Yuan Direction: IMF Embraces Chinese Currency
Continental Shift: China Changes Tack in Africa
Trump's Twin: Global Times Editor Hu Xijin
Why China signed up so readily to the Paris Agreement on climate change
Volume No. 090 February 2016
Published by China Newsweek Corporation Publisher: Zhang Xinxin Executive Director: Zhang Xinxin
China needs to tackle its ‘supply-side’ problem
Editor-in-Chief: Wang Xiaohui Editorial Office Managing Editor: Zheng Zhonghai Advisor: Liu Dizhong Senior Editor: Ruan Yulin Copy Editors: Jack Smith, Brittney Wong Lead Writers: Yu Xiaodong, Li Jia Editors: Wang Yan, Yuan Ye, Xie Ying, Du Guodong First Reader: Wesley Jacks Address: 5th Floor, 12 Baiwanzhuang South Street, Xicheng District, Beijing, China Post Code: 100037 Tel: 86-10-88395566 Fax: 86-10-88388045 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org www.newschinamag.com Art Department Art Director: Wu Shangwen Art Editor/Designer: Zhang Dawei Publishing and Development Office China Newsweek Corporation President: Peng Weixiang Tel: 1-212-481-2510 Fax: 1-212-481-2503 Address: 820 2nd Ave, 3B-C, New York, NY 10017, USA Email: email@example.com Toronto Office Director: Xu Chang'an Address: 51 Halstead Drive, Markham, ON Canada L3R7Z4 Tel: 1-905-604-6150 Fax: 1-905-604-6170 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Marketing Director: Wang Chenbo Account Manager : Ren Jie Tel: 86-10-88388027 Circulation Manager: Yu Lina Tel: 86-10-88311834 Advertising Director: Gao Weiwei Tel: 1-212-481-2510 Marketing Promoter: Jerry Meng Tel: 1-212-481-2510 New York Office: Tan Hongwei, Ruan Yulin, Deng Min Washington Office: Zhang Weiran, Diao Haiyang Los Angeles Office: Mao Jianjun San Francisco Office: Liu Dan Houston Office: Wang Huan London Office: Zhou Zhaojun Tokyo Office: Wang Jian Paris Office: Long Jianwu Bangkok Office: Yu Xianlun Kuala Lumpur Office: Zhao Shengyu Moscow Office: Wang Xiujun Manila Office: Zhang Ming Berlin Office: Peng Dawei Sydney Office: Lai Hailong Brussels Office: Shen Chen Astana Office: Wen Longjie Rio de Janeiro Office: Mo Chengxiong Johannesburg Office: Song Fangchan Jakarta Office: Gu Shihong Kathmandu Office: Fu Yongkang Legal Advisor: Allen Wu ISSN 1943-1902
NEWSCHINA I February 2016
uring a recent Party meeting, Chinese proach appears to have failed to address recent ecoPresident Xi Jinping stressed that China nomic difficulties stemming from deeply rooted should strengthen structural reform of structural and systemic problems, such as excessive the “supply side” of its economy, increasing quality government interference in the markets, a lack of and efficiency and providing impetus for sustain- rule of law and relatively high tax rates. able economic development. In recent months, China has Xi’s reference to so-called “supbanked on increasing domestic It now has ply-side structural reform” indiconsumption to inject new vitalbecome clear cates that the Chinese leadership ity into its economy. However, it has adopted a new way of thinknow has become clear that the that the major ing on addressing China’s macromajor problem does not lie in a problem does economic problems. lack of consumer demand, but in not lie in a lack In decades past, the Chinese the domestic supply chain. of consumer government has largely embraced It is estimated that Chinese demand, but Keynesian, also termed “demandtourists spent over 1 trillion in the domestic side,” theory in managing its yuan (US$155bn) during their economy. According to econooverseas trips in 2014. Most of supply chain. mist John Maynard Keynes, the commodities they purchased aggregated demand is the priabroad are actually available mary driving force for economic within China – clear evidence growth, and China’s government that China’s supply system rehas consequently responded to quires serious reform to become its recent slowdown by resorting more competitive. to lowering interest rates and inIn conducting such reform, creasing government spending to China should take a lesson from boost demand. In reaction to the global financial supply-side theory, which recommends lower tax crisis in 2008, China launched a 4 trillion yuan rates and deregulation as a means to boost the (US$619bn) stimulus package. To tackle a persis- economy. The government needs to push forward tent economic slowdown in recent months, the its rule-of-law initiative and conduct structural tax Chinese government has cut interest rates several cuts to encourage innovation and create a healthy times. business environment. Only when there is an efHowever, as Keynesian theory mainly focuses ficient and innovative supply system can China on short-term changes in the economy, China’s ap- unleash its economic potential.
After an eventful autumn in Paris, China has gone from a reluctant holdout to an emerging leader on global action against climate change. What prompted a change of heart? NewsChina investigates
01 China needs to tackle its â€˜supply-sideâ€™ problem 10 12
Military Reform: Battle of Wills College Corruption: Intellectual Disgrace
14 Paris Agreement Changing Attitude/Words Into Action International
25 China-Africa Forum: High Ideals, High Stakes
28 Extramarital Birth: Careless, Fearless
P36 NEWSCHINA I February 2016
Photo by CFP
P60 31 Civil Service Exam: Fading Glamor 34 Eco Park: Rush Job 36 Live-streaming App: Virtual Friends, Real Loneliness
56 Director Feng Xiaogang: In Front of the Camera Visual REPORT
60 A Brick of Beijing Smog
39 Hu Xijin: China’s ‘Donald Trump’?
64 Thrilling Taiwan: Above the Snowline Commentary
42 Reserve Currency: Fresh Supply History
48 Inaugural Cross-Straits Talks: Branches Divided Culture
52 Documentarian Zhou Hao: Glimpse Into Chaos
NEWSCHINA I February 2016
72 China’s current reforms may not be adequate to sustain its growth target in the long run 04 MEDIA FOCUS 05 What They Say 06 NEWS BRIEF 08 Netizen Watch 46 China by numbers 66 real Chinese 67 Flavor of the Month 68 ESSAY 70 CULTURAL LISTINGS
NewsChina, Chinese Edition
December 21, 2015
November 16, 2015
Middle Class Anxiety
A symposium was held in Beijing on November 20 to mark the 100th anniversary of the birth of Hu Yaobang, a former chief of the Communist Party of China who is widely praised for promoting reform and democracy in China. Chinese President Xi Jinping delivered a keynote speech praising Hu’s contributions to China’s independence and liberation, asking officials at all levels to learn from his noble traits of always being true to his beliefs and “taking responsibility when needed.” NewsChina secured exclusive interviews with Hu’s former secretary, subordinates, Party associates and biographer, as well as Party Literature Research Office leaders, in order to give an inside account of the liberal reformer’s political and personal life. Their voices resonated with many – they said that the best way to commemorate Hu’s legacy is to stay on his path of reform and give citizens rights and opportunities to choose their own ways of life.
China Financial Weekly December 14, 2015
Real Estate Reshuffle China’s real estate industry is expected to go through a new round of adjustment after a decade-long boom. The real estate industry is set to reach a new plateau when the country’s GDP per capita exceeds US$8,000, a number it is quickly approaching, as it topped US$7,000 in 2014. On the other hand, China’s aging population is growing more quickly than expected, decreasing the proportion of people aged between 25 to 40, the period when the majority of home buyers purchase property. A buyer’s market is likely to surface soon, and the real estate market is bound to shift into a lower gear. How real estate developers will change their business strategies in the face of these market variations will greatly impact the Chinese economy, which remains heavily dependent on the real estate industry.
According to the 2015 Credit Suisse Global Wealth Report, there are about 109 million people in China’s middle class, making it larger than the US’s. China’s middle class has expanded because of rapid private-sector growth, developments in higher education and accelerated urbanization. In recent years, however, the middle class has been under increasing pressure due to a widening income gap, air and water pollution, food safety, a slower economy and stock market fluctuations. International consultancy Ipsos’ 2014 report on China’s middle class showed that more than 40 percent of its members think that their living expenses are high, 53 percent are worried about their lives after retirement and 25 percent are considering emigration. Analysts say that if lower-income groups in China feel they can’t move up the social ladder and middle class Chinese remain concerned about their status and financial well-being, it may affect the country’s economic growth and social stability. China Economic Weekly November 30, 2015
Poverty Battle As of the end of 2014, there were 128,000 impoverished villages in China and over 70 million people living below the poverty line, according to official statistics. The Chinese government has begun to take measures to lift this sector of the population out of poverty over the next five years. One ambitious move will be stationing hundreds of thousands of people from Party and government organizations, as well as other public institutions and enterprises, in villages in order to improve the local economic situation. In 2015, poverty alleviation funds allocated by the central government totaled 46 billion yuan (US$7bn), an increase of 8 percent compared to the previous year. Experts say that limited government investment during an economic slowdown is the biggest challenge to alleviating this problem. In addition, coordinating different organizations that aim to help the impoverished remains difficult.
Oriental Outlook December 1, 2015
Film Industry Goes Online The value of China’s online entertainment market, including online gaming, video streaming, literature and music, doubled in 2014 compared to the previous year, hitting 150 billion yuan (US$23bn), according to the China Internet Network Information Center. Over this time period, the robust Chinese film industry, with annual box office grossings of 30 billion yuan (US$4.6bn), began to integrate more with the online world. By the end of 2015, Chinese Internet giants Alibaba, Tencent and Baidu all stepped into the film industry, participating in virtually every link of movie production – investment, marketing, profit-sharing and ticket sales – in a bid to form a new industrial chain. The traditional movie production process has fractured, as audience demand has become a major contributor to decisions about the kinds of movies that make it to theaters in the Internet age. NEWSCHINA I February 2016
Illustration by Wu Shangwen
“Many scientific achievements labeled by the media as‘a global first’or‘Nobel Prize-worthy’ have actually not been evaluated as such by an authoritative academic organ, but only by the scientists themselves.” Li Zhimin, director of the Science and Technology Development Center under China’s Ministry of Education, calling on the media to stop misleading readers by making judgments on scientific findings.
“Now that people can have two children… this will potentially reduce the demand for trafficked children, and thus the causes of child trafficking.” Chen Shiqu, director of the anti-trafficking unit of the
Ministry of Public Security, expressing his support for the “Two Child Policy. “
Renowned director Zhang Yimou on drug use in entertainment circles, revealing that he has seen many actors smoking marijuana together during breaks between takes.
“People would pile praise on a 12 year old if he earned a Level 10 piano certificate or a spot on the national chess team, so why do they criticize those that are masters at League of Legends? It is not fair!” A mother from Jiangxi Province, defending her 12-year-old son who has earned a fortune by live broadcasting his online gameplay.
“China and India may be among the few countries that could make a certain degree of change, even blazing a new path apart from the one established by the West. However, social leaders will not realize this if they develop a vested interest within the US order.”
“Provincial supreme courts are often responsible for wrongful convictions in capital cases. Few such cases will be redressed if the courts abstain from selfexamination.” Peking University law professor Chen Xingliang, promoting the creation of an effective system for examining and overturning wrongful convictions.
“Even if we could lock power in a cage, the anticorruption campaign would be of little effect if the keys were still kept by officials. Instead, we should put the keys in the hands of the public and the media for better supervision.” Chinese writer Er Yuehe on fighting corruption.
NEWSCHINA I February 2016
“There’s a bad common practice within the entertainment community; many people have urged me to try ecstasy, earnestly insisting it is‘a source of inspiration.”’
Chu Yun-han, a Taiwanese political science professor, articulating that one should not rush to make a value judgment when studying China.
“We should analyze the middle class historically and concretely; we shouldn’t idolize it and force our [material] desires onto it as if life would have no meaning unless we achieve those things.” Cai Hui, a Beijing Morning Post opinion writer, criticizing an online post that outlined 10 criteria for belonging to the middle class.
“Soccer is a sport with its own set of laws, but Chinese soccer has never sought those out. This is the most fundamental reason underlying Chinese soccer’s decades of failure.” Chinese soccer commentator Dong Lu on the key to soccer reform.
CASS Suggests Pushing Retirement Age
The Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS), China’s top think tank, issued a report on population and labor on December 2 that featured a recommendation to gradually raise China’s retirement age at fixed increments, beginning in 2018. According to the report, China’s current standards, which set the retirement age at 60 for men, 55 for women in the public sector and 50 for women in the private sector, is no longer viable, considering the country’s rapidly aging population. CASS proposed making 55 the retirement age for all women in 2017. Then, in 2018, retirement age would gradually climb for both men and women until 2045, when both ages would be set at 65. About 212 million Chinese were aged 60 or older by the end of 2014, 15.5 percent of the total population. Experts expect this proportion to rise to 19.3 percent by 2020. Yao Yudong, director of the Research Institute of Finance under the People’s Bank of China, predicted that China, pressured by its changing demographics, will suffer a 4.1 trillion yuan (US$650.8bn) shortfall in pension funds by 2030. Given this financial fracture, many ex-
perts have previously suggested delaying retirement, only to find that any change was strongly opposed by private sector workers who attributed the gap to China’s dual pension system. In China, government employees are exempt from making pension contributions, yet receive higher payments after retirement. The CASS report proposed doing away with the dual system as the first step of this policy change. Predictably, the suggestion roused protests from private sector employees who believe that the new program is unfair to those who have made years of insurance payments under the current policy. Some analysts also worried that these revisions would make it even harder for young people, especially recent graduates, to find a job. Many women also opposed making the retirement age the same for both men and women, given that gender discrimination in other areas of the job market is still prevalent. China’s Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security did not reveal whether or not they will follow CASS’s plan, but officials emphasized that the retirement age will be increased “step by step.” In March 2015,
ministry head Yin Weimin announced that they will publish a detailed program on raising the retirement age by 2017, but will not implement it until 2020. Government Subsidies to Pension Funds (in US$bn) 60
Sources: Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security, Ministry of Finance
China Alters Residency Regulations China’s State Council announced a change to the country’s national residence registration system in December, a major reform that will allow people to move around the country more easily. Under the new regulations, which come into effect on January 1, 2016, any migrant person who has lived in a city for at least six months working a stable job, maintaining the same place of residence or studying continuously at a local educational institution may apply for a residence permit in that city. At the same time, the new policy clearly endows six fundamental social services to new permit holders, including compulsory education, medical care and legal assistance. Holders are now also allowed to apply for a local ID card, driver’s license and passport. The new regulation requires local governments to set specific rules when issuing permanent residence permits, or hukou, which are generally only
granted to those born in a specific city and entitle the holders to significant rights and benefits within that city. The bigger a city, the harder it is for migrant people to get a local hukou. Beijing, for example, is planning to give hukou to migrant people based on a points system. They will be able to earn points from employment, educational background and other factors. While non-natives welcome the change, locals worry that a growing number of outsiders will represent more competition for a limited amount of resources. NEWSCHINA I February 2016
Wuzhen Hosts World Internet Conference
Alibaba Purchases SCMP
The second World Internet Conference (WIC) was held in Wuzhen, Zhejiang Province, from December 16 to 18, with more than 2,000 attendees from 120 countries and regions present. Chinese President Xi Jinping delivered a speech at the opening ceremony, calling on the global community to develop the Internet together and promote mutual sharing. During the 2015 “Two Sessions,” the annual March meetings of China’s top legislature and political advisory body, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang proposed a new idea of “Internet Plus” to encourage more investment in Internet-related industries. China’s online users numbered 668 million by June 2015, and Internet-related businesses reportedly made up around 7 percent of GDP in 2014. At the WIC, tech executives exchanged ideas on Internet development and exhibited new technology, including Baidu’s self-driving car, Suning’s virtual fitting room and Nokia’s VR camera.
Mainland and Taiwan Exchange Spies On November 30, Taiwan confirmed that the Chinese mainland released two Taiwanese spies in October. Taiwan set a mainland spy free in return. It is the first-ever spy exchange across the Taiwan Straits since the People’s Republic of China was founded in 1949. Analysts believe it demonstrated improved cross-Straits relations, as did the first-ofits-kind November meeting between Chinese President Xi Jinping and Taiwan’s leader Ma Ying-jeou. According to Taiwanese paper China Times, the two Taiwanese spies, Chu Kung-hsun and Hsu Chang-kuo, were arrested in 2006 when they attempted to gain entry into Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region via the Vietnam border. The mainland spy, Li Zhihao, now 70, was arrested in 1999. Before his arrest, Li had worked in Taiwan’s military department for more than 10 years. All three spies were originally sentenced to life imprisonment. By now, Chu and Hsu have returned to Taiwan and Li is back in his hometown, Hong Kong.
China’s e-commerce mogul Alibaba announced its purchase of the Hong Kongbased South China Morning Post (SCMP) on December 11 for US$266 million. According to a statement by the SCMP, the acquisition included the 112-year-old English-language newspaper’s print edition, digital content, several magazines and other media assets. Similar to other traditional publications, the SCMP has reportedly suffered declining profits over the past several years. Alibaba claimed it would revive the publication through its strength in mobile and digital services. Joe Tsai, Alibaba’s executive vice chairman, told the media that the company wants the world to learn more about China, and the SCMP is a good channel for accomplishing that goal. At the 2015 World Internet Conference, Alibaba founder Jack Ma pledged that the SCMP would maintain its independent coverage after the acquisition.
Escaped Official Returns to Surrender Huang Yurong, a Chinese official suspected of corruption who remained on the run in the US for 13 years, returned to China and gave herself up to police on December 5. According to the State-run Xinhua News Agency, Huang, 64, served as the Party secretary of the local highway commission of Henan Province before her escape. She was then accused of embezzlement and bribery. In early 2015, Interpol issued a red notice, or international warrant, for 100 fugitive Chinese nationals suspected of financial crimes, many of whom are allegedly corrupt officials. At present, NEWSCHINA I February 2016
18 of the 100 have turned up. Media attributed Huang’s surrender to the efforts of the Sino-US Joint Liaison Group on Law Enforcement Cooperation, established in 1998.
Photos by Xinhua and CFP
Ridiculous Chinese actor Zhang Tielin has come under fire after he allegedly attended a ceremony in Hong Kong where he was, as media reports said, ordained as a “living Buddha,” although he hadn’t been selected through the accepted identification process that ends with the discovery of a reincarnated lama, according to Tibetan Buddhist practices. Zhang admitted that he was accepted as a disciple of supposed living Buddha H. E.Tulku Baima Aose Rinpoche, but denied that the ceremony had anything to do with an ordination. Baima Aose’s living Buddha title has since been called into question.
Amazing At the first World Inter-School Rope Skipping Championship held in Dubai from November 26-28, 12-year-old Chinese student Cen Xiaolin broke two world records by managing 108 full skips (measured only by the landing of his right foot) in 30 seconds and 548 skips in three minutes. He skipped so fast that the audience could not even see where the rope was. The judges had to replay the videotape in slow-motion several times to confirm their count.
Poll the People To encourage adult children to bring aging parents into their homes instead of placing them in elderly care facilities, the local government of Shenzhen is planning a new tax reduction for citizens who live with their parents, triggering a nationwide discussion. What do you think about it? I support it, because it encourages the Confucian doctrine of filial piety and promotes caring for one’s family. 50.8% I don’t support it, because people can also show their parents filial piety while not living together, and the regulation will interfere in people’s lifestyle choices. 43.5% No comment. 5.7% Source: www.sina.com.cn
Most Circulated Post Controversial
Yan Xiaotian, until recently a college student in Henan Province, was sentenced to 10.5 years in prison for hunting and selling rare birds, provoking a wave of online debate. Some netizens believed the penalty was too harsh for someone so young, while others argued the punishment was in line with Chinese law. According to the police, Yan clearly knew the rarity of the birds and had previously been involved in the sale of another endangered bird.
After their son committed suicide by jumping into a river, grieving parents in Sichuan Province could not afford the cost of retrieving his body, so they were forced to leave his remains in the water for three days until police helped negotiate with the local fishermen who found his body and they agreed on a lower price. Photos of the sobbing couple aroused great sympathy among netizens, who then advocated for making body retrieval a public service that is financed by the government.
Retweeted 200,938 times by December 11 “Please take a photo of me and post it online. One more retweet means one more chance to find my son,” read a sign worn by a father seeking his abducted son. Many popular bloggers have retweeted his photo, hoping to attract more attention with their sizable online followings. Here is one tweet from blogger Liu Tong, which had been retweeted over 200,000 times by December 11.
“Although there is a look of near-hopelessness in the father’s eyes, he still keeps searching. Please help retweet the post, and may he find his son as soon as possible. Even if they cannot reunite, may his child be safe and well.”
NEWSCHINA I February 2016
Top Five Search Queries On
HOT? WHO’S NOT?
by December 15 2015 Box Office 374,490
Chinese mainland box office grosses exceeded 40 billion yuan (US$6.3bn) by December 3, 10.3 billion yuan (US$1.6bn) more than in 2014. Domestically produced films grossed 60 percent of that total.
Red Alert over Smog 314,624
Beijing declared a “red alert” over smog from December 8 to December 12, the first time the government had issued its highestlevel warning.
Single People Surge 308,782
Official data showed that China is home to nearly 200 million unmarried adults and has a rising divorce rate.
10 Chinese mainland cities are included on the list of the top 20 Asia-Pacific cities with the highest cost of living for expatriates, as calculated by ECA International, a London-based international consultancy. Shanghai and Beijing garnered the top two spots.
North Korea Has H-bombs? 162,888
Top North Korean leader Kim Jong-un recently announced that his country possesses hydrogen bombs, causing worldwide concern, although many experts were skeptical about his claim.
Top Blogger Profile Lu Guoping Followers: 340,499 by December 11 Lu Guoping, a 46-year-old online columnist and writer, has come under fierce fire since he suggested on his Sina microblog that marriages should be valid for seven years at a time, due to the “seven-year itch.” He said this policy would ease the pressure on China’s expanding single population and keep marital love newlywed-fresh. His bold words caused a commotion both online and offline, with many criticizing him for encouraging extramarital affairs and even destroying social stability. Lu, however, said that he was misunderstood, telling the media that his suggestion would in fact make couples cherish their marriages more. “The marriages could automatically renew at the end of a term if couples did not want to separate.This way... no one needs to worry that they’ll marry the wrong person,” he said. An avid follower of social news, Lu has devoted himself to media-related work since his 20s, becoming an avid online commentator in 2005. He has published over 500 essays on his blogs, web portals and popular online forums. In his bio on his Sina microblog page, he describes himself as “a critic who doesn’t stick to one style.” Although he deleted the “seven-year marriage” post after the backlash, he has continued to post his controversial opinions on society, just as before. NEWSCHINA I February 2016
Some of the images used in this section are from the internet
The Most Expensive Cities 270,286
A 52-year-old cleaner in Chengdu, Sichuan Province, has attracted online attention by creating images with the fallen leaves he rakes in the residential community where he works. Netizens praised him, saying artists are often hidden in the most ordinary places.
Drunken Death After showing off his “driving skills” on popular social networking app WeChat, a drunk man driving 120 kilometers per hour in Zhejiang Province died after plunging into a river. A friend riding in the passenger seat also died in the accident. Netizens lamented that the driver treated life too lightly.
Determined Athlete Although his prosthetic leg fell off soon after the starting gun went off, Li Maoda, a physically disabled athlete from Shandong Province, still finished the 100-meter course at China’s ninth National Games for the Disabled by jumping on one foot. He was recently nominated as one of the candidates for China’s 2015 “Spirit of Sports” prize for athletes with disabilities.
Forced Haircut A middle school teacher in Changsha, Hunan Province, was recently found to have forcibly cut a female student’s hair. Despite complaints from the girl’s parents, the teacher reportedly refused to apologize and even argued that what she cut was “her hair, not her head.” Some netizens understood the teacher’s actions, explaining that many schools forbid their students from having long hair, while the majority criticized the teacher for using violence on a child and damaging the girl’s self-esteem.
Battle of Wills
Xi Jinping’s Central Military Commission seems determined to overcome institutional resistance to implement a ‘revolutionary’ overhaul of the PLA
Photo by AP
By Xi Zhigang
n a high-profile meeting attended by more than 200 military officers held on November 26, Chinese President Xi Jinping, who serves concurrently as Chairman of the Central Military Commission (CMC) – making him China’s commanderin-chief – elaborated on ambitious plans to reform the People’s Liberation Army (PLA). Despite impressive progress made in the development of weapons systems, including the launch of China’s first aircraft carrier, two types of stealth jet, and various advanced missile systems and battleships, the overall command structure of the PLA has remained
largely unchanged. The Party’s latest military reform plan, which many have deemed an effort to transform the PLA from an outdated, Soviet-style, personnel-driven model to a US-style, hightech military, is by far the most dramatic overhaul proposed by Chinese leaders in the six decades since the PLA was established.
Although details of the reform plan have yet to be unveiled, Xi made it clear in his speech that a major goal of the reform is to streamline the PLA’s outdated command
structure, established in the 1950s, in order to improve its ability to conduct joint operations. The PLA currently has separate military command headquarters in the cities of Shenyang, Beijing, Jinan, Nanjing, Guangzhou, Chengdu, and Lanzhou, which constitute China’s seven military regions. Established at a time when the PLA lacked the means to deploy its armed forces rapidly across a vast land area, China’s military policy has previously overwhelmingly concentrated on the country’s ground forces. The PLA’s existing command structure grants regional NEWSCHINA I February 2016
commanders considerable independence not just from one another, but also from the headquarters of the PLA Navy, Air Force, Armed Police Force and the Second Artillery Corps, the force responsible for China’s nuclear arsenal. This separation of commanders has made it very difficult for the various branches of the military to carry out joint operations. Xi has now proposed the establishment of a general command center which will “integrate the administrative system and the joint battle command system.” Current regional military commands will be regrouped into new “battle zone commands,” which analysts believe will number four or five. These new commands are expected to focus on facilitating joint operations by the different branches of China’s armed forces. The existing central command of the PLA will also be reformed. Although the CMC is the military’s top decision-making body, its orders have to run through four additional parallel general headquarters: the General Staff Department, the General Logistics Department, the General Political Department and the General Armament Department. Under the proposed new command structure, the CMC will be able to directly administer and command military departments, with the four central general headquarters restructured and further integrated. The eventual goal is to establish a three-tier command structure, giving the CMC direct control over PLA troops via the new battle zone commands.
To a certain extent, the recently announced military reform is a continuation of the grand domestic, foreign and defensive policy reform plan envisioned by the Xi administration. Anti-graft investigations in the PLA have already brought down 44 senior generals, including former CMC vice chairmen Xu Caihou and Guo Boxiong. Describing the reform plan as “revolution-
NEWSCHINA I February 2016
ary,” Xi has pledged to ensure that “decisionmaking, enforcement and supervision powers [will] be separated and distributed in a manner that ensures they serve as checks and balances on each other, but also run in parallel,” concepts that in many ways mirror those adopted as part of the judicial reform initiative launched in the civilian sector in late 2014. According to the proposed reform plan, not only will the role of military courts and procuratorates be enhanced, but the PLA’s existing supervisory bodies, the PLA Committee for Discipline Inspection, the PLA Political and Legal Commission, and the PLA Audit Office, will be re-established to be granted more powers within the military. Although many of the plan’s details remain undisclosed, Xi has made it clear that the reform will not only aim to tackle technical problems, such as China’s disjointed command structure, but also facilitate the systematic institutional restructuring of the PLA in a bid to build a modern military.
For many military analysts, meaningful reform has been a long time coming. A streamlined command system that allows for joint command and control has long been considered an inevitable necessity if the PLA is to catch up with global security trends, especially when China has been advocating a more assertive military and defense policy in an evolving international security environment. In his speech, Xi promised a “breakthrough” by 2020, but observers have warned that resistance from those with a vested interest in maintaining the current system will be inevitable. Although military reform became a stated policy objective shortly after Xi assumed power, particularly after the National Security Commission was established during the Third Plenum of the 18th Communist Party of China Central Committee in 2013, it has taken Xi more than two years to set out his
reform plan. Just as anti-graft efforts within the military have taken longer and proven more difficult to implement than in China’s civilian sector, the military establishment’s resistance to reform is expected to be much stronger than that seen among civilian officials. In the past two years, Xi's CMC has been laying the groundwork for reform, establishing six central working groups devoted to the issue and convening numerous meetings in a bid to sway public opinion in favor of a more ambitious military overhaul. When Xi announced the decision to cut the size of the PLA by 300,000 personnel earlier in September, leaders of all seven military regions immediately voiced their support, but the fact that it took another three months to formally launch the subsequent reform package indicates a more recalcitrant PLA establishment than the leadership was perhaps expecting to have to deal with. According to a source close to the CMC, the reform plan, despite being approved almost one year ago, was only recently announced because it “caused a stir” among senior officers, especially those serving in the CMC’s four general headquarters, many of whom are potentially facing demotion or even redundancy under the new policy. During a CMC meeting held on November 27, one day after the plan was announced, Xi stated that those “who oppose the reform” will have to “step down.” The PLA Daily, official newspaper of the military, also published a series of strongly worded editorials from October to December, advocating military reform and damning those opposed to the overhaul. As Xi’s authority within the Party and the PLA appears unchallenged, all major PLA offices, including the four general departments, are said to have voiced their support for the reform. However, given the scale of the plan and its potential impact on those involved, the battle to build the PLA into a modern military force may have just begun.
To put a stop to the systemic corruption in the realm of education, Chinese universities need to develop adequate internal supervision and a new power structure By Wang Shan
They got eight in one go?” For the students, professors and alumni of the prestigious Communication University of China (CUC), “shocked” doesn’t begin to describe how they felt on the late November evening when an announcement from the Ministry of Education (MoE) hit the headlines. Eight top CUC officials had been punished for violating the Party’s austerity code or attempting to cover up the university’s “financial management chaos.” CUC Party chief Chen Wenshen was publicly criticized for excessive use of universityprovided cars and the use of vehicles belonging to lower departments. CUC President Su Zhiwu, apart from his vehicle violations, was
dismissed for having an office 12.45 square meters larger than the official standard of 30.2 square meters, holding banquets in public venues with university funds and displaying gifts for the university in his office without registering them. The eight officials are the first “university tigers” to fall during this round of examinations by the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI), China’s top anti-graft watchdog, which dispatched a team of inspectors to the MoE on October 31. While their offenses were generally more minor than those revealed in previous academic corruption scandals, their fall from grace highlights that the CCDI is taking a hard line in an attempt to suffocate a systemic problem.
Su Zhiwu, dismissed CUC president
Photo by CFP
From January 2014 to November 2015, the CCDI investigated and penalized at least 108 top university officials, averaging out to about one official every week, according to incomplete statistics released on the commission’s website. Wang Liying, head of the CCDI graft-busting team at the MoE, said that universities are far from “pure” and abuse of power in the education system remains a serious problem. Chinese President Xi Jinping shored up support for the fight against corruption by pledging to “eliminate the bad apples from within the ranks of university faculty and punish them in accordance with the law” in a September 2014 speech at Beijing Normal University. According to the anti-graft newspaper China Discipline Inspection Daily, when the
MoE inspected five key universities and three academic institutions under its administration in 2014, it discovered 130 violations and issued 40 instructions for correction. Seven top officials were removed from office, including Shandong University’s vice president and deputy Party chief. Earlier this year, the MoE sent another 20 inspection teams to universities nationwide. According to a report on the CCDI website, while inspecting eight universities during the first half of 2015, graft-busters received a total of 462 tips pointing to possible evidence of corruption. In an announcement shortly afterwards, the MoE called for tighter monitoring of the education sector, vowing to root out corruption and asking educators to “take a lesson from the past and avoid future mistakes.” This recent crackdown on violations within the academic community has brought down many university tigers. Earlier this year, the MoE announced the removal of Wang Cizhao as head of the Central Conservatory of Music after he held an overly lavish wedding for his daughter. Yang Fangchun, vice president of Beijing University of Posts and Telecommunications, was dismissed for allegedly filing fake expenditure receipts. Liu Ya, vice president of the University of International Business and Economics, was sacked for privately holding part-time positions at six companies, earning him over 1.26 million yuan (US$200,000) from early 2009 to the end of 2014. Construction projects are a common source of temptation for corrupt university officials. According to MoE deputy minister Lu Xin, of the corruption cases associated with school ofNEWSCHINA I February 2016
ficials uncovered in 2012, 24 percent involved the building of new facilities or infrastructure. “Construction projects are a university’s largest concentration of resources, making them the most likely to lead to corrupt behaviors,” said Bie Dunrong, deputy director of the Institute of Education, Xiamen University. Among the disgraced officials from universities who have been brought low in recent years, former vice president of Sichuan University, An Xiaoyu, is a typical case. Before becoming vice president, he had worked at the university for many years as the director of its planning and construction office. On April 10, 2015, he was tried on suspicion of taking bribes worth more than 3.53 million yuan (US$550,000) during the bidding process for a university construction project. Besides the moral minefield that is construction, there is also no lack of university officials who have been removed from posts for their misconduct while managing research fees, college-run enterprises and admissions offices. According to 2005-2012 statistics from Beijing’s Haidian District Procuratorate, suspects in work-related crimes cases from universities and research institutions worked in more than 40 different departments, managing everything from finances to textbooks. Cai Rongsheng, the former head of admissions at the renowned Renmin University of China, pleaded guilty in early December to accepting bribes exceeding 23.3 million yuan (US$3.6m) from 2005 to 2013. He took the money from 44 different students, and in return he gave them admission to the elite school or the ability to change majors.
In the opinion of Zhuang Deshui, a Peking University anti-graft expert, CCDI’s crackdown on corrupt behaviors at the CUC is meant to deter other malpractice in higher education. He told NewsChina that it sets an example for other university officials so that they keep their distance from that line that should never be crossed. Zhuang added that since the Chinese central government pushed forward the “eightpoint” frugality guidelines nationwide in 2012 to stamp out corruption, some officials in academia have devised all sorts of cre-
NEWSCHINA I February 2016
ative ways to flout them, or have turned a blind eye to the behavior of others. The most frequent disciplinary violation as released by the CCDI is traveling on the public dime – official statistics have shown that more than 20 senior university officials were removed from office for this offense over the past two years. During a January 2013 staff retreat, Lu Junjie, head of the Continuing Education College of Northeastern University, used public funds to buy entry tickets to a hot spring for 29 teachers that were worth a total of 7,540 yuan (US$1,170). Lu was given a warning and criticized publicly before being asked to hand back the money. Last July, MoE CCDI inspector Wang Liying proposed strengthening the crackdown on collegiate corruption and asked school leaders to make this a priority during discussions with graft-busters from 26 key universities under the direct administration of the MoE. Zhuang Deshui sees the recent fall of CUC officials as proof of the expansion of this policy. “Minor violations are likely to lead to the crime of corruption. The recent crackdown shows the intensifying of the anti-graft campaign in higher education,” Zhuang told our reporter. “They may seem like details, but really they’re the bottom line, which is the supervision and restriction of the power of college leaders.” The November bust was not the first time anti-graft officials had looked into the CUC. In October 2014, MoE investigators spent two months at the school, noting that some university leaders’ offices and use of vehicles went beyond official standards and instructing the CUC to correct these violations. Although the university failed to make the changes, it still announced that everything was up to code. An anti-graft expert who spoke to NewsChina on condition of anonymity said that “some officials clung to the hope that they could pass the examination by luck, making the MoE’s reexamination both necessary and unavoidable.”
Chu Zhaohui, a researcher at the National Institute of Education Sciences, told our reporter that the MoE sometimes does not have enough resources to effectively supervise the malpractice of institutions under its direct ad-
ministration. The absence of internal supervision at universities, therefore, also contributed to these violations of Party discipline and law. “The collective downfall [at CUC] reflects that there was a monopoly of administrative power,” he said. “This group of people bonded together to make a profit for themselves.” China has 2,491 universities nationwide, with a total teaching staff of 2.29 million. With recent increases in university funding, it is common for some key universities to receive more than 1 billion yuan (US$154.2m) in annual funds, a sum which provides ample opportunities for officials’ hands to wander where they don’t belong. With a scale of this magnitude, supervising universities and curbing corruption has become an increasingly difficult task for inspection teams. Top university officials are prone to corruption, as school administrators hold a lot of power without adequate supervision, Chinese Academy of Governance professor Zhu Lijia said during an interview with Xinhua News Agency. In modern Chinese universities, the institution’s Party chief and president have core authority. To put an end to corruption within universities, analysts say, the solution lies in reforming colleges’ management structures, with a special focus on the supervision of senior officials’ authority and power. “The democratic supervision within universities should be strengthened and should bring into play the roles of professors, other staff and students,” Zhuang Deshui said. In 2012, the MoE unveiled its provisional regulations on university charters, and by last June more than 112 elite universities had their charters approved by the ministry. Most of them have special articles relating to the supervision and limitations of power. For example, Tsinghua University, an influential university in China, prohibited its president from sitting on its academic council. However, “a university charter is not law,” said Chu Zhaohui, so it has a limited ability to curb corruption. “If the university system remains unchanged, charters are just window dressing.” To Chu, the only way to eradicate deep-seated corruption within the realm of academia is to pull the entire system out, roots and all, and build a new one from scratch.
Chinese President Xi Jinping speaking at the opening ceremony of COP21
Photo by CFP
NEWSCHINA I February 2016
Photo by CFP
People demonstrate in Rome, calling for action to combat climate change before the opening of COP21
taking the lead
NEWSCHINA I February 2016
Outside the Chinese delegation office at COP21
Photo by CFP
At the December 2015 UN Climate Change Conference in Paris, China demonstrated a strong willingness to take the lead on combating climate change after decades of insistence that the country needed to go its own way on the issue. Our correspondent attended the conference alongside the Chinese delegation, and discovered that this apparent change of heart could have as much to do with domestic economic and political realities as with a newfound passion for multilateralism
Six years after Copenhagen, China’s official stance on its own responsibility in the fight against climate change has experienced a sea change By Wang Yan in Paris
ost of the Chinese delegation would prefer to forget the Copenhagen climate summit in 2009. As the world’s major emerging polluter, China came under intense pressure from other nations, particularly the US, as well as the worldwide media to make firm commitments to reduce emissions and submit to transparent monitoring by independent bodies. While China’s representatives continued to state that, as a developing nation, they could not be expected to implement
the emissions reductions programs being demanded of developed economies, perceived weakness from Beijing quickly saw China labeled in the international media as the major holdout preventing a breakthrough deal. Six years later, in Paris, Chinese President Xi Jinping made a high-profile speech at the opening ceremony of the 2015 UN Climate Change Conference, stating that his country had invested “years of efforts in domestic mitigation and adaptation to address climate change,” and set out plans for a China-
backed US$3.1-billion South-South Climate Cooperation Fund (SSCCF) designed to help other developing countries respond to climate change. While China is now the world’s leading emitter of greenhouse gases, delegates argued during the conference, it is also the world’s leading adopter of renewable energy technology, with a total installed capacity equivalent to 24 percent of the world's total, according to official data. In Paris, it seemed, China had learned from the lessons of Copenhagen, and its NEWSCHINA I February 2016
representatives were at pains to demonstrate willingness to step up as a leading nation in the fight against climate change – not just domestically, but globally.
In the early 1990s, as man-made global warming was emerging as a political issue, China’s greenhouse gas emissions accounted for 3 to 4 percent of the global total, dwarfed by those of industrialized economies. Breakneck growth soon changed this in a single
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decade, catapulting China to the top of the leaderboard in the early 2000s, and earning it the rank of 67th worldwide in terms of per capita emissions. The eyes of the world were increasingly trained on China, and calls grew for its leaders to play an instrumental role in the global effort to address climate change. China gradually began to experiment with cleaner energy to wean itself off coal, using government subsidies to lower the manufacturing cost of renewables such as solar panels, and funding R&D in renewable tech.
Photo by Xinhua
Over 140 world leaders take part in the opening ceremony of the Paris Climate Change Conference, November 30, 2015
Analysts began to look to China, with its vast manufacturing capacity, as a potential solution to, as well as a major source of, global warming. “China’s conservative attitude in Copenhagen was due to the traditional mindset of being afraid of losing its ‘share of the pie,’” international NGO The Climate Group’s Wu Changhua told NewsChina during the Paris talks. “Nobody thought the renewable energy [tech sector] would see such massive growth. Now, countries are creating a much
bigger ‘pie’ with the green economy, meaning a bigger share for each participant.” Observers like Wu believe the Chinese leadership is now seeing the potential economic benefits of being a renewable energy tech pioneer. China is creating jobs, cutting pollution and improving energy efficiency and public health at a time of economic slowdown. The country’s most recent actions to tackle its urgent domestic pollution problem are in line with the global climate change agenda outlined in Paris and can contribute to solving an impending global climate crisis,
Wu told our reporter. In just a few years, China has started to make dramatic emissions cuts and play a leading role in the ongoing attempt to avert a global ecological disaster.
Having notched up almost a decade of experience in international negotiations on climate change issues has also enabled China to gradually deepen its scientific understanding of the issue as well as its engagement on a more equal footing with its global peers.
According to Wang Binbin, manager of the Climate Change and Poverty Team of Oxfam Hong Kong, China’s role and significance in global climate negotiations had apparently been enhanced in Paris. “In 2009, the three major forces included the US, the EU and developing countries, but since then China has emerged from [the] developing [camp] as a separate, major force in the game alongside the EU and the US,” said Wang. “China’s performance at such occasions is [now] eye-catching.” During the negotiations in the late 1990s NEWSCHINA I February 2016
Photos By CFP
Renewable energy sources, including solar, wind and nuclear facilities, are gradually replacing conventional power generation capacity installed in China
and early 2000s that led to the Kyoto Protocol, China’s delegation was dominated by the country’s foreign ministry, due to the central leadership’s viewpoint that climate change was a political and diplomatic issue rather than an environmental or economic one. Since Copenhagen, however, the country’s top macroeconomic planning agency – the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) – replaced the foreign ministry as the negotiators’ overseer. As Yang Fuqiang, a senior expert on climate change and energy from the Natural Resources NEWSCHINA I February 2016
Defense Council, told our reporter, China’s consistent refusal to agree to any demands or targets earned it the nickname “Mr. No.” China’s argument, familiar to any observer used to dealing with the country’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, was that to acquiesce to multilaterally set emissions targets, independent monitoring or any other demands would constitute “a violation of China’s national interests.” In the run-up to Paris, China’s delegation has learned negotiating skills from its Western counterparts, realizing how to compro-
mise and balance the diplomatic situation, including accepting certain conditions formerly dismissed as unacceptable – like outside monitoring and verification (MRV) – as a bargaining chip. In Yang’s opinion, this signifies major progress for China, though he admitted that the country’s delegation still lacks expertise in raising original proposals and offering solutions to climate change. “Most of the time, China remains a follower of schemes or proposals tabled by Western nations,” he said. “China does not collect the necessary data
cover story United States European Union (EU-28) China Russian Federation
CO2 Emissions in the Top Five Emitting Countries and the EU (billion tonnes)
12 10 8 6 4 2 0 Source: Trends in Global CO2 Emissions 2015 Report, PBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency and European Commission Joint Research Centre
or conduct sufficient research on global climate change issues. As a major power, China urgently needs to support its think tanks and NGOs in going abroad and carrying out indepth research in related fields.” Another significant change our reporter observed in the Chinese delegation was negotiators’ relative openness and willingness to communicate with both domestic and international media. Apart from a number of press briefings convened by the Paris delegation itself, Chinese negotiators also accepted invitations to press briefings held by international organizations such as Earth Journalism Network, a US-based network of environmental journalists. On December 10, during this briefing, Gao Feng, China’s Special Representative for Climate Change Negotiations, answered re-
porters’ questions with candor.
Clues as to what precipitated China’s change of heart on climate change can be found in the text of the Communist Party’s 12th Five-year Plan (2011-2015). Stated environmental policies laid out in this document have gone from vague, generic goals to discussions of a concrete climate policy framework that factors in specific instruments to drive emissions reductions. China is now on track to meet or even exceed the numerous climate and energy targets it set for the 12th Five-year Plan (20112015), such as pledges to increase domestic forestation by 21.66 percent, reduce energy intensity by 16 percent, reduce carbon dioxide emissions intensity by 17 percent and
increase the proportion of non-fossil fuels in the primary energy mix to 11.4 percent, all targets it vowed to meet by 2015. Open Climate Network estimates that China reduced energy and carbon intensity by 13.4 and 15.5 percent in 2014. China’s changing reality has enabled the country to agree to meaningful international commitments without these conflicting with national policies. China’s Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDC) plan, submitted to the UNFCCC in June 2015, was acknowledged as ambitious and substantial. Prakash Javadekar, the Indian minister for environment, forests and climate change, told our reporter that his government appreciated China’s “voluntary movement” towards cutting its emissions. Jon Creyts, managing director at the Rocky Mountain Institute, a US nonprofit research and educational foundation, explained during a recent telephone interview with NewsChina that meeting such ambitious INDCs will require China to “significantly improve” its energy efficiency and accrue a massive buildup of renewable energy infrastructure. “To hit the 20 percent non-fossil fuels [energy use target] by 2030 means roughly about a gigawatt of solar and a gigawatt of wind per week between now and 2030,” said Creyts. “It is a very different development model than... what is already used by developed countries, because China’s emissions would peak at a per capita [average income] level of about US$15,000 per person, less than half the [level of] developed countries.” In the past two years, bilateral agreements NEWSCHINA I February 2016
China’s Energy Use
between China and the US on climate change have made progress. Local governments, under pressure from residents sick of pollution and rampant development, have become increasingly bellicose about cementing national climate commitments. For example, the formation of an alliance of 11 high-emissions Chinese cities, including Beijing, Shenzhen, Zhenjiang and Wuhan, led to a pledge that these cities’ emissions will peak well before 2030 or even 2020. As a tool to facilitate emissions cuts, China’s planned national-level cap-and-trade carbon market, to be launched in 2017, will likely include more than 10,000 enterprises representing six major industrial sectors that use energy levels equivalent to burning 10,000 tons of coal each year. According to Jiang Zhaoli, deputy director general of NDRC’s department of climate change, a unified MRV system will be adopted for this national carbon market that will process some four billion tons of greenhouse gases.
China also appears to be stepping up efforts in its scientific community to address the hotly debated MRV issue. From 2011 to 2015, a total of 800 million yuan (US$123m) was invested in the so-called “Strategic Priority Program for Verification of Carbon Budget and Related Issues on Addressing Climate Change,” which involved over 2,000 Chinese scientists. Lü Daren, a senior researcher with the Institute of Atmospheric Physics, China Academy of Sciences, explained that the program’s major tasks include the building of carbon emissions inventories, satellite observation
NEWSCHINA I February 2016
of carbon dioxide clouds, historical emissions research and the establishment of policies enhancing future green and sustainable development. This research is aimed to improve or bypass China’s notoriously unreliable data providers, and standardize testing of the quality of fossil fuels and other related substances. Lü cited evidence cataloged by his colleagues that suggested Chinese coal is of much lower quality, and thus contains less carbon, than that burned by developed economies – a result found by taking thousands of samples from 100 different coal mines across the country, with the findings published in Nature magazine in August 2015, leading some to conclude that China’s CO2 emissions have been overestimated by international agencies over the past decade. Lü Daren told NewsChina that his study would continue beyond its official end date in December 2015. At a side event held in Paris on December 11, Li Junfeng, director general of China’s National Center for Climate Change Strategy and International Cooperation, emphasized that the significance of the five-year scientific program was to pave the way for future study, and for China to accept international MRV to monitor its emissions. By making big promises, which appear backed up by significant progress, and also making a major adjustment to policy priorities, China seems determined to ensure that its response to climate change gains momentum in the coming years. But even the most optimistic observers have admitted that it will take more than a change of heart to truly thwart the onward march of global warming.
2014 Fossil fuels Hydro Wind Solar Biomass Nuclear
Sources: National Bureau of Statistics and National Energy Administration
Words Into Action
NewsChina interviews Liu Zhenmin, vice minister of foreign affairs and deputy head of the Chinese delegation in Paris, to find out what China’s role was in breaking the decades-long deadlock, which many blamed in part on recalcitrance in Beijing and Washington By Wang Yan in Paris
hina’s Paris delegation proved considerably more open to multilateralism than its predecessors in Copenhagen. Our reporter secured an exclusive interview with deputy head Liu Zhenmin, one day before the Paris Agreement was published, to find out what the brief was from Beijing. NewsChina: From your perspective, what is the significance of the United Nations Climate Change Conference [COP 21]? Liu Zhenmin: COP 21 is one of the most important climate change conferences since negotiations over the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change [UNFCCC] were launched in 1990 by the UN General Assembly. Apart from the passing of the UNFCCC in 1992 and the signing of the Kyoto Protocol in 1997, the Paris Agreement... could be listed
as the third milestone in the history of humanity’s fight against climate change. For the first time, every country in the world, both developed and developing, has pledged to curb emissions, strengthen resilience and join in common cause to take... action. Different from the previous top-down scheme of emissions reduction requirements set by the Kyoto Protocol, a new model of bottom-up initiatives, [such as] individual nation climate plans – known as Intended Nationally Determined Contributions [INDCs] – has been adopted. So far, over 180 countries have submitted their INDCs, some of which are very ambitious in emissions-cutting measures and goals. However, scientists have found that even if all these INDCs are implemented, the goal of keeping global temperatures below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels can barely be
achieved. The current situation is our historical legacy, and while we are talking about enhancing efforts in future emissions reductions, we should never forget that this tough situation is the result of humanity’s slow reaction in combating climate change. NC: In 25 years of global climate change negotiations, why has this “2 degree” goal remained unfulfilled? LZ: The UNFCCC clearly stated in 1992 that atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide would double from pre-industrial levels during the 21st century if no steps were taken to slow greenhouse gas emissions. Those early industrializers – Europe, North America, Japan and a few others – were historically responsible for this rise of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. As a basic principle, these countries should NEWSCHINA I February 2016
Liu Zhenmin at a press briefing in Paris
take the lead in combating climate change and should at the very least have sought to return emissions to their 1990 levels. Nevertheless, by 2000, none of those countries had achieved that particular goal. In late 1997, the Kyoto Protocol was adopted under the UNFCCC, which placed quantified emissions reduction targets upon developed countries. The Kyoto Protocol’s first commitment period started in 2008 and ended in 2012. Effectively, the emissions reduction responsibilities agreed to by developed nations were postponed for 18 years since the very start of climate change negotiations in 1990. Meanwhile, a large number of developing countries, including China, began to gain economic momentum and industrialize, thus exacerbating the severity of greenhouse gas emissions. NC: What has China’s role been in Paris? NEWSCHINA I February 2016
LZ: China has already become the world’s number one emitter of greenhouse gases in 2005. Its role in global climate change is significant. The areas in which China can contribute to combating climate change after 2020 drew attention at COP 21. Actions speak louder than words, and China has taken real action to actively promote the climate change negotiation process. We submitted our INDC in June 2015, a move our international partners praised as ambitious. Since 2011, we’ve actively promoted the global negotiation process set by the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action, and expected a balanced, ambitious and legally binding agreement in Paris. Even before Paris, China declared bilateral climate change joint statements with countries and regions including the US, France, Brazil, India and the EU. China also
played a leading role among BASIC [newly industrialized bloc, namely Brazil, South Africa, India and China] countries during the negotiation, and encouraged the active participation of the G77. China has also made efforts to assist other countries in taking action to mitigate and adapt [to climate change] through various means, including financial support, technology transfers and capacity building. We were active participants in the Paris negotiations and China has consequently gained recognition. NC: Can you elaborate on how China’s 20 billion yuan [US$3.1bn] South-South Cooperation Fund might be spent? LZ: President Xi Jinping made remarks at the opening ceremony of the Paris climate change talks stating that next year China will use this
Cover story fund to launch 10 low-carbon industrial parks and more than 100 climate mitigation and adaptation projects, and provide 1,000 training opportunities in developing countries that are designed to help with tackling climate change. Unlike the Green Climate Fund affiliated to the UNFCCC, the South-South Cooperation Fund is wholly managed by China. As China improves its domestic low-carbon development, it will share experience and technology with other developing countries, particularly small island countries and LDCs [least developed countries]. NC: Any plans for future cooperation with NGOs on climate change? LZ: The central government is responsible for mapping out and providing guidance on both global climate change and domestic lowcarbon development. However, government investment alone is insufficient. Low-carbon development requires the participation of the whole of society, which includes local governments, private enterprises, non-government organizations and civil society.
However, China’s environmental NGOs are not sufficiently developed. Green and sustainable development and the building of an environmentally friendly society requires a number of NGOs focusing on sustainable development and providing environmental services. It is very important for China to cultivate and support non-governmental players in this field, as well as [in their efforts to] go overseas. During previous climate change conferences, the Chinese government has invited domestic local governments, enterprises, think tanks and environmental NGOs to organize side events in the conference’s China Pavilion in order to facilitate their communication with international organizations. NC: Domestically, are China’s mitigation and adaptation investments and efforts sufficient, specifically in vulnerable, poor and remote regions? LZ: As a developing country with severely unbalanced development, poverty reduction remains a major task of our 13th Five-year Plan [2016-2020].
China released its national plan on climate change [2014-2020] in 2014, which mentioned the enhancement of overall resilience towards climate change, particularly financial support for poor and remote rural areas vulnerable to climate change and extreme weather. Projects in infrastructure construction and disaster prevention and forecasting have either started or will be launched accordingly in the near future. As far as overall green development goes, the [government’s] future development model for poor regions will consider climate change. To tackle climate change is ultimately about choosing [the right] development path. Unlike big cities, which face pressure to reduce emissions, poor rural regions lack heavy industries and so redesigning their local development roadmap in line with a more sustainable model is the key. Previously, heavy industries were relocated inland to poor western areas from eastern coastal regions. Our new environment policy, however, does not allow such project transfers any longer, in order to better protect ecosystems in the country’s west.
China’s INDCs: 1. Cap emissions around 2030 2. Increase its share of nonfossil fuels in primary energy consumption to around 20 percent by 2030 3. Reduce CO2 emissions per unit of GDP (carbon intensity) by 60 to 65 percent , compared to 2005 levels 4. Increase forest carbon stock volume by around 4.5 billion cubic meters from 2005 levels NDRC Vice Chairman Xie Zhenhua with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Paris, December 10, 2015
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Photo by CFP
Chinese President Xi Jinping shakes hands with his South African counterpart, Jacob Zuma, Johannesburg, December 5, 2015
High Ideals, High Stakes China and Africa adopt new approaches in light of evolving political and economic realities By Yu Xiaodong
NEWSCHINA I February 2016
uring the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) held in early December in Johannesburg, Chinese President Xi Jinping met with 50 African leaders, announcing a new loan and aid package valued at US$60 billion. Doubling the figure previously pledged by Chinese Premier Li Keqiang during his 2014 Africa tour, the package, which includes US$35 billion in low-interest loans and export credit, US$5 billion in grants, and a US$5 billion top-up of the existing China-Africa Development Fund, has once again put China’s Africa policy in the spotlight. It has been almost a decade since the last China-Africa summit convened in 2006. Subsequently, China has emerged to become the continent’s No. 1 collective trading partner, with bilateral trade volume reaching US$222 billion in 2014, as well as the world’s largest single investor in Africa. But as oil and commodity prices have plunged and China’s economic growth has slowed, China’s relationship with its African partners is facing a new and challenging set of circumstances. According to data released by China’s Ministry of Commerce, Sino-African trade volume fell by 18 percent in the first nine months of 2015. In the meantime, China’s investment in Africa in the first half of the year dropped by more than 40 percent. As economies on both sides wake up to this new reality, it appears to have drawn China closer to Africa.
A term reflective of China’s updated commitment to Africa conveyed repeatedly during the summit was “industrialization.” Not only was a “China-Africa industrialization program” at the top of a list of 10 initiatives outlined, it was also highlighted in China’s latest Africa policy paper. Released on December 4, apparently to coincide with the FOCAC summit, the updated policy paper mentioned the term “industrialization” seven times, and listed industrial development as a top priority in the section on “deepening economic and trade cooperation.” By contrast, China’s first Africa policy paper, released in 2006, didn’t mention the term at all, and the word “industry” only appeared once. A shift in focus towards industrialization may very likely change the bedrock of the China-Africa relationship. In the past, a major criticism leveled at China’s presence in Africa has been its massive extraction of the continent’s rich raw materials and energy resources, traded for the large-scale import of cheap Chinese manufactured goods. This simplistic characterization of China’s interest in Africa has been shaken by China’s growing investment in a variety of African industrial sectors in recent years, reflecting a certain evolution in Beijing’s thinking on its presence on the continent. As China’s own demographic dividend sputters, leading to a rise in
the cost of labor, it has been endeavoring to restructure its economy to allow it to move up the value chain, leading to a diminished appetite for oil and raw materials – formerly its main imports from Africa. Thanks to huge stimulus packages that have been injected into its economy since the 2008 financial crisis, China is also facing serious industrial overcapacity, which Beijing is now keen to unload onto other countries. With a relatively young population and an emerging middle class, many African countries are seen as ideal destinations for domestically redundant, lower-end and labor-intensive Chinese industries. In recent years, China has been building industrial parks across Africa, something that looks set to continue given its prominence in the latest proposed industrialization program. Contrary to a belief common both in Africa and around the world that Chinese companies operating abroad mainly employ Chinese workers, recent research involving 400 Chinese companies in more than 40 African countries conducted by Hong Kong-based academics Barry Sautman and Yan Hairong found that at least 80 percent of the surveyed companies’ employees were locally hired. In the development plan proposed by China during the summit, Beijing pledged to set up professional schools in African countries designed to educate 200,000 African specialists and train 40,000 African workers in China. Of the US$60 billion fund pledged, US$10 billion has been allocated to a new “China-Africa Production Capacity Cooperation Fund,” as well as US$5 billion for a loan program aimed at small and medium-sized African businesses. “China has the technology, equipment, professional and skilled personnel, and capital needed to help Africa realize sustainable selfdevelopment,” Xi told his fellow leaders.
The fact that China’s own economic miracle began by importing industrial capacity from elsewhere has made Beijing’s proposal particularly attractive to African leaders keen to industrialize their economies. “Here is a man representing a country once called poor, a country which was never our colonizer. He is doing to us what we expected those who colonized us yesterday to do,” said Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, remarks which drew applause from the crowd. The message that China is an equal partner, instead of a colonizer, found a home in the plan’s official slogan: “Africa-China Progressing Together: Win-Win Cooperation for Common Development.” Several of the 10 initiatives launched by China appeared specifically designed to deflect persistent criticisms of China’s increasingly prominent presence on the continent, which critics say favors China’s interests at the expense of the long-term interests of Africans. For example, an agricultural modernization program is listed as the second priority after industrialization, which included Chinese NEWSCHINA I February 2016
promises to continue to encourage Chinese investors to grow food and raise livestock in Africa and “share China’s agricultural experience and transfer agricultural technology” to “promote local employment and boost the income levels of local communities.” Critics have long warned that China’s agricultural investment in Africa will result in an influx of large numbers of Chinese farmers who will grow food on African land, then ship their crops back to China, threatening the livelihood and long-term food security of the entire continent. However, according to Deborah Brautigam, a professor at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies who spent three years conducting field research in over a dozen African countries, none of the Chinese-owned farms covered in her research were growing food for the Chinese market, nor did they employ Chinese laborers. Concerns about China’s impact on Africa’s ecosystem and natural environment, however, are more easily justified. Soaring Chinese demand for bushmeat and other animal products such as ivory has become a major threat to Africa’s endangered wildlife. Amid mounting condemnation of its slowness to curb this demand, environmental issues have been included in China’s Africa policy agenda in recent months. After agreeing to “phase out” its domestic ivory industry in May, China announced a one-year ban on ivory imports in October, which activists say has lowered the price of ivory by half. In his visit to Zimbabwe ahead of the FOCAC summit, Xi made wildlife protection a major theme, pledging to cooperate with African authorities in cracking down on transnational organized crime networks of poachers and smugglers who engage in the trafficking of endangered wildlife. One of the 10 new initiatives announced by Xi was a program of “China-Africa green development cooperation projects,” which constituted a pledge by China to help “enhance [Africa’s] green, lowcarbon and sustainable development capability” and implement 100 programs covering “clean energy, wildlife protection, environmentally friendly agriculture and smart city construction.” Another new area China has ventured into in recent months in Africa is the public health sector. As various African countries, including Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea, were devastated by the Ebola outbreak earlier this year, China responded by sending aid and media teams to the affected countries, as well as providing a vaccine developed by PLA military scientists, the first time China has offered such aid in response to an overseas public health crisis. During the forum, China promised to further implement cooperation programs in 20 Chinese and African hospitals. In an apparent effort to make reference to China’s historical contribution to public health in Africa, leaders also stressed that the country will continue to supply artemisinin, an antimalarial medication developed by Chinese scientists in the 1960s, which recently won Chinese scientist Tu NEWSCHINA I February 2016
Youyou a Nobel Prize.
‘Belt and Road‘
It is no doubt that many of these Chinese initiatives are designed to promote China’s image in Africa, but many policy adjustments seem to extend beyond image-building. To a large extent, China appears to be extending its One Belt, One Road initiative, which, in the case of Africa, advocates comprehensive regional integration in a wide range of areas. For example, China pledged to establish a continent-wide currency-swap initiative to promote its financial cooperation with African economies. Another program included measures further promoting trade and investment, with Beijing making it clear that it was open to signing a “comprehensive free trade agreement” with African countries in the future. With a pledge to build cultural centers in Africa and to provide funding for 200 African academics and 500 African students to visit China each year, as well as 2,000 spots in schools and 30,000 government scholarships, China was also visibly seeking to advance its soft power agenda on the continent. Through a more comprehensive approach than it has previously adopted, China’s new Africa strategy has also extended into the field of security. In the past couple of years, China has sought to play a larger role in Africa’s security landscape. By deploying its first-ever battalion to reinforce UN peacekeepers in South Sudan, China has actively participated in the mediation of the Sudan-South Sudan conflict. Just a week prior to the FOCAC forum, China announced that it would establish its first overseas military outpost in Djibouti. Outlining a “China-Africa peace and security program” during the forum, Xi repeated an earlier pledge to provide US$60 million to “assist the African Union to build and maintain its army, both its regular army and crisis response [divisions], as well as to support UN peacekeeping in Africa.” Analysts believe that a major goal behind China’s increased support for the African Union army is to better protect both its personnel and its investments by helping maintain stability. The ambitiousness of China’s new Africa policy also leaves many questions unanswered. For example, it remains unclear how the US$60 billion aid and loan package and the 10 new programs will be allocated. While somewhat deflecting nagging international accusations of “neo-colonialism,” the new initiative has instead been met with criticism in China, with many warning that Beijing is “overreaching” by further stretching its financial resources and issuing expensive commitments to a distant continent while so many within its own borders continue to live in poverty, especially at a time when China’s own economic growth has faltered. As political and economic realities continue to evolve both globally and locally, what China’s new Africa initiative will actually accomplish remains an open question.
Careless, Fearless One separated couple decided to have a child out of wedlock to challenge rigid legal and social restrictions on unmarried couples and their offspring By Chen Wei
NEWSCHINA I February 2016
n December 20, 2015, Shen Bolun and Wu Xia took their fivemonth-old daughter to a medical service center in Beijing for a paternity test. A female receptionist in her 50s received them and asked a routine question about the reason for the test. “Is it because of divorce or remarriage?” “Neither. We are not married,” Wu replied. The woman stared at the couple for several seconds before exclaiming, “What on earth is in these young people’s minds? Do you want to be trendy?” Wu, a 32-year-old unwed mother in a country that legislates against having children out of wedlock, was not surprised by this reaction. She had experienced similar responses at the city’s family planning offices, hospitals and archives. Nevertheless, a paternity test was a precondition that would allow Wu and her ex-partner to pay a mandatory fine for having a child out of wedlock, which would, in turn, qualify their daughter for a household registration permit, or hukou. Effectively an internal visa, the hukou grants Chinese nationals access to social services and welfare in their city of birth only. Without one, parents struggle to get their child a place at a public school, or subsidized treatment at a local hospital. By the time she arrived at the medical center, Wu had been busy trying to resolve issues like these for several months. She told our reporter that she regretted not having her baby abroad. “It’s so difficult to be Chinese, isn’t it?” She said. Five months ago, Wu and Shen were already making headlines. They broke up when Wu was three months pregnant, but both were determined to keep their child. On the day of their daughter’s birth, they launched an online crowdfunding project called “Funding for the Fine for Our Newborn Baby Who Can’t Get Her Hukou.” The project raised an average of 10 yuan (US$1.57) from each donor, amounting to a total of 43,910 yuan (US$6,872).
NEWSCHINA I February 2016
“When it comes to our seemingly silly and ridiculous decision, don’t take out your wallet too quickly, or criticize too hastily. We are not looking at your wallets, but your eyes. We want to talk with you,” the couple wrote on their crowdfunding page. “We believe that reproductive rights shouldn’t be bound to marriage. As victims of these restrictions, we have to speak up and make our voices heard by more people.”
As an unmarried pregnant woman, Wu Xia received a mandatory “List of Materials to be Prepared for the Payment of Social Maintenance Fees” from Beijing’s family planning department, so she could pay the fine. This document included 12 “clauses” and two “notices.” Besides copies of Wu’s ID card and hukou, she also had to compile materials proving her marital status, employment history and income. That communication from the local government was the first time Wu had heard of “social maintenance fees.” A female clerk who met Wu at her local branch of the Beijing family planning department told her that there was a much easier and more economical way to solve her problem: get married and then immediately get divorced. With a marriage certificate, even if the marriage had ended, Wu was told, she and Shen would never have to pay a fine or go through the long and troublesome process of acquiring a hukou for their daughter. However, rather than participate in a sham marriage, the couple chose the hard road. The social maintenance fee for the first child born out of wedlock to a Chinese national is calculated according to the previous year’s average annual income in the jurisdiction where the mother’s hukou is registered – in Wu’s case, Beijing in 2014. In addition, all healthcare costs were to be borne by Wu – costs that would have been covered by her social insurance if she had acquired a marriage certificate and birth permit. “The whole process is actually a secondary victimization of unwed mothers,” Wu told
NewsChina. Different policies for unwed mothers and their children, along with social condemnation, she argued, all “punish you from different angles.”
At 11:38 AM on June 21, Father’s Day, Shen Bolun met his daughter for the first time. Shen was born in 1989. A communications major, he graduated from university in 2012, and left a “worthless” job after a year to found his Internet startup “+box.” Shen’s project aims to pose one question to 1,000 young people in 10 cities: “Given the chance to ask one question of your peers worldwide, what would your question be?” Speaking to our reporter from behind a pair of black-rimmed glasses, Shen loves to question and challenge authority. His project, he says, “is trying to show and explore young people’s reflections on the world and themselves and encourage them to think independently, explore themselves, understand themselves and realize their life goals.” Wu, six years Shen’s senior, was born in 1983. At 18, she enrolled in prestigious Peking University to study finance, but dropped out one year later. She then went to the US and completed a double major as well as an MBA. After working for six years as a management consultant, she changed direction and founded an educational organization that aims to cultivate civic awareness and creativity in young people. In December 2013, Shen met Wu at a public event. Both remarked that they fell in love immediately and viewed themselves as soulmates. In the eyes of their friends, they were a perfect couple who had matching values and independent personalities. A year later, Wu became pregnant. Using an account the couple created on the social media app WeChat, Shen published an article entitled “A Letter to Our Future Child.” The next article, published on January 18, 2015, was titled “We Don’t Plan to Get Married and We Have Broken Up.” One thing remained the same, however.
Photo by CFP
Shen Bolun and his five-month-old daughter
“To have our baby was a mutual decision,” the article ran.
Shen is fond of children, and hopes to be a responsible father. In his opinion, breaking up and having a child are separate issues – what matters, he says, is being honest with your child, and giving him or her your love. Shen’s own parents did not have a good relationship, but remained together, in Shen’s words, “hurting each other under the same roof.” “A pro forma family isn’t a real family,” said Shen. When Wu turned 25, she told herself that even if she could never find true love, she would have a child. “I expected surprise and
enlightenment to come with a child,” she told our reporter. “The bond [between mother and child] is much stronger and more magical [than a romantic bond],” she said. In May, the couple initiated their crowdfunding project with the hope of raising public awareness and discussion on the limited reproductive rights of Chinese citizens. In exchange for financial support, Wu and Shen determined to maintain “an open accounting” of the whole process of seeking a hukou for their daughter. In six months, they told supporters, each donor would receive a record of their child’s development. In just 16 hours, the project had received 9,581 yuan (US$1,499) from 312 supporters. The project was then suddenly taken offline with no explanation from the website,
with all donations automatically returned. The couple had to relaunch their project through their WeChat platform. This time, due to the less public platform, funding trickled in more slowly. Nevertheless, by September 28, Wu and Shen had received 30,530 yuan (US$4,778) from 1,777 supporters. They decided to use 17,770 yuan (US$2,781) of this to pay their social maintenance fee and donate the rest to other charitable projects. Despite receiving support, Shen and Wu were also singled out for criticism. Most negative commentators accused Shen of being “irresponsible,” while Wu was dismissed as “willful.” Even Shen’s father came out in opposition to his son’s decision to have a child out of wedlock, but donated 10 yuan (US$1.57) anyway with a message that “I give you my support because I respect life.” One of Shen’s cousins told him to tell Wu that she “should be more reasonable, and shouldn’t repeat such regrettable things in the future.” Despite the challenges they have faced, the couple’s daughter is a reality on which both parents are able to focus. Though Shen began a new relationship two months before her daughter was born, the couple still care for their baby together. For the first month, Shen lived in Wu’s home, and helped as much as he could. Even after he moved out, he has continued to visit his daughter almost every day. Shen and Wu nicknamed their daughter Wu Suowei, which, in Chinese can mean both “careless” and “fearless.” In a letter to her daughter, Wu wrote: “The only decision I won’t ever regret was to have you. Maybe one day you’ll feel sorry for your mom and dad and blame us for our decision. It was a willful decision, but never an impetuous one.” NEWSCHINA I February 2016
Civil Service Exam
Photo by CFP
Test-takers wait to take the civil service exam at Harbin University of Science and Technology, Heilongjiang Province, November 24, 2013
Once-coveted civil service positions are losing appeal as the Chinese government continues to ramp up its anti-corruption campaign alongside an expanding private sector By Du Guodong and Gao Min
ne common Chinese saying compares the country’s annual civil service recruitment examination to thousands of people attempting to fight their way across a narrow footbridge. On November 29, huge numbers of applicants took this examination nationwide, but the total number of applicants relative to openings has dropped yet again. The number of people who take China’s civil service entrance examination, widely referred to as the path to a “golden rice bowl,” a comfortable government sinecure tantamount to a job for life that comes bundled with decent remuneration and social status, is often held up as a barometer that reflects public perceptions of the desirability of such posts and the relative prosperity – or not – of the wider economy. Registration for the exam ended on October 24, with a record high of 27,000 positions on offer. The number of applicants, however, stood at 1.39 million, marking a drop for the second year in a row.
NEWSCHINA I February 2016
Roughly 50 candidates competed for each position, a historic low and half the ratio recorded during the exam’s second-lowest ebb in 2010. What’s more, only 930,000 candidates actually ended up taking the written test, indicating that the remainder preferred to pursue other employment options. Among the government vacancies, a position at the Skills Competition Department of the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security turned out to be the most popular, with 2,847 candidates competing for it. The competition for this position was much less intense than in previous years, according to official data. In 2013, 9,470 test-takers vied for a single vacancy at the Chongqing branch of the National Bureau of Statistics.
Zhao Litang, a 22-year-old material sciences and engineering graduate from a prestigious university in Beijing, currently works in the
Photo by CFP
An examinee outside the test center at Central China Normal University, Wuhan, Hubei Province, 2011
capital with a monthly salary of 4,000 yuan (US$625), half of which is spent on rent. After work on October 19, his birthday, he received a call from his mother, but he hung up on her minutes later and turned off his phone. She had been trying to persuade him to take the civil service exam, hoping he would leave Beijing and find a job in his hometown. Zhao was incensed at his mother’s claims that his Beijing salary was even lower than it would be in his hometown. He told our reporter that she also chided him for “suffering” unnecessary hardships. The next day, Zhao wrote on his microblog that “if anybody tries to persuade me to take the exam again, I will blacklist you.” He did not answer phone calls from his family until the national exam period was over. He was sick of hearing about it. Zhao, like many other recent graduates, spurned the once-coveted civil service exam because of his aversion to China’s bureaucracy. He believes that it is unlikely someone like him would be promoted through the ranks of a government agency without special guanxi, or “connections,” and that it is impossible to become rich in such a post unless one is also willing to be corrupt. He is also turned off by the officials’ habit of what he calls “sticking to the beaten track.” “Working in a government department is to accept that bad money will eventually drive out good money,” he told NewsChina. “Taking an exam [for a job] which offers low pay and a tiny chance of advancement would be my last choice.” According to an online survey concerning the civil service exam conducted by Party mouthpiece People’s Daily on October 15, 17 percent of respondents felt that “the appeal of government jobs is waning and [they] would prefer to work for State-owned enterprises or in the private sector, which now usually offers better pay and benefits.” Zhou Yu (pseudonym), a master’s student, withdrew his registration for the exam at the last moment. He plans to stay in Beijing after graduation and find a job in marketing. “Public servants usually spend their whole day on work which could be finished in half a day,” he told our reporter. Zhou says he would prefer a job that could make full use of his potential. Money is also a prime consideration. “Nowadays, it is unlikely for a civil servant to be able to afford an apartment.” Compared to their male counterparts, female candidates tend to prefer government jobs for their stability relative to the private sector. Yang Xue has taken the civil service exam four years in a row, and made it to the interview stage on two occasions, but has so far failed to secure a government post. This year, she abandoned her efforts. “I had to travel a long way to attend interviews in another province – a big burden for someone who has not landed a [well-paying] job,” she told NewsChina. NEWSCHINA I February 2016
Yang was born in western Shaanxi Province, attended university in Shanghai and currently works in Henan Province. She said the number of applicants for government jobs has dropped and vacancies have expanded this year, but that does not mean “it is easy to be recruited… The recruitment ratio is dependent on the specific positions and their requirements.” Yang prefers to work in a big city rather than securing a government job in a smaller town, even though such positions are much easier to obtain. Presently, China has a huge demand for local-level public servants, but these vacancies are relatively unappealing to urban-educated youth – 158 such vacancies for the 2016 intake had no applicants at all. Most of these unpopular jobs were in inspection and quarantine departments or meteorological agencies located in impoverished and remote regions of the country. Dong Hong, a researcher with the Heilongjiang Provincial Academy of Social Sciences, said that the national civil service examination previously attracted a lot of test-takers who were after government jobs simply in pursuit of wealth and status. Some candidates, he said, had already “prepared themselves for rent-seeking as soon as they set foot in the civil service.”
The ongoing anti-corruption campaign, in full swing ever since the 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China in 2012, coupled with the curbing of privileges and welfare provisions for public servants and the streamlining of government administration, has also contributed to the falling number of test-takers, according to analysts. Government posts have traditionally come bundled with comprehensive healthcare, pension and even housing benefits, which, in a country with an underfunded welfare system, were once hugely desirable. The gap between such provisions in the public and private sector, however, has begun to shrink in recent years. Hu Xingdou, a political science professor at the Beijing Institute of Technology, said recruitment quotas have fallen as the government has cut bureaucracy. “The campaign targeting the ‘gray income’ of officials also contributes to the decline in new enrollments,” he told the Global Times. In the opinion of Bai Zhili, an associate professor at Peking University’s School of Government, continuing reform of the civil service system has changed the work style of government agencies, making their employees feel uneasy at the sudden tightening of supervision where once they enjoyed considerable autonomy and authority. Bai added that an “exodus” of civil servants to other sectors in recent years has also contributed to declining interest in the civil service examination. According to a survey released by Chinese online recruitment
NEWSCHINA I February 2016
agency zhaopin.com in March 2015, over 10,000 civil servants switched to private sector jobs in the first three weeks after Chinese New Year 2015, traditionally one of the busiest hiring seasons of the year. The company said that more civil servants had been “considering quitting their jobs since February,” and this number had increased by 34 percent year-on-year. According to the survey, positions at financial institutions, Internet-related firms and property developers were reportedly the most highly sought after. College graduates have long constituted the bulk of the government’s potential hiring pool. Official statistics show that China is expected to be home to 7.7 million new college graduates in 2016. Wang Yukai, vice president of the Chinese Society of Administrative Reform, said the downturn in the number of graduates who take the test is a sign of the times. “The decrease has a lot to do with changes in the general environment in China. Nowadays, the government is pushing students towards self-employment and the ‘innovation sector,’ which appeal to young graduates,” he told China Radio International. According to a 2015 report by MyCOS HR Digital Information Co., a higher education consulting firm, the private sector took in 47 percent of China’s college graduates in 2014, up from 35 percent in 2010. The 2015 “China Best Employer” report published by zhaopin. com also showed that 54 percent of college graduates “preferred” to work for the government in 2012, but this figure dropped to 49 percent in 2013 and 36 percent in 2014. Conversely, the share of students willing to work for the private sector grew from 35 percent in 2012 to 56 percent in 2014. In anticipation of the 2016 national civil service exam, more regulations have been introduced, which, in the view of many, have also exacerbated the drop in new applicants. Existing government employees, for example, are no longer allowed to sit the exam. Positions at more central government organs are now only open to applicants with at least two years’ work experience at the local level. New, stiffer penalties for cheating – up to seven years in jail – have also been introduced. “China is now entering a phrase of transition, and it is difficult to predict the popularity of government positions in the future. Many complicated factors account for the rise and fall of the number of applicants,” Bai Zhili told NewsChina. Bai went on to say that, over the years, the downward pressure of the economic slowdown has grown, and thus it is “too early to say that the ‘golden rice bowl’ has fallen out of favor.” “What determines the trend in applications for the civil service exam are macro policies, including reform of the household registration [hukou] system and the overall pattern of economic development, as well as the growth of the private sector,” he said.
Photo by tong yu
Rush Job A light rail train station that was seriously damaged by the blast in Tianjin undergoes renovation, November 17, 2015
hree months after the August 12 chemical warehouse explosion that rocked the port city of Tianjin and claimed at least 160 lives, construction began on an “ecological park” located on the site of the blast. On a fall day in 2015, construction workers were busy laying turf at the disaster site, while a dozen excavators clawed at the earth in order to replace the contaminated soil. Meanwhile, residents whose homes were damaged by the blast are moving back in following government-backed renovations. Official data have shown that more than half of the residents affected by the explosion have agreed to return to their homes. Plans for the park have stirred up controversy ever since they were announced in September. Critics expressed concerns that the soil in the area may still be contaminated with cyanide, condemning the government
for its haste to construct the park, particularly at a time when the exact cause of the accident remains unknown.
The 24-hectare park will be built on the site of the blast and its surrounding area, with a focus on four concepts: “ecology, activity, daily life and memorial,” according to the Binhai New Area Planning and Land Resources Administration (BNAPLRA). (Binhai New Area is the name of the Tianjin district where the explosion took place.) The organization is also planning to build other facilities at the location, including an experimental elementary school, a kindergarten, five roads and several greenbelts. These will occupy a total area of 43 hectares. Guo Zhigang, head of the administration’s planning department, told NewsChina that the park is expected to be completed by the
The Tianjin government’s haste to build an ecological park on the site of the port city’s deadly August blast has generated safety concerns and criticism over the memorial’s design By Li Teng
end of July 2016. He said that after a week of soliciting public opinion on the project, the administration had already received about 450 calls and emails, with 90 percent of them “in favor of the construction plan.” Yet the officials’ haste in executing this project may have caused more problems than they have admitted. A BNAPLRA official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told NewsChina that the plans for the undertaking began taking form on August 20, eight days after the blast, even though details of the casualties were still unknown at the time. Several senior designers told our reporter that the park design left much to be desired and some necessary procedures had been skipped. For example, if land used for industry is to become a green space, plans first needs to be approved by legislators of the Tianjin People’s Congress, and that has yet to happen in this case. NEWSCHINA I February 2016
What’s more, as a large public project, the government has to release a 30-day invitation for bids. The enterprise that wins the bid should spend at least one or two months devising its design before submitting it to expert review. This entire process typically requires at least half a year. In 2007, the Tangshan Urban Planning Bureau announced a request for proposals for what would become the Tangshan Earthquake Memorial Park, a site that commemorates the 240,000 people who died in the 1976 natural disaster. The bureau received 276 design proposals from 17 countries, with the winning design choosing to preserve a number of relics from the earthquake to illustrate the devastating impact of the disaster to visitors. The 40-hectare memorial park took two and a half years to complete. Amid the post-Tianjin park announcement uproar, Guo Zhigang explained that the construction plan was just a preliminary idea that was made to invite public discussion, so two weeks were sufficient. He added that the plan was revised several times after receiving feedback from the public. “The revisions include adjustments to the park entrance, the landscape design, the kinds of trees [to be planted] as well as the parking lot,” he said.
According to the local Tianjin government, the park’s design and construction took a relatively short time to initiate because of its smaller scale – the most considerable task was the planting of trees, grass, and flowers. The memorial, designed by the Tianjin Academy of Fine Arts, is made up of five sculptures split into two groups that memorialize fallen firefighters. At least 96 firefighters were killed in the explosion, and eight remain missing. “It is easy to complete the landscape work and to put up the sculptures after they’re made. The ecological park is not to be designed and built like the 9/11 Memorial park in the US,” Guo Zhigang told our reporter, referring to a project which took years of planning and construction before it became open to the public. Guo said that the authorities are very clear about the design and purpose of the memo-
NEWSCHINA I February 2016
rial park, which were both finalized after taking into account comments from members of the public, especially those who live in the area. He added that many respondents were against the plan to build a memorial, a monument or even sculptures; some said they wanted nothing more than a park where they can “walk their dogs, or exercise.” “Among the people who are in favor of building the park, local residents accounted for 70 percent, and we have to take their opinions into account,” Guo said. Many residents living in the area told our reporter that they do not want to see the monument when they leave their homes, but at the same time they would like the park to have some commemorative significance. “Artistic design can make a difference,” one resident said. A designer who is familiar with the ecological park’s layout told NewsChina that, while the best way to memorialize an incident is putting up appropriate sculptures, the sculptures and monument planned for the ecological park are too big. This will give them impressive visual impact, but will also generate a sense of distance from the disaster. Also, concentrating solely on the casualties obscures other aspects of the incident, such as its cause, significantly weakening the message of caution and learning from the past. For the designer, it is a second-rate plan for nothing more than a common urban park. “Even in a second-tier city [competition], this kind of design would not be likely to win the bid [under normal circumstances],” he said. During an interview with NewsChina, another government official from the BNAPLRA who spoke on condition of anonymity said it is just a park, rather than a complicated project, and it is only “important because an explosion hit the area.”
The excavators at the park site were digging 30 centimeters deep to remove the blast zone soil so that workers could clean and replace it, in accordance with the park plan. Guo Zhigang said that the Tianjin Eco-city Environmental Protection Co. is taking care of the soil restoration. He said the company
has already tested the soil and the contamination is less severe than originally thought. It will take two months to finish replacing the soil, at which time winter planting will commence. In the opinion of a soil treatment expert who preferred to remain anonymous, it is more difficult to control and treat polluted soil than water and gas, because the process requires the identification of the type and density of pollutants in different areas before chemical degradation measures can begin. After a while, a new round of surveys must be conducted to test the validity of the original evaluation. “It could never be finished within two months,” he said, adding that if polluted materials are not disposed of properly, it is likely to “result in secondary pollution.” According to a survey by the Tianjin Environment Monitoring Center conducted on August 19, a week after the deadly blast, eight monitoring spots within the evacuated area detected excessive amounts of cyanide – the highest level was 356 times the maximum level allowed under national safety regulations. Experts first gathered to evaluate the design of the park on October 8. They unanimously approved the plan, agreeing that no similar meeting would be necessary afterward. According to a notice on the BNAPLRA website posted shortly afterwards, the experts said that “the explosion has affected a limited area, and the contamination can be treated through physical, chemical and biological methods.” Guo Zhigang told our reporter that it would take time to see whether the park will be popular amongst local residents; in fact, the government is not optimistic about a large number of visitors because the park is far from the city center. Besides, it is not likely to generate any tourism revenue, which also “motivated the government to choose the current design.” Guo said that officials were not rushing to build the park in order to complete construction before the blast’s first anniversary, although they are on track to do so. He recognized that the one-year timeframe is a bit short. “But the design and the timeline are not dependent on us,” he added.
Virtual Friends, Real Loneliness
The instant success of ‘17,’ a newly launched live-streaming app, underscores the epidemic of loneliness afflicting today’s young, urban Chinese
Photo by CFP
By Gao Min
Live broadcaster working for a company in Fuyang, Anhui Province, December 7, 2015
NEWSCHINA I February 2016
ressed in a revealing bikini top, Han Lu grabbed her smartphone, opened the app “17” and focused the camera on herself. She was fulfilling a promise she had made to her followers the day before, to give them a bikini-clad show. A flood of real-time comments and requests popped up on her cellphone screen. “Hi babe, which floor do you live on?” One man asked. As a response, she walked out to the balcony, flipped the camera so it focused on the night scene outside and murmured, “Can you guess?” “Lower your phone. I want to see more of you,” another man requested. Han Lu smiled and obliged him. Perhaps she was motivated by the fact that the more followers she accrues on 17, the more money she can make from it. But when her fans made more explicit requests, the 26-year-old declined. This is a typical tableau for 17 app users. A young woman starts a live-stream to share a slice of her life through her smartphone camera, which attracts a horde of viewers who flock to her page, check her out, “like” her stream, share it, leave comments and make requests. Since Taiwanese-American celebrity Jeffrey Huang’s company launched the app on June 5, 2015, 17 has gone viral in China and other Asian countries, such as Singapore and Malaysia. Similar to its international equivalents like Periscope and Meerkat, 17 allows users to live-stream footage right from their cellphones while viewers chat with them in real time. The app topped the Chinese App Store’s list of top free apps on September 25, less than four months after its debut. It has 2.2 million registered accounts, and 700,000 to 900,000 active users who check the app every day. Just a few days after topping the charts, however, 17 was suddenly removed by the App Store without warning on September 29, staying down for about a month before it popped back up on virtual shelves. It performed a similar vanishing act in the Google Play store as well. The reason for its temporary disappearance, while not stated officially by Apple or Google, may seem obvious to users – it crossed a line, venturing into illegal territory, with some users producing X-rated content that attracted packs of voyeurs to register for their own accounts. Some live-streamers broadcast themselves or others stripping, taking baths, taking drugs and even performing sex acts in real time for an audience of thousands watching from home. Voyeuristic curiosity and desire for attention are part of human nature, and 17 satisfies both needs. In China, it fills other emotional voids as well; its success is a reflection of urban Chinese youths’ need to cope with overwhelming feelings of loneliness and emptiness.
The Lonely Youth
There are 668 million Chinese people online, a staggering number that is more than twice the US’s total population. Though many international social networking sites and apps – WhatsApp, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr – are either blocked or scarcely used in China, Chinese netizens still rack up the screen time with domestic
NEWSCHINA I February 2016
equivalents like WeChat, Sina Weibo, QQ and Douban. In China, teenagers and young adults who have been raised in the Internet age are the most active social media users. According to a 2014 report by China Internet Network Information Center (CNNIC), there are 277 million Chinese teenagers and young adults (people aged under 25) online, about 41.5 percent of the total number of Chinese Internet users. Social media provides a platform that allows these young netizens to create groups and pages based on common interests, and helps them stay connected and interact even if they are miles apart. The expansion of social media in China, nevertheless, has coincided with a growing feeling of loneliness, especially among young people living in big cities where technology and development have sped up the pace of life. The CNNIC report says that 72.1 percent of China’s online youth come from urban areas, especially the country’s largest cities. 58.4 percent of the young netizens have shown a “strong reliance” on the Internet, while 13 percent say they are “extremely dependent” or “addicted.” Young people’s dependence on the Internet has affected their offline, face-to-face interactions to different degrees. Lee Ngan-Tse, a young, introverted woman from Hong Kong, seems to find a certain solace in virtual companionship. Like thousands of lonely, urban youth, she does not have many friends. Her old high school friends are now too busy to keep in touch, either because of new marriages or new jobs. Her daily, face-to-face social contact is fairly superficial, mainly limited to small talk with her boss and colleagues. Thus, she has turned to the digital world to find friends. Her usual shift as a sales representative is from 12 PM to 11 PM, and when she gets home, she spends almost all of her time on 17, interacting with her fellow app users. “It’s like chatting with my closest friends,” Lee told NewsChina. “They think I’m entertaining them, and I am quite pleased to do so. Giving others joy always makes me happy.” The longest live-stream session she has held lasted more than five hours; she broadcast herself singing songs from about 2 AM until daybreak. She couldn’t sleep that night, so she opened the app in her dark bedroom, logging on amongst other insomnia-ridden night owls like herself. “I asked them to request songs, and they did,” she told NewsChina. “So I kept singing one song after another for over five hours, until 7 AM.” She also once streamed herself watching a TV comedy show late at night, an experience she shared with her online friends. “We chatted together and laughed together. Without us even realizing, it was suddenly light outside,” she said. When 21-year-old college student Gao Xiang was asked why he uses the app, he replied: “I don’t want to be lonely.” When Gao was young, his parents, who both worked, usually kept him locked up at home to “keep him safe.” This experience of being confined at home cut down on his ability to connect with the outside world, and thus
loneliness became his constant companion that followed him even when he left home for college. He said that watching live-streams helps him learn more about different people’s lives, but he admitted that loneliness is what really drives his 17 addiction. Zou Nan likes showing off her cat, Minnie, on the app. She left her hometown, Changzhou, Jiangsu Province, a year ago to come to Shanghai and work as a bank teller. Without her friends and relatives from back home, the 23-year-old often felt lonely and depressed. To keep these feelings at bay, she bought Minnie. Several months ago, Zou downloaded 17 and shared her first video, one of Minnie drinking a bowl of hot milk. That clip received many “likes” and funny comments, which made her quite happy and encouraged her to stream more cat videos. In less than two months’ time, Zou had more than 700 followers on the app. “It feels so good to have a group of friends online who wait for you [to log on], chat with you and listen to you,” she said.
The Next Toy
IT industry insider Chen Jianwen told NewsChina that live-streaming will most likely become the next big social media trend. Compared with the now commonplace features of texting, audio-messaging, and photo- and video-sharing, Chen said that it is live-streaming that will become the next essential function for social networking tools to include. The promotional slogans and language surrounding various social media apps, to a great extent, capture attention by focusing on modern psychological ailments such as loneliness, emptiness and the desperate need for attention. With promotional lines like “Your life’s moments,” the language used to describe 17 gives users the illusion that using the app will allow them to share their lives through close, warm and satisfying social contact. But does using social media really make people more sociable? The reality is that many Chinese young people today have found that the more connected they become online, the lonelier they feel in reality. Lee Ngan-Tse admitted she is addicted to social media. But she was not always such an active social media user. It was breaking up with her ex-boyfriend that initiated this change. After their relationship ended, Lee became more and more actively engaged in social networking, posting perfectly posed selfies and always keeping up with her followers. “I just wanted him to see that I was very happy every day. I wanted him to know that I was much better off without him!” Lee told NewsChina. Her constant posts were effective. The number of people following her on Facebook skyrocketed, shooting from 400 to over 4,000. She even gained more than 20,000 followers on Instagram. The online
recognition, however, did not help her dispel the loneliness she felt that stemmed from her lack of real companionship. So she turned to 17, in a Sisyphean attempt to once again find solace through a social networking platform. “But I still always feel detached,” she said. The technology itself does not cause loneliness. WeChat, Sina Weibo, Facebook and 17 are not antisocial in nature. It is the obsessive dependence on technology that causes loneliness and emptiness among many young Chinese. Forging genuine emotional bonds takes more than a text message or an emoji. “The greater the proportion of faceto-face interactions, the less lonely you are,” John Cacioppo, University of Chicago psychology professor, guest professor at Beijing Normal University and author of Loneliness: Human Nature and the Need for Social Connection, told The Atlantic. “The greater the proportion of online interactions, the lonelier you are.” Shi Zishan, a 26-year-old who works in a Fortune 100 corporation’s Beijing office, insists on keeping social media at a reasonable distance. He texts his friends through WeChat and reads news headlines on Sina Weibo, but he seldom posts about his life on social networking sites or apps. Shi refuses to use 17 because he believes too much exposure through live-streaming might endanger one’s personal security and privacy. And he has little interest in online interaction with strangers. Resorting to social networking is not a remedy to the prevalent feeling of loneliness affecting urban youth, he said. “Everyone who lives in a big city like Beijing will, to some extent, feel kind of lonely,” he said. “But the way to get rid of this sense of loneliness is to maintain positive daily contact with people you’re close to, rather than seeking attention from strangers online.” “The people I know who feel the most lonely are usually the ones who are most active online.” Shi added. “They have numerous friends on various social networks, they have hundreds of people liking and commenting on their photos, but they never feel [like it’s] enough.” Chen Jianwen suggested that, as long as urbanites continue to feel lonely, empty and in need of attention, the market for social networking apps will continue to thrive. When 17 was temporarily removed from the Apple Store, hundreds of thousands of users soon latched onto another streaming app, “Easy Live,” as a replacement. “When there is a need, a product will appear,” Chen said. “17 is a toy I use for chatting.” Lee Ngan-Tse said. She has acquired thousands of followers on the app who make up a loyal audience. She finds the virtual midnight companionship they provide fun and comforting, but, the next morning, she still wakes up alone, goes out the door, and exchanges niceties with her boss and colleagues. “I am always waiting for a new gadget, a much more interesting toy,” she said. NEWSCHINA I February 2016
With the debut of his talk show, Hu Xijin, hawkish editor-in-chief of China’s nationalist Global Times, has rekindled debates over his role in China’s tightly regulated media landscape
NEWSCHINA I February 2016
Photo by Dong Jiexu
By Wan Jiahuan
aving long been an iconic figure in China’s media industry, Hu Xijin may not be the most influential newspaper editor in China, but he is no doubt the most controversial. As editor-in-chief of the State-owned Global Times (GT), widely known for its nationalistic stance, Hu’s reputation as a hawk constantly calling for tougher foreign and defense policies is grounded in his highly personal style of writing. Unlike his peers at other major Chinese print media outlets, few of whom are actively engaged in actual writing, Hu personally writes the paper’s editorials, using such a provocative style that his work reliably attracts widespread attention from China’s firebrand online commentariat. Critics argue that the GT’s overall coverage of international events, including Hu’s editorials, centers on fear-mongering and conspiracy theories, systematically attacking so-called “Western values” with the true intention of defending China’s existing political system and government policies. In one of his most controversial editorials, for example, Hu argued that the media should be the “watchdog” of China’s “national interests,” which led critics to call him “a government dog,” who would “fetch the Party’s Frisbee no matter how far it has been thrown.” Playing on Hu’s self-proclaimed “patriotism,” the editor has frequently been referred to as “a patriotic rogue” on Weibo, China’s leading microblog platform. Not only has the GT long been compared to Fox News, but Hu himself was recently likened to Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, largely due to his aggressive editorial style. Unlike Trump, though, Hu’s battlefield has been largely confined to print media and China’s blogosphere. But in November, Hu ventured into the realm of visual media – which commands China’s largest audience by far – by launching a personal talk show called Hu Talks on Youku, China’s YouTube equivalent. With the debut episode attracting over 300,000 views, and the second attracting 500,000, Hu has revealed his new ambition to extend the GT’s influence to the newly emerging market of online TV.
In his interview with NewsChina, Hu said the criticisms against him and the GT have stemmed from a simplified perspective of political ideology. “People like to label me with political tags, such as ‘patriotic rogue,’ ‘government dog,’ or ‘leftist,’” Hu told NewsChina. “They don’t realize that these simple political labels ignore not just the complexity of me as a person, but also the complexity of China as a country.” Born in 1960, Hu studied Russian literature at the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Institute of International Relations at Nanjing, an
alma mater, Hu claims, which laid the foundations for his “patriotic” values. Then, in 1986, Hu entered Beijing Foreign Studies University to pursue further graduate study in Russian literature and language. His studies coincided with massive student movements in China, culminating in the Tian’anmen Square Incident of 1989. During this period, Hu said, he was among those who hoped for Western-style democracy in China. “Like most university students at that time, I also admired the West,” said Hu. He recalled how he and fellow students engaged in heated discussion about the “democratic experience” of the Philippines, and how China could “learn from it.” But, Hu said, his admiration for Western-style democracy was later dashed during the three-year period between 1993 and 1996 when he served as a correspondent for the Russia and former Yugoslavia offices of the People’s Daily, the official newspaper of the Communist Party of China. Hu told our reporter that he personally witnessed the “painful price people in these countries had to pay” during the collapse of the Soviet Union. In contrast to the war, conflict and chaos he witnessed in the former Eastern Bloc, Hu said he was surprised and thrilled to see the economic vitality and political stability he found on his return to Beijing in 1996. That year, Hu joined the newly launched GT as deputy editor-in-chief, before landing the top job in 2005. Hu said these formative experiences crystallized his fundamental political beliefs regarding China’s development. These beliefs, he told NewsChina, can be summarized thus: “China’s reform cannot be conducted without political stability.” This viewpoint is obviously in accordance with the Party line, and is consequently sharply disputed by his opponents.
As one of the first to adopt an outward-looking focus on international news in a period when China started to open its doors to the outside world, the GT evolved from being a small tabloid to one of the most widely read newspapers in China during the 1990s. According to Hu, the most important single event that changed the fortune of his paper was the NATO bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade on May 7, 1999. Five US guided missiles hit the embassy, killing three Chinese reporters. The bombing enraged the Chinese public, leading to major protests, and the GT, with established ties in Belgrade thanks to Hu’s previous posting there, was able to offer readers extensive coverage. Hu said that the paper’s circulation doubled overnight after the incident. Two million people were reading the GT in 2001, 4.5 times the number in 1998. NEWSCHINA I February 2016
The late 1990s also saw the rapid polarization of political ideologies among the Chinese public, as nationalism, democratic liberalism and neo-leftism emerged to become the three dominant schools of political thought in the country. Such divisions made themselves apparent even in China’s closely regulated media landscape. While liberals were best represented by figures such as Hu Shuli, editor-in-chief of Caijing – now Caixin – magazine, the GT became the flagship publication for nationalists, while neo-leftists rallied behind websites such as Utopia (wyzxwk. com). Despite the fierce online criticism Hu has encountered, the GT has emerged to become one of the most successful newspapers in China’s recent history. It is estimated that the paper’s circulation in 2014 was about 2.4 million, making it China’s third-most popular newspaper, trailing only behind Reference News, an edited compilation of translations of foreign media reports, and Party mouthpiece People’s Daily, the GT’s mother publication, a subscription to which is mandatory for most Party offices and government officials. Just as public opinion in China is divided, the GT’s success is also subject to different interpretations. For liberals and democrats, its success is attributable to its tabloid style and populist editorial approach that focuses on promoting and selling nationalism. For Hu and his supporters, the popularity of the GT is an objective reflection of China’s public opinion. According to Hu, fierce online criticism of him and his publication is an illusory distortion of public opinion. “A minority of people who hold strong political opinions can easily dominate political debate in the public domain,” Hu said. For him, the GT’s success is evidence that the “silent majority” of the Chinese public is on his side.
Besides the GT’s evident nationalist bent, another point of debate regarding the paper’s role concerns its English edition. Launched in 2009, following increased interest in China in the wake of the 2008 Beijing Olympics, the GT’s English edition has become a significant source of quotations for international publications. While many of the GT English edition articles are taken directly from the Chinese edition, this incarnation, rather than focusing on events abroad, devotes much of its attention to China’s domestic affairs. To the surprise of many, the English version appears to be far more critical of the Chinese government than the Chinese edition, while also presenting a less hawkish perspective on international news. Not only has the English edition criticized the authorities on a variety of issues, such as extralegal detentions and food safety scandals, it has covered various politically sensitive topics that remain taboo
NEWSCHINA I February 2016
for the Chinese-language print media, including a special report for the 20th anniversary of the Tian’anmen Incident, and unprecedented feature coverage of China’s emerging LGBT community. To Hu’s critics, the discrepancy between the paper’s Chinese and English versions, tailored to suit the different tastes of Chinese and English-speaking readers, has betrayed the “opportunistic” nature of the GT’s approach to journalism, which many say also underlies Hu’s decision to venture into visual media. During the debut broadcast of his talk show, Hu rejected this idea, and re-emphasized that his goal is to “reflect the reality” of Chinese society. “The reality is never black and white,” Hu told NewsChina. “How could a person who defends the Chinese government be happy with everything the government has done? And, similarly, how could a person who criticizes the government on a daily basis have no feelings whatsoever about the progress the country has achieved?” Hu did, however, admit that the secret to his and the GT’s success has been taking a “market-oriented” approach. “Our influence in the Chinese media industry relies on [our success in] the market,” said Hu. In 2010, he was quoted as saying that he paid tens of millions of yuan in dividends and a further 53 million (US$8.2m) in taxes. Being one of the most-read newspapers in China, the GT is also one of the country’s most financially successful news groups. In 2011, as its influence increased, the paper exchanged shares with people.cn, the online arm of People’s Daily, and now holds 14.5 percent of the website’s shares. In 2012, people.cn conducted its IPO, which Hu said brought “tremendous financial benefits” to his paper. By early December, the GT’s share of people.cn alone was valued at US$613 million. Hu admitted that his recent decision to venture into visual media is also “market-oriented.” “It is very likely that video will become the main battlefield in China’s media landscape,” said Hu, “We need to be ahead of the rest.” But compared to his iconically provocative style found both in his editorials and his interactions with netizens on Weibo, a noticeable change of style in Hu’s talk show – a much milder tone – has not gone unnoticed. He even uses cartoons to help make points, in an apparent effort to project a more amiable image. “In the Internet age, when politicians sometimes need to be entertaining, you’ve got to have a sense of humor [to become popular],” Hu told NewsChina. However, after attracting 300,000 and 500,000 viewers with his first two episodes, viewer numbers fell back to 100,000 by the time Hu’s third episode aired online. Now, some are questioning if Hu might return to his provocative style in order to boost his ratings in China’s increasingly cutthroat online media environment.
Symbolically, the yuan’s inclusion in the IMF’s basket of reserve currencies may provide a confidence boost to China’s economy and currency. Substantially, the leadership’s ambition behind the milestone lies in bolstering China’s supply of goods and services to Chinese consumers, which in turn can only be made possible through reform By Li Jia
ith Microscene’s new tech service, when planning a family holiday, travelers can choose hotels, contact tourist attractions and even order umbrella-garnished drinks delivered to their exact location on the beach by zooming around panoramic shots of the area on their cell phones and simply touching a spot on the screen. At the same time, data about their preferences are collected and analyzed to help provide better services and develop more business potential for local hotels, tourist sites and government tourism agencies. Tiago Tan co-founded Microscene in Beijing three months ago. He told NewsChina that his company is the first in China to integrate all these services and resources, and he plans to double its staff to about 60 people in early 2016 to deal with its fast-growing business. While Tan expands his startup in the new year to bring in more yuan, China’s currency
itself will be undergoing something new. On November 30, 2015, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) announced the decision to include the yuan in the Special Drawing Rights (SDR) basket of reserve currencies, a supplement to the official foreign exchange reserves held by IMF members. This means that the IMF has endorsed the yuan’s position as a new option for official foreign exchange reserves for its 188 member economies. The 10.92 percent share of the yuan, effective October 1, 2016, will be the thirdlargest in the basket, above the Japanese yen and pound sterling and below the US dollar and euro. The addition of the yuan will be the first change to basket currencies since the euro replaced the German mark and French franc in 1999. The yuan’s inclusion is widely viewed as an important symbolic gesture. Both the IMF and the People’s Bank of China (PBOC),
China’s central bank, highlighted in their statements and press conferences that the inclusion of the yuan in the basket is a “recognition” of China’s economic growth and past reform, and that their expectations for the internationalization of China’s currency and the country’s stronger role in global financial governance will continue to depend on China’s growth and reform in the future. Chinese analysts hope that the yuan’s inclusion in the SDR basket will prop up not only international confidence in China’s economy and currency, but also the momentum of reform, similar to the effects China’s WTO accession had in 2001. In the meantime, concerns over China’s growth prospects, the substantial foundation of its currency, compounded with the imminent US interest rate hike, appear to have led to the yuan’s constant devaluation in recent months. While trying to convince NEWSCHINA I February 2016
Weights of currencies in the SDR basket after the yuan’s inclusion, effective October 1, 2016
US dollar 41.73% Euro 30.93% Chinese yuan 10.92% Japanese yen 8.33% British pound 8.09%
Existing weights of currencies in the SDR basket
Photo by CFP
US dollar 41.9% Euro 37.4% British pound 11.3% Japanese yen 9.4%
Currency composition of global reserves, which totaled US$11.435 trillion by Q1 2015 the market of the soundness of the country’s economic foundation, the Chinese leadership has recently come up with the idea of “supply-side reform” to sustain and improve China’s growth, providing better, more efficient goods and services, like those provided by Tan’s business, to expand and improve consumer demand. So while the new ventures of Microscene and the yuan may seem unrelated, they are closely linked beneath the surface. Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said on December 7 that supply side reform is all about empowering the market and encouraging entrepreneurship and innovation, particularly those endeavors based on the Internet.
Road to the SDR
The SDR was created in 1969 as a supranational currency to add to the inadequate supply of official foreign exchange
NEWSCHINA I February 2016
reserves held in the form of gold and the US dollar. IMF head Christine Lagarde coined it “the currency of currencies” in her November 30 statement about the yuan’s inclusion. After the US declared it would stop converting other countries’ official gold reserves into US dollars in 1971, countries turned to the international financial market, not the SDR, to finance their international payment deficit. The widely accepted estimation is that currently only 3 to 5 percent of official foreign exchange reserves involve SDRs. This is why Chinese and IMF officials and analysts have stressed the symbolic, long-term significance of the yuan’s SDR inclusion in regards to the Chinese currency’s internationalization and the global financial order. Few think of its immediate, substantial impact on the flow of capital or the valuation of the yuan. The two stan-
US dollar 64.1% Euro 20.8% Japanese yen 4.2% British pound 3.9% Canadian dollar 1.9% Australian dollar 1.7% Swiss franc 0.3% Other currencies 3.1%
SDRs per currency unit on December 15, 2015 1 euro 1 Japanese yen 1 British pound 1 US dollar
0.7884740000 0.0059234400 1.0873600000 0.7174470000
Source: International Monetary Fund
dards required of SDR currencies also reflect this point: the economy holding the currency has to be a major world exporter, and the currency must be widely used in international payments and traded on global forex markets. When the IMF reviewed the SDR basket in 2010, China met the first criterion but not the second, according to the IMF’s December 1 press release, which stated the yuan at the time was not “freely usable.” China’s desire to join the SDR has been clear through the leadership’s and the PBOC’s actions. Most recently, diplomatic efforts resulted in the issuers of the existing four reserve currencies – the US, the UK, France, Germany and Japan – all giving their nods of approval toward the inclusion of the yuan right before the IMF made its decision. China has also made a series of changes in order to meet the IMF’s second criterion. In July, China’s interbank bond market opened up to foreign central banks and similar institutions. In September, the PBOC began to release more details about China’s official foreign exchange reserves in order to adopt IMF standards of transparency. In October, China’s interest rate system was essentially liberalized. Although these reforms would eventually have taken place anyway, SDR aspirations likely sped them up. It was widely speculated that the PBOC stepped in with official foreign exchange reserves to prevent the yuan from depreciating too much in August, out of concern that a rapidly weakened currency would not look attractive enough to warrant becoming a part of the SDR basket.
Faith in China’s economy and currency seems to be one of the main dividends that the SDR inclusion is expected to deliver. Yi Gang, deputy governor of the PBOC, said at a December 1 press conference that the mar-
ket would become “more confident in holding yuan-denominated assets.” After China’s stock market chaos in June and July, some international fund managers decided to reduce their holdings of yuan-denominated assets, as they had doubts over China’s economic prospects and future reform, said Ba Shusong, chief economist of the China Banking Association and chief China economist at HKEx, at a December 1 forum sponsored by Sina Corp. He noted that the IMF’s decision and the changes made before the SDR inclusion would help recover and spur the confidence in and demand for yuan-denominated assets among international investors, both central banks and private holders. There are already signs that interest in yuan-denominated assets has grown since the SDR announcement, despite the currency’s constant depreciation against the US dollar before and after the inclusion. On November 30, the day of the IMF’s announcement, the Working Group on US RMB (yuan) Trading and Clearing was established, led by US financial and industrial heavyweights like Michael Bloomberg and Timothy Geithner, with nearly all top US and Chinese banks included as initial members. At the end of November, monetary authorities and sovereign wealth funds from Australia, Hungary and Hong Kong, as well as World Bank Group agencies, became the first of their kind to enter China’s interbank foreign exchange market. The following month, South Korea declared its plan to issue yuan-denominated sovereign bonds in China’s interbank market, marking the first time a foreign jurisdiction had done so. There is something larger on the wish list. Both the IMF and the PBOC have expressed the hope that the yuan’s inclusion would strengthen the SDR itself and bolster China’s role in the international financial system.
Ding Yifan, a researcher with the National Strategy Institute, Tsinghua University, said at the December 1 forum that the financial world was facing significant uncertainties due to conflicting interests; mainly the US’s tightening of monetary policy, Europe’s policy easing and Wall Street’s call for more quantitative easing. He believes that European economies expect the yuan’s inclusion in the SDR to lead to a more diversified international financial system to hedge against these unknowns. Ba Shusong has envisaged the possibility of a realignment of international currencies. When the yuan officially enters the SDR basket in October 2016, the combined total of the euro and the yuan will account for a larger share in the basket than the US dollar’s, though it will still be slightly less than the US dollar combined with the Japanese yen. He thinks this deviation from the existing structure dominated by US and European currencies could pave the way for a new lineup of players within the game of international financial governance.
Analysts have repeatedly pointed out the fact that the SDR inclusion would not automatically put yuan assets in other countries’ official foreign exchange reserves or on the to-invest lists of international financial traders. The future of the yuan on the market, like any other currency, lies in the economic power it represents. The inclusion of the SDR has not dissipated controversy in China over the timing of the further opening of China’s financial system, either. Past experiences of emerging and developing markets have shown how dangerous opening-up can be if an economy is not ready. After the devaluation of the yuan in the past few months, top Chinese leaders and NEWSCHINA I February 2016
NEWSCHINA I February 2016
Chinese yuan 1.92%
Japanese yen 3%
British pound 9.05%
Top five most-used currencies in international payment in October 2015
of economic growth and the jump in inflation that the demand-oriented Keynesian school of economics had failed to address. Oft-cited illustrative examples used by Chinese analysts and media are how Apple’s iPad created the demand for tablets and how Chinese tourists’ shopping frenzies in Europe and Japan have proven the existence of the gap between insufficient supply and enhanced demand. This phenomenon not only takes business away from the Chinese mainland, but can be risky as well. Chinese clients even rush to buy insurance in Hong Kong because they can find similar terms for a less expensive price, Ernst & Young’s Rick Huang told NewsChina, warning that Chinese policy holders could face problems if they end up needing to make a claim from insurance firms who are located far away. In China, steps to liquidate inefficient supply and to increase the efficient, longterm supply of market resources, capital, labor and energy have been pushed for at least a decade, but were finally taken only recently under the “supply-side reform” banner. On December 9, the State Council specified for the first time a timeline to eliminate “zombie enterprises,” mainly badly performing State-owned companies, and allow companies to float on the stock market without regulatory approval. A few days before that, rules were released on building a more competitive power market. The National Reform and Development Commission declared at a press conference on December 11 that reform plans for the oil, gas and salt industries had already been submitted to the State Council. Amendments to the national household registration system that come into effect on January 1, 2016, will give people more freedom to move around the country with-
US dollar 42.38%
central bank officials have been attempting to reassure the market that China’s growth prospects remain robust enough to defend the yuan from long-term depreciation. On December 11, the yuan’s value versus the US dollar reached a four-year low in both onshore and offshore markets. On the same day, the PBOC’s China Foreign Exchange Trade System (CFETS) began to issue a new index that measures the yuan against a trade-weighted basket of 13 foreign currencies. The yuan’s value versus the basket is higher than its value versus the US dollar. Many interpreted the index’s launch as China’s way of readying the market for the further devaluation of its currency. On December 14, the PBOC published an editorial on its website stressing that China’s growth speed and productivity, as well as the yuan’s SDR inclusion and foreign exchange reserves, would underlie “basic stability of the yuan’s foreign exchange rate at a rational equilibrium level in the medium and long term.” The market needs more than words to address the prevalent anxiety about the current growth slowdown and disenchantment with the progress of reform. Chinese President Xi Jinping pledged at a November 10 meeting to “endeavor to improve the quality and efficiency of the supply system to strengthen the dynamics of sustainable economic growth.” Ever since, “supply-side reform” has been in the headlines. Supply-side economics, better known to some as Reaganomics, prioritizes reducing producers’ costs and barriers through tax cuts and deregulation. It has ascended from what US President George H. W. Bush once coined “voodoo economics” to a new orthodoxy in the US and the UK during the Reagan and Thatcher administrations, utilized to deal with the stagnation
Source: Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication
Change in the China Forex Trade System (CFETS) RMB (yuan) Index, on November 30, 2015, compared to the end of 2014
CFETS RMB (yuan) Index based on the SDR basket on November 30, 2015, compared to the end of 2014
CFETS RMB Index based on the Bank of International Settlement (BIS) currency basket on November 30, 2015, compared to the end of 2014 Source: China Foreign Exchange Trade System
Non-financial outbound direct investment (ODI) made by Chinese mainland enterprises in the first 11 months of 2015, more than total foreign direct investment (FDI) in the Chinese mainland and much more than total ODI recorded in 2014 Source: China Ministry of Commerce
130 120 110 100 90 80 70 60 50 40 30 20 10 0
Y-o-y change (%)
Investment in major projects in sectors identified by China’s central government as strategically important by the end of October 2015
Tons of oil stored in China’s national reserves by the end of June 2015. The figure was 12.43 million tons in late November 2014.
Breakdown of the investment by sector (%)
30 24 18 12 6 Logistics
Rail and manufacturing
Health and elderly care
Source: China National Bureau of Statistics Power, oil and gas
out worrying as much about governmentprovided benefits tied to their place of birth. Even Beijing, the most difficult place for internal migrants to relocate to in China, has recently clarified its terms of settlement. On December 9, the central government made it clear that parents will no longer have to pay a fine to register children who were born illegally under the old One Child Policy. Such fines should be annulled to encourage the supply of human capital, said Zhou Tianyong, professor at the Party School of the Central Committee of the CPC, in an exclusive interview with the Chinese edition of NewsChina. He added that businesses’ social security contributions should be reduced from around 45 percent of the wage to about 30 percent. He regarded these measures as equivalent to tax cuts. Tiago Tan, the Microscene co-founder, agreed, saying that “Internet Plus” industries that provide high salaries could benefit in particular from lower social security fees and individual income taxes. The World Bank’s Philip O’Keefe told NewsChina that more childcare services should be provided and more effective communication with the public about retirement age should be made to increase China’s labor supply in the face of a rapidly aging society. Proposing change is one thing, implementing it is another. Liu Shangxi, director of the Research Institute for Fiscal Science under the Ministry of Finance, said at the 13th China Reform Forum on December 13 that government agencies have been busy making plans and reports on reforms, with little time and consideration spent on their efficient implementation. It is like “a car that is stuck on the ice, even though its wheels are spinning,” he said, expressing his concern that the public’s enthusiasm for reform has already dampened as a result. It is widely recognized that China’s progress towards reform over the past two years has been greater than in the previous decade. However, the market is never patient. Policymakers must always take this into account in the reform process.
Non-financial outbound direct investment by enterprises in Chinese mainland
Source: China National Development and Reform Commission
157,000 The approximate number of Chinese investors involved in 1,157 failed domestic online lending platforms by the end of 2015, representing 31 percent of the total investment in such platforms, according to Wangdaizhijia, an online loans consultancy and data provider Source: www.wdzj.com
62.14bn China’s staple foods output in 2015 (in tons), its 12th consecutive year of growth Composition of China’s grain output
Corn Rice Wheat Beans Potatoes Other
Source: China National Bureau of Statistics NEWSCHINA I February 2016
NEWSCHINA I February 2016
Inaugural Cross-Straits Talks
Unbeknownst to many, the Chinese mainland authorities held a series of indirect talks with Taiwan concerning potential reunification in the 1950s and 1960s By Xu Tian and Xie Ying
lthough no joint statement was issued nor any agreement signed, when Chinese President Xi Jinping met with Taiwan’s outgoing leader Ma Yingjeou on November 7 in Singapore, the two set a symbolic milestone for the cross-Straits relationship. In the more than six decades since the Communist Party of China (CPC) founded the People’s Republic of China (PRC) following the retreat of the Kuomintang (KMT) to Taiwan after defeat in the Chinese Civil War (1945-1949), top leaders on both sides of the Taiwan Straits have never met. Instead, each side has characterized itself in part by a pledge to “liberate” the other from tyranny. However, given the changes in international geopolitics following the Korean War (1950-1953) and the increased interest of the United States in the Taiwan issue, the mainland and Taipei have used a variety of channels to indirectly discuss the potential of various forms of peaceful unification. Some overseas media sources revealed, for example, that then Chinese premier Zhou
Enlai met with either KMT leader Chiang Kai-shek or his son Chiang Ching-kuo in a closed-door negotiation in 1963. While mainland sources confirm a meeting that year between Zhou and a top-level Taiwanese dignitary, they have consistently denied that the personage sent by Taiwan was either of the Chiangs. “It was someone with direct access to the top leadership in Taiwan, but, in the interests of security, his name has been kept confidential to this day,” Liao Xinwen, a former director of the CPC Party Literature Research Office, told NewsChina.
No matter the identity of Taiwan’s mysterious “negotiator,” there were evidently covert efforts by the mainland to ease tensions in the Taiwan Straits after the US ramped up support for Chiang’s regime as a bulwark against the spread of communism in East Asia following the Korean War. On June 27, 1950, two days after the Korean War broke out, the US deployed its Seventh Fleet in the Taiwan Straits, a region
viewed by the Pentagon as being of vital strategic importance in the Western Pacific. Instead of offering only indirect support for Chiang, US President Harry Truman attempted to “neutralize” the Taiwan issue, stating that “the determination of the future status of [Taiwan] must await the restoration of security in the Pacific.” At the end of the Korean War, during which both US and Chinese troops had fought to a bloody stalemate on the peninsula, the US concluded its Mutual Defense Treaty with Taiwan, pledging to protect Taiwan from an attack from the mainland while also pledging to prevent Chiang’s Republic of China (ROC) from launching a strike against the PRC. The CPC responded to the US move by accusing Washington of having “complicated” the cross-Straits issue by obstructing the “final unification of China.” Intending to concentrate greater effort on domestic economic development following the Korean War, the PRC government established a leadership working group on the Taiwan issue in 1954, proposing to launch a NEWSCHINA I February 2016
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Luo Qingchang (left), then office director of the CPC’s leadership working group on the Taiwan issue, with former KMT military officer Wang Yaowu, who was captured by the Communists during the Chinese Civil War
figure, Chiang Kai-shek tacitly consented to the talks, allowing his son to appoint a middleman Cao Juren, a former journalist with the KMT-controlled Central News Agency who later served as the Hong Kong correspondent for the Singapore-based newspaper Nanyang Siang Pau. According to Cao’s Nanyang Siang Pau reports, he met with mainland leaders, including Mao Zedong and Zhou Enlai, three times in 1956 alone, focusing negotiations on what he called the “actual value” of Taiwan being fully incorporated into the PRC. “The value is true and practical,” Zhou reportedly told Cao. “We are not here to induce a surrender from Taiwan, but to nego-
tiate. The CPC will not engage in tricks or plots. As long as China is united, [the CPC and KMT] can talk about anything.” During the second meeting in October, Cao conveyed a message from Taiwan’s leaders to the mainland, giving the official position that there was “little possibility for a World War III,” and that, if the conditions were ripe, negotiations could be successful “overnight.” “Timing depends on the [status quo], but we are in no hurry,” Mao reportedly responded. “Everything is set as long as Taiwan severs relations with the US, and rejoins its ‘branch’ to the mainland [tree]. They can send representatives to attend the National People’s
Photo by CNS
campaign to “peacefully liberate” the island. “We are willing to talk with Taiwan about the specific process and conditions of peaceful liberation, and we hope that the Taiwan side will send a representative to Beijing or some other place they think proper for these talks,” Zhou Enlai remarked at the Third Plenum of the First National People’s Congress on June 28, 1956. Liao Xinwen told NewsChina that this statement marked the first time that the CPC had publicly proposed cooperation between the CPC and the KMT since the Chinese Civil War. Previously, the only cooperation between the two political entities had been CPC support for the KMTled Northern Expedition to reunify China in 1924, and an agreement by both sides to wage war jointly against Japan after the latter’s invasion of China proper during World War II. Influenced both by political pressure groups, including some supported by rightwing elements in Japan calling for Taiwanese independence, and rumors that the US intended to replace him with a more obedient
Congress and the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, keep Taiwan as it is. It is up to Chiang Kai-shek whether or not he conducts democratic reform and socialist transformation in Taiwan, and when.” According to Cao, Mao prefixed every mention of Chiang Kai-shek’s name with the honorific “Sir.” Later, both Mao and Zhou allegedly made pledges that Chiang would retain political control of Taiwan, and that both the generalissimo and his deputy Chen Cheng would be given top-level positions in the PRC government. According to Forty Years of Trials and Hardships, a memoir by former political secretary Tong Xiaopeng, who served under both Mao and Zhou, Chiang dispatched Song Yishan, a member of Taiwan’s legislative council and also the brother of Song Xilian, a high-ranking KMT general captured by the CPC during the Civil War, to Beijing in the spring of 1957 to confirm Cao’s account of the negotiations. Luo Qingchang, then office director of the CPC’s leadership working group on the Taiwan issue, met with Song and pledged that Taiwan could enjoy a “high degree of autonomy” after unification on the condition that any foreign military force on the island must first withdraw.
The mainland’s promise, however, did not dispel Chiang’s suspicions about the ulterior motives of the CPC. Possessed of a hatred of communists, he felt reluctant to give up his dream of one day launching a counterattack against the mainland. By the summer of 1958, KMT troop numbers on the offshore island groups of Kinmen and Matsu, which lay between Taiwan and the mainland, had increased to over 100,000. On August 23, 1958, the People’s Libera-
tion Army (PLA) shelled the KMT barracks on Kinmen on the direct orders of Mao. The shelling lasted two hours and killed over 600 KMT soldiers and officers, plus two American advisors. “The bombardment did not target Chiang, but the US. Let’s see how effective their Mutual Defense Treaty really is,” Mao reportedly remarked at a CPC conference following the bombardment. When the mainland guns fell silent on September 4, US Secretary of State John Foster Dulles made a public statement reaffirming that the US was obligated to protect Taiwan, but that there was “still room for negotiations.” The CPC responded with another barrage of 30,000 shells on September 8. A week and a half after Dulles’ statement, China and the US resumed diplomatic talks between ambassadors in Warsaw, but made little headway. On September 30, Dulles told a press conference that the Mutual Defense Treaty, while applicable to Taiwan’s main island, did not cover Kinmen and Matsu. Analysts agreed that the US government was attempting to avoid drawing both the PLA and its main backer – the Soviet Union – into a full-scale military showdown in an already volatile East Asian region. According to the historical records on the mainland, Mao expressly ordered the PLA to target KMT fleets to see if the US would defend them. The KMT forces, the official line states, would be disappointed. On October 6, 1958, Mao issued a public letter to the Taiwanese people in the name of Peng Dehuai, then his defense minister, calling for a “joint fight against imperialism.” About three weeks later, Mao issued another public letter, restating this idea while also announcing that Kinmen would be now shelled “every other day” – the island had previously been bombarded every day.
With hindsight, many historians have attributed the gradual de-escalation of the PLA bombardment to the huge military gap between the PRC and the US – the CPC did not establish a navy or air force until after the Korean War. Yet Chinese historians have opined that Mao actually hoped that Chiang could hold Kinmen, as losing or abandoning the island to mainland control would further isolate Taiwan, and likely push it closer to the US. “We could cooperate with Chiang, if they resisted the US,” Mao reportedly told journalist Cao Juren during their 1958 meeting. “We agree to his control of Kinmen and Matsu as long as he divorces himself from the US. The US will eventually make Taiwan a colony or mandated territory. Only the CPC and the KMT are ‘twin branches’ [on the same tree].” In The Generalissimo’s Son, a biography of Chiang Ching-kuo by American historian and diplomat Jay Taylor, evidence was cited that Chiang senior rejected a power-sharing proposal put forward by the US. According to Wang Yi, a Chinese-American academic working with the Library of Congress whom Taylor cited, Chiang sent a message to Mao through outside channels saying that he would have to withdraw from Kinmen and Matsu if the shelling continued, hinting at a “final separation” of the two sides.
One and Four
For unpublicized political reasons, Cao Juren stopped serving as a formal middleman between the mainland and Taiwan in 1959. But cross-Straits talks continued, with several other representatives who had deep relations with both the CPC and the KMT assuming Cao’s position. According to Tong Xiaopeng’ memoir, in NEWSCHINA I February 2016
1959 CPC leaders met Zhang Shizhao, a former member of the ROC’s political advisory department who later engaged in the peaceful talks between the CPC and the KMT at the end of the Civil War, proposing two suggestions to solve the cross-Straits issue: to gradually resume cross-Straits communications step by step, or to grant Taiwan high autonomy in both political and military affairs on the condition that Taiwan admits that it is a part of China. The KMT side, however, gave the proposals the cold shoulder. The CPC did not give up. On May 22, 1960, the PRC government officially defined its general attitude toward the cross-Straits issue, stating they “would rather leave Taiwan in Chiang’s hands than place it into those of the US.” The mainland proposed four measures it could enact to assure Taiwan: allow Chiang autonomy in all areas save foreign policy, financially support Taiwan’s military and social construction, not enact social or political reform in Taiwan without Chiang’s permission, and cease all cross-Straits espionage. Zhou Enlai also somehow managed to send a photo of Chiang senior’s hometown to the generalissimo, promising to take good care of his and Chen Cheng’s relatives still on the mainland. According to Liao Xinwen, former director of the Party Literature Research Office, someone from Taiwan once sent a message to the mainland at that time, telling the PRC government that Taiwan would no longer send spies to “destroy the mainland’s order” and that cross-Straits talks were inevitable. Yet Chiang senior still held a last glimmer of hope that he would “recapture the mainland.” Although the US opposed his “counterattack” plan, worrying that the CPC would retaliate by occupying Taiwan and severing a vital US supply line in Asia, ChiNEWSCHINA I February 2016
ang saw his chance in the mid-1960s, in the wake of a famine in the PRC and at a time when Sino-Russian relations were beginning to fracture. In the summer of 1965, Chiang Kai-shek launched a preliminary attack on the mainland to test PRC and US resolve, only to suffer a disastrous defeat at sea.
In 1963, Chen Cheng, who openly opposed the “Two Chinas” idea before the US, quit his job reportedly due to conflicts with both Chiangs – he had some disputes with Chiang Ching-kuo on internal affairs, and Chiang senior intended to pass his position to his son rather than to Chen, causing consternation on the mainland. On December 6, 1963, the same month that Chen formally submitted his resignation, Zhou arranged a secret meeting with Taiwan after he made an official visit to 14 countries. Wu Ruilin, the commander of the frigate Zhou boarded, recalled that he was ordered to do a small military maneuver in order to evade observation, but he did not know its purpose until 30 years later. One of Zhou’s guards recalled that they escorted Zhou to a small island after one night of navigation, but they were not allowed to stay for the meeting. However, he was sure that the person Zhou met was neither Chiang Kai-shek nor his son. According to Liao Xinwen, Zhou told that person that the US was attempting to make Taiwan an independent political body against the wishes of both the CPC and the KMT. Zhou said that the mainland, weak or strong, would not abandon Taiwan. He also commented that it would be “best” that Taiwan returned to the mainland, but that it would also be “fine” if the KMT managed it for the time being. According to Luo Qingchang,
who was present at the meeting, the person Zhou met later made a visit to Beijing, telling Zhou that he had relayed the mainland’s terms to both Chiangs, adding that Chiang junior was moved by Zhou’s gift to him, a bottle of his favorite baijiu, a Chinese liquor. “The CPC and the KMT actually reached a consensus on the ‘One China’ principle,” Luo, who passed away in 2014, remarked in one interview. Chen Cheng died on March 5, 1965. His last words, according to Liao Xinwen, had nothing to do with anti-CPC sentiments. Although some right-wing officials in Taiwan asked Chiang senior to say Chen died denouncing the CPC, Chiang refused, perhaps indicating a change in his attitude. According to already declassified historical records, Chiang senior once told Cao Juren “six conditions” for Taiwan’s return, a draft similar to the CPC’s One Principle and Four Articles. But the PRC’s subsequent sweeping political campaigns once again shook his determination. The last possible outreach was initiated by Chiang senior in the early 1970s after the US established diplomatic relations with the PRC. However, Zhang Shizhao, then 90 years old, died in Hong Kong before he could serve as mediator between the ROC and PRC. As Chiang senior, Zhou and Mao successively died and Taiwan’s pro-independence movement gradually developed with the founding of the Democratic Progressive Party, the Taiwan issue, as it is still termed by the mainland, remains a hard nut to crack. “The Taiwan issue has remained an unsatisfied wish of the older generation, and I hope the new generation of Chinese leaders can fulfill it,” Luo Yuan, son of Luo Qingchang and also a retired PLA general, told NewsChina.
Documentarian Zhou Hao
Glimpse Into Chaos
By gaining exclusive access to the daily working life of a Chinese city mayor, fly-on-the-wall director Zhou Hao has enlivened public perceptions of a rich, complex social sphere By Zhou Fengting and Yuan Ye
irector Zhou Hao’s latest documentary is simply named Datong in Chinese, for the city where it was shot. In English, it’s The Chinese Mayor, after its protagonist. It’s not easy for an independent documentarian to gain access to a public figure as sensitive as a Communist Party-appointed mayor in a major Chinese city for even a simple TV interview, never mind a three-year, fly-on-the-wall documentary. But Zhou Hao managed to gain the cooperation of Geng Yanbo, mayor of Datong, Shanxi Province, perhaps the country’s only celebrity official. “Was I tough throughout?” Geng asks Zhou, at the end of the documentary. “What did you film, anyway?” “You saw me filming every time,” Zhou replies. “I wasn’t paying attention,” says Geng. “I forgot you were there, you’ve been around so long.” Zhou’s ability to take his subject’s eye off the camera allowed him to capture many key events in Geng’s professional life, particularly the large-scale demolitions and huge construction projects launched in Datong, the controversies around these projects, and the mayor’s
anger, anxiety and sorrow. Often sharing the frame are the people whose lives are changed by Geng’s policies, whose praise and criticism provide a social context for one man’s pursuit of his goals. The Chinese Mayor currently has a rating of nine out of 10 on review aggregator Douban. The film also received the award for Best Documentary at the Taipei Golden Horse Film Festival in November 2015, making him the first director to win a Golden Horse award for two consecutive years after the success of his 2014 documentary Cotton. Zhou didn’t attend the awards ceremony. In a post on his WeChat social media account, he commented: “It feels like a dream. I had just woken up and was on my way to a shoot.” His next documentary started shooting the day he won the award.
Geng Yanbo was 50 when he was appointed mayor of the northern city of Datong in 2008. Founded about 1,600 years ago, Datong was the capital of the Northern Wei Dynasty (386–535), and served as the NEWSCHINA I February 2016
Photo by CFP
auxiliary capital of several other dynasties and regimes. While home to the Yungang Grottoes, the largest Buddhist reliefs in China, and a handful of other famous historical sites, the city itself, when Geng arrived, was a heavily polluted industrial center, typified by the Sovietstyle urban layout, crumbling infrastructure and poor quality of life common in second- and third-tier cities in northern China. Geng’s plan was to restore and protect the few remaining ancient features of Datong, and transform the rest into a prosperous, cultured metropolis. The flagship project of Geng’s scheme was to completely replicate the city’s Ming Dynasty city wall and other structures, a project that would necessitate the demolition of the homes of 500,000 local residents – nearly 30 percent of Datong’s total population. Geng was in his office until after 10 PM almost every night, rising again at 4:30 AM. In the documentary, his long-suffering wife complains about his antisocial working hours and even breaks into a meeting Geng is having with important potential investors, demanding he come home. Every morning, petitioners are seen waiting for Geng outside the NEWSCHINA I February 2016
gates of his residence in the city’s main military compound. Most are there to protest the demolition of their homes. According to the municipal work report issued by Datong’s city government in 2012, more than 1,000 hectares of the city’s urban area have been demolished since 2008. Ownership rights in the area’s shantytowns and “urban villages” were at the heart of countless disputes. These stories typically ended in one of two ways: many residents got new apartments and considerable compensation, while others lost their homes. In the documentary, Geng is visibly exhausted by his attempts to balance his development plans with the needs of Datong’s residents. Geng’s determination and reputed toughness are apparent throughout the film. He is shown openly reprimanding an official for his “inaction” on demolition work, demanding the man’s resignation. In another scene, he verbally abuses a developer for his “shoddy work.” He tried to personally address the complaints of petitioners, even going to demolition sites to try to persuade the owners of so-called “nail houses” to agree to relocate. In the five years before Geng was suddenly appointed as the mayor of Shanxi’s provincial capital, Taiyuan, in February 2013, Datong was transformed almost beyond recognition. Though many citizens continued to slam the demolitions, Geng had accrued a degree of popularity rare for a Communist official. More than 10,000 citizens protested against his relocation to Taiyuan, petitioning for him to stay. Geng, however, didn’t have a choice in the matter. He left Datong US$3 billion in debt, a crane-strewn construction site littered with unfinished projects that his successor was unwilling to continue. Today, when approached by the media, Zhou Hao isn’t keen on discussing Geng and The Chinese Mayor. The film was sold to the BBC in February 2015, and was later broadcast by the UK’s Channel 4. Some Chinese websites began to offer unlicensed downloads of the BBC cut of the film, which unnerved Zhou – and not because of the lost royalties. “I don’t really hope this movie will be circulated too widely [in China],” Zhou told NewsChina. He revealed that he has reached out personally to websites offering the film, asking them to delete the download links.
Zhou is 10 years Geng’s junior. Born in the southwestern province of Guizhou, Zhou graduated from college in 1988 and took a job at the Guizhou Institute of Mechanical Design. In his free time, Zhou cultivated an interest in photography, particularly street photography. Gradually, he worked his way into the field of photojournalism, landing a job with Guizhou Daily in 1992, then moving on to Xinhua News Agency’s Guizhou branch before ending up at the influential Southern Weekly. In 2002, he became a videographer for the Nanfang Newspaper Group and began shooting documentaries. “Pitch stories, get funding, shoot, edit and done” is his philosophy, he told our reporter. His journalistic background has also made him conscious of which stories are worthy of coverage. In 13 years, he has
Photo by CFP
Scenes from The Chinese Mayor, and its poster art (bottom left)
shot eight feature-length projects, over half of which have won him awards. His first documentary, Houjie Township, covered the lives of industrial workers in Houjie, a town under the jurisdiction of Dongguan, a manufacturing base in Guangdong Province. Most of his subjects lived in a single apartment complex. Quarrels, love affairs, prostitution, robbery, bullying and conflict made the documentary a powerful depiction of what Zhou calls the “absurd reality” in which certain groups in China are forced to live. The project won him the award for Best Young Director at the 2003 Yunnan Multi-Culture Visual Festival. “There have never been absolutely ‘good’ or ‘bad’ people in my films,” Zhou told our reporter. He holds on to the ideals of “making no judgment,” “being tolerant” and “presenting the complicated [face of] human nature.” In Zhou’s opinion, his job isn’t to deliver clear ideas and opinions, but to blur the lines that define preconceived ideas, or even destroy them, through the multifaceted presentation of the “chaos” that characterizes real life. Zhou’s second documentary, Gaosan, was an in-depth portrayal of the university entrance examination preparation undergone by millions of Chinese high school students in their senior year. Gaosan was awarded the Best Documentary prize at the Hong Kong International Film Festival in 2006. Using, a documentary about a drug trafficker named Long Ge, won the award for Best Asian Documentary at the 2008 Taiwan Interna-
tional Documentary Festival. Zhou has remained friends with Long Ge and continues to lend him money, despite the latter being sentenced to 14 years in prison in 2006. On each of his projects, Zhou tries to get as close as possible to his subjects while maintaining some distance, especially when his projects stray into the political realm. In The Chinese Mayor, Zhou recorded the election process that determined Datong’s mayor and Party secretary (in both a single, Party-approved candidate runs unopposed). He caught Geng Yanbo criticizing this electoral system on camera. Party Secretary Feng Lixiang, a prominent figure in The Chinese Mayor, was arrested for corruption one year after the film was shot. Zhou also filmed the chief justice of the Datong People’s Court asking Geng for suggestions on how to deal with the house arrest of a property developer. In the last film of Zhou’s that involved a Party secretary, 2007’s The Transition Period, the footage, which depicted the official in question discussing how to return a bribe, was left out of his final cut. He reincorporated it after the official was arrested for corruption. When Zhou’s shoot in Datong reached its end, Geng took Zhou to the airport himself before heading back to work. Since Geng took office as the mayor of Taiyuan, 250,000 people have been relocated. A total of 17 overpasses and seven underground highways have been built. But a promised subway line remains unopened, and the costs of a new airport are mounting. NEWSCHINA I February 2016
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Director Feng Xiaogang
In Front of the Camera After a two-year break from the film industry, director Feng Xiaogang, known mainly for his many light-hearted blockbusters, returns as a lead actor in an action flick. NewsChina talks with Feng about his new choice, the motivation behind it and whatâ€™s to come
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Photo by Zhen Hongge
By Wan Jiahuan
ne of China’s most famous and commercially successful directors, Feng Xiaogang, uncharacteristically stepped onto a movie set to play the title role in the action movie Mr. Six, which premiered on the Chinese mainland on December 24, 2015. It turned out to be a winning move — at Taiwan’s prestigious Golden Horse Awards in November, Feng vaulted over many professional actors to win the award for Best Leading Actor. “I should have won the Best New Performer award, because I am a fledgling actor. If I receive the Best Leading Actor award, that doesn’t leave much room for improvement,” Feng said in his acceptance speech read by Mr. Six director Guan Hu. That night, Feng was actually in Beijing, singing at a promotional concert at the Beijing Workers’ Stadium. Mr. Six is about an aging former ne’er-dowell who faces off with a gang of younger mobsters after they kidnap his son. In fact, the Chinese name of the movie is Lao Pao’r, a Beijing slang term that refers to indolent older men who were gangsters or thugs back in their day. Feng said he is quite familiar with such people — he has many such friends — and he also stirred up trouble when he was young. As with the movie’s titular hero, the old rascals in Feng’s life were mostly straightshooting, impulsive, loyal and honest, though they never shied away from a fight. Most important, they were willing to risk their own lives to help a friend. However, such values no longer fit into today’s world. In middle age, Mr. Six has become a nobody on society’s lowest rung. He has “little dignity” in life, Guan Hu said. Guan hoped the movie may “restore the dignity” of Mr. Six and other lao pao’r. Although he has led a successful career, Feng Xiaogang empathized with Mr. Six. “The character feels oppressed, like he’s suffocating and he wants to break free,” Feng said. “His son’s kidnapping is an outlet for him to let it all out.” When he accepted the role, Feng hadn’t worked on a movie set for two years. Throughout his directorial career, he has learned to compromise — he often “traded”
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with investors, making them entertaining, commercial movies in return for support for his more serious and artistic films. However, in his mid-50s, he suffered his first box-office failure with historical drama Back to 1942 in 2012, and then received low ratings — including a 5.6 out of 10 on popular cultural social networking site douban.com — for the comedy Personal Tailor in 2013. Without knowing it, Feng had taken his hand off the pulse of today’s young consumers. He was tired of the constant compromising with investors and those in power. “If I were still 30, I may compromise… But I’m nearly 60… I don’t want to compromise anymore. There isn’t enough time,” he wrote in one microblog post last July. He realized he just wanted to free himself from the pressures of navigating generation gaps and make the kinds of movies he wanted to make before it was too late. “Actually I have more freedom now. It’s obviously unwise if I don’t utilize this freedom and just stick to my old role of being a cash cow,” he said. NewsChina met with Feng before the premiere of Mr. Six in Beijing to discuss his new acting career and the direction this newfound “freedom” might take him. NewsChina: After accepting the role of Mr. Six, how did you prepare for it? Feng Xiaogang: To be frank, I didn’t. I had been familiar with people like [Mr. Six] in my life. There are a lot of people like him around me. Though there might be some differences, they are generally fairly similar. They are impulsive, loyal and responsible. They have their bottom line. Though they are seen as hooligans who like to fight, they actually have their own principles. NC: In your view, what were these “old hooligans” like in the past, and what are they like now? What’s your own point of view on them? Feng: Many of these men have been detained or put in jail. In the joint, these “fighters” would definitely despise those who steal or rape. They loathe such behavior. These people were more like those naughty class-
mates you knew in school — you may find them noisy and scrappy, but they are not really that bad. Many of them are older now, and they’ve changed. Some lived high-profile lives when they were young, but now have become ordinary. Some have become gentle and easygoing. But then there are some who haven’t changed at all. They are still scrappy and impulsive. NC: You have said both you and Mr. Six have your own spiritual world which is at odds with the world today. What aspects of yourself are incompatible with today’s world? Feng: Many of the rules in the old days have become ruined now. For example: Film actors, including those in Hollywood, should appear on TV as little as possible. But now all our movie stars are on the small screen. So why should audience members spend money to see them in a movie theater? It’s short-sighted and suicidal. They just think that they can make money on TV so they all go on TV. Now you feel that people only love money. Of course, I like money a lot (laughs), but I think there are things I like more than money. NC: At the end of the 1990s, when most directors in China aimed to make serious masterpieces, you chose to make New Year comedies [that traditionally premiere during the Chinese New Year vacation]. Later, when most movie studios turned toward commercial movies, you instead set your heart on making serious films. Why is it that you always seem to take a different path? Feng: I’ve never heard someone sum it up like that; well said. When everyone rushes toward something, I go toward another. [In the late 1990s,] the most important thing for China’s film industry was to attract moviegoers and keep theaters afloat. Otherwise, cinemas would have to close and become bathhouses or nightclubs. When the movie market was more established, I felt as a director I should make more meaningful films. I thought I should shoot movies that would make people think. There is also a need for market-oriented
Photo by CFP
time that made you feel lost or directionless? If so, when was it? Feng: I have. From when I shot Back to 1942 and Personal Tailor until the last one or two years.
Feng Xiaogang on-screen in Mr. Six
movies. But we shouldn’t become slaves to the market. Since we have gained some status in the marketplace, we are entitled to utilize it to make movies that are more related to what’s in our hearts.
NC: What triggered it? Feng: After I shot Back to 1942, I discovered that the audience and I were no longer on the same frequency. Our common ground was gone. It wasn’t like that before… before I had known the audience well. NC: In recent years, China’s moviegoers have become younger and younger. Most directors must eventually face that situation. It’s like the confrontation and friction between the older and younger generations depicted in Mr. Six. What do you think about that yourself? Do you feel like… Feng: I’m behind the times? Yes, I do feel like that sometimes. But I also think the movie market should have the space for different audiences and directors. Younger audiences have directors who share common ground with them and create for them. Older audiences have their own directors. The audiences and their directors understand each other.
NC: What do you think your mental age is? Feng: Around 30 or 40.
NC: China’s main moviegoers today were born after 1990 or even 1995. Have you ever thought of getting to know their ways of thinking, tastes and preferences? Feng: No, I haven’t. You can’t understand what people do at different ages. You try to, but in the end you still can’t understand them. I can’t understand why my daughter likes watching celebrity reality TV shows so much. She must have her own reasons. But I think I shouldn’t waste the time I have left trying to figure out what they want. I’d better first figure out what I want (laughs).
NC: Have you ever had a mid-life crisis, a
NC: What is your plan for your next film?
NC: Mr. Six is nearly 60 years old, but he abhors people referring to him as being “a half-century-old” man. You are around the same age as Mr. Six. Do you have the same aversion? Feng: Yes, I do. I’m almost 60 but I don’t feel that I’m old.
Feng: I want to try something new and to continue learning. I’m working on a movie adapted from Liu Zhenyun’s novel I Am Not Pan Jinlian. I have been experimenting with some new approaches to filmmaking that no one has done before. It has been a learning process, which really excites me. People say that it is risky. Why isn’t everyone using these approaches? Obviously, it’s risky and might offend audiences, so no one has tried. However, if you always adhere to common practices, while it’s reliable, it’s also pretty boring. It’s not creative. Why not try something risky? Even if it fails, I won’t have regrets, since at least I tried. NC: [Famous actor] Zhang Guoli once said that you are a pessimist. Do you agree? Feng: Yes, I am. And I often make everyone at the dinner table pessimistic. NC: Where does your pessimism come from? Feng: There aren’t many things that make me optimistic. Actually, many comedy directors are pessimistic. Like [actor and director] Xu Zheng — if you talk with him, you won’t think he’s an optimist. NC: What do you do when you feel most pessimistic? Feng: I do nothing. Maybe I’ll become a nihilist in the end (laughs) — I’ll go from being optimistic to pessimistic and then nihilistic. But currently I don’t think I’ll go any further. NC: The Chinese movie market is quite prosperous. Are you optimistic or pessimistic about the future of the market? Feng: Optimistic. But on the other hand, it seems that a movie isn’t what a movie should be anymore. People have no persistence. I hope we can return to what a movie used to be. NEWSCHINA I February 2016
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A Brick of Beijing Smog Wang Renzheng, a 34-year-old Chinese performance artist who insistently calls himself “Brother Nut,”spent 100 days walking the streets of Beijing with an industrial vacuum cleaner to create a dark brown brick formed from the dust and pollutants he collected from the capital’s smoggy air. Brother Nut’s undertaking, called Project Dust, lasted from July 24 to November 29. Each day, he spent four hours pushing the large, 1,000-watt vacuum cleaner around various Beijing sites, holding up its head to suck up the particles in the air. The artist stated that this seemingly absurd act is meant to show the absurdity in life that everyone takes for granted. On November 30, the artist mixed the collected dust with clay before taking it to a brick factory in Tangshan, Hebei Province, where the brick was finally produced. Some netizens even attempted to buy Wang’s creation (with one bid of 10,000 yuan, or about US$1,542), but the artist declined all of the offers, “unless someone would have paid me 100 million yuan [US$15.4m] for it, then I would have used the money to tackle the air pollution problem,”he said. On December 5, Brother Nut donated his brick of smog to a courtyard house in Beijing that was undergoing renovations, making it disappear into the walls of the city, just like “putting a drop of water into the ocean.”
1. Day 98, Brother Nut near Beijing neighborhood Wangjing’s famous panda statue 2. Day 86, Brother Nut roams the capital’s central business district
3. Day 87, Brother Nut outside Beijing National Stadium, also known as the Bird’s Nest 4. Day 86, Brother Nut near State broadcaster CCTV’s headquarters, known to locals as the “Big Pants” 5. Day 84, Brother Nut drags his industrial vacuum cleaner through Tian’anmen Square
NEWSCHINA I February 2016
1 5 1. Brother Nut is excited to receive the finished "brick of smog" 2. A brick factory in Tangshan, Hebei Province, fired the brick on December 5 and imprinted it with the words “Project Dust” 3. Brother Nut shows his chat history with a person who wanted to purchase his brick 4. Brother Nut and his brick at a construction site, December 5 5. Brother Nut places his brick of smog into a pile of bricks to make it “disappear”
NEWSCHINA I February 2016
NEWSCHINA I February 2016
OUTSIDEIN perspectives from within China
Above the Snowline
Snow Mountain, Taiwan’s second-highest peak, is a paradise for intrepid hikers and those wishing to see a different, wilder side of the island By Francesca Triggs
Sunrise over snow mountain
etermined to seize every opportunity to explore Taiwan, when my language school announced it was organizing a three-day hike up Snow Mountain, I immediately signed up. At an elevation of 3,886 meters, Snow Mountain is the highest peak of the Xueshan mountain range, and the second-highest mountain in Taiwan, after the main peak, Yushan. Of the two, Snow Mountain is regarded as the more scenic. Justifiably concerned about our state of physical fitness after two months of Taipei street food, our school organized a few “warm-up” hikes. These mainly took place in the mountains of Yilan county on the island’s northeast coast, and were often eventful in themselves. On one occasion the heavens opened, and we decided to take a “short cut.” This, in hindsight, was a mistake. We should have been forewarned by the fact that our teachers remained on the straight and narrow, cheerfully waving the rest of us off as we headed down what would best be described as a two-kilometer, sometimes almost vertical, mud slide! It took us about two hours to reach the train station Silver Fox Cave
at the bottom, where our group’s generally filthy appearance all but cleared the carriage for the trip back to Taipei. Thankfully, the trial hikes brought us much closer together as a group, although we were slightly skeptical at the thought of embarking on an excursion at least three times as long so soon afterward. On Snow Mountain, of course, there would be no hope of shower facilities to remove the fauna and flora that we would, according to past experience, invariably be caked in by the end of Day One.
The Big Tamale
So it was that 20 of us congregated at the main gates of National Taiwan University one Saturday morning, and journeyed by bus to Shei-Pa National Park in the island’s mountainous interior. The journey took about four hours, including two stops, before we checked in at the police station in Wuling Farm (hikers are required to do this for their own safety). After lurching its way along mountain roads, our bus finally arNEWSCHINA I February 2016
It’s best to arrange your trip through local tour operators, as navigating public transportation into the national park is challenging for non-locals. Tour operators will also take care of lodging, equipment, food and other important logistics, ensuring you can focus your attention on your climb.
rived at the lodge that was to mark the start of our trek. Here we were joined by our guides, and began our ascent. In single file we marched up two kilometers of stairways through beautiful pine forests to the Qika Cabin, where we left the gathering dusk outside and stumbled into our lodgings for the night. All of us bunked down in a single long, dark room with bunks on either side, our personal space delineated by white painted numbers. Kitted out in headlamps, we packed into the “kitchen” and drank hot ginger tea, courtesy of our guides, who also – somehow – produced a steam-wreathed feast of various toothsome dishes seemingly out of thin air. All of us were wearing items of clothing scavenged from friends, having arrived in Taipei totally unprepared for the cooler temperatures in the mountains, and we huddled together, playing cards. Sleeping bags were promptly hurled in all directions by one of the guides, and by 9 PM we were all curled up, struggling to get warm. We awoke the next morning, thrilled to find that monkeys had invaded the girls’ bathroom. Despite their forwardness, however, they NEWSCHINA I February 2016
Photo by Christopher Neale
Photo by Christopher Neale
While trails are clearly signposted, and cabins are equipped to replenish water supplies, take warm clothing, plenty of liquids and, if traveling without guides, sleeping bags and bedrolls – temperatures plummet after nightfall. If you’re striking out alone, it’s worth bearing in mind that you’ll need to make sure you can enter the national park. Restrictions on the number of hikers permitted mean that climbing permits are needed for a few of Taiwan’s more famous mountains.
did not like having their photos taken. Not one bit. Our attempts to secure selfies with these simian intruders thwarted, we steeled ourselves for a longer hike than on the previous day, as we marched on the peak. As we climbed, the scenery became increasingly alpine, and the air delightfully fresh. Although it was nearing the end of November, the weather was clement enough that most of us climbed in shorts and T-shirts. A slog up the precipitous and aptly named “Crying Hill” left our thighs burning but our eyes stoically dry, and we continued on to the mountain’s east peak, where we stopped for lunch and the obligatory photo-op. From there, an undulating path through evocative bamboo forests led us to our second cabin, which was crowded as it’s the only essential stop on a trail that is impossible to complete in a single day’s climb (meaning all kinds of mountaineers, from beginners to pros, make a weekend of it). The crowds lent a somewhat, shall we say, “lived-in” smell to the room. The mountain views, however, were absolutely stunning from
Come dressed for cold and wet!
A glittering frost covered the earth as we lined up for hot rice outside the hut, which was designed to fuel us for the next few hours. Thankfully, we were able to leave our backpacks behind for collection on the way down, as the peak is a sprint finish. A shimmering array of stars hung in the sky above us, matched by the glittering snake of headlamps and flashlights meandering up-
wards on the path ahead, making their way through the Black Forest (home to the elusive Formosan black bear), and up the magnificent glacial cirque of the peak itself. After around three hours, we summitted, just as the first rays of sunlight broke over the horizon. The views from the top were absolutely breathtaking, with Yushan to the south, the Nanhu mountain range to the north and Daba Mountain nearby. Despite Snow Mountain’s name, and the freezing temperatures at sunrise, however, there was no snow in sight. The 10-kilometer hike back down to the trailhead was completed a lot faster than the ascent, and by 3 PM we were back at our starting point, even though we were constantly stopping to drink in the beautiful scenery along with our bottled water. Whether you’re a seasoned trekker or you just want to experience the astonishing stillness of Taiwan’s mountainous hinterland, Snow Mountain offers a truly unmatchable experience. Photo by Christopher Neale
the front entrance of the cabin, though as temperatures swung towards freezing and the toilet situation was even worse than at the previous shelter, we were beginning to feel like true adventurers (lavatory pits over vats of raw sewage tend to have that effect). A wonderful symphony of snoring echoed throughout the room that night as we lay, row upon row, cocooned in sleeping bags. At the ungodly hour of 1:30 AM, the cocoons hatched, and an army of hikers climbed from their wooden perches and out into the night.
Thanks to the rapid expansion of Internet access in China, many average Joes and Janes have become household names – the most sensational of whom, however, have often been pushed into the spotlight with the help of powerful publicity courtesy of influential sponsors. In Chinese, the companies or syndicates catapulting ordinary people into stardom have been dubbed tuishou. With “tui” meaning “to push” and “shou” meaning “hands,” the term tuishou has its origins in traditional Chinese shadow boxing, and subsequently became used to describe “hidden hands” behind the movement of markets or social phenomena. Now, however, the term has been most commonly applied to generating
Internet hype. For example, busker-turned-superstar Ren Yueli, dubbed “Xidan Girl” by netizens, rocketed to fame after a clip of her performing in Beijing’s Xidan subway station was given extensive play online thanks to funding from a Beijing-based network media company. Controversy can be a boon to those craving more clicks, as was seen when tuishou “kingmaker” Chen Mo hyped up the physical appearance of a young girl he claimed resembled Hong Kong songstress Karen Mok. By inviting netizens to comment on the girl’s dress and figure, before throwing the floor open to a full debate over her relative “merits and flaws,” not only did Chen raise his own profile, but also that of Mok, while the unfortunate subject
of the hype was roundly slandered by online trolls. Products can also be the focus of tuishou by companies who create online buzz in order to shift more stock in China’s trend-obsessed online marketplace. A section of professional tuishou “experts” who are paid to generate online buzz has now come under scrutiny under a series of laws criminalizing the dissemination of “fake news stories.” In 2013, Chinese police arrested several bloggers in Beijing on charges of causing social disturbances, illegal online operations and defamation. Media reports claimed all those arrested were involved in tuishou, as well as “making and spreading rumors” in a bid to cause social unrest. NEWSCHINA I February 2016
flavor of the month
Yes, But Is It Pasta?
oming to China, I found myself in another adoptive country seemingly set on feeding me to bursting. At home, a family meal is never over quickly, with each person around the table trying to fatten up everyone else. In my house, it’s a challenge to spend less than an hour at the dinner table. What can you do? We’re Italian. The happy look I see on Mom’s face when I hand back an empty plate is an expression I recognize in the faces of cooks here in China. Both Italians and Chinese are happiest after a good meal – and the similarities between the two cultures don’t end there. Sharing is the focus of traditional Chinese meals. Be it home cooking or a meal out, many dishes are shared from the center of a round table. The guests reach over each other to scoop up spicy tofu, pass around the soy-slathered eggplant, laughing and chatting all the while. This way of eating not only creates a buzzing atmosphere, it optimizes the opportunities to taste absolutely everything on offer! One thing is certain, whether you’re beside Hangzhou’s West Lake or on the Amalfi coast, when the noodles arrive steaming at the table, be prepared for your dining companions to turn into animals. There is nothing more anticipated – or satisfying – than a scalding bowl of sauce-soused carbs. As an Italian, this forces me to reflect on which is better – Italian pasta or Chinese noodles? Italian pasta, commonly made with flour and eggs, is nowadays typically storebought in its dried form. In China, most noodles are fresh, and can be easily knocked together with wheat or buckwheat flour, rice flour or any other form of starch – potato included. Please don’t ask me which I prefer. Though I miss a good plate of penne pomodoro, I fall in love with every new noodle dish I taste in China. It’s in my genes. Just like the vast assortment of pasta shapes found in Italian markets, China has its own seemingly limitless collection of noodle styles. On my quest so far, I have slurped up many different types, each one competing to be better than the next. Daoxiaomian – knife-sheared noodles – are flat and finger-width, hand-shaved from a large slab of dough with a special hook-shaped knife (or a cleaver in the home). Their edges are rough and lengths irregular, giving them a rustic feel, which reminds me of my grandmother’s homemade pappardelle. With artful rolls of her mezzaluna knife, she would quickly slice wafer-thin dough into long strips. Paired with her famous oxtail and tomato sugo, the pappardelle went down a storm. I was recentNEWSCHINA I February 2016
ly served a daoxiaomian dish that so resembled that oxtail pasta, I just about hugged the waitress. Served in a beefy tomato sauce with seasonal vegetables and peppery seasoning, all it needed was a few gratings of parmigiano reggiano and I’d have been right at home! The passion expressed for skilled pasta-making in Italy is seen in equal profusion in China. Even in student canteens I have watched in awe as lamian – pulled noodles – are stretched to order behind the countertops. In 10 seconds, an unappealing lump of dough is manipulated into five perfectly proportioned servings of spaghetti-like, milk-white noodles. The dough is first rolled and ripped into short, thick tubes, which are separated, stretched and thinned between the chef’s fingers with an “accordion playing” hand action. Fentiao – starch noodles – can be made of sweet potato or bean starch, and are popular in the south of China. Glassy, thick and chewy, they constitute a go-to dish on a cold winter’s day. One particularly choice serving style is to cook the noodles simply with garlic and soy sauce, kicked up a notch at the eleventh hour with a splash of vinegar. Though a little tricky to maneuver with chopsticks (they’re slippery rascals), the satisfaction obtained by slurping them up can make restaurants specializing in this delicacy unusually silent, at least in terms of conversation. One thing, though, that is off-putting to an Italian, is an over-saucing of their beloved pasta (it’s a common gripe when visiting a ristorante outside of Italy). No matter how tasty, noodles can look less than appetizing, at least to our eyes, when served swimming in a sea of oil. Olive oil is used sparingly in Italian cooking, but in China, many dishes are turned stoplight-red with a deluge of chili, sesame or peanut oil. It doesn't look great, but trust me, it tastes wonderful. Though after a bowl of oily noodles, I do find myself longing for a crust of bread to mop up the oil, again, Italian style – why waste a single drop? A Chinese friend recently invited me to taste “crossing the bridge” rice noodles, a dish with origins in Yunnan Province that has taken the rest of China by storm. This noodle soup variant’s rich broth hides under a thick layer of hot oil – an innovation, the story goes, of a dutiful wife who used it to keep her scholar husband’s noodle soup hot as she crossed a bridge to the island where he studied every day. This enterprising lady understood, like all Italian mothers and grandmothers, that the best way to keep the family happy is to feed them well with what they love – and serve it piping hot!
Photo by CFP
By Olivia Contini
Tummy Trouble By Anitra Williams
Knowing how much international hospitals cost without good insurance, I went to the local military hospital
Illustration by Liu Xiaochao
In certain ways, I have an artist’s disposition. I don’t enjoy planning, I dislike getting bogged down with details and I don’t apply too much logic in my decision-making process. These traits are a mixed bag – they allow me to be fairly easygoing, but they can also conspire to get me into ridiculous situations that might have been avoided with a little bit of research or common sense. While I’ve learned that it’s important to know when to go with the flow and when to force yourself to use that common sense, I still struggle to actually apply this lesson. Last year, I started to suffer from nausea, and it got steadily worse until finally I could barely eat. Knowing how much international hospitals cost without good insurance, I went to the local military hospital, which was, I was told, the best Chinese hospital in town. They had no idea what was wrong with me (though they had some rather presumptuous guesses), so they advised that I get a weijing to find out. A quick check of my phone’s dictionary app revealed that this meant a gastroscopy. It sounded unpleasant, but no more so than the inability to consume food, so I made myself an appointment. “Would you like a putong weijing or a wutong weijing?” Was the first thing the receptionist wanted to know. A quick check of my phone’s dictionary app left me no wiser as to what that meant. When asked to explain the difference, she said that, “The wutong one is slightly more comfortable. It’s also slightly more expensive.” Now, this is where I should’ve planned better, forced myself to get bogged down in details, and applied copious amounts of logic. I should’ve endeavored to find out exactly how much more expensive and exactly how much more comfortable this wutong thing would be. These facts would’ve been pertinent to making this particular decision. But deploying exactly the amount of wisdom I had, I just picked the cheaper option. So, I returned for my putong weijing the following week. “OK, I see here that you – ”
the receptionist looked up from my file and stared at me, aghast. “Are you getting the putong one?” She asked incredulously. I confirmed that I was. “Guys!” She called to her colleagues, “she’s getting the putong weijing!” A murmur went around the room, and the nurses looked at me with a mix of admiration and horror. This was my first indication that I had made a grave mistake. “Alright then, take this form and wait here.” I was ushered over to a bench where two women were waiting. As I sat down, a third
woman was wheeled out of the exam room on a gurney, and the next woman in line went in. “Hello!” Said the lady in front of me brightly. She looked at my form and then at my wrist and then at my confused face and said, “Oh no, are you getting the putong one?” I nodded nervously. I noticed that she had an IV needle in her arm that was all set up to be hooked up to something or other. I placed a mental wager against no one in particular that whatever she would be hooked up to would be more expensive and comfortable than whatever was in store for me. “I got the putong one last time and it was awful,” she continued, “so I’m never doing that again. That’s why I splurged and got the wutong one this time.” I nodded meekly, not sure what to say. “What’s the difference?” I asked, far too late, but before she could answer, the exam room door opened and the lady that had walked in completely upright not 10 minutes before hobbled out, shaking. “That was awful,” she whimpered. “Putong,” my new friend whispered, pointing. My heart sank even lower. By the time it was my turn I started to reconsider just how uncomfortable not eating really was. “Here sweetie, put this in your mouth,” said one of the nurses, handing me a plastic contraption that was clearly designed to prevent me from biting down on the tube that was about to be fed down my throat without anesthetic. Now, my artist’s disposition has gotten me into plenty of really fun situations that I would never take back. I’ve taken impromptu trips, met some amazing people and moved internationally: things that have greatly enhanced my experience on this earth. But, every now and them, I find myself in a situation like the putong weijing one. Rather than leaving me fulfilled, it has left me only with a diagnosis and a creeping suspicion that if it all happened again, I would do exactly the same thing. NEWSCHINA I February 2016
Found in Translation By Madara Rudzite
NEWSCHINA I February 2016
Somehow, in my mind at least, the word “fuwuyuan” is redolent with all the frustrations that many in China’s service industry gleefully inflict on their customers
Illustration by Liu Xiaochao
Studying the Chinese language was never going to be easy. I knew that I would struggle with the tones and vocabulary before I even attempted to master the intricacies of the written form. My only hope was that the grammar would be as “easy” as I had been told. The one thing I had not anticipated, however, was the strange relationship that would develop in my brain between Chinese and other foreign languages I speak, especially English. My brain has already come up with some tricks to avoid overheating. Applying Chinglish, or deploying Chinese vocabulary in English sentences, are both coping mechanisms. “What are we having lunch? Aubergines and mifan [rice]? What about fentiao [glass noodles]?” “Yeah, a wan [bowl] of each sounds good. Will you deal with the fuwuyuan [waiter]?” “Mei guanxi, pal! No worries!” Lunch conversations tend to be the best ones, as you soon give up on trying to translate the names of all the specific dishes and cooking methods. Some of them would make no sense anyway. I mean, everyone around me now knows exactly what xianggan roupian is, and there’s no way that “scented meat strips” is a better name for it, particularly as it’s actually mainly tofu. It is only a matter of time until you start assigning Chinese names to things that you once used English to refer to. Waiter? No, fuwuyuan. The literal translation of “service person” just sounds more respectful. Feeling unwell, but not desperately ill? Bu shufu, or “not comfortable,” is probably better than going all-out with “sick.” My brain decides which language best suits the situation, and employs vocabulary accordingly. For language purists, this may seem blasphemous. Surely if everyone was doing this, what would become of the languages that were being hacked to pieces? Even though linguistic borrowing is a universal phenomenon, switching out nouns for equivalents in another language seems perverse. I would argue that Chinglish and its variants actually allow for something to be found
in translation. “Waiter/waitress” and “fuwuyuan” are not the same. “Waiter” evokes the image of an elegant cafe – not the noisy student canteen where this appellation finds its more apposite home in China. No waiter or waitress worthy of the name ever moved you and your entire party to another table simply for his or her own convenience. Even better, the term is not gender-specific. In that context, “dealing with the fuwuyuan” means much more than just ordering food – which is why nobody wants to do the job. This task means trying to attract their at-
tention, explain what your needs are before they wander off, and trying to decipher their garbled or muffled remarks. Somehow, in my mind at least, the word “fuwuyuan” is redolent with all the frustrations that many in China’s service industry gleefully inflict on their customers. The word shufu – comfortable – is mostly associated with “feeling well,” but its opposite, bu shufu, extends to all negative sensations, from cold to stress to abject disgust. When you’re not shufu, more often than not, your mind as well as your body needs to take five. Some Chinese concepts, meanwhile, just work better in their original language. Mafan, at once a noun, adjective and verb, describes the full gamut of “troublesomeness,” from government bureaucracy to a wayward spouse. I believe all English speakers should adopt this handy term, that has no precise equivalent in translation. If a language other than your native tongue has a better turn of phrase, there’s little frisson to be gained from the schadenfreude of watching someone else struggle to express themselves. Knowing enough Chinese, but not quite enough to rely entirely upon the language for communication, can often help one express the raw meaning of a sentiment with an eloquence the native speaker might struggle to understand. As fluency improves, this commitment to simple expression tends to fade, and we start seeking ways to shoehorn elegant verbiage into sentences, so much so that it might actually behoove us to simplify for the benefit of the listener, instead of stroking our egos. In my view, steamrollering through brain freeze when trying to communicate in Chinese is far preferable to simply giving up – which often leads to one forgetting the word for “umbrella” in any language. Instead, we should let our minds make sense of the world through Chinglish, at least until we’ve practiced enough to shed our linguistic training wheels. That way, we can get directly to our point, and enrich our speech with a personalized flavor. Hao ma, pal?
Cultural listings Cinema
Kung Fu Master The 1930s were a difficult time for kung-fu practitioners in China. On the one hand, beliefs and rules formed over centuries were still firmly held by many. On the other hand, social structure as a whole was quickly changing, influenced by the introduction of modern ideas such as science and democracy. Recently released film The Master explores the fate of China’s traditional martial artists during the era through a story between a kung-fu master, his disciple and other martial artists living in Tianjin. Xu Haofeng, the movie’s director and screenwriter, is also a renowned martial arts novelist. His book Monk Comes Down the Mountain was adapted into a film by director Chen Kaige, and it premiered in July 2015. He was also one of the screenwriters of The Grandmaster, Hong Kong director Wong Kar-wai’s 2013 work that won Best Screenplay at that year’s Hong Kong Film Awards. The Master, adapted from one of Xu’s own novels, has also earned favorable reviews from critics. Its cast includes some of China’s best actors and actresses, such as Liao Fan, who won the Best Actor award at the 2014 Berlin International Film Festival, and widely respected veteran actress Jiang Wenli. On douban.com, a popular cultural social networking site in China, the movie’s aggregated rating reached an impressive 8.3 out of 10 in its first week of release.
Rock God on the Small Screen Cui Jian, the “godfather” of Chinese rock and roll, made his first formal TV appearance as a judge on the new reality show The Star of China. What differentiates this talent show from others is that only competitors who are recommended by one of the judges can make it onto the air. Cui’s first protégé to appear on the show was one of his best friends, Yang Le. Yang is a singer and harmonica player who performed with Cui in the late 1980s and early ’90s. His deep voice and beautiful performance of a ballad quickly earned him a large fanbase. For the show’s third episode, Cui recommended that a group of experienced artists who perform Huayin Laoqiang, a kind of opera from Huayin, Shaanxi Province, collaborate with pop singer Tan Weiwei. The performance was made an even bigger hit by the fact that Cui called Huayin Laoqiang China’s centuries-old version of rock and roll. At the same time, many viewers criticized Cui for “compromising” his music by collaborating with a mainstream pop artist. Cui argued that rock and roll shouldn’t have to stay underground, and that TV would be a suitable channel to bring it to a broader audience.
Civilization is a Byproduct By Zheng Yefu
Not Just Asia’s Asia The Guangdong Museum of Art launched the exhibition the Asian Biennial, themed “Asia Time,” in conjunction with the fifth Guangzhou Triennial, on December 11, 2015. Some 47 artists or groups from 20 different countries, both in Asia and otherwise, contributed pieces to the exhibition. The exhibition was created with the idea of “expressing Asia through a global perspective,” so all artwork concerning Asian issues falls within its scope. Exhibition curators said that at the present moment, “Asia,” a concept of both “geography and time,” contains particularly rich connotations regarding politics, culture, economics and art. As Asian culture increasingly occupies the spotlight on the world stage, Asian art is no longer just reflective of its regional issues and consciousness, but also reflective of the influence of globalization.
In Peking University professor Zheng Yefu’s opinion, many of humanity’s most monumental achievements – the institution of marriage, agriculture, the written word, printing, even civilization itself – are accidental byproducts of our other purposeful activities. A sociologist in his mid-60s, Zheng taught in many of China’s most prestigious universities before taking up his current post in Beijing. He is also an active social commentator and previously worked as a TV news anchor and creative director. In his latest book, Civilization is a Byproduct, Zheng argues, with plentiful research and references, that humankind’s purposeful actions have only accomplished limited results and achievements. The origins of our civilization, and its turning points, came mostly by accident. Therefore, he believes history cannot be predicted nor manipulated. NEWSCHINA I February 2016
NEWSCHINA I February 2016
China’s current reforms may not be adequate to sustain its growth target in the long run A persistent economic slowdown, which may continue in 2016 and beyond, may threaten the long-term sustainability of ambitious overseas projects By Arthur Kroeber
hinese President Xi Jinping’s ambition to extend China’s What impact financial liberalization will have on the real economy is global influence is obvious. However, China’s aspiration to re- yet to be seen, but in theory at least it should improve returns on capital shape the geopolitical order of Asia, mainly through infrastruc- and hence boost the GDP growth rate. Similarly, the industrial policy initure diplomacy such as the One Belt, One Road initiative, will require a tiative Made in China 2025 ought to help growth by redirecting the enfairly high rate of sustained economic growth. An important question is ergies of Chinese industry into higher value-added products, with more whether China will be able to keep its growth fast enough to finance con- components produced locally. tinuous expenditure on construction projects The biggest uncertainty relates to reform that deliver a minimal short-term return. of State-owned enterprises (SOEs), which are From one angle, the answer to this question is a major drag on economic efficiency, using The only thing that a simple and unqualified “yes” – it will. To fund twice the leverage of non-State firms to deliver will enable China to international projects, all China has to do is keep only half the financial returns. It is hard to see stabilize GDP growth running huge current account surpluses. Instead how the present deceleration of growth can be at anywhere near 6.5 of devoting these reserves to low-yield US treaarrested without a major cleanup of this sector. percent is structural sury bonds, Beijing can easily funnel them into Unfortunately, the SOE reform program that reform that improves low-yielding infrastructure investments abroad was released in September struck most analysts that deliver a higher political return. as unconvincing. the productivity of Over the longer run, though, it is probably The key slogan for SOE reform for the capital. necessary to keep the economy humming. Othlast two years has been “mixed ownership,” erwise the demands of international expansion and many believed that this would mean the will increasingly conflict with domestic needs. gradual introduction of private shareholders In early November the Communist Party reinto State companies, with full privatization of leased the sketchy outlines of its next Five-year non-strategic firms. What is emerging now is Plan (2016-20), with an average annual growth target of 6.5 percent. But something quite different: Local governments will transfer shares of their since the current official growth rate is barely above this figure, and all enterprises to consortia of commercially oriented SOEs. indicators suggest that growth will continue slowing through 2016 and A template was provided in September by the restructuring of Jiangxi quite possibly beyond that, the only thing that will enable China to sta- Salt, previously 100 percent owned by the Jiangxi provincial government. bilize GDP growth at anywhere near 6.5 percent is structural reform that The province transferred a 47 percent shareholding to a set of SOEs inimproves the productivity of capital. cluding China Asset Management, China Merchants Group, and investCurrently, three strands of reform have now emerged in a clear-cut ment companies controlled by the Xiamen and Beijing governments. way: financial liberalization, industrial upgrading via the Made in China Another 6 percent shareholding went to the firms’ managers. 2025 initiative, and a tuned-up State sector with increased emphasis on The obvious objection to this sort of deal is that the swapping out of financial performance, but with little privatization. one set of State shareholders for another amounts to little more than reThe question is whether these add up to generators of the kind of arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. It is hard to get too enthusiastic growth the government says it wants. Of the three objectives, action on about “reforms” like this. financial liberalization is easily the most advanced, to a degree underapAll in all, and despite the impressive progress of financial reforms, the preciated by most outside observers. Interest rates were fully deregulated Five-year Plan target growth rate merits skepticism. China’s economy is in October. In August, the exchange rate mechanism was substantially in no danger of collapse, but growth is almost certain to continue slowing liberalized. After intervention in the yuan exchange rate diminished after for the next couple of years. the IMF’s Special Drawing Rights basket of currencies was issued at the end of November, the Chinese yuan will likely start trading much more The author is the managing director of GaveKal Dragonomics, an indepenlike the Singapore dollar, with the central bank intervening mainly to dent global economic research firm, and editor of its journal, China Economic Quarterly curb volatility.
NEWSCHINA I February 2016
NEWSCHINA I February 2016
NEWSCHINA I February 2016