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Showing Conviction: Legal Reform


Safety Last: Qingdao Explosion


No-Star Generals: Military Rectification

In The

zone Has China started to rewrite the rules of engagement in the Pacific?


Volume No. 066 February 2014



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 Writers: Yu Xiaodong, Li Jia Editors: Wang Yan, Yuan Ye, Xie Ying, Sun Zhe, Du Guodong First Reader: Sean Silbert Address: 5th Floor, 12 Baiwanzhuang South Street, Xicheng District, Beijing, China Post Code: 100037 Tel: 86-10-88395566 Fax: 86-10-88388045 Email: Art Department Art Director: Wu Shangwen Art Editor/Designer: Zhang Dawei Publishing and Development Office China Newsweek Corporation President: Wang Xiaohui Chief Executive: Fred Teng Publishing Associate: Zhang Tianli Tel: 1-212-481-2510 Fax: 1-212-481-2503 Address: Suite 1101, 15 East 40th Street, New York, NY 10016, USA Email: Toronto Office Director: Lai Hailong Address: 51 Halstead Drive, Markham, ON Canada L3R7Z4 Tel: 1-905-604-6150 Fax: 1-905-604-6170 Email: 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 February 2014

Fix the problem, not the image


lthough extreme news stories are not a dreds of small conical concrete protrusions on the rarity in China, many were still shocked ground, making it impossible to sleep there. by a report that appeared early December The same mentality also prevails regarding 2013 in the Beijing Morning Post that there were other related issues. As housing prices in big citpeople living beneath the ies have become prohibistreets of the country’s capitively expensive, not only tal. poor migrant workers, but City authorities do very The manholes in which also recent college gradulittle to provide affordable these people had made ates often find it difficult to their homes were meant for find an affordable place to accommodation. This is the use of the city’s heating live. The result is the emerparticularly problematic and drainage maintenance gence of what have come while the central workers, and were typically to be known as “ant tribes:” leadership is advocating three to four meters deep young people living in ant a new policy of “peoplewith about three square mecolony-like conditions. oriented” urbanization. ters of floorspace. According In Beijing, the authorito the report, those living ties decided to demolish underground were marginthe suburb of Tangjialing, a alized groups such as migrant workers and home- major habitat for the city’s ant tribes. Dai Haifei, a less elderly people. Some of them had been living migrant architect, designed a small, mobile, eggin their manholes for 20 years. shaped home to suit the needs of the group, but For several days, the topic attracted intense pub- the Beijing authorities labeled it an illegal structure lic debate, and caused an outcry over the city’s wel- and ordered it to be demolished or taken away. The fare system. The authorities, embarrassed by the authorities believe that hampering these attempts report, reacted swiftly. But instead of helping those to cope with the difficulty of finding shelter in living underground, the government decided to China’s cities will prevent the issue from becoming seal the holes with concrete. Unable to return to a focal point in the future. their underground homes, many were forced to In the meantime, city authorities do very little take shelter in a nearby shed for security guards. to provide affordable accommodation. This is parThe next day, the shed, too, was removed. ticularly problematic while the central leadership The authorities claimed that their decision was is advocating a new policy of “people-oriented” made out of safety concerns. Though technically urbanization. legal, the way the authorities addressed the issue The authorities must realize that it is this apathy reflects their longstanding approach in dealing towards people’s welfare that underlines the high with issues related to marginalized groups: instead tension between those who live in cities and those of addressing the problem in question, the authori- who manage them. The authorities can attempt to ties tend to focus on how to prevent incidents from suppress the media attention surrounding a certain attracting further media attention. problem, but the problem will continue to take Similar scenarios have been uncovered in other its toll on people’s welfare and the authorities’ lecities. In Guangzhou, coverage of the living con- gitimacy, posing a threat not only to the country’s ditions of migrant workers sheltering under road much-vaunted efforts towards urbanization, but bridges earned much sympathy from local resi- also to the future social and political stability of the dents. Local authorities reacted by installing hun- whole of society.



the inbetweener




Cover Story


01 Fix the problem, not the image 10 Military Rectification Campaign: Tough Talk

12 China’s ADIZ: Up in the Air/Skylines

P24 P64

20 Scientific Illustration: The Art of Science 24 IOUs: Trust Trip 26 Qingdao Explosion: An Avoidable Tragedy 30 Road Tolls: Highway Robbery


NEWSCHINA I February 2014

Photo by CFP

How the US is becoming the go-between in a Sino-Japanese Pacific power play



P20 32 36

Brain Drain: Tempting Talent Art Exhibition: Art and Reality

special report

40 Legal Reform: Curbing Wrongful Convictions/Aiming High/“The ultimate goal should be the restoration of judicial legitimacy.” economy

50 Online Education: The New Class


54 Ahn Joong-keun: Gunshots in Harbin culture

57 Ning Hao: Uncensored

NEWSCHINA I February 2014


visual report

60 Dye-hard Traditionalists outside in


64 Surviving Baisha: Cultural Fabric 67 Flavor of the Month: More Biang For Your Buck


72 Urbanization should mean more than relocation 04 MEDIA FOCUS 05 What They Say 06 NEWS BRIEF 08 Netizen Watch 53 China by numbers 66 real chinese 68 ESSAY 70 CULTURAL LISTINGS


NewsChina Chinese Edition

Oriental Outlook

December 9, 2013

December 11, 2013

On the Silk Road Again

Shaanxi Runs Dry North China’s Shaanxi Province is currently suffering from a water shortage, as the province’s per-capita water resources are only half that of the national average. Besides, 70 percent of Shaanxi’s rainfall comes in the summer flood season in the southern part of the province. Water shortages have become a bottleneck impeding the healthy development of the region against a backdrop of rapid urbanization, climate change and pollution. To make matters worse, the unauthorized opening of energy and chemical plants is rife in northern Shaanxi, worsening the already dire ecological conditions. In 2013, water resources management was added to the performance assessment criteria for government officials, but it may be years before the effects of this can be known.

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang made a three-day visit to Romania on November 25, his first visit to a Central and Eastern European (CEE) country since taking office. The two countries inked a series of agreements covering trade, investment, telecommunications and energy. A particular highlight was a deal that will see the two countries cooperate on the construction of high-speed railway lines in Romania, a landmark export of China’s high-speed rail technology. Li also attended a China-CEE leaders’ meeting in Bucharest, before speaking at the 12th prime ministers’ meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization member countries in Uzbekistan where he highlighted counterterrorism cooperation. Analysts say Li’s pragmatic visit is part of an effort to establish a “new Silk Road” linking China and CEE countries, to boost cooperation and mutual trust.

Southern Metropolis Weekly November 20, 2013

Pocket Payments Cell phones are now ubiquitous in modern society, and are having a particularly profound influence on the lifestyles of the young – cell phone payments are predicted to be the next step in the mobile revolution. During the unofficial November 11 shopping frenzy, the total value of transactions carried out on cell phones had reached US$881 million, 5.6 times that recorded last year, accounting for 21 percent of the total transaction volume. The popular social networking application WeChat is developing its payment platform aggressively, presenting a serious threat to Alipay, China’s Paypal equivalent. But problems loom large, including frequent unauthorized charges, meaning that financial institutions, mobile phone manufacturers and telecommunication operators will have to deepen cooperation to meet the needs of their increasingly demanding customers, and prove that mobile payments are just as secure as cash.


Vista November 28, 2013

New Official Residence System Unveiled China will introduce an official residence system for government officials, aimed at curbing corruption. The decision, announced after the Third Plenary Session of the 18th Central Committee of the Communist Party of China in November, prohibited officials from holding apartments in multiple different locations where they have worked. Previously, officials of different rankings were usually entitled to lifelong ownership of free or subsidized apartments which they could pass to their offspring. Under the new system, officials will move into their residence when they take office, and move out when they leave. As China’s house prices continue to skyrocket, real estate-related corruption has proven the downfall of many cadres. Chinese Academy of Governance Professor Wang Yukai, the mastermind behind the new system, suggested that newly promoted officials be the first to try the new system, since they are more likely to accept reform policies.

Economy & Nation Weekly December 9, 2013

Graduates Lost College graduates from rural areas working in the big cities where they studied are feeling increasingly insecure. Education and destiny are inextricably linked in China, and young Chinese must face the fearsome college entrance examinations in the hope of improving their lot. But after graduation, many find their plans scuppered by their lack of an urban hukou (official residence permit), effectively an internal visa, denying them a wide range of benefits. When these graduates return to their rural hometowns, they cannot retrieve their rural hukou, and are only entitled to a county hukou. The gap between urban and rural areas is widening, but these college graduates are entitled to benefits in neither place. Worse, the rising real estate prices in cities are making the dream of buying a house increasingly unrealistic for these young people. NEWSCHINA I February 2014

“A children’s author doesn’t need to cater to the market, but just to keep a hold on their innocence. In my head, I’m only six years old.”

“I see no country but China competing with the US in 10 years. If no third superpower rises in that period of time, the world will be polarized.” Tsinghua University professor Yan Xuetong on China’s potential. “Huawei has to move outwards to turn itself into a world leader. But if we do not learn to share with our competitors, we will become another Hitler or Genghis Khan. No strategic thinker wants to monopolize the world.” Ren Zhengfei, CEO of telecoms giant Huawei speculating on his company’s future in the US market. “Honestly, there haven’t been any good mainland movies in recent years. A flourishing marketplace has instead made everyone rest on their laurels.” Ang Lee bemoaning the declining quality of Chinese mainland movies. “Society would progress further if nobody saw honesty as unusual.” Sociologist Zi Zhongyun on her reputation as a truth-teller.

NEWSCHINA I February 2014

Illustration by Wu Shangwen

Popular fairytale author Zheng Yuanjie on the secret to his success.

“Nobody’s youth is dull. They bear the imprint of the era. My generation’s joy lies in witnessing and experiencing tremendous historical change.” 79-year-old author Wang Meng on his youth. “We are in an era of change in which power can quickly become meaningless. We’d rather die on the road to reform than wallow in the trap of‘success.’” Yu Minhong, president of New Oriental Education, China’s biggest English language training school, on overhauling his business model. “Some officials so morbidly crave social order that they can tolerate Potemkin Villages but not a single shabby suburb.” Social critic Tang Jiachen on the local government’s demolition of Tangjialing, a downmarket residential area on the outskirts of Beijing which was popular with impoverished recent graduates. “Nobody has the right to judge others by their own standards. Respect is more profound than sympathy. We should know why the poor live the way they do, before we start judging them.” Columnist Tong Dahuan appealing for more reflection and less breast-beating over China’s ongoing poverty problem. 5

Top Story

Annual Economic Conference Held in Beijing From December 10 to 13, the Chinese government held its economic conference, its highest-level annual economic meeting at which leaders map the government’s major economic tasks for the coming year. At the conference, the government set its 2014 GDP target at 7.5 percent, the same as in 2013. The figure was slightly higher than the 7 percent analysts had predicted before the conference. Analysts believed a lower GDP target would allow more space for the latest round of reforms, while the government, according to State media, aims to stabilize employment with medium-to-high economic growth. Rather than focusing on growth speed, policymakers have emphasized that a progressive strategy is needed to push forward reform. “We should not define ‘development’ as ‘GDP growth.’

What we want is a speed that can ensure economic growth without any side effects,” read a statement from the conference. Guided by this principle, the government has tried to recover the losses sustained due to overdevelopment in previous years, calling for tighter controls on problems including overcapacity, mounting local debt and insatiable urban construction. For the first time, the government emphasized the need for a higher “quality” of urbanization, pledging to allow rural migrants to enjoy the same rights as those holding a permanent urban residence permit. Analysts are therefore predicting that the government will soon launch reform at regional and industrial levels, but wider reaching reform will not be implemented until policymakers come to an agreement and work out a detailed plan.

The Central Government’s Economic Conference Theme: Reform and Creation in Progressive Steps

Six Tasks

Guarantee national food security Adjust industrial structure Tighten controls on debt risk Promote co-development between regions Improve public services and facilities Improve openness


Britain in China British Prime Minister David Cameron made an official visit to China from December 2 to 4, in an effort to improve Sino-British relations, which had been strained since Cameron’s meeting with the Dalai Lama last May. The state visit had a notably “civilian” theme, as Cameron took photos with Chinese entrepreneurs, had lunch at an ordinary restaurant in Chengdu, capital of Sichuan Province, and played ping-pong with local students. He also opened a microblog account on China’s Twitter equivalent,


Weibo, which now has over 500,000 fans. Cameron’s visit earned significant economic benefits – he returned home with commercial agreements worth six billion pounds (US$9.8bn), covering the fields of sports, automobiles, tourism and trade. In response, Cameron pledged not to meet with the Dalai Lama again in the near future, and also became the first European leader openly to support China’s promotion of free trade zone negotiations between China and Europe. NEWSCHINA I February 2014


Moon Landing

Government Plans to Raise Retirement Age

China’s Chang’e-III spacecraft deployed its Yutu rover on the surface of the moon on December 14, marking the success of the country’s first attempt to land on an extraterrestrial body. The soft landing was conducted 13 days after Chang’e-III blasted off from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in southwest China. The unmanned voyage will last 90 days, during which time the Yutu rover will probe deep into the surface of the moon, and carry out soil analysis. According to China’s State media, Yutu, which uses domestically-manufactured nuclear batteries, has so far sent back over 50 images of the moon’s surface taken with its onboard camera. According to the Chinese Academy of Sciences, China plans to land a manned probe on the moon around 2030, and set up the first lunar lab on its surface.


4G Licenses Issued China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology recently granted 4G (fourth generation telecommunication technology) licenses to China Mobile, China Telecom and China Unicom, China’s three State-owned telecom giants. The first batch of 4G licenses authorize TDLTE (Time Division Long Term Evolution) technology only, a homegrown Chinese 4G standard similar to the internationally adopted FDD technology, developed in the US. In the open statement, the Ministry pledged to grant FDD licenses in the future when “conditions are in place,” but some domestic experts have ex-

pressed concern that the use of FDD technology puts China’s data security at risk. Chinese domestic media have revealed that the three companies have already begun experimenting with integrating TD and FDD technologies. 4G technology allows for super-fast network transmissions up to 100 megabytes per second, about 50 times the speed of 3G technology, yet costs less than its predecessor. The commercialization of 4G technology is expected to aid China’s economy by promoting investment into the upgrading of telecommunication equipment and networks.

To ease growing pressure on its pension fund, the Chinese government has announced its intention to raise the retirement age in “progressive steps.” According to the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security, the government will notify the public of changes several years before they are enacted, and will only add one or two months each time. The Ministry has also pledged to first implement the policy in selected occupations that impose higher experience requirements, such as doctors and teachers. This soft approach did little to ease the worries of those who believe that the policy will impair their interests by extending insurance payments while shortening retirements. Others voiced concerns that the change will further reduce employment opportunities for graduates. China’s current retirement age is 50 (female) or 55 (male) for private sectors or State-owned enterprises (SOE) workers, and 55 (female) or 60 (male) for government employees or SOE executives. Experts have predicted that each additional year will result in a 4-billion-yuan (US$667m) increase in the government’s pension fund.


Young AIDS Sufferers on the Rise China saw 1,700 more young people infected with HIV in 2012, 24.5 percent more than in 2011. The figures were revealed by the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention under the National Health and Family Planning Commission on November 30, the day before World AIDS day. The official statistics showed that young people aged between 15 and 24 accounted for 1.7 percent of the total number of new HIV infections in 2012, almost twice the figure for 2008. According to Yu Jinjing, director of the center, China is now home to more than 7,000 HIV-infected students. The bureau also revealed that 87 percent of Chinese AIDS cases are transmitted through sexual intercourse, 64.8 of which was male-to-male. The experts have called for a more extensive awareness campaign specially targeting young people who hold increasingly open attitudes toward sex. NEWSCHINA I February 2014

New HIV Infections:

Total: 20,000

Total: 42,000

Young people: 1,283

Young people: 1,700

Source: Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention


Photos by Xinhua



Poll the People Beijing’s subway will reportedly mark up rush hour fares, claiming that underpriced tickets have led to severe overcrowding. The current price is two yuan (around 30 US cents) per journey, regardless of length, a price underpinned by billions in government subsidies.

During November’s smog, some of the most serious that has ever hit China’s east, locals crafted all sorts of homemade anti-smog devices out of unexpected materials.

What do you think about a fare increase on the Beijing subway? Oppose. 62.7% 10,372 Support. 33.3%




Not sure. 4.0% 660 Source:

Most Circulated Post Retweeted: 211,266 times

While withdrawing money from an ATM, a Nanjing man surnamed Huang found a card left in the machine and used it to withdraw 7,000 yuan (US$1,150), all the money remaining in the account. Huang then quit his 6,000 yuan (US$988) per month job and fled the city until he was apprehended by police in Wenzhou, Zhejiang Province.

After stealing a young woman’s laptop, cash and credit cards, a burglar in Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province left a note reminding her to lock her door more tightly. The thief also asked for her forgiveness, citing that “It’s not easy to make a living far from home on my own. I just want to feed myself. Please forgive me.”

Shocking To persuade their parents to look after their one-year-old child, a couple from Nanjing, Jiangsu Province, staged a kidnapping. When the police discovered the scam, they called the child’s grandparents, who eventually agreed to come to Nanjing to help care for their grandson. More surprisingly, the parents were let off.


This post called for a 50 percent cut in the price of standing tickets on Chinese trains over the New Year period. The standing-room-only railway tickets have always been sold at the same price as those for seats. During the Chinese New Year rush, it is hard for migrant workers to get a seat on the train, given that most of them do not know how to book tickets by phone or online. Let’s call for half price standing tickets.

NEWSCHINA I February 2014

Top Five Search Queries On

over the week ending December 15 Nelson Mandela 652,683 The late South African leader has many Chinese fans.

No Man’s Land 374,698 The newly-uncensored road movie directed by Ning Hao hit screens in December.



Well dweller 98,206 A man lived for 20 years in a disused well in Beijing to save money for his three children.

Pet Pig

Gold Mao 86,746 A 6.83-ton statue of Mao Zedong made of marble and gold to commemorate the former leader’s 120th birthday celebrations cost more than 100 million yuan (US$165,000).

Top Blogger Profile Gao Xiaosong Followers: 35,444,958

This 44-year-old folk singer, composer and music producer is now the host of China’s most popular online talk show, Morning Call. Gao, born into a family of academics, quit prestigious Tsinghua University’s science faculty to become an oncampus student rep, participating in dozens of cultural events. The versatile Gao, fascinated by history and politics, has said he wishes to share with netizens his experiences of reading and traveling. NEWSCHINA I February 2014

Some of the images used in this section are from the internet

Jang Sung-taek 66,040 The execution of the second most powerful man in North Korea, and uncle of the current leader Kim Jong-un, received a lot of coverage in neighboring China.

Zhang Jun This senior judge with the Higher People’s Court of Hubei Province was caught on camera entering a hotel with his mistress. Zhang has since been dismissed from his post.

A pet pig was found wandering along Beijing’s Chang’an Street beside the heavilyguarded Zhongnanhai compound, official residence of China’s top officials. Police reportedly “escorted” the pig in order to prevent it running into traffic.

TOEFL Ringers Four Chinese nationals were caught in Korea offering to take locals’ Teaching English as a Foreign Language exams on their behalf for a fee.

Good Samaritan Yuan Yiqun, a motorcycle cab driver from Yancheng , Jiangsu, waited in freezing temperatures for the return of a passenger who had lost 10,000 yuan (US$1,650) in his cab. He declined the offer of a reward.



Military Rectification Campaign

Tough Talk The People’s Liberation Army’s self-imposed rectification campaign is pushing further than ever into what was once sacred ground, cutting the army’s access to luxuries, military license plates and even investigating real estate holdings. Will it be effective in curbing corruption? By Xi Zhigang


n November 5th, four days prior to the opening of the Third Plenum of the 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC), China’s military released a high-profile document outlining “the latest progress in military rectification.” According to the PLA Daily, the official mouthpiece of the Central Military Commission (CMC), rectification has “achieved preliminary success.” More than 8,100 “illegitimate real estate holdings” had been “cleared up,” and 25,000 illegally acquired vehicles seized. In recent years, China’s media and the public have increased their scrutiny of the previously off-limits and hugely powerful military, reporting on corruption and disciplinary violations. Illegally registered military vehicles appropriated for the private use of army officials have become a particular target of scorn as the government has rolled out limits on urban residents’ access to license plates. “Luxury cars with military license plates are increasingly seen parked outside expensive restaurants. It makes the public angry,” said one PLA insider who asked to


remain anonymous. While corruption in China’s military has long been an open secret, it is only in recent years that the Party has voiced willingness to crack down. In November 2012, as Xi Jinping assumed the post of Chairman of the CMC, a large-scale military rectification campaign was rolled out. In December 2012, the CMC released its “10 regulations,” putting strict controls on vehicle use, and introducing a blanket ban on the use of military funds to purchase expensive liquor and pay for lavish banquets. Five months later, all military vehicles received new license plates, while officials were prohibited from fixing military plates to luxury cars. A former military driver of a retired high-level military officer told NewsChina that a great number of luxury cars have been mothballed since the new rules were introduced. In June 2013, the CMC ordered an inspection of all real estate owned by military personnel, claiming to target those who had acquired large real estate holdings through abuse of their positions. In August, the General Political Department of the PLA released

new regulations on the privileges afforded to military personnel. A retired high-level officer formerly of the Lanzhou Military Region told NewsChina that, in June, he returned his apartment to the military. Analysts have credited Xi Jinping, who is said to have a stronger connection to China’s military leaders than his predecessor, with masterminding the rectification campaign to curb the army’s so-called “peacetime habits,” which military observers claim have affected its battle-readiness. On the same day the announcement in the PLA Daily, Xi re-emphasized the “Dream of a Strong Military” in an address delivered during an inspection of the National University of Defense Technology. Many now believe the initial campaign is merely an overture to a vast and unprecedented overhaul of the country’s most powerful institution.


“The inveterate habits the army has formed during peacetime are hazardous,” Professor Liu Mingfu of the National University of Defense Technology told NewsChina. AcNEWSCHINA I February 2014

cording to Liu, war games, intended to train battle-ready troops, are increasingly treated as “performances” to satisfy senior officials. Liu pointed to examples such as a catering corps that continued to cook after being “wiped out” in an enemy strike, and a Chinese soldier armed with a single RPG destroying 10 enemy tanks in a single shot. “You often read about these situations in the newspapers,” he said. The Nanjing Military Region’s former Deputy Commander Wang Hongguang has written several articles critical of the tendency towards image over substance in military circles, including one entitled “The Courage and Uprightness of the Army shall be Further Trained in Peacetime” that stated “the military is gradually becoming lax and effeminate.” Wang has openly criticized the military’s field training methods, which long ago replaced makeshift front-line camps with fullystocked concrete compounds, complete with electricity and plumbing. He pointed out that some senior and middle level command posts even feature air-conditioning in their field camps, and use civilian channels for communications. Despite trumpeting their “foolproof” security protocols, Wang added, an entire “baggage train” of hawkers and peddlers typically attaches itself to all military columns, undermining security and getting troops accustomed to having home comforts close at hand. To make China’s war games seem more real, casualties sustained during live-fire exercises are no longer classified. Recently, reports of the accidental death of a marine during an exercise named “Seal 2013” appeared in domestic media, a rare occurrence in China, where the authorities typically censor such reports. Liu Mingfu believes that Xi Jinping has taken the reins at a crucial time in Chinese military history. On March 1, 2013, Xi stated in a military briefing that his aim was to “make the Army comply with the Party, be battle-ready and maintain discipline.” Analysts say that Xi’s idea of military rectification is rooted in his own military experience, when he served from 1979 to 1982 as secretary of the CMC Office, at a time when NEWSCHINA I February 2014

China had just begun its program of Reform and Opening-up, and the Party shifted focus away from the military and towards the economy. In fact, many army divisions began to engage in construction work, building infrastructure to support China’s expanding economy. “He [Xi] has a clear understanding of the habits formed in the army since the military began to participate in economic construction,” said Liu. “Therefore he has a sharp eye for the problems, and is acting accordingly.” Since assuming control of the military as its de facto Commander in Chief, Xi has engaged in frequent inspections of all China’s major military jurisdictions, as well as the Second Artillery, Air Force, Navy and armed police divisions. More controversially, he also ordered the military to “flex its muscles” in disputed territory such as the border with India, around the Diaoyu (Senkaku) Islands and in the South China Sea. Party organs are already claiming that discipline has improved since Xi’s ascension. The PLA Daily examined the habits of political officers when on tours of inspection, claiming that one commissar in Shenyang “embarrassed” underlings during a visit by insisting on lodging in a simple hotel and eating basic meals. “In the past, officers were housed in luxury hotels, with high-profile receptions,” said a retired military officer of the Ningxia Military Region, speaking anonymously. He added that the rectification campaign has led to improvements in discipline and efficiency.

Rule of Law

In an apparent effort to reinforce the Party’s commitment to cleaning up the military, several high-profile officials have been removed from their posts. In February 2012, the former Deputy Minister of the PLA General Logistics Department was removed for corruption offences. Prior to that, a former Deputy Navy Commander named Wang Shouye also resigned, allegedly under pressure over illicit activities. Analysts believe Xi Jinping is willing to tackle egregious corruption in the military, though opinion is divided on whether he will be able to fully bring the army to heel.

After adopting new license plate regulations, the CMC began to investigate infrastructure and real estate spending in the military, with a full-scale inspection launched in June 2013. Xi appointed General Logistics Minister Zhao Keshi to chair the investigation. Despite an unusual level of publicity afforded to the campaign, as with anything involving the Chinese military, only successes are being reported, with most of the details remaining off-limits to media and public scrutiny. Corruption cases against military officials are notoriously hard to pursue, due to the extremely close and opaque connection between the Party and the army. Perhaps to give the campaign an aura of semi-independence, on October 29, 2013, Xi Jinping published a file entitled “Decisions Regarding the Inspection Work of the Central Military Committee,” a document seen as an outline of his general strategy for establishing an inspection system in the military. While largely overlooked by the foreign press, this document marks the first time in history that any Party leader has even hinted at a full-scale inspection of working practices in the Chinese military, which has been largely left to its own devices since Liberation in 1949. However, the military will seemingly remain responsible for policing itself, with Xu Qiliang, the CMC’s Deputy Chairman, appointed leader of the inspection team. On May 2, 2013, the PLA Daily reported that leaders of the Fourth Headquarters of the PLA had openly promised to inspect the commercial activities of their family members and staff, keeping them from involvement in construction projects and the acquisition of materiel. More recent reports claimed that the private secretaries of all China’s senior military leaders had been discharged as part of the campaign, which, if true, marks a major shift in standard practice. Despite the fuss made in the State media, however, analysts have continued to argue for more sweeping reforms in the military, exploring a greater variety of judicial processes in order to root out abuses. For now, at least, the public are continuing to scrutinize China’s most powerful, and shadowy, institution.


cover story

the new normal The sudden establishment of a Chinese Air Defense Identification Zone is China’s most overt attempt to redefine the status quo in the Pacific. However, both sides are now damping down the rhetoric and seeking common ground, with the US increasingly compelled to act as mediator between a bellicose Beijing and an increasingly right-wing Japanese administration. Analysts are divided on what this means for the fragile peace in the Asia-Pacific region, with some predicting heightened risk of conflict, while others see the potential for a more constructive diplomacy between the regional powers. This month, NewsChina explores the past, present and possible future of the complex politics of the Pacific Rim


NEWSCHINA I February 2014

China’s ADIZ

Up in the Air What signals are China and the US sending to each other in the ADIZ confrontation? By Li Jia

Chinese President Xi Jinping with US Vice President Joe Biden at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, December 4, 2013 NEWSCHINA I February 2014

Photo by xinhua


ou cannot please everyone all of the time, especially when your own interests are tied up in the relationships between them. This, however, is the job with which US Vice President Joe Biden has recently been charged. On his East Asia tour in early December, Biden tried to reassure US regional allies uneasy over China’s most recent power play, without frustrating China too much. On November 23, China announced its new Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) over the East China Sea. Aircraft flying in the zone are required to file their flight plans with Chinese authorities, and provide other means of identification such as maintain radio communication and display insignia. Since the 1950s, more than 20 countries have established such zones. As China’s zone covers the disputed Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands, its announcement triggered an immediate reaction from the US and her major Pacific allies Japan, South Korea and Australia. The US is uncomfortable with the timing and manner of China’s move. In their statements and remarks, the White House and Biden have repeatedly expressed concern over the increased risk of “a dangerous miscalculation or accident” due to China’s “sudden announcement,” the US’ firm commitment to protecting her allies, and refusals to recognize the zone. On November 25, two unarmed US B-52 bombers flew into China’s newly established ADIZ. However, Biden’s published remarks following his meeting in Beijing with Chinese President Xi Jinping did not even mention the issue. The White House spokesperson Jay Carney confirmed on December 2: “For safe-

ty and security of passengers, US carriers operating internationally operate consistent with notices to airmen issued by foreign countries.” Given the tension in this geopolitically sensitive area, it is reasonable to presume that strong responses from the US and her regional allies and a higher risk of accidents were anticipated by Chinese policy makers. There is no point in lecturing China on the results of its decision – it probably makes more sense to analyze the possible indications and implications of China’s actions, and the responses from others, particularly the US.

In the Zone

An ADIZ is an early-warning area outside a coastal country’s airspace designed to give the country enough time to prepare for possible airborne attack against her sovereign territories – it is neither sovereign airspace nor no-fly zone. There is no international law or agreement on establishing and administrating such zones. Common practice is to check, track, give warnings, intercept or even force an escorted landing if an aircraft is identified as a threat. Shooting it down is not supposed to become an option unless the aircraft enters sovereign airspace, since this could be difficult to justify afterwards. “[It is like] defending yourself from a burglary before a burglar enters your house, but after they have entered your yard,” according to Li Jie, a well-known Chinese military commentator, in an interview with NewsChina. In a statement on December 3, Geng Yansheng, spokesperson for China’s Ministry of National Defense clarified that: “Measures taken are based on factors such as an entering aircraft’s attributes – military or civilian,


Photo by cfp

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Joe Biden with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at a joint press conference following their meeting in Tokyo, December 3, 2013

Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop told the media that the ADIZ was just a minor part of the talks. Observers have perceived an inconsistency in terms of the different responses in different aspects delivered at different times. This is natural in international politics. Generally, other countries in the region have accepted the ADIZs, at least in terms of civil aviation. This can be partly explained by their close economic relations with China, and in South Korea’s case, this acceptance is cemented by shared frustration at the Abe administration’s alleged military buildup and official view of history. It may be more helpful to understand the broader environment in which the two major players, China and the US, act and react.

Photo by cfp

Strength and Subtlety

On December 7, 2013, US Vice President Joe Biden visits Observation Post Ouellette during a tour of the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) near the border village of Panmunjom, which has separated the two Koreas since the Korean War

the extent of threat, or distance.” It recognized that international civil flights “pose no threat in most circumstances,” and revealed that most civil aviation companies traveling the area have filed flight plans to China, “including some Japanese airlines.” In his meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Philippine President Benigno Aquino expressed concern over – but not opposition to – the possibility of China setting up an ADIZ in the South China Sea, where his country and China are engaged in a territorial dispute. The joint statement at a JapanASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Na-


tions) Summit on December 14 vowed more cooperation between the two “in ensuring the freedom of overflight and civil aviation safety” without mentioning China’s ADIZ. Japan’s Kyodo News Agency said that the ASEAN countries’ close ties with China were the reason behind what Japan saw as their unexpectedly moderate rhetoric on the subject. Immediately following China’s announcement of the ADIZ, the Australian government openly accused China of “coercive or unilateral action to change the status quo in the East China Sea.” However, after her meeting with her Chinese counterpart Wang Yi,

The US’ most drastic defiance of China’s ADIZ so far was the B-52 bombers that flew into China’s ADIZ and lingered about 200 kilometers east of the disputed Diaoyu/ Senkaku Islands three days after China announced the ADIZ. An almost equally drastic, although contradictory move came a few days later, when the White House advised US airliners to comply with China’s ADIZ rules, while insisting that the US refusal to recognize China’s ADIZ remained unchanged. China’s Ministry of Defense said the Chinese army had monitored the US bombers in real time by identifying their type and trajectory, but it seemed that China took no countermeasures and made no contact. This exercise of showing both muscle and flexibility on the US side, and restraint on both sides, has caused confusion around the US’ attitude, and doubts over China’s capability to enforce its first ever ADIZ. Actually, the unarmed bombers were flying along a north-south, not east-west, axis, showing no intention of moving towards China, indicating that the move was not a direct threat. Moreover, said Li, the military commentator, China did not wish to respond too strongly to the US when the zone was established. Japan reportedly wanted Biden to issue a joint statement with Abe on China’s ADIZ, urging Beijing to rescind the zone and ask American airliners not to file flight plans to NEWSCHINA I February 2014

Beijing. None of this came to fruition on Biden’s trip. Instead, he repeatedly emphasized the necessity to establish a crisis management mechanism. The US’ ostensible inconsistency proves that it is caught in a subtle balancing act, Professor Jin Canrong, a prominent China-US relations expert at the Renmin University of China, explained to NewsChina. Internally, the US needs to prevent its commercial interests being affected by political problems, and externally, it has to prove to allies, particularly Japan in this case, that it would never disappoint them, while simultaneously assuring China that it does not want to cause conflict. This mutual restraint, he added, shows that there is basically enough confidence shared between the US and China in their mutual commitment to avoid military conflict. Jin viewed the US response so far as “normal and reasonable.”

No Hiding

It is true, however, that the US is very unhappy with China’s sudden announcement. Instead of questioning the legitimacy of China’s action, as he has on previous occasions, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney acknowledged at the press conference on December 5 that “countries have ADIZs. The United States has them.” However, he repeated his recent criticism of China’s sudden action as “not wise.” “The US never sees China as predictable,” said Professor Yan Xuetong, dean of the Institute of Modern International Relations at Tsinghua University, to NewsChina at a forum in Beijing. Though the US may regard China as even more unpredictable after this latest move, this is not thought to be the most important reason for the US’ consistent frustration. Politically and militarily, Jin said, recognizing China’s ADIZ is the last thing that the US is likely to do. The US insists it has underwritten security in the region with military dominance for the past 60 years since World War II, and as such, it would never accept any military realignment without its own approval or participation. Both professors agree that China’s recent step, taken without any advance consultation, most notably with the US, is a sign that China is ready to become a NEWSCHINA I February 2014

force shaping, rather than just accepting, the world order within which it operates. This, they stressed, is what has displeased the US about China’s sudden action. China had already commenced military activities in the area before the ADIZ was established, but officially defining the zone as an area within which rules set by China must be followed by other nations is a different matter. This sends the message that China has begun to attempt to act as a rule maker, noted Professor Jin. It is commonly recognized that the year 2001, when China gained WTO membership and the 9/11 terrorist attacks changed the US’ attitude towards China in a positive way, marked the beginning of a “golden period of strategic opportunities” for China’s rise. 2010, by contrast, was labeled as the beginning of a “period of strategic challenges,” as tensions over territorial disputes with neighboring countries increased, precipitating and facilitating the US’ “pivot to Asia,” and its strategic realignment in the region. “There is no such thing as ‘period of strategic opportunities’ if you just wait and do nothing to shape the environment in your favor,” said Professor Yan at the forum. On several occasions he cited Robert Zoellic, former US Deputy Secretary of State and President of the World Bank known for urging China to be a “responsible stakeholder” in the international system, who has described China as an “elephant that has grown too big to hide behind a tree any longer.” History has proved that a rising power will face bigger, not smaller, challenges than before. Given that, Professor Yan views China’s ADIZ decision, leading to a visible rift in the US-Japan alliance, a “typical example” that China has finally begun to try to overcome challenges by making use of them, instead of coping with them passively. He has also repeatedly called for the Chinese government to rethink its non-alliance strategy and act as a security provider for potential regional allies. “If you’re powerful but not my ally, I would be scared of you,” he noted at the forum. Voices from within China calling for a more proactive role in shaping the world order have been rising in the past few years. The division lies in how big and how fast the adjustment of

strategy can be made.

Something More?

There is also speculation that China, by increasing tensions, is trying to bring Japan back to the negotiating table on territorial disputes. Analysts are divided on whether this strategy, if it is indeed part of the plan, could work or not. Professor Yan is not optimistic, “at least not during the Abe administration.” Few would doubt that the territorial dispute with Japan is an important reason for China’s ADIZ decision. It is no surprise that the strongest response came from Japan – on December 6 the Japanese House of Representatives passed a resolution asking China to rescind the ADIZ. The Japanese government has decided to spend more on military equipment purchases in the next five years to “respond to China’s growing presence in the East China Sea,” as Japan’s Asahi Shimbun reported on December 14. Through its National Security Council and the State Secret Bill, the comparatively hawkish Abe administration has been expanding its power in controlling the country’s security policy. There is little sign that Japan is easing its position. Despite this, Professor Jin believes that the increased pressure from China, “by showing our resolve to fight back if we think you are provoking,” combined with the US’ calls for more communication with China on the ADIZ issue, would be effective in getting Japan back to the negotiation table. The increased risk of conflict due to miscalculations could also force relevant parties to act more cautiously to avoid accidents, according to Li. Most analysts agree that the principle on which this is based – that nobody, whether American, Chinese or Japanese, thinks the disputed islands are worth a war – is true. Li also believes that the efforts to implement the ADIZ could help improve China’s military power. “Like in a basketball game, you have to follow your rival closely and block his shots – this may serve as a deterrent, ” he said. It is difficult to second-guess what policy makers of major players are thinking when they make decisions that affect the whole world. While each one of them wants to win, the eventual winner has to be peace.


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Dokdo/Takeshima Island

Suyan Rock/Ieodo Island

Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands

Ogasawara Islands

Yonaguni Island


NEWSCHINA I February 2014

China’s ADIZ

Skylines The history of air defense identification zones in East Asia Southern Kuril Islands/ Northern Territories

By Yu Xiaodong


China’s ADIZ Exclusive Economic Zone Median Line claimed by China Japan’s ADIZ Exclusive Economic Zone Median Line claimed by Japan Taiwan’s ADIZ South Korea’s ADIZ Extension of South Korea’s ADIZ Disputed Islands

NEWSCHINA I February 2014

hina announced its decision to set up its Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) in the East China Sea on November 23, 2013, raising quite a commotion in the neighborhood. Among those directly impacted were South Korea and Japan, as well as Taiwan, as China’s newly established ADIZ overlaps with their existing ADIZs. The US responded rapidly to China’s decision by dispatching military aircraft to the zone, a relatively aggressive stance that it later dialed down. The reason why the US was the first to take action challenging China perhaps lies in the fact that the boundaries of the ADIZs of South Korea, Japan and Taiwan were all drawn by the US. Designed to suit US military needs during the Cold War, the South Korean, Japanese and Taiwanese zones were purposely made not to overlap with each other, a status quo that has remained largely unchanged for decades. But with China’s establishment of its own ADIZ, the Cold War-era landscape of air jurisdiction in the region is very likely to become history.

South Korea

South Korea’s Air Defense Identification Zone (KADIZ) was set up by the US Navy on March 22, 1951, at the height of the Korean War, after Chinese troops launched an offensive that changed the tide of the conflict in early 1951. As a wartime measure, the zone went beyond the midway point be-

tween China and South Korea in the Yellow Sea, just under 100 kilometers from the eastern coast of China’s Shandong Province. Its northern boundary included parts of North Korea. South Korea has largely maintained this line in the 60 years since the Korean War. China’s ADIZ over the East China Sea announced on November 23 overlapped with the KADIZ at its southwestern corner, but the real dispute is over a reef that falls outside the boundary of South Korea’s ADIZ, but within Japan’s. The reef, named Socotra Rock when discovered by the British in 1900 but known as Ieodo Island in South Korea and Suyan Rock in China, is a submerged rock 4.6 meters (15 ft) below sea level at low tide. The rock is a major point of contention in the negotiations between South Korea and China regarding the boundary of the two countries’ Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ). South Korea has built a helipad and the “Korean Ieodo Ocean Research Station” on the rock, and argues that the boundary of the two EEZs should be drawn at the midway point between the closest islands of the two countries, which would place the rock within South Korea’s EEZ, as it is 149 kilometers from South Korea’s Marado Island, but 287 kilometers from the closet Chinese island. But China argues that distance from the two countries’ mainland coastlines, rather than isolated islands, should be considered in the drawing of the boundary. According to the United Nations Conven-


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tion on the Law of the Sea, a submerged reef cannot be claimed as territory by any country. Both countries agree that the dispute is not a “territorial dispute,” as the rock is not a territory. But Beijing is concerned that South Korea, which insists on calling the submerged rock an “island,” may conduct further construction on the rock, and claim it – and its surrounding waters – as territory in the future. In response to China’s decision to set up its ADIZ, South Korea announced on December 8 its plan to expand its ADIZ. The new ADIZ, which became effective on December 15, does not only cover the disputed rock, but reaches 260 kilometers south of the reef, and includes not only areas included in China’s ADIZ, but in Japan’s ADIZ. Although China’s Global Times newspaper argued that the expansion is “an opportunistic move” which aims to take advantage of the heightened tension between China and Japan, the reaction of the Chinese government has been rather restrained. Expressing his “regret” over the decision to expand the Korean ADIZ, Hong Lei, spokesperson for China’s Foreign Ministry, said that the two countries were notified in advance prior to their decisions to set up and expand their ADIZs.


Like that of South Korea, Japan’s ADIZ was also drawn up by the US during its postwar occupation. And just as South Korea’s ADIZ extends close to China, Japan’s ADIZ, drawn up during the Cold War, also comes close to China and Russia. At its closest point, the line is only 130 kilometers (80 miles) from China’s Zhejiang Province. At its northern tip, the line draws close to Russia, and is only about 50 kilometers (30 miles) from Russia’s Primorsky Krai region. The Japanese government officially adopted the ADIZ on September 1, 1969, and issued a Ministry of Defense order as its legal basis. China has long been unhappy that Japan’s ADIZ draws so close to China’s coast. Like the EEZ disputes between almost all East Asian countries, China and Japan dispute


the boundary of their EEZs. Japan claims an EEZ as far as a median line that bisects the East China Sea, while China claims a 200 nautical mile EEZ off its coastline based on the natural extension of the continental shelf. Japan’s existing ADIZ not only covers the areas around the disputed Diaoyu (Senkaku) Islands, a major flash point between Beijing and Tokyo in the past a couple of years – it also covers much of China’s EEZ in the East China Sea, which Japan has not disputed. For example, it includes China’s Chunxiao gas field on the Chinese side of the “median line” which Japan has accused of being on operation “stealing” resources belonging to Japan. China has frequently protested against Japan’s “aggressive surveillance at close range” in the region from both the sea and the air. China’s newly established ADIZ appears to be a direct answer to that of Japan. At its closest point, the line is 130 kilometers from Japanese territory, the same distance from Japan’s ADIZ to the closest Chinese territory. In response, Japan has insisted that China rescind its ADIZ, a call that Chinese officials have dismissed as “nonsense.” According to a report in Japan’s Yomiuri Shimbun, Japan is considering expanding its ADIZ to include the Ogasawara Islands in the Western Pacific, on the grounds that Chinese fleets, which now enter the Western Pacific on a regular basis, pose a threat to Japanese regional security. Japan has been particularly sensitive over the impact of ADIZ on territorial disputes, which exist between Japan and almost all its neighbors. For example, to avoid provoking what was then the Soviet Union, the US did not include the Southern Kuril Islands (called the Northern Territories by Japan) in its ADIZ, which many Japanese lawmakers have complained undermines Japan’s territorial claim over the islands, which are under Russia’s de facto control. Similarly, the fact that the Dokdo island (known as Takeshima in Japan), a disputed island between Japan and South Korea, falls outside of the line drawn by the US is also considered to be a major factor allowing South Korea to consolidate its control over the island and gain

the upper hand in the dispute.


Beijing’s new ADIZ also overlaps with that of Taiwan, another zone drawn up by the US. Compared to South Korea and Japan, Taipei’s reaction belies its awkward position, as Taiwan also claims the Diaoyu/Senkaku islands, the key factor in the ADIZ dispute, on similar grounds to Beijing’s claim, while Beijing will not acknowledge Taiwanese sovereignty in any dispute. On November 29, Taipei issued a statement saying that Beijing’s unilateral establishment of its ADIZ “would not help” the development of cross-straits relations. Taipei also warned Beijing not to set up an ADIZ in the South China Sea. Taiwanese airlines are among the first to have submitted their flight plans to the mainland authorities. Then, on December 1, the 70th anniversary of the signing of the Cairo Declaration, an agreement for the return of occupied Chinese territory from Japan at the end of World War II, Taiwanese leader Ma Ying-jeou stressed that the document set up the legal basis of the Republic of China’s sovereign power ruling the island of Taiwan. Both Beijing and Taipei argue that the Diaoyu/Senkaku islands are among the occupied Chinese territories that should be returned by Japan in accordance with the Cairo Declaration. On December 12, Taiwanese media reported that Taipei’s low-profile and unsynchronized reaction to Beijing had led to dissatisfaction in the US, a message that its chief representative King Pu-tsung to the US had secretly returned to Taiwan to convey. However, the US officially endorsed Taipei’s response as constructive. The reason behind Taipei’s mild reaction not only lies in its ever closer economic ties with the mainland, but also in the existing disputes between Taiwan and Japan both on the ocean and in the air. Earlier in 2012, as Japan triggered a row between China and Japan by announcing that it would “nationalize” the Diaoyu/Senkaku islands, Taiwan also sent its own official vessels to the islands to protest Japan’s decision. Beijing has long NEWSCHINA I February 2014

Photo by ic

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe reviews members of the Japanese Selfdefense Force (SDF) during the Self-Defense Force Day at the Asaka military base, north of Tokyo, October 27, 2013

NEWSCHINA I February 2014

Though Yonaguni was eventually handed over to Japan, one third of the island is The US Navy’s Great Green Fleet during the 2012 Rim of the still included in TaiPacific (RIMPAC) exercise, the world’s largest international wan’s ADIZ, as the US maritime exercise, July 19, 2012. China will participate in 2014. had earlier set 123 degrees east longitude as the western boundary of the Japanese ADIZ, which passes right through the island. announced it would expand its ADIZ over Japan had grumbled about this arrange- Yonaguni Island, a proposition that Taiwan ment, and then in 2010, as tensions sur- refuses to accept. rounding the Diaoyu/Senkaku dispute This is the knotty situation all parties have started to mount, the Japanese government inherited. Photo by cfp

called on Taipei to form a “united front” to defend the “common interests of the Chinese people.” Another often overlooked dispute between Taiwan and Japan regarding the ADIZ is about the Yonaguni, the southernmost island of the Ryukyu Islands. Yonaguni was traditionally controlled by Taiwan, but when the US handed the jurisdiction of Okinawa, along with that of Diaoyu/Senkaku and Yonaguni, to Japan in May 1972 (the same year President Richard Nixon made the historical visit to Beijing), Chiang Ching-kuo, the then leader of Taiwan, ordered jet fighters to conduct a flyover of the island in protest.



Scientific Illustration Postage stamps featuring Chinese birds, designed by Zeng Xiaolian

The Art of Science Scientific illustrators, although crucial to the scientific community, are at risk of disappearing from China By Wang Yan


hanks to a short documentary on rare plant conservation produced and broadcast in 2009 by State broadcaster China Central Television (CCTV), Li Aili, the only formally employed scientific illustrator at the Institute of Botany with the Chinese Academy of Sciences (IBCAS), became a public figure almost overnight. In the short documentary, Li presented her illustration of the world’s rarest conifer (and her personal favorite plant) the Baishanzu fir


(Abies beshanzuensis), a species indigenous to eastern China’s Zhejiang Province and classified as critically endangered on the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) Red List. “The program did a lot to raise public awareness of biology and environmental protection, while at the same time popularizing to a certain extent our often-ignored profession of scientific illustration,” said Li, who has been working as a full-time scientific illustrator for over 15 years, in an interview

with NewsChina in mid-December. Despite the success of the video, little has improved for Li and her colleagues in the field who are, in China, an endangered species themselves.


Scientific illustrators are artists in the service of science, who use scientifically informed observation, combined with sharp technical and aesthetic skills, to accurately portray their subjects. “Even with advanced visual technology, NEWSCHINA I February 2014

Designs by scientific illustrator Zhu Yunxi

we cannot ignore the critical role of scientific illustrations in compiling great works of science,” said Wang Qiang, a PhD student at IBCAS. “[Illustrators can highlight] shapes, anatomy, details, and concepts [with a level of detail] unattainable even with the highest resolution photography.” From clarifying multiple focal depths and overlapping layers to emphasize unobservable details of plants, to the artistic reconstruction of partial specimens and extinct life forms, the remit of scientific illustrators goes far beyond the acNEWSCHINA I February 2014

curate rendering of plant life. “Scientific illustrations are critical for differentiating species and whenever a new species is described, a standardized botanical scientific illustration for the species is required,” said plant taxonomist Professor Wang Wencai, an academician at the Chinese Academy of Sciences. When NewsChina spoke to 25-year-old Zhu Yunxi, a contract scientific illustrator with IBCAS, he was engrossed in sketching a tiny plant specimen in his small office,

striving to portray its delicate contours and intricate structure with an exceptional level of detail. Zhu, came to this office as in March 2011, and for over two years, his primary task has been the illustration of the epic work of botanical classification Flora of Pan-Himalayas (see “Plant Pursuit,” NewsChina, December 2012, Vol. 53) – an endeavor he expects to spend the next decade completing. After graduating from a vocational college majoring in landscape architecture, Zhu’s personal


Photo by Wang qiang


Zhu Yunxi at work

interests in both botany and art drove him to opt for a year of study at the Guangxi Institute of Botany in 2008, in order to become a botanical illustrator. Zhu told NewsChina that scientific illustration is an ideal outlet for those interested in both art and science.

Dwindling Opportunities

Throughout human history, there has always been a desire to capture and preserve the natural world in all its beauty. In China, the earliest works that could be defined as scientific illustrations were made in the 1060s by Su Song, a pre-eminent herbalist during the Song Dynasty (960-1279). Historical records of highly precise drawings by Europeans exist from as early as the Age of Discovery (15th-17th century) when artists accompanied early explorers to record their discoveries. However, it was not until the mid-19th century, with the introduction of plant taxonomy into China, that Chinese scientists began to publish their own illustrations alongside their research.


In 1943, Feng Chengru, the first Chinese scientific illustrator in modern history, established the Jiangnan Art School in Jiangsu Province, and cultivated the first cohort of Chinese scientific illustrators. However, these important figures remain a rare breed. Designs by Zhu Yunxi According to illustrator Sun Yingbao from IBCAS, there are only around a dozen professional full- lustration, have either retired or passed away, time scientific illustrators working for re- and only a few young people remain active search institutes across China at present. Of in this field.” Zeng Xiaolian, 74, a retired scientific illusthese, Zhu Yunxi is of the youngest cohort, trator from the Kunming Institute of Botany the so-called “fourth generation.” One of China’s most prestigious scientific who spent his entire professional career in the illustrators, 89-year-old Feng Jinyong, also a profession, gained his nationwide reputation student of Feng Chengru, recently told the not through being a skilled scientific illustramedia that scientific illustrators would soon tor, but for his paintings of Chinese birds disappear from China, since “the older gen- and plants, and his decorative postage stamp eration, those with professional training and designs. an educational background in scientific ilA professional scientific illustrator, speakNEWSCHINA I February 2014

ing on condition of anonymity, told our reporter: “The reason for the shortage of scientific illustrators in China is mainly due to restricted job opportunities, lack of decent pay and the comparatively low social status.” Zhu Yunxi told NewsChina that on his current project, Flora of Pan-Himalayas, he is paid 150 yuan (US$24.70) per illustration, even though each drawing takes at least one week to complete. “Most of my former classmates have given up scientific illustration due

to the meager income in this field,” said Zhu. “I should indeed be thankful for the opportunity to compile Flora of Pan-Himalayas, which has enabled me to make ends meet as a contract scientific illustrator.” In China, apart from a few top sciencerelated academies that have faculty positions for scientific illustrators, most organizations, including museums, universities and research institutes, are on tight budgets, and cannot afford staff illustrators. “It is hard for an illustrator to survive NEWSCHINA I February 2014

purely by drawing scientific illustrations, and freelance illustrators are underpaid in general,” said Zhang Yu, staff illustrator for China National Geographic Magazine. Zhang admitted that few scientific illustrators are lucky enough to work full-time for a professional magazine, with a decent income and social status, like he does. He also told our reporter that due to insufficient financial support, illustrations in many natural science publications have been out-of-date for years. “Many publications can only resort to copying illustrations from old science books, which might not be scientifically accurate.” In Zhang’s opinion, the global job market for scientific illustration is bleak at present. NewsChina learned from various sources that scientific illustrators in the US and Europe have much brighter prospects than their counterparts in China. According to the Guild of Natural Science Illustrators, annual salaries for the profession in the US usually range from US$27,000 to US$70,000. Ann Caudle, director of the scientific illustration program at California State University, Monterey Bay told NewsChina that in the US, scientific illustration remains an important way for scientists to communicate their research and discoveries to the public and a useful tool for raising public awareness of environmental issues, as well as for the education of future scientists. She further explained that those seeking NSF (National Science Foundation) funding need to demonstrate how their research will be shared with the public, making the illustrator’s role even more crucial. The range of possibilities for employment is also broad, according to Caudle, “Our illustrators are also employed as diorama or mural painters for museums, art directors for science magazines, illustrators and animators for online publications, textbook and children’s book illustrators and art developers, medical and veterinary manual illustrators, wildlife illustrators, graphic designers, field guide illustrators, and so on.” Julie Selan, 28, a freelance scientific illustrator based in Los Angeles, told NewsChina

that as a freelancer in the US, it may require a few years of struggle before an illustrator can make a living. “But if you are able to acquire a staff illustrator position somewhere, you will at least have a stable income,” she added.


Due to the employment hurdles in the profession, no scientific illustration education program of any kind exists in China. Those with an interest in the field must resort to self-education, or seek an apprenticeship with senior scientific illustrators. Zhu Yunxi said that the training program that he underwent at the Guangxi Institute of Botany was the only such program that had existed for a decade in China. “Apart from learning about art and the basics of botany, the program offered us no information about employment, or how to market our works,” he said. In the US, however, more than 20 professional programs, geared toward both undergraduates and graduate students, offer training in scientific illustration. IBCAS attempted to launch a three-day training program for scientific illustration, accepting students from all disciplines, in 2012. The program was heavily oversubscribed, and while only 20 students were admitted, it was reportedly well received. However, for various reasons, the program could not continue into 2013. “At least, the course’s popularity showed us that there is high demand from the general public and the professional circle for scientific illustration, which was good news for us,” one anonymous source from IBCAS told NewsChina. In major Chinese cities, there have recently been an increase in the popularity of natural sciences amongst the general public – bird watching, amateur botany and other grassroots wildlife preservation initiatives have been sprouting across the country. The youngest generation of Chinese parents is also eager to foster an interest in the natural environment among their children. “This craze for natural science might be a good sign that there is hope for the vocation of scientific illustration,” said Zhang Yu.



Trust Trip

Liu Meisong presents staff members at a gas station with an IOU

Embarking on a three-month car journey around China without handing over a single cent of currency, one solitary traveler chose to question China’s so-called “trust crisis” By Yang Di


n August 25, 2010, as businessman and poet Liu Meisong prepared to set off on a 100-day car journey across China, he chose to leave his wallet at home. Liu told NewsChina his journey was a sociological experiment, aimed at finding out whether or not mutual trust still existed between strangers in today’s China. He said that every failed attempt to refuel his car, find lodgings or negotiate his way out of a highway toll felt like torture – many people simply refused to believe his story. This August, three years after his journey began, Liu released a book chronicling his experiences, titled IOUs. Starting out from his current home of Shenzhen, in southern China’s Guangdong


Province, Liu travelled clockwise around the country, visiting 31 of China’s 34 provincial capitals and accruing a total of 48,272 yuan (US$7,921) in debt to 222 strangers along the 28,510-kilometer trip. “I sometimes felt like a stray dog. I was struggling to maintain my dignity,” he said.


45-year-old Liu, originally from Shaanxi Province in northern China, has lived in Shenzhen for many years. One day in early 2010, upon arriving at a tollbooth on his daily commute, Liu found that he had no cash on him, and asked the attendant whether he could pay on his way back. To his surprise, he was allowed through. The experience caused Liu to wonder –

in today’s China, generally thought to be a fiercely competitive, materialistic society, just how far could he get on trust alone? Keen to find out, Liu, a self-described “man of ideas and action,” threw himself into preparations for the journey. On August 25, 2010, Liu set off in his Subaru SUV, stocked with several boxes of instant noodles, a few personal belongings, and hundreds of pre-printed personalized IOUs. On one side was his contact information, including his name, national ID card number, home address and telephone number, and on the other was a blank space where the value of the IOU was to be written. He promised his creditors that the money would be re-paid electronically in three days by his wife back in Shenzhen. NEWSCHINA I February 2014

Courtesy of Liu Meisong


him in. “Perhaps because their trust came so late, the good news left me numb,” Liu said.

Courtesy of Liu Meisong


Liu Meisong’s SUV is emblazoned with his mission statement: “One man, one vehicle, traveling across China without a penny.”

His first stop at a tollbooth in Fokai, Guangdong Province, nearly led him to abandon the journey. Beg as he might, the attendants refused to let him pass unless he paid up. Finally, the gate’s security guard, a fellow Shaanxi native who recognized Liu’s accent, helped Liu out by lending him 115 yuan (US$18.90). It had taken Liu precisely 46 minutes to negotiate his first IOU. Liu said he spent quite a lot of time talking people into helping him, and was often met with suspicion – some accused Liu of being a conman or a “freak.” A tollbooth attendant in Inner Mongolia told Liu that all he was doing was increasing carbon emissions, and a supervisor at the same booth told Liu that he had been deceived so often that he felt he could no longer NEWSCHINA I February 2014

afford to trust a stranger, an explanation Liu had heard many times along the way. “This was because few people cherish honesty and loyalty nowadays, which has a very negative impact on the trust system in our society,” Liu said. Liu’s most distressing memory was trying to find overnight accommodation in Shanhaiguan, a resort city in the northern province of Hebei. Between 8pm and midnight, he tried his luck at each of the city’s 11 hotels, but was repeatedly told there was no room at the inn for freeloaders. Finally, at the end of his rope, Liu parked his car in front of a four-star hotel and got into his sleeping bag. Shortly after he fell asleep, a hotel security guard knocked on the car window, and told Liu that the hotel manager had agreed to let

Liu passed a total of 163 tollbooths, refueled at 156 gas stations and was put up in 53 hotels – and in 30 percent of cases, he succeeded in getting by with an IOU. He spent a total of 577 hours on the road, and 153 hours in negotiations – an average of 90 minutes of deal brokering per day – whenever he fished out an IOU, he would get nervous and sweaty. He lost 10 kilograms in weight over the course of the journey. However, it wasn’t all suspicion and disappointment – Liu was often moved by kind offers from strangers he met on the way. In Dunhuang, in far-flung northwestern Gansu Province, the locals gave Liu something of an easy ride – from hotels to carwashes, to tollbooths, to tourist sites – Liu didn’t hand over a single cent of currency in the city. Later, in the Tanggula mountains in Tibet, a gas station attendant loaned Liu 87 yuan (US$14.30) of her own money to fill up his gas tank. Liu said the woman looked hesitant, but could not bring herself to turn him down. Later, on the Sichuan-Tibet Highway, Liu gave a ride to a pair of newlyweds-tobe whose car had broken down. When the couple got married in Chongqing days later, Liu happened to be in town, and was invited to the wedding ceremony. The highest value IOU that Liu wrote was 5,742 yuan (US$942), in Hami, Xinjiang, where he had to replace two flat tires – the owner of the auto repair shop was more than happy to extend him credit after hearing his story. Keen to remain focused on his own thoughts, Liu drove without distractions like music or the radio, and kept a record of his experiences on his blog. “IOUs mean borrowing money from others, but actually, it was about something more than money – it was about gaining trust and friendship. Trustworthiness is priceless,” Liu said. However, he added that he would not try it again.



Qingdao Explosion

An Avoidable Tragedy Poor city planning and lax safety regulations turned a minor gas leak into a lethal catastrophe, yet the authorities have taken every step possible to evade blame By Liu Ziqian and Su Xiaoming in Qingdao and Beijing


t 3 AM on November 22, a minor leak was detected in an oil pipeline running below the crossing of Qinhuangdao Road and Zhaitangjie Street in Huangdao District, Qingdao City, Shandong Province. Seven hours later, the pipe exploded, killing 62 passersby and injuring 136 more, many of whom sustained horrific burns. The pipeline was owned and run by State-owned oil giant Sinopec to deliver imported crude oil from a depot in Huangdao to the company’s refinery in the nearby city of Dongying. Following the disaster, one of the worst gas explosions in recent years, Sinopec officials rushed to deny responsibility.

Hazard Zone

An official with Sinopec, who declined to be identified, told our reporter that the pipeline had been “sealed off” shortly after the leak was detected,” but added that “there were surely fumes and residue remaining inside the pipeline.”


The same official also disclosed that Sinopec had notified the district government upon detection of the leak, but refused to elaborate on whether either party took any steps to deal with the leak. “Pipeline leakages are common,” a pipeline engineer, also speaking on condition of anonymity, told NewsChina. “Erosion, aging or [illegal] tapping could all cause leakage. Switching off the valve and fixing the pipeline is a routine procedure.” With storage capacity for 4,780,300 barrels of crude oil 377,400 barrels of refined oil, the Huangdao depot was constructed in 1973 as one of the first bases for the country’s strategic oil reserves. Hot on the heels of the crude came related heavy industries, particularly shipyards and refineries. A total of 19 petrochemical enterprises handling hazardous chemicals, seven docks and five depots with a total capacity of 52.8 million barrels became concentrated within an area of 19.2 square kilometers. However, the Huangdao-Dongying pipeline was far from easy to reach. When the line first opened in 1986, Huangdao was a fishing NEWSCHINA I February 2014

Photo by ic

Photo by ic

Wrecked vehicles lie amid debris from the explosion, November 22

village, with an unpaved road flanked by fields of crops demarcating the underground course of the oil pipeline. As soon as the Huangdao depot was inaugurated, however, the Qingdao municipal government declared the city an economic development zone, with office buildings, apartment complexes and hotels springing up in the years that followed. Various utilities, including the water and sewage departments, constructed pipe networks which became entangled with the Sinopec pipeline. Over 30 years, the pipeline began to age, making it vulnerable to leaks, but large stretches were becoming increasingly inaccessible to maintenance engineers as the above-ground sprawl continued to grow. In August 1989, lightning struck storage tanks at the Huangdao oil depot, causing a massive explosion which destroyed the entire facility, killed 19, injuring 100 and starting a fire which burned for 104 hours and engulfed 10 fire trucks. 251,600 barrels of crude oil went up in smoke. The dense, exposed placement of oil storage tanks at the depot was NEWSCHINA I February 2014

identified as a major contributing factor to the devastation. Yet the crude continued to flow. Two decades later, Huangdao had become China’s largest repository of imported oil. In the wake of the 1989 disaster, Qingdao city made safety a priority at the Huangdao depot. In 2009, the city invested more than 20 million yuan (US$3.3m) in establishing a work safety emergency inspection and response mechanism. On November 22, however, this mechanism failed its first major test.


Xing Yuqing, deputy director of the Weifang subsidiary of Sinopec Pipeline Storage & Transportation Company – the body in charge of managing the Huangdao-Dongying pipeline – told reporters that he was notified of the leakage at 5:20 AM, over two hours after it had begun, and that his team was despatched to conduct repairs. China’s regulations on emergency response to oil and gas leaks state that any case that might “incur further emergency or hazard” should


Photo by ic


A bird’s-eye view of Jiaozhou Bay before the explosion

be reported to local emergency services. After the explosion, however, local residents claimed that no police or fire department personnel were seen in the area prior to the accident, and that only Sinopec staff seemed to be overseeing repairs. Xing recalled that he arrived on the scene at around 8:30 AM, where he found a repair team of 20 engineers working to fix the leak. When he received a call at 8:40 from the Qingdao environmental protection agency informing him that crude oil was leaking from a sewage outflow near a local beach, Xing left the spot, returning at around 10:10 to find that the repair team had discovered the source of the leak – a hole about the size of two hand-spans on the underside of the pipe. This hole had drained crude oil into the sewage pipe directly beneath, which had caused the leak at the beach. Neither Xing, nor his repair team, nor the environmental protection agency workers at the beach, had considered the possibility of an explosion, despite the fact that crude oil vapor was visibly mixing with highly-flammable methane gas from the sewage. With no fire department officials on hand to advise them, Xing instructed his team to continue with their repairs, and he left the scene. The morning rush hour was just peaking, and, as the area had not been sealed off, pedestrians and vehicles were swarming freely around the repair team. All 20 of the repair team died in the explosion, which hit barely minutes after Xing’s departure. Two blasts, three to five seconds


A damaged police booth among the debris

apart, turned the crossroads into a smoking crater. The surrounding roads buckled, and windows shattered in almost all nearby buildings. Around 10 seconds later, flames began to pour from the beachfront sewage outlet. Tian Hongxing, deputy director of Qingdao fire-fighting division said that the firefighters were only notified of the leak after the explosion.


Despite the Huangdao-Dongying pipeline having already been in service for eight years longer than its designated operational lifespan, Sinopec had failed to enact plans to replace it, which were first proposed in 2011. Of 37 pipelines operated by Sinopec in China, one third have already outlived their 30 year life spans. By the end of 2012, China had a total of 93,000 kilometers of oil and gas pipeline, most than 60 percent of them more than 20 years old. Observers have warned that these aging networks are increasingly vulnerable to leaks and explosions. Currently, three accidents occur annually for every 1,000 kilometers of Chinese oil and gas pipeline, a rate five times higher than that recorded in the US, and 11 times higher than the European average. Illegal oil tapping and indiscriminate urban construction have contributed to this alarmingly high accident rate. According to a release by Sinopec’s pipeline management arm, the NEWSCHINA I February 2014

Photo by Liu Yanmin

Photo by ic

Workers clean up the spill at the pipeline’s main outlet in Jiaozhou Bay, Qingdao, November 24

company’s pipelines were tapped 116 times between January and September 2013. In the same period, damage to pipelines resulting from construction work was reported in 99 separate places. In December 2009, for example, a construction project cut open a newly-built oil pipeline causing a leakage of several hundred tons of crude into Weihe River, which spans Gansu and Shaanxi provinces. In March 2010, a landfill built directly above the HuangdaoDongying pipeline caught fire, burning holes in the line and causing massive leakage. According to one expert, violations such as landfills and construction projects straddling the pipeline number more than 1,000, posing an even greater risk to public safety than tapping. A Sinopec official told our reporter that according to national regulations, no building can be constructed within five meters either side of an underground oil pipeline, adding that utilities companies were also prohibited from constructing water, electricity or sewage pipes at a distance of less than 50 centimeters from any oil pipeline. However, at the scene of the explosion, our reporter saw the warped remains of sewage pipes almost grazing the ruptured pipeline, which had allowed the crude to mix with sewage and flow into the ocean. Yang Songliang, chief investigator into the explosion and director of the State Administration of Work Safety said November 25 that the entanglement of the oil pipeline and municipal sewage pipes, coupled with poor maintenance and lax inspection schedules, as well as “generNEWSCHINA I February 2014

al ignorance of potential risks,” all contributed to the lethal explosion.

Seven Hours

The explosion was by far the most serious accident in the history of Sinopec. The first government press conference disclosed the reason behind the explosion – the leakage of light crude into the sewage pipe had created a flammable vapor which ignited upon contact with the air. Officials refused to answer questions about why an evacuation of the area hadn’t been ordered, instructing State media to limit their questions to the relief effort. Following the explosion, Sinopec did not hold or take part in a single press conference. The government, meanwhile, did not assign responsibility for the catastrophe, withheld further information about the events leading up to the disaster, and refused to comment on the actions of officials in the seven hours prior to the explosion, during which, critics say, the vast majority of casualties could have been prevented by a simple evacuation order. In a sense, the cause of the explosion, while determined beyond doubt, has had little impact. Those agencies and personnel responsible for the unnecessary loss of life will, apparently, not be held accountable. 62 deaths, an unprecedented tragedy in this small community, are simply an embarrassment to the industrial and political bodies in charge.



Road Tolls

Highway Robbery China’s vast freight industry is being constrained by extortionate highway tolls, which are often passed directly on to truck drivers By Du Guodong



hospital two weeks later. After the media broke the story, a joint investigation into the case which concluded on December 4 saw Gao Yongfu, a team leader from the Yongcheng Road Management Bureau, sacked together with several transportation officials.

Photo by cfp

Arbitrary Toll

A traffic police officer issues a fine to a truck driver for a height limit violation in Nanchang, Jiangxi Province, November 11, 2012

Photo by cfp

oad users in China have never had it easy – congestion, poor maintenance and, above all, some of the highest highway tolls in the world have all made motoring an expensive and risky business. Truck drivers in particular are facing a tough time – reliant on the road network for their livelihoods, they have no choice but to accept the costs. If they overload their vehicles, they run the risk of being repeatedly hit with unaffordable fines. If they load up appropriately, however, steep highway tolls accumulate and often wipe out any profit they might have made on their trip. Many truck drivers are now being forced to either give up their professions, or simply break the law, just to make ends meet. Truck driver Liu Wenli found herself in the media spotlight after she attempted to commit suicide in public by drinking pesticide after being fined for overloading her vehicle by law enforcement officers in Yongcheng, Henan Province. On November 14, Liu’s truck was stopped and inspected by road and transportation management officials even after Liu showed them receipts for her annual and monthly “fees,” both of 3,000 yuan (US$489), paid to both departments to allow her to evade charges for overloading. After attempts to remonstrate with the officials failed, Liu hailed a cab and abandoned her truck, only to return minutes later with a bottle of pesticide which she proceeded to drink in front of the officers. She collapsed and began to convulse, but the officials refused to come to her aid. Liu’s life was only saved after her brother Liu Huaizhou and truck driver Guo Wanli called an ambulance. She was discharged from

Road management officers flag down a truck for inspection, June 19, 2013, Kunming, Yunnan Province

Liu Wenli and her brother Liu Huaizhou pooled their money to buy two trucks on credit in early 2013. After footing a down payment of 200,000 yuan (US$32,940), they had to pay 20,000 yuan (US$3,294) to the bank each month. The Lius transported quarried stone used in construction between Yongcheng and the city of Suzhou, Anhui Province. Liu Huaizhou told Beijing Youth Daily that before her sister’s suicide attempt, they had been fined more than 200,000 yuan (US$32,940) before being slapped with yet another overloading fine in October that totaled 50,000 yuan (US$8,235). Paying through the nose for illicit exemptions from local authorities that were declared invalid by the same departments, he said, pushed his sister over the edge. “The fines have made it very hard for us to turn a profit. We failed to pay back the bank for the past two months,” Liu said. In China, three law enforcement departments are officially entitled to levy fines relating to transportation and the national road network – the roads, transportation, and traffic police departments. Road management authorities generally claim jurisdiction when it comes to overloading, a contributor to potholes and other damage, with an upper limit on fines of 30,000 yuan (US$4,932). Transportation NEWSCHINA I February 2014

authorities generally handle violations relating to illegal vehicle modifications and fraudulent licenses, with a fine ceiling of 100,000 yuan (US$16,470). However, fines fluctuate from place to place, and without strict rules in place, remain open to interpretation by whichever enforcement officer stops a vehicle. “Until now, I do not know which department issues fines for which violations,” Yu Bo, a truck owner in Jilin city, Jilin Province, told NewsChina. 26-year-old Yu has been working as a truck driver for five years. He owns a Liberationbrand cargo truck and frequently commutes between Jilin and the capital Beijing. He said that he makes a loss on about 30 percent of his trips due to fines levied by various law enforcement officers on the way. Yu said that on one occasion, when he was ferrying a load of scrap paper to a reprocessing plant in Luan County, Hebei Province last year, he was forced to stop by transport management officials only a few miles from his destination. After glancing at Yu’s cargo, the officers issued a fine of 2,000 yuan (US$329) for overloading. Yu refused to sign the ticket, stating flatly that his truck wasn’t overloaded. To his amazement, the officer simply signed for the fine himself and confiscated Yu’s license, refusing to return it until he had the money. After that, Yu meticulously avoided the tollfree State highways, which crawl with law enforcement officers, moving his business onto the locally-administered toll highway network. However, he immediately found himself subject to a new kind of harassment. Besides the extortionate charges at absurdly closely-spaced toll booths, he claimed he was regularly pulled over by traffic police officers. He would drop 100 or 200 yuan (US$16-33) a time to buy them off, which he said saved him thousands in potential fines for all manner of imagined violations. “It is a common practice,” Yu told NewsChina, adding: “I prefer to load up in daylight and drive at night just to dodge the traffic police.” In the early 1990s, rampant overcharging by road toll booth operators and local law enforcement departments abounded. To address the problem, the State Council began tightening central supervision, to little effect. Many local governments use road tolls as a stealth tax NEWSCHINA I February 2014

to raise additional funds, and though a total of 1,876 law enforcement personnel received administrative punishments in 2012 alone, the majority for gouging motorists, this practice has continued. Since 2005, Wang Jinwu, another truck driver, has helped more than 2,000 fellow drivers in disputes over fines. He told the China Youth Daily that the key problem created by arbitrary fines is the growing number of law enforcement officers charged with imposing them. Wang claims that some counties have more than 100 officers tasked solely with fining motorists, and to make matters worse, some law enforcement departments have to meet fund-raising quotas, in essence, a system where fining road users becomes mandatory regardless of the number of violations. Some departments have even taken to issuing handwritten tickets to truck drivers, with the resulting fines turned into year-end bonuses for the officers who have gouged the most motorists. “So-called ‘month and year passes’ have been adopted by some local governments and become standard,” Wang said. A China Central Television report in December 2012 showed that the fines imposed on the roads by law enforcement officers across China had raised nearly 300 billion yuan (US$49bn) in fines each year, much of which was simply extorted from law-abiding motorists. Li Chengyan, head of Peking University’s Clean Government Research Center said that Chinese road laws prohibit repeat fines of the same person for the same offense regardless of jurisdiction, but that China’s diffuse law enforcement management apparatus has failed to enforce this. “Fines have become a major source of income for law enforcement departments, and it is impossible for local governments to cut their own interests,” Li told the Beijing Youth Daily.

Logistical Burden

In addition to arbitrary “fees” and fines, the growing logistical costs of working in the freight industry, including tolls, gas prices and labor costs have left small-scale logistics companies struggling to turn a profit. In this environment, overloading and other offenses become inevitable. Almost 20 percent of China’s GDP was

spent on freight and associated costs in 2012, representing an increase of 11.4 percent yearon-year and a total value of 9.4 trillion yuan (US$1.5tn) in 2012, according to statistics from the China Federation of Logistics and Purchasing. From 2008 to 2012 road transportation in China accounted for 75 percent of total transportation volume, and this proportion is growing steadily as infrastructure improves. In 2012, the percentage climbed to 78 percent according to a report by China Economic Future, a domestic logistics consultancy. Ding Long, a truck driver in Jilin city, would load up his truck with 30 tons of household appliances, eight tons over the legal limit, before setting out for Changzhou, Jiangsu Province. For his efforts, Ding typically receives 12,000 yuan (US$1,974) from his logistics company. On the way, he encounters four to five toll booths, and also has to factor in eight to 10 refueling stops at gas stations, all of which are paid for out of his initial budget, before arriving at his destination. In total, Ding personally makes about 4,000 yuan (US$658) on each journey, provided he avoids incurring a single fine. “If I do not overload my truck, there is no chance for me to turn a profit and no company will hire me,” Ding, 29, told NewsChina. “My wages depend on overloading my truck.” According to Chinese road and traffic regulations, cargo trucks stopped on the roads are only permitted to resume their journeys after paying any fines and unloading the offending amount of cargo. However, once money changes hands, most police checkpoints simply “send you on your way,” said Ding. Tired of enduring nine years of instability as a truck driver, and finding himself increasingly unable to financially support his family, Ding is planning to change jobs and become a computer salesman in a department store in his hometown. “Logistics means small profits and high costs,” said Wu Yue, a professor at Beijing Wuzi University during an interview with the Legal Daily. “Levying fines has become the aim, rather than controlling overloading, to make ends meet, [drivers] have to overload their vehicles to cut costs, leading to road damage. As a result, fines rise, and a vicious circle develops.” 



Brain Drain

Tempting Talent

China has launched many programs aimed at attracting back some of the thousands of its highly skilled citizens who settle abroad. However, it seems the best and brightest Chinese need more than a fat paycheck to tempt them back to the People’s Republic By Qian Wei and Xie Ying

To stay or to return” was the theme of an address by Tsinghua University Medical School professor Lu Bai given at the Harvard University School of Public Health in November 2013. Having lived and worked in the US for 23 years before returning to China in 2008, Lu knows this dilemma is on the minds of all overseas students, graduates and skilled workers. Born in the late 1950s, Lu Bai experienced China’s outbound educational gold rush in the years immediately following the launch of Reform and Opening-up in the 1980s. Huge numbers of Chinese graduates, motivated by the relaxation of travel restrictions and the educational opportunities offered abroad flooded to developed countries, particularly the United States. According to a report by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, between 1990 and 1997, over 87 percent of Chinese PhDs in science and engineering fields chose to remain abroad after completing their studies, leading the media to call Tsinghua University and Peking University “the most fertile breeding


ground for future American PhDs.” The overwhelming trend has seen a shift in the last five years, as employment opportunities dried up and immigration restrictions were tightened abroad in the wake of the financial crisis. China, meanwhile, seemed a land of opportunity, with its dramatic economic growth, growing international status and ongoing domestic reform programs. In 2007, a report by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation proposed a new term, “reverse brain drain,” warning that the US was suffering its first “loss of talent” in its history, with highlyskilled educational migrants from developing countries like China and India leaving the US after graduation. A recent report on Chinese overseas students by the Center for China & Globalization, a non-government research center based in Beijing, echoed these conclusions. The report revealed that only one fourth of a total 1.21 million overseas students returned to China in the years 1978 to 2007, while 57 percent chose to return home between 2008 and 2012. In 2012 alone, about 70 percent of overseas NEWSCHINA I February 2014

The Lure of Return

When Lu Bai waved goodbye to his mother country in 1985, he told himself he would never come back to such a backward place. His determination was rocked in 1998 when he was shown a 60-storied

NEWSCHINA I February 2014

skyscraper in Shanghai during a brief visit. “I was shocked that the once-shabby Lujiazui suburb has turned into such a luxurious CBD. I thought it a pity I had nothing to do with this transformation!” he said. Having taken the post of senior researcher with the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) at the time, Lu Bai began working as a consultant for China’s Ministry of Science and Technology in the 1990s. He participated in the drafting of the country’s middle and long-term program for scientific and technological development (2006-2020). He suggested introducing overseas experts into the appraisal panel of China’s National Natural Science Foundation, and this rebalanced the entire body into the country’s most fair and transparent organization for the distribution of scientific funding. He also collaborated with two scientists, Rao Yi and Mei Lin, both of whom had also returned from overseas study, to establish a medical lab, the predecessor of Shanghai’s current Institute for Neuroscience under the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

Xu Tao

Photo by Li Qiang and Li Ang

students returned to China. Government think tanks claim that China’s “talent-hunting” programs, launched since 2008, have played a big role in reversing the brain drain. Some experts believe China will have a “bumper crop” of what are referred to as “returning talents” in the next five years. Others, however, have voiced doubts as to just how beneficial the return of ever-greater numbers of overseas students is to the country’s development, particularly those who return to academia. The government’s response has been yet another incentive program. At the end of 2012, “the 10,000-talent” program, open to both domestic and overseas academics, invested millions of yuan in attempting to attract the world’s greatest minds to China’s seats of learning.

Photo by Li Qiang and Li Ang

Lu Bai



Reverse Brain Drain 320,000


Brain Drain Rate in 2012


800,000 399,600



returned departed departed

1978 - 2007

Launched in December 2008, the 2,000 Talent program has, according to Chinese domestic media, attracted 3,319 “overseas talents” back to China by the end of 2012, much higher than its original target of 2,000. Reports claimed that by the end of 2012, China had established 112 technical bases and 260 scientific parks just to absorb the influx of returning graduates, programs funded by some 17,000 enterprises. Such “achievements” have been questioned by those more directly experienced with the effects of these programs, many of whom are skeptical of the government’s strategy of micro-managing academia. Cao Cong, a deputy professor from the School of Contemporary Chinese Studies, University of Nottingham, for example, accused the program of being “a Great Leap Forward,” saying the government’s thirst for quick success has turned the policy into “a political vanity project to allow local governments, the universities and scientific institutions to show off.”



2008 - 2012

“We complain about everything in China, except the opportunities,” Lu Bai told his Harvard audience. According to a 2011 survey by David Zweig, a professor of sociology from Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, the principle reason behind a return home for an overseas student is “the promise that they can do whatever they want.” That is just what China’s talent programs promise overseas graduates. For example, China’s first government headhunting program for highly skilled Chinese graduates overseas (usually called the “2,000 Talent” program and labeled the “most ambitious” by overseas media) provides those selected with impressive remuneration packages and top college positions. Lu Bai, for example, one of these “2,000,” serves as standing deputy director of the Tsinghua University School of Medicine. His counterparts Rao Yi and Shi Yigong are also on the list, appointed directors of the Peking and Tsinghua universities’ respective schools of life sciences upon their return.

Leaps and Bounds


The most controversial element of the program, widely criticized by academics, is the leeway offered to “returned academics” to keep one foot in China and the other overseas. While receiving huge research grants, some were revealed to only occasionally visit China to deliver lectures or attend conferences. In July 2010, Fang Shimin, an Internet whistle-blower who blogs under the name Fang Zhouzi and a major critic of academic fraud, questioned Shi Yigong’s qualifications when he attempted to apply for national funding while allegedly continuing to work for Princeton University. Although Shi argued that he was then “in a transitional period” and had formally resigned from the prestigious Ivy League college, the allegations drew unwanted attention to other leading academics who had returned to China as part of the government’s incentive programs. Two years later, Lu Jun, another “2,000 Talent” program participant, was exposed as having faked all his academic credentials which he claimed he had obtained overseas. This led to mass public disillusionment in the government program. “So the program was just designed to allow frauds to steal the country’s money which should have been given to more qualified [domestic] academics?” wrote Fang Zhouzi. Cao Cong predicted that over 90 percent of the 2,000 Talent program participants never took up full-time positions in China. “When the program simply became a performance index, it ceased to work. It just confused participants,” he said. “Nobody would feel happy when they found their overseas counterparts could make big money simply by returning to China now and again,” he added. Such contradiction was made public in August 2011 when Rao Yi and Shi Yigong both lost their campaigns for the title of Academician With the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, China’s highest academic honor. Their failure was barely noted by the body itself, and media speculated that they were snubbed simply because their permanently China-based peers wished to ostracize them. “I don’t agree that universities adopt preferential policies toward returned professors,” an economics professor surnamed Xu from a NEWSCHINA I February 2014

university in Zhejiang told NewsChina. “They are not all superior to us, and usually know less about China’s actual situation.”

Two to 10

Pressured by mounting controversy over the 2,000 Talent program, the Chinese government launched a more incremental “2,000 Young Talent” program in 2011, aiming to absorb 2,000 overseas talents under 40 years old by 2015, 400 each year, with their permanent resettlement in China a requirement of participation. Government officials speculated that younger graduates would experience a smoother transition back into Chinese academia after spending only a few short years abroad. This program was followed by a much bigger “10,000 Talent” program in 2012. The government vowed to enroll 10,000 top graduates back into domestic institutions within 10 years, and lend “special national support” to their studies. According to State media, the program was an attempt to “ease the conflict” between domestic and overseas academics by opening up opportunities to both. “The [10,000 Talent] program is designed to arouse domestic academics’ initiative in research. It will work in coordination with the 2,000 Talent program,” one relevant official told the media. In January 2013, Party mouthpiece the People’s Daily publicized the names of the first 100 selected academics under this new program, with Xue Qikun, a physics professor from Tsinghua University who first discovered the Anomalous Quantum Hall Effect, at the top of the list. “Xue has the potential to win a Nobel Prize and become a worldstandard scientist,” ran the gushing article, which immediately drew flak from other publications. “How ridiculous that the government thinks Nobel winners are ‘produced’ by some project or program,” commented a post on, China’s most popular science portal. Academics across the country ridiculed the government’s attitude to academia as being the same as its attitude to Olympic medals – every accolade is a feather in the Party’s cap. The government denied these accusations. “The media have misled the people into believing that the [10,000 Talent] program aims for Nobel prizes,” an insider working with the Chinese Academy of Sciences who participated in the talent selection process told NewsChina. “Actually the official documents mention nothing about the Nobel Prize. We have much higher goals.”

High Bar

This “much higher goal,” however, is also a numbers game – claiming more international academic celebrities than any other nation. Sun Xueyu, the director of the government’s talent-hunting team, said an academic conference that China aims to shift its economic growth model “from population to skills dependence.” This is a daunting task. In Cao Cong’s eyes, such top-down programs led by bureaucrats are of a strong administrative stripe. In that NEWSCHINA I February 2014

respect they mirror Chinese academia, which compartmentalizes and restricts research according to the political winds and the attitudes of faculty, rather than encouraging study for the sake of study. Since the “2,000 Talent” program was launched, there has been a certain weakening of university bureaucracy in a few areas that have embraced the ideas of returning and foreign students. However, the general academic environment remains, according to many academics, stifling. Many returned academics have complained that they struggle to fit in China as much, even more so, than they ever did abroad. “I have tried very hard to erase the American stamp on me in other people’s eyes – I even feel reluctant to speak English,” complained Xu Tao, a program member with an American passport who now works for Peking University. He told our reporter that he also feels unable “to deal with Chinese social intercourse,” specifically the rampant drinking culture. “If I refuse to drink, they [other Chinese academics] criticize me for being an arrogant American. But if I take a drink, they sneer and say ‘Aha, Americans are just so-so.’” In September, Xu was told that Peking University would terminate his contract as director of the school’s Health Science Center, which was scheduled to finish in 2017. “They told me I was to be terminated because of my American nationality, but I was already an American citizen before they invited me back,” he said. He then attributed his fall to some “reforms” he had launched which were unpopular with the political establishment at the university. His adoption of elections for mid-level faculty saw 78 percent of the former leadership out of work, landing Xu many enemies. He also refused to sign approvals for any research conducted for commercial purposes, causing many to lose their sources of gray income. Xu is not alone. In November 2013, Guan Minxin, another 2,000 Talent program member serving as director of the School of Life Sciences, at Zhejiang University, was removed from his post for no clear reason. “The school even said I did nothing wrong, that my dismissal was in the interests of ‘stability,’” Guan told the media. “I introduced academics and won government funding for several programs which aroused jealousy, and so some people squeezed me out,” he continued. According to the media, Guan was edged out in voting by another professor outside the Center, who admitted he had no idea where all his votes had come from. “The deeper root of the conflict between overseas and domestic academics actually lies in China’s unfair academic system which has been warped by the struggle for power and influence,” said Li Xia, a professor of the History of Science from Shanghai Jiaotong University. This is also the reason why Rao Yi announced that he would never again compete for the title of Academician, criticizing China’s academic circles for being polluted by a culture of nepotism. “In addition to financial considerations, the reverse brain drain is underpinned by a fairer and freer overseas environment in which young academics care more than the older generation,” said Cao Cong. “In terms of retaining its talent, China has a long way to go.”



Art Exhibition

Art and Reality With demolition looming large, 20 artists are fighting back by presenting their works in hope of saving an old house By Chen Wei


he works on display since November 22 at an art exhibition in an ancient house will never be returned to the artists, and if they are, they may have to be pieced back together – the local government plans to demolish the exhibition hall, works and all, in the near future. “The show has a beginning, but it has no specific end,” said the exhibition’s organizer Jin Na, a screenwriter best known for taking home the Best Script Award at the 60th Berlin International Film Festival for the film Apart Together in 2010. Located at Jiazeng Village in Shishi city, southeast China’s Fujian Province, the building, the old resi-


dence of the grandparents of her husband Cai Xiaosong, an artist living in Beijing, is made of tiles and red bricks, and has marble foundations. The courtyard is dotted with fig trees, jasmine and lilac. The works of 20 artists on display in the building have a common theme – disappearing cultural relics – and include images of Pompeii, Beijing’s Old Summer Palace, and photos depicting folk plays and music.

Demolition Order

In May 2013, the Shishi city government began a plan to turn Jiazeng Village into an international land harbor, the first phase of which was demolition NEWSCHINA I February 2014

Courtesy of Jin Na

Artist Wang Jinsong’s work pieces together 100 images of the character chai written on the walls of buildings designated for demolition

of existing buildings. According to the developer, the village would be demolished before the traditional Chinese New Year vacation, which falls at the end of January. Jin Na and her husband live in Beijing, but come to stay at their old house every year, and upon hearing of the plan, they headed straight back to Shishi. When they arrived on October 19, they found the village already looked very different to the village they remembered – noisy bulldozers roamed the area, turning the formerly quiet and picturesque village into a construction site. The old house was built in 1950, by Cai Xiaosong’s NEWSCHINA I February 2014

grandfather Cai Wanqi, an overseas Chinese doing business in Southeast Asia at the time, in response to the then Premier Zhou Enlai’s policy of encouraging Chinese emigrants to return to China to aid reconstruction. The house took three years, and cost four kilograms of gold, to build. However, more than 60 years later, the house was set to be demolished, with compensation of 100,000 yuan (US$16,470) for a floor space of 190 square meters, and 100 yuan (US$16.5) for every tree in the yard. Sitting in the courtyard, Jin had mixed feelings about the matter. Looking in the direction of the en-


Courtesy of Jin Na


The exhibition, featuring the works of 20 different artists, opened on November 22, 2013

trance, she noticed the code “A 4 02” written on the wall, rather than the familiar Chinese character chai, “demolish,” a spray-painted reminder for demolition crews that has become synonymous with widespread forced demolition in recent years. She later found out that nowadays, crews preferred to use number codes rather than “chai,” perhaps to avoid the taboo associated with the character. “It was like the number given to a prisoner on death row, who doesn’t know when they are to be executed,” Jin told NewsChina. That same night, Jin wrote a post on her Weibo, China’s Twitter-like social media platform, venting her anger. “Our magnolias and cape jasmine flowers blossomed 50 years ago, and the fig and pomegranate trees first bore fruit 40 years ago. I wouldn’t even sell them for 80,000 yuan (US$13,176) each. They are my personal possessions.” The post went viral overnight, and was re-tweeted tens of thousands times, gaining a landslide of support and sympathy. Popular artist Yan Changjiang replied to the post, expressing his intention to donate a piece to Jin, and told her to burn it if the building was demolished. Yan’s words inspired Jin to hold an exhibition inside her old house. “I hope to keep my old house, the works, and the roots of our culture,” Jin said. At the suggestion of netizens, Jin invited Zeng Huang, a veteran photographer, to be the show’s academic advisor. In a few days’ time, they had shortlisted more than 20 photographers, and invited them to participate in the event. Most of them sent works, at their own expense, in time for the show’s opening. To add a little artistic ambiance, Jin decorated the exhibition hall with 50 lilies, and was even planning to invite a tea ceremony specialist and a live musician to the event, but found that the villagers themselves had hired a military-style band, who surrounded the local demolition office and beat their drums on opening day. The villagers also rolled out a 1,000-meter red carpet from the village’s border to the door of Jin’s old house. The day before the opening, more than 100 villagers from the neighboring village, whose houses had been demolished to make way for three-story apartment blocks two years ago, came for a preview of the show.

Unique Show

On November 22, the exhibition kicked off under the title “China: keep back.” Hundreds of people


NEWSCHINA I February 2014

NEWSCHINA I February 2014

Courtesy of Jin Na

squeezed into the small building, including old people on crutches, college students from the village, and photographers from the nearby city of Xiamen. The exhibition’s showpiece was perhaps a work by photographer Wang Jinsong, who pieced together 100 images of the character “chai” written on the walls of buildings designated for demolition. “The role of photographs in promoting social development and influencing history has been underestimated in contemporary China. This show is different – it is down to earth, and goes straight to the hearts of the public,” artist Cui Jiannan told NewsChina. An unexpected visitor to the show was the deputy director of the local demolition office, who visited nearly every day for a week, examining the images carefully and taking snapshots of them with his camera. Jin Na declined to greet him. By the time the show opened, roughly 60 percent of households in the village had already begrudgingly signed their eviction agreements with the demolition office. Many of those who had not yet signed hoped to gain leverage in their negotiations with the government thanks to the attention the exhibition had brought to the issue. A week after the exhibition kicked off, the village’s trash collectors were told not to go to work, and rolling electricity blackouts were instigated. One morning at 4 AM, an old temple at the entrance of the village was pulled down, causing several locals to break down in tears when they arrived at the scene. The exhibition is still open, but Jin Na has returned to Beijing to seek advice from lawyers in the hope of securing the old building’s future. She has a plan to turn the old house into an art gallery in cooperation with the local government. To her temporary relief, Jin has received a promise from the government that forced demolition will not be tolerated, and that all operations will be in accordance with the law. Jin is still looking for a solution that is satisfactory to both sides. She said that her happiest moments nowadays are when she reads messages of support on Weibo. She is frequently asked whether her old house is still standing, and one netizen commented that he always checks Jin’s microblog account every night before going to sleep. However, Jin said she would prefer that others didn’t worry too much about the house, and that she will continue to broadcast the news on Weibo on a daily basis. “It is safe today, but you never know what will happen tomorrow,” she said.

The opening day also featured public speeches and performance art





NEWSCHINA I February 2014

Legal Reform

viction to Curb Both China’s judiciary and the police have taken initiatives to curb the widespread use of torture. But more, it seems, is needed By Liu Ziqian and Han Yong


mong a wide range of reforms outlined in the wake of the high-profile Third Plenary Session of the 18th Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party (CPC) in early November, reform of the country’s legal system, long characterized by regular and flagrant miscarriages of justice, has attracted particular attention. The perceived failure of China’s existing legal system to deliver justice is now being touted as the main reason for rising social tension, with long lines of petitioners now a daily sight outside the offices of Party and government authorities in Beijing. People snubbed, abused or falsely convicted in their hometowns regularly travel hundreds of miles to petition the central authorities, and those that make it to Beijing without being intercepted on the way are a major source of embarrassment to the authorities. Reform of the legal system is now being called an imperative to ensure the survival of the Party, whose legitimacy is being eroded by public perceptions that the government is only interested in justice when it serves the interests of the ruling elite. In the wake of the Third Plenum, various Chinese law enforcement authorities have launched reform initiatives. On November 13, the provincial Public Security Bureau (police department) of Henan Province issued a directive that abolished certain police-performance indicators such as the case-clearance quotas which are blamed for huge numbers of wrongful convictions secured through illegal means.

NEWSCHINA I February 2014

A spate of cases in which people were found to have been wrongfully convicted have been exposed by State media in the past months, touching off a public outcry over the widespread use of torture to extract false confessions.


In its 10-point communiqué, the Henan police announced that it would overhaul the current police performance appraisal system. Based on a number of quantitative indicators, including the number of arrests and number of prosecutions, and most of all, the criminal case clearance rate (set at 100 percent for homicide cases), the existing system is widely blamed for the continued and widespread use of torture, as unscrupulous officers resort to illegal methods in order to meet arbitrary quotas. A local police officer in Henan Province, speaking on condition of anonymity, told NewsChina that local police officers are under massive pressure to solve homicide cases in particular, due to the 100 percent clearance quota. “The provincial police department demands a 100 percent clearance rate for murder cases,” he said. “Any county chief of police who fails to achieve this will have to make a formal self-criticism at the police department’s annual meeting.” Police officers with higher crime clearance rates are, meanwhile, rewarded with financial bonuses and promotions. The sharp contrast between the fortunes of those who prioritize meeting targets and those who don’t is remarkable. Since the



current appraisal system was adopted in 2003, the clearance rate for murder cases in Henan Province increased from 60 percent in 2003 to an astonishing 97.57 percent in 2010, catapulting the province to the top of national league tables. Following the central leadership’s high-profile pledge to ensure that “all people are entitled to justice,” the police have moved to tackle the problem of the routine use of torture, which is officially illegal in China, to secure favorable clearance rates. In 2011, following the exposure of several cases of wrongful conviction, police in Zhejiang and Jiangxi provinces made similar pledges. Now that the drive for reforming both law enforcement and the legal systems seems to be gathering momentum at the highest level, many observers believe that it will be only a matter of time before China’s police are forced to drop crime clearance rates as their primary method for performance evaluation. However, some dissenting voices take issue with the assertion that the 100 percent clearance rate demanded in homicide cases, for example, is a major contributor to wrongful convictions. “[The] homicide clearance rate is just a basic criterion to gauge police performance,” Professor Shi Pu from the Henan University of Economics and Law, told NewsChina. “It is just a tool.” The Henan Police appear to be caught in a dilemma. While old performance indicators are being phased out, there is little agreement on how better to gauge police performance. Some have suggested public satisfaction surveys, a concept criticized for being too nebulous and open to abuse. In the eyes of Professor Shi, if the police stop employing case clearance rates as an indicator to measure performance, it will “lower morale,” in turn leading to lower clearance rates and a higher crime rate, undermining social stability. Skeptics have pointed out that the use of torture was equally widespread, if not even more extreme, before the police adopted the current appraisal system. In a high-profile case exposed in 2010, rural resident Zhao Zuohai was acquitted of murder only after serving 11 years in prison. He had been tortured into signing a forced confession in 1998. This notorious case was only one of a string which have come to light in recent years. Some legal experts point to the legacy of antiquated legal attitudes, some of which have their origins in the imperial era, which prejudice police and courts against anyone accused of or linked to a crime. “The fundamental reason behind wrongful convictions is disregard


The Supreme People’s Court has announced a series of initiatives in legal reform

for the principle of presumption of innocence which exists throughout the entire law enforcement chain, from investigation to prosecution and trial,” said Professor Guo Zili, an expert on criminal law from Peking University.

Court Short

Taking its lead from provincial pilot programs, on November 21 the Supreme People’s Court in Beijing issued a directive explicitly designed to curb wrongful convictions. This directive, which lists 27 provisions, explains that henceforth Chinese courts will require “all levels of the judiciary to base their judgments on facts and protect human rights.” Practices classed as torture, including sleep deprivation and the withholding of food during interrogations, have been outlawed for the first time, and the right to an attorney and the outlawing of the submission of false or circumstantial evidence at trial upheld. NEWSCHINA I February 2014

Photo by ic

A senior provincial-level judge speaking on condition of anonymity told NewsChina that it is very rare for a Chinese court to exclude evidence obtained through torture from a hearing. Confessions, typically forced, are routinely seen as proof of guilt even in the total absence of any other proof. According to the same judge, more than 30 percent of criminal defendants in his court recant their confessions while on trial, citing torture during their interrogation. However, very few of these cases result in acquittal, as the burden of proof is placed entirely upon the defendant, who is often denied access to sufficient resources to provide such evidence. The judge added that: “the [supreme] court needs to elaborate more on implementation, rather than just outlining provisions.”

Key Factor

For many, recent initiatives are an encouraging sign that the au-

NEWSCHINA I February 2014

thorities are responding to public pressure to ensure better rights protection during trials, but most argue that the problems with China’s judiciary are so systematic and entrenched that piecemeal measures cannot bring about significant or long-lasting change. There has long been consensus among legal experts that the root problem with China’s legal system is that the judiciary lacks independence and is subject to influence and intervention from other agencies. According to another judge who also refused to go on record given the sensitivity of this issue, when making a ruling, he and his colleagues not only have to consider the validity of submitted evidence, but also make political calculations on how their ruling might impact law enforcement officials. This judge told NewsChina that even if he deems the evidence heard in court as flimsy, it takes great gall to acquit, especially in serious criminal cases which command significant media attention. Under the current appraisal system, both the responsible police officers and the prosecutor are rewarded for a successful prosecution. An acquittal means, at best, demerits and, at worst, demotion or even a separate prosecution brought against the officials themselves. As the judiciary remains subject to the leadership of the Party’s Politics and Law Committee, which in many localities are headed by local police chiefs, judges may face retribution if they insist upon an acquittal. “The result is that conviction creates a ‘win-win’ situation, whereas acquittal only leads a ‘lose-lose scenario,’” the anonymous judge continued. In cases when evidence is in serious doubt, the Party’s politics and law committee, which supervises the police, the procuratorate (the government body which determines whether a case goes to trial), and the judiciary will arrange a meeting to “coordinate the positions” of different law enforcement agencies, with the typical result being a conviction accompanied by a lighter sentence. “This is how China’s legal system has lost its credibility,” said Professor Guo Zili. According to Guo and others, only genuine judicial independence offers a chance to restore public faith in the country’s legal system. It appears that the central leadership has also realized the urgency of legal reform. At its Third Plenum, the Party pledged to advance both the causes of judicial independence and the rule of law. Now, implementation remains the greater hurdle the authorities will have to overcome.


Photo by ic



NEWSCHINA I February 2014

Legal Reform

Aiming High

With a series of reform initiatives aimed to address both the symptoms and root causes of miscarriages of justice in the judiciary, the Chinese government is attempting to revive public confidence By Wang Quanbao and Han Yong


hen criminal lawyer Gao Zicheng, along with a panel of 20 other legal experts and lawyers, was invited by the Supreme People’s Court to attend a consultative seminar in April on “how to rescue the credibility of the judiciary,” he could hardly believe it. “It was completely unexpected,” said Gao. Only three years previously, Gao’s colleague Li Zhuang was convicted of perjury for defending a businessman in a politicized trial in the southwestern city of Chongqing. China’s law enforcement authorities and the country’s judges have typically treated any criminal lawyer willing to defend a client with considerable hostility. But things have seemingly changed with the arrival of China’s next generation of leaders. On three separate occasions in 2013, Chinese President Xi Jinping pledged that his administration would ensure that the public would “experience justice in every case,” and also vowed to respect China’s constitution. In March, the central leadership appointed Zhou Qiang as the new director for the Supreme People’s Court. Compared to his predecessor Wang Shengjun, a former police official and Party bureaucrat with no formal background in law, NEWSCHINA I February 2014

Zhou holds a law degree and has extensive experience on the bench.


After assuming his new role, Zhou immediately launched measures to address the problems Xi and other top Party officials have highlighted when discussing Chinese justice. Wrongful convictions, a widely-publicized issue in recent State media reports, was top of his list. In various meetings, Zhou and his deputies repeatedly advocated respect for the principle of presumption of innocence. From late March to early July, four cases of wrongful conviction involving 13 people, most of whom had already served lengthy prison sentences, were overturned after decades of appeals and formal complaints. China’s judiciary, previously famous for its reluctance to admit wrongdoing, appeared to be trying out a new tactic. The authorities followed up with attempts to increase transparency, another demand made by the central authorities. For example, court documents are now being released selectively online for public perusal. During the trial of infamous former


Photo by ic


Zhou Qiang, newly-appointed President of the Supreme People’s Court

Politburo member Bo Xilai, the court released edited extracts of the proceedings through its official microblog account. While only a tiny gesture, this marked an unprecedented level of openness for a highly politicized trial. As it has in other areas of the government, many believe the Party’s ongoing, if perennial, anti-corruption drives will also target the courts system. From April until October 2013, the Supreme People’s Court organized a series of consultations with legal experts and lawyers on a variety of issues, including wrongful convictions, defendants’ rights to counsel and corruption within the judiciary.


Gao, the criminal lawyer, attended four of these meetings. According to him and other participants, Zhou is trying to establish a “united front” with legal experts, in pushing for deeper and furtherreaching reform. “He [Zhou] talked a lot about establishing a professional community of legal experts and lawyers,” Gao told NewsChina. It has long been agreed in China’s legal circles that the lack of independence in the judiciary, which remains subject to political intervention from the organs of the State to which it ultimately answers, has undermined the entire justice system. Under the current institutional arrangement, China’s entire judiciary NEWSCHINA I February 2014

is subject to the Party’s Politics and Law Committees. Under previous administrations, the Politics and Law Committee was often chaired by local police chiefs, weakening the judiciary in favor of the police. After assuming power, the new leadership conducted a series of personnel reshuffles in politics and law committees at the provincial level. Now, only four of China’s 31 provinces, regions and municipalities have retained politics and law committees chaired by police chiefs. In 2010, this number stood at 14.

Root Causes

On October 28, the Supreme People’s Court launched a directive on “improving judicial justice.” Aiming to “ensure the court can conduct trials independently.” Proposed reforms were also highlighted during the Party’s recent Third Plenum. The Court’s directive pledged that pilot reforms will be primarily launched in five areas - Shaanxi, Guangdong, Zhejiang and Jiangsu provinces as well as in Shanghai, though no details as to what these reforms would entail were released. State media chose to focus on “de-localization” and “de-bureaucratization” of the court system. Currently, courts at provincial and county level are both funded and staffed by local government personnel, making them subject to political intervention. Legal experts have proposed reforms to promote judicial independence by putting budget approval and appointments under the auspices of provincial and central officials – few have dared to suggest a separation of the judiciary from the Party apparatus. According to Professor Zhang Weiping, the centralization of budgeting and appointments, an unpopular measure among local governments, will be tricky to implement, requiring sweeping and unprecedented changes to existing practices which threaten the interests of many powerful people. Bureaucratization, however, is seen as the toughest nut to crack. Under the current court system, court officials can overrule verdicts made by lesser officials in any case, regardless of their level of familiarity with its details. Many examples of a higher authority simply dictating the outcome of court cases have been reported in recent years. “A judge’s decision has to be approved by presiding judge and director of the court before a sentence is passed,” Zheng E, director of the High Court of Guangdong Province told NewsChina. “The result is that judges who are responsible for a case often do not have the power to make a final decision; whereas judges who do not directly follow the case, but outrank the presiding judge have the final say.” In a pilot reform launched in July 2012 in Shenzhen city’s Futian District, court directors and mid-level presiding judges only retain the

NEWSCHINA I February 2014

power to assign cases, not to make judgments. When panel verdicts are required, the majority decision is upheld, regardless of the relative ranks or levels of familiarity with the case of each panel member. According to a source close to the leadership speaking on condition of anonymity, the Supreme People’s Court has submitted a proposal which would deprive court officials of the power to intervene in cases for which they are not directly responsible. “It has led to objections from many court officials,” the source told NewsChina. It remains unclear how the power structures between courts of different levels will be rearranged, as overhauling the existing hierarchy appears unlikely.

Political Significance

In discussion of its proposed reform, the court has refrained from using the term “judicial independence,” which has overtones of a judiciary which does not answer to a higher authority, instead using the term “independence of trial.” This has led many to state that a complete overhaul of China’s legal system will not be undertaken, simply because the opposition would be too great. The Communist Party has resoundingly rejected even discussion of the separation of the country’s executive, legislative and judicial branches, a move which it views as a stepping stone to fully-fledged Western-style democracy. This caution reflects the central leadership’s attitude to social stability. By reforming the judiciary without overhauling the entire legal system, the central leadership aims to restore credibility in time to re-establish the court system as a workable means to resolve localized disputes before they escalate into crises. This is in line with current Party thinking which sees the judiciary as an extension of law enforcement, rather than a forum to uphold citizens’ rights, and certainly not a body with the power to supervise the government itself. In the past, the central leadership has relied on local governments to resolve their own disputes. In 2005, it adopted a rating system to evaluate the performance of provincial and local governments by pegging assessments to the number of petitions filed against officials. This had predictably disastrous results, with local governments diverting their resources to intercepting and silencing petitioners on their way to Beijing, rather than addressing their actual grievances. There are rumors that this evaluation system is now on the central government’s hit list. But with rising social tension and growing public distrust of the legal system, judicial reform, no matter how sweeping, has a long way to go to restore public confidence in a system the general public have always viewed as being biased towards the interests of the few.



Legal Reform

“The ultimate goal should be the restoration of judicial legitimacy.” NewsChina discusses the Party’s judicial reform agenda with leading experts Zhang Weiping and Chen Weidong, who argue that success will only come if China’s courts and judges are made more independent, more accountable, and more professional By Wang Quanbao


hen President Xi Jinping made a high-profile pledge to “allow the people to sense justice in every legal case” in early 2013, he raised hopes that his administration would take reform of China’s troubled legal system seriously. During the recent Third Plenum in November, the Communist Party of China (CPC), which directly administrates the national judiciary, unveiled an ambitious reform agenda which it claimed would “curb the bureaucratization” of the justice system, which has become infamous for miscarriages of justice and official interference in court proceedings. NewsChina met with law professors Zhang Weiping of Tsinghua University, and Chen Weidong of Renmin University of China, both key members of the Political and Judiciary Commission under the Party’s Central Committee, China’s top legal authority, to ask if and how the new reform agenda will be put into practice. NewsChina: Why has the Third Plenum highlighted legal reform, and appeared to endorse this as its priority issue in terms of implementation? Zhang Weiping: One of the most serious problems in Chinese society is social instability caused by the failure of the legal system to deliver justice and resolve disputes. In past decades, the Chinese government has tried to maintain social stability through economic development. However, while economic growth offers a bigger “cake,” a healthy legal system is needed


to fairly distribute it. Unfortunately, due to widespread corruption, a lack of independence, poor efficiency and low levels of professionalism, China’s legal system has failed. As the judiciary is rapidly losing public credibility, the authorities have realized that swift and bold reform is needed. NC: What are the biggest problems with China’s judiciary, and how will these be addressed? Chen Weidong: One major highlight of the legal reform [agenda] is to curb the external influence of local authorities over the court system. One primary problem with China’s judiciary is that court administration is highly localized. According to the Constitution, judicial power rests solely with the central government. But in reality, as local courts are locally funded and staffed, they are subject to [localized] political influence. The result is that local courts often do not serve the people, but local governments, and often make rulings based not in law, but in political expediency. This is what the new round of legal reforms unveiled during the Third Plenum aims to tackle. In the future, courts at the county level will be funded by provincial governments, with provincial courts funded by the central government, freeing both from the influence of local interests. NC: What about interference exerted by special interests on Chinese judges? NEWSCHINA I February 2014

Photo by ic Photo by ic

Zheng Weiping

Chen Weidong

ZW: The problem is the bureaucratization of the court system, which allows judges and officials of higher ranks to intervene in rulings made by lower-ranking judges. For example, under the current arrangement, a “trial committee” exists for each court, usually headed by its director, which has the power to determine the ruling a judge makes. The result is that a court director, an unchecked power within the court who usually is absent from actual proceedings, can have enormous influence over the verdict. A higher court can also influence the rulings of a lower court by requiring it to make a report on a specific case and then effectively prescribing its ruling, which is particularly common in high-profile criminal cases. Under this system, the higher the rank of an official (not necessarily a judge), the more say they have in a case, regardless of who is responsible for it, which is against the basic principle of rule of law. CW: Another result of bureaucratization is that no one can be held NEWSCHINA I February 2014

accountable for a wrongful conviction. The responsible judge can claim that his or her ruling was approved, if not determined, by the trial committee or a higher court, while higher officials and judges of higher ranks can claim that they are not personally responsible for the case. The proposed solution is to establish an accountability mechanism for individual judges, who will be granted independence in making rulings in the cases over which they preside. NC: The documents released after the Third Plenum also highlight the need to promote professionalism in the court system. Why is this important? ZW: Many miscarriages of justice are the result of the lack of professionalism within the court system. As one of the consequences of bureaucratization, serving personnel are not required to hold any legal qualifications. For example, more than half of court directors at the provincial level do not hold a law degree, as most are transferred to the judiciary from executive agencies, Party committees and people’s congresses. In effect, legal professionals in China are not required to have legal credentials in ordered to serve in the courts, which are effectively considered part of the official bureaucracy. It is a common practice for a deputy Party chief at county level to serve as the director of a county court. In some localities, a large number of de-commissioned military officers are transferred to the courts. All of these factors have led to low levels of expertise among judges. While proposed reforms to return the power of appointment back to the courts can help to ease this problem to some extent, more serious efforts are needed to increase the professionalism of judges. Instead of appointing bureaucrats, there should be a strict professional qualification requirement, along with a new incentives system. Currently, serving as a presiding judge is seen as a relatively lowlevel, “front line” official position – a stepping stone to a more rewarding position in the official bureaucracy. Once a judge has proved their ability and expertise, they are promoted into an administrative role, and cease to preside over cases. Under such a mechanism, being a presiding judge is seen as undesirable work to be escaped, rather than a respectable career. By contrast, in the US, the nine Chief Justices of the Supreme Court are highly respected, and continue to preside over cases. NC: What do you think should be the long-term goal in China’s legal reform agenda? CW: A fundamental problem of China’s legal system is that it is highly politicized. The primary purpose of a legal system should be to resolve disputes and promote economic development and social stability. For a long period time, China’s judiciary system has adopted an approach that has strayed away from its true purpose. The ultimate goal should be the restoration of judicial legitimacy.



Online Education

The New Class China’s growing online education market has attracted the attention of more than a few major market players, from all different backgrounds. They’re going to have to teach themselves how to turn a profit By Li Jia and Chen Jiying


nvestors in the New York Stock Exchange-listed New Oriental, the largest private educational service provider in China, have good reason to share in the pride of Michael Minhong Yu, who founded the company in a shabby makeshift Beijing elementary school building in 1993 and recently celebrated its 20th anniversary at Beijing’s illustrious Great Hall of the People. Over the years, 17 million students, from kindergarteners to white-collars, have enrolled in their courses, the majority of them opting for foreign language training. Share prices have been rising fast since March this year. Speaking at a forum the day after the company’s anniversary celebrations, Yu said that looking towards the next 20 years, he found himself “in severe anxiety and misery.” The only way to secure his company’s future, he declared, was to change its “genetics,” and


prepare to enter the increasingly competitive online education market. All China’s Internet giants, including search engine Baidu, e-commerce company Alibaba, and social media empire Tencent, collectively known as the “BAT” companies, have pitched their tents in this new battlefield this year. “The BAT founders are all my friends, and they are not hesitant about rushing into education – my area. This is business,” Yu said in his speech. Leading Chinese public universities are also feeling the pressure that the global online education surge is applying to their long established market dominance. They have responded by joining the game, domestically and internationally, providing online academic courses – some degree-certified, some not. Neither the skills- or exam-oriented train-

ing offered by private players nor the academic courses from public higher educational institutions is new in China, or anywhere in the world. What has attracted analysts’ attention is the speed with which the trend is developing, and the uncertainty ahead.

Pitfall? Windfall?

In early December, Alibaba, the world’s largest e-commerce company, launched an education section on its main B2C platform Taobao, where courses in anything from accountancy to karaoke are listed alongside traditional online shopping favorites like clothing or furniture. Several US-listed Chinese private training companies have already joined up. Pei Binfeng, who led the new Taobao operation, told the media that their market research has shown that potential customers NEWSCHINA I February 2014

Photo by CFP

An online course by Shanghai Jiaotong University launched in April 2013

are college students and white-collar workers, aged between 20 and 30 years old – the same demographic as Taobao’s current target users. Gong Haiyan, founder of NASDAQlisted Jiayuan, one of China’s largest dating and matchmaking web sites, reportedly sold one of her houses to fund her new online after-school education for K12 (kindergarten through 12th grade) students. She has already invested heavily in building a team of hundreds of teachers., a website focusing on foreign language training, raised US$20 million in venture capital in July. According to Zero2IPO, a venture capital and private equity research institution in China, the total online education investment in 2012 was just US$17 million. The interest from operators whose main business is not education, like Jiayuan and the BAT companies, shows that NEWSCHINA I February 2014

the structure of investors and their services are more diverse than ever. This is not surprising in a country with nearly 600 million Internet users, where fierce career competition begins in childhood. A dynamic tech industry has also helped – Mei Jingsong, head of education at major online media portal Sina, said at a packed forum at the end of November that the company used the data from its microblogging platform Weibo, China’s Twitter equivalent, to analyze the educational demands of high school students. While this market may be capable of attracting huge investment, this isn’t necessarily smart money. Zero2IPO’s research shows that investment in China’s online education market has fluctuated sharply since 2005, due to the lack of a clear profit model from this new line of business. Mei said that in any

online market, only the top three companies will ultimately survive, and online education companies have to offer high-quality courses at low prices – or even for free – to beat out the competition. Chinese Internet users, she added, have become very accustomed to free online services. For offline institutions, the short-term cost of going online may be particularly high. Yu of New Oriental said he was concerned about whether his 30,000 staff members would support his online efforts, since they may ultimately result in job cuts of up to 50 percent. Education standards are another problem. A recent joint survey by Sina and Nielsen, a market research company, showed that due to insufficient interaction with teachers and the sense of distance online, nearly half of all online education customers are not satisfied with the service they have received.


Photo by ic


Michael Minhong Yu, founder of New Oriental

Beyond Walls

With more than 7 million views, a lecture on love by Dr Helen Fisher, an American anthropologist with Rutgers University, is at the top of Sina’s most-watched video lectures, most of which are by professors of prominent American and Chinese universities. A speech by the late Steve Jobs is second, and a lecture on Roman architecture by Yale Professor E. E. Kleiner places third. Though these are just learning aids rather than formal academic material, their popularity shows the strong and diversified potential demand for academic education outside of college campuses. In May 2013, Beijing’s Tsinghua and Peking universities, China’s top two higher education institutions, became two of the six Asian members to join the edX, one of the world’s leading Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) platforms, founded by Harvard and MIT. In July, Shanghai’s Fudan and Jiao Tong universities joined Coursera, another leading MOOC institution founded by two professors from Stanford University, which


Shanghai Jiao Tong University inaugurates its online education portal, April 2013

provides students with a certificate if they complete a course. Though MOOC courses are free and do not award degrees, they help universities raise their profile by giving people around the world an easy and flexible way to experience first-hand their teaching quality. This is important, since universities today have to compete for students globally, explained Han Yanhui, associate professor with the Open University of China, which now has more than 3 million enrolled students nationwide. With full confidence in the prospects of online education, in 2002 Han gave up his job as a face-to-face English lecturer at Beijing International Studies University to take up a position at the Open University, where the Internet had already replaced bricks-andmortar lecture theaters. He thinks one of the biggest barriers hindering the growth of online higher education around the world is that certificates and degrees attained this way are not widely acknowledged by society and the job market as much as those earned on campus. This is the reason why Han has been

impressed by the recent enthusiasm towards online education from respected conventional universities. “It will help promote the branding, quality and societal recognition of an online college education,” he said to NewsChina.  Inevitably, the trend will leave some behind. Colleges and teachers who are less techsavvy and less prepared to improve their own academic profile will be more likely to lose their jobs. “The online courses provide so many choices for any learning requirements, and we can compare universities and teachers globally – this is not possible for offline education,” said Shen Yunyu, a 25-year old PhD student in economic law at a university in Beijing. Though he did not complete the probability theory course he started with the Khan Academy, another MOOC platform, he said that what he had learned was very helpful, and the service impressive. Han believes that the next five years will see many colleges close down due to increased competition, and MOOC institutions will gain NEWSCHINA I February 2014


bynumbers 43%


Newly registered enterprises in November

Breakdown of balance of China’s basic social security fund, 2012

Increase in the number of newly registered private enterprises in November, a major rise after a slump in September and October.

50 40 30 20

Photo by CFP

10 0

Private Foreign Self Rural companies -funded -employed cooperatives Others

Source: State Administration for Industry and Commerce

The balance of China’s national social security fund in 2012, 9% more than the US$112bn recorded in the previous year.

Pensions for employed persons Unemployment insurance 3.6% Healthcare insurance for the employed 1% 11% Insurance for work1.6% related injuries Maternity insurance Pensions for urban 15.6% unemployed and rural residents 9.2% Health care insurance for urban unemployed and rural residents


Source: Ministry of Finance

2.5m the requisite approvals to provide degreecertified education.   The interaction problem, however, is tougher to solve. A single online teacher may be lecturing to a far larger number of students than they would be in a traditional university, making it difficult for the teacher to pay enough attention to each student, or organize intensive class discussions for students scattered around the world. “This is just the initial stage of the new way of education. Where there is demand in the market, there will be a solution,” Mr. Shen told our reporter.   This is why Mr. Han stressed that MOOCs are just one of many possible future directions of online college education in China, and all players in the market have a long way to go. “Chinese universities and companies should also make their own efforts to explore new solutions for better online education, rather than taking it for granted that MOOCs are the only direction and that everyone will succeed just by following suit,” he noted. NEWSCHINA I February 2014

The number of Chinese rural residents who have obtained urban hukou, or residence registration permits between 2010 and 2012, 2.2 times the number in the years 2007 to 2009. Source: Ministry of Public Security



The value of China’s exports in November, the highest ever monthly record, representing a 13% year-on-year increase, compared with 9.3% growth in total foreign trade and 5.3% growth in imports.

The number of people in China with a personal credit rating, 35% of the personal credit database recorded by China’s central bank by the end of 2012 Personal credit

Structure of China’s US$2tn exports Jan - Nov 2013


3.5% 2.7% 4.3% 3.5%



25.5% 17%


Electrical and electronic goods Mechanical products Other electronic and hi-tech products Textiles and apparel Shoes and bags Toys, plastic products and furniture Agricultural products Coal, coke, oil, steel and aluminum Others

Source: General Administration of Customs / Ministry of Agriculture

Plus borrowing record

8 6 4 2 0

2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012

Source: People’s Bank of China




s China and Japan continue to trade jibes over the Diaoyu (Senkaku) Islands, South Korea’s proposal to establish a monument to Ahn Joongkeun, a man seen as a martyr in Korea, a folk hero in China and a terrorist in Japan, seems just another twist in the constantly changing flow of regional politics. “Japan always defines Ahn Joong-keun as a criminal. Promotion of this monument does no good for JapaneseKorean relations,” protested Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga at a press conference on November 19, 2013. South Korea’s foreign ministry hit back immediately. “It is ridiculous for Japan to call Ahn Joong-keun a ‘criminal,’ given Japan’s history,” said foreign ministry spokesman Cho Tai-Young. “Ahn Joong-keun sacrificed his life for Korean independence and peace in Asia,” he added. The proposed site of the monument is the Chinese city of Harbin, where Ahn assassinated the then Japanese Premier Prince Itō Hirobumi in 1909. South Korea suggested establishing the monument in cooperation with China in June when South Korean President Park Geun-hye made an official visit to Beijing. The South Korean media recently revealed that China had activated the program. “An anti-Japanese martyr, Ahn Joong-keun is also respected by the Chinese people.


China will investigate and promote the monument plan in line with foreign affairs protocols,” said China’s foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei on November 19. China’s lukewarm support for the monument was taken as tacit approval for South Korea’s stance, though some have warned that the move is unnecessary provocation that could threaten already rocky Sino-Japanese relations.

The Assassination

Ahn Joong-keun

Gunshots in Harbin Ahn Joong-keun, the Korean dissident who assassinated Japanese Premier Itō Hirobumi during a visit to China in 1909, remains a prominent figure in the complex political histories of China, South Korea and Japan By Xie Ying

Born into an aristocratic Korean family in 1875, Ahn Joong-keun witnessed the Empire of Japan outpace all its neighbors in the wake of a modernization program launched during the Meiji Restoration of the 19th century. In 1894, Japan expelled a Chinese military force from the Korean peninsula, inflicting a humiliating defeat on the Great Qing Empire, wiping out several centuries of de facto Chinese suzerainty with the Treaty of Shimonoseki. Continued sparring over control over Korea’s nascent Joseon Dynasty, marked by the assassination of the pro-Russian Empress Myeongseong by Japanese agents in 1895, ended with the resounding defeat of the Russian imperial navy in 1904, leaving Japan with no regional rivals. Korea, with a long tradition of anti-foreign insurrections, had many underground resistance movements which gained in strength as new political ideas took hold in the NEWSCHINA I February 2014

Photo by Xinhua

early 20th century. Like oversight. He also demany Koreans of his cided to proceed alone generation, Ahn was to avoid detection. quickly swept up in October 26th anti-imperialist fervor. dawned cold. Ahn put A committed Cathoon his overcoat, loaded lic who learned fluent his Browning with eight French from a priest in dum-dum bullets, each Shanghai, he devoted carved with a Catholic himself to patriotic educross, and tucked it into cation among overseas his pocket. He pulled Koreans, first in China down a peaked cap to and then in Imperial cover his face before Russia, at the time Jablending into the crowd pan’s main rival for conof Japanese nationals trol over Korea and the who had arrived at the Qing Empire’s frontier heavily guarded Harbin A photograph of the assassination exhibited in Ahn’s memorial in South Korea in Manchuria. railway station to welOn November 17, come Itō. 1905, soon after the The train arrived on Japanese fleet smashed schedule at the open-air the Russian navy, Japan forced the Joseon Dynasty to sign the Eulsa platform. Ahn watched his target disembark to inspect the Russian Treaty, also known as the Second Japan-Korean Convention, which guard of honor alongside finance minister Kokovtsov. As the Ruswould bring the peninsula under Japanese “protection.” In the wake sians lining up in front of Ahn raised their guns to give a salute, Ahn of the treaty, the Emperor of Japan appointed Ahn’s future target, drew his pistol and fired three shots into the belly and chest of the Prince Itō Hirobumi, as the first Resident General of Korea. In 1907, elderly Itō, one of which passed through his spine. He then emptied Itō forced the abdication of the Joseon Emperor, disbanded the Ko- the pistol into Itō’s entourage, crying out “Long live Korea” in Rusrean army and began a “modernization” process, which essentially sian, before he was subdued. amounted to Japanese colonization of the country. Prince Itō was pronounced dead from blood loss later that day. At the time, Ahn, a passionate literary scholar who was also a keen When he heard the news that Itō had died, Ahn reportedly crossed marksman, was leading a 300-member volunteer army in an insurrec- himself. tion in Japanese-occupied Russia. His band suffered a string of defeats in skirmishes with Japanese forces. Ahn then determined to try his The Resolution hand at political assassinations – starting with the man he saw as the The Russian authorities held Ahn for two days before turning him architect of Korean subjugation – Itō Hirobumi. While fighting in over to the Japanese. “I did it for four thousand years of Korea and Russia, he reportedly vowed to “terminate” Itō “within three years.” her 20 million people. I executed a villain who subjugated Korea and When Ahn came across a report in the Far East News which re- ravaged the peace of Asia,” Ahn told the Japanese colonial court durvealed that Itō would embark on a tour of Russian-controlled Man- ing his trial. Ahn was later transferred to Ryojun, or Port Arthur, the modernchuria, and meet for talks with Russian finance minister Vladimir Nikolayevich Kokovtsov on November 26, 1909, he saw a chance to day Chinese port of Lüshun, another city under Japanese administration, where he underwent 17 interrogations. While in prison, Ahn fulfill his vow. Ahn and his two accomplices decided on a rest stop on the route wrote many pro-Korean independence inscriptions on his prison cell between Changchun and Harbin that Itō was scheduled to take as the wall in Hanja – the scholarly script of Korea which used Chinese charideal location for their attack, believing it would be less well-guarded. acters. Ahn’s Japanese guards reportedly admired his calligraphy. Ahn’s cell wall slogans were signed with a print of his ring finger, However, when Ahn confirmed from media reports that Itō’s train would make the stop at dawn, in darkness, he changed his plan. He a section of which had been cut off in solidarity with 12 other vetwould instead strike when Itō reached Harbin, then a cosmopolitan erans of a battle between Korean insurgents and Japanese troops in city jointly administered by several foreign powers under Russian Russia January 1909. The 12 cut off a section of their ring fingers NEWSCHINA I February 2014



Photo by Xinhua

and daubed a pro-indenortheastern China in pendence slogan on a 1931. Well-known revohuge Korean flag with lutionary leaders and the bloody stumps, vowscholars like Sun Yat-sen, ing to give their lives in Cai Yuanpei and Zhang service to their country. Taiyan honored Ahn as Ahn, represented by “a righteous Asian.” foreign lawyers who During the cultural were not permitted to and political movespeak during his trial, ment known as the remained defiant until May Fourth Movement the end. “I am no ordiwhich swept through nary assassin. I killed Itō China’s cities in 1919, Ahn Joong-keun’s effects, exhibited in his memorial museum in the name of the Lieuwhich attacked foreign tenant General of the imperialism and Chivolunteer army. I should nese feudalism, Ahn was be a prisoner of war,” he revived as a folk hero. told the court. Zhou Enlai, who would “The assassination was not an individual act, but a part of Korea’s go on to become the People’s Republic of China’s first Premier, asfight for independence. The Emperor professed that Japan wanted sisted in a production of the opera Ahn Joong-keun, in which Deng peace in Korea, but Itō pushed the opposite,” he continued. Yingchao, his future wife, played the title role. “If I am guilty, it is only of being a weak Korean national.” “The Chinese and Korean people’s fight against Japanese colonialAlthough Ahn demanded execution by firing squad as a war crimi- ism began with Ahn Joong-keun’s assassination of Itō Hirobumi,” nal, the court sentenced him to death by hanging, and the sentence Zhou remarked in an essay on China’s historical relations with Korea. was carried out on March 26, 1910 after his defense obtained a brief Since the recent souring of relations between Japan and China, stay of execution. This delay allowed him to die wearing a suit of tra- Ahn has been revived as a symbol of resistance to Japanese aggresditional white Korean clothes made by his mother that his Japanese sion. Many Chinese netizens have accused Japan of double standards warden had been able to secure for him. He spent his last month on the Ahn monument issue. Tokyo’s Yakusuni Shrine, for example, writing his autobiography, and finishing an essay titled “On Peace in which commemorates Japanese war dead including Class A war crimEast Asia” with the help of his guards. inals, continues to be visited by Japanese politicians. “20 million Korean people, keep on fighting,” he wrote. “I will However, Chinese solidarity with Korea seems to have fizzled over have no regrets if you carry out my unfinished work and lead Korea the matter of Ahn’s nationality. A survey by nationalist Chinese newsto independence.” paper the Global Times showed that one fourth of respondents opAhn was buried in an unmarked grave in Harbin. posed the monument’s placement in China, as it honored “a foreigner whose deeds were for the benefit of Korea alone.” Affect “Approval for an Ahn monument might mislead Japan into thinkItō’s assassination made headlines worldwide, and was seized upon ing that China intends to estrange itself from Japan while cozying up by the Korean independence movement, while Ahn was demonized to Korea,” Lü Chao, a researcher from the Chinese Academy of Social in the Japanese press. China’s widespread anti-foreign political move- Sciences Liaoning Branch, told the Global Times. “I don’t think it is ments also seized upon the case as a rallying cry for those seeking to reasonable to set up a monument or statue honoring a foreigner in resist Japanese encroachment on the Asian mainland. any public place. A plaque commemorating the event itself might be “As Japan waits to swallow up China, Ahn Joong-keun’s bullets are preferable,” he added. more valuable than the tears of millions and the patriotic words of Despite the lukewarm support for the monument on the part of thousands,” ran a commentary in the People’s Voice Daily, a leftwing China’s foreign ministry, the government of Harbin told media that circular published in Shanghai. Chinese nationalists, still smarting they have not yet received “any notification from upper-level departfrom their defeat at the hands of foreign powers during the Boxer Re- ments” about establishing the monument. bellion (1899-1901), continued to use Ahn as an example of patriotic Given the subtle balance of relations between China, Japan and heroism throughout the escalating conflicts with imperial powers and South Korea, a monument for such a controversial historical figure Japan in particular, which culminated in the wholesale invasion of might, even for China, be a provocation.


NEWSCHINA I February 2014


Ning Hao

Uncensored By Wan Jianhua and Chen Tao

NEWSCHINA I February 2014

Ning Hao

Photo by Guo Shaofeng

A Chinese movie banned before its release four years ago has unexpectedly been given the go-ahead. Speaking to the director Ning Hao, NewsChina tries to find out why




hile the two lead roles in the recently released thriller No Man’s Land are played by comedians Xu Zheng and Huang Bo, the movie is far from funny. The trailer opens with a female clerk sitting in a convenience store watching television, when a car suddenly smashes through the wall of the store, destroying everything inside – including the woman and her TV. Beginning with this unexpected intrusion upon the peace and quiet of the western Chinese wilderness, things start to get stranger and stranger. Originally scheduled for release in 2010, No Man’s Land by director Ning Hao was pulled from theater schedules by China’s State Administration of Radio, Film and Television (SARFT) before its premiere. Despite frequent rumors in the interim that the ban was soon to be lifted, sources repeatedly told NewsChina that the movie was unlikely ever to be screened. However, in early October 2013, Ning received an unexpected note from SARFT, informing him that after nearly four years, the movie had been approved by the censorship board, and was to hit screens on December 3. “I will frame the note and save it as a keepsake – it is very meaningful,” said Ning Hao. That day, he opened a bottle of wine to celebrate the news with friends and colleagues who worked on the movie. Ning Hao, a director in his mid-30s, struck it lucky in 2006 with the unexpected success of his first box office hit, the 2006 comedy Crazy Stone. The resurrection of No Man’s Land is perhaps an even bigger surprise.

working class city dwellers, the experience led him to consider the relationship between human nature and society, and he began writing a script treatment depicting both the animal and social attributes displayed by human beings, choosing western China’s vast, remote wilderness to create an environment of “desocialization.” Ning chose Xu Zheng to play the lead role, a lawyer with a strong social identity. Flexible, worldly and profit-oriented, the character “gradually becomes dominated by the ‘aggressive nature’ of the animal side of the human condition, after his false outer layers are peeled away in the enclosed environment of the wilderness,” Xu told NewsChina. In Xu’s under-

maker with Crazy Stone and its follow-up Crazy Racer in 2009, Ning decided to take a different tack with No Man’s Land, eschewing his comedies’ multiple-perspective narrative style. “[No Man’s Land] is powerful, masculine and supercool,” said Ning. Furthermore, Ning began to explore more purposefully his personal perspective on the world – which demanded a change of camera. While he had previously favored a wide-angle lens for his comedies, on No Man’s Land he chose to use standard camera and telephoto lenses, to ensure that the focus remained on the characters themselves. “The change took place due to the shift in the focus of my attention. When I began to


In late 2008, Ning began shooting No Man’s Land, largely inspired by his experiences shooting his earlier movie Mongolian Ping Pong (2004). On location in Inner Mongolia, Ning used local people as actors, and was struck by their behavior and attitude – generally unable to communicate well with outsiders and unfamiliar with the concept of a contract, Ning found his local cast would often desert the set before shooting had finished, often to go drinking with their friends. Ning said he took this to mean that the locals believed that drinking with friends was “more important to life than shooting a film.” Having previously focused on using black humor and absurdity to portray the lives of


Huang Bo plays a murderer in No Man’s Land

standing, the story was dramatic and somewhat fable-like: “To put it simply, this is a story discussing the relationship between human beings and their environment,” Xu added. Having proved himself as a comedy film-

think about new issues, the best form in which to display this naturally changed as well,” Ning wrote in his book, Randomly Growing Up, published in 2012. Some critics have called No Man’s Land a NEWSCHINA I February 2014

change in style for Ning Hao, but Xu Zheng disagrees: “I think this is a movie that shows the real mind of Ning Hao. It is the other side of the director, one that others rarely see.”

I went back to Shanghai, I still felt like I was in the Gobi desert.” Thanks to the sudden success of the lowbudget Crazy Stone, a movie that cost 3 million

movie, once finished, would feel the wrath of the government’s film review board and fail to receive approval for release. Zhao Baohua, a member of SARFT’s review board, alleged publicly that the film was “trash” and its depiction of “depraved individuals” was not fitting with reality. Zhao also took a shot at Ning Hao directly, saying that the director was “narcissistically obsessed with his own unrealistic vulgar world full of negative characters” and “had forgotten about the social responsibility of being an artist.” “The authorities – or the censorship board – worried that the movie might lead to violence,” Ning told NewsChina, “so they asked me to make some adjustments to the movie’s content, and I obliged.” However, Ning received no further news about the progress of No Man’s Land, making it the first movie produced by CFGC ever to be banned by China’s censors.


Xu Zheng (right) and Yu Nan (left) run for their lives in the climactic finale

Cuts and Bruises

In 2009, Ning Hao led a 200-strong crew to Xinjiang to shoot No Man’s Land. Every day, the entire crew had to travel one to two hours across desert terrain, and the region’s freezing nights proved a particularly harsh working environment. Xu Zheng lost over 12 kilograms in weight in one month, and Huang Bo spent time in an abattoir to prepare for his role as a murderer. “It was challenging for me as an actor, and I experienced strong psychological pressure, since every character in the film is out of control – some are on the verge of collapse, some are pouring gasoline on themselves,” Xu told our reporter. “After the shooting wrapped and

NEWSCHINA I February 2014

yuan (US$493,000) to make but pulled in 23 million yuan (US$3.78m) at the box office on the Chinese mainland, Ning Hao became a hot property overnight. His follow-up Crazy Racer received support from the China Film Group Cooperation (CFGC) and CFGC Chairman Han Sanping was one of the movie’s producers. In 2009, Crazy Racer stormed the box office with takings over 1.3 billion yuan (US$213.65m). When the idea for No Man’s Land was still in its initial stages, Ning pitched the movie to Han Sanping, asking the latter for an investment of 20 million yuan (US$3.29m). Due to Ning’s previous success and official backing, few would have predicted that the

Ning Hao claims not to be entirely satisfied with the final cut of No Man’s Land, and admits that his original idea was not fulfilled. In 2012, before the ban on No Man’s Land was lifted, Ning Hao expressed to the media that the experience of shooting the movie had forced a change in him: “I would like to learn how to think from a more constructive perspective now, although I know this might be very difficult for me.” Over the past four years, Ning has rarely commented on the process of his adjustments to No Man’s Land and its turbulent journey toward its mainstream release. “It was reasonable to make some adjustments so the story is easier for people to understand, and so they won’t feel there’s too much violence,” Ning told NewsChina. “I just wanted to make a black comedy.” No Man’s Land made 23 million yuan (US$3.78m) in its first day at the box office on December 3, and as of December 15, the movie’s total takings have reached 204.6 million yuan (US$33.7m). At present, Ning Hao is concentrating on his new comedy DeathDefying Encounter, once again starring Huang Bo and Xu Zheng. Due perhaps in part to his experience with SARFT, Ning said he was pursuing a different direction with his latest film, and hopes it can have a “healing” effect.


visual REPORT

Dye-hard Traditionalists T

he people of the Dong ethic minority in southeastern Guizhou Province boast many cultural relics dating back hundreds or even thousands of years – of these, their traditional dress is perhaps the best-known. Dong women at Zhanli Village and Xiaohuang Village in Chongjiang County still maintain the tradition of making their own cloth and clothing, especially on holidays or festivals, when the Dong elders pass the clothes onto their offspring as gifts. Every March, the Dong people grow cotton in the fields, which they then harvest in the autumn. Women make cotton into yarn using traditional wooden looms, then straighten out the fibres after soaking them with the juice of a local indigenous plant, after which they are woven into cloth. Perhaps the most eye-catching aspect of the tradition is the dyeing process, in which all the dyes are made from natural substances including indigo grass, persimmon peel and cinnabar. The purple, black and green fabric is painted with egg white and struck with a hammer before completion. The next step in the process is knitting the cloth pieces together. Women tailor individual pieces of clothing for their family members based on traditional designs – women’s clothes take much more time than men’s, since they require more needlework and ornaments. The embroidery usually takes several months or even a whole year to finish. Nowadays, the techniques are falling out of favor with young Dong girls, and the tradition is in danger of disappearing as the oldest generation of Dong people dies out.


NEWSCHINA I February 2014

NEWSCHINA I February 2014


visual REPORT


6 3


5 NEWSCHINA I February 2014



1. A woman of the Dong ethnic minority weaves cotton into fabric using a traditional wooden loom 2. An elderly woman hangs threads of fabric out for drying 3. A woman works at a loom 4. Fabric is immersed in a jar of dye made from a local indigenous plant 5. The fabric is dyed blue using natural substances 6. The cloth is struck with hammers to make it more durable 7. Pieces of cloth are woven into clothes


NEWSCHINA I February 2014


OUTSIDEIN perspectives from within China

Eternal Baisha

Cultural Fabric Around Lijiang, an ancient settlement overpopulated with tourists, our writer finds small villages steeped in local ethnic culture (but isn’t so impressed with the tea)


Photo by Lisa Gay

By Lisa Gay

NEWSCHINA I February 2014

Photo by Lisa Gay


he Naxi people of Yunnan province retain a beguiling cultural mix of Chinese and Tibetan influences that have inspired many a writer to pause in the region, including adventurerbotanist (we’re not kidding) Joseph Rock, who penned several entertaining National Geographic stories set in the Naxi homeland during the 1920s. The eccentric American wrote colorful dispatches about his explorations through outlaw-infested mountain passes and sharp accounts of the exotic religious customs of the local populace, which inflamed the Western imagination (and supposedly inspired the fictional Shangri-La of James Hilton’s Lost Horizons). While there may be somewhat fewer bandits and shaman healers prowling the area these days, the lands of the Naxi people still retain a somewhat wild and untamed image. The political center was (and still is) Lijiang, a charming old village with cobblestone roads, arched bridges and wooden waterwheels. Every signpost in the old district uses the traditional Dongba script, which is the last “living” hieroglyphic script in existence. Dongba was mostly used for ritual purposes by a Dongba priest—hence the name. This unique system of writing was very nearly extinct by the late 20th century, though it has made a comeback as of late. Lijiang, though beautiful, is a stark symbol of the worst tendencies of the Chinese tourist industry: the old city is deprived of any normal scenes of daily Naxi life. Instead, the visitor is faced with wall-to-wall souvenir shops, many of which hawk products wildly

Dr Ho, resident herbalist and friend of Michael Palin

out of place—the most blatant (and frankly annoying) example is the oddly high number of bongo drum shops that litter the old city. There’s no Shangri-La to be found here (if there ever was). Instead, head to smaller Naxi villages clustered around Lijiang proper. The closest is Shuhe, a smaller town that is a bike-friendly seven miles north of Lijiang. Shuhe was a regular outpost on the Tea Horse Trail—which, like the name suggests, traded ponies from Tibet for tea from Yunnan. There are still horses and mules hitched up to posts all over town, although the vast majority of them are used to amuse tourists. Shuhe is admittedly touristy, but you can still spot locals going about their daily busi-

WHERE TO STAY Lijiang has no shortage of hotels catering to a variety of budgets, but we recommend staying in Shuhe for its quieter atmosphere. Those with deep wallets should splurge on a well-designed villa at the Banyan Tree Lijiang (actually in Shuhe), which boasts brilliant views of Jade Dragon Snow Mountain. GETTING AROUND Taxis from Lijiang’s old city can drop you off for roughly 40 yuan (US$7), although bargain hard – some will quote outrageous figures for what is essentially a ten-minute cab ride. A better option for day-trippers is a bike hire. Shuhe lies 7 kilometers away from Lijiang Old City, head north along Xianggeli Avenue. Baisha is a further twenty minutes away from Shuhe, or a 40-50 yuan (US$7-8) cab ride from Lijiang – depending on your bargaining skills, naturally.

NEWSCHINA I February 2014

ness, some even dressed in their native style. Older men play traditional instruments in the town square, women ferry heaping baskets of produce across town, children play in local temples – these everyday scenes are actually a rarity over in Lijiang, as most of the original inhabitants were chased out long ago by the high cost of living. An interesting feature of Shuhe is the “three wells” water system. Basically, it consisted of three pools of water, all connected by a thin source stream. The first pool was used for drinking water, the second used to wash vegetables and clothing, and the third was used for bathing. As you’d expect, the stream runs from the first to the third—after all, you wouldn’t want to be drinking someone’s castoff bath water! Wedding photography seems to be another big industry in Shuhe. If you are traveling as a couple, there are worse ideas than spending the afternoon getting a few snaps in front of arched stone bridges or a charmingly run-down village home, although you may have to elbow a few Chinese couples out of the more popular spots. Studios will have samples plastered in their front windows and closets full of clothing you can borrow. Some of it is tasteful, but others are hilariously outdated and tacky. For a more authentic Naxi setting, hop a mule or grab a bicycle and head further north for Baisha, a village near the base of Jade



take months of painstaking work—gain an appreciation by sitting with students and trying out a few easy (looking) embroidery techniques. Another traditional industry is batik and tie-dyed fabrics. You’ll see these colorful cloths hanging up in random courtyards around town. Step inside, and you can usually witness a woman in the process of dyeing fabrics. They’ll be strung up to dry, then sent off to regional souvenir shops, although you can of course snag a couple for cheap at these small-scale operations. While wandering the streets of Baisha, you’ll probably be accosted by a spritely old

Photo by Lisa Gay

Dragon Snow Mountain. While the snowcapped peaks are only faintly visible from Lijiang (try the Black Dragon Pool for the best views in town), this mountain completely dominates the backdrop of Baisha. Despite its relatively backward appearance, Baisha was actually the original settlement of the Naxi people. The ruling clan moved south to Lijiang only after the Mongol invasion. This town had likely been a melting pot of Han, Tibetan and Naxi culture—or at least, all these influences are found in the Baisha Murals in local temples. Unfortunately, many of these murals were badly damaged during the Cultural Revolution. Those that survived can be spotted in Dabaoji Temple, though the poor lighting makes for a rather unsatisfying experience. Baisha is not without the hopeful hawkers of “local” crafts, but skip those souvenir stalls for an authentic piece of Naxi embroidery. There are several schools of embroidery in town, but the Baisha Naxi Embroidery Institute is purportedly the oldest of these schools, having been in existence for several hundred years. There is also a small gallery of embroidered artwork produced by the local women, using glossy silk thread. Some of these pieces

Jade Dragon Snow Mountain looms over the village

man with surprisingly good English. This is Dr Ho, a self-taught doctor of traditional Chinese medicine. He strokes his beard as he talks, looking every bit the traditional Chinese herbalist. The man was “discovered” by travel writer Bruce Chatwin in the ‘80s. The good doctor was also featured on Michael Palin’s BBC TV show Himalaya in the late ‘90s, and supposedly, fellow Monty Python alumnus John Cleese had this pithy tidbit to say about Dr Ho: “interesting bloke, crap tea.” This isn’t too far from the truth. Dr Ho might give you an on-the-spot diagnosis, but he also might just regale you with amusing stories that are almost impossible to verify. He’s not out to sell you expensive herbs (though “he has them” should you have the need). He will, however, give you commonsensical advice on how to live into old age. Being that the man is over ninety and likely speaking to you in a second language, you might just want to listen. He tells me not to smoke and not to eat pork, pointing to Chairman Mao as a cautionary tale. But the most important thing, he says, is to be optimistic and live a stress-free lifestyle. Both of which could be very possible…if, that is, I actually lived in Baisha.

real chinese


banzhuan Carrying Bricks

Recently, China’s bottom-rung employees across all industries have been describing their low-paid work as banzhuan, literally “carrying bricks.” With ban meaning “carry” and zhuan meaning “brick,” banzhuan traditionally refers to the job carried out by construction workers. Due to the growing numbers of rural people flooding into cities in recent years, China’s hardhats are generally rural migrants, who choose to toil in cities for low wages and often in dangerous conditions rather than return to their home villages. However, the use of the term banzhuan has now extended beyond construction sites, to apply to the general working class population, par-


ticularly young men, who complain about their lot by comparing their work to that of construction workers. According to media reports, Chinese people work longer hours than anyone else in the world, and in recent years China has heard about a growing number of young people apparently worked to death. However, Chinese employees, pressured by the country’s rocketing inflation and rising unemployment rate, are reluctant to look for an easier job or ask for more free time. Many turn to the Internet to vent their dissatisfaction. A well-known post, believed to have triggered the sudden popularity of the term


“banzhuan,” reads “Hey! Stop surfing the Internet. Your boss has asked you to carry some bricks. You will not receive yesterday’s pay until you finish carrying five more trucks of bricks. By the way, that woman back in your village left a message asking when you will marry her. She said if you’re still poor by the end of the year, she’ll marry that pock-marked man.” Similar to the term diaosi which young men use to define themselves as losers, banzhuan’s popularity indicates how Chinese young people, especially those from poor families, feel powerless to change their lives. “Stop day-dreaming, you have to banzhuan tomorrow,” they often remind each other. NEWSCHINA I February 2014

flavor of the month

More Biang For Your Buck By Stephy Chung

NEWSCHINA I February 2014

pork hamburger. It’s quite popular, with an order arriving at almost every table. Diners seem to treat it as a side dish, like a basket of fries, and nibble between bites of their main dishes. This “hamburger,” dating back to the Zhou dynasty, consists of a melt-in-the-mouth pork filling slow-cooked with a tasty blend of onions and some 20 different spices, enrobed in a fresh, toasted flatbread which adds a complimentary touch to the tender meat. There were an overwhelming number of noodle options on the menu, with humorous English translations, such as the “dry mixing by hand every time one face” - which was basically, a dry, hand-pulled noodle in sauce. The Biang Biang noodles came with no English translation, as the complicated 57-stroke ancient character is recognized in China by its complexity and pronunciation, not its meaning. My anticipation built as I heard a chorus of “Biang Biang” from the tables around me. “Biang Biang” is onomatopoeia for the sound the noodle dough makes as it slaps against the worktop during kneading. Apparently, the hearty thwack contributes to the evening of the dough and helps stretch the noodle into its desired shape. The noodle’s width is commonly likened to a belt, measuring to about 4-5 centimeters in diameter. Each piece is long, and folds over itself much like lasagne, but with a stickier texture. When it first arrived at my table, I was surprised at how dry and bland the dish looked - a dusting of chili powder, wood-ear fungus, a little scrambled egg and bok choy were the only seasonings for this heap of thick noodles. However, once you start flipping the noodles, the flavors begin to pop. The noodles are sitting on a delicious mix of hot oil, toasted sesame seeds, loads of spices and chilies, crunchy bean sprouts, and diced up green onion and garlic. The heat from the chilies is fragrant, and very delicate. It’s a messy dish, the stubborn noodles attempt to escape as you try to stir them into the moreish sauce, and with each flop, oil would end up on either my shirt, on my dining partner, or around my mouth. The cheap fare - costing me a little under three dollars for the stew, hamburger, and noodles, was enough to feed three people, and kept me fully stuffed for the entire day. Biangin’. Courtesy of Stephy Chung


would like to think that the 8,000 Terracotta Warriors, or more precisely the hundreds of thousands of workers who painstakingly cast them, sustained themselves on some serious chow. And, after carb-loading on a few Xi’an specialties, I too felt properly fueled to defend the first emperor, or run a marathon, whichever need arose first. Xi’an, the capital of Shaanxi province and one of China’s four great ancient capitals, has become world famous for its 2,000-year-old life-sized pottery army, and more as President Xi Jinping’s hometown. However, food-wise, it perhaps was most important as the starting point of the Silk Road. During the 8th century AD, the booming metropolis, then called Chang’an, had over one million inhabitants, of which one-third were non-Chinese. One of the country’s largest Uyghur Muslim populations is still concentrated in Xi’an today, and their influence has spread to the local cuisine, with Middle Eastern spices such as cumin, nutmeg, and cardamom frequently used to flavor dishes. Noodles, instead of rice, are the staple in this arid climate. These are kneaded and hand-pulled into many varieties, and are made fresh at restaurants like Beijing’s Xi’an Noodle House. When I first walked into the packed, dingy two-floor joint, I was instantly assaulted with the pungent odor of raw mutton - for me, an instant turn-off. I have never been a fan of the meat of the sheep. Personally, I think it has a bit of a rotten, gamey flavor to it, but, in China, I’m clearly in the minority. Mutton or lamb is often a feature of Xi’an dishes, particularly in the beloved lamb stew or paomo, which loosely translates as “soaked bread.” The dish is served with a small, round flatbread which you break into your bowl before it is topped up with a rich, oily lamb broth. The bread bits absorb the soup, and you end up with a bowl of savory mush. Many Silk Road travelers apparently lived off the stuff - the idea was to pack the dry bread and broth separately to avoid rot but also ensure something hot but substantial to eat along the route. Another ancient favorite offered at the restaurant is the roujiamo, or



Not So Chirpy By James Kingston

Illustration by Xiang Zhaohui

The mind of the male hobbyist lends itself to obsessive collection, categorization, and competition the world over. Breeding and fighting crickets is no different.

The ego of a cricket can be a fragile thing, and China’s best fighting crickets are pampered and adored. Paralleling the treatment afforded the gladiators of Rome, to the victors are given all the spoils of their grateful owners. The strong are rewarded with favor, food, and women; one Beijing collector puts his favourite cricket in with two concubines because, in his own words: “every little king needs his Diana and Camilla.” Pampered and confident, their chitinous carapaces a sparkling brown, they are the stars of the cricket fighting world. Particularly prized crickets remain honored even into the next world, their grieving owners from time to time buying them ornate miniature coffins. A defeated cricket, however, may only lose two or three games. With an apparent emotional depth belying their reputation, losing crickets collapse into depression. Sometimes a trainer may revive their spirits by tossing them in the air, but there are those for whom the weight of


loss is too devastating. Emasculated by defeat, they are either freed by their owners or merely crushed in frustration – for cricket fights can be a lucrative affair. Despite being outside the law, these cricket battles are a major gambling event, with bets regularly topping over 10,000 yuan (US$1,650) at the bigger competitions, held underground and in discreet locations in big cities like Beijing, Shanghai, and Hong Kong. For all that, cricket fighting in China is a tradition reaching back nearly 1,000 years. Originally kept by imperial courtesans attracted by their singing, their gilded cages emblematic of their mistresses’ own condition, they were kept near the beds that the courtesans might hear them in the night. The indignities suffered by today’s crickets pale in significance compared with those inflicted upon their ancestors; one ancient chronicle attests that their wings were treated with brass powder and resin, the better to refine their song. The birth of the cricket fighting tradition may be most notably exemplified in the career of the late Song Dynasty minister Jia Shi Dao, so legendarily obsessed with the sport he was accused of neglecting his duties. Ancient incompetence notwithstanding, the sport became the play of Emperors, with the Xuanzong Emperor of the Ming Dynasty a notable fan. Banned during the Cultural Revolution and associated now primarily with older, nostalgic men, the custom has nevertheless been staging a comeback. Beijing has a number of cricket associations. Recommended by a friend, we found one of these on an October day in the conference room of a hotel at Xizhimen in Beijing. 20 men stood huddled over a table, flashlights strapped to their heads and cigarettes hanging from their mouths. Iced tea, miniature nets, dozens of small ceramic pots, and two proud trophies were placed before them, the legacy of previous club triumphs. The mind of the male hobbyist lends itself to obsessive collection, categorization, and competition the world over. Breeding and fighting crickets is no different. A thick ledger, filled with

the nicknames of club members and their insects, was filled with records of previous bouts. Placed carefully on a miniature scale, the crickets were classified into weight-based categories and put waiting back in storage, their containers carefully labelled with their name, owner, and weight. Club officials then began matching the competitors. A 40-something stockbroker by day and proud trainer of a middle weight, energetically chirruping cricket named Cloud was paired up with the owner of Red, a fat and garrulous man with the vocal gargling of the authentic Beijinger. His cricket cautiously examined the illuminated, hard environment into which it so suddenly it had been thrust. With delicate straws the two men irritated the antennae of the beasts below, infuriating and entangling them. Before combat, the fighters spend time in the company of female crickets, thus stoking themselves to a height of sexuality abruptly frustrated by daylight, prodding from above, and the presence of another cricket, jaws threateningly parted, across the glass cage. By such means the collectors strive to provoke their charges, goading them into combative rage. As with larger animals, sex and violence are often inextricable. Filled with testosterone, the two insects now sensed each other’s presence. Stock still, they expanded their wings and hissed, threatening each other – closer then they inched, long antennae waving in the air. They stood expanding their mandibles, silent, menacing. Suddenly they leapt together and locked in desperate embrace. Their fierce jaws gnashed upon one another, their front legs beat the air as all around us came the excited shouts and encouragement of the club. Mere seconds after it began it was over, the victor left holding the field, the defeated insect cowering in the corner. I could only hope he would be joining his cousins in the fields, freed from the cycle of battle – not his peers who could be seen, lifeless and dismembered, amidst the butts in the ashtrays. NEWSCHINA I February 2014

Left Behind By Sean Silbert

Illustration by Xiang Zhaohui

Few people emigrate to China, and we all have our expiration dates

Last year, it became fashionable among the expat community to write a long, heartfelt goodbye letter to China before leaving. They avalanched onto the blogosphere, with local columnists and entrepreneurs stressing disconnect and displeasure with their adopted home. Showoffs, I thought. Few people emigrate to China, and we all have our expiration dates – what’s the point of publicly complaining? So I shouldn’t have been so surprised when so many of my friends left as well. I can understand why: eye-burning pollution, eternal gridlock and the relentless pounding of construction noise are an unavoidable fact of life NEWSCHINA I February 2014

here. Constantly questioning about whether your dinner will kill you before a wayward electric scooter does can push anyone onto the next flight home. I’m not trivializing these aren’t minor annoyances. Big city life can have its stresses, but sprawling, Blade Runner-esque metropolises like Beijing are in a singular category all of their own. The average term of an expat under these circumstances isn’t fixed: while some come here for a matter of months, it’s equally common to see some expats who have found careers and planted, albeit usually shallow, roots. One of my friends left because she wasn’t feeling her job was leading her anywhere; another furiously fled after a conflict involving an electric bike crash went sour. I can’t even imagine the rage of a career China hand that watches their livelihood wither away after a single rejected visa application. And with every purchase of a one-way plane ticket, my intimate circle is whittled away. It feels like surviving a plague. In the beginning of my stint here, I frequently met some old-timey expats who had been here long enough to talk about the old days. They mentioned the bitterness of having to constantly play tour guide rather than grow old with people you know. Bah, I thought. I’ll just make new friends – there’s fresh blood coming in every day. Today, though, the relevant organs have erected an iron gate of visa restrictions that block curious adventurers from moving over. Practically, that means that the new people that I’ll meet won’t be the wide-eyed China-curious globetrotters who once made up my social circle. They’ll be diplomats, tourists, students and executives – in short, they won’t be much like me. And even as I get crusty and old, the desire for meaningful friendships and relationships won’t. Knowing that everyone will have to leave at some point doesn’t make me embittered, thankfully, but it still chafes to accept this

new fact of life. So? Make local friends, I hear you cry. There is indeed the possibility to just go native and make plenty of contacts within the local pool and while local Chinese can certainly be fun to hang out with, I don’t want to limit my experience - but sometimes, you just want to speak your own language without having to explain every idiom or pop culture reference in another. Sometimes when the “I’m leaving forever” conversation comes up, I can only imagine the passion of the missionaries and traders who came to China decades ago. Sure, there were a couple of expat bars in big cities, just like now. But to come here took a sense of purpose, and a genuine willingness to leave every aspect of one’s own culture behind – perhaps forever. More recently, emigrants, myself included, answered the promise of a good job and escape from financial crisis back home. A foreign face and degree still pulls plenty of weight, though treating China just as a place to make money is a little like moving to an oil rig for the salary. A move to China is not your average move. Last Thanksgiving, I met with a number of friends at a bar near to my house. There were all the comforts of home: turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce. At one point, the matronly host of the dinner made a speech, thanking everyone for coming and gathering with friends, and announced her upcoming departure. That announcement hurt – yet another friend, a source of comfort, advice and support, would be unreachable. I’m not planning to depart anytime soon, but I know that one day I’ll have to make “the speech” to some dear friends. Maybe my visa runs out. Maybe I can’t secure a job. Maybe I just need a change. Or perhaps I’ll truly settle here. Some annoyances may be escapable, but if to escape them means abandoning my loved ones here, then I’d prefer to simply tough it out. If that’s the price of entry, I’m willing to pay it.


Cultural listings Cinema

Dream Reunion 15 years after the overnight success of Dream Factory, one of Feng Xiaogang’s early cinematic works which effectively created the “Chinese New Year movie,” the director has attempted to revive this once-popular genre with his new work Personal Tailor. Four people found a company to meet whatever wishes their clients have – within a single day. Absurd, entertaining and satirical, some have seen the movie as a return to comedic form after Feng’s more polarizing forays into drama. Having faced mounting criticism of resting on his laurels and churning out cookie-cutter box office fodder, Feng was happy to acknowledge Personal Tailor as a sequel to Dream Factory. Feng also invited long-time collaborative partner, actor Ge You, to star, and novelist Wang Shuo, who co-wrote many of Feng’s early works, to write the screenplay.



Useless Rock

Diaoyutai the Deep Courtyard: My Years as Madame Mao’s Secretary

Combining the singing style and instrumental sound of er-ren-zhuan, the traditional song and dance duet performance popular in China’s northeast, with funk, heavy metal, alternative and experimental, rock band Secondhand Rose has exploded onto China’s rock scene as one of the most innovative acts around. Formed in the early 2000s, the band is also known for their spectacular stage presence, particularly the lead singer’s penchant for falsetto and operatics. In early December 2013, ten years after their debut album was released, the band headlined its first concert at the Beijing Workers’ Stadium, which seats around 13,000. Calling the gig “Useless Rock & Roll,” a line from one of their most popular songs, Secondhand Rose successfully caught the attention of a number of mainstream media and rock lovers throughout the country.


By Yang Yinlu


Retrospective Gathering More than 200 works from some 30 Chinese contemporary artists including international names such as Chen Danqing, Gao Xiaohua and He Duoling were showcased from late December 2013 to January 2014 in Xichang, Sichuan Province. Titled “Minds’ Eye Open: Chinese Contemporary Invitational,” the exhibition was the third continuation of previous annual invitation exhibitions of contemporary Chinese art held in the city. Attempting to reflect on the relationship between China’s contemporary art and society, the exhibition also created an opportunity for Chinese modern artists from different generations, at home and abroad, to communicate outside the major metropolises such as Beijing and Shanghai.

Jiang Qing, Mao Zedong’s third wife, became a scapegoat for excess following the government’s disavowal of the Cultural Revolution (1966 – 1976), when the leader of the notorious political alliance the “Gang of Four” stood trial for her crimes against the Party. Yet for a long time, despite many biographies and academic works circulating outside China’s borders, little of her private life was known to the Chinese public. This recent memoir from one of her secretaries Yang Yinlu, which deals with the period of the Cultural Revolution when Jiang’s power reached its zenith, was published with a focus on the personal as well as the political life of this infamous historical figure. Yang Yinlu worked alongside Jiang Qing from 1967 before being purged as a counterrevolutionary by his boss in 1973. Aside from descriptions of Jiang’s well-documented vicious temper and seemingly limitless political ambition, Yang also shines light on the fragile and emotional side of the onetime “Queen of the Revolution.” NEWSCHINA I February 2014

NEWSCHINA I February 2014



Healthcare workers should not be blamed for China’s healthcare system Violence against doctors and support staff reflects a dangerous trend among the public to direct anger at the system toward grassroots workers By Yu Zemin


n recent years, Chinese hospitals have witnessed a spike in the between a patient and a healthcare provider, the default position number of violent physical attacks on healthcare workers. In is to blame the provider, regardless of the context. Even when pathe most recent case, a Zhejiang man unhappy with the results tients murder their doctors, there is often a public outpouring of of an operation stabbed a doctor to death and wounded two others sympathy for the patient, not their victim or victims. This, in turn, (See: “Inevitable Brutality,” NewsChina, December 2013, Vol. 065). further fuels mistrust of the healthcare community, and leads to According to a report by the Chinese more disputes. Some have even Hospital Association (CHA), on avturned medical disputes into lucraerage, every public hospital in China tive sources of income, fully aware We must be aware that to reported 27 physical assaults on its that hospitals, fearing media scrua large extent, healthcare staff in 2012. tiny and physical violence, are ever workers are also victims of the As the risk of physical violence more inclined to offer a generous current system, with crushing has become an occupational hazard, settlement regardless of whether or workloads and miniscule healthcare is looking like an increasnot they are at fault. ingly unappealing line of work. In This has also meant that police salaries online forums, doctors and nurses are reluctant to intervene when are now circulating “safety tips” on healthcare workers face physical how to deal with patients who turn threats. A friend of mine, for examviolent. In a separate survey carried out by the CHA, 40 percent of ple, a doctor, posted a former patient’s picture in an online forum to doctors claimed they were considering changing professions, and warn his colleagues that the man had regularly threatened both him 78 percent did not want their children to become healthcare pro- and his co-workers, saying they would “all die together.” fessionals. When a hospital official called the police, however, they respondIn an obituary dedicated to Wang Yunjie, the doctor killed in the ed they could not take action unless the patient acted on his threat. attack in Zhejiang, Song Yan, a Beijing pediatrician, wrote that he Doctors claim this hands-off attitude has led to the phenomenon hoped Wang would not become a doctor in his next life. of “professional hooligans” in many localities, who can be hired to China’s healthcare system suffers a myriad problems – underin- blockade hospitals, assault staff and issue threats in order to secure vestment, the massive cost of treatment for chronic conditions, a compensation payments for real or invented medical errors. lack of access to services in many areas and issues such as over-preWe must be aware that to a large extent, healthcare workers are scription and over-treatment stemming from the need for doctors also victims of the current system, with crushing workloads and to supplement meager salaries with additional gray income, have all miniscule salaries. Despite the undeniable existence of corruption, stretched doctor-patient relations to breaking point. we should not demonize an entire profession for the actions of a But some believe the media has also played a role in the dete- few. While it is frustrating that problems with China’s healthcare riorating relationship between healthcare professionals and their system remain chronic, to pillory those that continue to provide patients. While State media outlets have made healthcare reform care to patients, rather than those holding the power to effect real a major discussion topic since the 1990s, little has been done to change, is simply misguided. improve care in China’s public hospitals. Regular reports of abuses To fundamentally address the rising tide of violence against of the system by negligent nurses and corrupt doctors have eclipsed healthcare workers, the government must take swift action to remore level-headed examination of the systemic flaws that contrib- form the healthcare system, before it is too late. ute to such scandals. This has created a precedent whereby whenever a dispute arises (The author is a freelance writer and translator.)


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February 2014