in a high place and waved a red flag. Through a loudspeaker he gave the order, “Now begin!” Thousands of workers immediately waved their spades, and photographers snapped the photo. “Stop!” Another order was given, and workers stopped waving their spades. These orders were repeated several times before the reporters were satisfied. Besides taking and archiving photos, Wang also had to host reporters from elsewhere and help them make arrangements to take photos locally. He became renowned for his ability to take perfect propaganda images, emphasizing neat and tidy work clothes, even when workers NEWSCHINA I August 2013
NEWSCHINA I August 2013
ALL THE WORLD’S A STAGE
The southern Chinese river town of Wuzhen, a tourist mecca, drew an altogether different crowd of visitors this May, as dramatists, actors, and playwrights from around the globe gathered for a theater-industry carnival the likes of which China has never seen. At the inaugural Wuzhen International Theatre Festival, which lasted for 11 days, drama shows were set in both indoor venues and on the streets of the town, a tiny ancient settlement dotted with cottages, bridges, boats, and traditional Chinese houses. Wandering the town’s flagstone-paved lanes, tourists and residents were in with a chance of stumbling upon an impromptu performance at any moment. The festival kicked off with renowned playwright Stan Lai’s eight-hour play A Dream Like Dream, a story that begins with a medical school graduate haunted by her tragic first day at work, as patients pass away one after another. Robert S. Brustein, the prestigious American producer, playwright and theater critic, served as the festival’s honorary chairman, while Eugenio Barba, founder of Denmark’s Odin Theatre, as well as celebrated American playwright and Tony Award winner David Henry Hwang, best known as the author of M. Butterfly and Chinglish, also came to participate. In addition to a spectacular program of shows, the highlight of the festival was the young artists’ competition. A total of 12 teams were selected from 87 applicants to perform pieces based on the theme “Reflect.” Each had to incorporate three props for their individual stage show: an old radio, a flashlight, and a basin of water. According to Huang Lei, a well-known Chinese actor and founder of the Wuzhen International Theater Festival, the plays were required to contain at least one unique idea or memorable feature. Wuzhen Tourism Co. Ltd. invested a total of 500 million yuan (US$81 million) into the project, of which 400 million yuan (US$65 million) was allocated for the construction of a grand theater.
Performer Xu Boying, a sophomore student from the Shanghai Drama Institute, May 16 NEWSCHINA I August 2013
Photo by CFP
The festival is expected to be held every November from next year onward, and Wuzhen plans to develop the event into a world-class festival similar to the Festival d’Avignon, the annual drama festival held in Avignon, France. So far, the combination of the historic river town and the magic of theater has proven to be a winning formula for attracting new visitors to Wuzhen.
Street performers, May 14
A whole range of performance artists were present for the festival Actor Qin Qidong, appearing in Toy Patient, sits in a clothing store, May 14
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The festival is spread over an area of 3.5 square kilometers west of Wuzhen
A puppet show
A scene from the play Magic Box, performed May 16
NEWSCHINA I August 2013
Photo by Wang Kaijian / IC
Traditional Kunqu opera by the riverbank
OUTSIDEIN perspectives from within China
How to Live a Hundred Years Taishan, known as the Great Mountain of the East, is China’s most-climbed peak. An ascent represents the honoring of an ancient tradition as well as the fulfillment of a modern rite of passage By Sean Silbert
n the late train, the backpacks are everywhere. They’re on empty seats, in storage compartments, carefully placed in the aisle to avoid being kicked by dozing, seated travellers. An announcement sounds; many of the backpacks are fumbled with and their owners lug them off the train. The express passes through bigger, more interesting cities on the way to Shanghai, but many travellers depart at the halfway rest stop of Tai’an. Here begins the trail to Mount Tai, or Taishan, perhaps China’s most famous mountain and certainly its most writtenabout. For millennia, Taishan has challenged
gravitas both at home and abroad.
China’s rulers, starting with Qin Shi Huang, the man who united China after declaring his sovereignty from its summit. Countless poems and paintings have been inspired by its mist-shrouded terraces. Purple five yuan banknotes bear an image of its highest peak. Even Western bands Rage Against the Machine and Rush mention Taishan in their lyrics. There are few places within the Middle Kingdom that command this cultural
Mount Tai is the foremost of China’s great peaks. The most easterly summit is associated with sunrise, birth and renewal. Legend says that anyone who climbs to the summit will live a hundred years, perhaps explaining the popularity of its main trail. After alighting from the train, swarms of tourists scramble for cabs, elbowing and shoving, pilgrims in search of a centenary. Everyone ignores the town itself. As I manage to squirm into the back seat of a taxi, the driver asks me: are you climbing now, or tomorrow morning? Now! I exclaim. NEWSCHINA I August 2013
Getting There Tai’an, at the foot of the mountain, is easily accessible by train – taking a plane from Jinan and bussing in is also possible, but not recommended in terms of price or convenience. A short, direct high-speed train trip from Beijing takes only two to three hours. From the station, hop into a cab and tell the driver you are climbing the mountain, a journey that should take about 10 minutes – most will anticipate this when they pick you up. Keep in mind that if you’re doing the night climb, only the Red Gate is open all night, and bring a flashlight. Where to Stay If you’re night climbing, there’s no reason to stay in the expensive hotel at the summit, though there is a shower and a small breakfast buffet in the mornings. Snack shops and smaller hotels also line the route, with a place to grab fresh cucumbers or instant noodles never too far away. Most travelers stay in Tai’an, if they stay at all: spending the night in a warm double bed will set you back only 188RMB, a perfect way to refresh after the strenuous climb.
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Taishan is no Everest: a fairly fit climber will summit within four hours. That time doesn’t include lengthy breaks to pause and examine the temples and sacrificial sites along the way, but in the dead of night, few are bothering to take the time. Minutes after commencing my climb, I found myself completely alone. I stumbled across a red arch leading into a temple, with three grand characters carved into the side. Dou Mu Gong, I said to myself. To my surprise, the temple seemed to reply: “Dou Mu Gong.” I glanced behind me, and, in the shadows, discerned another traveler reading the name Photo by Li Ming/CFP
Despite the inky blackness of night obscuring the farreaching views, the ticket office is open all night. You can climb the mountain during the day, gazing at the lush green scenery interspersed with the strange, sheer limestone cliff faces. But the ad- Waiting for sunrise at the summit venturers climb by night. By adventurers, I mean feisty college students. Lots and lots of college students. After class, get on the train and climb Taishan This became clear before I even set foot on by night. Eager to get on the trail, I push past the path. Student IDs were flashed; I blun- a line of couples discussing strategies for the dered along with my cheap plastic flashlight hike ahead and venture off alone. to find my expired university card. It seemed Well, sort of. There isn’t really a trail as that what was once a pilgrimage for poets and much as a staircase from the base to the emperors was now a youthful rite of passage. highest point, the Jade Emperor Peak.
aloud. Another chimed in, and another. I sat behind a huge ceramic incense burner and watched this little pantomime repeat itself as a trickle of hikers continued to flow up the path. Hiking at night makes for a mystical, rather than an awestruck experience. Calligraphy carved impossibly high on rock faces can only be illuminated by flashlight. Waterfalls can be heard but not seen. Only the dark shadows of cliff faces can be discerned in the darkness – the rest of the landscape is a mystery. From the First Gate to Heaven at the base to the Southern Gate to Heaven at the very top, each stage of the mountain would require a sacrifice from an ascending emperor, explaining the profusion of temples and shrines along the path. Many modern walkers also burn incense at each stage of their climb, and the smoke from these diminutive sacrifices dances between the trees all along the trail to the summit. Just before the halfway point, I made my own offering. While fumbling with the incense sticks, I met two young students also attempting the hike. One, a twig-like fellow wearing dominating black framed spectacles,
was on his second climb, showing a classmate from nearby Jinan the route to the top. The three of us made our way past the open plaza surrounding the ancient archway of the Middle Gate to Heaven, bustling with vendors, restaurants and students taking photos even at this late hour. The carnival abruptly halted up the trail at the Thirteen Bends, the angled stairs that lead to the top of the mountain. Perhaps it was the sleep deprivation, but the bends themselves felt like the rest of the trail up to this point hadn’t even been a warm up for the main event. Sharp, angular and precipitous, the sides of the staircase were lined with walkers nursing sore knees and jelly-legs. The last segment was a doozy, however, and the view of the trail stretching all the way back to the town, dotted with the bouncing lights borne by other hikers, was magical.
The Sun Rises
I didn’t have much time if I was going to catch the sunrise; it was the entire purpose of getting up here, after all. The Southern Gate to Heaven is not the end of the path: there’s still a way to go past the hotels and campsites before an adventurer will get to the best van-
tage point. At the top, it was freezing cold. A large crowd had already gathered in a large semicircle around the summit, patiently waiting for the sun to peep above the horizon. While it wasn’t immediately clear where the sun was going to emerge, many took a gamble, taking root with their cameras and tripods. Others had set up sleeping bags right on the front row. But with a mighty roar of the crowd, the orb emerged over the horizon, softly illuminating the shimmering green-and-grey landscape as it came into view. The sun brought out what I could not see during the climb before. Weird rock formations, such as the Immortal Bridge, a formation of boulders that span a small chasm, come into view. No wonder so many men of letters came here for inspiration. Descending the trail can be even more difficult than climbing it: despite knowing how much farther you have to go, being able to see the view makes it a completely different climb on a completely different mountain. While the trail may be less challenging than it was back in Confucius’ day, the views are still as stunning.
Gongzhu bing Princess syndrome “Why do I have to sunbathe? Why do I have to learn to swim? Why do I have to carry a surfboard with one hand? Because you like sunny boys. You want me to run on the beach … I have to catch your frisbee like a dog. I have to shoot down the sun, since you feel too hot. .... People said you are living in a fairytale, and you said yes, you are a princess…” These are just a few lyrics to the popular Chinese song gongzhu bing, which pokes fun at a self-obsessed “princess” who believes everyone else should kowtow to her. With gongzhu meaning princess and bing meaning illness, gongzhu bing is similar to its Western counterpart “princess syndrome.” Books have been written about how to raise your daughter to “think like a princess,” insisting that parents teach their daughter how to secure a wealthy husband, regard-
less of the personal cost. As a result, many Chinese women, especially those with the looks or the finances to live out their princess fantasies, are seen as valuing vanity and egocentrism over independence and personal development. Any potential boyfriend must be handsome, wealthy and, above all, obedient. Some “rulebooks” state that no girl should give up a kiss unless her date arrived in a car, or have dinner anywhere other than in an expensive restaurant – and even then, only if she chooses the dishes and her date picks up the tab. A true “princess,” so the thinking goes, cannot do housework, cook or care for children. Given the blatancy of this school of thought, an inevitable backlash has come from both men and women who actively reject “princesses.” However, criticism of “princess syndrome” is easily mistaken for the promotion of female empowerment. In-
stead, much of the online debate has centered around the reinstatement of traditional gender roles – with women as wives and mothers, and men as breadwinners. “I don’t want a girl with gongzhu bing,” bawled a male contestant on a Hunan TV dating show. “I don’t understand why a boy has to carry his girlfriend’s bag or bend down to tie her shoes.” “[Boys] also feel tired. At those times, we hope our girlfriends will comfort and look after us,” a post remarked at the popular bulletin board baidu. com. “Boys should indeed be kind to girls, but girls should not take them for granted. Honestly, we need a wife, not a princess,” it continued. It seems that while the most flagrant prima donnas may find their popularity on the wane, there seems little sign that China’s entrenched gender roles are being thrown open to challenge. NEWSCHINA I August 2013
flavor of the month
Dim Sum 24/7 By Stephy Chung
t’s 5 AM and old men can already be seen hobbling off to the local teahouse. Their lightweight t-shirts cling to their bodies with the immediate sweat that breaks out on a muggy Hong Kong morning. They greet their usual group of friends and seat themselves into their favorite booth. Large, creaky ceiling fans screech overhead, their blades dangerously close to the jumble of birdcages suspended beside them. It’s a peaceful time to engage in small chat, catch up on the morning’s news, coo over captive birds, and yum cha, “drink tea,” while pecking at steaming portions of dim sum. In Beijing, this timehonored breakfast tradition has morphed into an entirely different beast – at least at one of the few restaurants in the city to specialize in dim sum, Jin Ding Xuan. It was 3 AM on a Sunday morning. Instead of a homely little joint, I found myself squinting at the glare coming off of the buffed glass windows of this three-story, 24-hour establishment near the city’s Lama Temple. Its palatial exterior reminded me of an epileptic Christmas light show. Hard to miss, the restaurant is mocked up to look like a temple, with tiki lights roped around its gaudy upturned eaves. The bobbing red lanterns and bright neon sign can be spotted from miles away on a rare, unpolluted day. While hardly on the map with China’s die-hard dim sum fanatics, Jin Ding Xuan is just what I had been jonesing for in the middle of the night, when this Beijing institution enjoys some of its best business. Inside, it was loud and lively, with swelling cheers and clinks of glasses from diners swigging Yanjing, the cheap, local brew. Deepyellow lights cast a sickly glow over the tables, out-sleazing the restaurant’s efforts to retain some elegance and taste. The restaurant seems to expect little decorum its eaters – as we sat, a
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waitress tossed seat covers over our purses and jackets, in an attempt to protect them from grease stains. But overall, the atmosphere felt fun and we were more than ready to feast. There were some hits and misses. Dim sum is not a matter of appetisers, entrees and dessert. It’s usually a dozen or so (the more the merrier) light dishes served in bamboo steamers. Usually, everyone manages to sample one serving of each dish. The nuomiji, a plump portion of glutinous rice stuffed with chicken scallops and wrapped in a lotus-leaf was wonderful – chewy, sticky grains of rice rich with flavors from the chicken. The xiajiao, or shrimp dumpling. was less delightful. The casing, generally fine enough to see the shrimp, was thick and rubbery, and I even left the wrap, usually my favorite part of this Cantonese staple, on the plate. The shrimp paste was dry and tasteless. The sweet and salty filling of the barbecue pork bun was up to snuff, but the other order of buns, filled with yellow custard, was off – strangely artificial with an unappetizing and filmy aftertaste. The pan-fried turnip cake, another must-try, was delicious, slightly crisp on the outside, and soft in the middle parts. Bits of shredded radish that had not been mashed into the paste added a nice depth in textures. The thick rice-based porridge, or congee, was superb with slices of fish, crunchy wonton threads, ginger, and scallions. It was enhanced with a touch of vinegar, soy sauce and chili oil. Overall - I wasn’t wowed by the quality of ingredients. But for a late-night snack that satisfies the dim sum munchies in a city where 24-hour dining is typically a choice between the Golden Arches or a dubious streetside kebab, one can do a lot worse than Jin Ding Xuan.
Putting the magic back in movies By Niall O Murchadha
The VIP option, where you can sit in a reclining chair fit for First Class flying, was one lure that grabbed my attention.
Illustration by Xiang Zhaohui
The growth of the movie theater culture in China is yet another one of those things that seemed to sneak up on me during my decade in Beijing, and it’s only recently I have managed to grasp the density of its development. The moment of realization came on my first trip to an IMAX screening of Iron Man 3. My wife and I were in line to get tickets, and as she was finding out about a new phone app for cheaper tickets from another patron in the line it occurred to me that an occasional activity by some had morphed into an integral part of culture. The opening sequence included a wellknown song in English, except this was a Chinese version. I later discovered that the main release of the movie had the English version of the song. But this was not the only thing that set it apart from the regular release. The extra footage, including shoehorned-in Chinese stars and products, appeared only in mainland multiplexes. It was at this moment that the ubiquitous advertising campaign linking Iron Man to a Chinese soft drink, with billboards and bus stops in Beijing plastered with a bizarre conflation of the two, finally made sense. When the Chinese doctor reached down to pick up the carton for a quick sip, a ripple of laughter and guffawing spread across the packed theater. In these days of almost compulsory product placement, it was refreshing to see a healthy dose of amused cynicism from a random gathering of people. In truth, I avoided going to the flicks during my early years in China for a number of reasons. Before coming to China, I lived in the United Arab Emirates. This too was a country going through great changes. The greatest problem was squaring new technology and its associated etiquette with preexisting cultural norms. When I visited the cinema in the UAE, I quickly discovered that altruism of my fellow patrons was boundless. Not content
merely to answer any and all cell phone calls during a film, they would neatly summarize the content, quality and likely outcome of the relevant movie’s plot to the person who had called them. They also selflessly shared the wonderful ringtones on their gleaming new cellphones with the rest of the audience, often for over a minute at the time. One particularly memorable incident I recall involved five ringtones being set off at the same time. Strangely, the name of the film escapes me. Convinced the cell phone had killed the cinema, it never occurred to me to frequent a movie theater once I got to China. Of course, other factors were also in play. In the UAE, where multiplexes were new, plush and hi-tech, their Chinese equivalents, at least in the 2000s, were more akin to the back-alley picture houses of my childhood in the west of
Ireland - smoke-filled auditoria occupied by young lovers interfering with each other, and gangs of lads toting smuggled beer. While I did occasionally venture into Beijing’s cinemas, for instance, to watch all three Star Wars prequels, the audiences seemed disinterested, the floors were sticky, the soundtracks either ear-bleedingly loud or whisper-quiet, and the ubiquitous cell phone, and the Chinese obsession with answering all calls, regardless of time, place or situation, made it a harrowing experience. But in truth, there was another, more pragmatic reason why I, and the vast majority of the Chinese population, did not go to the movies. Those three little letters. DVD. This brand of entertainment was easily available from, ahem, independent retailers with somewhat relaxed attitudes towards issues relating to intellectual property rights. Thanks to a restrictive quota system and even more restrictive censorship, there were a very limited range of Western movies shown in cinemas, and usually if something I wanted to watch did stagger onto a local screen I’d have already seen it at home. The idea of going to the cinema seemed quite silly. It was the pimping out of the movie theater experience - IMAX 3D, waitress service, vibrating furniture and all the other bells and whistles that have revived the dying multiplex - that really jolted this couch-surfing pirate from his stupor. The VIP option, where you can sit in a reclining chair fit for First Class flying, was one lure that grabbed my attention. While arthouse patrons might find little to love about a Chinese cinema, those who go for the thrills and spills of the Hollywood blockbuster will find more IMAX 3D-enabled screens in Beijing than in the whole of the British Isles. Pull up your popcorn tub and splash out – in China, entertainment, when it’s available, is done on a superlative scale. NEWSCHINA I August 2013
Keeper of the Temple By James Kingston
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Later in the chaos of the times, they crept back, and reoccupied their ancient place
Illustration by Xiang Zhaohui
The young nurse seemed bewildered by my questions. Jews, here? She didn’t know, she said, perturbed by the foreigner before her; she couldn’t help. An old cleaner, speaking in accented Mandarin, however, could: “It's in a room,” she said. “Locked. You can’t go in.” The last physical remnant of Kaifeng’s thousandyear-old synagogue, the Temple of Purity and Truth, lies in the boiler room of the city's No. 4 People’s Hospital. Saddened by my luck at the hospital, I wandered nearby looking for the entrance to Jiaojing Hutong, “Teaching the Scripture Alley,” whose name if nothing else hinted at the past. Guided by a toothless old man, the sound of the road behind died down as I made my way inside the dusty and narrowing alleyway, many doorframes decorated in flowing Arabic script. Incongruous upon the gray plaster wall appeared a Star of David, and a plaque announcing the site of the “Kaifeng Synagogue and Jewish Memorial Centre.” Intrigued, I discovered the home and private museum of a Jewish descendent, Ether Yan Guo, who in her alley behind the hospital is keeping the memory and, increasingly, the traditions of this lost Jewish community alive. Their story is one of identity and dissolution – the struggle of a small group, cut adrift and isolated in a vast alien culture, to retain its traditions in the face of indifference, disaster, and the lure of assimilation. The Kaifeng Jews were among the earliest populations to move out of Israel. Maintaining identity through unusually patrilineal descent, they had no knowledge of the Talmud, or of the coming of Jesus, and moved through Persia and India en route to China. Jews are first recorded in Kaifeng in the Northern Song Dynasty (960-1127), granted by an emperor the right to reside in his city, a commercial and industrial centre, the largest city in the world. They prospered both as tradesmen and literati, passing exams for admittance to the Imperial bureaucracy.
Centuries of assimilation, war, isolation and dispersal left their mark. The group began to dwindle, customs died out, and eventually not one among them could read Hebrew. In despair and seeking help, the last Rabbi of Kaifeng set off for India, following rumors of other Jews; he died on the road in 1810, his questions unanswered. His brethren, impoverished and ignorant, were reduced to displaying the Torah in the Kaifeng marketplace, offering a reward to any who could translate it. No-one could, and it was left to 19th century American missionaries to buy their last remaining artefacts, now in America, and to purchase the lands of the last synagogue, ruined in the Yellow River floods of 1854, upon which they built their hospital. With this, the Jewish community can be considered to have collapsed, with scattered families maintaining the memory of their
heritage, telling their children “you are Jewish” – but no longer knowing why. Upon the wall of Guo’s tiny museum sits a reproduction scroll, an image of the synagogue at its height. Pointing to a corner of the painting, Guo began her story. She told me we were standing directly above the room she highlighted, buried under eight meters of silt – her house was built upon the remains of the synagogue. For one thousand years, her family have lived upon that spot, reconstructing and maintaining its grounds in the face of sieges and floods until community collapse and steadily deepening poverty led to its sale to Christian missionaries. During the Cultural Revolution (1966-76), Jewish stelae were smashed, and her family forced to work in the countryside. Later in the chaos of the times, they crept back, and reoccupied their ancient place, whiling away their days until Reform and Opening-up provided the long-awaited chance to re-contact the outer world in the 1980s. The walls were filled with pictures of foreign guests, her shelves with clippings and books documenting the experience of the Kaifeng community and its steps to rediscover an almost dissolved Jewish heritage, testament to a sense of difference and longing for “home” maintained for over a thousand years in what, for some, seems to have remained a foreign land. Now, young Kaifeng Jews are moving to Israel – proudly announcing their return “home” at last. Guo, I am sure, will remain, dreaming of one day buying back the land. Waiting for my Beijing train the next day, I struck up a conversation with a young student from Kaifeng, heading to Beijing to apply for a visa to study abroad. Had she heard of the Jews here? Yes, she said; her mother was one, but didn’t like to talk about it. As far as she was concerned, she was Chinese. The train called, and we parted ways – as, perhaps, will the Jews of Kaifeng.
Cultural listings Cinema
Flop of the Year Switch, a movie about the theft of an ancient Chinese painting by several smugglers and the police, was released on the mainland in early June, to possibly the worst reviews of any movie released this year. Following the Hollywood model of a commercial blockbuster, the movie has everything – pretty faces, fierce fighting, high-octane drag-racing, plenty of suspense, and impressive special effects – but still failed to impress movegoers. On Douban, an online portal focusing on culture, the film received a measly 2.9 out of 10, with nearly 40,000 votes cast. Sun Jianjun, the movie’s director, was born in 1957 and has been a TV producer for some 20 years. For Switch, his silver-screen debut, Sun brought in Hong Kong movie star Andy Lau, Taiwanese model Lin Chiling and mainland actor Tong Dawei to star in the movie, most of which was shot outside China, partly in Dubai. However, despite its critical panning, the movie pulled in box office takings of nearly 200 million yuan (US$32m) in 10 days, with many audience members claiming to have been enticed by rumors of the movie’s lousiness.
Ten Years of Taobao’s Technology
The latest news about the reformation of Tongue, one of the most influential Chinese rock bands of the late 1990s and the early 2000s, has stirred up quite some excitement among Chinese rock fans and critics. The band was formed in Urumqi in 1997 by six ethnically Han Chinese people from Xinjiang, a Uyghur autonomous region. Shortly, they moved to Beijing, and rocked the underground music scene in China’s cultural center with their tough, sharp sound and their poetic yet realistic lyrics. The group disbanded in the mid-2000s after releasing three albums, but their recent return at the Xihu Music Festival in mid-June has become a hot talking point. Fans have high expectations for the band’s forthcoming album Pets of the Time and critics claim that they are bringing a no-nonsense sense of masculinity back to China’s rock ‘n’ roll.
New Life for Old News Besides being industrially recycled, how can newspaper be reused and given a brand new identity? From May 25, an exhibition lasting for one month was held in Changsha, Hunan, where newspaper was remodeled in the hands of modern artists. Titled Papernews, the exhibition was held by Lian Art Space and showcased works from 11 Chinese and 7 German artists. Various media were used to create the works, including installation, sculpture, painting and even performance art.
Jack Ma, CEO of Chinese e-commerce giant Taobao, once said that to him, the Internet was not just a business, but a revolution. In ten years, the B2C and C2C e-commerce platform Taobao.com has become the largest business of its kind in China, and even Asia, by user numbers and annual turnover. Recently, Ma has been moving into the logistics and finance businesses. Ziliu (the pen-name of the book’s author Zhao Chao), has worked at Taobao since 2004, initially as an engineer, and later as a project, product and test manager. In 2009, he helped Taobao establish its “Taobao Technology University” – the company’s internal training organization, and has trained a great number of Taobao employees. Ten Years of Taobao’s Technology tells readers about the difficulties Taobao has faced over the past decade in both technology and business development. More importantly, the book is about how difficulties and pressure in business pushed the development of technology, and how technology has helped to shape new business. NEWSCHINA I August 2013
NEWSCHINA I August 2013
Only decisive action can establish “ecological civilization” As environmental issues become ever more pressing, China’s leadership needs to show determination in delivering on its environmental promise By Zhang Wen
n November 2012, when China’s new leadership included the lution of air, soil and water resources. Recently, environmental chiefs “establishment of ecological civilization” into the Party’s con- in Hunan Province and the Ningxia region openly admitted that stitution, it was hailed as a step forward in acknowledging the shields provided by local leaders are the main reason why crippled any serious environmental problems China is facing. serious attempts made by local environment authorities are crippled. However, in the months that followed, the country saw a litany of As local leaders typically occupy a post for three to five years before environmental scandals break in the being promoted to a position elsemedia, ranging from cadmium-taintwhere, the environmental impact To effectively tackle China’s ed rice and chemical-riddled water of industrial projects they approve environmental problems, a resources to the emergence of so-called rarely becomes apparent under their “cancer villages.” tenure. This encourages officials fundamental change in the mentality In a report published in Februto focus on delivering short-term and the doctrines cleaved to by ary, the Ministry of Environmental economic results to obtain political the entirety of officialdom needs to Protection admitted that significant credit, leaving their posts before their occur concentrations of hazardous chemicals economic projects become a liability. were now present in all China’s major By holding officials accountable “for rivers, lakes and offshore waters, as life,” it is hoped that Xi’s promised rewell as in some wild animals and huforms, if delivered in practice, could mans. Moreover, soil pollution has become so serious that the ministry put an end to this situation. So far, no timetable has been forthcoming. has refused to publicize the data collected from a nationwide survey of To effectively tackle China’s environmental problems, a fundamenheavy metals contamination. tal change in the mentality and the doctrines cleaved to by the entirety Recently, China’s leadership have again stepped up their rhetoric of officialdom needs to occur. in dealing with environmental problems. In a white paper entitled The government must realize that the more it delays, the more they “Progress in China’s Human Rights” released on May 14, 2012, the stand to lose. For example, after announcing a scheme to clean up State Council again pledged to devote itself to establishing ecological the heavily polluted Huai River in central China in 1994, the river civilization. On May 24, new Chinese President Xi Jinping vowed remains, according to official assessments, “seriously polluted” 20 years that China would even abandon the pursuit of economic growth if it on. meant saving its ecology. In a recent speech, Premier Li Keqiang cautioned that it would be Aside from lofty proclamations which observers had heard before, tough for the government to “protect the ecology of a vast country however, this time Xi offered some concrete measures. Xi claimed that with 1.3 billion people while achieving modernity at the same time.” officials will be “held accountable for life” for environmental damage As environmental pollution poses an immediate and serious threat wreaked on their watch. Xi also said that the government would add to public health, economic growth needs to be a secondary concern. several environmental indices to the appraisal system for officials, cur- Pollution has already led to widespread dissent and political protests. rently dominated by economic growth targets. The government must realize the urgency of this issue and take imConsensus has emerged that a major reason behind rampant envi- mediate and swift action, or face an insurmountable, and potentially ronmental pollution is the “fetishization of GDP” embedded in this fatal, future decline. official appraisal system. In order to obtain better GDP growth figures, local officials routinely turn a blind eye to horrific industrial pol- (The author is a senior media commentator. )
NEWSCHINA I August 2013
NEWSCHINA I August 2013
NEWSCHINA I August 2013