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SPECIAL REPORT Hives of Corruption: Honey Industry Crisis

News & Its Makers: China's 2013

SOCIETY Under the Knife: Hospital Killings

Will the policy decisions of the Party’s Third Plenum change China’s trajectory for the better?


Volume No. 065 January 2014



Published by China Newsweek Corporation Publisher: Liu Beixian Executive Director : Liu Beixian Editor-in-Chief: Wang Xiaohui Editorial Office Managing Editor: Zheng Zhonghai Advisor: Liu Dizhong Senior Editor: Yang Yi Copy Editors: Jack Smith, Alex Taggart Lead Writer: Yu Xiaodong Editors: Wang Yan, Yuan Ye, Xie Ying, Sun Zhe, Li Jia, Du Guodong First Reader: Sean Silbert Address: 5th Floor, 12 Baiwanzhuang South Street, Xicheng District, Beijing, China Post Code: 100037 Tel: 86-10-88395566 Fax: 86-10-88388045 Email: Art Department Art Director: Wu Shangwen Art Editor/Designer: Zhang Dawei Publishing and Development Office China Newsweek Corporation President: Wang Xiaohui Chief Executive: Fred Teng Publishing Associate: Zhang Tianli Tel: 1-212-481-2510 Fax: 1-212-481-2503 Address: Suite 1101, 15 East 40th Street, New York, NY 10016, USA Email: Toronto Office Director: Lai Hailong Address: 51 Halstead Drive, Markham, ON Canada L3R7Z4 Tel: 1-905-604-6150 Fax: 1-905-604-6170 Email: Marketing Director: Wang Chenbo Account Manager : Ren Jie Tel: 86-10-88388027 Circulation Manager: Yu Lina Tel: 86-10-88311834 Advertising Director: Gao Weiwei Tel: 1-212-481-2510 Marketing Promoter: Jerry Meng Tel: 1-212-481-2510 New York Office: Wang Yongzhi, Ruan Yulin, Li Yang Washington Office: Wu Qingcai, De Yongjian Los Angeles Office: Mao Jianjun San Francisco Office: Liu Dan Houston Office: Wang Huan London Office: Zhou Zhaojun Tokyo Office: Sun Ran Paris Office: Long Jianwu Bangkok Office: Yu Xianlun Kuala Lumpur Office: Huang Hongbin Moscow Office: Jia Jingfeng Manila Office: Zhang Ming Berlin Office: Huang Shuanghong Sydney Office: Zhu Daqiang Legal Advisor: Allen Wu ISSN 1943-1902


NEWSCHINA I January 2014

Successful reform requires the leadership to interact with society


ith the conclusion of the Third Ple- and interaction between the two have been renary Session of the 18th Central placed by mutual antagonism. Committee, the Communist Party of While the general public resents the social inChina (CPC) has unveiled an ambitious roadmap justice and unfairness that result from the elite for a comprehensive program of reform across a monopoly on political power, the authorities are wide range of issues. anxious about social instability and their own The proposed reform has been said to mirror weakening political legitimacy. that implemented in the To a large extent, the pro1980s, when Deng Xiaopposed reform is born out ing pressed forward with the of a desire to maintain and As the economy has policy of Reform and Openstrengthen the Party’s legitideveloped and become ing-up that kicked off three macy by improving general more complex, the decades of rapid economic welfare. To achieve this, the interests of the elite and growth. authorities must take an those of the public have While the proposal has open and inclusive approach inspired hope among its adin moving forward. become increasingly vocates and the public, the One lesson the governcontradictory. authorities must be aware ment should learn from the that today’s social context past is to consult with sociis very different from that of the 1980s, and poses ety when trying to solve social problems. Failure to great challenges to reform. do this has meant that decisions have often served Over the last three decades, China’s rapid eco- only to intensify social conflicts rather than solving nomic growth has led to an increasingly stratified them. For example, rather than conducting dialog society, causing the formation of social groups with and addressing basic public concerns when trying various different interests embedded in the existing to deal with social instability, the authorities have system. These contradicting interests have become tended to resort to force, which has led to violent a major obstacle to China’s reform, and one that confrontations. will require both strong political will and shrewd Ronald Coase, the renowned economist and political wisdom to tackle. Nobel laureate, who passed away recently, deAnother obstacle to the proposed reform is rising scribed China’s reform in the 1980s as a “marginal tension between the general public and the political revolution,” in which the leadership acquiesced and elite. To a large extent, the success of the reforms eventually endorsed reform initiatives launched by in the 1980s was due to the fact that the political different social groups. In pushing forward the new elite and the public shared many of the same inter- program of reform, the authorities need to take a ests, and there existed various channels for dialog similar approach, actively communicating with between the two. different social groups to find the optimal path to However, as the economy has rapidly developed implement reform. and become more complex, the interests of the elite Only this way can the Chinese people have conand those of the public have become increasingly fidence in their leadership. By sharing power and contradictory. interests with the public and by improving their With a widened income gap, the public has be- welfare, the political elite can regain its legitimacy – come estranged from those in power, and dialog a win-win situation. 



powering up

Photo by CFP

NewsChina sifts through the complex rubric produced during the Party’s Third Plenum to give our readers an insight into where China’s leaders want to take the country in the next decade - and whether the public will support them



Cover Story



01 Successful reform requires the leadership to interact with society 10 Bo Xilai Trial: The Lawyer’s Story

12 Third Plenum: A New Start?/The Resolution/ Li Shuguang: “No More ‘Blood Contracts’”

24 26

Fireflies: Fading Lights Hospital Attack: Inevitable Brutality

29 Pollution Control: Breathing Space



P46 NEWSCHINA I January 2014




P24 china 2013


outside in

64 67

Macabre Luobiao: The Hanging Dead Flavor of the Month: ‘Gee Up

special report



04 MEDIA FOCUS 05 What They Say 06 NEWS BRIEF 08 Netizen Watch 53 China by numbers 66 real chinese 68 ESSAY 70 CULTURAL LISTINGS

32 Change and Challenge 42 Trans-border Rivers: Testing the Waters 44 Sino-Japanese Relations: Unwilling to Share 46 Chinese Honey: Hive Minded/A Sticky Situation 52 Poverty Alleviation Loans: Lending to the Poor


54 Gray Cover Books: Trotsky in China

visual report

60 Snooker Wunderkind


72 Urbanization should mean more than relocation


58 Bill Porter: The Hermit Hunter NEWSCHINA I January 2014


NewsChina Chinese Edition

Southern Metropolis Weekly

November 11, 2013

November 13, 2013

No One Wins in Forced Demolition

Learn to Earn

Legal reporter Chen Baocheng protected his rural home in Pingdu County, Shandong Province, from being demolished for seven years. Although the government had struck an agreement with a majority of local villagers to use their residential land for commercial purposes in exchange for new housing elsewhere, Chen resisted, claiming that the so-called “fair deal” would essentially erase the villagers’property rights. In retaliation, the government accused Chen of simply trying to gouge more compensation than he was due. At the end of September, Chen was detained for allegedly hijacking a truck sent to demolish his house. While the house remains standing, few see it as a victory for Chen, now awaiting trial. Hopes are now growing that new land reform legislation will create a fair rural land market, allowing residents to buy and sell land without fear of interference from government interests.

Sanlian Lifeweek October 30, 2013

Why Learn English? From 2016, the Chinese government will significantly reduce the weighting allocated to the English language component of the national college entry examination, or gaokao. This is part of a new policy seen as a response to growing complaints that Chinese language education is increasingly neglected in schools. Students and their parents applauded the reform, though educators have expressed doubt that it will reverse utilitarian trends in the Chinese education system. In most schools, English, Chinese, math and other subjects are taught only in relation to achieving high exam scores, and many students leave school with virtually no applicable skills beyond the ability to pass standardized tests. Given China’s uneven distribution of educational resources, simply shifting nominal focus without re-examining the structure of education as a whole is unlikely to change the status quo.


Lured by the stability of a guaranteed job for life and better welfare, about 1.5 million Chinese people would sit the 2014 national civil service entrance exam, 344 times the number 20 years ago. The rocketing number of examinees has led to a booming market in training for the test, with educators and civil servants earning extra cash by lecturing on interview tips and bureaucratic culture. Some universities have seen undergraduates bribe teachers or student union leaders in the hope of gaining easy access to Party membership or special merit awards. According to media reports, an ordinary training school without any full-time teachers can see a profit margin of 30-40 percent per year. Critics said that unless the government refines its hiring processes, this trend will continue.


21 Century Business Review November 4, 2013

Ginseng’s Struggle for Survival Due to uncontrolled expansion of production, Chinese ginseng often suffers huge fluctuations in price on the domestic market, driving many producers to the brink of bankruptcy. Despite providing 70 percent of the world’s total ginseng imports, Chinese ginseng remains bottom of the price scale due to doubts about its origins and concern over heavy metal contamination and pesticide residues. The Chinese government is now trying to standardize production by controlling land resources allocated to ginseng farms and setting up a system for regulating market price. Chinese chemists are also engaged in research in an attempt to prove the root’s alleged culinary and cosmetic applications. However, given that it generally takes five years for ginseng roots to mature, few are expecting rapid results.

Caixin November 4, 2013

Commercial Competition, Chinese Style Chinese journalist Chen Yongzhou’s arrest for alleged libel has helped expose the fierce competition between heavy machinery manufacturers Zoomlion and SANY. According to Chinese media reports emerging since Chen’s arrest, these two behemoths have been fighting tooth-and-nail for market share for years, a rivalry noted for kidnapping and public beatings. Commentators have alleged that such behavior is typical in Chinese commerce, where destructive price wars, industrial espionage, bribery and libelous smear campaigns are all tactics regularly employed by businesses and even government officials with interests in Stateowned enterprises. Calls are growing for the improvement of relevant commercial laws to both punish offenders and encourage healthy business competition. NEWSCHINA I January 2014

“The heavier a local government’s debt, the faster the region develops and its officials get promoted.”

“Many years later, I imagine this conversation with my son:“Mom, what is a sunny day?”“Can’t you find an answer in a history book?” Actress and “microblog queen” Yao Chen on Beijing’s ongoing battle with air pollution.

“We have to stop building so many houses – Even rural areas are full of vacant lots.” Entrepreneur Zong Qinghou warning against confusing excessive construction with effective urbanization.

“First of all, the government should clearly define the role of private enterprises – as the creators of social wealth.” Liu Chuanzhi, founder of IT giant Lenovo, on his hopes for ongoing reform.

“It is not because I have no opportunity to use my talents. I just abandoned my dream when it conflicted with reality.” Top Tsinghua University graduate Zhang Xiaoyong on becoming a security guard in his provincial hometown in order to care for his paraplegic father. NEWSCHINA I January 2014

Illustration by Wu Shangwen

Party mouthpiece the People’s Daily warning of China’s spiraling mountain of local government debt.

“Most petitioners are reasonable at the very beginning. But when they are unsuccessful, things turn ugly.” Huang Liqun, former vice-director of the Petitions

Bureau under the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress.

“The yuan is doing the Chinese wrong.” A passerby in a CCTV vox-pop complaining about the rapid rise in prices.

“When reform goes deep, it will definitely be resisted by vested interests. But the so-called ‘abyss’is not as remote as we suppose. We should just push ahead.” Economist Zhang Weiying calling for the government to ignore opposition special interests in pursuing its reform agenda.

“In the eyes of its employees, Sinopec deserves the Chinese people’s thanks for paying tax amounting to one thirtieth of the country’s total revenue. But why do they still keep smacking us down?” Lü Dapeng, spokesman for the China Petrochemical Corporation (Sinopec), on the worsening image of his company, an effective monopoly which has failed to reduce fuel prices or deal adequately with frequent bribery scandals.


Top Story

One-Child Policy Loosened China will reportedly loosen its One-Child Policy by gradually allowing dandu couples (couples one mem-

ber of whom has no siblings or half-siblings) to have two children, one of the most eyecatching reform measures unveiled following the Third Ple-

Birth Rate (1990-2010)

nary Session of the 18th CPC (Communist Party of China) Central Committee which concluded in mid-November. Previously, China only allowed entirely “only-child” couples to have a second baby. According to a survey by China’s National Health and Family Planning Commission, the new policy affects about 15-20 million people, 50-60 percent of whom are “willing” to have a second baby. Experts have estimated that this will increase the population by roughly one million each year, “a relatively small impact on the total population.” “The new policy aims to regulate China’s gender ratio, enhance single-child families’ resistance against any risk, buffer the potential steep drop in population after it reaches its peak, and slow the rapid aging

of China’s population,” said a statement on the commission’s website. Data from China’s National Bureau of Statistics showed that China’s birth rate had dropped to 12.1 percent in 2012 from 33.4 percent in 1970, with the natural population growth rate falling from 25.8 percent to 4.95 percent over the same period. Meanwhile, the population of people aged above 60 accounted for 14.3 percent of the total population by 2012, placing more pressure on the country’s already shrinking population of laborers. “Given the limited number of dandu couples, the new policy will not lead to a baby boom,” sociologist Fang Xiangxin told the media. “Actually, China will not see a rise in population until every couple has more than two children,” he added.

Age Groups in Crisis (%) Society


Middle-Aged Chinese in Crisis


60 40

In Crisis

20 0







Marital issues among the middle-aged (%)

20 10 0

Refuse to answer or unsure


None of the above


Have had an affair or a onenight stand


Dated outside of marriage

Career was shown to be the top source of anxiety. In contrast to younger people, who were more concerned about wages and welfare, middle-aged people worried more about their shrinking prospects for career development and “self-cultivation.” Marital status was another major source of pressure, with nearly 70 percent of middle-aged people calling their marriage “dull” or “emotionless.” More than half of the respondents admitted to having committed sexual or emotional adultery, 8.6 of whom claimed to have had an extramarital sexual encounter or affair.

Have felt attraction to a member of the opposite sex other than their partner

Middle-aged Chinese people suffer comparatively higher career and marriage pressure than other demographics, warned a recent survey by HorizonKey, an independent Chinese social and cultural research organization. Surveying about 1,300 residents in six large and medium-sized cities, the research found that nearly 30 percent of people aged 41-45 felt they were “in crisis,” with those in three large cities, Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou, showing a higher pressure index than those in the three medium-sized cities (Xi’an, Wuhan and Chengdu).


NEWSCHINA I January 2014


Big Sales Day on Nov 11

End to Free Medical Care for Government Employees

Over the past few years, November 11 has become the biggest day of the year for China’s online retail industry, with most of the country’s e-commerce platforms launching large-scale promotions. Within just six minutes after sales began at midnight, transactions on Alipay, the payments service owned by China’s largest e-commerce company Alibaba, hit one billion (US$160m). The company claims the figure had reached 35 billion yuan (US$5.6bn) by the end of the day, around half of the country’s Over 300 media normal daily retail volume. The frenzy was at first reported to be a win-win situation for outlets keep an eye on Alibaba transactions businesses and consumers, until media revealed that a great many across China businesses had faked discounts by raising their prices before dropping them for the sales. Delivery companies also came under pressure, many of them finding themselves understaffed and lacking storage space. Statistics by China Industry Research Net, an industry analysis website, showed that about 25 percent of products bought on November 11 have since been returned or refunded, for reasons such as poor product quality and delivery delays.


Xinjiang Car Attack Kills Two at Tian’anmen Square Two pedestrians were killed and another 40 injured when an SUV with license plates from the Xinjiang Autonomous Region ploughed into a crowd at Beijing’s Tian’anmen Square on October 28. The car’s driver and two passengers, all members of the same family, burned to death inside the vehicle after it caught fire following the crash at Jinshui Bridge, in front of Tian’anmen Gate. The police claimed to have found two machetes, two steel rods and a flag printed with “religious extremist slogans” in the car. Within 10 hours, another five people had been arrested in connection with the incident. On November 24, SITE, a website that tracks military statements, reported that the Turkistan Islamic Party, an international Islamic militant organization based in Pakistan’s North Waziristan region, had released an audio clip claiming responsibility for the attack. The clip called the attack a “jihadist operation,” and also threatened more violence on Chinese soil, naming Beijing’s Great Hall of the People as a potential target.

The Chinese Ministry of Human Resources and Social Insurance has recently confirmed that the former policy of free nationwide medical care for government staff will be limited to a few individual provinces only, as more regions abolished the system this year. In contrast to the public who, though technically covered under social security, still have to cover the charges for many drugs and procedures, those working with government departments or State-owned organizations are exempt from charges for most medical care services. A total of 24 municipalities and provinces, including the capital Beijing, have incorporated their government employees into the public medical insurance system, a move hailed as a big step toward closing the gap between ordinary people and the elite. Meanwhile, it has been revealed that many local governments have attempted to weaken the reform by setting up a special foundation in order to retain free medical care.

How long have you been a smoker? Health

Lung Cancer Deaths on the Rise 22.7 percent of Chinese cancer deaths were from lung cancer, a rate around 465 percent higher than 30 years ago, making lung cancer China’s most deadly. The shocking figure was revealed by the sixth China Lung Cancer Summit held in Beijing from November 15 to 16. With the incidence of lung cancer growing by 26.9 percent per year, China could be home to about one million sufferers by 2025, it was warned. Smoking is believed to be the major cause of the rising lung cancer rate. According to statistics released at the summit, 33.5 percent of Chinese people aged above 15 years old are smokers. Experts said that smokers are 10 times more likely to contract lung cancer than non-smokers. China joined the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control in 2006, but its deeply ingrained smoking culture, as well as the State-owned tobacco industry, have hampered efforts to reduce tobacco use. NEWSCHINA I January 2014

Less than one year 1-5 years 6-10 years 11-15 years 16-20 years More than 20 years At what age did you start smoking? Before 12 years old 13-15 years old 16-18 years old 19-22 years old 23-30 years old Above 31 years old Source:


Photo Credit: Top Story, CNS; Business, CFP


What’s Shocking China?

Poll the People Do you think celebrities should be held responsible for the brands they endorse?

As part of their wedding ceremony, a group of couples from Hefei, Anhui Province released hundreds of white doves. Most of the birds were promptly caught by hungry onlookers, many of whom claimed to be taking them home to eat.

106(71.1%) Yes. 14(9.4%) No.

What’s Making China Angry?

What’s Surprising China?

29(19.5%) Don’t care about endorsements. Source:

Most Circulated Post Retweeted 79,719 times

An aurally impaired man and his visually impaired fiancée in Rui’an, Zhejiang Province, had their marriage license application rejected for the fifth time, reportedly because the man was unable to say “I do” clearly enough.

Huashan Hospital in Shanghai brought in local police officers in early November to train their staff in kungfu, to defend themselves against increasingly frequent attacks. Zhongshan Red Cross Hospital, another hospital in Shanghai, opted for taekwondo.

What’s Amusing China? A recruitment advertisement for IT company Qihoo 360 was found to have been copied wholesale from fellow Internet giant Baidu – along with the name of the rival company.


After China’s yearly November 11 online shopping frenzy, Tmall, the country’s biggest online retail portal claimed that it had earned 30 billion yuan (US$4.9bn) in revenue in one day, and had sold 2 million pairs of underpants, which would stretch over 3,000 kilometers if laid out side-by-side. However, a microblog post by the Jiangning District police bureau in Nanjing, Jiangsu Province questioned Jack Ma, chairman of Tmall’s parent company Alibaba, on the accuracy of the data.

Hey, Jack Ma! This is the police. Congratulations! We’re proud of you! Our calculations have revealed that your underpants are 1.5 meters long. How come your customers have such long underpants? Thanks. NEWSCHINA I January 2014


Top Five Search Queries On


over the week ending November 15 Wang Feng 177,250 The rock star declared his love for movie star Zhang Ziyi with a speech at a concert in early November. Lung Cancer 115,793 The number of lung cancer patients in China grew about 27 percent year-on-year, and the number of new patients is predicted to reach 1 million by 2025. Shanxi Bombing 144,633 The detonation of a home-made bomb on November 6 outside the local Communist Party headquarters in the provincial capital Taiyuan killed one and injured seven. A suspect has been detained by local police.

Mr Fan Fan Haifang, a 30-yearold chief manager at a Beijing-based company, saved two kids trapped on the roof of a burning courtyard house.

Sun Yang 109,653 The Olympic gold medalist swimmer was detained for driving without a license.

Top Blogger Profile Chen Li Followers: 16,113,075 Newly appointed to a senior position with the Political and Judiciary Commission under the Communist Party of China’s Central Committee, the outspoken former deputy police chief of Shaanxi Province was one of the earliest government officials to open a verified microblog account, and remains one of the most active and popular official microbloggers. Posting frequently, Chen asserts that Weibo can be an effective means to report on and fight against corruption. Chen has also initiated a charity program to offer free meals to those in need. NEWSCHINA I January 2014

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

Bachu, Xinjiang 96,027 An axe- and knife-wielding mob attacked a local police station, killing two police and injuring another two. All the nine attackers were shot dead at the scene.

Blackmailing Cop A policeman named Fan Yuege from Zhengzhou was reported by local merchants for extortion. The man came under investigation after a video was uploaded to the Internet showing him counting banknotes handed to him by a merchant. By late November, Fan had yet to be convicted.

Yurt Life Huang Lili, a Taiwanese woman working in Beijing, built herself a Mongolian-style yurt on the roof of a friend’s house to avoid Beijing’s increasingly expensive rental prices.

Scapegoat In order to keep his lucrative job, a drunkdriving government official from Hebei had his younger brother take the rap after he killed three people and injured another in a traffic accident. The official was eventually found out, and sentenced to death with reprieve. His brother got a two-year sentence for perverting the course of justice.



Bo Xilai Trial

The Lawyer’s Story Wang Zhaofeng, a veteran lawyer, got the shock of his life when he was asked to represent disgraced former Politburo member Bo Xilai at the trial of the decade By Liu Ziqian

Photo by CFP

had personally invited Li Xiaolin, former defense counsel for his jailed mother Gu Kailai’s aide Zhang Xiaojun, who was charged in 2012 with murdering British businessman Neil Heywood, to defend his father. Li Guifang and Wang Zhaofeng, simply by appearing at Bo’s trial, became overnight celebrities. Li had been practicing law for over 20 years and had risen to become a partner at DeHeng. As an academic adviser to law schools at Tsinghua and Peking universities, China’s foremost academic institutions, Li Guifang (circled, right) sits beside Wang Zhaofeng (center) during the Bo Xilai appeal hearing Li was well known for his abilat the Shandong Higher People’s Court , October 25, 2013 ity to handle criminal litigation, and had served as long-term leang Zhaofeng has been working at the Beijing DeHeng gal counsel to several State-owned enterprises and government agencies. Law Office for many years. His wife knew he worked Wang Zhaofeng, 44, a PhD in law from Renmin University of China, hard, but when he suddenly began to disappear on a spe- was a specialist in economic crimes. He studied for a short time at Camcial assignment, she became concerned about his whereabouts. bridge University in 2004 and Cornell University in 2009, boosting his It was only months later that she discovered what her husband had prestige in Chinese legal circles. been doing – constructing a defense for Bo Xilai, the disgraced former “It is easy to be misinterpreted,” Wang told NewsChina, insisting that Chongqing party chief and fallen member of the Politburo, the Com- it was Bo Xilai himself who selected his defense counsel from a list drawn munist Party’s highest authority. up by the courts under Party supervision. Wang added that Bo’s case was Wang Zhaofeng, his colleague Li Guifang, and DeHeng’s director exceptional, as its occupation of the international and domestic media Wang Li were sworn to secrecy about the nature of the case. spotlight put a huge amount of pressure on those involved. Wang also revealed that he had mixed feelings towards Bo himself. In Unexpected 2010, Wang served as defense counsel for a suspect implicated in Bo’s After Bo Xilai was expelled from the Communist Party of China and crackdown on alleged gang crime in Chongqing. Wang said he was surremoved from public posts at the end of September 2012, and it was prised at the procedural injustice and the “mayhem” he claims followed announced he would stand trial for corruption, speculation abounded the crackdown. His client was sentenced to 20 years in jail in a ruling concerning his defense. It was reported that Bo’s family shortlisted several Wang has continued to question ever since. lawyers including Wang Zhaofeng and Li Guifang as potential represenTwo years later, Wang became Bo’s lawyer. His wife attempted to distatives for Bo. State Media also reported that Bo Xilai’s son Bo Guagua courage him from taking on such a politicized and infamous client, but



NEWSCHINA I January 2014

by that point Wang had already met with Bo several times and was determined to represent him.

First Impressions

At the end of October, 2012, Bo met his defense lawyers for the first time at Qincheng prison. Located in Beijing’s northern Changping district, the jail is known for its high-profile inmates, most of whom are fallen officials. Wang remembered that Bo wore an overcoat to their first meeting. After exchanging greetings, they got directly down to discussing the case. The two lawyers explained the judicial procedures and asked whether Bo had any particular requirements. They claimed they were caught offguard by Bo’s response: “I have no requests of you, but please act dutifully in accordance with the law.” Bo’s attitude – requesting his counsel to do their jobs properly rather than simply save his skin – was a relief to his defense lawyers. Wang told our reporter that ousted officials often make demands far beyond the capabilities of their defense lawyers, often embarrassing both their counsel and themselves in the process. The defense’s first meeting with Bo, by contrast, was straightforward and productive. After discussing the case for more than an hour Bo signed the authorization letter agreeing to have Wang and Li represent him. Wang observed that Bo was calm, and spoke in a clear, logical manner. He had been expecting to see the darker side of the political pariah paraded on TV, but instead found himself working with an intelligent, circumspect and polite client. After their first meeting, Li and Wang threw themselves head-first into constructing their case. They met Bo about once a month and gradually both parties grew increasingly familiar. Sometimes, Bo even greeted his lawyers in English, saying he had had a passion for the language since his youth. He told his lawyers how he took to practicing English while working in a factory many years ago, and could even recite speeches by former US president John F. Kennedy. However, small talk was limited, and most of the time Bo was rigorously interested in his case. Wang’s previous impressions of Bo were formed through the portrayals in the State media, which cast him as an aggressive and determined leader. In person, Wang found Bo to be sharp and meticulous, and he often contributed details to bolster his defense that his counsel were unaware of. Bo devoured every document his counsel produced, adding in his own details, even correcting wording and improving layout. Bo made it clear that, although his lawyers might assist him, his voice would be heard when he took the stand. On July 25, 2013, Bo was indicted for bribery, corruption and abuse of power and was told he would stand trial at the Ji’nan Intermediate People’s Court in Shandong Province. After discussing the indictment with Bo, his defense agreed to plead not guilty.


Despite their cordial working relationship, Wang Zhaofeng was constantly aware that Bo never fully trusted his defense counsel. “We were approved by Bo’s family, but not in his presence. As a result, he was still dubious about us,” Wang told NewsChina. Bo would often challenge his lawyers’ commitment to defending him. NEWSCHINA I January 2014

“Can you speak for me in court? Are you courageous enough?” he asked on one occasion. “We will act according to the law,” Wang replied, echoing Bo’s words at their first meeting. In the weeks leading up to the trial, Bo and his defense regularly worked late into the night. Wang Zhaofeng tried to anticipate every possible scenario in court. He was fully aware of who would give testimony – Wang Lijun, Bo’s former strongman, who was well versed in Chinese legal procedure after his lengthy stint as Chongqing’s chief of police. After attempting to defect to the US in the summer of 2012, Wang Lijun was sentenced to 15 years in prison for bending the law for selfish ends, defection, abuse of power and bribe-taking on September 24, 2012. Speculation was rife that Wang had worked out a plea bargain in exchange for testifying against Bo, his former boss. On August 22, 2013, Bo stood trial in Ji’nan. Live updates of the proceedings were released on Sina Weibo, China’s Twitter, a first in Chinese legal history. Wang was unaware of this until he was informed via text message while the court was still in session. The Ji’nan Intermediate People’s Court’s Weibo feed had more than 582,000 followers as of August 26, when the trial concluded. Xinhua reported that the 160 posts that appeared online during the trial had been re-tweeted hundreds of thousands of times. After the first day in court, Bo Xilai congratulated his lawyers, joking that he should have known they’d do a good job, as the acronym for “Li and Wang” was “law.” In court, Wang and other observers were impressed with Bo’s composure, despite the salacious details concerning his personal life which the prosecution chose to reveal for the court. Wang Lijun, by contrast, was visibly agitated, shifting in his seat as he was cross-examined by his former boss. “Lijun, don’t worry, take your time,” Bo remarked at one point. On the third day, however, 64-year-old Bo became very tired. Wang Zhaofeng called for a postponement, and the court agreed to shorten the fourth day of the trial. On September 22, Bo was sentenced to life imprisonment for bribery, embezzlement and abuse of power. He was also deprived of his political rights for life. Wang Zhaofeng noticed that Bo heard the verdict with absolute calm. He asked his lawyers to take time to prepare his appeal and thanked them for their help. He even told them that only through rule of law could the Chinese public enjoy a sense of security, adding that lawyers would be instrumental in delivering this change to China. On October 25, Bo’s appeal was rejected by the Shandong Higher People’s Court. Bo Xilai was unperturbed, even smiling as the verdict was read. Wang guessed that Bo’s confidence stemmed from his knowledge that he wouldn’t face a harsher penalty – his wife, Gu Kailai, had been sentenced to death with a two-year reprieve at her trial. Bo Xilai told Wang Zhaofeng he would study traditional Chinese literature while in jail. He also allegedly expressed an interest in studying traditional Chinese medicine and calligraphy. “Calligraphy practice is very good for your health,” he told Wang, in one of their last conversations. “Did you know that calligraphy masters have an average age of 79?”


cover story

one voice, ONE VISION? The Communist Party of China (CPC) has outlined its reform agenda for the next decade following the Third Plenum of the 18th CPC Central Committee in Beijing. Enthusiastic State media coverage, however, failed to enrapture a public confused by the alternately complicated and vague wording of the published policy outlines released to the press. What form will the Party’s proposed reforms take? Will everyone benefit? And has the government done enough to avert major challenges to CPC leadership? NewsChina investigates


NEWSCHINA I January 2014

NEWSCHINA I January 2014


cover story Third Plenum

A New Start?

The Communist Party of China has outlined an ambitious new road map for reforms in the next decade

The Jingxi Hotel in Beijing, suspected to be the venue for the Third Plenum which was held at an undisclosed location from November 9 to 12, 2013


or much of November, the Third Plenum of the 18th Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee dominated news coverage within China. Official media frequently compared it to the Third Plenum of the 11th CPC Central Committee in 1978 when a historic decision to break with the past and launch the policy of Reform and Opening-up (by setting the wheels of China’s economic rise in motion) irreversibly changed the country’s future. As China now faces a wide range of challenges both abroad and within its borders, hopes are high that China’s new leadership, after a year in power, is cautiously reform-oriented, with the Third Plenum serving as a “new starting point” for China’s progress.


After four days of closed-door meetings at an undisclosed location, the Party released a short communiqué November 13. Though the lack


Photo by IC

Photo by CNS

By Yu Xiaodong

Locals show a smartphone app dedicated to news about the Third Plenum, Yongzhou County, Chongqing Municipality, November 21, 2013

of detail was a disappointment, a subsequent 22,000-word document known simply as “Decisions,” which detailed reforms approved at the meeting, showed that a more earnest reform agenda is finally gaining momentum. Elaborating decisions concerning 60 issues in 15 fields including economics, politics, education, health, rural development, cultural development, the environment, and defense, the document mentions almost all major issues and controversies which have been under scrutiny in recent years. For example, one landmark decision announced was the relaxation of the country’s unpopular One Child Policy. While stopping short of ending the policy, couples made up of at least one only child will now be permitted to have two children. The Party also pledged to reform the widelycriticized household registration, or hukou, system, effectively an internal visa which currently limits a citizen’s right to work and reside to a

certain geographical area, usually their birthplace. No details were forthcoming about what form hukou reforms might take. Regarding the relationship between the State sector and the private sector in the economy, the Party pledged to allow market forces to play “a decisive role,” also mandating that the country’s powerful State-owned enterprises (SOEs) turn over 30 percent of their profits in tax, double the current amount. In rural affairs, the Party promised to grant rural residents more “property rights,” and to establish rural property markets ensuring transparent and fair exchange of rural property. In the past years, rural property markets have been established in selected provinces. Earlier this year, Premier Li Keqiang emphasized the need to push forward urbanization to boost China’s economy. With a wide-ranging economic and social reform program, the Party promises to achieve “decisive results” by 2020, though no detailed NEWSCHINA I January 2014

timeline was given. Analysts believe that such ambitious declarations within the first year of governance shows a sense of urgency among China’s new leadership, and collective understanding of the need to embark on big, bold and broad reforms before time runs out.

Stronger Central Power

General Secretary Xi Jinping, who is expected to lead China till 2022, issued a personal note explaining the need for the key reforms laid out in the documents – the first time a Party general secretary has personally explained decisions made by the Central Committee. In his note, Xi also confirmed that he would lead a working group on the “comprehensive deepening of reform,” which would be responsible for “design, coordination, pushing forward and delivery.” Analysts remarked that this was tantamount to staking his political legitimacy on the success of the reform agenda. In his explanatory note, Xi also explained the role of the National Security Commission, a key Party panel unveiled during the plenum. According to Xi, China is facing two pressures: “Internationally, the country needs to safeguard its sovereignty, security and development interests; domestically, political security and social stability should be ensured.” “Establishing a national security commission to strengthen the unified leadership of State security is an urgent need,” Xi’s note continued. It is speculated that the National Security Commission will be China’s answer to both the NSA and the National Security Council in the US. With Xi set to take charge of both these Party panels, skeptics warned that such a concentration of power in the hands of one man is risky for China’s precarious politics. Reform advocates have countered with claims that a strong central leadership is necessary to break political deadlock and overcome resistance from powerful vested interest groups blamed for holding the country back. Many have attributed the stagnation of reform in the past to weak central leadership, whose decisions were said to be “powerless outside of Zhongnanhai” – the central government compound in the heart of Beijing and the official residence of the country’s top leaders. NEWSCHINA I January 2014

“[Blame for] the stagnation of reform lies not in an absence of good policies and road maps, but in resistance to their implementation,” commented an editorial in the Beijing News, published on November 13. “Now, with a top-down mechanism, the trend in which discussion fails to result in decisions, decisions fail to be implemented and implementation fails to deliver results, can be reversed.”

Legal Reform

Much of the public support for a strong central leadership has stemmed from Xi and his team’s perceived ability to crack down on corruption in a campaign which has resulted in the fall of 11 ministerial-level officials and over 1,000 county-level officials since November 2012. Domestic observers believe that this not only boosts the popularity of the new leadership with the people, but also injects a much-needed sense of confidence into the public realm. “Recent trends have shown that a pushback from special interests may not be so difficult to overcome,” commented Cheng Li and Ryan McElveen, researchers at the Brookings Institution in an article published on chinausfocus. com. It is against this backdrop that the Party has launched various initiatives in the crucial fields of politics and law. Following the conclusion of the Third Plenum, the Party stepped up its anti-corruption rhetoric by inserting supervisory teams from the Party’s Central Commission for Discipline Inspection into all central Party and government agencies. In the meantime, rotating inspection mechanisms will be established at both central and provincial level to “cover all local governments and State-owned enterprises.” To prevent local officials from influencing their local discipline inspection commissions, the central leadership also seeks to claw back powers to nominate and appoint local disciplinary officials from provincial Party committees. This bolstering of central power has also been felt in the judiciary. Xi’s November 2012 pledges to “let everyone experience justice” and “respect the Chinese Constitution” led to high hopes of a full-scale overhaul of the country’s problem-ridden and Party-controlled judiciary. However, amidst high-pitched attacks on

“constitutionalism” appearing in various State media and tightened controls on internet, Xi has found himself characterized as a political conservative, much to the chagrin of many early supporters. Reform in the judiciary do, however, seem to be progressing. In the communiqué following its Third Plenum, the Party re-emphasized the importance of “respecting” the Chinese Constitution. “China’s constitution has the highest authority” and is “the fundamental guarantee of the prosperity of the Party and the state,” ran the document. Moreover, the Party pledged to “safeguard human rights,” the first time even the concept of the existence of human rights has appeared in a high-level Party document. In its Decisions, the Party announced it would abolish extra-judicial labor camps after a series of scandals were revealed earlier this year of the incarceration of innocent people without charge in these shadowy internment centers. Public Security Minister Meng Jianzhu’s pledge to scrap the extra-legal system, officially known as “re-education through labor,” is expected to meet with stiff resistance from officials who have come to depend on such camps as a convenient way of removing dissenting voices from public life. Along with the announcement to abolish labor camps, the Party also laid out major reforms aimed at promoting judicial independence and establishing rule of law. According to sources close to the leadership, relevant reforms will be primarily launched in five areas - Shaanxi, Guangdong, Zhejiang and Jiangsu provinces as well as in Shanghai, to test the waters in some of China’s most developed and prosperous areas. These reforms also aim to enhance central control of the courts, putting budget approval and judicial appointments under the auspices of provincial and central officials, rather than allowing these powers to remain in localized hands. Having been allowed a glimpse of the new administration’s potential reform agenda, it falls to China’s hyperactive Internet and the media to pick apart what the future might hold for the nation and its citizenry. On one point, all seem to be in agreement – failure, it seems, is not an option.


cover story Third Plenum

The Resolution

The Party’s newly-unveiled reform program is its most ambitious in decades. But for words to become reality, it’s going to need a few ground rules By Li Jia


roadband installation is one of the services advertised by the Internet company where Zhu Xiang works as chief engineer. But in order to do this, the company must first purchase bandwidth from China’s three powerful State-owned telecom giants, and then do its best to compete with their overwhelming dominance in the retail market. Zhu and his colleagues make very little money from broadband, and while the company is doing relatively well with other services, nothing comes easily – each requires a government-issued license, which normally takes half a year, and operation comes with a host of other restrictions. “The delay is so long and the barriers so high that companies like ours miss out on many market opportunities,” Zhu told NewsChina. Like Zhu, Chinese consumers have long grumbled about expensive and inefficient communication and Internet services. They share Zhu’s hope that monopolies will be broken up. Like hundreds of millions of Chinese rural residents, Mr Zhang, a 48-year old man from a village in Shandong Province now working as a milkman in Beijing, is working hard to fund one of his biggest life goals, paying for the construction of a house for his offspring. The two-storey building in his village, intended as a home for his 16-year-old eldest son, has swallowed all of his US$16,000 life savings. He hopes that one of his two sons will one day settle in a city so that Zhang and his wife can live in their village home in their old age – he hopes to return to Shan-


dong when he is too old to climb the stairs of urban buildings to deliver milk. While he would prefer to remain in a city, with access to better healthcare, flushing toilets and hot water, his pension will not be enough to survive, and without an urban hukou (urban household registration certificate), he has no access to social security anywhere other than in his hometown. Entrepreneurs, consumers and migrant workers are widely regarded as the real building blocks of China’s economy, yet unfair constraints on their lives and businesses have throttled the country’s economic dynamism, arguably leaving the leadership no choice but to declare a long-expected campaign of reform to level out the playing field for all market players and provide fair, equal public services for all citizens. The reform would bear heavily on the confidence of international investors and the domestic public in China’s market and political leadership.

Highly Classified

While pundits make a living out of speculating on what politicians talk about behind closed doors, this proved particularly difficult at the Third Plenary Session of the 18th Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee. The only two officially confirmed pieces of information given in advance were that it was scheduled to take place between November 9 and 12, and that the Party would draft a “comprehensive reform masterplan” for the years to come. Even the location was kept secret. It was a watertight

affair – not a whisper of information was leaked. This did not dampen the Chinese and international media’s enthusiasm for guesswork about exactly what kind of reform would be on the agenda, a craze that took hold immediately after the new CPC leadership, headed up by Xi Jinping, took the helm in November 2012. The commentariat has always remained divided on how bold the reform package would be. While some predicted fundamental changes that would chart a new course for the country, others scoffed. There was no clear line distinguishing the two groups – those who were bullish on certain issues were often bearish on others. In stark contrast to this divergence of expectations, there was a general consensus on what kind of reform was needed – that is, an adjustment in the roles of the two so-called “hands” in China’s economy. Most of the discussion was focused on the need to liberalize land resource allocation and finance indusNEWSCHINA I January 2014

Photo by Feng Li / Getty Images

A public LCD screen promoting the China Dream campaign, Tian’anmen Square, November 12, 2013

tries, the hukou system, and market access, so that resources could be distributed fairly and efficiently according to the will of the “invisible hand”: the market. Meanwhile, the government, the “visible hand,” should focus on public services, particularly legal frameworks and the universal social security system, to regulate the market and boost consumption and urbanization. The clues that the CPC had given in the run-up to the conference seemed to chime with this consensus. At a number of domestic and international occasions in the two months leading up to the meeting, both Xi and Premier Li Keqiang made pledges that the hope of sustained and healthy growth depends on stimulating “social dynamics” and securing “social fairness.” In practice, they have taken various steps that demonstrate a shift from the old habit of doting on SOEs and government-oriented investment at the cost of the environment and public satisfaction, and thus, long-term growth. In April, the State Council, China’s cabiNEWSCHINA I January 2014

net, unveiled an agricultural reform package that included a market-oriented land transfer system and increased investment in rural public services. The central bank had kept its purse-strings tight despite the marked slowdown in economic growth, signalling that pace was no longer the country’s top priority. More than 300 administrative licensing items held by ministries had been removed or devolved, and the addition of new items was basically prohibited. Right before the meeting, the minimum registered capital requirement for newly incorporated companies was removed.

Big Answers

When the silence was finally broken on the evening of November 12, all the attention immediately focused on one particular section of the communiqué released following the meeting. It was confirmed that systemic economic reforms were the top priority of the broad-based mission to deepen reforms, and the core of those economic reforms was

“proper government-market relations” in which the market plays a “decisive role” in resource distribution, and the government does a better job of building a fairer, more regulated market. Since the CPC committed to building a market economy in 1992, the role of the market in resource allocation has always been defined as “basic.” Even at the CEO Summit of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation in October, Xi still stressed the significance of the “basic role” of the market in China’s economy. Amid the vague language of the communiqué, this change in terminology stood out as a surprise. Another document, known simply as the “Decisions,” approved at the meeting and issued on November 15, explains the new relationship in more detail. It vows to solve the problem of “excessive government intervention in the market.” As Professor Yao Yang of Peking University said at a packed forum on November 17, the existing system is like “asking an old woman selling eggs to crack them all to prove that none is bad.” Worse still, in many cases regulators are either incompetent or corrupt, and thus have no means or inclination to keep “bad eggs” from the market. The document has addressed many issues that have long preoccupied the market. Private ownership is now “inviolable.” The so-called “negative list,” which clearly tells investors which sectors are restricted or prohibited – and by implication, which industries are not on the list and therefore not subject to approval – will be adopted. Farmers will be entitled to greater rights, allowing their estates to be transferred, offered as collateral or sold at market prices. In small


Photo by zhang hao / CNS

cover story

Photo by CFP

The reform agenda set by the Third Plenary Session of the 18th Communist Party of China Central Committee made the front page in most Beijing newspapers, November 13, 2013

Migrant worker families, like this one from Yunnan Province working at a construction site in Zhengzhou, Henan Province, are among those targeted by residence permit reform, October 20, 2013

cities at least, migrant workers will become urban residents. SOEs are required to give a greater share of their profits over to the State. The fiscal system will be restructured so that local governments will only be allocated fiscal resources proportionate to their responsibilities. For the first time, all of these are enshrined in a CPC document issued at the


highest level. Moreover, a reform task force will be set up to lead the whole project, to coordinate action and ensure the reform will not be disturbed by conflict between powerful interest groups. This blueprint is widely regarded as the most ambitious document unveiled in China for years, and has even been compared to the milestone plenary meeting in 1978, when the imperative for economic development replaced class struggle as the country’s top priority. If all the plans in the resolution can be implemented as scheduled (by 2020), said Professor Yao, China will have become a real market economy.

Deep Water

As the resolution has recognized, China’s ongoing reform program has now reached “deep water,” and faces some tough challenges. Chinese leaders have repeatedly called upon the major players in the country’s economy to steel themselves to implement the package. Vested interest groups, essentially those who currently hold sway over market infrastructure resources, have been widely criticized as the most difficult obstacle. These mainly include State-owned monopolies in industries like finance, telecoms, oil and roads, ministries that demand approval stamps, and local governments with unhealthy appetites for land revenue and huge investment. National interests have become a tool for government agencies and officials to exploit for their own interests. Previous attempts by some ministries to hand over a portion of their power have ended with little more than meaningless gestures. This has led to wariness of piecemeal measures – for example, the Decisions states that registration will replace the approval system for the listing of companies on the stock market. Andrew Y. Yan, managing partner of SAIF Partners, a Hong Kong-based private equity firm, said at the Peking University forum that similar measures had actually been attempted for some investment approvals by China’s highest economic planning body, the National Development and Reform Commission, but in practice, the process was manipulated by the government, which simply continued with the old methods of review

and approval. Though there is now no minimium registered capital requirement for incorporation, thresholds set by industry and tax regulators remain. There is wide disappointment on the part of the resolution concerning SOE reform. Although the resolution mentions fair competition between all market players, more private capital and market-oriented governance in SOEs, it remains a mystery how all of this can be achieved while the “dominance of public ownership” is still named as the “cornerstone” of China’s market economy. Entangled interests go beyond the government-market relationship. Residents in big cities with superior public services don’t want migrant workers to enjoy equal rights. For example, a campaign to allow children of migrant workers to attend Beijing schools and sit the national college entrance examination in Beijing has met with strong resistance from parents with a Beijing hukou. The complexity of the reform itself also adds to potential difficulties in implementation. For example, no matter in which direction land reform moves, it has to involve the entire social security system. Besides, there is no single cure-all measure that can force local governments to quit their addiction to land revenue. They need more fiscal resources at their disposal, which means a major reshuffle of the national fiscal structure. This shows that redefining the government’s role in the economy is not simply an exercise in reducing intervention. The document says the government should focus on public services and market regulation, and indeed, these are areas the government, long preoccupied with GDP growth, has neglected. Professor Yao reckoned that the government would still be “a very important player” even when market economy is fully realized. While the respective roles of the government, its agencies, and the market have been defined more clearly than ever, another important issue, according to Professor Yao, is how to control government power with proper political restraints. This means something more powerful than policy must be invoked to disentangle China’s economy. And on this point, history has proven that nothing is more reliable than the rule of law. NEWSCHINA I January 2014

What did we learn from the Third Plenum? SOEs 144,715 SOEs were listed as having US$14 trillion in assets by the end of 2011 Source: State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission

Rural land Usage restrictions on 260 million plots of collectively-owned rural land will be lifted, potentially allowing their sale on a planned rural land market

Market economics according to the Party 1978. Third Plenary Session of the 11th CPC Central Committee

Economic development becomes a top priority. 1980. CPC Document No.75

Source: Ministry of Land and Resources

Farmers can retain surplus crops for their personal use.

Special intellectual property courts 2,510 patent disputes filed in 2012

1982. 12th CPC National Congress

Source: State Intellectual Property Office

Expanding urban housing and social security 65% of China’s 1.3 billion citizens have rural domiciles Source: National Bureau of Statistics

Healthcare In 2012 China had only 5 healthcare professionals for every 10,000 people. Source: National Health and Family Planning Commission

School admissions Chinese citizens over 6 years old had an average 8.9 years of schooling in 2012. There are currently 24 million enrolled college students. Source: National Bureau of Statistics

Second child rule In 2012 China had more than 150 million one-child families. Source: National Health and Family Planning Commission

Income gap 7.5% annual increase in average disposable income between 1978 and 2012, compared with 9.8% growth in GDP and 14.6% growth in government revenue. Source: National Bureau of Statistics

Market permitted to operate in a small part of the economy. 1992. 14th CPC National Congress

Development of a market economy officially approved. 1997. 15th CPC National Congress

Market permitted to have a “basic role” in resource distribution, under guidance at national level. 1998. Third Plenary Session of the 15th CPC Central Committee

Development of a private sector encouraged. Plans drafted to build “a new socialist countryside” by 2010 to improve rural productivity and living standards. 2003. 16th CPC National Congress,

Pledge to “build a unified, open, competitive and well-regulated market”

Pensions China had a US$391 billion surplus in the national basic pension fund in 2012, with a deficit emerging in poorer areas.

2007. 17th CPC National Congress

Senior care In 2012 21.5 beds in senior care facilities for every 1,000 seniors in 2012.

2008. Third Plenary Session of the 17th CPC Central Committee

Source: Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security

Source: Ministry of Civil Affairs

Pledge to “institutionalize the basic role of the market in resource allocation.”

Pledge to narrow the rural-urban income gap.

NGOs 499,000 NGOs were registered in China by the end of 2012, with 6 million employees.

2012. 18th CPC National Congress

Environmental protection Intensive industrial development prohibited in 40% of the country’s territory.

2013. Third Plenum of the 18th CPC Central Committee

Source: Ministry of Civil Affairs

Source: State Council

NEWSCHINA I January 2014

Expansion of market’s role in resource allocation, building on 2007’s 17th National Congress. Further expansion of the market’s role in resource allocation, pledge to “let the market play the decisive role.”


cover story Third Plenum

Li Shuguang: “No More ‘Blood Contracts’” Success of the Third Plenum’s reforms will only come when the law becomes the lifeblood of the government. The people have bled enough By Li Jia

Professor Li Shuguang


Photo by CFP


hina’s economic reform in the past decades has followed an official doctrine of “top-down design” supplemented by the tactic known in Chinese as “crossing the river by feeling the stones” – feeling things out. At its Third Plenum, the new leadership of the Communist Party of China re-committed itself to following exactly the same path. But before China can see where it is going, it must first figure out where it stands. The new leadership under Xi Jinping has vowed at the Third Plenum to “build a business environment on the basis of the rule of law.” Professor Li Shuguang, Executive Dean of the China University of Political Science and Law, has personally helped draft a series of economic laws and regulations, including China’s Bankruptcy Law, the State-owned Assets Law, the Securities Law, the Law of Small and Medium-sized Enterprises, the Partnership Law, the Anti-Trust Law, the Law of Investment Funds, the Property Law and

the Hearing Regulation of Administrative Cases Involving Foreign Trade. He remains the only Chinese fellow of the American College of Bankruptcy. In an exclusive interview with NewsChina, Li offers his unrivaled insight into how the government intends to make its reform agenda work to the advantage of everyone in China. NewsChina: In the past 35 years, it seems that administrative tools have played a key role in boosting economic growth. Why the shift towards rule of law? Li Shuguang: It is a misunderstanding that China’s fast growth in the past 35 years has come from strong administrative leadership. There is a very important hidden story behind the country’s growth. China’s reform era started with a secret agreement in 1978 made by 18 farmers in the Xiaogang village, Anhui Province, who signed a “blood contract” to take the risk of retaining some of their crops for themselves [rather than turning surpluses NEWSCHINA I January 2014

Photo by xinhua

Members approve the communiqué of the Third Plenary Session of the 11th Communist Party of China Central Committee, December 22, 1978

over to the State, as was law at the time]. Their challenge to the rules of the planned economy reclaimed their basic right to pursue happiness. Chinese leaders and intellectuals at that time also learned this common sense from their own suffering during the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976). It is common sense to say that human civilization is founded on the drive to pursue freedom and individual happiness. All subsequent reforms have originated from such common sense grassroots practices. This “return to common sense” has been reflected and institutionalized in policy. For example, the first documents issued every year setting the annual economic reform agenda and numerous policies on reforms in specific areas, such as State-owned enterprises, all follow an unspoken commitment to increase respect for people’s basic political and economic rights. Some of these policies have become statutes. Farmers’ land use rights, for example, was tested first by a private contract, then approved by policy and fiNEWSCHINA I January 2014

nally secured by law [the Land Management Law of 1986]. The Internet sector is another example. It has given people more freedom than ever to express and exchange their ideas, the fundamental source of creativity and productivity. This is how it has changed the way Chinese people both do business and consume goods. NC: Does the development of China’s private sector follow this “hidden line?” LS: Yes. The private sector is more flexible, dynamic and provides more possibilities for individual creativity. However, the hidden line also means that private enterprises face the so-called “original sin” problem – frequently having to resort to law-breaking in their early years of existence. Original sin in this context only exists if the law itself does not follow the law of nature. [In the early 1980s] Nian Guangjiu, founder of Shazi (Fool) Sunflower Seeds, was accused of “illegally setting up a company.” He was saved from prosecution by Deng Xiaoping, and China’s private

economy boomed afterward, because Deng’s intervention followed the natural laws embedded in the marketplace and honored the basic rights of citizens. [Back then], retailers selling products at more than cost price could be punished with life imprisonment or even death sentences. Today we realize this is completely at odds with history. The real “original sin” is when people break good laws. Those who use gutter oil or allow toxic chemicals to contaminate food are the criminals. NC: How about the “open line?” How has mainstream thinking contributed to China’s economy? LS: Since Reform and Opening-up was launched in 1978, government documents, policies and laws that have loosened controls on the market all follow the “open line.” For example, the reform of the State-owned enterprises (SOEs) was guided by two laws governing bankruptcy and collectively owned businesses. Tens of thousands of SOEs were


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NC: The State Council is trying to give more power to the market. Many administrative procedures have been cut or streamlined. But such efforts over the past 35 years have failed. How will this one succeed? LS: Before any government decides to delegate power to others, it has to identify wheth-


18 farmers in Xiaogang village, Anhui Province in central China agreed in 1978 to retain surplus crops for their own use at the risk of prosecution. A replica of this secret contract is displayed at the local memorial hall

Photo by FOTOE

NC: Is it time to have open lines play a bigger role in our economy? LS: Rule of law has three principles: the supremacy of the law, equal treatment for everyone, and constraints on the government power alongside the protection of citizens’ rights. In practice, the law has to be easy to understand, transparent and enforceable. Therefore, the rule of law provides stable and reliable expectations for an entire society. The long-term prosperity of China and the realization of better quality of life can only be made possible by giving everyone such expectations. There is no other way. Thus all the hidden lines that represent the principles of market economics have to be declared in laws which state clearly and fully what rights and obligations citizens have in the pursuit for individual economic interests. This is urgent. Why do people feel unhappy or insecure after they get rich? Because their property rights are not sufficiently protected by law, and contracts are weak. We have already reached a point where the old way of relying on administrative tools has already aggravated, rather than calmed, the growing conflicts of interest in the society.

Photo by Jing Aiping / IC

liquidated or restructured, thousands turned into joint stock companies and hundreds reformed through a trial project of implementing modern corporate governance. This was followed by the signing of the Corporate Law, which gives legal status to private companies which previously had to exist only as self-employed individuals with fewer than eight employees – Nian Guangjiu fell foul of this law.

Postage stamp commemorating Deng Xiaoping’s speech at the Third Plenary Session of the 11th Communist Party of China Central Committee, with a copy of his article Practice is the Only Criterion for the Truth before the meeting, 1978

er it holds this power in the first place. If not, there is no grounds for the government to say that it will delegate or restore the power in

question. Otherwise, new power is created when the old is abandoned – exactly as has previously happened [in China]. NEWSCHINA I January 2014

It is impossible for the premier [Li Keqiang], who knows the structure and pivotal links but does not operate the cogs in China’s huge administrative machine, to identify which approvals that ministries and local governments have made will actually make sense in the economy. Indeed, many of the cogs on this list are already rusty and their removal will do little to ease the government stranglehold on market forces. The only solution is to identify the government’s power in law, and make it public. There are also areas where the government’s role should be strengthened. This is particularly true today as the government is transitioning towards greater focus on providing services on the basis of the rule of law. The government has not done enough to fulfill its responsibility in cracking down on fraud, for example, in order to provide a good business environment. Many State-owned assets, particularly those in overseas markets, have no legally designated agent and are thus at the disposal of private interests. In many cases, the books of some SOEs have simply vanished with their former managers. Food safety and tackling pollution are also examples of areas where the government has to do more, and better. NC: Do we have laws identifying the government’s role in the economy? LS: There are significant gaps. In taxation law, there is only a law explaining how to collect taxes, and a few laws on some specific taxes such as the corporate income tax. We need a general basic tax law explaining the legal grounds for taxation, types of taxation, taxable bases and tax bands across the board. There are also existing laws in need of improvement. The Budget Law, which will be revised in the coming five years, must require the government to tell legislators where tax revenue goes. This information must include how much is spent on office buildings and equipment, and how much on, say, banquetNEWSCHINA I January 2014

ing. SOEs, listed or not, must publish their books. Legally defined procedures have to be observed in the collection and spending of public money. Decisions can only be justified by information disclosure and procedural justice, not on the whims of individual officials, as is the case right now. However, there is also the problem of the government routinely ignoring existing laws. Nearly every law, for example those dealing with food safety, corporate operations, banking, securities and others, has defined the government’s role in these respective areas, though to different extents and at different levels. This doesn’t guarantee observance. For example, China’s securities regulators asked listed companies to regularly pay dividends to shareholders - an infringement on corporate autonomy. Regulators should be stepping in when shareholders complain. Similarly, corrupt officials involved in contract disputes or compensation lawsuits routinely favor those who bribe them. Local courts are unnecessarily burdened with such disputes, leaving limited resources allocated to the most crucial civil, corporate and criminal cases. NC: The State Council has removed the minimum capital requirement to incorporate companies. Some say that crimes such as “illegal withdrawal of registered capital” and “fake registered capital” in the existing Criminal Law should be repealed. What do you think? LS: Firstly, these two crimes are about market fraud, not market access, and therefore should be retained. Secondly, it is not appropriate for the government to change the law in this way. The State Council should have proposed to the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress [China’s legislature] to remove the minimum capital requirement outlined in the Corporate Law, implementing policy only after the law is revised. In the short term, the government has followed the law of nature. In the long-term, however, this practice

could undermine the authority of the law and the awareness of the importance of rule of law to the wider society. Indeed, there is no paradox in respecting existing statutes and following the rule of nature. NC: What should be done to change this situation and realize the rule of law in China? LS: The biggest challenge is to make the concept of rule of law a part of everyone’s lifeblood – especially officials. We have a tradition of paternalism in our history and culture, which leads people to put their faith in “good” officials rather than good and just laws. The government still dominates every aspect of Chinese society. This is why its overlarge role in the economy has been a lingering problem. Laws have to be enforced. The Third Plenum required prosecutors and judges to perform their duties in an independent, fair way based on the law. But this proclamation has to be institutionalized. It is not just about the independence of the judicial system from local governments. It involves checks and balances on all relevant parties, including the police, the courts, prosecutors and the CPC’s legal committees. Judges who have been doing their jobs according to the whims of government need to change their way of thinking. The public, media and lawyers also have a role to play. They are part of the forces which supervise law enforcement. Transparency in legislation and law enforcement is the key to improving awareness and practice of the rule of law. Clearly defined laws pave the way for official accountability and open up options for individuals to protect their legitimate rights. Open court hearings, as shown in some recent high-profile cases including those of [corrupt officials] Yang Dacai and Bo Xilai, mark progress in this area. But “blood contract” stories, in which progress in the rule of law is made at the cost of life and liberty, need to end.




Fading Lights For those who grew up under the bright lights of China’s bustling cities, fireflies are the stuff of fairy tales. Fu Xinhua, a firefly expert, is working to put them back in the spotlight By Yang Di in Wuhan


earing a head-mounted flashlight, carrying an oversized net and dashing through woodlands whenever he spots a faint glimpse of light, Fu Xinhua, an associate professor at Huazhong Agricultural University in Wuhan, Hubei Province, casts an almost cartoonish figure when carrying out his nighttime fieldwork. For the past 13 years, Fu has split his time between his laboratory and south China’s wild forests, in an ongoing effort to study and protect the firefly, a creature well known but largely ignored in China. Often, Fu’s pursuits result in not-so-cartoonish injuries – the hot and humid habitat of the firefly in south China is also home to various species of poisonous snake, and Fu carries a knife, a lighter and vials of antivenom to neutralize bites. A hefty man with closely cropped hair, he has lost count of how many nights he has spent in the wild over the years. Fu, 35, holds China’s first PhD in the study of fireflies, and has become known as the “father of fireflies” by some in the academic community. His 10-square-meter basement – his “firefly lab” – serves as a storehouse for hundreds of bottled specimens, both living and dead, from eggs to adults. Nearly all of his salary goes on funding exhibitions, equipment and long mountain treks. But if Fu’s goal is to raise awareness of fireflies in China, things seem to be going well –


he has discovered three species of firefly in China after trekking several mountains and valleys in south China, and has published widely in academic journals both in China and abroad.

Close Encounter

In 2000, Fu was admitted to Huazhong Agricultural University as a master’s student majoring in agricultural conservation. He told NewsChina that one summer evening after a rainfall, as he was on his way to meet his supervisor to discuss his thesis, he happened to notice a mysterious green glow from the roadside grass. He got off his bike, reached out his hand, and caught several fat wormlike creatures, four to five centimeters long, giving off faint pulses of light in the palm of his hand. Fascinated by them, Fu decided to make fireflies the topic of his thesis. However, at the time, there was very little research conducted on fireflies in China, and academic articles on the topic were scarce. He realized that the firefly, a creature heavily referenced in classical Chinese literature, had been all but disregarded by modern academia. Shortly after receiving his PhD, Fu became an associate professor at the university, and continued his study. However, his enthusiasm was dampened when he was rejected for a research grant, which he claims was because his research was “unlikely to be profitable.” His firefly laboratory had all but closed.

Frustrated, Fu reached out to the famous Japanese firefly scholar Nobuyoshi Ohba. To his surprise, the Japanese professor, a man in his sixties, flew to Wuhan days later, to accompany Fu on field expeditions. Nobuyoshi’s passion for the study of the creatures inspired Fu to continue with his own efforts.

Population Crisis

Fireflies are particularly sensitive to their environment, and are currently more vulnerable than ever before. In the countryside, ecological damage and the use of chemical pesticides and fertilizers have caused firefly populations to drop rapidly. Fu recounted to NewsChina that in 2006, when visiting a village near Mount Emei in Sichuan Province, he had found the night air illuminated by hundreds of the insects – yet on a return visit in 2009, he found that there were almost none left. In cities, the situation is even worse – fireflies attract their mates by emitting light, and streetlights and other sources of light pollution make it almost impossible for them to breed in cities. To make matters worse, urban firefly populations have been hit by a recent trend for young people to give fireflies as gifts. Traditionally symbolizing love in Chinese literature, the insects make a particularly popular present at Qixi, the Chinese Valentine’s day, which usuNEWSCHINA I January 2014

Photo by sun xiaodong

met fireflies before. ally falls in August. In 2010, Fu conducted a survey Fu said the life span of a firefly is with the help of college students in only 10 to 14 days, and the creatures Wuhan, and the results were even often die in transit. Most are taken more disappointing. 74 percent of refrom the wild because it is unprofitable spondents did not know what a firefly to raise fireflies in captivity, according was, and more than 40 percent did not to Fu. Fu Xinhua, China’s first PhD holder in firefly studies, searches for fireflies in Dabie Mountain, Hubei Province care about their plight. Fu said what He said fireflies are typically an upset him most was that 99 percent of “indicator species” – a barometer of farmers in the Dabie mountain range environmental health and ecological balance. Fu worries that many people are not national natural science grant to continue his in Hubei Province responded that they saw aware of their importance. studies. He used the money to fund further fireflies as harmful, and tended to treat them “When fireflies start to disappear, it means expeditions into the mountains of southern as pests. However, Fu said he had seen some improvethe ecological system in the area is deteriorat- China with his master’s students, to record the ment. China’s first firefly park was opened in ing. They live and breed in areas with clean air, geographic distribution of fireflies. water and trees – places that are also healthy for Along with his research, Fu has also focused 2010 in Xiamen, Fujian Province, with more humans,” Fu said. on protecting fireflies through public educa- than 10,000 fireflies and a wetland valley with tion efforts. He published a book The Glimmer ponds, streams and plants to retain moisture. At the end of 2012, Fu set up China’s first Public Education of Home in 2013, in which he pieced together In November, 2007, Liang Xingcai, a re- his research on fireflies over the past 13 years, NGO for the protection of wild fireflies. Early searcher with the Kunming Institute of Zool- and in 2010, he released a self-funded popu- this year, he initiated a project at Huanglong ogy under the Chinese Academy of Sciences, lar science book The Journey of a Firefly – told Lake ecological agricultural zone in Hubei released a survey on fireflies in China. Having from the perspective of a firefly, Fu outlines the Province, with the goal of both raising fireflies conducted research in more than 20 provinces different breeds of the creature, how they live, and turning the area into a tourist spot. The protection zone is currently under construcand cities over six years, he found that more and their significance in Chinese culture. than 20 species had to be removed from the Fu said he want to change the misconcep- tion, and will be home to 200,000 fireflies previously 100-strong list of species living in tions of the public towards fireflies. In May, when completed. “There are more than 1,000 NGOs devoted China. It was the first time that the fate of fire- 2007, he organized a firefly exhibition at the flies had been noted academically. Fragrant Hills in Beijing. It was a small show, to the protection of fireflies in Japan. And in The same year, Fu received funding of but the number of visitors far expected his ex- the US, research findings have been used in 36,000 yuan (US$5,900) from China’s Min- pectation. However, he was shocked that 95 medicine, navigation and other areas,” Fu said. “We are lagging far behind,” he added. istry of Education, and in 2009, he received a percent of children living in the city have never NEWSCHINA I January 2014


Photo by fu xinhua

Fireflies light up the night in the suburbs of Wuhan, Hubei Province, May 2012


Hospital Attack

Inevitable Brutality The vicious murder of a doctor in a Zhejiang hospital shows the multiple failings in China’s healthcare system By Yang Di and Sun Zhe


efore he made his last call to his doctors on October 25, 2013, Lian Enqing had returned to his local hospital more than 100 times after receiving what he claimed was botched nasal surgery 19 months previously. Each call followed the same routine. Lian would complain that he could barely breathe through his nostrils, while his ear, nose and throat (ENT) consultant Wang Yunjie of the No. 1 Hospital of Wenling, Zhejiang Province, would do no more than advise him to take it easy, assuring the fretful Lian that his CT scan and other diagnostic tests showed no post-surgery abnormalities in his nasal septum. However, Lian continued to complain of pain and an inability to breathe. On October 25, Lian returned again to the hospital, where he stabbed Wang to death and injured two other doctors before being subdued.



In March 2012, to cure his rhinitis and a deviation of his nasal septum, Lian underwent surgery in the hospital, which lasted one hour and cost him 5,000 yuan (US$820), almost half his annual salary. His surgeon declared the procedure was successful, however Lian felt no better, and continued to complain of migraines and a feeling of suffocation. He reportedly stopped sleeping at night, and became anxious and depressed. Finding himself unable to work, he quit his job at a local manufacturer of mechanical mahjong tables and instead made repeated visits to the hospital where he had undergone surgery. Successive examinations concluded that his nasal airway was clear, and doctors could find no cause for his claimed inability to breathe through his nose. “Why do the doctors say there is no problem when my nose is torNEWSCHINA I January 2014

Only a Nose

Lian’s need of money was obvious to everyone around him. He had been a migrant worker since finishing junior high. Now 33, Lian, single (his family felt he couldn’t afford a bride), had few possessions beyond a few lamps, an old TV set and a refrigerator – all of which he shared with his family. However, he genuinely seemed more concerned about his nose than milking money from the hospital he

NEWSCHINA I January 2014

blamed for his pain. Lian took his appeal to the hospital’s dispute-handling department. After re-examination of Lian’s nasal septum and further consultation, the department concluded that Lian had “unrealistically high expectations” of the benefits of his surgery. ENT department director Wang Yunjie, his future victim, was assigned to break the news to Lian. This would later prove fatal to Wang, as Lian directed his anger against this individual, rather than the system he believed had failed him. In spite of regular meetings and constant explanations, Wang failed to get Lian to back down, or to perceive his pain as anything but real. Lian demanded regular examinations, as well as frequent CT scans, all of which produced the same result. The hospital arranged two group consultations, assembling the best doctors from all relevant departments and even inviting top provincial ENT surgeons along. No abnormality or obstruction was found. Lian began to show signs of obsession. His family told reporters that whenever a guest dropped by, he would show them his nostrils and ask whether one was bigger than the other. He asked his mother to open his airways by sticking a chopstick into his nasal cavity, something she refused to do. He responded by ramming his head against a wall “to clear the blockage.” “For him, it seemed that the only thing left in the world was his nose,” said Lian Enqing’s younger sister Lian Qiao, speaking under an assumed name. Lian returned to the hospital again and knelt before his doctors, begging them to perform another surgery, but again he was rebuffed. Instead, they recommended he seek psychiatric help. This only served to aggravate him further. photo by ic

turing me?” Lian complained to his family. He began to mutter darkly that he had received a botched procedure because he hadn’t bribed his surgeon or his consultant – a common practice in China’s overstretched hospitals, where most staff members earn a minimal salary. Doctors frequently demand additional “fees” for treatment, or overprescribe medications or force placebos on unsuspecting patients in order to pad their salaries with sales bonuses. Disputes over kickbacks have led to a series of violent attacks on hospital staff by disgruntled patients in recent years. In Wenling No. 1 Hospital, the largest, best-equipped and busiest healthcare facility in Wenling, a county with a population of 1.2 million, patients or their relatives would often queue up from four o’clock in the morning in the hope of seeing one of the hospital’s most reputable consultants. Lian also told his sister that doctors looked down upon rural people, and had thus been slapdash with his surgery and treatment. However, his doctors insisted they were taking all the care they could, considering the demand for their time from local patients. Like many such institutions in China, the No. 1 Hospital of Wenling is not insured against medical malpractice or accidents, and thus habitually settles disputes with patients by paying financial compensation, rather than resorting to the bloated and bureaucratic court system. This approach often antagonizes doctors, as a compensation payment even when the medical practitioner is not at fault can ruin their reputations. Some patients’ families have even been known to hire people to make a scene in front of Lian Enqing the hospital – even hauling the body of a recently deceased person before the main doors in a bid to extort compensation, regardless of whether or not the death was avoidable. With no clearly defined procedures to handle such cases, more often than not, the hospital pays up to make them go away. The No. 1 Hospital also tried to settle Lian’s case by paying compensation, but an amount could not be agreed, and Lian continued to insist on a follow-up operation.


Lian had worked himself into a frenzy. After visiting other hospitals in other cities only to receive the same diagnosis, he became convinced China’s entire medical industry was conspiring against him, using the Internet to guarantee he remained untreated. By this point, even his family had begun to suspect his problem might be psychological – otherwise, surely the doctors would have found something? Lian would not be calmed, verbally berating anyone who dared to suggest his nose was okay. He began to smash glass doors and electrical items in his family’s home. He even started beating up his mother and sister, who were becoming terrified of him. In August 2013, Lian was sent to a mental hospital in Shanghai, where he was diagnosed with persistent delusional disorder, and was hospitalized for two months. “You sent me to cure a disease I didn’t have, but would not cure


my real disease.” Lian reportedly accused his mother as soon as he got home after being discharged from the mental hospital. “You think my nose is in less pain now?” Since the murder, some experts have come forward to suggest that Lian may not have been imagining his symptoms, as his doctors believe. His reported pain was consistent with the symptoms of empty nose syndrome (ENS), which results from the excessive removal of turbinates – tiny internal structures which regulate humidity, heat exchange, airflow control and air filtration within the nasal passages – something which can create a sensation of intense pain and breathlessness. The procedure carried out on Lian at the No. 1 Hospital was a full turbinectomy. This procedure, if not performed carefully, can lead to breathlessness and intense pain as well as anxiety and chronic fatigue. However, other relatively common complications from major nasal surgeries often mask ENS, meaning it is often overlooked or misdiagnosed by medical staff, particularly as it will not show up on a CT scan. According to a paper published in 2001 co-authored by doctors from the Shijiazhuang-based Norman Bethune Medical University, 14 people were diagnosed with ENS between 1996 and 2000, all of whom had undergone various nasal surgeries, mainly turbinate resection. About half reported severe depression following their procedures. Unfortunately, the paper attracted little attention in Chinese medical circles. In another paper published in 2011, it was stated that one out of five patients who undergo turbinate removal or resection will go on to develop ENS. The paper also advised that doctors be prudent about turbinate resection, and called for a ban on aggressive surgical measures, such as laser treatment, that have an enhanced risk of causing the condition. However, aside from specialists in major urban centers, China’s overworked, underpaid medical professionals rarely pay attention to current medical research. The doctors who dismissed Lian as a hypochondriac were among the most overworked in China – assigned to crowded cities with limited resources, many worked 13 hour shifts for less pay than the average urban office worker.


After he was incarcerated in the psychiatric care facility, Lian began to talk openly about “taking revenge” on the doctors he felt had ruined his life. On the wall of his bedroom, the names of Wang Yunjie, the doctor who consulted him many times on his condition, and Lin Haiyong, the CT operator, were inked in bold strokes, reading “7.31 Wang Yunjie and Lin Haiyong die.” He had a picture of himself taken at a photo studio in town and gave it to his mother, telling her it would soon be all she had to remember him by. Lian’s mother attempted to keep him confined to the house, but he


Photo by ic


Staff from the No.1 Hospital of Wenling mourn murdered colleague Wang Yunjie

managed to sneak out when she left the house to wash some clothes. 10 days had passed since her son had returned from the psychiatric care facility. He left his belongings at home, including a cell phone and all his cash, taking only enough for a one-way bus ticket to the gate of the No. 1 Hospital. On arrival, Lian demanded to see Dr. Wang. After a brief quarrel, Lian produced a hammer and struck Wang repeatedly on the head until the handle broke off. He then began to stab Wang in the back with the knife he had concealed in the sleeve of his jacket. A doctor who attempted to come to Wang’s aid was also stabbed repeatedly. Lian then headed to the radiology department, where he attacked Lin Haiyong, the doctor who had conducted his multiple CT scans. He attacked the staff member he found working in the radiology lab, only asking his name after he had stabbed his victim three times. It was then he discovered that the man wasn’t Lin, but another doctor named Jiang Xiaoyong. On learning of his mistake, Lian hesitated, giving Jiang the chance to seize his knife. It was only then that hospital security arrived to wrestle Lian to the ground. Wang was pronounced dead on arrival in the emergency room. Doctors waiting outside burst into tears. To their horror, however, some of the patients who had been watching the commotion, applauded when Wang’s death was announced. A former colleague of Wang’s, speaking anonymously, said he had no idea when he had become the enemy of his patients. He described how he often had 50 consultations every morning from 7 AM, and often had no time to use the bathroom or answer his phone. Most of his colleagues would habitually work 13 hour days simply to keep on top of their workloads. “I cried not just for Wang, but for us all,” he said. NEWSCHINA I January 2014

Pollution Control

Breathing Space Cross-region campaigns to combat smog, such as that launched between Beijing, Tianjin and Hebei Province, are choking on regional protectionism

Photo by CFP

By Xie Ying


rom the northeastern provinces of Liaoning, Jilin and Heilongjiang, stretching south across Beijing and Tianjin, all the way to the Yangtze River Delta and the cities of Shanghai and Hangzhou, much of eastern China has been plagued by a pollution cloud, colloquially dubbed the “airpocalypse,” since September. Even Hainan, a tropical island province on the south coast known for its fresh, clean air, couldn’t escape it – in early December, local media reported that the province was suffering from a smog cloud originating in another part of the country. Many in Sanya, Hainan’s most popular beach resort city, donned anti-pollution masks. According to the China MeteoNEWSCHINA I January 2014

The blue sky shown on the LED screen is in sharp contrast to heavy smog, Beijing, January 23, 2013

rological Administration, in 2013 China’s cities saw more smog than ever before, with the average city seeing nearly 30 polluted days, and the “neighborhood” of Beijing, Tianjin and Hebei Province racking up over 100. “Smog has become a climatic feature of north and east China throughout the year…and [the clouds] have been expanding across individual cities to vaster neighboring regions,” warned a 2013 report on China’s air pollution jointly issued by the China Meteorological Administration and the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. Despite moving a large proportion of its heavy polluting plants out of the city, the capital Beijing was racked with heavy smog for more than half of both September

and October. According to experts, more than 25 percent of this was caused by fuel emissions from neighboring regions, particularly Hebei Province, which is responsible for half of the country’s coal consumption due to its booming heavy industry sector. “No individual city can now isolate itself from air pollution, as it tends to spread across regions,” said China’s environment minister Zhou Shengxian at an anti-smog conference held in Beijing on October 23, where the six municipalities and provinces most heavily affected by smog gathered to decide how to join forces and fight the problem. Yet, despite local governments’ eagerness to launch new policies in the wake of the conference, vari-



Harsh Targets

Photo by CFP

“By 2017, the ‘neighborhood’ of Beijing, Tianjin [both municipalities] and Hebei Province should reduce its level of PM2.5 [airborne

the burden falling on Hebei Province. The province is also required to abandon 60 million tons of steel capacity (a major source of coal consumption), nearly 30 percent of Hebei’s total in 2012. “I am dubious about how scientific the method was for defining these targets,” Luo Jianhua told NewsChina. “In my eyes, China’s heavy industries, including steel and cement production, have not

Photo by CFP

ously pledging to close down plants, use more clean energy, reduce automobile use and so on, experts remain doubtful that the measures can overcome differing regional interests.

Tangshan, a steel-producing city in Hebei Province, is perpetually wreathed in smog

particulate matter no larger than 2.5 microns in diameter] by 25 percent,” reads the Air Pollution Control Plan launched by China’s State Council on September 12. “It really is a hard nut to crack,” said Luo Jianhua, the general secretary of China Environment Service Industry Association. “By comparison, the US reduced its PM2.5 levels by 28 percent over 10 years, from 2000 to 2010.” In order to fulfill this commitment, Beijing, Tianjin and Hebei issued a new implementation rule on joint smog control on October 23, pledging to reduce coal consumption, a major cause of China’s worsening pollution problem, by a total of 83 million tons, with half of


yet reached their peak. I doubt that these industrial regions can reduce emissions while production is still growing,” he continued. The Air Pollution Control Plan was the result of tough negotiations, according to Jiang Kejuan, a pollution researcher from the National Development and Reform Commission, China’s top economic planning body, who had a role in the plan’s design. He told our reporter that the central government had initially proposed even higher requirements, which all of the regions involved were reluctant to accept. “It has come to a crucial point, where we have to make environmental protection a crucial index,”

Jiang said. “For Hebei Province, this means they will have to slash coal consumption through industrial upgrading and transition,” he added.


The central government’s determination is a hammer blow to Hebei Province, which is packed with nearly 300 registered steel furnaces, around half of China’s total, as well as a great many unlicensed ones. According to the Hebei Metallurgical Industry Association, Hebei Province produced around 210 million tons of steel in 2012, 22 percent of the country’s total. For every ton of steel, it emitted two kilograms of pollution made of sulfur dioxide and dust, nearly four times the average emissions of developed countries. Worse, according to Xiong Yuehui, technological director at the Ministry of Environmental Protection, more than 70 percent of the steel plants in Hebei are not up to emissions standards. Thanks to uncontrolled pollution, Hebei, according to the ministry, is home to seven of the 10 cities with the worst air quality in the third quarter of 2013. “The ‘super-smog’ is rooted in China’s heavy reliance on coal and dense distribution of heavy industry. Hebei has now been pushed into a choice between GDP growth and environmental protection,” Yang Xiaodong, a steel industry expert from the Technical Center for Cleaner Production of the Metallurgical Industry, told NewsChina. “The upgrading of the pollutioncontrol system may relieve pollution, but it is not a fundamental solution, since the resulting reduction in emissions cannot counter the growth in production,” he added. For several years, Hebei Province has been attempting to cut steel capacity to combat overcapacity and NEWSCHINA I January 2014

environmental damage, yet numbers of steel furnaces have continued to rise, with total production growing every year. “Many small and medium-sized steel plants tried to avoid being eliminated by adding more high-capacity furnaces, believing that larger scale would guarantee survival,” analyst Zeng Jiesheng from mysteel. com, China’s largest steel industry information website, told China Enterprise News. Such problems may also exist in smog control. According to a report by Xinhua News Agency, the Hebei government plans to reduce the number of steel plants by about 40 percent in the next four years, potentially resulting in more than 400,000 layoffs. While the remaining plants may choose to upgrade their emissions systems, they will see shrinking profits due to rising costs. “The key of control lies in the government planning, such as defining the weakest areas of capacity, detailing how to reduce [overall] capacity, and arranging an alternative way out for redundant enterprises and workers,” said Yang Xiaodong.

The Gap

On October 14, the Ministry of Finance announced that it plans to allocate a total of five billion yuan (US$800m) to Beijing, Tianjin and another four heavily polluted provinces to be spent on smog control, a large proportion of which will go to Hebei Province. According to the Ministry, funds will be given as a financial incentive to promote smog control, while experts have estimated that the total amount for anti-smog efforts over the period from 2014 to 2017 will reach 1.7 trillion yuan (US$270bn). So far, only the Beijing government has made a public declara-

NEWSCHINA I January 2014

tion about the figures behind its anti-smog efforts, announcing that it would input 20-30 million yuan (US$3.2-4.8m) to reduce air pollution. Its partners Tianjin and Hebei have been keeping silent about their budget. Many experts are worried that some developing cities are unwilling or unable to afford the huge input, given that developing cities tend to value economic growth over conservation. In fact, China’s previous joint campaigns against pollution were generally temporary efforts designed to clean up in a hurry ahead of one-off events, such as the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing or the 2010 World Expo in Shanghai, with all the measures abandoned thereafter. These failures can be attributed to differing regional interests, according to Zhang Quanzhi, director of the environmental protection bureau of Shanghai. “Cooperation easily collapses when there is conflict between the respective benefits of separate regions,” Zhang told China Environment News in 2012. Such differences are particularly prominent between the capital and its neighbors. Hebei Province, especially its counties and cities that border on Beijing, has significantly hampered Beijing’s environment improvement efforts over recent decades, resulting in worsening ties with the capital. According to a 2011 analysis report on the regional integration of Beijing, Tianjin and Hebei by Li Lan, a chief researcher with the Macroeconomic Research Center at the Hebei provincial branch of the National Development and Reform Commission, Chicheng County in Zhangjiakou, Hebei Province, for example, had dropped over 70 investment programs and shut down nearly 60 plants in order to protect

Beijing from what it called “sandstorms,” a term often used as a euphemism for heavy pollution. For the same reason, Fengning County in Chengde City had abandoned nearly 400,000 livestock to protect local grasslands, leading local farmers to lose 400 million yuan (US$63.5m) in revenue per year. Both cities received very little compensation from the capital. Statistics from the poverty-relief bureau of Hebei Province show that by the end of 2011, Beijing is surrounded by 25 national or provincial-level impoverished counties, whose average GDP is less than one-ninth of Beijing’s. “The capital’s special economic and political status have elbowed its neighboring regions aside, making it hard for them to talk with Beijing on an equal footing,” Li Lan wrote in his analysis report. Beijing, Tianjin and Hebei have now issued an array of polices on cooperative smog control, including information sharing and joint prewarning, emergency and clampdown systems. Crucially though, measures on economic cooperation remain blank. “Air pollution control is a long-term task, which should be accompanied by a long-term compensation system covering various areas like ecology and industrial development, but we have received little response from Beijing [on this issue],” a government official from Chengde, a steel boomtown in Hebei Province, complained to China Stock Market News in October. “Given that Hebei is not allowed to focus on the steel industry, Beijing needs to further consider how to help Hebei’s industrial transformation,” Luo Jianhua said. “The real key to joint control lies in economic assistance across the regions,” he added.


china 2013

2013 Change and Challenge


he year that was 2013 saw China’s new leadership take full charge of a Communist Party increasingly concerned with a myriad of challenges from within and outside the country’s borders.

Crime (and punishment) featured prominently in the news in the year when disgraced Politburo member Bo Xilai was finally sentenced to life imprisonment for corruption and abuse of power. Bo was only the most senior of a series of politicians to fall amid new General Secretary Xi Jinping’s high-profile crackdown on corruption. Indeed, the prominence afforded to legal issues led some to call 2013 the year China began to take its first steps along the long and tortuous road to establishing genuine rule of law. As China’s economic growth slowed – but did not crash, as some observers had predicted – focus was drawn toward further liberalizing business regulations and allowing the free market to flourish. While major Chinese multinationals continued to develop their international profiles, private enterprises increasingly stole the spotlight from State giants as the government finally seemed to warm to the most robust and dynamic sector of an economy long dominated by Beijing’s economic agenda. International relations saw territorial disputes between China and her neighbors intensify, with squabbles over island chains in the South and East China seas go unresolved. At the same time, the government launched a charm offensive in Southeast Asia, seen as a response to the Obama administration’s Pivot to Asia policy, and a raft of economic deals inked between China and the region’s emerging economies served to highlight both the growth in multilateral trade as well as the political differences overshadowing regional relations. The last months of the year saw the Third Plenum of the 18th Communist Party of China Central Committee roll out its reform agenda which promised one of the largest shakeups of China’s economic and political spheres in decades, though muted language indicates caution, and only time will tell whether or not some of the furthest-reaching reforms will be effectively implemented. In our annual wrap-up of the year that was, NewsChina brings you the faces, events and trends that typified China’s 2013, and makes a few predictions as to what the new year will bring for one of the world’s most important, and increasingly conflicted, superpowers.


NEWSCHINA I January 2014

Wang Qishan Balancing Act


fter being named as one of the seven members of the Politburo, China’s central governing body, in November 2012, Wang Qishan made his diplomatic debut when he visited the US in December 2012 as a vice-premier. However, Wang’s real responsibility within the Party is to curb corruption, a widespread problem that the top leadership has warned may lead to its collapse.

In March, Wang, who heads the Central Commission for Disciplinary Inspection, pledged that the new leadership’s anti-corruption campaign would target both “tigers” and “flies.” By the end of November 2013, 11 senior provincial officials had been removed from office, more than twice the number that fell during the previous leadership’s first year after assuming power. It is estimated that more than 1,000 bureau-level officials have been sacked during the same time. Wang is said to be the second most powerful person in China, with only President Xi Jinping wielding more clout. Analysts argue that Wang’s approach is differ-

ent from that of the previous leadership in that it focuses on punishment rather than prevention. In the past, anti-corruption efforts had focused more on prevention, as this was thought to address the root causes of corruption. However, as these efforts failed, harsher punishments are now considered to be the most effective method of reining in officials. One of the many new tactics to have been adopted is the sending of “circuit inspection teams” to different provinces and government agencies, with the goal of spotting corruption and creating an atmosphere of “shock and awe.”

Ministerial-level officials to have fallen under investigation since November 2012 (from left to right):

NEWSCHINA I January 2014

CPC Guangdong Provincial Committee 6. Wang Yongchun, 53, deputy general manager of the China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) 7. Li Chuncheng, 57, deputy Party chief of Sichuan Province 8. Wang Suyi, 52, chief of the United Front Work Department of the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region 9. Ni Fake, 59, former vice governor of Anhui Province 10. Ji Jianye, 56, mayor and deputy Party chief of Nanjing, capital of Jiangsu Province 11. Liao Shaohua, 53, Party chief of Zunyi city, Guizhou Province












Photo by CFP

1. Li Daqiu, 59, vice-chairman of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Committee in the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region 2. Liu Tienan, 59, deputy minister of the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) and director of the National Energy Administration 3. Jiang Jiemin, 58, chairman of PetroChina Co. Ltd 4. Guo Yongxiang, 61, chairman of the Federation of Literary and Art Circles of Sichuan Province 5. Zhou Zhenhong, 56, Member of the Standing Committee of the


china 2013

Bo Xilai

Riches to Rags


he trial of Bo Xilai, a former member of the powerful Politburo and Party chief of southwest China’s Chongqing Municipality in August finally brought to a close the sensational political drama triggered by the attempted defection of Wang Lijun, Bo’s deputy, to the US Embassy in Chengdu in February 2012. Bo received a life sentence after being found guilty of taking bribes and abusing his power in order to dismiss Wang, his former police chief, to cover up the murder of British businessman and family friend Neil Heywood by Bo’s estranged wife Gu Kailai. With Gu and Wang respectively sentenced to death with a twoyear reprieve and 15 years in jail earlier this year, the punishment handed down to Bo, whose campaign against organized crime led to harsh persecution of local entrepreneurs, is not surprising. What was surprising is how the trail was conducted – unlike other highprofile trials which are usually conducted behind closed doors, the court released a purportedly live transcript of the trial through online news portals and Weibo, China’s Twitter equivalent, which depicted Bo vociferously defending himself, refuting all charges against him and challenging the prosecution’s case point by point. The authorities hailed the trial as a symbol of progress in China’s judicial system, though many remain skeptical. After Bo appealed, a second trial was conducted in October, amid much less fanfare and with no live feed. The verdict was upheld.


Li Tianyi

Princeling Pariah


he trial of Li Tianyi, a 17-year-old man who was eventually sentenced to 10 years in prison for gang raping a woman in a Beijing hotel, was perhaps China’s most sensational legal case of 2013. The son of General Li Shuangjiang, a famous 74-year-old army singer known for his renditions of patriotic songs, and Meng Ge, also a well-known singer in China’s People’s Liberation Army, Li Tianyi had previously made headlines in 2011 when he attacked a couple over a traffic dispute, despite allegedly driving illegally himself at the time. He was sentenced to one year in a labor camp for the incident. Despite the legal requirement to protect the identity of minors, the case went viral in China’s media, with Li being called everything from “spoiled brat” to “dangerous criminal.” In an effort to save her son, Li’s mother and lawyers also took to the media, variously claiming that the victim was a prostitute and that the alleged rape was actually consensual sex. The strategy backfired, and led to a further public outcry over the privileges of the rich. Li was later sentenced to 10 years in prison. For many, the case reflected the growing public anger at China’s so-called “second-generation rich,” the privileged children of officials, celebrities and wealthy businesspeople, who often seem to live above the law.

NEWSCHINA I January 2014

Luo Changping Open Season


his 33-year-old investigative journalist and the deputy editor-in-chief of leading news magazine Caijing, Luo posted accusations on his Weibo account late 2012 accusing a senior government official of graft. Luo was the first Chinese reporter to dare to use the real name of an official in a non-State-approved report on corruption, exposing him to retaliation from the accused. Luo claimed that Liu Tienan, a former deputy head of the National Development and Reform Commission, China’s top macroeconomic planning body, of involvement in corruption, academic fraud and adultery. Liu was sacked and expelled from the Communist Party in May, and will stand trial for corruption. Luo was honored with an Integrity Award from anti-corruption watchdog Transparency International in November.

Xia Junfeng Hero or Villain?


o death sentence in China this year garnered more sympathy than that of Xia Junfeng, a street food vendor who had stabbed to death two chengguan, or urban management officers, and seriously injured another in a scuffle in the chengguan office. The incident occurred on May 16, 2009 when Xia, a kebab vendor in Shenyang, Liaoning Province, was detained by chengguan for operating without a license. Xia pulled a knife from his pocket and killed two officers before fleeing. He was soon arrested and sentenced to death, and his appeal was rejected in 2011. After the case came to light, public support for the murderer grew as the chengguan’s image as a ruthless and lawless organization was picked over in the media. In order to assuage public anger, the supreme court took two years to review the case before issuing the death sentence. Xia was executed on September 25, 2013. The public protest went viral online on Weibo, China’s Twitter equivalent, the key issue in the debate being whether or not Xia’s actions were in self-defense. It was widely speculated that Xia was assaulted in the chengguan office before launching a fatal counter-attack. Angry netizens compared Xia’s sentence with that handed down to Gu Kailai, wife of the fallen Chongqing Party chief Bo Xilai, who was sentenced to death with a two-year reprieve (essentially life imprisonment) for murdering British businessman Neil Heywood. Many argued that the verdict was yet more evidence that China’s different social classes are subject to different laws.

NEWSCHINA I January 2014

Tang Hui

A Mother’s Suffering


fter five years of efforts to bring those responsible for the gang rape of her 11-year-old daughter to justice, Tang Hui, a 38-year-old mother from Hunan Province, was sentenced to 18 months of “re-education through labor” for “interference in public functions” in 2011. According to local authorities, those who carried out the gang rape have now been arrested and convicted. Since then, Tang has become an iconic figure, while the public has grown increasingly angry with power abuses by the country’s law enforcement authorities. After Tang’s case was exposed, a spate of cases were revealed in which people were wrongfully sent to extra-legal labor camps. With the public outcry raised by Tang’s and other cases, Chinese President Xi Jinping pledged in January that the government would “work hard to ensure that the public feel they have received fair justice in every single legal case in China.” More specifically, the authorities pledged to scrap within the year the extra-legal “re-education through labor” system, which allows the police to detain an individual for up to four years without trial. In July, a court in Hunan ruled that Tang should be compensated with 2,641 yuan (US$433) for her wrongful detention.


china 2013

Deng Yaping

Falling Star


he manager of State-owned search engine Jike was left with egg on her face when the ill-fated portal was closed down after a miserable debacle. A former Olympic ping-pong champion, Deng was appointed to head the search service launched by Party mouthpiece the People’s Daily three years ago to fill the gap left behind by Google when it closed down its servers on the Chinese mainland in early 2010 after a dispute over government restrictions on the Internet. Though the appointment of a ping-pong player to the top position in an IT company was widely seen as a joke among netizens, Deng expressed ambitions to build Jike into a major player in the domestic market and even overseas. Two billion yuan (US$328m) later, the search engine had obtained almost zero percent of China’s search market. It was reported that Jike would be merged with, another State-run search engine under the Xinhua News Agency, which was launched about the same time as Jike and failed almost as spectacularly to capture an audience. Indeed, the combined market share of Jike and Panguso was less than 0.04 percent, despite the government attempting to force all China’s civil servants and employees in State-owned enterprises to exclusively use one or the other while at work. By all accounts, this decree has gone unheeded.

Pony Ma

Global Creative


Jack Ma

Loud and Proud


he president of Alibaba further expanded the e-commerce company’s presence in the financial sector by authorizing issuance of loans to merchants on its e-commerce portals Alibaba, Tmall and Taobao in 2012. Alibaba’s bid to permit online sales of financial products and insurance was greenlit by the authorities in June, and five months after its launch, sales of its first fund, namely Yu E Bao, totaled 100 billion yuan (US$16.4bn), making it China’s bestselling financial product. Other IT giants such as Baidu and Tencent have copied Ma’s online financial service model this year, a major challenge to State banks that used to be protected by law from private sector competition. In its online retail business, Ma’s company is also doing better than ever. During the nationwide shopping spree that took place over the unofficial Singles’ Day (November 11), Tmall and Taobao sold 35 billion yuan (US$5.7bn) worth of goods, an 83 percent increase on sales on the same day last year.


he unusually-named chairman and CEO of Tencent, one of China’s largest IT giants, saw his application WeChat become the hottest social networking platform in China, overtaking Sina Weibo, the Chinese Twitter equivalent that has been bleeding users due to its enhanced censorship and a perceived failure to respond to the needs of its users. WeChat is so far the first IT innovation devised by a Chinese company to gain popularity overseas, with a growing user base in Southeast Asia and the US setting the stage for further global expansion. This could be vital for Tencent, given that the company has long been accused of ripping off products made by US competitors, as well as plagiarizing its domestic rivals. Tencent has also been approved to offer various banking services, and it has already attached gaming and online payment service to its WeChat platform, boosting potential profitability.

NEWSCHINA I January 2014

Zhou Xiaochuan Sticking Around


Wang Yaping Space School


s China’s second ever female astronaut, Wang Yaping joined two male colleagues on the Shenzhou X mission in June 2013. From the Tiangong I orbital module, Wang delivered a live lecture on aerospace science on June 20, making her China’s first ever “teacher in space.” She later conducted experiments demonstrating the effects of weightlessness on the movement of objects and the surface tension of liquids to over 60 million Chinese middle school students and teachers. Through a live video feed, she also interacted with more than 330 students at a Beijing high school. Much has been made of China’s handful of female astronauts, most of whom are hand-picked from the People’s Liberation Army Air Force as much for their clean-cut, patriotic images as their professional credentials, something which has drawn criticism from some quarters.

hou Xiaochuan, 65, had been expected to retire as Governor of the People’s Bank of China (PBC) in 2013, until the central government decided to keep him on in the office he has occupied for more than 10 years. Known as one of the country’s core reformist officials, Zhou has major influence not only on monetary policy, but, crucially, on financial reform. China’s economic growth has slowed down due to restrictive policies concerning property prices alongside shrinking exports and inefficient investment. The central bank has always been under conflicting pressures to keep the market stable while also liberalizing economic policy. In June this year, for example, the PBC refused to inject capital into the interbank market which was undergoing a brief liquidity crisis, causing widespread, if shortlived, market panic. Zhou later acknowledged that the PBC’s actions were designed to give “a warning” to banks that circumvented regulations to borrow short-term money to lend to long-term projects initiated by local governments and property developers. Restrictions on loan interest rates were removed in July and in September a new benchmark lending rate system based on major Chinese banks’ rates for their best clients was introduced. While progress on interest rate reform has been widely hailed, the central bank under Zhou’s leadership has also been criticized for printing too much money and continuing to purchase US Treasury bonds in the aftermath of the global financial crisis. There have also been complaints that the devaluation of the yuan on the domestic market has swallowed consumer wealth, and others have claimed that the allowance for appreciation of the yuan against the US dollar has led to losses of Chinese exporters and investment of foreign exchange reserves.

Wan Long Meat Mogul


an Long, owner of Hong Kong-based Shuanghui International Holdings, became the world’s top butcher overnight in September, after purchasing US-based meat-processing giant Smithfield Foods. The US$4.7 billion deal turned out to be the biggest ever Chinese takeover of a US company, outdoing other notable Chinese overseas ventures including Lenovo’s purchase of IBM’s PC business in 2004 and Wanda’s acquisition of AMC earlier this year. Wan, 73, has spent his entire career in the meat industry. He joined Shuanghui in 1968 and rose to a factory director in 1984, eventually turning it into China’s biggest meat producer with an annual production volume of 2.7 million tons. With the acquisition, Wan said, Shuanghui aimed to learn food safety and efficient management practices from Smithfield. Wan has no intention to retire in the near future, and is reported to be in preparation to seek up to US$6 billion in an initial public offering in Hong Kong to compensate for the deal valued at US$7.1 billion including debt. The offering is expected to begin early next year, media reported.

NEWSCHINA I January 2014


china 2013

Peng Liyuan Fashion Forward


tanding alongside Chinese President Xi Jinping during his various overseas visits and presidential appointments, China’s First Lady Peng Liyuan has become an international fashion icon with her chic fashion sense since her debut in March. A household name even before becoming President Xi’s wife, Peng’s high-profile presence defies a tradition among Chinese top leaders, who are reluctant to parade their wives in public. While President Xi deals with international diplomacy, Peng has become something of a cultural icon, helping to improve the country’s international image. Championing Chinese fashion labels on her various officials tours with President Xi, the 50-year-old former military folk singer has provoked comparisons with American First Lady Michelle Obama – many in China were disappointed when Michelle Obama was absent from a bilateral meeting between President Xi and President Obama in California in June, suspecting that the First Lady of the United States was unwilling to risk being outshone by Peng. Making waves at home and abroad, Peng’s popularity has helped to improve China’s soft power and its international image. In May, Forbes ranked Peng at 54 on its 2013 list of the World’s 100 Most Powerful Women. In August, Peng was named in Vanity Fair’s 2013 International Best Dressed list. Peng also holds a position at the United Nations World Health Organization as a goodwill ambassador for tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS. As Xi is expected to remain in power for the next decade, Peng will likely continue to be an important asset for China’s soft power.

Evergrande Soccer Club

Rare Champions


n mid-November, Guangzhou Evergrande Soccer Club won the 2013 Asian Soccer Confederation (AFC) Champions League title, the first Chinese club to do so in 23 years. The Guangzhoubased professional club drew with South Korea’s FC Seoul 1-1 at home to claim the trophy in the second and final leg in Guangzhou, Guangdong Province following a 2-2 draw in Seoul. The team’s success has been credited to their Italian coach Marcello Lippi of Italy, who bolstered the team’s lineup with a raft of skilled foreign players. A total bonus package of more than 150 million yuan (US$24.63 million) was awarded to players following the match, which was watched by some 50,000 fans packed into Guangzhou’s Tianhe Stadium, with millions more watching on TV. Some drew unfavorable comparisons with China’s national team, long plagued by poor performance, match-fixing, corruption scandals and poor retention of players. While some saw Evergrande’s success as a potential source of hope, others pointed out the contribution of both foreign players and, crucially, a foreign coach, to ensuring success.


NEWSCHINA I January 2014

Feng Xiaogang Revival or Retreat?


hina Central Television (CCTV) announced in July that popular movie director Feng Xiaogang would direct the network’s 2014 Chinese New Year Gala. Although mostly known for his comedies, Feng has attempted to tackle more weighty fare in recent years, including the 1976 Tangshan earthquake and the famine that struck Henan Province in 1942. These forays into drama, while winning praise from the Chinese authorities, have disappointed fans of Feng’s lighter and infinitely more popular family comedies. The CCTV Chinese New Year Gala has also come under fire for its content in recent years, having evolved from a folksy and light-hearted show first broadcast in 1982 to a multi-million dollar spectacular padding out comedy sketches and musical numbers with thinly-veiled propaganda. Younger audiences have abandoned the broadcast in favor of more crowd-pleasing regional versions and Internet entertainment, and Feng’s appointment is expected to bring some of the old sparkle back to a stale format. “Directing the Spring Festival Gala is not my line of work,” Feng said during a press conference.

Jia Zhangke

The Roots of Violence


s one of the leading figures in the so-called sixth generation of Chinese filmmakers and one of international cinema’s most celebrated artists, Jia Zhangke is no stranger to controversy. His unflinching portrayals of poverty, alienated youth and the impact of economic expansion on Chinese society and the environment have guaranteed the censorship of his entire output on the Chinese mainland, even as he has become an international luminary. His latest work, A Touch of Sin, won the best screenplay award at the Cannes Film Festival. Centering on four stories based on real events, two in particular – that of a massage parlor worker who fights off the unwanted advances of a customer, and another involving a man who takes the law into his own hands after a clash with officials – mean the film’s release in China remains unlikely. Critics have described the film as “ultra violent” and compared it to the work of Quentin Tarantino, but, in Jia’s own words, he does not admire or worship violence, but wishes to examine its “roots.”

Wang Feng

Rocky Romance


fter weeks of media speculation, veteran rocker Wang Feng broke a long silence to publicly declare his love for actress Zhang Ziyi in an 8-minute-long declaration during a November concert in Shanghai. Soon after accounts of their pair’s involvement began circulating after Zhang publicly broke off a romance with TV presenter Sa Beining, Wang divorced his wife, which set the rumor mill into overdrive. Both Wang and Zhang were subjected to public backlash – both have been criticized for their behavior in past relationships. “I want to make you the happiest woman in the world,” Wang remarked in his address, adding that he hopes they can appear together in public in the future, rather than literally wearing masks when outside their homes. He then dedicated a performance of the song I Love You So Much to Zhang, who was seated in the front row.

NEWSCHINA I January 2014

Faye Wong End of an Era


inging superstar Faye Wong announced her split from actor husband Li Yapeng via her Weibo account in the fall after eight years of marriage. “Our affinity and connection as a husband and wife in this life has come to an end,” Wong wrote on the Twitter-like microblogging platform. “I’m well. Please take care of yourselves.” Li Yapeng made a similar announcement. “What I want is a family, but you are destined to be a legend.” In 2006, the celebrity couple set up the Smile Angel Foundation, a charity for Chinese children with cleft palates, after their daughter Li Yan was born with the condition. After their divorce was announced, Li said their daughter would be taken into his custody and that there would not be any disputes over money because the pair had kept their finances separate.


china 2013

Catchphrases of the year The Legend of Zhen Huan is a wildly popular TV drama series dealing with fictionalized power struggles in the harem of the Yongzheng Emperor of the mid-Qing Dynasty. The show’s dramatic style, shrewd casting and cliffhanger plotlines made it an instant hit, with some calling it China’s answer to Downton Abbey.


Such a thing, this one cannot do!


his archaic phrase, which refers to the speaker in the third person, originated with the character of the Empress Yixiu (Ada Choi), responding to a comment that she should stop loving her increasingly cold husband. When a screenshot of one of Choi’s more melodramatic expressions went viral, the accompanying line became a catchphrase used when someone is asked to do something they are unwilling or unable to do, such as eat less, stop playing online games or spending too much money.


Bitches gonna bitch.


his line is delivered by the character Concubine Hua (Jiang Xin), female lead Zhen Huan’s arch-rival for the Emperor’s affections, whose catty and duplicitous personality became a huge hit with the show’s fan base. Anyone, particularly women, seen as venal, calculating or false (all things Hua accuses Zhen Huan of being in her dealings with the Emperor), can expect this insult to be directed at them, usually behind their backs.


You are doomed to live a solitary life.


riginally a mocking response from a netizen to a post in which a young man described how he had failed to pick up on hints dropped by female admirers, this phrase became popular among young Web users. Used in relation to young men who are unaware of the tactics employed by young women in courtship, a number of anecdotes have also gone viral after their originators were deemed “doomed to live a solitary life.” One story in particular, where a young man, upon arriving at a girl’s dormitory late at night following a request for laptop repair, stormed out, indignant that his IT skills had been slighted when the lady in question claimed it was too late for him to finish the job and he’d have to sleep over, proved popular with netizens.


NEWSCHINA I January 2014


Would you wait for me until my hair reaches my waist?


fter one half of a young couple posted two pictures online with the comment “You kept me company as my hair grew from my shoulders to my waist. I kept you company as you grew from a green boy into a mature man,” a budding poet attempted to turn the post into verse, only to find his phrasing the subject of widespread online satire. A few gems included: “Once my hair reaches my waist, I’ll use it to strangle you,” and “Once my hair reaches my waist, how will I use the toilet?”

土豪, 我们做朋友吧

New money, let’s be pals!


ith tuhao, “new money,” becoming an epithet for China’s growing number of spendthrift overnight millionaires, the following joke, satirizing those who wish to curry favor with the idle rich, went viral. A young man met a monk, and said: “I am very rich, so why I don’t feel at all happy?” The monk asked: “How rich are you?” The young man replied: “I have millions of dollars in the bank, plus three apartments in downtown Beijing.” The monk silently held out his hand. The young man said: “Ah, you wish for me to give thanks for what I have!” The monk responded: “Nope. New money – let’s be pals!”


Overturn the Three Outlooks

My playmates and I were all dumbfounded.




n late 2013, netizens began using this phrase, roughly equivalent to “Mind. Blown.” to describe anything which forced them to reconsider their worldview – the Three Outlooks in Chinese tradition being one’s outlook on life, morality and the physical world. When actress Yuan Shanshan appeared in public sporting a blonde “Medusa” hairstyle, for example, Internet users announced that this had overturned their Three Outlooks. Similarly, a digital simulation showing the effect of the gravitational pull of various heavenly bodies on the Earth was dubbed a map of the “Earth with its Three Outlooks overturned” by netizens.

NEWSCHINA I January 2014

hen a school student was asked to give an account of the origins of China’s traditional Dragon Boat Festival, a celebration honoring the Warring States era poet Qu Yuan (340-278 B.C.) who drowned himself after his country’s downfall, he took the patriotism idea and really ran with it. Recasting Qu Yuan as a People’s Liberation Army officer in a one-man engagement with the rival Kuomintang during the Chinese Civil War (1945-1949), he gave a dramatic account of his imagined heroism. “The battle lasted 10 days and eventually only Qu Yuan and a Kuomintang officer were left alive,” the student wrote. “Qu Yuan shot the Kuomintang officer dead with his last bullet. ‘Long Live Chairman Mao and the Communist Party,’ he cried, and jumped into a river nearby. My playmates and I were all dumbfounded.” “I am also dumbfounded,” commented his teacher, giving rise to a new phrase for expressing surprise.



Trans-border Rivers

Testing the Waters Though some headway has been made in negotiations on trans-border river management between China and India, there remains a strong undercurrent of distrust By Wang Yan


Photo by Xinhua

tic media, and the deal received n October 23, during Indian Prime little attention from the public. Minister ManmoIn order to get the Chinese han Singh’s visit to Beijing, government’s perspective on the China and India signed nine significance of the MoU, Newsagreements including a MemChina tried to contact the Interorandum of Understanding national River Department of (MoU) on trans-border rivers, the Water Resources Ministry, a hot-button issue for both rethe agency responsible for all gional superpowers. bilateral and multilateral transA joint statement said that border river issues. trans-border rivers are “assets of Displaying typical caution, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and his Indian counterpart Manmohan Singh immense value to the socio-ecothe department refused to anattend a joint press conference, Beijing, October 23, 2013 nomic development of all riparswer any questions. The only ian [river-dwelling] countries” clarification came from Wang and the two sides agreed to Wei, a staff member with the further strengthen cooperation on the matter, editorial that “the recognition of lower riparian International Rivers Department, who told vowing to “cooperate through the existing Ex- rights is a unique gesture, because China has re- our reporter that, up till now, the Water Repert Level Mechanism (ELM) on provision of fused to put this down on paper with any other sources Ministry does not have any projects flood-season hydrological data and emergency neighboring country.” planned for the Great Bend of the Yarlung management, and exchange views on other isDespite a largely positive, if cautious, re- Tsangpo/Brahmaputra River. sues of mutual interest.” sponse from the country’s media, Indian acaOne additional feature of the agreement is demics, many of whom have been critical of Tough Going that the Chinese side agreed to move up the China’s attitude towards the management of Water resources development on the Yarlung hydrological data provision period concerning trans-border water resources, were less than Tsangpo/Brahmaputra River (See: “The River the Yarlung Tsangpo/Brahmaputra River by convinced. Some claimed that the MoU sig- Wild,” NewsChina, January 2012, Vol. 42) has half a month, from June 1 to May 15, starting nals no substantial breakthrough. For example, been a sensitive issue in bilateral relations. India 2014. If honored, this pledge will allow India there is no mention of dams, river projects or has been persistently opposed to Chinese dams privileged access to Chinese data concerning lower riparian rights in the MoU – issues which being constructed in the river’s upstream porthe movements of one of Asia’s most heavily continue to overshadow bilateral negotiations. tion, as such projects have a significant impact trafficked waterways, upon which millions of on downstream communities. livelihoods depend. Underreported Brahma Chellaney, professor of strategic Upon the signing of the MoU, Indian Contrary to the Indian press, the Chinese studies at the Centre for Policy Research in press outlets published reports about its posi- media has consistently ignored the issue of New Delhi, claimed that China seems bent on tive significance. The Hindu ran with “China trans-border rivers in its coverage of Sino-Indi- aggressively pursuing projects on the Yarlung will be more transparent on trans-border river an relations. No analysis or in-depth coverage Tsangpo in order to “use water as its weapon.” projects,” while The Indian Express stated in an of the new MoU was published in the domes- With Chinese dams able to regulate the flow


NEWSCHINA I January 2014

remain in their infancy, and, thus far, agreements have tiptoed around the biggest stumbling blocks. Putative hydropower projects in particular are threatened by unresolved questions of sovereignty. “At present, negotiations on the territory issue can do little but preserve the status quo, as neither side is willing to yield,” Li told NewsChina. “Thus, we perceive that cooperation on cross-border rivers will remain confined to the sharing of hydrological and flood warning data.”

Modest Progress

In this area, at least, some leaps forward have been made which could have significant benefits for communities living and working along trans-border waterways. Yang Xiaoping, another researcher from the NIIS at CASS, told our reporter that in 2002, China and India signed an agreement on providing hydrological data from three checkpoints along the Chinese stretch of the Yarlung Tsangpo/Brahmaputra from June 1 to  October 15 every year. “In the recent MoU, the data sharing period is to be extended by 15 days,” Yang said. “Taking into account that data during the flood season is hard to obtain and that scientific data is often mixed up with the considerations of national security, this is a very significant step forward.” Yang Xiaoping believes a cross-river mechanism involving early warning systems, ecological conservation and biodiversity may prove helpful to the future development of the MoU. “From our point of view, the cross-border river issue is not the most decisive issue that defines the Sino-Indian relationship. However, if China adopts a more active attitude on this

issue, it could improve China’s image among its neighbors. ” China’s trans-border rivers rank are globally important in terms of both number and total water volume, with 15 major international waterways originating within the People’s Republic. As a result, northeast, northwest and southwest China all enjoy abundant transboundary resources and have correspondingly complicated ecological security issues. In southwest China, for example, there are 26 international rivers including the Yarlung Tsangpo/Brahmaputra, Meikai/Irrawaddy, Nu/Salween, Lancang/Mekong and the Yuan/ Red, with their lower reaches flowing through South and Southeast Asia, providing water to tens of millions of people. Among these international rivers, the Mekong is the most politically important. From its source in Yunnan Province, it flows through Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam, and its importance has allowed these nations to develop a complex network of management and information sharing mechanisms which many would like to see replicated along the Yarlung Tsangpo/Brahmaputra. He Daming, director of the Asian International River Centre at Yunnan University, points out that in the regions through which some of China’s international rivers flow, there remains a lack of sufficient research operations and management projects along with measures in keeping with international law. Until such mechanisms are in place, the fate of communities living along the rivers shared between China and its neighbors will continue to ebb and flow with the idiosyncrasies of political relations.

Photo by CNS

of the Brahmaputra, Beijing can effectively threaten to cut water supplies to millions of Indian nationals in the event of a bilateral crisis. Chellaney warned that security tensions could lead to the politicization of the water issue if China’s dam building plans go through. China, meanwhile, is concerned that any development plan for the Brahmaputra drawn up by the Indian government, particularly in the disputed territory through which the river flows, might undermine China’s contested sovereignty rights over regions in southern Tibet, one area of which, Arunchal Pradesh, is already under Indian jurisdiction. Li Zhifei, a researcher with the National Institute of International Strategy (NIIS) under the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS), told NewsChina that China is opposed to Indian control of regions in southern Tibet through development and exploitation of the Yarlung Tsangpo/Brahmaputra River. India typically responds to such accusations by stating that any form of development by China on the river must not be conducted with the aim of weakening Indian control over these areas. “Therefore, the main reason behind the slow progress in bilateral negotiations on crossboundary rivers development and the sharing of water resources is that the issue is interwoven with territorial disputes. Without solving these, the two sides can hardly be expected to make breakthroughs in cross-border river cooperation,” said Li. Li added that the MoU signed on October 23 is strategically important for both sides. However, he and other academics acknowledge that productive negotiations on this issue

NEWSCHINA I January 2014



Sino-Japanese Relations

Unwilling to Share Could escalated saber rattling between China and Japan ever erupt into all-out hostilities? By Yu Xiaodong Inset: A picture taken by Japan’s Joint Staff on September 9, 2013 shows an unidentified drone flying near the disputed Diaoyu Islands

Rival Exercises

From October 24 to November 1, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Navy staged a ground-breaking exercise in the Western Pacific


Photo by AFP

[Shooting down a Chinese drone] would be a severe provocation and an act of war, and China would strike back swiftly,” Di Yansheng, spokesman for the Chinese Ministry of Defense, told the media at a press conference October 26, referring to a report that Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe had approved a plan to potentially intercept and, if necessary, shoot down any foreign drones found “within Japan’s airspace.” The plan was drawn up by Japan’s Defense Ministry after a Chinese military drone was spotted in the vicinity of the disputed Diaoyu (or “Senkaku” in Japanese) island chain in the East China Sea off Taiwan. This controversy was further highlighted on October 29, when Japanese Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera said that patrols by Chinese maritime surveillance ships in the waters around the island chain, which is controlled by Japan but claimed by China, “falls in the gray area between peacetime and an emergency situation.” While verbal sparring between the two nations reached a new height, though seemed largely aimed at stirring up nationalist sentiment in their respective spheres of influence, increased military activity on both sides has heightened fears that this saber-rattling might erupt into armed conflict.

Soldiers of the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force prepare a surface-to-ship missile launcher at Camp Naha in Naha, Okinawa Prefecture, November 11, 2013

Ocean, called “Maneuver 5,” which involved warships and submarines from China’s Southern, Eastern and Northern fleets. It was the first time that major units from all three fleets had joined forces in a simulation drill designed to create the conditions of a naval skirmish in international waters in the Western Pacific. With Chinese ships passing through the Bashi Channel, the Osumi Strait and the Miyako Strait to arrive in the drill zone, analysts believe that the drill carried a symbolic message that China has the capability to break through the so-called First Island Chain, a sparse archipelago spanning the waters between Japan, Taiwan and the Philippines. This chain is believed by the Chinese to have been designated by the US strategists as an unofficial buffer zone to

contain Chinese military expansion. China’s military pundits were quick to claim victory against alleged US encirclement. “For the Chinese Navy, the so-called First Island Chain has been disjointed,” Du Wenlong, a senior researcher with the Academy of Military Sciences of the PLA, said in an interview with CCTV, China’s State broadcaster, “The siege and blockade against the Chinese navy is now history.” However, China’s attempted drills did not progress smoothly. During the exercise, a Japanese destroyer entered the drill zone, remaining there from October 25 and departing October 28, disrupting live-fire exercises. Japan also scrambled jet fighters on three consecutive days in response to Chinese aircraft conducting flyNEWSCHINA I January 2014

overs in international airspace close to Okinawa and Miyako Island. In an unusual move, the response from the Chinese Ministry of Defense broke with accepted protocol, bypassing the Chinese Foreign Ministry and directly voiced its protest to the Japanese government, alleging “dangerous provocation.” “Not only did this interfere with our normal exercises, but also endangered our ships and aircraft, which could have led to miscalculation, mishaps or other incidents,” Yang Yujun, spokesman for the ministry, told a press conference. As if to respond to China’s naval drills, the Japanese military launched its own exercises on November 2, including landing drills, in Okidaitojima, 400 kilometers southeast of Okinawa. With 34,000 troops, six warships and 380 military planes committed, the 18-day drills involved amphibious landings on uninhabited islands. A feature of the exercise which caused particular alarm in Beijing involved transporting land-to-sea missiles from Hokkaido to Miyakojima, Okinawa, which would cover the strategically important Miyako Strait. A key sea lane linking the East China Sea and the Western Pacific Ocean, the 145-nautical-mile-wide strait is deemed a key strategic link in the First Island Chain. As China has become more assertive in the region, with its warships frequently passing through the Miyako strait, Chinese officials have called on Japan to “get used to China’s lawful activities,” emphasizing that the passage is an international waterway and the Chinese navy violates no international laws in passing through it. The recent move to deploy land-to-sea missiles that could potentially give the Japan SelfDefense Force complete military control of the strait indicates that Tokyo has no intention of accepting a regular, long-term Chinese naval presence so close to its territory. “By deploying land-to-sea missiles to this strategic passage, Japan shows that it is determined to lock Chinese naval forces out of the Western Pacific,” commented a November 7 editorial in the Hong Kong-based Wen Wei Po newspaper.

Open Hostility

Analysts believe that the recent exchange of

NEWSCHINA I January 2014

uncompromising rhetoric between the two countries indicates unprecedented hostility, though many international observers still believe armed conflict remains unlikely so long as the US-Japan strategic defensive pact holds. “There are concerns that China is attempting to change the status quo by force, rather than by rule of law,” Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told the Wall Street Journal on October 26. In the high-profile interview, Abe bluntly stated that Japan would contribute to the world by counterbalancing Chinese power. Abe made similar remarks in an interview with the Washington Post in February, adding that China has a “deeply ingrained” need to spar with Japan and other Asian neighbors over disputed territory. Abe suggested that if other Asian countries decide to fight back by cutting trade and other economic ties, it would hurt China badly. However, after these remarks drew strong criticism from China, Japanese officials insisted that Abe was misquoted. However, Abe remains increasingly reliant on an anti-China stance to win friends not only abroad, but among the Japanese electorate. Not long ago, in September and October, Abe was calling for “unconditional dialog with Chinese leaders” to “improve bilateral ties.” However, as Abe has continued to insist that sovereignty over the Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands are not in dispute, China has refused to hold high-level talks with Japan. “The whole world knows that there are disputes over the islands,” said Wang Yi, China’s Foreign Minister in a speech during his visit to Washington on September 22. Despite its proclaimed “pivot to Asia,” the Obama administration is increasingly focused on domestic policy, meaning the US’ strategic role in East Asia remains shaky. There are signs that Japan is seeking to step into Washington’s shoes and provide a counterweight to an increasingly expansive China. During various Asian summits held in October, Abe sought an enhanced role for Japan by highlighting security challenges posed by China’s rise and openly siding with the Philippines in its own territorial disputes with China over island chains in the South China Sea. However, a new Chinese charm offensive has hampered Tokyo’s efforts to woo the ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations), despite territorial disputes, with relations with var-

ious ASEAN countries, in particular Vietnam and the Philippines, continuing to be a sticking point in terms of security exchanges between China and the strategic bloc. The absence of President Barack Obama, and the joint presences of Chinese paramount leaders Xi Jinping and Li Keqiang at these Asian summits was seen to symbolize a pullback of the US pivot, leading to jitters in Japan. All these factors have led Tokyo to take a more aggressive position to counter China. As Japan will play host to the leaders of 10 ASEAN countries in Tokyo in December to mark the 40th anniversary of Japan’s ties with the trading bloc, Abe’s highlighting of China’s threat to regional interests helps to set the tone of the meeting. “Japan is expected to exert leadership not just on the economic front, but also in the field of security in the Asia-Pacific region,” Abe told the Wall Street Journal. In the past years, Japan increased security cooperation with ASEAN countries, especially Vietnam and the Philippines, two countries embroiled in bitter territorial disputes over islands in the South China sea. In July, Japan offered to provide 10 patrol boats to the Philippines. Chinese experts and officials have argued that Japan’s reiteration of China Threat Theory is driven by a populist “lurch to the right” in Japanese domestic politics, and a desire to amend its pacifist constitution to become remilitarized. In summarizing its interview with Abe, the Wall Street Journal concluded that Abe’s remarks “reflect his broader, long-standing nationalistic vision of a more assertive Japan, one he has argued should break free of the constraints imposed on Japan’s military by a postwar pacifist constitution written by the US—and that has also been hampered by economic decline.” As both China and Japan, the two giants in the region, seek to be more assertive, competing for influence in the region, conflicts between the two countries have developed from disputes over a handful of islands and opposing interpretations of history into blatant strategic hostility. While territorial disputes can be controlled and mitigated by the improvement of bilateral ties in other fields, comprehensive strategic confrontation will only lead to a zero-sum game, if not a full-scale war.



Chinese Honey

Hive Minded China’s indigenous honey bee is under threat from both environmental degradation and competing species By Qian Wei and Wang Yan


i Xueming, a beekeeper in Beijing, maintains 4,300 Italian honey bee hives. He also keeps four hives of Chinese honeybees for his own personal use. According to Qi, the honey from these four hives “is healthier and smoother-tasting.” While the jury remains out on just how much “better” Chinese honey tastes, Qi and his family members still choose to raise Italian bees for their economic advantages. Larger, more robust and more productive than indigenous Chinese honeybees, Italian bees have seen an estimated 40,000 colonies of Chinese honeybees recorded in the Beijing municipal area 60 years ago drop to 400 today, with only one percent of the pure honey manufactured in Beijing being sourced from indigenous bees.

Invisible Threat

There are currently nine recognized species of honey bee worldwide. China’s indigenous bees emerged over 700 million years ago, and, unlike European bees, remain productive throughout the winter, during which time they continue to pollinate wild plant life. Chinese honeybees have a 30 percent higher pollination rate for apple trees when compared with their European counterparts, making them crucial to certain agricultural sectors. Yang Guanhuang, a researcher at the Bee Research Institute of the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences has spent 50 years studying Chinese honey bee behavior. According to Yang, in the early 20th cen-


tury the number of managed colonies in China stood at about 5 million. He claims that today, while the government continues to crow about the country’s 6 million honey bee colonies, less than one million of these are of indigenous species. In the past century, the range occupied by Chinese honeybees has reduced by over 75 percent and population has fallen by 80 percent, as hardier and more economically viable European species have been imported en masse to fuel market demand for cheap honey. Wild populations have almost disappeared altogether, with the country’s handful of remaining wild colonies barely surviving in remote areas of the southwest. “Generally speaking, when the total population of a species dwindles to less than 10 percent of its initial number, it can be defined as threatened. Now, the Chinese honeybee is facing this situation,” Yang told NewsChina. Deforestation, excessive use of pesticides and environmental pollution has devastated biodiversity in China, and wild honeybees have been among the least well-documented casualties of the country’s relentless march of development. Moreover, the wholesale introduction of European species, which allegedly began as far back as 1896, has forced out colonies which might have escaped habitat loss. In his article “Harm caused to the Chinese honeybee by introducing the Western [European] honeybee and its ecological impact,” published in 2005 in the bilingual monthly journal Acta Entomologica Sinica, Yang Guanhuang called attention to the plight of China’s indigNEWSCHINA I January 2014

enous honey bee species. Yang claimed that Italian bees in particular are aggressively territorial, and routinely destroy and occupy Chinese colonies, as well as spread the Sacbrood virus (SBV) to queens, a virus which then spreads to entire regional populations. According to Yang’s data, from 1972 to 1976, a SBV epidemic erupted in Fogang County, Guangdong Province which wiped out 90 percent of local Chinese honey bee colonies, one million hives in total. In August 2007, beekeepers in Puwa village found that queens in their Chinese honey bee colonies were inexplicably being found dead in their nurseries. After examining the affected hives, Yang Guanhuang found Italian honeybees had simply flown into the hives and stung the queens to death, destabilizing the colonies. Yang claims this is because, as the wing vibrations of both species are almost identical, Chinese bees cannot distinguish Italian honeybees from their own species. His research results have been recognized by the domestic academic circle. Researcher Peng Wenjun from Chinese Academy of Agricultural Science agreed with Yang’s conclusion and said that the widely introduced European honeybees including Italian honeybees have exhibited aggressiveness towards their Chinese counterparts. There are also exceptions. Safi Malik, owner of Shangrila Farms, a honey producing company in Yunnan Province, told the reporter that his family-operated bee boxes in Shangri-la, Yunnan Province had never encountered such problems, even though they kept Chinese honeybee and Italian honeybee boxes in the same courtyard. NEWSCHINA I January 2014

Yang also points out that Italian honeybees are more highly evolved than their Chinese counterparts. “Within two to three kilometers of the range of Italian honeybees, it is hard for Chinese honeybees to survive,” he said. Yang warns that, as Chinese honeybees disappear, a chain reaction is triggered which affects biodiversity, the food chain and could ultimately impact humans.

Chain Reaction

While on the face of it, a spate of fatal hornet attacks in central China’s Shaanxi Province might have little to do with the plight of the domestic honey bee, in reality, some claim, there is a direct causal link. 1,640 people have been injured by hornets in Shaanxi this year alone, 42 of them fatally. Chongqing, Sichuan, Hubei and Guangxi also reported increased incidence of life-threatening hornet attacks in July and September. According to wildlife biologists, widespread deforestation in these areas has forced hornets into closer proximity to large populations. Moreover, the decline in plant diversity due to the reduced role of Chinese honeybees in cross-pollination has led to a decline in insect populations, in turn decimating bird populations – the main predators of hornets. Yang Guanhuang argues that the worst affected areas are all former ranges of now-extinct or threatened Chinese honeybee colonies. “Increasing the number of Chinese honeybees would be a funda-



mental way to resolve the hornet problem,” he said. So far, two major Chinese honeybee nature reserves have been established in a bid to protect the species from extinction - one in Beijing’s Fangshan District and another in Raohe, Heilongjiang Province. However, while habitat loss and competing species remain a problem, a new threat to all honeybees is also emerging – the marketplace. Honeybee populations are in decline worldwide. Since 2006, commercial beekeepers in the US started to notice that their adult worker honeybees would suddenly flee hives en masse, ultimately destroying their colonies. This so-called colony-collapse disorder (CCD) has plagued the international honey industry ever since. Despite years of study, no exact cause for CCD has been pinpointed by scientists, and a recent report released by US Department of Agriculture (USDA) speculated that various culprits might be to blame – the Varroa parasitic mite, several viruses, a bacterial disease called European foulbrood and the use of neurotoxic pesticides, called neonicotinoids, in agriculture. In China, neonicotinoids are widely used on farms, yet Chinese honeybees are seemingly resistant to CCD. However, Yang Guanhuang attributes this more to the minor role Chinese honeybees play in agricultural pollination (10 percent, compared to 30 percent in the US), rather than some inherent genetic advantage. Of greater concern to China’s honey industry is general rural depopulation over the past half-century. Beijing beekeeper Qi Xueming admitted to our reporter that the younger generation is unwilling to take up beekeeping, a trade which, at best, will earn barely 50,000 to 100,000 yuan (US$8,201 to 16,402) per year. In the past decade, the average age of Chinese beekeepers has increased by 13 years. As of 2007, almost half of the beekeepers in China were over 50 years old. Moreover, the chaotic honey market in China, rife with counterfeit products, is a further handicap to the domestic industry. It is reported that at least half of the 400,000 tons of honey products manufactured annually in China are adulterated, with a large proportion entirely fake. Chinese consumers are increasingly turning to imported honey from New Zealand, Europe and the US. “The market price for honey is only 20 yuan (US$3.28) per kilo. But our work is far more labor-intensive than other agricultural sectors,” said Qi Xueming, adding that if the government cannot step in to effectively regulate the market, the industrial chain might collapse altogether. A recent TIME magazine report on the honeybee industry in the US used a quote often attributed to Albert Einstein: “If the bee disappears from the surface of the globe, mankind will have no more than four years left.” As Yang Guanhuang told NewsChina: “The disappearance of the honeybee might not lead to the extinction of man, but it will definitely have a huge impact on our living environment.” 


Photos by CFP

Decaying Industry

Indigenous Chinese honeybees (top) and an apiarist (bottom) NEWSCHINA I January 2014

Chinese Honey

A sticky Situation A glut of counterfeiting has left the reputation of China’s vast honey industry in tatters. Is there any hope for recovery? By Wang Yan


ccording to a release from the Hong Kong Consumer Council (HKCC) published July 15 2013, the results of recent HKCC testing on 55 samples of honey sold in Hong Kong revealed that at least 14 samples were adulterated. Many contained a high ratio of cane sugar syrup, rice sugar syrup and high-fructose corn syrup to actual honey. Even more worryingly, six samples also tested positive for antibiotic residue. The HKCC also discovered that the problem of adulteration and contamination with antibiotics actually worsened higher up the value chain. For example, products labeled Manuka honey retailing between US$39.6 and US$151.2 (per 100g) were more likely to contain both sugar syrup and antibiotic residues than cheaper alternatives. This report was further evidence of the long-reported counterfeiting problem which continues to plague China’s honey market, which is often held up as one of the more egregious examples of lax food and drug regulation in the country.

Real Chaos

Late June, State network China Central Television (CCTV) reported on the exposure of a honey counterfeiting racket in Chongqing’s Hechuan district. According to the government’s analysis, 500 kilograms of artificial honey confiscated from the operation contained zero percent honey, instead being a concoction made from water, sugar, alum powder and coloring. Costing 10 yuan (US$1.64) per kilo to manufacture, the product was being sold for 40 to 60 yuan (US$6.57 to 9.85 per kilo). More alarmingly, the government laboratory reported 187 milligrams of aluminum residue per kilo, a toxic percentage which could, over time, lead to severe neurological impairment. As the world’s largest producer of honey, according to official statistics, China produces some 448,000 tons annually, accounting for over 25 percent of global production. According to government data, the country reportedly exports some 100,000 tons annually, retaining another 380,000 for domestic consumption. In its refined form, pure honey should contain sugar (around 82.1 percent), water (around 17.2 percent) and trace amounts of protein NEWSCHINA I January 2014

(around 0.3 percent). Pseudoscience whistleblower and blogger Fang Zhouzi claims that since honey’s sweetness is derived principally from fructose (about 38.5 percent) and glucose (about 31.0 percent), it is chemically comparable to inverted sugar syrup (approximately 48 percent fructose, 47 percent glucose). Thus, it is easy to mix pure honey with sugar water, maltose, corn or rice syrup and other additives to produce a passable imitation of authentic honey. “These artificial honey products can meet national standards and pass quality control screenings, meaning they enter the market legally,” Fang claimed in his article published in China Youth Daily in late 2010. “The cost [of manufacture] is less than 10 percent of that of the same amount of real honey.” Since 2002, parts of the world including the EU, Japan, and Saudi Arabia have banned or imposed stricter rules on importing Chinese honey imports after certain chemical residues and traces of pesticides were found in a variety of products. Despite the lifting of the EU import ban in July 2004, few products originating in China have been cleared by regulators for import to the EU market. Chinese honey manufacturers have encountered similar barriers in the US, after American beekeepers accused Chinese companies of deliberately undercutting them on price, leading to the US government imposing import duties in 2001 that as much as tripled the price of Chinese honey. Despite such measures, however, Chinese honey continues to find its way onto supermarket shelves across the world. Mislabeling and transshipping via third-party states has allowed unscrupulous and profit-hungry Chinese honey manufacturers to continue to flood global markets with their products. A Bloomberg BusinessWeek report in September alleged a “global conspiracy” to illegally import millions of pounds of cheap Chinese honey to the US market. According to the report, a German-based food company relied on a network of brokers from China and Taiwan, who shipped honey from China to Taiwan and other third-party states, filtering out pollen traces (which can be used to pinpoint the exact geographical origin



Regulation, sales and production in China’s honey industry are spotty at best

of honey) and relabeling the product before shipping it on to the US. According to a 2011 report by, to avoid detection, some Chinese producers in state-of-the-art processing plants pump adulterated, super-heated honey through elaborate ceramic filters that remove or conceal all floral fingerprints along with tell-tale indicators of chemical additives. So-called honey laundering scandals implicating countries including China, India and parts of Eastern Europe have become so widespread that they are treated as a crisis. Honey, unlike most food products, is traded as a commodity, much in the same way as oil or gold. Weaknesses in the supply chain or allegations of adulteration have implications for the entire world market. Safi Malik, COO of Shangrila Farms, a company that has sold organic honey and coffee produced on their farm in Yunnan Province, China since 2009, told NewsChina that honey adulteration happens all over the world, and that even passable imitations of the most costly varieties of Manuka honey can be found in tightly-regulated European markets. “The global honey market is indeed very chaotic, as it is here in China,” Malik continued. “People might easily think cheap is no good, expensive is good. However, sometimes, it is the expensive product that is faked or adulterated.” Malik told NewsChina that the only reliable way to distinguish counterfeit honey is laboratory testing. “It is very hard for consumers to distinguish good honey from bad, since this option is unavailable to them,” he added. One American honey producer in China told our reporter that it was only after he had purchased 500 yuan (US$82) of purported Manuka honey in Beijing that he realized it was fake. He discovered that the bar code on the batch was Chinese, not from New Zealand. “Not only that, when we looked at the product under a microscope, we found it was 30 percent starch.”


Blind Market

“Profit-seeking is the core reason behind widespread honey adulteration,” said a manager from Beeden Co. Ltd., a Guangzhou-based honey concern, speaking anonymously to our reporter. “Adulterated honey costs less to manufacture than authentic honey by a factor of some 30 percent.” Industry insiders have expressed publicly that the total cost of producing 500 grams of pure honey never falls below 30 yuan (US$4.92). However, honey retails in China at an average of 20 yuan (US$3.28) per 500 grams. “How can pure honey be sold at less than cost price?” asked one anonymous industry insider speaking to Nanfang Daily in August. During a recent interview with New Business, a Chinese-language website, one honey producer said that profits were at a low ebb for the second year in a row. “We experienced pretty good sales from our privately-owned honey retailers in the previous decade,” he said. “However, more and more customers choose to buy from large supermarkets, and we were forced to pay high fees to have our products stocked.” The anonymous producer added that while placing his products in supermarkets had led to an uptick in sales, real profits had declined. “Underpricing has forced more and more honey producers to either slash their prices or withdraw from supermarkets,” he said. “So they resort to selling adulterated honey.” In order to regulate the domestic honey market, authorities have imposed and enacted stricter quality control restrictions since 2006, clearly defining that “no additives of any form” including starch, sugar, preservatives, clarifiers or thickeners should be added into honey products. Then, in 2011, re-issued national food safety standards on honey (GB14963-2011) attempted to further clarify and regulate the exact percentage of fructose and glucose permissible in products marketed NEWSCHINA I January 2014

Photos by CFP

as pure honey. However, adulteration remains rife, and despite a few high-profile takedowns of honey laundering operations, a considerable percentage of counterfeit products remain on the open market. Part of the problem is the diffuse nature of China’s agricultural production. Tens of thousands of tiny operators are spread across the whole country, using small drums to collect and store honey for collection by brokers who then transport it to large plants for homogenization and processing, are almost impossible to regulate or even to trace. As with the country’s troubled dairy industry, just one crooked producer can contaminate huge volumes of product.

Going Organic?

A relative latecomer to the mass market, Chinese honey is typically harvested early and processed mechanically. This has massively increased production but generally led to a less diversified, lower-quality product. Chinese consumers, Safi Malik told NewsChina, struggle to distinguish between varieties, and so companies like his attempting to market a high-end product often struggle to compete. “It doesn’t matter how many restrictions the government places upon fake honey. The best thing to do is put faith in branding, and ensure brands have a transparent production chain.” Hundreds of thousands of brands market honey in China, but there is little diversity in the market, with most consumers simply opting for the cheapest or most-familiar option. “Branding is weak [in China],” Malik continued. “Some become popular overnight while others vanish in the same amount of time,” “With a growing middle class, people look for quality products. Good coffee, real honey. When people gain better access to these products, they will begin to demand diversity.” Community-based organic apiaries have mushroomed throughout rural China in recent years. Safi Malik started his company with his two sisters in 2009 on their farm in Yunnan Province, and their busi-

NEWSCHINA I January 2014

ness has grown steadily ever since. “This year our project will include more than 1,000 local participants in over three counties across Yunnan Province. Our sales have been increasing as our company improves, and there is decent growth for our partners.” Organic certification in China is contentious due to the high levels of pesticides and industrial contaminants which have trickled down throughout the food chain and often affect bees before other animal and plant species. As a result, the Maliks have to take what they can get. Aside from training local beekeepers to produce qualified organic honey, Malik and his team carefully choose partners and distributors for their products. “I sell something that I believe is good enough for my family as well as general consumers,” he told our reporter. “This is a matter of integrity. I look for retailers who agree with my own brand idea.” In other places, such as Sichuan, some environmental NGOs including The Nature Conservancy (TNC) have also begun to promote organic honey production in mountain villages in the Laohegou Nature Reserve in order to improve local livelihoods as well as preserve the area’s relatively pristine ecosystem. Kang Wei, manager for the TNC project told our reporter that 240 colonies of Chinese honeybees had been introduced since May, producing over 2.5 tons of certified pure, local honey. “We are planning to open three more apiaries in 2014, and expect to harvest four to eight tons of honey next year,” said Kang. Such small steps are already having an effect, with increasing consumer pressure for companies to verify the provenance and quality of honey products. However, it will take a long time for the market to recover. “I think the government really wants to clean up the market,” said Malik. “It is vital that consumers drive the issue as much as people involved in the honey business. Without a market for cheap products, the fake honey industry will not survive.”



Poverty Alleviation Loans

Lending to the Poor To help with poverty alleviation, China is expected to let NGOs and the market play a bigger role in microfinance By Sun Zhe and Zhou Zhenghua


inancial expertise is not on the list of requirements for prospective credit clerks at CFPA Microfinance. The company states very clearly: “Applicants should be married, 36 or older, with strong interpersonal skills. But most importantly, they must be local.” Personal familiarity between credit clerks and their clients – often their neighbors – is one of the secrets behind the impressively low default rate at the now decade-old CFPA Microfinance, the only NGO that has been given the green light to issue favorable poverty-alleviation loans. Having issued more than 5 billion yuan (US$821m) since its foundation in 2000, it has amassed 7 million yuan (US$1.1m) in bad loans – only 0.14 percent of its total lending volume. For China’s dominant “big four” State banks, the only other kind


of organization permitted to offer poverty alleviation loans, these are enviable figures – their average bad loan rate stands at around 21 percent. Besides good neighborliness, other strict risk control measures are also imposed – for instance, the lending data of individual creditors is monitored in real-time, and an alert is triggered when a creditor issues loans faster or slower than the normal rate. A number of industry insiders told NewsChina that more NGOs, including microfinance companies, were likely to be given the go-ahead to deal with favorable poverty alleviation loans, as such organizations have proven to be more efficient and capable in this sector than State banks.

Small Deal

Run by the NGO China Foundation

for Poverty Alleviation, CFPA Microfinance issued collateral-free loans directly to rural households at an interest rate of about 13 percent, with the upper limit set at 16,000 yuan (US$2,630) per farmer per loan. Its clients borrow less than 10,000 yuan (US$1,640) on average. As part of the State’s efforts to alleviate poverty, subsidies are offered on interest for those who borrow. By the end of 2012, about 99 million of China’s rural population were living below the US$1 per day poverty line, most of whom have little access to financial services. Money has continued to flow out of rural areas due to a lack of efficient financial institutions that are able and willing to serve farmers. According to the China Banking Regulatory Commission, over the period from 1994 to 2006, a total of 1.2 trillion yuan (US$197bn) drained from rural areas. NEWSCHINA I January 2014

According to the a report by the People’s Bank of China, loans issued to rural areas accounted for only about 23 percent of the total lending over 2012, and only one quarter of lending in rural areas was directly to farmers. Besides the insufficiency of loans, the high threshold and dauntingly complicated approval procedure also contribute to the hardship rural people experience when trying to secure a loan, according to Fan Xiaojian, director of the poverty relief office with the State Council. State banks are still by far the biggest providers of poverty alleviation loans, but these loans are mostly funneled through various tiers of governments and invested into government-proposed infrastructure construction or programs such as planting or breeding projects, instead of being given to farmers and allowing them to decide how best to use it. Duan Yingbi, director of the CFPA, said poverty-alleviation programs should no longer be conducted solely by governments themselves, and that private capital and market mechanisms must be introduced, given that governments usually lack risk control mechanisms and expertise and tend to allocate funds to projects that have little to do with poverty relief. “We are serving the group of clients the commercial banks are unwilling or unable to serve,” said Liu Dongwen, CFPA’s chief manager. In spite of its efforts, CFPA has only managed to issue loans to around 160,000 clients. The high expense of capital has limited the company’s expansion, according to Liu. Currently, it has to get loans from commercial banks and then re-lend to the farmers. Microfinance institutions have yet to be officially acknowledged as financial organizations, a status that would enable them to receive inter-bank loans at much lower interest rates than their current major capital source: commercial loans. Since ineligibility for banking licenses prohibits microfinance companies from accepting deposits, they have no other funding options. Good neighbors may make the best borrowers, but when it comes to poverty alleviation, no amount of neighborly goodwill can counter-balance China’s restrictive financial regulations.  NEWSCHINA I January 2014






October sales of Japanese car brands Toyota, Honda and Nissan soared by the above percentages in October, after a slump around the same period last year in the wake of anti-Japanese protests sparked by territorial disputes over the Diaoyu/Senkaku islands.


Total profits of Chinese listed banks in Q1-Q3, representing a 13 percent increase on the same period in 2012. A gradual slowing of profit growth is seen as the result of increased competition from the online banking sector. Source: National Business Daily


Value of US Treasury Bonds purchased by the Chinese government in September 2013, allowing the country to retain its top spot as the US’ biggest creditor.


Predicted 2020 increase in Chi20 energy consumption, a rate nese that has slowed considerably since the global financial crisis.

China’s holdings of US Treasury bonds (US$tn) 1.5


10 1.2










Source: US Treasury Department


The number of Chinese peer-to-peer loan companies that folded or suffered major liquidity crises in October. More than 500 such companies opened in China in recent years, some becoming competitors for the heavily restricted State banks. Source: Economic Daily



2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2020 (predicted)

Source: State Grid and National Bureau of Statistics



Gray Cover Books

Trotsky in China How Communism’s most controversial theorist finally found an audience – in China By Chen Tian


NEWSCHINA I January 2014

Photo by CFP

The cover of Excerpts of Trotsky’s Reactionary Views (1964 edition)


rotsky’s Views was openly published in China in 1980, two years after the country embarked on its ongoing experiment with Reform and Opening-up, and 40 years after Leon Trotsky, who remains one of the world’s most contentious political thinkers, was assassinated. Its predecessor was Excerpts of Trotsky’s Reactionary Views, compiled by the Central Compilation and Translation Bureau and printed by the People’s Press, as one of the “Gray Cover” books issued to a limited number of Party cadres in 1964. Gray Cover books were classified into three categories. Category C included books by such European socialist thinkers as Alexandre Millerand of France and Otto Bauer of Austria who attempted revisions to perceived orthodox Marxism. These were generally available to Party functionaries, though banned from public sale. Category B covered more controversial works by figures such as Eduard Bernstein and Karl Kautsky, both revisionist leaders of the Second International, and were restricted to higher-level cadres. Category A covered books published for the exclusive consumption of ranking officials above the ministerial level, and Excerpts of Trotsky’s Reactionary Views fell under this category. The name Leon Trotsky, as it had within the Soviet Union, became synonymous with revisionism in the official ideology of the Communist Party of China (CPC), which, modified by the unique political theories of Mao Zedong, based its core ideology on a Stalinist interpretation of Marxism-Leninism. During Party purges of the 1930s and 40s, branded “Trotskyites” within the Party ranks were purged in their hundreds. In the early 1960s, the Chinese and Soviet Communist parties began to lock horns over what constituted orthodox Marxism. Nikita Khrushchev’s denunciation of Stalin in his Secret Speech in February 1956 was perceived by Mao as both a personal slight and an attack NEWSCHINA I January 2014

on the legitimacy of China’s own revolution, leading the CPC to effectively sever meaningful ties with the Soviet Union in 1960, though both nations carefully maintained the diplomatic façade of appearing to be close allies. Both sides of the debate drew on the Marxist-Leninist canon to defame “revisionists” and “reactionaries” such as Bernstein, Kautsky and Trotsky. While the Sino-Soviet split lasted until 1989, Deng Xiaoping would later admit to the visiting Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev that “both sides did a lot of empty talking.” The Gray Cover books were part of the anti-Soviet ideological campaign within the CPC, ostensibly printed to allow Chinese officials to “acquaint themselves with the roots of revisionism.” The fact that Trotsky’s works were also lambasted as revisionism within the Soviet Union was largely ignored by CPC ideologues – in their view, his nationality was proof enough of his stranglehold on Soviet thinking.

Inside Man

Editor Zheng Yifan, a researcher at the Central Compilation and Translation Bureau, oversaw the publication of the manuscript which would become Excerpts of Trotsky’s Reactionary Views around the start of the Sino-Soviet split. At the time, only 500 copies were printed, and only 50 went into circulation. The rest sat in storage until their re-issue in 1980 under the title of Trotsky’s Views. In 1955, when relations between China and the Soviet Union were at their most intimate, Zheng Yifan was sent by the Chinese government to the University of Leningrad (now St. Petersburg) to research the history of the Soviet Union. Graduating in 1959, he returned to China and entered the Central Compilation and Translation Bureau as an editor and translator. During his four-year stay in Russia, Zheng witnessed first-hand the



Photo by XINHUA

Stalin. Some alleged that Mao’s principles had more in common with Trotsky’s than those of Marx or Lenin. As works by Trotsky had been largely purged both from China and the Soviet Union following his exile from Russia in 1929, few sources existed to contradict such claims. Those few works that survived were kept under lock and key. In July 1963, at the height of the Sino-Soviet split, then vice-premier Deng Xiaoping told subordinates: “Khrushchev has labeled us Trotskyites. We must come up with a counterattack. Preparations should get underway immediately. The Central Compilation and Translation Bureau may compile a book on Trotsky’s remarks for our Marxist classics collected in the library of the Central Compilation and Translation Bureau, 1956 writers to refer to.” Suddenly, materials that had been anathema to China’s propatransformation that ensued after the death of Stalin. Khrushchev’s Se- gandists prior to 1963 became hot property, and Zheng’s entire office cret Speech led to a widespread backlash against the former leader and devoted their working days to tracking down vestiges of Trotsky’s outthe cult of personality surrounding him, and one of Zheng’s Russian put, with the sole purpose of using the content to discredit Khrushteachers even openly attacked Stalin in class. Courses on Marxism- chev and the Soviet Union. Scraps were acquired from libraries, anLeninism were revised or canceled because they were based on The thologies and cadres’ private collections across China. Concise Course on the History of the Soviet Communist Party - a book Others were located overseas – while Trotsky’s works were banned which was compiled under the direct supervision of Stalin and mis- from publication in the US and UK, some were tracked down in represented historical facts in order to further exaggerate the late lead- mainland Europe, with a number of complete books acquired in er’s contributions both to Marxist-Leninist ideology and the founding second-hand bookstores in Switzerland. Old editions of Pravda and of the Soviet Union. The Bolsheviks magazine were scoured for articles, editorials and commentaries by the man who was, at one time, a leading light in socialist Counterattack theory. In Moscow, Soviet leaders claimed Mao was modeling himself on Next, researchers turned their attention to the seizures of con-


NEWSCHINA I January 2014


traband literature during the anti-Trotskyite purge of 1952, when all Chinese-language editions of Trotsky’s works were confiscated by the Ministry of Public Security. While many would have been destroyed, researchers reasoned that a few might have survived, perhaps in Shanghai, which had been the unofficial headquarters of China’s short-lived Trotskyite movement. Eventually, a moderate cache of Trotsky’s works in various languages was scraped together in the city.


This flurry of activity soon drew attention from China’s few surviving die-hard Trotskyites. One of these was Liu Renjing, participant in the Chinese Communist Party’s first Congress in 1921 and one of the early organizers of the country’s indigenous Trotskyite factions. He had even met Trotsky in person while the latter was living in exile in Turkey, and was presented with a set of his writings as a gift. The two began a correspondence, and Trotsky would mail Liu new editions of his works, before he was assassinated in 1940 by a Soviet agent working for Stalin’s secret police. In 1963, Liu was working for the People’s Press as an off-the-payroll translator, where he would produce Chinese translations of foreign works on Bernstein, Kautsky and Trotsky. Many of these translations would ultimately end up in Gray Cover anthologies. Learning that the authorities were looking for Trotsky’s books, Liu was overjoyed, believing that the Party was on the verge of rehabilitating Trotsky and Chinese Trotskyites. He approached Zhang Huiqing, an editor at the People’s Press, telling him that he had retained copies of Trotsky’s books. The People’s Press thus got hold of seven Russian editions of Trotsky’s Selected Works, the most complete set of works discovered since their search began. “Liu might be one of the few Chinese - probably the only Chinese - who ever saw Trotsky in person,” Zhang, now 89 years old, told NewsChina. These collections ultimately allowed Trotsky’s selected works to be printed in Chinese, many for the first time, as part of the Gray Cover series, including The Revolution Betrayed, The Real Situation in Russia, The Third International after Lenin, The Stalin School of Falsification and The Theory of Permanent Revolution. NEWSCHINA I January 2014

Zheng Yifan and his colleagues classified Trotsky’s views and ideas into 15 categories dealing with, among other topics, industrialization, agricultural collectivization, war and peacetime governance. Eventually, these extracts were combined to form the main text of Excerpts of Trotsky’s Reactionary Views. Publication of Gray Cover books was interrupted by the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976), which overwhelmingly prioritized the publication of works by Mao Zedong while scaling back that of works by other political theorists. At first, all the editorial staff were limited to the translation of approved Marxist classics until finally they were sent to the countryside to do manual labor along with the majority of China’s cultural workforce. The Gray Cover project was not resumed until 1972, and Zheng Yifan returned to the Central Compilation and Translation Bureau in 1973. His first task was the publication of Khrushchev’s memoirs and translation of books written by Western journalists and historians concerning the Khrushchev era. He was then to oversee the continued publication of the “collections of chief revisionists’ and opportunists’ views,” including Bernstein, Kautsky and Bukharin. Work also began on the publication of Trotsky’s Views. In the aftermath of the Cultural Revolution, Zheng Yifan gradually came to the conclusion that the historical judgments made upon Trotsky were far from fair. “The claim that he was the mortal enemy of Leninism was unfounded,” Zheng said. In both China and the Soviet Union, the declining importance of dogmatic Stalinist and Maoist ideology led to a reassessment and even subtle rehabilitation of former pariahs. Descriptions of Trotsky calling him “spy” and “bandit” ceased to appear in official literature. In the late 1990s, Zheng Yifan compiled and edited The Trotsky Reader, though he would wait almost a decade until it was finally published in 2008. In his preface, Zheng writes that “Trotsky was doubtless a revolutionary… None of the labels Stalin slapped on him such as ‘German fascist spy’ and ‘running dog of the imperialists’ had any solid foundation.” Over six decades after his assassination, it seems Leon Trotsky, one of the most important contributors to Marxist-Leninist theory, is one of the last to finally come in from the cold. 



Bill Porter

The Hermit Hunter A student of Buddhism with a keen interest in China’s few remaining hermits, American author Bill Porter has spent the past 40 years in search of spiritual tranquility and literary fulfillment By Du Guodong


ith a shaggy beard, a mop of unruly gray hair and a yellow cloth bag draped over one shoulder, 70-year-old Bill Porter looks more like a vagrant than a popular author. But then again, given that he has made a career out of writing about his encounters with Chinese hermits, his appearance makes more sense. Since his search for inner peace brought him to a Taiwanese Zen Buddhist monastery as a PhD dropout 40 years ago, writer Bill Porter has remained relatively obscure in his native US. Meanwhile, his writings on China’s hermits have garnered a strong following in China. While his first book Road to Heaven: Encounters with Chinese Hermits failed to generate much attention when it was published in the US in 1993, its 2006 Chinese translation sold over 100,000 copies. Porter first set out in search of hermits in Zhongnan Mountains in 1989, and has trekked all over China in search of its ascetics ever since, compiling his experiences into books – he now has 15 publi-


NEWSCHINA I January 2014

cations to his name. This month, Porter returned to China once more, to pay his respects at the gravesides of his beloved ancient poets. The story of this particular journey will be recounted in a new book, Finding Them Gone, which will also be his final book, he told NewsChina.

Photo by IC

In Search of Zen

NEWSCHINA I January 2014

Born in 1943 to a well-to-do Los Angeles family that fell on hard times when Porter was in his early teens, he went on to graduate from the University of California Santa Barbara, majoring in anthropology. After a stint in the army, Porter enrolled in a PhD program at Columbia University to continue his studies, and picked Chinese for the degree’s language requirement. He developed an interest in Buddhism, and after practicing Zen under the guidance of a Buddhist monk in New York, decided to drop his academic career and set off in search of enlightenment. Porter bought a one-way ticket to Taiwan, and made his way first to the famous monastery at Foguang Mountain, and then to Haiming Temple near Taipei, where he became a full-time Zen practitioner. “[The monks] had never seen a foreigner in the monastery and they didn’t know what to do with me, so they said ‘just do whatever you want,’” he told NewsChina. After two years of Zen practice, Porter declined an invitation to become a monk in order to pursue his interest in poetry and his promising relationship with his future wife. Porter landed a job as an English anchor for the International Community Radio in Taipei, and in his spare time immersed himself in translations of the work of the Buddhist hermit poets Hanshan (c. 9th century AD) and Shiwu (1272-1352). Something of a wanderer himself, he developed a keen interest in Buddhist hermits, and began to inquire about whether or not any still existed in the Chinese mainland. He decided to answer this question himself. Together with Steven Johnson, a photojournalist who was also curious about hermit culture, he began his search in 1989, setting out from Beijing and heading down through

the ancient settlement of Datong, into the Wutai and Hengshan mountains. Initially, the only vagrants the wilderness yielded were herb-pickers – until the pair encountered a monk, who told them that they were more likely to find what they were looking for in the Zhongnan Mountains. They made their way to Xi’an, the province’s capital, and after an extensive search, found a colony of over 100 hermits, both male and female, living on top of a mountain. “They were the happiest people I had ever met. It suddenly occurred to me that I should write a book about them,” Porter said. It was this encounter that inspired his first book, Road to Heaven, which in turn inspired a growing number of travelers from both China and abroad to retrace his footsteps to the Zhongnan Mountains. Porter revisits the hermits he befriended every two or three years. “There are [now] more hermits than there used to be. What’s more, there are more younger hermits, 25 to 30 years old,” he said.

Finding Them Gone

In 1993 Porter returned to the US with his Taiwanese wife Ku Lien-chang, and their two children, where he continued with his translations of traditional Chinese poetry and Buddhist sutras under the pen name “Red Pine.” Having all but wrapped up his upcoming book, Porter, 70, said he felt it was time for him to stop writing, and that his recent visits to graves of some of his favorite poets were a fitting way to bring an end to his publishing career. The collection, which includes the work of 36 poets, spanning pre-modern work by Confucius (551-479 BC) to the writings of Hanshan. It is expected to be published in both English and Chinese in 2015. “I enjoy reading their poetry and wanted to pay my respect,” he said. “Most foreigners translate Chinese poetry sitting in libraries, but if you don’t go to the place and know nothing of the background, how could you know the meanings of the poems?”


visual REPORT

Snooker Wunde The snooker world is dominated by three major players. Leader of the pack is China’s Ding Junhui, followed by Britain’s Stephen Hendry and Ronnie O’ Sullivan. Recently, a three-year-old Chinese player named Wang Wuka from Anhui province ended up in the spotlight after a video of his skills was uploaded to the Internet and drew over 600,000 clicks in a few days. Wang Wuka’s home is in a rural area on the edge of a small city. His father, 30-year-old Wang Yin, is a snooker enthusiast and the family has a table at home. From the age of one, Wang Wuka practiced snooker on a miniature, eight-ball table, with a cue hand-crafted by his father, graduating to the full-size version at age two. Wuka still has to stand on an upturned crate or stool to make most of his shots during his five hours of daily training.


Despite his prodigious skills, three-year-old Wuka often complains that snooker training occupies too much of his time, stopping him exploring other activities he might enjoy. His father has even stopped his son from attending kindergarten so he can practice more. This has earned criticism from netizens, who believe that the intensive training regimen and keeping Wuka apart from children his own age could damage his social and educational development.

One local pool hall proprietor commented, “His posture and precision are both superb. I can’t beat him.”

On September 22, Wuka was invited by a Beijing-based snooker club to go to Beijing for a match with seven-time world champion Stephen Hendry. Hendry commented that Wuka is still very young, and that his parents should try to manage his interest in the game. “I can see that Wuka is talented, but at such a young age, he could easily lose his passion. Perhaps his parents, or whoever trains him in the future, should make sure that he has enough freedom to keep him interested in coming back to the table.”

It seems Wang Yin was determined to hothouse his son into a prodigy from birth. “Right now we’re mainly working on his precision. The next step will be practicing positioning,” Wang Yin told reporters. “I hope he’ll be a success. I will sign him up for teenage snooker competitions as soon as possible.”

Perhaps Wuka’s father is modeling himself on the parents of snooker star Ding Junhui, who was hothoused from the age of eight to become China’s most famous snooker player. Sponsors have even emerged hoping to manage Wuka’s future career. One thing does seem certain – he is unlikely to have a normal childhood.

NEWSCHINA I January 2014

NEWSCHINA I January 2014

Photo by CFP



visual REPORT




NEWSCHINA I January 2014


3 1. Wang Wuka at a snooker club in Beijing 2. The lunch of champions 3. Wang talks to world champion Stephen Hendry before their exhibition match, Beijing, September 22, 2013 4. Wang after missing a shot 5. Wang arrives in Beijing for his match with Stephen Hendry, September 21, 2013 6. When he is not playing snooker, Wang enjoys computers

NEWSCHINA I January 2014



Photo by CFP


OUTSIDEIN perspectives from within China

Macabre Luobiao

The Hanging Dead

The hanging coffins of the Bo people, a Chinese ethnic minority thought to be long extinct, have puzzled historians for generations. Our writer travels to southwest Sichuan to investigate By James Kingston

Photo by CFP



eaving the broad and muddy expanse of the Yangtze River behind us at Yibin, we drove into the hills along bumpy roads, marked by low houses and tiny fields of maize. Gongxian, passed en route, was a dump: gray, neglected and decayed. Stained tower blocks with empty windows stood here and there amidst the vegetation of a small river valley. Nothing went on here, and nobody stayed. A huge red poster of Mao Zedong could be glimpsed through the yawning doors of a derelict warehouse, a melancholy and forgotten ghost gazing out at his drab empire. I had, in a sense, come in pursuit of ghosts. Amidst the lush valleys and cool mists of China’s southwestern Sichuan province lies a great historical mystery: the hanging coffins of the Bo. Nailed into the cliffs high above farmland and river, hundreds of wooden coffins keep silent watch over the valleys below. They are the only relic of the Bo people, a tribe exNEWSCHINA I January 2014

Getting there: The trip to Luobiao is a long one. From Chengdu travel to Zigong, a pleasant town of teahouses, fossils, and what was once the world’s deepest mine. From Zigong take the bus to Gongxian – you may find a bus to Luobiao there.

Photo by James Kingston

Things to do: Luobiao is tiny and underdeveloped – adjust your expectations accordingly. Wander through the main street or among the paths between fields, and wait for a friendly local to take you in.

NEWSCHINA I January 2014

terminated in the days of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). They lived in the mountains of the upper Yangtze, building fortresses high on nigh-impregnable hilltops. Their tombs remain remote today, and so it was that I made the long journey to Luobiao, a tiny settlement deep in the southwest corner of the province. It is the foolish man who challenges the honor of a village. Wandering Luobiao with the confused visage of the traveler, I was invited over by some local men shouting good-naturedly to me as I passed, and was served an impromptu banquet. Keen to show hospitality to foreign guests, they treated me to a dinner of spiced duck webs; whole crayfish that crunched in the mouth; duck neck, red peppers, rice, and the shrink-wrapped morsels of jerky beloved of Chinese everywhere. In a town still part constructed of wattle-and-daub houses more redolent of Tudor England than the futuristic cityscapes I had come to associate with modern China, smartphone salesmen, urban clothes shops, and cranes mixed in with shirtless laborers pulling carts through the village center. Rain began pouring down, taking with it the electricity – plunged into near-darkness, our meal was lit only by the headlamp of a solitary parked motorbike. It was here I foolishly boasted to have once consumed an entire bottle of baijiu, Chinese liquor, in one sitting. “Our friend,” they said “really knows how to drink. How about we see who can drink more?” Too late I realized my error and, caught between the imperatives of basic dignity and “face,” chose the latter. The challenge was issued and battle lines drawn. Laughing down their smartphones, my nemesis was summoned, his cool silence and wiry frame throwing sharp contrast on the cheerful and garrulous villagers with whom I had been passing the time. He stared at me in cool appraisal, the long unblinking look of the champion. Beer after beer was pressed into our hands, poured into bowls and emptied as, black eyed, he gazed at me over the rim of his cup. Piling into a car, we moved on to some kind of drinking den at the end of the village, dark upon the hillside. Amidst the dim light of lamps I could see huddled figures and bottles, the glow of cigarettes and the sound of guttural laughter. Cheered in by the room, we ordered baijiu, 65 percent proof. I drank forgetting that such contests are marathons not sprints; it coursed burning through my body with each unwise gulp. We ate spicy tofu and pigs’ trotters, and


debated about the Japanese. The night grew hazier and fell into oblivion as victory and memory slipped from my grasp. I awoke full of that peculiar euphoric pain that is the signature of a night spent pickled in baijiu. The bright light of day streamed through my window, as from the street below came the sound of footsteps, wheels, and the animals of the field beyond. It was apparent I had failed to make it for the dawn viewing of the hanging coffins. Bleary-eyed I rolled from bed into the morning and, breathing fumes no less toxic than those coming from the waiting scooters, drove out of the village. Shimmering in the heat of the summer, the coffins lay high above the small valley scene of low farm houses, high midsummer maize, rice paddies, fish ponds and oxen. A small walkway up a cliff-face leads viewers to where the greatest concentration sits thick, weathered, and silent. We passed low houses, peasants carrying water on their backs; an old watchtower, much overgrown, and a tiny Daoist temple, doors closed. Everywhere along the sheer face of the valley wall could be seen square indentations once holding thick wooden stakes supporting the coffins of the dead – here and there, high upon some more sheltered indentation in the

Photo by CNS


rock, may still be glimpsed the brown and weathered outline of their tombs. The mind’s eye struggles to imagine the scene such as once it stood – hundreds, thousands of black coffins hanging high above the farmland carrying their silent loads, the cliffs decorated with frescoes. Perhaps such disposal of the dead reinforced the idea of the continuance of the community after death – the dead remained with them, for they could always be seen every time one raised a head, soaked in sweat, from the fields below. Little now is known of the Bo, who they were, or how they lived. It is thought that they buried their dead according to status – the

greater the individual, the higher his tomb. Historians disagree on the manner of their resting. Were the coffins lowered down from the cliffs, reached via bamboo scaffolds, or carried up along walkways of wood skewered into the rock? It is believed by some that they stored their dead high upon the rock that their souls might be closer to heaven, or indeed to provide a more prosaic protection from animals and enemies. Remaining legends are unclear. It is said the last leader of the Bo, his people massacred at a festival by Ming troops, took two of his remaining followers and flew off his broken mountain fort, a legend of survival suggesting the Bo, though destroyed, were not fully wiped out and live scattered and assimilated amongst the Han. With no more coffins to see, my guide brought me for lunch at his house. Corn lay drying on the concrete of the front yard. His wife cooked us lunch of steamed dumplings, smoked ham, green peppers, lettuce, rice and tea, as his mother sat watching. “What are the house prices per square meter in London?’’ they asked. ‘’Is it true that British children have to leave home and work from the age of 10?’’ The locals, it would seem, have their own strange questions about faraway lands.

real chinese


beitai Backup Boy

As China’s male/female ratio has reached 120 to 100 in some areas, many young Chinese men, especially those lacking financial support, are at the risk of being a girl’s beitai – a substitute boyfriend. Literally meaning “spare tire,” beitai has come to mean a male friend used as a backup in case a woman’s main relationship fails, much in the way a spare tire remains in the trunk of a car in case of a flat. However, there is no guarantee the beitai will ever be put to use – in many cases, young men find themselves permanently “friendzoned.” Beitais are prized for their attentiveness, listening skills and patience, though they usually lose out to a young woman’s most desired partner


in the looks and finance department. In some online forums, women boast of their beitai boys serving the same purpose as a duster – “use it when you need it, throw it away when it’s served its purpose.” This mercenary and somewhat cruel attitude to relationships is becoming increasingly seen as the norm in China. For women, maintaining an ambiguous relationship with a beitai is simply a form of insurance – sometimes, the beitai might even receive unsolicited gifts at Chinese New Year or on his birthday, simply to keep him sweet. Some netizens compare this to occasionally checking the spare tire to ensure it’s in working order. Beitai will be encouraged with sentiments like “you are really kind to me,” or “you’re


such a good friend.” Some will be strung along for years, only to be dropped when the object of their affections announces her engagement. “Sorry, my ex came back to me and I still love him. I am getting married, just not to you,” is a phrase many will ultimately hear. While the keeping of a beitai is lambasted by many as faithless and cruel, a growing number of Chinese women, according to reports, especially the more conventionally attractive, tend towards opening up their options when it comes to dating. Some young men have fought back by swearing off women altogether. Whatever the outcome, it is clear that dating in China, as is the case around the world, remains a complex minefield. NEWSCHINA I January 2014

flavor of the month

‘Gee Up By Stephy Chung

Courtesy of Stephy Chung

loosely interpreted Yuan’s recommendations. And, just as pizza crusts differ between cities in the US, so does the consistency of regional congees.  The debate has stood the test of time. According to legend, the Qing Dynasty’s Yongzheng Emperor ordered his officials to dole out bowls of congee to the starving masses during a particularly bad famine. The officials, hoarding the rice for themselves, served watered-down versions. When the emperor heard of this, he ordered that the porridge be made so thick that a pair of chopsticks could stand upright in the center of the mixture. While more watery varieties have their fans, I find myself drawn to the Yongzheng school of congee craftsmanship. Cantonese-style congee is boiled for a longer time until the starch in the rice breaks down into a thick, creamy paste. This is the perfect breakfast congee, while the grainier, brothy lunch and dinner variety is better later in the day. Some Western palates interpret congee as bland. This shows a lack of eijing’s autumn feels like it lasts for just two weeks before the in- attention to the details – like any other carb, it’s the toppings that make sufferable winter sets in. Coughs and sniffles begin to mark the a meal of a bowl of rice gruel. You wouldn’t eat pasta without sauce, after dramatic change in season – and with the city’s dense popula- all. There’s a million ways to spice up your congee – from “meat floss” tion, it’s difficult to escape at least one snuffly bout of the common cold.  to preserved century eggs, pickled bok choi and a whole host of other It’s about this time of year that I turn to congee – the nutritious por- options in between. ridge-like flu buster made of rice, or sometimes millet, instead of oats. In Beijing and much of the north, the most popular congee is a yellow When I was growing up reading Goldilocks and the Three Bears, I had pic- version made from millet rather than rice due to the former’s availability tured the greedy blonde slurping up this version, topped with my favorite in northern China. It is usually served at breakfast with fried dough twists addition at the time - shredded dried pork.  on the side. While locals might prefer it, I, an airy-fairy southerner, can’t The main difference between her oats and mine is that congee, which help but think it looks and tastes like something you might feed to a is popular across Asia, is typically savory. The rice is boiled with copious horse. quantities of water into a lumpy, gruel-like mess, before being simmered Fortunately, restaurants specializing in congee can be found throughfor hours with medicinal ingredients such as mung beans, red dates, and out the city. Hongji Chaoshan Clay Pot Congee is a Cantonese-style white fungus.  joint that serves dozens of rice-based porridges - with more exotic meats According to Alex Tan, a practitioner at the Straight Bamboo Tradi- like pigeon, eel, frog and dim sum available as accompaniments.   tional Chinese Medicine clinic in Beijing, congee has become a fundaDuring a recent visit, I ordered a large pot of fish and vegetable rice mental food in Chinese dietary therapy. “Chinese believe foods are easier congee. The dish came out in a large plastic pot, and was an odd brownto digest when composed of a water medium. That’s why teas and soups ish color. I will give them the benefit of the doubt that a large, clay pot are so important. Then there’s congee - which undergoes this long, slow- was stewing away in the back somewhere, and that the hue was derived cooking process to draw out the essential nutrients from foods and herbs.”  from a splash of soy sauce. In my experience, its curative and comforting powers also extend to Perhaps to appeal to northern palates, the congee was less thick than I stubborn hangovers.  would expect from a Cantonese restaurant. There was too much liquid, Bowls of congee have been served up across Asia for thousands of although its starchiness did a fine job of retaining the savor of fish and years. It allowed the poor to stretch rice rations during periods of famine, fresh ginger. The curious topping of wilted lettuce, however, wasn’t so but also became the stuff of banquet tables. While perfecting a recipe appetizing. Once a steaming bowl of congee arrives at my table, I doctor to fit imperial predilections, Yuan Mei, a poet and scholar of the Qing it up with scallions, soy sauce, vinegar, white pepper, and pickled vegDynasty wrote, “Congee with too much water and too little rice should etables, so soon the dish’s virtues – particularly its rich, umami stock, were not be considered first-class congee, nor should congee with too much able to shine through with a little help from the diner. rice and too little water be considered first-class congee.” Yuan’s first-rate Though it would fail miserably by imperial standards, the congee congee sought, as all great Chinese dishes do, balance. served up at Hongji Chaoshan was filling, scalding and, so far, seems to However, without exact proportions laid out, regions in China have have kept cold germs at bay.


NEWSCHINA I January 2014



Easy Riding By Sean Silbert

Illustration by Xiang Zhaohui

Beijing is still a very accommodating city for the rider, despite the pea-soupers and extreme weather.

I bought my first bicycle in Beijing just to get home from the bars. The subway, efficient and sprawling as it is, stops running right as the crowds really get going, taxi fares strained my piggy bank, and I needed an efficient way to get to bed before daylight. I picked up a simple


three-speed from some no-name store, and used it as a means to move along the broad, dirty lanes. Beijing is flat enough that cruising long distances to make a show or a dinner date was convenient and (oftentimes) faster than waiting for the traffic to move. But the main upshot of pedaling wasn’t making good time, which was something I never really thought about as I rode. It was the sense of speed and independence. It was fun! Before long, bikes began bookending the chapters of my Beijing life. My first ride was ditched on the side of the road in favor of a smoother upgrade. That bike was promptly stolen after I left it outside a subway station overnight. Bike three was bought from a sidealley repairman who was keeping it under a tarp, lasting me a few months while I was working at a travel company. Our friendly companionship didn’t last, either. One day I left my office to find the bike had committed suicide: The kickstand had given out, bending the frame in the fall and rendering the bike unridable – it had literally collapsed under its own weight. I kicked it, choked back a few angry words, and then folded myself into the subway crowds. That led me to my current steed. I bought the blue roadster from a shady character near my house as I started my first editorial job. He loiters and sells stolen bikes, and later excitedly ran up to me at a hip-hop show ecstatic I had visited his “store.” I gave my vehicle a name definitively not suitable for print – mostly since I’ve had to begrudgingly replace everything from the ball bearings to the brakes at roadside fix-it stations (an absolute godsend in a country where bikes break down on average once every couple months) more often than I’d like. I’d get something nicer, except owning a flashy set of wheels is a reckless extravagance here. I might as well gold-plate the frame and leave it unlocked outside a pickpockets’ convention. Beijing used to be known as the Kingdom of

Bicycles, a title that today seems woefully obsolete. It’s painful to ride alongside endless trails of brake lights and smog after seeing photos from the 80s and 90s, when mobs of bicycles occupied the whole road. All that remains from those days is one fenced-off lane - though that’s only what’s left on the road. Beijing is still a very accommodating city for the rider, despite the pea-soupers and extreme weather. Beyond the might-makes-right rules of the road, two wheels are tolerated, and even welcomed. Since biking is embedded in the Chinese road culture, no one treats cyclists with the same homicidal contempt seen in, say, New York. That leaves me open to explore the city at my speed, without any set route, and sometimes without any set destination. This perspective allows me to luxuriate in Beijing as a pulsating, breathing organism. I sometimes manage to find time to take a detour to gaze at an old building, or lose my way in a warren of unrestored courtyard houses. An interesting sense of history and place lies in the temple facades, alley names and skyscrapers on my daily ride to the office, even if the physical traces of history are fast disappearing. David Byrne, in his Bicycle Diaries, describes urban bike riding as passing through the neural pathways of some giant collective brain. In Beijing, this is a brain that is constantly reinventing itself. Zooming through the alleys and tofu-block apartment complexes is delving into the very soul of where I live. No armchair anthropologist or cultural whiz-kid could explain it to me in the same way. That also makes it all the more heartbreaking when a neighborhood inevitably gets torn down. Granted, passing through the chaos and pollution isn’t always a dream. Some might see riding a bike on the world’s most congested roads as death-defying. Yet to me, it is more than a necessary risk. Biking, at least temporarily, makes me feel like I belong. NEWSCHINA I January 2014

Swear When You’re Winning By Alex Taggart

Illustration by Xiang Zhaohui

While Chinese profanity is relatively harmless in other parts of the world, a reputation for being sore losers can haunt a team on the global stage.

The last few decades haven’t given Chinese soccer fans much to cheer about. But given that China’s first so-called “superclub” Guangzhou Evergrande beat South Korea’s FC Seoul to become champions of Asia this month, some are predicting Chinese soccer to hit the world stage in the near future. Be prepared – it’s a funny old game. While China appears to have invented the sport in the third century BC (known then as cuju), it’s mostly been downhill from there. Plagued with scandal in recent times, the Chinese Super League (CSL), as well as the men’s national team (currently ranked 96th in the world, better than Botswana but not quite as good as Moldova) are perennial sources of disappointment and embarrassment – players, referees, and even government officials responNEWSCHINA I January 2014

sible for the league have been caught trying to fix or throw games. Somewhat more sinisterly, former player and popular author Li Chengpeng claimed in his book Chinese Soccer: The Inside Story that those within the soccer apparatus who have dared to challenge China’s powerful gambling syndicates have been threatened at gunpoint. Besides the alleged violence behind the scenes, there’s plenty of very real violence on the field – double-footed, bone-crunching takedowns, more appropriate in a cagefight than a soccer match, are commonplace. In terms of stadium atmosphere, though, there’s nothing quite like a Chinese soccer match…as long as you’re sitting with the home fans. On match day, traffic around the Worker’s Stadium in Beijing (gridlocked at the best of times) grinds to a complete halt, as the legions of lime green-shirted Beijing Guo’an supporters march into battle. Before the game begins, the atmosphere inside the packed 80,000-capacity stadium appears quite wholesome and family-friendly. When the teams emerge, though, everything changes – and that’s when the swearing begins. Competitive sports tend to provoke cursing anywhere in the world, but the profanity at a Chinese soccer game is so loud, constant and creative as to be genuinely impressive, often more so than the soccer itself. What’s more, it isn’t just the hardcore, shirtless superfans who get involved. Kids, young couples, the elderly – everyone joins in the chorus of violent, explicit verbal abuse. It can sometimes be difficult to determine exactly at whom the vitriol is aimed, but it tends to move through a fairly dependable cycle. During the first half of the game, the visiting team and their fans take the brunt of it – an intimidating prospect, given that at the average match, out-of-towners rarely number more than 150. After half-time, the home fans have usually become fed up with the referee, particularly if the game isn’t going their way,

and spend the next 15 minutes or so expressing in no uncertain terms their scant regard for his competence. Later, when their team has inevitably failed to mount a comeback, the Beijing fans turn on their own players, and eventually, each other. It’s quite the anthropological spectacle. Unsurprisingly, there are bitter rivalries in the Chinese Super League. Grudge matches between neighboring cities (known as debi, a transliteration of the world “derby”) can sometimes end in localized rioting. Last year, after Beijing lost at home to their old nemesis Tianjin, violence broke out outside the stadium, and several unlucky drivers with Tianjin license plates had their cars smashed up. For this reason, Beijing and Tianjin have both banned the other team’s fans from entering their respective stadiums on derby day, although this hasn’t stopped them sneaking in incognito. With more and more cash flowing into the league, the CSL is now able to attract famous foreign players and coaches – Asian champions Guangzhou Evergrande, backed by property giant Evergrande Real Estate, were guided to victory by none other than 2010 World Cup winning Italian coach Marcello Lippi. But when a country’s soccer clubs become successful abroad, their fans begin to travel more, and domestic soccer culture is put on display. This isn’t always a good thing – British soccer hooligans, for example, have damaged the UK’s reputation on many occasions. And while Chinese profanity is relatively harmless in other parts of the world, a reputation for being sore losers can haunt a team on the global stage. Still, for foreigners living in China, attending a home game in a Chinese city is an unmissable experience. As well as being a crash-course in Chinese curse words, it’s also one of those rare places where foreigners can feel a sense of belonging. It doesn’t matter who you are or where you’re from – as long as you hate the opposition, you’re a local.


Cultural listings Cinema

Fall of Ming Set in 1642, two years before the collapse of the Ming Dynasty, the film tells the story of Marshal Sun Chuanting (1593-1643) and physician Wu Youke (1582-1652), who struggled to keep the monarchy afloat when both a pandemic and a major rebellion simultaneously hit the crumbling Ming Empire. In this film adaptation, which takes a typically loose view of history, the two protagonists, trapped in their relevant fields, fight to save a dynasty already beyond saving. While only gaining a lukewarm reception at the box office since its premiere in late October in China and the US, the movie picked up the Golden Angel Award at the 2013 Chinese American Film Festival. Its director Wang Jing has continued to encourage audiences to see his film, claiming it is a historical reflection of later pandemics such as SARS.



Indoor Sky

Life in Chaos and Poverty by Jiang Shumei

Modern Sky Festival 2013 ran from November 27 to December 8 in both Beijing (at Yugong Yishan livehouse and Thinkpad Space) and Shanghai (at On Stage, MAO and Mixing Room). First conceived in 2007, this year was the first time this outdoor music festival was held indoors, though it will still boast an international lineup including The Cardigans, Cat Power, and Tegan & Sara. Shen Lihui, organizer and founder of Modern Sky Entertainment, said this year’s gala, with the theme “Closer,” would give fans unprecedented access to their favorite performers and allow the focus to shift back to the music, rather than just the carnival atmosphere. The 12-day festival will also include two music forums featuring well-respected celebrity panels. Exhibition

The voice of young artists The exhaustively-named “Abnormal State 2013 Shenzhen Local Young Artists’ Contemporary Art Exhibition II” held from November 2 till December 8 at the T6 Art Museum, will attempt to show how young artists working in one of China’s most thriving commercial centers feel about their place in their adopted culture. 25 young local artists, most of them recent migrants, will showcase their work at the exhibition, which is aimed at increasing awareness of Shenzhen’s unique culture as well as giving a platform to up-and-coming creatives.


This new release of Luan Shi Hou, Qiong Shi Hou by Jiang Shumei gives an overview of the most tumultuous events in recent Chinese history including the War of Resistance against Japanese Aggression (1937-45) and the Cultural Revolution (1966-76) from a civilian point of view, with much of the account based on the experience of 76-year-old Jiang herself. Published in October, this oral history pieces together the changing circumstances of ordinary Chinese people in the last 75 years. Illiterate until the age of 60, Jiang only learned to write after she turned 75. Her plain language, crammed with heartfelt sentiments, has been a welcome relief to people familiar with more stuffy or tabloid accounts of these well-documented historical events. NEWSCHINA I January 2014

NEWSCHINA I January 2014



Urbanization should mean more than relocation China’s urbanization drive should not only aim to move people into cities, but to germinate a genuinely modern society By Dang Guoying


mid all the discussion about China’s reform and urbaniza- ies. One approach is to establish a comprehensive professional certion, there are few devoted to the reform of the “connec- tification system so that residents can depend on their skills rather tions culture” widespread than their personal connections to in both rural and urban society. prosper. While actual feudalism may Without tackling this issue, China Unfortunately, this issue has been cannot build a modern society, and largely ignored in the policymakbe long gone, its social and the cities it creates through its push ing process regarding urbanization, cultural legacy still lingers in toward urbanization will merely be which has primarily focused on Chinese society. mega-villages. resettling rural residents in cities. In China’s traditional society, one’s However, without addressing widesurvival and prosperity depended enspread nepotism in these growing tirely upon cultivating relationships urban areas, new residents often with others within a social hierarchy in which patriarchal, religious find themselves marginalized in the cities as they were in the counand economic relations were closely intertwined. In a feudal village, tryside, essentially subsisting on the whims of their social betters. the village chief or chiefs often monopolized political and economic In recent years, many of the riots that the government terms “mass power, distributing social resources through the hierarchy. Those at incidents” have involved frustrated new urban residents. the bottom received next to nothing. Another characteristic of China’s urbanization is that the counWhile actual feudalism may be long gone, its social and cultural try’s megacities such as Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou appear legacy still lingers in Chinese society, especially in rural villages and to attract a large number of rural migrants, increasing demographic small cities. Nepotism dominates the distribution of social resourc- pressure despite of rocketing housing prices and a spiraling cost lives, as social mobility is determined, not by merit or hard work, but ing in these cities. A major reason behind this is that the problem by simple connections. of nepotism is much less severe in these mega cities, where the sheer This nepotist society has been the cause of various social prob- diversity of the populace makes it harder for social networks to gain lems. Corruption is the most egregious - public resources are mo- a decisive foothold. nopolized by local elites, and are distributed through patriarchal reIn pushing forward urbanization, the leadership has repeatedly lationships rather than through an open and fair system. The result called for the development of small cities. But they must look behas been increasing number of petitions to provincial and central yond demographic stats and seriously tackle the problem of nepoauthorities, filed by people who have reached the end of their rope tism. in dealings with their local officials. Without modernizing Chinese society, urbanization will only reTo address this problem, the authorities should endeavor to es- sult in ever-larger villages, and ever-greater social inequality. tablish a merit-based system to allow the market to play a major role in allocating social resources, while minimizing the personal (The author is a professor at the Rural Development Institute of the influence of officials in distributing welfare, especially in smaller cit- Chinese Academy of Social Sciences)


NEWSCHINA I January 2014

NEWSCHINA I January 2014



NEWSCHINA I January 2014

January 2014