Wine Bubbles: French Connection INTERNATIONAL
China and India: Neighborhood Watched SOCIETY
Urban Explorers: Hidden Histories
HOUSEHOLD HORRORS Just how serious is Chinaâ€™s domestic violence problem?
Volume No. 047 July 2012
Published by China Newsweek Corporation Publisher: Liu Beixian Executive Directors: Liu Beixian, Zhou Jianming Editor-in-Chief: Wang Xiaohui Editorial Office Managing Editor: Zheng Zhonghai Advisor: Liu Dizhong Senior Editor: Yang Yi Copy Editors: Jack Smith, Alex Taggart Lead Writer: Yu Xiaodong Editors: Wang Yan, Yuan Ye, Xie Ying, Sun Zhe, Li Jia First Reader: Wesley Jacks Address: 5th Floor, 12 Baiwanzhuang South Street, Xicheng District, Beijing, China Post Code: 100037 Tel: 86-10-88395566 Fax: 86-10-88388045 Email: email@example.com www.newschinamag.com Art Department Art Director: Wu Shangwen Art Editor/Designer: Zhang Dawei Marketing Office China Newsweek Corporation President: Wang Xiaohui Chief Executive: Fred Teng Tel: 1-212-481-2510 Fax: 1-212-481-2503 Address: Suite 1101, 15 East 40th Street, New York, NY 10016, USA Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Toronto Office Director: Lai Hailong Address: 51 Halstead Drive, Markham, ON Canada L3R7Z4 Tel: 1-905-604-6150 Fax: 1-905-604-6170 Email: email@example.com Marketing Director: Wang Chenbo Account Manager : Ren Jie Tel: 86-10-88388027 Circulation Manager: Yu Lina Tel: 86-10-88311834 Advertising Director: Gao Weiwei Tel: 1-212-481-2510 Marketing Promoter: Jerry Meng Tel: 1-212-481-2510 New York Office: Jing Xiaolin, Sun Yuting, Li Yang Washington Office: Wu Qingcai, De Yongjian Los Angeles Office: Zhang Wei San Francisco Office: Liu Dan Houston Office: Wang Huan London Office: Wei Qun Tokyo Office: Sun Ran Paris Office: Wu Weizhong Bangkok Office: Yu Xianlun Kuala Lumpur Office: Zhao Shengyu Moscow Office: Tian Bing Legal Advisor: Allen Wu ISSN 1943-1902
NEWSCHINA I July 2012
Stimulus won’t create sustainable growth
hen meeting with six provincial the real estate and financial sectors. Realizing the leaders in Hubei Province this May, problem, the government later tightened its poPremier Wen Jiabao stressed that lices, which further hurt small and medium-sized maintaining economic growth should be a prior- companies, as it became more difficult for them ity for the government, an announcement which to secure loans. It was this vicious cycle that led to observers believe may hermany of China’s current ald more liberal economic economic difficulties. policies. With economic growth Healthy economic growth Provincial leaders claim once again becoming a depends on a balanced they are being challenged policy priority, there is economic structure, with by various economic difevidence that stimulus a long-term strategy ficulties including inpolices favoring big Statefocusing on creativity efficiency, decreasing owned enterprises and inprofitability in several frastructure construction and technological industries, and a rapidly may still be prioritized. development. declining growth rate. For example, official data Earlier this year, some loshow that by the end of cal governments, includ2011, the value of ining those of Shanghai and tended credit granted to Foshan, launched polithe Ministry of Railways cies aimed at loosening alone had amounted to 2 control of the real estate trillion yuan (US$317bn). industry, an important The official stance on real source of government revenue. On May 18, the estate has also seen a subtle change from “continucentral government announced that it would re- ing with the existing controls” to “increasing the duce the deposit reserve rate by 0.5 percent – the housing supply.” Many are concerned that the third reduction in six months. government may simply fall back on its previous But while maintaining economic growth, the stimulus policy. Chinese government should also learn from previSo far, China seems to have adopted a much ous experiences. When the global financial crisis more careful economic strategy than it did during threatened the Chinese economy in late 2008, the the global financial crisis four years ago. But the central government resorted to a colossal stimulus government must consider its previous mistakes, package amounting to 4 trillion yuan (US$633bn), and be aware that healthy economic growth deaccompanied by various packages at the provincial pends on a balanced economic structure, with a level. The result was an excessive monetary supply, long-term strategy focusing on creativity and techand rocketing inflation. With large State-owned nological development. While maintaining China’s enterprises as the major beneficiaries, the package economic growth, the government should take care led to a distorted economic structure as capital left to avoid indulging its habit of injecting cash into the real economy to seek higher profit margins in the inefficient State-owned sector.
Behind Closed Doors
Photo by CFP
A series of high-profile cases has forced the debate on domestic violence in China into the open, with increasing numbers of victims speaking out. But will the authorities dare to intervene in a social problem traditionally dismissed as a family matter?
01 Stimulus wonâ€™t create sustainable growth 10 Qingdao Mayor : Branching Out
12 HOUSEHOLD HORRORS : Crazy Culture?/A Matter of Will
20 Sino-Indian Relations : When Neighbors Donâ€™t Speak 23 26
Internet Celebrities : The Hype Machine Yunnan Bombing : A Most Convenient Suspect
P23 NEWSCHINA I July 2012
P34 28 Taxidermy : Stuff of Life feature
34 Urban Exploration : The City’s B-Side special report
38 Wine Market : Grape Walls of China/Buying the Farm
Forbidden City : Under New Management Copyright Law : Singing the Blues
60 Departure Lounge outside in
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 72 Commentary
46 48 50
People’s Daily Online IPO : Public People Ordos : The Coal Curse Wenzhou Financial Reform : Gilded Guinea Pig
53 Yangtze Biodiversity : Fished Out
NEWSCHINA I July 2012
Hidden Hong Kong : Hiking the Urban Jungle Flavor of the Month : China’s Cheese
Minsheng Weekly May 23, 2012
Flush Laborers Recent media reports revealing that the average nanny’s salary in Shanghai has exceeded that of a mid-level physician have triggered a nationwide debate on the influence of market demand on salaries. While blue collar workers sometimes earn slightly more than the average, they often complain about a lack of social welfare provisions. Recently a public backlash against “barely qualified” blue collar workers, specifically people involved in childcare, construction and home improvement, has begun to make itself felt. Calls are now growing for greater supervision of the certification of certain professionals, and increased regulation of the open labor market.
Century Weekly May 7, 2012
Quality Water? The Chinese government has announced the implementation of new drinking water standards as of July 1 which in theory would make China one of the world’s most exacting nations in terms of potable water purity. However, experts doubt that these new standards, only enforceable through a nationwide crackdown on unsanitary waterworks and a huge boost to the number of water monitoring and regulatory personnel, will be achieved. In 2009, China carried out water purity testing in 4,000 waterworks above county level, but never publicized the results of the tests, with insiders leaking information that almost 50 percent of the country’s waterworks were not meeting even the relatively lax existing national standards for drinking water purity.
NewsChina Chinese Edition May 28, 2012
Power Wars As local governments hear consumer complaints related to China’s tiered power prices, a conflict is brewing between the country’s State Grid and six local private power suppliers, with angry rhetoric escalating into wholesale fistfights in some counties. Public support for private energy suppliers has been strong, with many believing only private suppliers can break the State monopoly on electricity. State lawyers have stepped into the fray, arguing that each region is limited to a single supplier under the State grid by law. Some have suggested that the State grid go public, allowing private suppliers to invest in its operations, in order to defuse the situation.
Xinmin Weekly May 23, 2012
Keeping It In The Family A recent survey by Shanghai Jiaotong University showed that only 18 percent of young people from wealthy families were “willing” to inherit a family business, with the rest claiming that they had “their own interests” and lacked emotional ties to their families. However, research indicating an ongoing preference for nepotism at the highest levels of China’s wealthiest companies would indicate that few children of the country’s CEOs will be given a choice in the matter. One suggested middle way is for businesspeople to allow their children to pursue alternative business channels with support from family members. What isn’t changing is the fact that few Chinese business owners seem to favor making their companies more accessible to outsiders, regardless of relative talent or experience.
Oriental Outlook April 16, 2012
Sluggish Shipbuilding Recent trade statistics show that the number of orders placed with China’s shipyards in 2011 dropped over 50 percent from 2010, with 30 percent of shipbuilders receiving no orders the whole year. Starting around 2005 and lured by potential profits in the freight industry, many Chinese shipbuilders began launching fleets of new cargo ships in anticipation of even greater demand, only to find no buyers in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis. Despite a booming capital market, investors have remained reluctant to purchase these hastily-constructed Chinese vessels due to concerns over safety. Several Chinese shipyards have already filed for bankruptcy, while ports along the east coast are becoming crowded with rusting, unwanted hulks. NEWSCHINA I July 2012
“Love takes a lot of energy, whereas marriage spreads a blanket for the lazy.” Illustration by Wu Shangwen
Novelist Zhao Zhao on the reasons why she married.
“The pursuit of happiness is everyone’s right, and to ensure the people’s happiness is the Party’s and the government’s responsibility. We should dispel the idea that happiness is only what we are willing to grant the people.” Wang Yang, Party secretary of Guangdong Province, during an address at the 11th provincial Party congress.
“Don’t make statistical data the criteria for judging whether or not we have controlled river pollution. Environmental protection bureau leaders can prove their success by swimming in the river.” Chen Derong, Party secretary of Wenzhou, Zhejiang Province arguing for greater accountability among environmental officials.
“Only by watching seven days of [State broadcaster] CCTV news can we recover from negative reporting on microblogs. We cannot get an overall picture of China by simply focusing on one or the other.” Zhang Yannong, president of Party mouthpiece the People’s Daily, arguing that State media has its place in society.
“If [the government] could transfer resources and funding from social stability and into food and drug safety we might actually have a more stable society.” Businessman Ren Zhiqiang on the ongoing food and drug safety scandals eroding consumer confidence in China.
“The Chinese generally compare the wealth and prominence of their fathers, not their grandfathers. Many among today’s elite are the grandchildren of peasants.” Writer Liang Xiaosheng on the rapid development of China’s new aristocracy. NEWSCHINA I July 2012
“It is not correct to claim that money, reputation, power and social standing equal success. Some lead a full and interesting life with neither riches nor reputation. China has a glut of ‘successful’ people, but few ‘interesting’ ones.”
“I don’t know why Chinese people are all in such a hurry.” CCTV anchor Bai Yansong on the rat race.
CCTV anchor Rui Chenggang, on his microblog.
“Many people spend too long on microblogs. This is a waste of time and lives.” Editor-in-chief of SDX Joint Publishing Company Li Xin when asked about the rise of the microblog.
Friendly Trinity? A series of steps toward closer economic ties between China, Japan and South Korea have been announced by the leadership of the three countries during their latest summit in Beijing. The most important measure is the plan to begin talks for a free trade area (FTA) between the three, a program widely regarded as the first substantial step towards the economic integration of East Asia. The idea of an FTA emerged after the Asian Financial Crisis in 1997, and was officially approved as a vision shared by ASEAN and China, Japan and South Korea. In the interim, however, little progress has been made. A number of favorable changes have facilitated renewed enthusiasm. According to China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, by 2011,
the total trade value between the three had quadrupled since trilateral co-operation began in 1999. The current financial crisis has once again highlighted the importance of increased cooperation between the major Asian economies. The tripartite FTA negotiations will doubtless encounter difficulties. Diplomatic
relations between the three have long been overshadowed by tension on issues including ChinaJapan territorial disputes, the North Korean nuclear issue, and unresolved conflicts dating back to World War II. All three nations also compete one another on the ASEAN market, with whom all three have established their own independent FTAs. The US, which has long frowned at the prospect of increased Asian integration, will also factor into the discussions. Some Chinese analysts believe that FTA talks will help to offset the pressure that China faces from the USinitiated Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a free-trade agreement for all APEC members that is seen as part of the US’s long-term AsiaPacific strategy.
Saved from Death Row
A 100-day crackdown on foreigners illegally living or working in Beijing was launched by the local government on May 15. The Beijing police warned that foreigners caught without the proper documentation will be fined, detained or deported. Official figures show that more than 27 million foreigners entered in China in 2011, a number which has been increasing by 10 percent each year over the last decade. The second version of a draft law governing China’s borders will impose harsher punishments on foreigners entering, residing and working in China illegally. The crackdown is believed to be an unofficial response to public anger at a British tourist, who was caught on camera allegedly attempting to sexually assault a Chinese woman in Beijing.
On May 21 at Zhejiang Provincial High Court, Wu Ying, a 31-year-old woman who was originally sentenced to death for financial fraud, was instead given a twoyear reprieve, a sentence that will most likely be commuted life imprisonment. The overturned verdict, according to the court, is based on consideration of Wu’s testimony of her own crimes and those of several government officials. However, it is widely believed to be due to overwhelming public criticism of both the harsh treatment of Wu and, by extension, the State monopoly on finance, and the use of the death penalty to punish white collar criminals. Wu’s case may bring hope for several defendants in other provinces.
NEWSCHINA I July 2012
The Chinese Ministry of Commerce granted conditional approval to search giant Google’s acquistion of phone maker Motorola Mobility for US$12.5 billion on May 19, 2012. With its Android software in control of 74 percent of the Chinese market, Google has made commitments on non-discriminatory treatment towards all hardware manufacturers using Android and various obligations on Motorola’s patents, according to the ministry’s announcement. The acquisition will give Google a bigger slice of the smartphone hardware market and access to Motorola’s thousands of patents and patent applications, as well as a more competitive edge over Apple. The deal, announced on August 15, 2011, has been given the green light by regulators in the US and the EU, which will also put the company’s licensing of the patents under scrutiny.
Market shares of operating systems for mobile devices on the Chinese market in Q4, 2011
Google Android: 73.99% Nokia Symbian: 12.53% Apple iOS: 10.67% Others: 2.81%
Source: Ministry of Commerce of China
Smuggler Gets Life Ten months after being extradited to China from Canada, Chinese billionare Lai Changxing was sentenced to life imprisonment in May 2012 for what is believed to be China’s biggest case of economic crime since the People’s Republic of China was founded in 1949. The Xiamen Intermediary Court accused Lai of building an organized crime group, engaging in smuggling and bribery totalling US$4.3 billion between 1995 and 1999. 64 Chinese government officials are confirmed to have been involved, and thousands of officials and celebrities are reported to have been guests at Lai’s luxurious mansion in Xiamen. The Chinese Foreign Ministry said on May 18 that Lai’s trial shows China’s determination to punish corruption and the significance of judicial cooperation between China and Canada. Tens of thousands of corrupt Chinese officials, however, are still on the run.
China Drills Ocean Oil 981, China’s first domestically-manufactured deep-water drilling platform, completed its first successful operation on May 9 in an area 350 kilometers southeast of Hong Kong, in the South China Sea. Owned and operated by the State-run China National Offshore Oil Corp., the semi-submersible platform boasts the world’s most advanced technology with a designed penetration of 3,000 meters in sea water. Previously, China had to rent deep-water drilling platforms from foreign companies. The significance of the equipment’s debut goes beyond economics. Other countries that lay claim to territory in the South China Sea, most notably Vietnam and the Philippines, have stepped up their oil and gas drilling programs in the region. The recent confrontation between China and the Phillipines over a set of uninhabited islands has increased military tension between the two countries, and Chinese analysts believe the new equipment will enable China to join the drilling frenzy, thus consolidating its sovereignty claims.
Railroad Reform China’s Ministry of Railways has declared for the first time that it will fully open the market for private investors, removing its unpopular restrictions on infrastructure construction and railway operation. The ministry is in need of private capital to ease its heavy debts caused by massive investment in high-speed rail in recent years. However, potential corruption and safety issues have cast doubt on the viability of investment. Private capital and even foreign capital have been given market access in the past, but strong State control has made investment virtually impossible. Private investors are still maintaining a “wait-and-see” attitude. Whether or not real changes will be made will depend on the other part of the ministry’s new program – plans to reform the railway system, focusing on establishing market-oriented mechanisms. NEWSCHINA I July 2012
Photos by CFP
Google Acquires Motorola
What’s Making China Angry?
Poll the People
A Beijing doctor posted a warning on her microblog urging netizens to steer clear of barbequed meat skewers bought from street vendors, as she believed a patient had been poisoned by skewer meat made from poison-tainted rat, cat or dog meat.
Are you satisfied with the government’s anticorruption efforts? 9,704 respondents by May 20
What’s Shocking China? A patient about to undergo surgery under general anesthetic suddenly leapt off the operating table and assaulted surgical staff in an incident in early May in Hubei Province. The anesthetist, who was injured in the attack, said that he was conducting the routine information verification session before surgery when the patient got violent. The surgery carried on as normal after the man calmed down 20 minutes later.
Yes, I don’t see much corruption 77 (0.8%) No, corruption is very serious 9,536 (98.4%) Don’t know 76 (0.8%)
What’s Amusing China? A man surnamed Lu from Xiangshui, Jiangsu Province, allegedly got so “giddy with excitement” following his excellent score in the public service entry exam in late April that he hit a tree while driving home from the test center. Lu himself was unhurt, but a Mr Chen, who was napping in the tree, was not so lucky. While he didn’t fall, the impact gave Chen a fatal heart attack. Lu later paid 60,000 yuan (US$9,490) compensation to Chen’s family.
What’s Upsetting China? Five children were drowned in rural Jiangxi Province, following a failed rescue attempt by a group of elderly people. Since most of the town’s young people had emigrated to coastal areas to work, including the parents of the deceased children, nobody able-bodied was on hand to save the children’s lives. A number of similar tragedies happen in the countryside every year. Due to the expense of living in the city and the lack of schooling options for migrant children, migrant workers usually choose to leave their children in their hometowns with their grandparents, some of whom are themselves in need of long-term care.
Most Circulated Post Retweeted 45,519 times The renowned economist Mao Yushi told his followers how a powerful State ministry was boosting the gifts industry:
“I live next to the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC). I often see visitors enter the NDRC laden with gifts and leave empty-handed. In the late afternoon, when the NDRC officials get off work, they sell these gifts to the gift stores on the street outside the ministry. The stores then resell them to visitors who come to the ministry to ask for favors. It goes on and on.”
NEWSCHINA I July 2012
W ho ’s Ho t?
Top Blogger Profile Followers: 3,061,500 57-year-old Zheng is a renowned fairytale author, and the founder and sole contributor to children’s literature magazine King of Fairy Tales, which was first published in 1984. Zheng is critical of the Chinese education system, claiming that “class monitors” in Chinese schools are encouraged to inform on their classmates, and that Chinese education robs children of their innocence. He chose to teach his own son at home after primary school, and compiled his own textbooks.
Wu, a student at Shanghai’s Fudan University, launched an online wiki service providing Web users with the latest information on food safety issues in China.
Top Five Search Queries On
A Ferrari left unsightly tire marks on top of Nanjing’s ancient city wall after performing wheelspin stunts during a promotional event.
Over the week to March 19 A Bite of China 732,257 A popular documentary on Chinese cuisine.
Warriors of the Rainbow: Seediq Bale 204,524 The Taiwanese film gained popularity in the mainland after it caused a buzz at this year’s Venice Film Festival. Lai Changxing 131,385 The former smuggler was sentenced to life imprisonment after being repatriated from Canada. Marcello Lippi 120,738 The former Italian national soccer team coach joined Guangdong Evergrande on a contract reported to be worth 10 million euros (US$12.8m). NEWSCHINA I July 2012
The young American shared a bag of fries with an elderly beggar on a street in Nanjing.
The head of the land regulation department of the Shandong provincial government never attends lectures at Tsinghua University, despite being a doctorate candidate.
W ho ’s No t?
Zhang Lili 291,811 The teacher from Heilongjiang was dubbed “the most beautiful teacher” when she pushed two students out of the way of a car, only to be hit herself, , resulting in the loss of both her legs.
Photo by Liao Pan
Workers plant metasequoia on the Haier Road in Qingdao, Shandong, April 28, 2012
Branching Out With endless cycles of tree-planting and reconstruction in Chinese cities, residents are beginning to wonder why urban planners can’t make up their minds By Min Jie
n March 1, a 4 billion yuan (US$615m) tree-planting project was launched in the coastal city of Qingdao, Shandong Province, immediately after the city’s new mayor Zhang Xinqi took office. The city’s residents, however, were unimpressed – over the next few days, this seemingly innocent environmental drive caused a public outcry, with many expressing their worries, concerns and complaints on the Internet. In an online exchange with Vice-Mayor Wang Jianxiang on April 19, Qingdao residents questioned the legitimacy of the plan, expressing dissatisfaction over the lack of public consultation and concern that the whole thing was nothing more than a “show project” designed to boost the new municipal government’s performance in assessment criteria. Some flatly asserted that Qingdao NEWSCHINA I July 2012
belonged to its people, not its mayor. “In reality, the city’s leadership do all the planning, and professional city planners are reduced to cartographers at the whim of the leadership,” Hu Jie, a senior researcher from Tsinghua University’s Urban Planning Research Institute, told NewsChina. He added that the phenomenon reflects intrinsic problems in the current system of urban planning and management under China’s unique governance infrastructure.
Wang Yukai, a professor from the Chinese Academy of Governance, said that the appearance and atmosphere of a city should be the result of a long-term evolution, and that any “short-sighted meddling” would likely result in problems. Amid disapproval from Qingdao residents, Zhang was given the nickname “the treeplanting mayor.” Some online critics pointed out that Zhang had used similar tactics in the past, during his time as Party secretary of the cities of Laizhou and Weifang, both also in Shandong Province. Between 1997 and 2001 in Laizhou, Zhang launched several large-scale “green city” drives, yielding a grand total of seven parks, two dozen sidewalk verges and a 10-kilometer green belt surrounding the city. It was estimated that 40 percent of Laizhou was covered by vegetation, and Laizhou was awarded the status of a “national model city for environmental protection” by the Environmental Protection Administration (the predecessor of today’s Ministry of Environmental Protection) in 2000. As mayor and Party secretary of Weifang between 2001 and 2011, Zhang once again put his green thumb to work, leading the Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development to bestow upton the area the even grander title of “nationallevel garden city” in 2010. Tree-planting projects, increasingly believed to be motivated by short-term economic or political gains, are not exclusive to Qingdao. In 2010, for instance, the Nan’an District government in Chongqing Municipality spent more than 100 million yuan (US$15m) uprooting rows of recently plantNEWSCHINA I July 2012
ed banyan trees along the district’s main thoroughfare, in order to make way for ginkgo trees. Also, it has been reported that the Chengguan District government of Nanzhou, capital of Gansu Province, is planning to replace 400 20-year-old Chinese scholar trees with ginkgoes in 2012. Hu Zhihai, director of the Dongguan Forestry Bureau in Guangdong Province, said: “In many places, a change of leadership often means a change of trees.” A commentary in the State-owned People’s Daily criticized the phenomenon, saying that, eager to impress and equally keen to distinguish themselves from the previous administration, new leaders often have the habit of abolishing the workable development policies of their predecessors and starting again from scratch. The commentary argued that this is a tremendous waste of resources and manpower, and undermines the work of local governments. Wu Liangyong, a prominent urban planning expert and architect, said: “Decision makers are so eager to look good that they tear down old buildings in the very heart of their cities and build grand high rises, large city squares and expansive lawns in their place.” He believes that the main factor behind criticism of modern urban construction lies in the fact that the whims of the top city leadership are given priority.
From the Top
Zhang Xianfeng, a senior researcher from the China Urban Planning Research Institute, said that China is in need of sound decision-making procedures in urban planning, and “design according to the will of the leader” should be avoided at all costs. Over the last two decades, the field of city planning has been dominated by trendhopping. First came industrial development zones, then large public squares and green spaces, followed by university districts. Most recently, cities across the country have been rushing to shape themselves into international metropolises, according to Professor Duan Jin, general planner at the Urban Planning Research Institute at Southeast University in
Jiangsu Province. Hu Jie of Tsinghua University said, “Many complain about these trends, but as long as the current decision-making mechanism remains intact, complaining does little to fix problems.” He said that urban planning in developed Western countries can serve as an example to Chinese planners. “In the West, the kind of sweeping urban planning we see in China is unheard of, and there’s no need for the massive construction projects,” he added. According to Li Hongyu, a senior researcher from the Urban Development and Environment Research Institute at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, urban planning projects in China can be divided into three separate categories: socio-economic development planning under the National Development and Reform Commission, cityscape and housing planning under the Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development, and land use planning under the Ministry of Land and Resources. In Li’s view, the absence of a unified system is the root cause of the constant chopping and changing of projects in Chinese cities. At the same time, expediency-driven local governments are also to blame. Some, for example, have been known to revise their plans in order to attract investment, essentially using city construction as a tool for short-term profit. Urban planning is part of the government’s public policy, and the government plays an important role in the drafting and implementation of the urban plans. However, in the eyes of some experts, inefficiency in the system is caused by excessive meddling from on high. “In the course of planning, the interests of the public, the government and the investors should be taken care of and balanced with one another. Wide public participation and increased transparency in the planning should be encouraged,” said Li Hongyu. Yet, Li pointed out that since the government currently attaches little importance to suggestions from the public, it is unlikely that the wishes of a city’s residents will be meaningfully reflected in urban planning.
NEWSCHINA I July 2012
HOUSEHOLD HORRORS China’s first major survey on domestic violence has revealed a widespread problem affecting all social classes and age groups in all areas of the country. Will increased public debate lead to a change in the authorities’ traditional hands-off approach to this sensitive issue?
China’s Domestic Violence Survey
Which of the following, if any, have you experienced at home?
Total Surveyed: 1,873
Slapped, choked or kicked: 1,109
Male: 436 (23.3%) Female: 1,437(76.7%)
Have you ever suffered domestic violence? Yes: 1,008 (54.3%) No: 850 (45.7%)
NEWSCHINA I July 2012
(13.6%) Cursed or humiliated: 1,009 (12.3%) Pushed or pulled: 890 (10.9%) Deliberately ignored: 797 (9.7%) Forced sex: 641 (7.8%) Threat of physical violence: 623 (7.6%) Threat of lethal violence: 588 (7.2%) Forced imprisonment: 566 (6.9%) Assault with an implement or weapon: 544 (6.6%) Burned or stabbed: 507 (6.2%) Violent refusal to have sex: 503 (6.1%) Withheld finances: 406 (5%) Source: Hongfeng Psychological Consultation Hotline/www.163.com
Photo by CFP
Li Yang addresses 7,000 students in Haozhou, Anhui Province, December 4, 2008
Crazy Culture? Kim Leeâ€™s microblog revelations accusing her celebrity husband and Crazy English founder Li Yang of spousal abuse have forced the debate about domestic violence in China into the open. NewsChina offers an overview of this high-profile case By Xie Ying
NEWSCHINA I July 2012
A teacher of English as a foreign language, Li Yang sparked a craze for English language learning in China in the mid 1990s by encouraging students to shout English phrases and sentences out loud. Using eccentric body language and slogans like “I enjoy losing face” and “tread English underfoot,” Li, described by fans as “talented, confident and influential,” became China’s most visible English teacher, with his particular brand of overzealous, accented English spreading far and wide.
NEWSCHINA I July 2012
However, when his wife Kim published photos online of the injuries suffered at Li’s hands, public support for China’s English teaching icon began to crumble. “Does ‘I enjoy losing face’ mean ‘I enjoy slapping my wife’s face?” asked Kim on her microblog, a remark re-tweeted thousands of times, drawing an avalanche of comments. Her microblog account’s few dozen followers soon mushroomed into thousands. According to Lee, Li Yang had beaten her on more than 10 occasions since they first met, 13 years previously. The first beating came in front of her co-workers. Lee claimed this public assault was followed with an apology, which she accepted, starting a cycle of attacks, apologies and forgiveness – which, Lee claims, persisted throughout their marriage. According to Lee, it was the couple’s youngest daughter who urged her to fight back. After witnessing a beating in August 2011, Lee claims her two-year-old daughter told her “Mom, I would stop Dad with chopsticks or scissors.” “As my head hit the floor and my youngest daughter’s screams filled the air, I was determined that my daughters would not grow up thinking that horrible violence is something acceptable,” Kim told NewsChina. “I do not regret exposing his violence. I regret that I made a mistake in letting my daughters believe that this is an acceptable way for a man to treat a woman,” she said.
Kim Lee met her future husband in 1999 on a visit to a Chinese school while she was studying bilingual education. Li Yang’s unique method for teaching English piqued her curiosity, and a relationship resulted in Lee accepting a job with Li’s company. The two married in 2005, several years after their eldest daughter was born. “I married her simply to test the difference between American education and Chinese education …. Our children are our guinea pigs,” remarked Li Yang in an interview with China Central Television (CCTV) following Kim’s exposure. Li’s long hours away from home began to put a strain on his marriage, according to Li’s
testimony. Li Yang worked over 15 hours a day, traveling all over the country on lecture tours. His wife and children would only see him once or twice a month. In her testimony, Kim Lee claimed the first serious abuse began in 2006 when Kim
Courtesy of Kim Lee
i Yang, whose “Crazy English” courses and textbooks once enjoyed a millions-strong following in China, has seen his reputation plummet after his American wife, Kim Lee, filed for divorce. On her popular Chinese microblog, Lee alleged that her husband had beaten her head against the floor of their home and attempted to strangle her on August 31, 2011. “It was not the first time Li Yang beat me, but it was most definitely the last,” Kim wrote in an email interview with NewsChina. Li Yang did not show up for the second divorce hearing, held in Beijing in March 2012. Despite Li having submitted an “open apology” for “using violence” in the wake of the case, his lawyer insisted in March that his client’s behavior “did not constitute domestic violence.” Instead, Li’s lawyer argued, his client’s actions represented “a kind of family conflict.” Continued disagreements encompassing custody of the couple’s children and the division of property have left the Li divorce proceedings unresolved. On May 10, 2012, Kim Lee returned to the US, claiming that Li Yang had continued to threaten her with “wildly erratic messages.” One such text message, which Lee forwarded to her microblog account, ran: “In America you should be killed by your husband with gun. This is real American way. You are so lucky to be in China!” “LY [Li Yang] feels no remorse for his actions. The truth is there is no change in his attitude. LY has always felt and continues to feel that his violence is ‘no big deal…’” Lee told NewsChina.
Text messages between Li Yang and Kim Lee
was seven months pregnant with their second child. A disagreement over omissions Kim had made from a book for written Li Yang led to Li grabbing his wife by her scalp, throwing her to the floor and hitting her in the stomach. Lee later claimed her baby was only saved because she turned on her side to deflect her husband’s fists. “Kim thinks I would stay with my family if she destroyed my work, but for me, without my career, family is meaningless,” Li told CCTV. “Family love is too trivial and narrow… I am not living for my family members, but for millions of English learners.” After the August 31 beating last year, Kim Lee filed a police report of spousal abuse and was hospitalized while her husband was shooting a TV show. Lee posted her first allegations and the grisly images of her injuries while her husband was delivering a lecture on family education to 150 mothers, outside the city. Five days later, amidst the public furor surrounding his wife’s allegations, Li Yang admitted his abuse and made a public apology to his family via his microblog. However, throughout a subsequent CCTV appearance, during which Li was asked to discuss the incident, he appeared defiant.
Photos by CFP
“He was introverted and had an inferiority complex in childhood, and has thus embraced the other extreme, becoming excessively conceited,” Liu told NewsChina. “He has to prove himself by constant ‘success.’” Liu believes that Li’s evangelical approach to English teaching is a symptom of this desire to overcome the isolation and impotence of his childhood. “We learn English to make money! We learn English to conquer Japan, the US and Europe…,” was a typical opener for Li’s lectures. “It seems he wants to Kim Lee tearfully accepts the 2001 Sex and Gender Defender award have absolute control from Beijing Forestry University, December 11, 2011 over everything, his career, his family – every“I was half clear-minded and half out of thing ,” said Liu. “For Li Yang to say that he control,” Li Yang explained to the interview- does not care about his family is just an excuse. er. “I was fed up with hours upon hours of He actually needs the love of his family – he her [Lee’s] chatter, and just wanted to subdue just doesn’t know how to go about gaining it.” her quickly, so I banged her head against the Since his appearances in sorts of media floor more than 10 times…” last year, which fanned the flames of public “It [Kim’s exposure] was not serious anger, Li Yang is now refusing all interviews. enough to be dealt with there and then…” When our reporter attempted to contact Li, he added. “My lectures are more important. his assistant Sun Zehui explained that “Li did I, of course, would not cancel my schedule not want to hype this.” for the sake of my family.” Unsurprisingly, Li’s remarks were taken by Public Trial many as an unrepentant attempt to justify Li’s attempts to calm the media storm surabusing his wife, with China’s blogosphere at- rounding his wife’s allegations have contintempting to analyze the psychology of this ec- ued to be met with controversy. Despite adcentric and increasingly sinister public figure. mitting to various media that “it is definitely wrong to use violence,” claiming he would like to serve as “a negative example of doAnalysis Li Yang’s former psychologist Liu Fengqin mestic violence,” Li has continued to refer to claims his client had “no understanding of the beatings meted out to his wife as “family love,” an attitude reinforced by the protracted conflict,” claiming that his American wife’s absence of both parents in childhood, an ab- public revelations are the result of “cultural sence supplemented with beatings whenever differences.” Indeed, Li’s supporters have fallen back on his parents were present.
cultural arguments to justify his behavior. “A friend of mine sent me a text message, saying ‘it is fairly common for a man to beat his wife. I will support you forever,” Li remarked in an interview with web-portal sina.com. “It is common for men in China to put their careers first. If Kim hadn’t tried to irritate me with her nagging, everything would have been OK,” he continued. Other anonymous defenders in the online community have attacked Kim Lee for attempting to drag her husband’s name through the mud. The view that spousal abuse is a matter for a husband and wife, and shouldn’t be publicized or legislated against, is a common one in microblog threads relating to the case, and the failure of the Beijing police to follow up on Kim Lee’s report has reinforced this position. “Kim, you always criticize Li Yang to the media. Is this not abuse as well?” ran one microblog posting which drew particular criticism. “A Chinese idiom says ‘meet happily, part happily.’ If you could compromise, I believe Li Yang would, too,” it continued. “I still get this type of comment on my Weibo, and even more sadly from people I once considered friends,” Kim Lee told NewsChina. “Li Yang himself has repeatedly given me this exact accusation: that I hurt him, I hurt his image. I hurt his brand and his company. My response is quite simple: ‘No, you hurt all these things. If you had not committed violence, there would have been nothing for me to expose.’” “I scheduled 14 psychiatric consultations for Li Yang, but he stopped coming after the second session,” Liu Fengqin told NewsChina. “I don’t think he wants to solve his psychological problems. What he really cares about is his career and his image.” “I don’t support some psychologists’ claims that Li Yang is beyond his own control when he is abusing his wife,” Feng Yuan, co-founder of China’s anti-domestic violence network, told NewsChina. “Actually, in China, it is clear to abusive people who they can get away with abusing.” “In the US, Li Yang would have been arrested. In China, he has not received any punishment,” she said. NEWSCHINA I July 2012
Education Level: Elementary School: 28 (1.5%)
If you have not sought help after being abused, why not?
Doctorate: 31 (1.6%)
15-20: 30 (1.6%) 21-30: 778 (40.9%)
Postgraduate: 112 (5.9%)
31-40: 820 (43.1%) 41-50: 243 (12.8%) 51-60: 27 (1.4%) Over 60: 4 (0.2%)
High School: 891
A Matter of Will With domestic violence fast becoming a hot-button issue, the government is being forced to take action
NEWSCHINA I July 2012
Fear of further abuse: 312 (11.5%) Shame: 743 (27.3%) No help available: 831 (30.5%) Stoicism: 443 (16.3%) Abuse was my fault: 392 (14.4%)
By Yu Xiaodong and Xie Ying
Source: Hongfeng Psychological Consultation Hotline/www.163.com
Seventeen years after China hosted the World Women’s Conference and pledged to protect women’s rights, China finally began to draft a law on domestic violence,” Feng Yuan, a veteran activist for women’s rights and co-founder of Fanbao, an antidomestic violence network, told NewsChina. With several high-profile cases made more visible by Internet coverage, awareness of the extent of domestic violence in Chinese homes has increased exponentially, with more and more Chinese women, and some men, willing to come out as victims. This in turn spurred an unprecedented March announcement from the National People’s Congress (NPC), China’s official legislature, that the “legislative process” has been engaged to draft a national law on domestic violence. According to the officially sanctioned All-China Women’s Federation, the draft law has already been completed and submitted to the NPC for review. However, activists like Feng have vowed to continue to push for greater public awareness of an issue which, in the view of many, can only be effectively combated through a fundamental change in conservative attitudes towards spousal rights.
“Until the late 1990s, both the authorities and the media refused to use the term ‘domestic violence.’ Instead, they preferred to refer to relevant cases as ‘family disputes,’” Feng told our reporter. A failure to recognize domestic violence resulted in no official data on the extent of the problem in China. Small-scale research by NGOs and women’s groups suggests that domestic violence in some form may exist in as many as one fourth to a half of Chinese homes. One 2012 survey jointly conducted by the All-China Women’s Federation and the National Bureau of Statistics reported that 24.7 percent of women surveyed were or had been victims of domestic abuse including beating, rape, confinement, withholding of finances and verbal abuse. Another online survey of 1,873 people, conducted by Hongfeng
Currently, no national-level laws exist in China relating to domestic violence, with police disinclined to intervene in abuse cases. Although China’s marriage and criminal laws share relevant clauses related to spousal abuse, the lack of established procedure and detailed
regulations, cause the overwhelmingly maledominated police apparatus to turn a blind eye to domestic violence. Until 2000, China’s police force was not authorized to detain anyone accused of abusing their spouse. Even after changes were made to procedural regulations, arrests and convictions are rare. Instead, the police tend to seek “mediation” between the abuser and the abused, seemingly following the ancient Chinese adage “not even good officials can settle family disputes.” “Many Chinese, including the police, deem domestic violence a private affair, something which isn’t their business to deal with” Ruan Xing’en, founder of women’s rights NGO Half the Sky Public Education, told NewsChina. When Kim Lee, who alleged spousal abuse at the hands of her celebrity husband Li Yang, attempted to lodge a formal charge against him with her local police bureau, she claimed that officers didn’t know how to respond. “What do you want us to do?” asked the police officer, according to Lee’s testimony. “What can you do?” she responded. “No, seriously, what do you want us to do?” he asked. Eventually, Lee said, she had to give them a list of demands. “Ineffective intervention like this can actually embolden offenders and further discourage victims to ask for help,” said Feng Yuan. “We often advise victims to report to the police, but most of them reject this idea,” Liu Fengqin, a Hongfeng psychologist, told our reporter. According to the Hongfeng survey, 30.5 percent of the victims polled said they would not seek help after suffering abuse because of “no help available.” In a high-profile case in 2009, Dong Shanshan, a 26-year-old woman from Beijing, was beaten to death by her husband. Prior to her death, Dong called the police eight times over four months to report the abuse, as well as filing for divorce. The authorities failed to respond to any of her requests. Dong’s husband was later sentenced to six and a half years in jail, a sentence viewed as shockingly lenient by many activists. According to China’s marriage law, in a divorce case, victims of domestic violence should be favored in the division of marital assets. In reality, claims of anything but the
A woman climbs out of a window, allegedly to escape a beating from her husband
Photo by Zhang Bin/CFP
Psychological Consultation Hotline, an antidomestic violence NGO, and web portal 163.com, reported a rate exceeding 50 percent. “the survey indicates that domestic violence exists in every social group, regardless of income, level of education or region,” Hou Zhiming, director of Hongfeng, told NewsChina. Many of those who have attempted to downplay domestic abuse scandals claim that domestic abuse is, to an extent, a cultural rather than a legal issue. For millennia, men in China held paramount positions in society, while women were expected to “obey their fathers when young, their husbands when married, and their sons when widowed,” in the words of Confucius. Practices like polygamy, footbinding and the denial of most legal and property rights endured in China into the twentieth century. With the founding of the People’s Republic in 1949, a more liberal school of thought, claiming that women “hold up half the sky,” led to an unprecedented expansion of women’s rights, most notably the right to choose a spouse, and to divorce them, the right to work, to enter the military and to participate in politics. For activists like Feng, “cultural” arguments when applied to domestic abuse are often used an excuse for political inertia in the area of women’s rights. “This is not a matter of culture, but a matter of political will,” she told NewsChina. “Most countries have had male-dominant cultures. It is up to governments to decide what kind of culture should prevail. The majority of the Chinese population, including Chinese women and many men, take no part in this so-called ‘culture’ of wife-beating.” “We must follow a guiding principle that State intervention must lead the way in fighting domestic violence,” said Jiang Yue’e, director of the Rights Department of the AllChina Women’s Organization.
Photo by Xinhua
Dong Min shows the profane tattoos cut into her by her husband
NEWSCHINA I July 2012
most egregious abuse are rarely verified in Chinese courts. For example, a court report from Nanfeng County, Jiangxi Province, indicated that in 1,102 divorce cases heard between 2002 and 2009, domestic violence was cited as legal grounds by 402 plaintiffs, or 36.5 percent of the total. However, the court ruled that domestic violence had occurred in only two of these cases. The report attributed this to the vague terminology of China’s marriage laws, which it says allows the male dominated court system to “freely interpret” relevant clauses. “It is a widely shared opinion among judges that only vicious and persistent beatings resulting in serious injury can be qualified as domestic violence,” reads one line. Many murder and manslaughter cases involving wives killing husbands are reportedly the result of persistent spousal abuse. According to a 2007 report, in Shaanxi Province alone, 171 women were serving jail terms for killing abusive husbands. As judges are free to interpret the law depending on each case, sentencing is rarely consistent. For example, in Zhejiang in 2009, wife and mother Gao Rongzhai killed her husband after allegedly suffering years of persistent beatings. Gao was convicted of murder and received a life sentence. But in similar case in Inner Mongolia, Tan Yuhong, who killed her husband after an alleged 20 years of abuse, was convicted of “excessive defense” and received a three-year suspended jail sentence. According to Feng, the new national law should clarify and standardize legal procedures relating to domestic abuse cases. “Many of these ‘crimes’ should be classed as self defense,” Feng told NewsChina. As increasing public awareness of China’s domestic violence problem has led to greater frustration with the failure to enact a national-level law, many localities have tried to address the issue at the grassroots level. It is estimated that 25 provinces and municipalities have introduced laws and regulations on domestic violence. Shanghai’s municipal government has constructed women’s shelters to support victims. In Changsha, Hunan, a program of free psychological counseling for victims of abuse was enacted in 2011. In Chongqing, a court issued an historic writ of habeas corpus on behalf of victims of spouNEWSCHINA I July 2012
sal abuse. It is reported that the principle of habeas corpus will also be included in the national anti-domestic violence law currently under review by the NPC. But for activists, these uncoordinated measures are ineffective. “The fundamental problem is that some relevant organizations, including the residential committees and police stations, are used to following an approach of ‘mediation’ by putting the blame on both parties,” Hong Wei, a domestic violence researcher from Peking University, told NewsChina. According to Hong, the solution lies in an integrated approach to link all relevant organizations and authorities under one system. It is hoped a national law will take this approach.
However, for many, China’s failure to guarantee women equal status in society, despite the leaps made since 1949, means that domestic abuse will persist so long as women are dependent on husbands for economic survival. According to renowned sexologist Li Yinhe from the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, China’s economic growth in the past three decades may have actually reversed the trend of greater gender equality set in motion in the early days of Communist Party rule. “In the Mao era, women enjoyed relative equal status. They obtained the right to work, and the right to be paid similar wages to their male peers, which was all part of the planned economy,” Li said in a 2009 interview with the German broadcaster Deutsche Welle. However, when economic liberalization was unleashed in the 1980s, the income gap between the genders grew exponentially, with many women, even those in full-time employment, once again becoming dependent on their better-paid, more socially mobile and legally empowered husbands. Such inequality is particularly acute in rural areas, where women’s right to own and inherit property has been systematically undermined since rural land ownership was transferred from rural cooperatives back into the hands of individual households in the early 1980s. As each village was granted the autonomy to decide the distribution of local land, old practices which tied patriarchs to
family property were reinstated, disenfranchising millions of rural women. In China’s countryside, women are still expected to marry outside of their own village and to move in with their husband’s family. Upon moving into their husband’s family home, a new bride typically loses any land she may have owned in her native village. If the marriage ends in divorce, the woman may also lose the land she gained through her marriage, leaving many rural divorcees destitute. According to a 2011 survey conducted among 1,044 female migrant workers across 30 provinces by the Cultural Development Center for Rural Women, a rural development NGO, 18.8 percent of the respondents claimed they had “no right” to own farmland in their home villages. 13.5 percent said they had no entitlement to land either in their home villages or their husband’s villages, and 31.8 percent said they had lost their land entitlement following a divorce. According to activist Ruan Xing’en, economic dependency is a major reason why many female victims of domestic abuse continue to suffer in silence. It is also, many activists claim, a principal reason why China is still one of the only nations where the suicide rate is higher among rural women than almost any other group. As more women migrate into cities in search of work and relative economic independence, the suicide rate among rural-born women has dropped. However, those who remain behind, many of them trapped in a cycle of abuse perpetuated by economic dependence on their husbands, continue to suffer. Public awareness of gender issues in China is rising rapidly. According to a recent survey made by the All-China Women’s Federation among 1,025 correspondents from 20 provinces, 87.3 percent said they knew what “domestic violence” meant,” 86 percent deemed it to be illegal and 84.9 percent supported a law to specifically target the problem. “The fundamental problem is a lack of gender perspective when it comes to policy and lawmaking,” said Feng. “The government must be aware that it bears the primary responsibility of safeguarding women’s rights.”
When Neighbors Donâ€™t Speak While relations between China and India are a popular talking point in international circles, both countriesâ€™ respective media remain locked in a cycle of tit-for-tat point scoring. Is negative reporting and its effect on public opinion a threat to the future strengthening of bilateral ties? By Li Jia
NEWSCHINA I July 2012
hina’s small but growing number of Indian migrants often go unnoticed among the nation’s teeming millions. Mr Yang, an IT technician, had a one-word answer when our reporter asked what he knew about India. “Curry.” Despite a millennia-long history of exchange between China and India, a region which brought Buddhism, the tea plant and scientific astronomy to China, modern India’s presence in China largely consists of a smattering of ethnic restaurants found in larger cities. Even these struggle to find a mainstream Chinese following, with many relying on their foreign clientele to turn a profit. “For four years I have enjoyed my life in China and would like to stay in this country for a long time,” said Vikram Dabola, manager of Ganges, a popular Indian restaurant chain in Beijing. “My Indian friends and I all believe China will be the biggest economy in 15 years, and that means business opportunities for us.” Dabola’s enthusiasm for the future of Sino-Indian trade is wellfounded, with both countries rapidly expanding their economic links to form a formidable regional powerhouse. However, diplomatically and culturally, Asia’s two largest, most populous, and fastest-developing nations are hamstrung by a bilateral dialog which, unlike the dishes served in Dabola’s restaurant, varies unpredictably between bland and downright unpalatable. In April, India hailed the successful test firing of the Agni-V, Delhi’s first long-range nuclear-capable ballistic missile which has put Beijing firmly within the range of the country’s nuclear arsenal. Following the launch, China’s State media openly mocked the “excitement, confidence and provocative pride” which India appeared to take in showcasing technology that Chinese journalists claimed “trailed China’s by 30 years.” Indeed, most significant reports on India in the Chinese press are largely driven by political point-scoring rather than a desire to better inform the Chinese public about their massive neighbor to the south. Not so on the other side of the Himalayas, where “Beijing is, along with Washington and Islamabad, one of our top three datelines,” according to K.J.M. Varma, China correspondent for the Press Trust of India. This imbalance in media coverage has left what Chinese analysts call a “trust deficit” which is increasingly obstructive to bilateral relations. Chinese people know little of India, and what they do know is largely formed through exposure to negative media coverage. Indians, while typically better informed about China, also suffer from overexposure to negative coverage which unambiguously paints China as an economic and military threat. Inevitably, the tide of public opinion effects national policy, regardless of both nations’ vastly different domestic political frameworks. NEWSCHINA I July 2012
Hu Shisheng, a South Asian affairs researcher at the China Institute of Contemporary International Relations (CICIR), attributes India’s underrepresentation in the Chinese media to the fact that China regards Northeast and Southeast Asia as major strategic priorities. This perception was cemented by the Sino-Soviet split in 1960, when China was locked in a struggle with Russia and the US for influence in Asia, with echoes of this struggle yet to dissipate. Territorial disputes in the South China Sea and the Taiwan issue are also of paramount concern to China’s arbiters of foreign policy. Despite huge transformations in other areas, China’s geopolitical strategy regarding India has remained largely unchanged since the 1960s. Events across the
Himalayas still appear distant and of little relevance to the leadership in Beijing. This is reflected in China’s domestic media coverage of India, which has adopted a tit-for-tat model whereby a report about India is most likely to be little more than a rebuttal to an Indian “China threat” news report. Coverage of the Agni-V launch was accompanied by editorials citing data allegedly published in an Australian newspaper which claimed that less than 50 percent of Indians had access to a flushing toilet. India’s ongoing struggle with poverty, overpopulation and infrastructure are constantly raised by editorials comparing the country unfavorably with China. In India, China-related coverage tends to focus on a perceived lack of social justice and political freedoms alongside detailed examinations of China’s military. The Times of India recognized in an October 2011 editorial that many Indians “seem obsessed with China’s string-ofpearls strategy to encircle… India” by emphasizing China’s strengthening of ties with India’s neighbors, most notably Pakistan and Myanmar. Ongoing tensions in a disputed border region in the foothills of the Himalayas, over which China and India fought a short-lived war in 1962, are also regularly reported, with Chinese troop movements referred to in terms of “incursions” and “skirmishes.” Varma gives several reasons for the Indian media’s perceived antiChina bias. Public calls for India to put “deterrent defensive mechanisms in place” to combat a more assertive China, the inclination toward “a close and critical” examination of issues relating to India’s interests and an “information deficit,” in his opinion, all contribute to the currency of so-called “China Threat Theory” among the Indian public. The Pew Global Attitudes Project survey shows that in 2011 only 25 percent of Indians had a positive attitude towards China. Chinese analysts, however, prefer to talk about the “1962 complex,” meaning the 1962 border war, a conflict which China decisively won, implying that simple envy is at the root of Indian China-bashing. “For India, [defeat in 1962] meant its pride in being number one in the developing world was shattered, quickly and unexpectedly,” said Hu. “China’s growing economic and energy interests in the Indian Ocean plus tension relating to India’s relations with the US, and China’s with Pakistan, have further fueled distrust.” With even the most tightly-controlled Chinese media outlets increasingly evaluated by their ability to secure a greater market share, sensationalism has also begun to play a part in international reporting. Conflict, particularly when spun to make China appear to be a victim of regional bullying, sells more papers without offending the powers that be. Flip-flopping between either negative coverage or no coverage at all appears to be having an impact on public opinion. A 2010 survey by consultancy firm China’s Horizon found that fewer than 10 percent of Chinese people regarded India as a “friendly nation.”
Another tendency in China’s State-controlled media is to view India in the context of its relationship with China’s more high-profile
competitor, the US. India’s advantages in economic growth potential which often characterizes international coverage of both countries and have fueled debate over the “dragon-elephant” race for economic supremacy are routinely dismissed in China as politically biased. China’s State media gives a platform to academics who claim that tension between Delhi and Beijing is stirred up by foreign powers, a standpoint which reinforces the traditional view of India as a tool of the West. “We should be wary of Western powers which have always been keen on sowing dissension between China and India,” said Professor Zhou Qing’an of Tsinghua University on CCTV. Chinese reporting on India is rarely consistent. While regularly drawing on international news agencies when broadcasting negative stories about foreign countries, including India, China’s State media only draws on China-related coverage of those same agencies when said coverage supports the official line. This allows China’s State media to downplay anti-Chinese reporting by Indian news agencies, if it is reported on at all, or dismiss negative reports as smear campaigns spearheaded by China’s foreign rivals. Some Chinese observers, however, believe this strategy is damaging China’s chances to build bridges with its southern neighbor. “Negative public opinion on both sides not only reflects mutual strategic distrust but also, and more dangerously, undermines the long-term development of bilateral ties,” said Professor Qin Yaqing of the China Foreign Affairs University. Qin stressed that the populist nature of India’s electoral politics means the country’s media has a significant ability to shape official policy. He also acknowledged that even China’s media has begun to deviate from the official line on international issues. “[China’s] Foreign Ministry has also felt increasing pressure from public opinion, making their job harder than ever,” he told our reporter. The Indian media is increasingly diversifying its coverage to reflect the growing sophistication of Indian society. More in-depth and factbased reporting on India’s largest neighbor and major trading partner is increasingly demanded by the country’s news consumers. PTI and the Times of India websites are full of China-related news, ranging from big political stories such as the Bo Xilai affair, to smaller pieces such as a report on intravenous drips used by students to boost their stamina at exam time. What’s more, analysts believe that it is the market that is driving this shift. “Indian public interest in China goes beyond bilateral and strategic issues – interest in social, economic and trade related stories has increased manifold,” Varma told NewsChina. Any similar shift in China’s heavily politicized mainstream media environment is likely to take a lot longer to make itself felt. Once again, it is China’s blogosphere that has led the way in responding to greater interest in India and Indian affairs among Chinese people. “There is discussion comparing China and India on a wide range of aspects, including not only economic and military power, but topics like ‘national happiness,’” said a Web user surnamed Deng, a frequent visitor to Tianya, China’s most popular online forum. “Many Chinese people think India can catch up with or even outpace China in the future,” he added. NEWSCHINA I July 2012
The Hype Machine
Photo by CFP
Yang Jun with pictures of Internet sensation “Fairy Girl”
earing blackIn 2005, Yang was framed contacted by the tourist glasses and bureau of his local Lixian a crisp white dress shirt, County in Sichuan ProvYang Jun’s plain yet soince, who were looking to phisticated look belies his attract greater numbers of controversial occupation. tourists to the southwest Yang is a hype mercenary backwater. Yang devised – an expert in cooking up a simple publicity scheme By Wan Jiahuan and Han Yong publicity stunts on the Infor the bureau; he posted ternet. a photo of a beautiful loFor many years, Yang’s cal actress, Yu Hongyan, appearance was closer to Tianya, one of China’s most popular online bulto the classic idea of a wheeler-dealer publicist letin boards, and made up – a shock of dyed blonde hair, with an expensive camera dangling a story that he had run into her while travelling in the county. Dubbed “Fairy Girl,” Yu, then 20 years old, was dressed in the from his neck, because “the media liked it that way – it was more traditional colorful dress of the Qiang ethnicity, and photographed eyecatching.” NEWSCHINA I July 2012
Behind China’s increasingly numerous Internet celebrities are professional “hype men” – experts in drumming up online controversy
in one of Lixian’s numerous Qiang villages. The post circulated so quickly that Yu became an overnight sensation, completely exceeding Yang’s expectations. Lixian County shared in Fairy Girl’s fame, as netizens flocked to the area, hoping to catch a glimpse of the village beauty. As a result, Lixian’s tourism revenue grew by one third. Yu herself landed several
product endorsement contracts, before making a full transition into show business. Since then, she has featured in several movies and TV series. 50-year-old Yang Jun, China’s self-proclaimed “king of Web hype,” was hired as Yu’s agent, and collected 2.3 million yuan (US$363,400) in royalties over nine months. Now, he runs an e-marketing company with a staff of around 90.
Photo by CFP
Believe the Hype?
Photo by CFP
Two ‘monks’ were recorded by video checking into a hotel with two women in one high-profile stunt
The two men turned out to be small-time singers eager for a quick publicity boost
To some extent, Yang fell into the hype business through a lack of options. After returning to China in 2004 from a 15-year stay in Switzerland, he found himself disconnected from the country – without guanxi, or “connections”, he was unable to break into business in his homeland. However, he soon discovered a flexible new industry where the rules were not yet fully formed – the Internet business. “Everybody could have a say in the online world, and there was money to be made,” said Yang. Yang and his cohort would be online for more than 12 hours per day, searching for the hottest topics, and studying the mechanics of their popularity. Yang demanded that his employees be Internet addicts with a keen eye for trends. The process begins with a brainstorm to select a suitable character and a back-story that will stir up media attention without looking like a publicity campaign. “The idea is to design a bizarre, dramatic show, then make it happen, and present it online,” said Yang. A seasoned “hype spotter,” Yang said that when an outrageous story comes out of the blue and suddenly grabs the media spotlight, often there will be a professional hype team behind it. “If there is a possibility that someone could be making money from it, you can be sure it’s hype,” Yang said. More often than not, hype teams will pay online commentators, who add fuel to the debate on the story by praising or criticizing those involved. However, if the scheme’s content is sufficiently creative or provocative, the media storm around the topic will gain momentum on its own. As to the essential ingredient for a successful scheme, all those in the industry agree: controversy is key. For one scheme, Yang was recruited by Taobao, China’s largest online retail portal, where he dreamed up the story of a young woman NEWSCHINA I July 2012
Photo by CFP
who listed the rest of her life as a sale item to be sold by minutes or hours, in order to push the idea that Taobao sells everything. The case aroused fierce debate over the ethics of selling one’s life, a clear sign of victory for Yang’s campaign. For those in the hype business, public outrage is far better than indifference. “If you want to be famous, you need a lot of people cursing you,” said Yang.
Zero to Hero
Yang entered the hype business close behind the industry’s pioneers, who were the first to harness and capitalize on the marketing power of online buzz. The first successful Web hype campaign was staged in 2004, and centered around a woman named Shi Hengxia, who later became China’s first major online celebrity under the name “Sister Lotus.” Born in 1977, the “dumpy, plain-looking” Shi shot to fame in 2004, after posting provocative self-portraits on major Internet bulletin boards, with narcissistic boasts about her “perfect figure” and “expert” dance skills. Though some admired her courage and confidence, more were drawn into the debate by what they saw as her self-humiliation and lack of self-awareness. “If a nobody can get as much attention as a pop star, then they are a star too,” said Chen Mo, the mastermind behind the Sister Lotus campaign, who also claims to be country’s top authority on viral marketing. When the campaign succeeded, Sister Lotus quit her job at a publishing house to get into showbusiness, holding concerts, starring in Internet movies, and hosting online entertainment shows.
NEWSCHINA I July 2012
Sister Lotus soon became a textbook case, both for hype companies and for anyone desperate for 15 minutes in the spotlight. A few years later, a successor came to the fore: Luo Yufeng, or “Sister Phoenix,” as she is better known in the media. Born in 1985, Luo set out to outdo Sister Lotus in the narcissism stakes. She first caught the nation’s attention in November 2009, handing out flyers seeking romantic suitors, which detailed criteria including a diploma from one of China’s top two universities, and height between 1.76 and 1.85 meters. Luo falsely claimed to work for a Fortune 500 company, and called herself “the smartest human being for 300 years.” In reality, she was a Shanghai supermarket cashier. Similar to Sister Lotus, Luo was admired by some, and reviled by others. Regardless, she provoked widespread debate around gender issues, another coup for the hype men. The story was eventually exposed as a publicity stunt, and Sister Phoenix fell out with her hype team before they had managed to fully capitalize on her fame. Luo is now reportedly living in the US, and was profiled in the New York Post. Yang said he had long ago realized how difficult it is to cash in on hype around an individual client, no matter how successful the campaign. For this reason, his company, which focuses on corporate clients, turns away the countless resumes and cover letters they receive every day from fame-hungry individuals.
Yang said that throughout his career as a publicist, he has always observed a strict “bottom line.” To avoid getting into trouble, he does not touch obscenity, politics, religion or racial issues. However, others have fewer qualms. On April Fool’s Day this year, two men dressed in Buddhist monks’ robes were caught on camera partaking in some distinctly un-monastic late-night revelry in the company of a pair of young women. Within hours, the video and pictures had gone viral. At first, the video was taken to be an April Fool’s prank, but it was later revealed that there was more to the story. A day later, another video clip was circulated, showing the “monks” withdrawing rolls of banknotes from an ATM. Unsurprisingly, the pair were later found to be false monks after they were detained by Beijing police. They were simply small-time singers seeking a shortcut to fame. “If the hype puts you behind bars, then you’ve failed,” said Yang. The industry reached new levels of absurdity in May, when a microblogger using the name “Shanghai Hooligan” gained thousands of followers by posting photos of items he claimed to have pickpocketed. After the account was closed by the microblog’s censors, it was revealed that the entire story was an effort to promote a particular brand of cell phone, and that all the “stolen” goods actually belonged to the hype company’s staff. With the public increasingly suspicious of sensational news stories, hype companies are having to work harder to craft new, more nuanced stories. In Yang’s opinion, audacious young women like Sister Lotus or Sister Phoenix are no longer capable of winning over the public. Today’s hype professionals must “find new ways to provoke emotion, passion and lust,” he said.
A Most Convenient Suspect A hastily-concluded investigation into the bombing of a government building in Yunnan Province has been re-opened due to public pressure. Why aren’t local residents swallowing the official line? By Wang Chen in Qiaojia
ue to China’s rigorous restrictions on firearms and explosives, bomb attacks used to be a rarity outside of the restive western regions. Since 2008, however, a spate of incidents loosely referred to as “anti-society bombings” in the official media have shaken the country. The latest, in remote Qiaojia County, Yunnan, drew particular attention after the public rejected the official explanation. At 9:04 AM on May 10, 2012 a community-level government office in Baihetan, Qiaojia was rocked by an explosion which killed four people and injured 16. The bombing coincided with the signing of land appropriation contracts between local landowners and government officials. The victims were one local land and resources agency official,
two local residents and a migrant worker.
Soon after the bombing, the public began to voice suspicions that the attack was deliberately designed to target local residents and officials involved in the sale of land, a issue which has led to widespread forced evictions across the country. Opposition to rural land appropriation has taken many forms, from public demonstrations and self-immolations to individual armed resistance. Suspicions were fueled by statements from local police claiming the bomber was “taking revenge on society.” A mere 24 hours after the bombing, the local police bureau announced that they had cracked the case, and identified the perpetrator as Zhao Dengyong, the
26-year-old migrant worker killed in the explosion. Displaying remarkable insight into the personality of their chief suspect, the police statement read: “Taking into account his eccentric personality and tendency to extreme points of view, as well as his pessimistic and world-weary attitude toward life, Zhao had cultivated a strong hatred of society.” “The blast had nothing to do with the ongoing land appropriation,” the statement concluded. Three days later, the police released closedcircuit television footage from the building as evidence confirming Zhao’s guilt. In the footage, Zhao carried a backpack into the office lobby at 9:03 AM after lingering at the door for about four minutes. He stood aside for several residents waiting to sign their land appropriation contracts, and the explosion occurred one minute later. According to local police chief Yang Chaowei, Zhao’s backpack contained the bomb used in the attack. “The bomb was made of raschite and was triggered by Zhao himself,” said Yang in an official media statement. “I’d stake my position as police chief, and my career, on his guilt.” The police went on to cite excerpts from Zhao’s blog dating back to January 2010 as further proof of his guilt. “Since I was nine, the rogues have been bullying me... But I want to tell them that when a person is cornered and gets desperate, he will do anything in spite of the consequences,” read one such excerpt. The police also provided a journal which they claimed had been written by Zhao when he was in senior high school. “I have mental defects... and sometimes tend to go to extremes,” read the journal, eerily echoing the assessment released earlier by police investigators. Local residents didn’t buy the official explanation, and the police soon had to face public accusations that they had failed to produce any hard evidence to prove Zhao’s guilt beyond a few blog extracts written years previously. Zhao’s family spearheaded the fightback. According to his elder brother Zhao Dengxi, Zhao had never kept a journal, nor did he harbor a “hatred for society.” Growing up in a mountain village 140 kilometers from the NEWSCHINA I July 2012
Photo by Gao Zheng Photo by Gao Zheng
Identification documents found in Zhao’s rented home
The scene of the explosion on May 12, 2012
site of the bombing, Zhao had chosen to work in Qiaojia as it was relatively close to his native village and would mean he could care for his elderly parents as his other siblings worked as laborers in townships hundreds of miles away. Zhao was, by all accounts, happily married, and had a two-year-old son. No explosive materials or related devices were found at his home. Zhao’s motives were also called into question, with some alleging that even if Zhao’s backpack had contained a bomb he may have been unaware of the fact. His supporters argued that, as Zhao was working part-time as a motorcycle deliveryman, he may have been set up by a “client,” unwittingly carrying a bomb into the government building while believing he was simply making another delivery.
Constant assurances that land appropriation had nothing to do with the bombing, and the convenience of the only suspect’s death in the attack, mushroomed into accuNEWSCHINA I July 2012
sations of a police cover-up. Land appropriation has been going on in Qiaojia County on a massive scale for several years, resulting in a number of violent clashes between developers and local residents refusing to be evicted from their homes. Only six days prior to the bomb attack, Yang Yuqiang, a local villager, burned his motorcycle in front of the same building to protest the land appropriation project. Three weeks earlier, Ding Chaofa, a villager from Laodian township, was allegedly beaten to death while resisting his forced eviction. In September 2011, when local authorities sent bulldozers to flatten the home of Zheng Yongjiang, a local villager, Zheng poured gasoline over himself and a bulldozer driver in an attempt to self-immolate. He was later charged with endangering public security and received a three-year jail term. The latest project, which locals claimed the bombing was designed to target, was particularly notorious inthe region. The local government was only offering compensation for
a maximum of 150 square meters of land per household, regardless of the size of each plot. Moreover, homes with a total interior space of 60 to 100 square meters only received compensation for 80 square meters. 1,081 yuan (US$170) per square meter, one-third of the standard local rate for residential property, was offered to claimants as compensation, which had led to further outrage against the local government. In an attempt to lure and coerce householders into signing compensation contracts, the government offered an “early bird bonus” to claimants who appeared at the Qiaojia government building to sign contracts from May 10 to 15, adding that anyone who didn’t show would only be eligible to receive monetary compensation, with the land compensation forfeited. The bomb attack coincided precisely with the first signings on May 10, a coincidence too remarkable to overlook, at least in the view of local residents. Faced with a growing outcry and wide coverage by national media, local police backtracked, claiming that they had named Zhao Dengyong as a “preliminary” suspect, and that they were investigating the “potential involvement of other parties.” Zhao’s family, now caring for his widow and young son, are continuing the fight to clear his name. Whoever was behind the attack, it seems to have served its purpose, as the land appropriation contract signings appear to have been put on hold indefinitely.
Photo by Liu Tao/CFP
Gao Tiande, an experienced taxidermist in Fujian, follows the traditional method of wire-frame taxidermy. Most of the material he uses is allegedly acquired from zoos
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Stuff of Life Taxidermy pieces have become the latest fad to catch the attention of Chinaâ€™s selfstyled art collectors. However, the countryâ€™s taxidermists are often reluctant to reveal their raw material sources By Wang Yan NEWSCHINA I July 2012
Gao trimming the hair of a Siberian tiger specimen
t an exhibition room in Songzhuang, a village on the outskirts of Beijing, Liu Jianping and his cousin Zhong Chunwei offer our reporter a look at their showroomquality works. The list includes a blank-looking moose’s head, a pair of ring-necked pheasants, a crafty fox mauling a tree squirrel, a howling wolf, an airborne owl and a whole flock of wild ducks in flight. Welcome to the world of Chinese taxidermy. Since jointly establishing their enterprise Beijing Northern Wildlife Taxidermy in late 2006, Liu and Zhong’s company has sold hundreds of stuffed animals to domestic enthusiasts. “The market is booming and more and more people are buying taxidermy pieces to enrich their luxury art collections. Sometimes, works can sell for hundreds of thousands of yuan apiece,” Zhong, general manager of the company, told NewsChina. “Now, even some high-end luxury stores want to cooperate with us,” she added.
Photos by Liu Tao/CFP
Making minor adjustment to the final works
A rough sketch is the basic blueprint for taxidermists
In most Western countries, traditional hunting culture accelerated the development of taxidermy as a way to preserve or display trophies, with animal skulls and skins decorating the homes of the wellto-do since the Middle Ages. In China, taxidermy arrived alongside other imported fashions in the late 19th century, augmenting existing passions for animal products such as ivory and turtle shells. Tang Qiwang in Fujian and Liu Shufang in Beijing were two leading taxidermists in the late Qing Dynasty (1644-1912), still held up by their modern counterparts as masters of a valuable art form. It is estimated that a total of 20 million taxidermy specimens are currently stored in various scientific research institutions, universities, public schools and museums across China. In Beijing’s National Museum of Zoology alone, there are six million animal specimens, the largest such collection in Asia. In the past decade, with increasing government financial support, museums and wildlife parks have been allocated funds to enrich their collections. For example, in early 2011, Changzhou Yancheng Safari Park in the eastern province of Jiangsu spent over 2 million yuan (US$317,350) to acquire a polar bear specimen, also is also planning to purchase other specimens including a penguin, a whale, a walrus, a fur seal and an Arctic fox. “Rare animal specimens have now become luxury commodities,” said Yancheng Safari Park taxidermist Xu Weiyong. Despite an official international ban on hunting the critically endangered polar bear, which became law in 1973, Xu said he was aware of at least 10 polar bear specimens in the collections of different natural museums and private collectors in China. Private collectors of taxidermy are fueling the recent explosion in demand, according to NEWSCHINA I July 2012
Wang Weisheng, director of the Department of Wildlife Conservation and Nature Preserve Management with China’s State Forestry Administration, the government body which licenses taxidermists. Driven by business opportunities, the number of registered companies engaged in taxidermy rose from less than 400 in 2003 to approximately 600 by 2009. Over 280,000 people are currently employed in this field nationwide. From a scientific perspective, holotype specimens are invaluable when cataloging new species, requiring high precision when preserving an animal’s physical features. From an artistic perspective, supporters claim, a worthy specimen should be preserved in a lifelike posture against a naturalistic and species-appropriate diorama. 19th century practices such as stuffing animal carcasses with rags and cotton and preserving them with formaldehyde have fallen by the wayside in Europe and America. Nowadays, mannequins expertly crafted from wood, wool and wire, or more commonly molded polyurethane, are covered with professionally tanned, non-toxic animal hides. However, it is only in the last five years that such sophisticated techniques have been adopted in China. Taxidemist Tian Ma, manager of the Xinjiang Tianma Wildlife Biological Technology Development Company, told NewsChina that most domestic taxidermists are still stuffing animals in the same way as was done in the 1950s, resulting in specimens quickly deteriorating, even under carefully controlled museum conditions. “Poor taxidermists make live animals into dead statues, while good ones bring dead animals back to life,” said Tian. “Most specimens made by Chinese taxidermists are simply a waste of animals. And the sub-standard works are no more than garbage.” Taxidermist Liu Jianping said: “In the US, highly realistic glass eyes, artificial teeth, jaws and tongues for different species are readily available on the market. Here, the purchasing network is far from complete.” Another problem plaguing China’s taxidermists is the availability of the neccessary chemicals. While odor-free and non-toxic biological materials have been widely adopted by Western taxidermists, their Chinese counterparts still cling to dangerous substances like arsenic and formaldehyde, which pose health risks to both taxidermists and collectors. In late March, China’s first ever Taxidermy Championships were held in Beijing, with over 40 taxidermy studios and companies participating. At the event, Xu Chongren, a professor from the Life Sciences Institute of Peking University emphasized that “a professional taxidermist should be well versed in anatomy, sculpture and painting as well as skeletal morphology.” “Despite significant progress made in the domestic taxi-
NEWSCHINA I July 2012
Photo by Liu Tao/CFP
dermy industry in recent years,” said Xiao Fang, an expert from the Beijing Zoological Garden and the competition’s head judge. “The main technical obstacle [for Chinese taxidermists] is the lack of professional knowledge of, say, muscle structure.”
Photos by Liu Tao/CFP
A black bear under construction
In China’s often contradictory bureaucracy, taxidermy specimen production somehow falls under the category of wildlife protection and is thus under the jurisdiction of the country’s forestry bureau. Director Wang Weisheng told our reporter that government licensing is required for commercial activities involving the sale, purchase, usage, transportation, and import and export of wildlife specimens. “Regulation is excessively strict, and taxidermists have to obtain a permit for each stage of the process,” Wang said. After obtaining the initial government license to use wild animal skins in taxidermy, a company has to obtain an “identity mark” for all activities relating to its specimens, with these marks issued by the China Wildlife Mark Center. Strict regulation on hunting and the use of animal parts was introduced in China in the late 20th century to curb the rising tide of poaching which was pushing indigenous species to the brink of extinction. With the sale, transportation or usage of animals on the national “red list” punishable by up to 10 years’ imprisonment, poaching has declined markedly, with people often unwilling even to approach the carcass of an animal that has died of natural causes. “This has led to a waste of natural resources as far as I see it,” said Tian Ma, adding that in Xinjiang, rare species such as argali sheep, and ibex are frequently killed by extreme weather or predators. “From time to time, herdsmen pick up remains, particularly heads, and send them to us. But because of government regulations, we cannot accept them. As a result, these precious materials are simply left to rot,” Tian told NewsChina. Tian further explained that legal channels for the acquisition of carcasses are constantly being shut off by new laws. With hunting existing in a legal gray area in China, taxidermists typically resort to obtaining captive-bred animal carcasses, often collecting the bodies of dead zoo animals, a very limited source of materials. “If we are not allowed to make use of wild animals that have died of natural causes, where will we get our materials?” said Tian. Imported animal skins, like those used by Liu Jianping and Chong Chunwei, are one option. The other is China’s thriving black market. NEWSCHINA I July 2012
Last year, Liu Jianping and Zhong Chunwei spent a whole month driving through 13 national parks in the western United States to observe animals and birds in the wild. One quality which often surprises laypeople is the commitment of professional taxidermists to wildlife conservation, and their respect for the natural, living character of all animals. However, such professionalism is rare among the vast majority of for-profit taxidermy companies, many of which are less than scrupulous about sourcing animal carcasses. Wang Song, a researcher from the Institute of Zoology (IOZ), part of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), told our reporter during a telephone interview that the lack of legal sources has fueled a boom in poaching and the illegal trafficking of animal parts. “Strict regulations restrict taxidermy, but a sustainable, legal hunting culture does not exist either. This has created a complete mess,” said Wang. Conservation official Wang Weisheng also admits that the sourcing of animal specimens, especially those acquired by museums and scientific institutions, needs to be standardized and properly regulated in order to squeeze China’s black market for animal parts. Researcher Wang Song, together with other activists, is urging the China Zoological Society to set up a taxidermy collection and production committee for the purpose of regulating the industry and promoting modern techniques. “In view of the largely unregulated preservation and protection of important taxidermy specimens in museums, we also urge the establishment of a China Museum of Natural History, which could acquire and conserve the country’s most important animal specimens.” According to Wang Weisheng of the State Forestry Administration, the Tibet Museum in Lhasa had planned to open a zoology exhibition, before discovering most of its animal specimens were either badly damaged or anatomically inaccurate. The museum subsequently applied to the State Forestry Administration for permission to hunt new specimens of certain species, and their application was promptly rejected. Tibet is home to some of China’s rarest and most at-risk species. In his inaugural address to delegates of China’s national taxidermy championships, Wang Weisheng spoke out against poaching, and urged competitors to reject any specimen of suspect origin. “Wildlife is not sufficiently abundant to allow hunting in China, and unscientific hunting disturbs the stability of animal species,” he A bird exhibition in China’s National Museum of Zoology said. “We must instead enhance the skill and craftsmanship of taxidermy.”
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Photos by CFP
The City’s B-Side A new fad is leading thrill-seeking young professionals below street level to explore the recent history of China’s sprawling cities, a hobby not without its perils By Wang Chen and Lu Dan
he dark tunnel was long and narrow. Seven people carefully toed their way along it. “Watch your step and mind your head,” said Liu Nan, scanning the walls with his flashlight to check for potentially hazardous cracks. Small stones dropped occasionally from the eroded walls, and bats shot to and fro in the darkness ahead, disturbed by these noisy intruders. The tunnel was one of many abandoned air-raid shelters in Beijing’s western suburbs, constructed at the height of the Sino-Soviet split when a Russian nuclear strike seemed, to China’s leaders at least, a clear and present threat. Despite knowing far more than the average Beijinger about the fortified tun-
nels beneath their city’s streets, Liu Nan and his team members continue to explore these largely forgotten vestiges of local and national history with caution. Defining themselves as “urban explorers,” few of Liu’s ramshackle team members have any background in archeology or anthropology. Moreover, unlike China’s legions of amateur historians, their investigations focus squarely on living memory – the unglamorous, grimy face of recent urban history. They seek excitement in the capital’s abandoned factories, hospitals, churches, underground tunnels, amusement parks and air-raid shelters, remnants of times past which rust and crumble upon, or beneath, Beijing’s modern
skyline. Liu Nan, 34, joined the China Urban Exploration Forum (CUEF) just a year ago, yet he has already explored a wide range of ruins, allowing him to become one of the main organizers of urban exploration jaunts in Beijing. After forming a splinter group of around 70 members, the Old Home of Beijing’s Urban Explorers, Liu and fellow hobbyists now spend their free time reincorporating forgotten structures into the city’s living history, efforts which have inspired similar groups in Shanghai, Nanjing, Jinan and Xiamen. “Urban exploration brings excitement,” said Zhou Xiaofei, an urban explorer with five years experience and the founder of the NEWSCHINA I July 2012
Photo by Zhen Hongge
CUEF. “At the same time, explorers are rewarded with overlooked knowledge about a city, and historical insights enjoyed by few others.” Zhou’s website has become a focal point for a large number of urban explorers, who share their latest finds with one another, creating a completely unique historical map of their home cities.
Liu Nan’s face is deeply tanned. With his steel-framed glasses, he has a tough and serious air appropriate to his status as an urban Indiana Jones. One year ago, he entered the former factory district owned by the Capital
NEWSCHINA I July 2012
Iron and Steel Corporation (Shougang) in Beijing’s northwest. Immediately, he became obsessed with what he calls “lost iron and steel monsters.” The old Shougang area is now a desolate district covering more than 3 square miles – the size of a small town. With the earliest construction dating back to 1919, by the mid-twentieth century the factory had grown into one of the biggest iron and steel concerns in China with a peak annual output of 15.4 million tons of steel. Yet from 2005 to 2010, its 80,000 workers, together with usable machines and equipment, moved to the new factory area in the coastal hub of Tangshan, nearly 300 kilometers east. The
factory’s former warehouses, production lines and all unusable machinery sat silent and rusting, ignored even by local residents. However, to Liu Nan and his fellow explorers, the Shougang factory district is a treasure trove. The size and complexity of the district’s layout makes it a maze of machinery and semi-collapsed buildings. Immense cranes loom overhead like swooping dragons. Gigantic chimneys glare imperiously down. Moss and rust exude a kaleidoscope of color, particularly in the evenings. The rusted railroad tracks with their decommissioned locomotives, and the deserted production lines with their fragmented conveyor belts sitting in total silence, are the ghosts of the district’s
Liu Nan is one of Beijing’s most prominent urban explorers
Photo by Zhen Hongge
former industrial might. Most exciting to Liu is walking through the site’s underground coal bunkers. Also on Liu Nan’s greatest hits list of Beijing’s abandoned sites are an abandoned radar station, the Xiaotangshan SARS hospital on the North Sixth Ring Road, a tuberculosis dispensary and a full-scale amusement park slated for reconstruction. Some of Liu’s companions also extend their curiosity to more austere historical ruins. Liu Nan attended an exploration of the former city walls, one of Beijing’s rarest finds given that over 90 percent of the city’s ancient walls, once broad enough to drive a supertanker down, were demolished to make way for the first ring road of the Mao era. Hiding among modern flyovers, there are only a few sections of these ancient walls left. Yet, in the east part of central Beijing, a 128-foot wide section has held firm. Liu Nan stood atop the section and watched the countless cars trace the former path of Beijing’s mightiest defensive structures. He told our reporter that the trip allowed him to journey “between the
modern world and the ancient.” Liu has also explored what he called “the French church,” dating from the early 20th century, as well as a Qing Dynasty (1636 1911) tomb complex. While males form the greater part of the urban exploration teams, a handful of women have also gotten involved. Xiaoqi, from Hubei Province, has been trying her hand at urban exploration for several months, already mapping a number of ruins both in the countryside and the city. She told NewsChina she particularly likes exploring underground tunnels and abandoned villages. One of Xiaoqi’s most exciting discoveries was a ghost village abandoned after its wells dried up. She found homes that had been abandoned largely intact, with furniture and personal effects still in their places, as if the NEWSCHINA I July 2012
This passion drove him to attend college in Xi’an, China’s historical heartland, only to be disappointed at what “development” had inflicted upon the city’s ancient architecture. “Not much more than the ancient city walls are left,” Zhou told NewsChina. After graduation, Zhou moved to Beijing, and, by his own admission, settled into a domestic routine. However, wanderlust got the better of him, and upon being told of an “underground city,” decided it was time to return to his greatest passion. Zhou used the Internet to recruit companions for exploration activities and, after leading several expeditions, formed a small circle of enthusiasts. As more members joined, their organization eventually developed into the CUEF. Today, the group has nearly 3,000 members and more than 23,000 posts on its message board.
Photo by CFP
With many of their target sites dangerously unstable, the CUEF has developed stringent procedures to guarantee the safety of its urban explorers. During one activity last summer, a large group discovered the corpse of a man in one underground tunnel that the smaller advance party had failed to find, an experience
which shocked the team into taking greater care when scouting out potential excursion sites. Injuries are commonplace. One explorer slipped from a rope when climbing out of an underground tunnel, luckily only sustaining minor injuries. On another occasion, a loose boulder fell from a hillside, narrowly missing a group of explorers, who immediately called off the excursion. Both Zhou Xiaofei and Liu Nan have become increasingly cautious. In the CUEF, several “iron rules” are observed: explorers must be 22 or older; new explorers must start with less dangerous activities under supervision from veteran explorers; no one may explore alone; and subway tunnels are out of bounds. “Safety must always come first,” said Zhou Xiaofei. “Excitement and satisfying curiosity come second.” However, it is excitement and curiosity that keep these explorers enthusiastic. “In every exploration site, there are forgotten stories,” said Liu Nan. “Urban explorers can find vanishing history by exploring and feeling it for themselves.” “There is always a curiosity attached to the glories of the past. That’s what urban explorers are looking to satisfy.”
The disbanded factory area of the Capital Iron and Steel Corporation has become a favorite among Beijing’s urban explorers
Explorers search a suburb of Beijing for relics of the past NEWSCHINA I July 2012
Photo by Zhen Hongge
residents could return at any moment. “I can imagine these people living and working through these remains,” Xiaoqi told our reporter, adding that she considered the village a real-world museum. Such memorials to China’s transformation have a low life expectancy. Xiaoqi visited “her” village several times, but on her last visit she found that bulldozers had moved in and flattened most of the buildings. Urban exploration is often a game of catand-mouse played between the enthusiasts and urban developers. “Many of our exploration sites quickly disappear after we have visited them,” said Shandong-born engineer Zhou Xiaofei. Now 30 years old, Zhou began his love affair with abandoned buildings in childhood – clambering over precarious ruins near his home village in search of historical treasures.
Grape Walls of China Counterfeiting, speculation and irrational brand-chasing is leaving a bad taste in the mouths of Chinese wine enthusiasts By Zhu Yuchen in Shanghai and Wang Yan in Beijing
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Did you taste green pepper?” “Mmm. Strong tan-
Photo by AFP
each bottle priced between 200 and 400 yuan (US$32 to 63). James works with red wine nins.” companies across China, con“The oaky flavor is a bit much ducting training courses for local for me.” wine lovers in an attempt to creIn an exclusive private club in ate connoisseurs. According to downtown Shanghai, a dozen him, red wine fervor is surging well-dressed people in their early even in hinterland regions. On a thirties are gathering for a wine recent visit to Chengdu, capital tasting. In the buttery mood of Sichuan Province, James was lighting, each one of them holds startled at the level of enthusialoft a glass of red wine from the asm for fine red wines. “My lecwell-stocked table before them, tures got much larger audiences swirling the ruby-red liquid than I had expected, it reminded round in the bowl of the glass, me of Shanghai a few years ago.” inspecting its luster, savoring its In the last decade, middlearoma, and finally taking a sip. class Chinese have developed a At this club, named “Cantaste for imported wine along teen,” wine tastings are a reguwith other foreign luxuries. Big lar event. Tonight, the party is cities like Beijing, Shanghai and sponsored by an American wine Guangzhou are the three major dealer. He told NewsChina that wine-consuming areas, with a the party is an important part of higher wine consumption rate his marketing. To his astonishthan all other parts of the counment, the young Chinese people try combined. James told our reA potential investor inspects wine at an auction in Hong Kong in late 2009 at this gathering display precise porter that these cities also vary judgment on the quality of the in terms of specific tastes. wines and their prices – all below Under the influence of wine300 yuan (US$47.50) a bottle, a crazed Hong Kong, Guangzhou steal in tax-heavy China. was one of the earliest places on the mainland to embrace the drink The party finally broke up at around 10:30 PM, with everyone as part of daily life, with emphasis on its relationship to food. In cosreminding one another of an Austrian wine party scheduled at the mopolitan Shanghai, wine is more of a badge of sophistication for Peninsula Hotel the following day. the city’s fashionable young things, while in stuffy Beijing it is simply another required addition of the complex array of provisions served Spreading Craze at official banquets. James (alias), a young Chinese man, is the unofficial sommelier for Dicky (alias), a Shanghai local in his thirties, is a self-defined “proCanteen. Wines are either provided by wine dealers for free or jointly fessional wine lover.” Well-versed in the history and techniques of bought by club members. viniculture, Dicky has an encyclopedic knowledge of European wines, James started getting involved in wine in 2007 and has witnessed which he often accompanies with cryptic descriptions. “A 1980s Borfirsthand the emergence and fast growth of wine clubs in Shanghai deaux is like a rejuvenated senior, while the 1990s Bordeaux is like a over the past few years. The booming coastal city’s tens of thousands child becoming senile before their time.” of white collar workers, a large proportion of whom have lived and Dicky spent some 120,000 yuan (US$19,018) for a whole set of worked overseas, form the well-heeled backbone of this expanding Grand Cru Classé in 2005, a well-regarded recent vintage. Deciding circle. According to James, cultivated young people are the main driv- to store these treasures in a French vineyard, Dicky explained: “I will ing force behind China’s developing wine market. Average consump- wait another 10 to 20 years before enjoying them.” tion among enthusiasts stands at three to four bottles per week, with Last year, Dicky spent over 1 million yuan (US$158,486) on wine NEWSCHINA I July 2012
purchasing and drinks one bottle of wine on average each day, a volume which even a die-hard European connoisseur might see as excessive.
Dicky is typical of the Chinese people drawn to wine as an investment as much as a beverage. In the last five to eight years, China has witnessed a red wine boom. Consumption reached 1.87 billion bottles (1.4 billion liters) per year, 25.2 percent of which were imported. According to the latest research result by Vinexpo, a French wine industry organization, in 2011, with 156 million cases of wine consumed, China surpassed Britain to become the fifth largest wine market in the world. In the eastern coastal province of Zhejiang, for example, 7,000 tons of red wine, or some 1 million bottles, were imported in 2011 alone, according to statistics released by the Zhejiang Provincial Entry-Exit Inspection and Quarantine Bureau. The total value was more than 250 million yuan (US$40m), double that of 2010. China has also provided an outlet for lower-end producers in Europe keen to sell to a relatively uninformed market with a voracious appetite for imported wines. According to the Zhejiang Provincial Consumer Rights Protection Committee, the wholesale price for imported wine is 20 times higher than its CIF (cost, insurance and freight) price, a price which increases almost twofold by the time it reaches retailers. The committee stated that the average CIF price for each imported bottle of wine is US$2.19, a price which rises to US$81 on the shelf, five to six times the price of domestically-produced Chinese wine. With such immense profits, thousands of Chinese people have attempted to carve themselves a slice of the imported wine market.
consumed in China each year, the Lafite winery only has an annual output of 200,000 bottles. According to media reports, one bottlescavenger offered a price of 2,000 yuan (US$300) for an empty bottle formerly filled with a 1982 vintage Lafite. Yuan Yuan, general manager of the Langfan Consulting Group, told NewsChina that apart from direct sales, a large proportion of Lafite wine is sold to the country via the London, Hong Kong and US markets. “With all these included, about 60 to 70 percent of Lafite output finds its way into the Chinese market. “Irrational consumption can lead to the phenomenon of low-qual-
High-end French reds, specifically Bordeaux, are the most prized of all wines. In September 2011, a Chinese buyer spent an astonishing US$540,000 on a single lot of 300 bottles of Chateau Lafite Rothschild at Christie’s auction in Hong Kong, setting a world record. One bottle of Chateau Lafite 1982 will set a Chinese buyer back 68,000 yuan (US$10,777) since prices began to rocket in 2009. Most of China’s valuable wines end up in the cellars of the country’s five star hotels. Consumers are mostly businesspeople and government officials keen to impress their clients. Taste and aroma are often ignored in favor of the label and the price tag – the more expensive and well-known the wine, the higher its status. This has led to a boom in counterfeit red wines, many of which are Chinese-made but slapped with a Bordeaux label to increase the sale price. Even the world’s premier brand-names aren’t immune from this practice, according to Dr Marcus Lim of the International Wine Guild. “On the domestic market, nine out of 10 bottles of Lafite wine are fakes,” Dr Lim told NewsChina. Enterprising Chinese black marketeers have even found a way around the watermarks and anti-counterfeiting measures used in Lafite labels – buying the empty bottles back from consumers for thousands of yuan. One widely-circulated rumor has it that while 2 million bottles of Chateau Lafite Rothschild are
Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux - Tasting the 2008 Vintage, held in was held in Beijing in late 2011, drew nearly one thousand wine traders and wine enthusiasts from across the country.
NEWSCHINA I July 2012
Photo by Lu Xin
ity products sold at high prices,” said Zheng Yumin, director of the Zhejiang Provincial Administrative Bureau for Industry and Commerce during an interview with state broadcaster CCTV. In March 2012, Zheng’s office disclosed the result of a year-long survey of the domestic red wine market, showing that most of the imported red wines sold in the province were counterfeit. Ten key cases were revealed, including two companies selling counterfeit Castel and Château Lafite Rothschild. The favored method of counterfeiting was revealed to be small changes made to labels so as to trick consumers into believing they’re buying a genuine brand. Local
NEWSCHINA I July 2012
governments have approved local brands calling themselves “Laffite” and “Lafitte,” who go on to sell ersatz vintages to an unsuspecting public, few of whom can tell the difference. Since last year, local authorities in Zhejiang have inspected 13,500 companies in the red wine industry, investigating 374 counterfeiting cases, confiscating more than 150,000 bottles of red wine, and imposing fines of 8.8 million yuan (US$1.39m) on offenders. However, this is only the tip of the iceberg.
Since early 2012 when the media disclosed the scale of wine counterfeiting in China, demand has shrunk. According to the Stateowned Xinhua News Agency, imports of grape wine to Shanghai dropped by 11.3 percent between February and March 2012. Overpricing has also begun to level off. In the same report, Xinhua claimed that the CIP (carriage and insurance paid) price of the 2008 Lafite had fallen 15,500 yuan (US$2,457) before stabilizing at 7,230 yuan (US$1,146) per bottle, while the CIP price of Chateau Margaux 2004 had fallen from 4,900 yuan (US$777) to 2,850 yuan (US$452). Dr Lim has observed a cooling-off in terms of certain brand crazes. “Since mid-2011, Lafite has become less popular than it was a few years back. People have regained their rationality and collectors have begun to doubt the investment value of potentially counterfeit Lafite. They are now shifting their attention to other famous brands such as Margaux or Mouton, high in quality yet much cheaper in price.” Recently, authorities in various localities have taken countermeasures to curb China’s fake wine industry. Lu Ronghua, director of the Shanghai Wine Monopoly Bureau, said in early May that Shanghai was planning to adopt a tracking system for imported wines. By the end of this year, all the imported wines on sale in the city’s supermarkets will be required to display individual electronic tracking tags to identify their origin. “Hopefully, through this kind of reinforced management, we can regulate the imported wine market in Shanghai,” Lu Ronghua said, adding, “The General Administration of Customs would ideally promote this tracking system throughout the country to make our efforts more effective.” “The Chinese wine industry is facing a reshuffle. With enhanced public awareness, irrational consumption will be redressed and counterfeiting curbed by healthy market competition,” Deng Zhongxiang, viticulture student at the University of Bourgogne, France, told NewsChina. “Afterward, only professional personnel with extensive knowledge in this field will remain,” he added. Damien Grelat, a Beijing-based employee of a French wine exporter, believes China is still an emerging market. “Big Chinese importers of French wines are still doing well, though the market is slowing down a little bit. But as for small importers, who just want to make quick profit without any professional knowledge and without any distribution strategy… the natural evolution of the market may see those companies disappear.” Grelat added that the “reshuffling” of China’s wine market started last year and that it might take several years for the market to re-establish healthy competition and operations
Buying the Farm Not content with consuming record amounts of French wine, Chinese investors are now purchasing the vineyards themselves, getting involved in an industry which has boomed in China in the last two decades By Wang Yan in Beijing
A customer tastes wine at the Beijing Chateau Monette Winery
Photo by Zhang Yu
NEWSCHINA I July 2012
Principle regions and production capacity of Chinese vineyards (unit: 100,000 bottles)
Northeast: 30.67 Beijing and Hebei: 14.67
Shandong: 62.67 Gansu: 1.87 Ningxia: 3.33
Source: China Industrial Database 2011
NEWSCHINA I July 2012
pril 18, a wine tasting entitled “Discovering Chinese Wine” was held at the University of Bourgogne in Dijon, France. A total of 16 vineyards including some well-known Chinese brands such as Grace Vineyard and Helan Mountain presented 20 vintages to local wine experts and professional sommeliers. Joelle Brouard, director of the Wine Management Institute in Dijon, said to the gathering that just as China had become a major destination for France’s wine exports, Chinese tastes had suddenly become of interest to French wine makers. “This wine tasting provides a rare opportunity for us French winemakers to learn about Chinese-made wines.” Chinese wines may be a curiosity now, but there are signs that the country is looking to develop its own, internationally competitive fine wines.
Aware of the Francophilia spreading among affluent Chinese wine drinkers, Chinese wine producers began to shift their focus from highyield low-quality supermarket brands to high-end vintages. While the first Chinese winery, Changyu, was founded as early as the 1890s, it has been only in the last two decades that Chinese vineyards and wineries have begun producing wines from imported grapes. By the end of 2010, some 400 to 500 wineries were operating in China, led by the big three of Dynasty, Great Wall and Changyu. Hundreds of private vineyards across northern China prospered, including Grace Vineyard, a well-known and international awardwinning wine producer. The 15-year-old winery based in Shanxi Province can produce 1.2 million bottles a year, 90 percent of which are red wines according to Judy Leissner, the Hong Kong native and president of Grace Vineyard. With vineyards in different locations in Shanxi, and Shaanxi provinces and the Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, Grace Vineyard uses cabernet, merlot, cabernet franc, pinot noir, shiraz and marselan grapes in its vintages. During an interview with nicelymadeinchina. com, a consumer awareness website, Leissner said, “We have 22 stores in major cities on the Chinese mainland and in Hong Kong, as well as locations abroad. Our entry-level wines cost US$8.80 per bottle, while premium vintages start at US$15. Our flagship brand, Deep Blue, costs US$37.15 a bottle.” Damien Grelat, export manager for French wine merchant negotiator Crus et Domaines de France in China, told our reporter that the quality of some Chinese wines are very good, both in terms of grape quality and the maturation processes employed by the country’s highend vineyards. “China is so big, with a wide diversity of soil and climate, so it can produce high-quality grapes, well-constructed in terms of sugar and other elements,” Grelat told NewsChina. “Besides, a lot of top French winemakers are also joining Chinese vineyards to train staff members and make good quality wine.”
deaux to the Chinese mainland amounted to 43.6 million liters, a 91 percent increase on the previous year. In 2008, Qingdao Hailong Group purchased the 60-hectare Château Latour-Laguens, the first Chinese purchase of a Bordeaux vineyard. Following this initial step, purchases came thick and fast: the next year, Chinese luxury goods company Hong Kong A&A International bought a controlling interest in Chateau Richelieu. In the same year, Château Vieux Brondeau was bought by an investment company from China’s Zhejiang Province. In 2010, Dalian HaiChang Group bought Château Chenu Lafitte, a 40 hectares property in Cotes de Bourg. In 2011, COFCO Group bought Château Viaud, and TESiRO, a diamond company, bought Château Laulan Ducos. Lushang Group bought Château de Cugat and Chinese actress Zhao Wei and her husband Huang Youlong purchased Château Monlot. According to the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Bordeaux, since 2011, the number of vineyards owned by Chinese investors in the region has significantly increased. Pierre Goguet, the president of the chamber, told our reporter that so far, 20 vineyards in the region are owned by Chinese people, with a dozen acquisitions still under negotiation. All these purchases focus on low-end
Photo by Ren Peng
Despite an explosion in the quality and variety of Chinese wines, imports continue to reign supreme. Latest statistics from the Bordeaux Wines Council indicate that by the end of 2011, imported Bor-
Photo byRen Peng
Château Monlot was purchased by Chinese actress Zhao Wei and her husband Huang Youlong in 2011
Zhang Jinshan, the current owner of Château du Grand Moueys
NEWSCHINA I July 2012
Wine Production in China (unit: 100,000 liters) vineyards each with a price tag of around 2 million euros (US$ 2.5m). A large portion of the wines produced in these vineyards, some 80 to 90 percent, are sold in the Chinese market. French and European buyers, by and large, aren’t interested. The prices of vineyards of the coveted Grand Cru Classé generally start at around one billion euros (US$1.25bn), beyond even Chinese investors, at least for the moment. The reason why Chinese buyers have taken a keen interest in Bordeaux, in the opinion of Mr. Pierre Pouget, general director of SAFER Aquitaine Atlantique in Gironde, is the region’s special charm. “In their eyes, Bordeaux is the symbol of high quality wines,” he said. Other experts point to the ease with which Bordeaux wines pair with spicy, oily cuisine, as well as aggressive marketing strategies, as the secret to Bordeaux success. Owning an ancient château at the heart of a vineyard also appeals to Chinese investors, according to Zhang Jinshan, founding president of the Ningxia Hong Group which bought Grand Moueys in February 2012. The company is now planning to redesign the castle’s interiors and make the 170-hectare vineyard a resort with a golf course, tennis courts and swimming pools. “When all these renovations are complete, we can receive business partners from China and France,” Zhang told NewsChina.
Fabrice Dubourdieu, a French vineyard manager in Bordeaux, started to sell wines to Chinese clients in 2005. Despite the fast expansion of the wine market in China, Dubourdieu believes that Chinese consumers lack knowledge. “Most Chinese still have their eyes fixed on the limited number of Grand Cru Classé vineyards,” he told our reporter, “Quite a large number of other quality wines are offered by French wineries. The problem is that Chinese wine drinkers simply don’t know them.” Counterfeiting and speculation, however, have reduced Chinese demand for the biggest brands. Damien Grelat told our reporter that while sales of Château Lafite are slowing down, other high-quality but less wellknown brands are seeing growth. “My company is selling a lot of these wines including Château Angelus and Château Cos D’Estournel inside China,” he said. “This is a natural evolution of the market.” Grelat, who has been involved in China’s wine market for three years, also believes Chinese wine drinkers are becoming increasingly sophisticated. “They know about the wines and they know how to taste them. This is why they care less for famous brands. They just want to try new wines and get something good for a reasonable price.” Fernand Klee, a renowned French sommelier, after attending the Discovering Chinese Wine event in Dijon, expressed how he felt about the Chinese wines he had tasted: “Chinese wines use mostly Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, and the manufacturing technique is perfect. But I think it still needs improvement in fully displaying its terroir.” In short, Chinese wineries have their techniques down pat, and now need to look at developing the individual characters of their NEWSCHINA I July 2012
12000 Principle grape types
Cabernet Sauvignon Cabernet Gernischt Merlot Cabernet Franc Syrah Chardonnay
Source: Chinese Wine Market White Book 2011 wines to reflect China’s unique climate, soil and environment. “Terroir includes all the natural and human elements, and is decisive to the wine’s final quality and characteristics,” explained Deng Zhongxiang, viticulture student at the University of Bourgogne and the organizer of Discovering Chinese Wine. “The topography of the vineyard and the cultivation of the vines are all involved.” “It’s like personality, each vineyard has unique qualities,” Deng continued. “Now Chinese winemakers are starting to pay attention to terroir and people are seeking the right soil for the cultivation of different types of grape all across the country. It takes time.” Most New World wines, for example, made their international reputations by developing their own unique characters according to terroir. Wine experts believe that only innovation and uniqueness will allow Chinese wines to distinguish themselves internationally. “When I first began working for Grace Vineyard, I just wanted to do what the Bordeaux wine companies were doing,” said Judy Leissner. “However, I’ve come to know that the Chinese and French markets are simply incomparable. Everything is different – our history, our distribution channels and our drinking habits and theirs. We cannot forever do the copying job. We have to think outside the box and figure out what to do next by ourselves.” (Ju Shuoshuo also contributed reporting from Bordeaux)
People’s Daily Online IPO
Public People People.com.cn, affiliated to the Party mouthpiece the People’s Daily, became the first government-backed website to go public. But can a State-owned news website really compete with China’s huge commercial Web portals? By Chen Jiying
n April 27, People.com.cn, or People’s Daily Online (PDO), the website of the government mouthpiece newspaper the People’s Daily, went public on the Shanghai Stock Exchange. The country’s first State-run online news outlet to make an IPO, the website soon shocked market observers with skyrocketing shareprices. On its first day on the market, PDO put in a strong performance, its stock rising by an astounding 73.6 percent. This continued the next day of trading (May 2), until its market capitalization of 10.9 billion yuan (US$1.67 bn), triggered anti-speculation rules that temporarily halted trading. At the same time, capitalization of Sina.com and Sohu.com, the country’s two largest commercial news portals, stood at 23.2 billion yuan (US$3.7bn) and 12.1 billion yuan (US$1.9bn) respectively. “The price was a little too high. But this showed investor confidence,” said Liao Hong, vice chairman of People’s Daily Online Corporation Ltd. and editor-in-chief of the website. Some claim that this confidence is due in large part to
Shareholder structure of PDO Beijing Times: 0.82% China Automotive News: 0.82% China Publishing Group: 0.82% China Film Group Corporation: 0.82% Shanghai Media Group: 0.82% Bank of China Group Investment Limited: 4.00% China Mobile: 3.00% Goldstone Investment Limited: 1.00% Sinopec: 1.00% China Telecom: 1.00% Global Times:
China Unicom: 2.00%
Beijing All Media and Culture Group: 3.00% Yingda Media Investment Group: 3.00%
People’s Daily: 66.01%
Source: People's Daily Online
NEWSCHINA I July 2012
PDO’s government affiliation, with investors reasoning that preferential policies and solid financial backing mean that the website is safeguarded against failure. For example, PDO’s search engine business, 81 percent of which is owned by the People’s Daily, saw a net profit of 30 million yuan (US$4.6m) in 2010, despite reporting zero business income. In response to the accusations, Liao simply said that the general public did not understand the operation of the website.
On the contrary, He feels keenly the restraints imposed by the institutional system. When he first joined the company in 2001, he had ambitions to compete with China’s successful commercial portals, which were set up roughly around the same time and were operating largely on market forces. Now, more than a decade later, his goal remains largely unfulfilled, with PDO lagging far behind in terms of business income and click rate.
As a government-backed institution seemingly benefiting from the status quo, many have questioned why PDO made the move to IPO in the first place. Analysts suggest that increasing profitability meant that listing would enable the fast-growing website to run on funds from the stock market, rather than surviving on government subsidies alone. In terms of the listing process, PDO’s government affiliation may have actually made things more difficult. Around 2005, He Jiazheng, Liao Hong’s predecessor, began to entertain the idea of going public. However, Liao’s suggestion was met with reluctance from the responsible government departments, who feared that giving PDO the green light would set a precedent, and lead to a deluge of similar institutions looking to take the leap into the market. The website’s chance came in September 2009, when the State Council Information Office issued a circular entitled “Plan for Pilot Projects to Restructure Key News Websites into Enterprise-like Entities,” which put public listing of State-run websites firmly on the agenda. He Jiazheng lost no time. On June 20, 2010, People’s Daily Online Corporation Ltd. was founded, a move that sped the process up. “The sooner you go public, the sooner you reap the benefits,” said Liao. However, due to the difficulty of the listing process, insiders believe that 2012 will not see another government-affiliated news website going public. Still, the listing may signal the beginning of a rush of governmentrun websites going public. Nearly 50 key news websites are making preparations to list, thereby transforming themselves into enterpriselike economic entities, and pitting them against commercial portals like Sina and Sohu. Despite now being publicly traded, PDO needs to keep its sense of authority, said Liao Hong. Whereas Sina maintains the popularity of its microblog service with the glamor of TV and movie stars, the big hitters on PDO’s microblog are rather more somber, with former editor-in-chief of the People’s Daily overseas edition Zhan Guoshu and philanthropist Chen Guangbiao topping the list. “We are no match for Sina when it comes to showing off celebrities. We want people with authority, saying things that matter,” said Liao. Business income notwithstanding, though, the voice (and bankroll) of authority may be enough to keep investors confident, for the moment at least.
The most controversial issue is the fact that the website’s top client is the Ministry of Finance. PDO states in its shareholder solicitation paper that the ministry pays the company on an annual basis for the construction and maintenance of the official news website of the Communist Party of China (CPC) and other government-run websites. The yearly sum was 42 million yuan (US$6.47m) in 2008 and 2009, and rose to 72 million yuan (US$11.4m) in 2010 and 2011. “This is about government procurement. We offer our services and get paid by the government. It is crystal clear. I see no problem,” said Liao Hong. The website’s mysteriously profitable search engine became another point of confusion. How did PDO manage to post tens of millions in profit in 2010, despite reporting zero business income? The answer lies in creative book-keeping. To begin with, PDO planned to oversee the operation of the search engine itself. But later, the website’s top leadership and its IPO advisor CITIC Securities proposed that the search engine be an independent entity, on the grounds that it was unlikely to see returns in the short term. They argued that the burden would appear unattractive to potential investors. After repeated consultation, it was finally decided that the People’s Daily and PDO would jointly invest 50 million yuan (US$7.7m) in the search engine, with the former holding 81 percent of the stake and the latter 19 percent. “We’re two totally separate companies,” said Liao Hong. Insiders revealed that the supposed “30 million yuan profit” was actually the unspent part of the initial investment, which was treated as profit in the solicitation paper. Still, under the auspices of the CPC, PDO undeniably enjoys various additional benefits unavailable to its competitors. Even compared with China’s four largest commercial web portals (Sina, Sohu, Tencent and Netease), PDO’s news team is large, employing 800 reporters and editors. In addition, direct association with the government’s mouthpiece publication gives the website a clear advantage when it comes to speed of reporting. However, He Jiazheng claims that in practice, PDO’s edge over the competition is not so distinct: “While the other portals do not have privileged access to the same important occasions that we do, they can re-post the news that appears on our site. It makes little difference to the average reader if a piece of news comes a couple of minutes earlier or later.” NEWSCHINA I July 2012
Kangbashi District has almost everything, except people
The Coal Curse Ordos, a city in Inner Mongolia whose massive coal deposits brought it overnight wealth, is now caught in an identity crisis. Diversification is now vital for the city’s sustainability, and may be the only way to balance out its speculation-driven housing market By Sun Zhe
espite its eerie silence, Kangbashi District has all the trappings of a modern city center. Built from nothing atop a patch of wasteland in Ordos, in the western part of Inner Mongolia, every inch of the district was planned out on a blueprint. Flanking the square, facing the three grand adjoining office towers of the Ordos prefectural government, are a museum, a theater, an exhibition center and a library, all constructed in the latest architectural fashions and of sizes to rival their Beijing counterparts. Ordos even has the country’s third-largest motor-racing circuit, though a similar driving experience can be had on the city’s public roads – they are eight lanes wide, and completely deserted. “You can drive with your eyes closed for two minutes, and hit nothing,” joked Ren Zhiqiang, a manufacturer of fireproofing from Beijing. Ren’s business in Kangbashi has been on the decline since late last year when the city’s real estate frenzy ground to a halt. Today, there is a conspicuous lack of any housing construction, a common feature of most Chinese cities. While cranes still dot the
city’s skyline, towering above half-built apartment buildings, they all sit motionless. Currently, Ren’s company is only working on two government contracts. Though the majority of the city’s finished apartments are sold, after dusk, only a few are lit up – the clearest indication of Ordos’s plummeting occupancy rate. Despite the city’s plentiful green spaces, a rarity in this arid region, Kangbashi has a residential population of just 44,000, less than five percent of its capacity of 1 million. The district is not a visitor-friendly place – it has a fleet of only 60 taxis, and asking for directions is difficult when the streets are deserted.
Looking at the statistics, the reasons behind the city’s emptiness become more obvious. Ordos residents own an average of three houses apiece, and those houses are usually little more than a desperate attempt for buyers to tie up assets. Ten years ago, locals would not have dared to dream that such a city could spring up in this area, formerly one of the nation’s poorest, which was badly hit by desertification due to
overgrazing and excessive farming on Inner Mongolia’s grasslands. Coal reserves, which funded the housing construction boom, brought a windfall to the city when the thirsty Chinese economic engine sent fuel prices soaring after the year 2000. Ordos sits on one sixth of the country’s coal deposits, and one third of its natural gas reserves. The deposits were left almost untouched before the turn of the century, since the value of coal was too low for mining to make economic sense. Plus, transporting coal from the area is far more costly than from China’s traditional coal base, Shanxi Province, which is closer to the coastal areas where the majority of China’s power plants are located. When coal prices began to rise in 2002, coal mining in the area suddenly began to look a lot more attractive. Since then, coal prices have risen fivefold. Ordos’s government revenue in 2001 was only 1.8 billion yuan (US$284m), but since 2002 it has seen constant exponential growth, posting a record high of 80 billion yuan (US$12.6bn) in 2011. Partially thanks to its NEWSCHINA I July 2012
Photo by CFP
relatively small population of 1.9 million, the city’s per capita GDP exceeded US$20,000 in 2011, beating both Shanghai and Beijing, and with its continued growth, the city is expected to overtake Hong Kong this year. Farming and herding, which used to make up the bulk of the local industry, soon dropped to below 3 percent of the city’s economy. The energy industries now make up more than 60 percent. Local residents shared in the spoils of the great coal boom. When farmers were forced to relocate to make room for coal mines, they were compensated generously, and there are countless tales of poor Ordosians who became millionaires (some multimillionaires) overnight. Unlike China’s coastal areas, Inner Mongolia has little in the way of indigenous business culture – Ordos included. The city’s booming wealth tends to find outlets in luxury cars, private lending, and the housing market. Porsche opened an outlet in Ordos earlier this year, and in Dongsheng, the former prefectural seat, Land Rovers now outnumber taxis. According to the Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development, Ordos’s housing sales in 2010 amounted to more than 60 percent of Beijing’s, though the city’s population is only one tenth of the capital’s. Ordos’s automobile ownership rate of 54 per 100 households is ranked top among all prefectures in the country. More than 90 percent of real estate buyers are locals, and the rest are mainly from neighboring Shaanxi Province, according to the local housing regulatory bureau. Like housing speculators nationwide, buyers here were spurred on by the illusion that property prices would never drop. New apartments were snapped up before they were even finished, and investment in housing was seen as the best route to retaining wealth. NEWSCHINA I July 2012
Besides housing investment, locals also took to the private finance game, lending their money to loan sharks, who offer annual interest rates of more than 40 percent, over ten times the interest rate for bank deposits. The majority of this cash was ultimately channeled to the housing developers, who in return sold apartments to the city’s new rich for astronomical prices, which enabled them to pay excessively high interest on their loans, according to Yan Su, a local government official. The coal-fueled wealth continued to flow around the city in this closed circuit, until the capital chain broke late last year, when families found they could no longer afford to buy.
Resources for Industry
Though excesses on the housing market are obvious, Yan, the government official, still sees Kangbashi as a success, as it helped keep most of the city’s wealth from flowing out. However, he acknowledged that it was now urgent to attract outsiders to move to Ordos, a key goal of the city’s policy to diversify its heavily coal-dependent economy. There are plenty of examples of Chinese boom towns that withered soon after their natural resources expired. The city of Yumen in Gansu Province, for example, is now practically deserted after its oil ran out, and its population emigrated. To avoid the natural resources curse and enhance its sustainability, the local government adopted a “resourcesfor-industry” policy, which ruled that companies that invested more than 4 billion yuan (US$630m) in the city would be rewarded with 100 million tons of coal for every 2 billion yuan of extra investment. BOE, a Beijing-based manufacturer of LCD screens, received 1 billion tons of coal from Ordos last year after it inked a deal with the local government to open an assembly base in Ordos. The same year, Chinese automaker Chery received 1.66 billion tons.
The downside of the policy is that investors tend to spend more time mining coal than building their operations in Ordos. Before BOE had even broken ground on their Ordos base, their coal reward had already earned 2.7 billion yuan (US$425m) for the company. Hawtai Motor, another automaker which had pledged to invest in Ordos, was even more half-hearted with their production in the city. With a 400-hectare production base left largely unused, it had only invested 700 million yuan (US$110m) in Ordos by the end of 2011, way short of the promise of 20 billion yuan (US$3.2bn) it announced in 2005 when it was granted two coal mines. Meanwhile, Hawtai’s coal mining business is in full swing. The government, since early this year, has revised the policy so that access to coal resources is awarded year-by-year in accordance with the progress of investment, rather than as a one-off handout. Additionally, investors who fail to keep their word will see their coal mines swiftly reclaimed by the government. Ordos’s target is to balance out the energy industry’s dominance of its economy, bringing it down to below 30 percent by the end of 2015. Besides manufacturing, the city is also testing out measures on several other fronts – it aims to build the city into an international tourist destination, a tech-focused “Steppe Silicon Valley,” and a center of private equity capital. The lack of skilled industrial workers may be a significant hurdle for Ordos’s ambitions, and the city’s absurd housing prices will not help. The cost of renting an apartment in Ordos is only slightly lower than in Beijing, the most expensive city on the mainland. Young, talented workers are unlikely to be tempted, and those who are may be put off by the city’s frequent sandstorms.
Wenzhou Financial Reform
Gilded Guinea Pig Financial reform in Wenzhou, the cradle of China’s private economy, aims to “bring private finance into the light.” However,this pilot program may be blunted by its own caution By Li Jia
A small factory offers “Milling Machine Processing” in Wenzhou, May 12, 2012
he current global financial crisis is forcing governments around the world to consider making changes to systems they would have never dared to interfere with in the past, such as social welfare in Europe and investor speculation on Wall Street. In China, the government has begun to embrace and encourage the development of private finance, something that until a few months ago had long been seen as a poisonous element that needed to be removed from society. At the end of March, China’s State Council announced plans to launch a trial program of financial reform to grant private funds wider access to the financial system, including banking, junk bonds and equity transfer for non-public companies. Unsurprisingly, Wenzhou, the notorious cradle of China’s private economy, was designated as the city to lead this experiment. The reform is a direct response to social and economic unrest in the city, caused when a credit crunch resulted in a spate of abscondments and even suicides of heavily indebted factory owners, which brought Wenzhou to the brink of collapse. The new policy, as the State Council has declared, is designed to mitigate financial risk, and support the development of a real economy in the troubled city. Wenzhou is by no means the only city suffering from financial maladies, and like any reform in China, this experiment is supposed to pave the way for sweeping financial reform throughout the country. Many hope that the success of the reform will finally break the monopoly of State-owned banks, introduce marketbased interest rates and, as a result, allocate financial resources efficiently enough to sustain the long-term growth of China’s economy. While there is no such thing as a foolproof program of reform, NEWSCHINA I July 2012
Photo by Newschina
A laborer manufacturers hair accessories in a tiny Wenzhou factory, May 12, 2012
many economists and Wenzhou leaders have asserted that this reform is simply too important to fail. However, a NewsChina investigation found signs of a disconnect between the proposed measures and the expectations of the market players. It seems that the government’s cautiousness may be one of the reform’s biggest flaws.
In the past, China’s financial crises have built up quietly on the inside, been exposed by echoing international crises, and then been followed by government reforms. A sweeping effort to save China’s State-controlled banking sector was launched one month after Thailand became the first victim of the Asian Financial Crisis in 1997. The result was the recapitalization and listing of all the biggest State banks. Holding both the market resources and government backing, these institutions have ascended from bankruptcy to become some of the world’s most profitable banks. Their success, however, has come at others’ expense. Those with deposits in these banks have to accept low interest rates for their savings so that the banks can afford to provide cheap loans to their big customers, the ma-
NEWSCHINA I July 2012
jority of which are State-owned enterprises (SOEs). Unable to earn sufficient returns from bank deposits, companies in the private sector, mostly small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) or start-ups, have had to resort to other sources to fund their survival and expansion. Thus, a private lending market has boomed. In China, Wenzhou businesspeople are notorious for their dedication to private lending. Unlike most Chinese, who generally prefer to hold their savings in banks or under their mattresses, people from Wenzhou are generally more willing to put themselves at the mercy of usurers, who give them the leverage they need for their business ventures. “Money in your own pocket is limited, but money in other people’s pockets is not,” said a driver at a local private company, surnamed Ke, whose family has long been involved in the guarantees business. However, when private lending went sour, social problems broke out, and Wenzhou became a poster city for financial turmoil. Some borrowers were severely punished for fraud. Whether the accusations were fair or not, the result was the same: suicide, violence and debtor flights have cost people their money, and occasionally their lives, since the market
took shape in the 1980s. The latest outbreak of such turmoil flared up in September 2011, and has continued since then. Grappling with the global financial crisis, debtors in the manufacturing sector saw foreign orders drop off dramatically, coupled with a rise in production costs at home. Those who chose to try their hand on the real estate market can only pray that the bubble doesn’t burst. Since the Wenzhou private lending market has always been based on personal networks, its collapse torpedoed the environment of mutual trust in the city. Whereas in the past, borrowers did not generally need collateral to get their hands on a loan, now it is an absolute necessity. On May 14, the People’s Daily reported that the Wenzhou private lending market had shrunk by 30 percent since August 2011, and legal disputes had soared. The manufacturing power and the entrepreneurship of Wenzhou investors have been called into question. In his new book, Zhou Dewen, chairman of the Wenzhou SME Development Association, dubbed “the spokesman for Wenzhou’s SMEs” by the media, describes how the bubbles that Wenzhou investors helped to create around the country in the past decade are now blowing up in
Photo by xinhua
the development of micro-finance with private capital. Currently, there are 28 microcredit companies in Wenzhou, but by the end of this year, the local government plans to increase that number to 65, and to 100 in 2013. Deregulation of investment in those companies will give them a broader lending base. Unlike their counterparts in other parts of the world, who lend to the poorest in society, Wenzhou’s micro-finance companies target “micro-businesses” (officially defined as those with fewer than 20 members of staff), whose loans usually start at around a few thousand US dollars. Currently, microcredit companies are not allowed to hold deposits. The reform will change this, giving them a chance to become “village banks,” which means access to the “unlimited money in other people’s pockets.” A survey by the Wenzhou Business Daily showed that all of Wenzhou’s 28 micro-credit companies aspire to become banks.
Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao talks to Pan Jinmu, a villager in Wenzhou, during a visit to Hengsheng Village Bank, August 23, 2009
their faces. Banks are particularly at risk. Some SOEs have found ways to use their access to cheap bank loans on the private lending market – a highly profitable game. In addition, it is common practice for Wenzhou locals to secure bank loans with their personal property as collateral, and then invest the money in private lending. By the end of March 2012, non-performing loans in Wenzhou banks had been rising constantly for the past eight monghs, according to the local banking regulatory body. Systemic financial reform outside of China’s State banking sector has thus been brought to the top of the agenda.
The Wenzhou government has made it clear that the experiment aims to give private capital a bigger role in boosting the economy, by matching up SMEs with appropriate private lenders. They also hope that the financial sector will provide a more diverse range of products, and constitute 15 percent of the
local economy by 2015. To achieve those goals, private lending will be “brought into the light,” as the official phrasing goes. On an open market, more private lending will be carried out, under the scrutiny of the market watchdog. “The collapse of connections-based private lending provides an opportunity to build a rule-based market,” Zhou explained to NewsChina. A series of measures have been announced, the most visible of which is the inauguration of a private lending registration center at the end of April, where the supply and demand sides will be encouraged to court each other, and to register their resulting relationship with the help of law firms, insurers and advisory bodies. Zhou Dewen called Wenzhou a “guinea pig,” whose growth or demise will provide lessons for the country’s financial reform as a whole, and many in the city are keen to be a part of an experiment that may well revolutionize China’s financial system. What has excited both the media and the market the most is the policy to encourage
An Old Game
Policymakers, however, appear to be preoccupied with the prospect of a dead guinea pig, and accordingly, some key barriers to entry remain. Firstly, only enterprises can apply for a license to operate a micro-credit company. Zheng Yuanzhong, chairman of Judger, a local manufacturing giant, also holds a stake in a micro-credit company. He believes that only when individuals are allowed to do the same will private capital truly be brought to the open market. “For big companies like us, the money is still coming mainly from the banks,” he explained to NewsChina. What Zheng is looking for is the money that lies outside the banks and other registered finanNEWSCHINA I July 2012
cial institutions, widely estimated to be around US$9.5 million. As the founder of China’s first private bank and first guarantee company, Fang Peilin does not see anything particularly exciting in the reform. “What everyone is talking about so excitedly today doesn’t even go as far as what I tried 30 years ago,” Fang told NewsChina. He was forced to shut down his bank, but still runs a guarantee company in Wenzhou. Today it is almost impossible for private entities to build banks. Micro-credit companies that want to become banks have to invite an established bank to be their single controlling shareholder, losing control in the process, and making their efforts largely pointless. Without private banks, however, the effectiveness of this “cradle” of enterprise may be seriously blunted. Many SMEs are considering a move up the value chain. “That requires the kind of huge long-term investment that can only be funded by bank loans – the interest rates at micro-credit firms are too high to support such long-term programs,” said Huang Jianguang, who ran a shoe factory before founding Wenzhou Gangda Technology in 2007. In the dirty backstreets of Wenzhou, the sound of roaring machines can be heard from numerous tiny factories staffed by two or three workers. Ignored by large State-run banks, these kinds of businesses are welcome clients of the Bank of Taizhou, one of the very few privately owned Chinese commercial banks. Western expertise also helps. IPC, a German consultancy, began to help Taizhou Bank build a risk-management system for micro-loans six years ago. Jörn Helm, a former IPC staff member who worked on the program, is now vice-governor of the bank. He feels that working at a Chinese private bank is similar to working with a Western bank, in that both are highly strategy- and results-oriented. “Don’t make micro-finance look like a charity or subsidy. Make it a business, and it will grow and last long,” he said, adding that private banks for micro-finance are willing and able to do this. Despite resistance from powerful interest groups, mainly SOEs and State-owned banks, and uncertainty over how far the trial program can go, Zhou and other market players remain confident, and are beginning to trust in the reform. Whether or not policymakers can live up to that trust is crucial to whether market confidence in Wenzhou and China can be restored. NEWSCHINA I July 2012
percentage points Drop in China’s tax revenue growth over the first four months of 2012 compared with the same period in 2011. Growth in the first quarter hit a three-year low. Source: Ministry of Finance
9.6% Increase in the number of migrant workers in western China in 2011, while the traditional central and eastern manufacturing hubs saw growth of 8.1 and 2 percent respectively.
Breakdown of working locations of China’s migrant workers in 2011
US$128bn Yield in China’s foreign investment in 2011, most of which was derived from forex reserves.
Source: State Administration of Foreign Exchange
China’s International Purchasing Confidence Index, an indicator of multinational purchases, for Q1 2012. This is the lowest rating since the index was first published in Q3 2010.
International Purchasing Confidence Index
0 East: 165 million, 65.4% Central: 44 million, 17.6% West: 42 million, 16.7%l
Source: National Bureau of Statistics
Q3, Q4, Q1, Q2, Q3, Q4, Q1, 2010 2010 2011 2011 2011 2011 2012
Source: Shanghai International Sourcing Promotion Center
US$385.7bn Net debt of the Ministry of Railways by the end of Q1, 2012, representing a debt-equity ratio of 60.62% to 39.38%.
Breakdown of China’s Long-term Railroad debt
2.4% Domestic: US$291.5bn Foreign: US$5.6bn Other: US$7.3bn
Source: Ministry of Railways / Shanghai Clearing House
n Yueyang, Hunan Province, a campaign was launched in mid-April in an attempt to secure protection for the critically endangered Yangtze finless porpoise, a species of freshwater dolphin living exclusively in the Yangtze River and certain lakes its tributaries feed. In less than a month, conservationists discovered the carcasses of a total of 12 finless porpoises on the shores of Lake Dongting in Hunan Province. The “darkest day” fell on April 14, according to Xu Yaping, chairman of the Yueyang Finless Porpoise Protection Association (YFPPA). “On that day alone, three dead porpoises, one of which was a female carrying an unborn calf, were spotted by local fishermen.” Autopsies concluded that all 12 porpoises died “unnatural deaths,” though no cause of death was agreed upon. The stomach of at least one porpoise was found to be empty, leading many to speculate that overfishing had caused the animals to starve to death. Nicknamed the “smiling angel” due to its unusual upturned mouth, the Yangtze finless porpoise was first listed as a Category Two wild animal under State protection, with the species expected to be upgraded to Category One, alongside the giant panda and the Amur tiger, in the next year. China’s popula-
Photo by Cao Chengping/CFP
A dead Yangtze finless porpoise found by Poyang Lake, Jiangxi Province, March, 2012
Fished Out Massive habitat loss caused by human development has left many of the Yangtze River’s unique aquatic species on the verge of extinction. Will government promises of greater environmental protection be translated into action? By Wang Yan
tion of finless porpoises has, despite its official status, continued to decline. According to research conducted in 2006, the total number of finless porpoises along the Yangtze River and their two known lake habitats, Dongting and Poyang, likely stands at less than 1,800, almost too few to sustain a population. “Finless porpoise populations are declining at a rate of five percent annually,” said Wang Ding, deputy director of the Institute of Hydrobiology at the Chinese Academy of Sciences in 2010. “No more than 1,500 Yangtze finless porpoises are alive today. Without protection, they might become extinct within 15 years.” According to Xu Yaping of the YFPPA, in 2008, it was found that of the 200 finless porpoises believed to be resident in Lake Dongting in 2005, only 80 were still alive. “This species is even more threatened than the giant panda in terms of numbers,” Xu NEWSCHINA I July 2012
methods including explosives, electric gaffs and baffler nets, which have further reduced key food stocks for the local finless porpoises. Formerly abundant species such as the Chinese paddlefish and Chinese suckerfish are now increasingly rare in the Yangtze River. Black carp, grass carp, silver carp and crucian carp, formerly some of the most common Yangtze fish species, are also declining in numbers. Since 2002, a yearly three-month fishing moratorium has been imposed along the Yangtze River. Yet researchers like Cao Wenxuan and Wang Ding are calling for a 10-year suspension to allow fish populations to recover from decades of overexploitation. “A 10-year fishing ban is not only good for the finless porpoise, but would also help protect fish resources in the whole river,” said Wang.
The ecosystem of the Yangtze, the world’s third longest river, has long been under threat from industrial development and overfishing. Pollution, heavy boat traffic, unregulated dredging and habitat fragmentation caused Escalation by hydropower projects (see: NewsChina As a result of declining stocks, the YangMay 2011, Stemming the Tide) have all taken tze river’s fisheries are beginning to collapse. their toll on the river’s unique biodiversity. The total annual catch in Lake Dongting, for In late April, our reexample, has fallen from porter witnessed nua peak of 120,000 tons to merous dredging vessels “Our job is to stop less than 30,000 tons of shuttling back and forth fish a year. According to across Lake Dongting. the finless porpoise Cao Wenxuan, the annual According to a member meeting the same fate catch along the Yangtze of staff at the local fishRiver in general has deeries department, the as the Yangtze River clined from 540,000 tons Institute of Hydrobiology dolphin.” recorded in 1954 to an his(IHB) under the Chinese toric low of 100,000 tons Academy of Sciences in 2011. This in turn has (CAS) conducted a research project in January pushed the price of freshwater fish to historic 2011, recording a total of 499 large sand trans- highs. In the 1970s, the Yangtze tapertail anporting boats operating in less than 10 kilome- chovy, a Chinese delicacy, retailed at 15 US ters of waterway, activity which has destabilized cents per kilo (not adjusted for inflation). the lake bed and decimated aquatic life. Due to overfishing, tapertail anchovies now However, with sand dredging contributing sell for 6000 yuan (US$939) a kilogram on 1.2 billion yuan (US$185m) to the Yueyang average, making them among China’s most government’s coffers each year, few local of- valuable edible fish. ficials are making environmental protection a In 2001, the Ministry of Agriculture launched the Yangtze River Porpoise Protecpriority. Cao Wenxuan, a fisheries biologist with the tion Action Plan, under which seven natural CAS, which defines “improper fishing” as a reserves for river dolphin species were to be major threat to marine life, documented mass set up. The Yueyang East Lake Dongting depletion of local fish stocks in his latest report Natural Reserve was one of them. Yet, deon Yangtze River fisheries. Only 20 of Lake spite a total amount of financial support of Dongting’s 120 former documented aquatic 3.5 million yuan (US$547,000) from the species are reportedly still present in its waters. central government in 2005, the reserve itself Local fishermen, keen to boost their catch- has not to come into being, with all funding es, have employed a variety of legal and illegal allegedly poured into the construction of one NEWSCHINA I July 2012
Photo by Zhu Jipeng/CFP
told our reporter, adding that overfishing, environmental degradation and increased human activity in their habitats are all contributing to this decline. Biologists believe China needs to step up protection of its indigenous species from the damage caused by the country’s unchecked industrial development. The Yangtze River dolphin, or the white porpoise, another indigenous Chinese species similar to the finless porpoise, was declared functionally extinct by Chinese scientists in 2006, the first known extinction of any species of cetacean which was entirely attributable to human factors.
Fishermen use illegal electic charges to fish on the Yangtze
office building, a water monitoring station and a couple of patrol boats. During a recent interview with NewsChina, Xu Yaping, chairman of the YFPPA, said that the best course of action is to incentivize local government intervention in protecting endangered species. Xu believes a good example is the Tian’e Zhou (Swan Islet) Oxbow Nature Reserve, 30 square kilometers of open wetlands near the town of Shishou in Hubei Province, which in 1992 was designated as a national reserve for finless porpoises. Twenty years’ persistent efforts have seen a population of five finless porpoises in 1992 grow to 35 individuals in 2012. Since the April reports saw the deaths of finless porpoises make national headlines, the Yueyang government seems to have been spurred into action. “The city officials asked us, an NGO, to directly report to the central government on this issue, which has never happened before,” Xu told NewsChina. “Of course, negotiations and cooperation between the government and our NGO take time. We will do our best to help the government implement a final plan for the establishment of the [Dongting] reserve.” When asked about how his organization might go about solving some of the major contributing factors to habitat loss, Xu responded: “We can offer our proposals to the government on the resettlement and retrain former Dongting fishermen.” “Our job is to stop the finless porpoise meeting the same fate as the Yangtze River dolphin,” said He Daming, a local fisherman-turned-environmental campaigner in Yueyang and vice chairman of the YFPPA. (Xu Zhihui also contributed reporting)
Under New Management NewsChina talks to Shan Jixiang, recently-appointed head curator of the Forbidden City’s Palace Museum, about the institution’s attempts to clean up its tarnished image after a scandal-ridden 2011 By Wu Ziru
Shan Jixiang in the Forbidden City’s Palace Museum, April 11, 2012
n January 2012, Shan Jixiang took over the curatorship of the Forbidden City’s Palace Museum. His predecessor Zheng Xinmiao came under intense fire in 2011 for a string of scandals including avoidable damage done to museum artifacts by careless conservationists, an embarrassing smash-and-grab burglary and the alleged rental of one of the complex’s ancient buildings as the venue for a millionaires’ club. “Whose Forbidden City is it?” was a common cry from an irate public disgusted with what was perceived as the shoddy management of an institution that serves as both China’s most famous landmark after the Great Wall and the country’s foremost collection of historical artifacts. Zheng was swiftly removed from his post as head curator and replaced with Shan Jixiang, who had previously served as the director of the State Administration of Cultural Heritage. Upon assuming the curatorship, he told the media: “The operations of the Palace Museum should be more transparent.” In an exclusive interview with NewsChina, Shan Jixiang attempts to
explain how he is putting that pledge into practice. NewsChina: Last year’s scandals smeared the image of the Palace Museum. When you assumed your current post, you emphasized that the museum’s operations should be more transparent. In what way will you achieve that goal? Shan: We’ll draw lessons from the errors made last year. Many tend to believe that the Palace Museum’s security and relic management systems are hopelessly out of date. As a matter of fact, the museum has the most complete regulations on security and relic management in China, if not the rest of the world. Each security guard has a complex rulebook to follow. The problem lies in the lax enforcement of these rules, and a lack of responsibility on the part of certain personnel. Public and media oversight will guarantee the museum’s healthy operation. For our part, we’ll try to make our operation more transparent so that society will have a better understanding of the Palace Museum. NewsChina: But your security system was set up in the 1980s and hasn’t been modified much. NEWSCHINA I July 2012
Protection of the Palace Museum.” The specific opening time will be decided upon when repairs and the organization of planned exhibitions are completed. Along with the Wuying Hall, these new areas are expected to attract more visitors to the west side of the complex’s central axis. NewsChina: Overcrowding in certain areas means few visitors get more than a glimpse of the museum’s showpieces. Do you plan to improve interaction between visitors and exhibits? Shan: There are 1.8 million artifacts in the collections of the Palace Museum, and every year various exhibitions are held to display around 10,000 of them. We are now preparing to introduce digital galleries, electronic displays and digitized versions of, for example, scroll paintings. We are planning to expand our guided services beyond the calligraphy and painting hall and the clock and watch hall, and improve the quality of guided tours.
Photo by CFP
NewsChina: How are the renovations going? Shan: So far, repair projects covering 47,192 square meters have been completed, making up more than one quarter of the total floor space. The rest is going ahead according to plan. Our principle is “saving life first, treating disease second” and priorities are thus given to repairing the dilapidated architectural pieces laden with serious safety risks. The most famous pieces of architecture will have the priority. Apart from once-in-decades overhauls, yearly repairs and routine maintenance should also have our attention.
Shan: The Palace Museum’s current security system was designed in 1989 and installed in 1992 before being formally approved in 1998. More than a decade has passed, and so the system now falls short. We began installing new security systems in 2009, including integrated high-resolution CCTV monitoring, infrared sensors, laser scanning and GPS linkups. These new systems will be completed in 2014. NewsChina: You have been stressing that more areas in the Palace Museum should be opened to the public. Which areas in particular? Shan: At present, 45 percent of the Palace Museum is open to the public. When our new program is finished, this will be extended to cover 76 percent of the Palace Museum’s total area. At present, the entire western half of the complex, aside from the Wuying exhibition hall, are closed to visitors. NewsChina: Is there a timetable for the opening? When will the “76 percent” goal be fulfilled? Shan: Everything is going ahead according to the “General Plan for the NEWSCHINA I July 2012
NewsChina: The Palace Museum has always suffered from being out of touch with its community – are you doing anything to bridge the gap between the museum and the public it purports to serve? Shan: The webpage of the Palace Museum was constructed in 2001, and has a steady daily click rate of 600,000 visitors. Internet users are especially interested in tours, online exhibitions and online activities organized for our members. A microblog has been launched in order to better inform the public and allow them to ask questions. NewsChina: Are you planning to make the Palace Museum more market-oriented? Shan: The Palace Museum is not only a window on traditional Chinese culture but also an important base for research and cultural conservation. Since it is such an important cultural vehicle, we’ll always put the public good at the top of our agenda. NewsChina: It is common practice among the world’s museums to produce tie-in merchandise based on their most famous artifacts. In addition, there are multimedia displays and publications. What is the Palace Museum doing in this regard? Shan: Our cultural service center develops products modeled on the originals on show to allow visitors to take a little piece of imperial grandeur home with them. We also run our own publishing house, which makes us unique among all mainland museums. We hope our in-house publications will continue to be an important platform to spread the Palace Museum’s cultural wealth.
Singing the Blues A draft revision to China’s copyright law has caused uproar in the music industry, with musicians and record companies calling it a cynical attempt to earn the government a bigger cut of royalties By Yuan Ye
n the digital age, China’s music industry, like music industries the world over, has been suffering huge losses due to digital piracy. However, the crisis has hardly registered with the country’s cell phone ringtone businesses, online music services and ubiquitous karaoke industry, who continue to pull in hundreds of billions of yuan every year. Further up the supply chain though, others are finding their revenue streams seriously threatened. With the country’s musicians and record companies struggling to protect their rights, a recent movement to strengthen the law regarding the payment of royalties initially seemed like a welcome change. However, the resulting draft legislation hit a bum note with those it claimed to protect – it effectively moved to strip copyright holders of the right to own their music, transferring all royalty collection power to a pair of “representative organizations,” namely the Music Copyright Society of China (MCSC) and the China Audio-Video Copyright Association (CAVCA), both “government-organized non-governmental organizations” (GONGOs) under the supervision of the National Copyright Administration (NCA). Meanwhile, songwriters, composers, record companies and all other copyright owners find themselves in a weakened position. As a result, a rare consensus is forming between those who feel threatened and those unafraid to rebel against the monopoly of their “representative organizations.”
“Suppose a songwriter refuses an offer of 10,000 yuan (US$1,580) to buy one of
his or her songs, and chooses to record and distribute it themselves. Provided the potential buyer has paid the roughly 2,000 yuan (US$316) membership fee to the MCSC or CAVCA, they can legally use the song however they wish, without permission, just three months after it is released,” said a recent report by the Guangzhou-based magazine Southern Weekly, which outlined the potential consequences were the new draft revision to become law. On March 31, the draft was issued on the NCA website in order to solicit public opinion. In just a few days, it had caused uproar throughout the music business. A number of top musicians, including veteran singer Gu Jianfen, pop songwriter Gao Xiaosong, and Liu Huan, who sang the theme for the Beijing Olympics, all stepped forward to protest. The controversy centers on a number of revised clauses in the new draft, which many claim are designed to force musicians and record companies into an unfavorable deal. Among the disputed revisions, clause 46 is generally seen to be the most harmful. The clause states that music in a recorded work can be reproduced without permission from the copyright owner just three months after the work is released, provided the reproducer registers with certain government departments and pays a fee to the relevant representative bodies. Copyright owners have no right to object to this, though the draft claims that the majority of the fee will be transferred back to the work’s original author or copyright holder. “It means that musicians lose control of their own work. After three months, their music can be used by anyone, for any pur-
pose. They could even use it as background music in a public restroom,” said singer Liu Huan. “If such a draft is passed, it will destroy China’s music industry.” Elsewhere in the draft, clause 69 has been widely criticized for its potential to protect those who facilitate illegal downloading of music and other copyrighted content. According to the clause, an online service provider is not obliged to check the copyright ownership of a work uploaded by its users, and therefore is not liable for piracy as long as it removes any illegally uploaded work in a timely fashion after receiving notice from the copyright owner. Clauses 60 and 70, meanwhile, clearly strengthen the monopoly status of the representative GONGOs. While clause 60 extends the jurisdiction of these organizations so they “represent” nearly all music copyright owners in China, clause 70 effectively safeguards those same organizations from losing any lawsuit brought against them. Both the Record Committee of the China Audio & Video Association (CAVA) and the Pop Music Institute of the Chinese Musicians Association have protested fiercely against these clauses, and have demanded they be removed from the draft entirely. “The two clauses obviously seek benefits for the collective management organizations by strengthening their monopoly,” said Zhou Yaping, a veteran pop music producer who drafted the protest claim for CAVA’s Record Committee. “These clauses must be omitted,” continued Zhou. “We will not compromise. If the clauses remain, record companies and musicians will collectively cancel their membership to these organizations.” NEWSCHINA I July 2012
Photo by Gao Peng/CFP
Singer Liu Huan (front, center) and other musicians protest the draft of the new Copyright Law at a press conference, April 11, 2012
Faced with outrage, the government was forced to make a statement. Wang Ziqiang, director of the Policy and Regulation Department of the General Administration of Press and Publication (GAPP, whose jurisdiction and personnel overlap with the NCA) said that the extension of the collective management system was designed to help copyright owners secure their rights in areas where their own capability is limited. The MSCS added that such areas might include “rights of repeated performance and broadcasting.” “But when choosing their representative organizations, musicians have few options besides the MCSC and the CAVCA,” responded Song Ke, former vice-general manager of Warner Music Beijing and founder of Taihe Rye Music. “These clauses would definitely solidify their monopoly.”
With huge growth witnessed in various sections of China’s music market in recent years, the authorities have launched several schemes to strengthen royalty collection. Mild competition even developed between different representative bodies, all of whom claimed to be acting on behalf of musicians. In 2006, the NCA and the Ministry of Culture (MOC) each launched royalty collection systems targeting the karaoke busi-
NEWSCHINA I July 2012
ness. The former announced a standard of royalty collection that required karaoke bars to pay 12 yuan (US$2) in royalties per private karaoke room per day of business operation. Applied nationally, the standard is estimated to have already collected hundreds of millions of yuan. However, a software system that calculated royalties by the number of times a song was played, developed by a company supervised by the MOC, was soon introduced alongside the NCA standard. To better compete with the MOC’s software system, in 2006 the NCA began preparations to launch CAVCA, a body specifically aimed at “representing” copyright holders of audio-video works. CAVCA was launched in 2008, but in reality, it had already began collecting royalties long before it was officially established. In 2007, CAVCA collected some 6 million yuan (US$967,000), and in 2009, the figure increased to 80 million yuan (US$12m). Meanwhile, in 2009, around 3,000 KTV bars installed the software from the company supervised by the MOC. Later that year, cooperation between the two bodies yielded an 8 percent “management fee” for the MOC, totaling 9.6 million yuan (US$1.5m). However, these collective management organizations rarely disclose their accounts to the public, and the proportion of royalties the
copyright owners actually received remains unknown, though the MSCS claims its management fee is less than 20 percent. Recent figures released by CAVCA show that its management fee reached 54 percent in 2011. When singer Liu Huan registered with the MSCS in 2009, the organization promised to pay Liu the backlog of royalties they had collected “on his behalf,” a total of around 67,000 yuan (US$10,000) for the period from 1994 to 2009. “On average, that’s less than 400 yuan (US$60) per month, even lower than the minimum wage in Beijing,” said Liu. As a famous singer, Liu’s appearance fee alone is now 800,000 yuan (US$127,000). While the NCA and the MOC fought over control of royalties in the karaoke business, growth in the digital music sector, particularly the ringtone business, was earning tens of billions of yuan in revenue for China Mobile, another gigantic State-owned enterprise. According to a report by Sanlian Life Weekly magazine, the company’s wireless music business reported an income of 27.9 billion yuan (US$4.43bn) in 2011. Yet, nearly 65 percent of that income was counted as China Mobile’s “service fee.” After deducting other costs, the proportion given to the content owners was only 2 percent, roughly 560 million yuan (US$88m), a total then divided between more than 20 major record companies. A report by the Beijing Evening News indicated that while the music industry brought 30 billion yuan (US$4.8bn) to the mobile and online music businesses and over 100 billion yuan (US$15.9bn) to the karaoke business, only 800 million yuan (US$127m) yuan, a measly 2 percent of that total, was paid to producers and copyright owners in royalties. While the draft revision claims to protect copyright owners, many have condemned it as nothing more than an attempt to readjust the proportion of profit shared by operators and management organizations, while ignoring the rights of those who create artistic content. “The draft will thoroughly deprive musicians of their rights, and make their work public property. Were this to happen, creative professionals would no longer have any impetus to create,” said Liu Huan. “There would be no more music in China,” said Lu Jian, CEO of record company Ocean Butterfly International.
DEPARTURE LOUNGE T
he life of morticians was given sudden prominence in Asia by the Oscar-winning Japanese movie Departures (Okuribito). On April 1, 2012, Sky Spring Etiquette Service Center, a high-end funeral parlor, was launched in Jiaxing, Zhejiang Province, the first of its kind on the Chinese mainland. Sky Spring employs nine young professional morticians, all in their twenties, overseen by two experienced Taiwanese morticians. Manager Wang Shan got the inspiration to set up his company after witnessing a demonstration by a Taiwanese funeral home. “The morticians were full of love and respect when facing their work,. Here on the mainland, most of this sort of work is done in a rush,” said Wang. With soothing background music and soft lighting, the deceased are carefully laid out on the operating ta-
ble. The morticians bow deeply to the departed before commencing their highly ceremonial work: cleansing the body and massaging essential oils into the muscle tissue, styling the hair and carefully applying make-up. Before starting each stage of the process, the mortician respectfully informs the deceased what they are about to do, with the entire process witnessed by the grieving family. So far, Wang's center has yet to turn a profit, but he remains confident that he can re-introduce due respect for the dead and for the mortician's under-appreciated arts back into Chinese mainland culture.
NEWSCHINA I July 2012
Photos by Wang Zhenyu
Clockwise from top left: Mortician Zeng Liangliang prepares make-up; morticians bow to the deceased before beginning the process; the morticians wash the body; stiff muscle tissue is massaged before the process begins
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After work, Zeng Liangliang relaxes at home
Mortician Zhang Baicheng prepares for his second assignment of the day
NEWSCHINA I July 2012
Mortician Zhang Baicheng ready for the night shift
The young morticians sometimes go to karaoke NEWSCHINA I July 2012 bars after work
Mortician Xiao Zeng acts as a â€œmodelâ€? for her colleagues to practice on
Photos by Wang Zhenyu
Zeng is confident the industry will grow in China
OUTSIDEIN perspectives from within china
Hidden Hong Kong
Hiking the Urban Jungle Despite being one of the world’s busiest commercial centers, Hong Kong suprises me in its larger regions of countryside, virgin islands and its vast well-protected national parks By Sean Silbert
a stunning natural landscape right at its heart. A short bus ride from downtown will take you to the foot of the Dragon’s Back Trail, smack dab in the center of Hong Kong Island and yet rated one of the best urban hikes in the world by Time. You lumber past snappily-dressed commuters as you progress towards the rugged spiny ridges of Shek O Country Park, looking out over the breathtaking South China Sea. Alternatively, one could venture northward towards the unspoiled wilderness of Sai Kung. Once past the unsightly industrial shipping zones you are suddenly plunged into serene bamboo forests and deserted beaches frequented only by local fishermen lugging the catch of the day back to the city. This is the wonder of Hong Kong – despite being one of the world’s busiest commercial centers, 70 percent of the territory is countryside, most of which is protected Photo by CFP
You need to get out there!” said my friend Bianca, imploring me to take advantage of the clear summer weather. “You’ll regret it if you don’t.” I hadn’t packed any gear, nor was I dressed appropriately. Yet a few hours later, there I was - hiking. In Hong Kong. Wow. This pastime is among Hong Kong’s best kept secrets, and shamefully so. It sounds outlandish, but minutes away from the cocktail bars One of the territory’s secluded beaches and high rises you can be hauling yourself up a steep mountain trail, out in the middle of nowhere. It surprises a lot of book with a list of hiking posts and a general people to discover that Hong Kong is mostly idea where I was headed. I was unaccomwilderness. Don’t get the idea that hikers in panied, as well, but luckily, in Hong Kong, the most densely populated location on earth you’re never far from a landmark. The only are pitching tents on slabs of Kowloon con- difficulty I had was choosing my trail from crete: the views of pristine, lush jungle on the the myriad on offer. There are more “culcity’s hiking trails are nothing short of spec- tural” cities in Asia, like Beijing, exotic ones, like Bangkok, or high-rolling glitzy ones, tacular. I didn’t have a guide, only a little blue like Shanghai, but what Hong Kong has is
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Bird’s eye view of Hong Kong
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seems to be a new vista that must be preserved. Passing undulating streams, jagged hills, and stopping to smell an abundance of wildflowers only a botanist would be able to name, it became a chore to remind myself that I was only about an hour away from civilization. While my guidebook was pretty clear on what path I should be taking, I ended up on an unknown side-route, where I stumbled upon an abandoned house that probably dated back to the 1980s. After snapping the shrine, the dusty chests of drawers, and cracked stairs, I hoofed it to avoid a different kind of snapping courtesy from some rather unpleasantlooking dogs. I didn’t complete the trail, stopping instead at Tai O, a little fishing village nestled in the coast. It’s in all the tourist literature for the houses on stilts. The scenery is charmingly quaint, but I didn’t take up a local boatPhoto by CFP
national park. Per my friend’s recommendation, I hopped on the subway and ended up on Lantau, the largest of the territory’s outlying islands. Most travelers only come here to depart: Lantau is host to Hong Kong International Airport. Others come for the plasticwrapped enchantments of the new Disneyland, and fewer still see the Big Buddha, a colossal bronze statue gazing over a gaudy tourist trap. In between these sanitized attractions are vast virgin fields, tiny fishing villages, and Lantau Peak, Hong Kong’s second-highest mountain, a vertical slog combined with postcard-worthy views of the island. There’s a trail that snakes around the entire island, requiring more than a day of your time but also accessible in segments for those on a limited schedule. The transition between urban beehive and absolute silence is disorientating – you start off in Central, get
off at the end of the line, and you’re on a bus, gripping the seat ahead of you as it swerves around Jurassic Park hills above seemingly bottomless chasms. Buses regularly stop to allow wild cattle to cross the road. The Lantau trail is well marked, but it’s tempting to off-road. The toughest thing about the trek is keeping your camera battery charged, as every turn around the bend
Photo by CFP
man’s offer of a tour – despite promises you pass a hideous coastal power plant, of endangered pink dolphins. I decided you’re alone, following footprints along instead to endanger some other sea life, a quiet trail throughout a rugged landand munched happily on fish-on-a-stick scape. Rugged cliffs give way to powderpurchased from a roadside vendor. soft beaches, which in the off season are The next day absolutely deserted. I was on the If you’ve brought Lamma Island trunks, there are ferry, on my way spotless changing to the rocky outareas and bathpost located thirrooms nearby if ty minutes from you wish to take the office towa dip. ers of Central. As I came to Nobody warned the end of the me I’d be traveltrail, sitting and ing thirty years waiting for the back into the ferry to take past - no cars me back to the are allowed on mainland, I came Tropical paradise with a power station Lamma’s roads, across a couple everyone travels Swedes on a by bike, and fences business holiday. I are plastered with “Philosophy Talk” ad- talked with them about their experience, verts and promotions for yoga classes. and they made more recommendations Hiking on Lamma is relatively easy: for places to hike that I hadn’t even heard you jump off the ferry, walk from one of, adding to my swelling catalog of junend of the island to the other, and take a gle-fronded jaunts. boat back to where you started from. The Yet as our ferry plunged through the first thing you see is a large, graffito wel- black waters dotted with the starlike come to tourists, a feature which seemed bright lights of Victoria Harbor, returnto have kicked off a trend for goofy ing me back to the crowded dock heavscrawlings which now cover most sur- ing with commuters, it seemed that the faces in the island’s inhabited areas. Once real jungle lay in front of me.
Getting There: Hong Kong is Asia’s foremost international hub, with daily flights to almost all major cities in China and the rest of Asia from Hong Kong International Airport on Lantau Island. The airport is connected to public transport by the Airport Express link to the city’s hyper-efficient MTR subway system at Hong Kong station. Pick up an Octopus card – also valid on buses, ferries, trains, and even in convenience stores. Train services run up China’s east coast as far as Beijing or as near as Shenzhen. Getting Around: Hong Kong is criss-crossed with hiking trails stretching from the main urban areas to the outlying islands and the farmland (yes, farmland) of the New Territories. Most of the trailheads are easily accessible by bus: look on the official MTR website to find schedules relative to where you are staying. The Dragon’s Back trail, widely lauded as one of the best urban hiking trails in the world, is easily accessible within Shek O Country Park, but different buses service different sections of the Hong Kong Trail. Bus No. 9 will take you to Stage 8 and the Pottinger Peak Country Trail, both sections with remarkable scenery. Lantau is accessible via the Tung Chung line, and buses to all villages are available from the terminus.
peng ci swindle With big cash payoffs to be had from personal injury compensation in China, injury fraudsters are becoming more and more common. Their scams, nicknamed peng ci, usually involve making an unsuspecting target believe they have caused an accident, and guilting them into paying cash compensation. The term peng ci literally means “to bump into porcelain,” and dates back to the Qing dynasty (1644-1911), when peng ci gangs would operate at antiques markets. Victims would be made to believe they had broken a piece of porcelain, and gang members would crowd around, chiming in with accusations and abuse in order to pressure the victim into paying for the breakage.
Modern peng ci scams may involve valuables such as laptops and cell phones, and gangs have been known to specifically target young women. In Nanjing, Jiangsu Province, even dog walkers have been targeted by peng ci. The city’s police have warned owners not to let their pets get too close to strangers, as scammers have been known to demand huge amounts of money for “vaccinations,” after claiming to have been bitten. 65-year-old Sun Wanxiang, perhaps China’s most infamous peng ci “artist,” is currently serving seven years in prison for extorting compensation cash from over 150 motorists over nine years. Sun, who is disabled, would deliberately walk behind cars while
they backed up, allowing himself to be knocked down, before writhing on the ground in floods of tears and demanding massive compensation. In total, Sun is alleged to have defrauded around 12.4 million yuan (US$1.9m). The use of peng ci tactics is not limited to individuals. Small companies have been known to use new media as a cheap method of accusing their larger competitors of wrongdoing, then taking them to court. Since 2003, Chinese Web security company Qihoo has received significant payoffs from lawsuits brought against giants like Baidu, Tencent and Yahoo China, and has now listed on the New York Stock Exchange. NEWSCHINA I July 2012
flavor of the month
China’s Cheese By Stephy Chung
e it stewed, marinated, fried, or brined, tofu is quintessential to Chinese cuisine. A visit to any local market offers this versatile soybean derivative contorted in a variety of forms, flavors and shades of cream and beige. Earliest records show that China invented tofu as we know it today over 2,000 years ago, making this foodstuff longer-lasting than 99 percent of China’s architecture and 100 percent of its dynasties. According to one popular theory, a chef’s botched experiment adding sea salt to cooked soybeans resulted in curds which, when shaped, were consumed as a prehistoric form of cheese. Later, ancient poets would write odes to it. As the staple became popularized in the West, mainly for its vegetarianfriendly, mock-meat, low-fat attributes, its name became contentious. The moniker “soy cheese” left dairy farmers up in arms, since the process of making the milky-white blocks didn’t actually involve cows. And fermented bean curd, the literal Chinese translation, is simply unappetizing. So we borrowed the native term. And so, tofu, the Japanese derivative of the Chinese word doufu, stuck. Sue Zhou, a 32-year-old chef specializing in Chinese cuisine, says that growing up, tofu was a mainstay on the dinner table. “It was quite important in the past because it was the cheapest source of protein, much cheaper than meat. We only ate meat on special occasions, or used offcuts to season dishes.” Zhou says that tofu’s popularity can also be attributed to the ease with which its main ingredient, the soybean, is grown. “They’re not like peanuts. They’re resistant to floods. They don’t go moldy. They’re plentiful.” China’s rising demand for soy makes it the largest consumer and importer of soybeans in the world. One-fourth of US-grown soybeans are sold to China. China’s dependence on tofu paved the way for regional variations and established it as a cultual mainstay. Legend has it, that mapo tofu bears a striking resemblance to the pockmarked face of the old woman who allegedly invented the Sichuan specialty. Her blemishes were rumored to be so unsightly that she was banned to the outskirts of the provincial capital of Chengdu. But her luck would change. One night, a businessman ducked into her home, seeking shelter from an angry storm. Delighted to have his company, the lonely old woman threw together the dish with her meager rations. It was an instant hit. Mapo tofu is stir fried in a starchy sauce of spicy numbing peppercorns and ground pork. Its buttery consistency seems to melt when served over hot, steamed rice and binds it the grains into toothsome, slightly oily mouthfuls. It’s easy to imagine it being the comfort food of travelers weary from heavy rains. Then there are the origins of chou or “stinky” tofu. Versions vary but most chalk it up to an unsuccessful food vendor who tried to store his surplus tofu in an earthenware jar. Some time later, he discovered the chunks
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to have turned slimy and green, but upon boldly ingesting the smelly creation, decided it was both delectable and marketable. Today, its offensive reek puts off even the most daring gastronomes, but still resonates among many Chinese. It’s commonly snacked on at nightmarkets – deep or pan-fried and served with chili or sweet sauces – just follow the silage-like stench your nearest outlet. But Zhou prefers her tofu “simple and straightforward” like the tofu she would eat while growing up with her grandparents in the eastern province of Zhejiang. Like many households in her village, hers had two heavy, round querns used to crush the soybeans, the first step in the laborious, and lengthy half-day process required to create tofu. These days, Zhou has exchanged quernstones for the more efficient blades of the blender. She leads a group of culinary students at The Hutong, a culture exchange platform in Beijing, on the fundamentals of making organic tofu. Taiwan native Vicky Zhou (no relation) is attending the class. A tofu enthusiast, she says she’s worried about food safety standards on the Chinese mainland and refuses to buy the widely available packaged, processed tofu. “Sometimes I don’t trust that the tofu here is sold fresh. It tastes like chemicals. So I wanted to make my own.” The constitution and flavor of tofu depends on the quality of its few ingredients: water, soybeans, and a coagulant. Gypsum is frequently used for emulsion, but can be substituted with lemon or vinegar, imparting a slightly sharp, sour finish. Dried organic soybeans are soaked overnight, doubling in size and weight. They are softened with boiling water and then pureed at low speed pulses to avoid scallding. The mixture is then strained through a cheesecloth – leaving raw soymilk and leftover okara, a foamy soy pulp resembling couscous. Flavorless on its own, okara is commonly used as animal feed, but its nutty texture can enrich vegan patties, stews, and baked goods. Zhou whips it up into a tasty, savory, soy-based pancake with egg, garlic, scallions and curry sauce. The raw soymilk is boiled and slowly thickens with teaspoons of rice vinegar. Much of the technique requires patience – the curdling soymilk needs to be stirred carefully, and controlled in one direction. After the soymilk sets, the curds are spooned into a mold and pressed into a desired solid. Silken tofu retains more moisture, while firm tofu sits for longer. Zhou serves the tofu soft and plain. She gingerly slices the wedge and generously pours a light soy sauce over the small squares. The tofu, still warm, is deliciously salty with a custard-like mouthfeel.
The Heavier Half of the Sky By Mike Thai
and, often, college, with parents often personally intervening to sever romantic ties between their offspring and fellow students that might, God forbid, distract them from their studies. Emerging into the bright lights of work and independent living in their early twenties, and the bombshell hits. You have roughly eight years to get married and produce an heir. Otherwise, you’re done for. In the paradox of a country that went from agrarian to money-obsessed nearly overnight, it seems as if many urban women are stuck between two worlds. Their parents’ and grandparents’ generations place high value on traditional gender roles and stable households. They themselves inhabit a world of pragmatism, business, technology and the challenge of upward social mobility. Some Chinese women, however, are choosing to find their own way, to “hold up half the sky” (to use Chairman Mao’s words) in the workplace and in society, instead of in the home. “I can’t go back to my hometown,” a thirty -year-old friend once confessed to me, “It is absolutely unbearable. I will fight with my parents about why I am still unmarried. They have tried to set me up with different guys in the past. I can’t tell them about my younger boyfriend in Beijing, they will go crazy.” For many of my friends, I feel the best way for them to deal with the tightening screws of the iron maiden that is parental pressure is to talk it out. In the moments that I’ve offered to listen, it was less from a place of sensitivity and empathy, but more from pure fascination. Maybe this is because few men have the chance to learn how the other half of the sky really lives. Illustration by Xiang Zhaohui
“I feel like there is a monster chasing me. are you getting married?” I was 25 at the time. Each year I get older, each year I approach I knew what pushy parents could be like when thirty; the monster gets closer and closer. If it came to their progeny’s love life, but was still I am still not married by thirty, it is like my at a loss as to how to help my friend. Part of life is over.” me wanted to offer to pretend to be her boyOnly after many late night conversations friend. Another part of me thought a hug with female friends have I slowly begun would suffice. to grasp the heavy and consuming burden Play the role? Give her a hug? Stride conthat young women fidently into the seem to face in cosliving room and Plenty of fretful Chinese parents demand that her mopolitan cities throughout China. are more interested in a man’s mother refrain from What begins as idle material assets than the contents pressurizing her chit-chat inevita- of his skull. daughter to marry bly morphs into a and breed? serious discussion I ended up makabout marriage and ing a surprised face. partner compatibilFor all of her 24 ity. More striking than the content of these years, my friend had lived under a domestic conversations is the regularity and cohesive- regime that maintained the implication that ness of their message. human worth decreases with age. Therefore, The concept of a shengnü or “leftover wom- the argument goes, it is crucial for a woman an” is a fairly recent phenomenon in Chinese to spend her “best years” finding the most society. The term refers to single women, over suitable match. Romantics assume suitability thirty, who are typically well educated, live in means emotional large cities and pull down a comfortable salary. and intellectual Many of these women naturally have higher compatibility. Plenexpectations of themselves and their partners, ty of fretful Chinese making dating a complex process. Others have parents, however, simply chosen to put their careers first. Such are more interested definitions, however, skip one crucial factor in a man’s material which hangs above the heads of every Chinese assets than the conwoman, married or unmarried, wealthy or tents of his skull. poor. The influence of familial pressure. As a daughter I once went on a trip with a platonic female reaches her midfriend to her hometown during China’s Na- twenties, a parent’s tional Day holiday. Shortly after we arrived, fear becomes inright before dinner, she pulled me aside, vis- creasingly palpable: ibly uncomfortable. hurry up and create “Mike, my mom bought so many new a life for yourself, things. A new television. A new sofa. Do you they say, otherwise no man will ever want you know why she bought them? It was because and you will be doomed to spend eternity she thought I was bringing a new boyfriend alone and miserable. home. I feel so sorry for disappointing her. I The time-frame in which to meet and don’t know how to face her.” marry a spouse is incredibly narrow in ChiHer mom once stopped me in the middle na. Young people, especially women, are of dinner and asked me point-blank, “When discouraged from dating during high school
NEWSCHINA I July 2012
Won’t Somebody Think of the Cabbie? By Robert Foyle-Hunwick
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theft, only to be met with a torrent of abuse. The driver, wanting no part in the oncoming storm, took off – straight into my clutches. The quarrel continued as we sped away. Things were supposed to improve in March, when the government promised it would begin pegging fares to fuel prices, guaranteeing vacations and amending punitive contracts. However, nothing so far has changed. This is possibly why I keep hearing stories like this: “We flagged down a cab near Jingshan Park,” a friend complained. “He kept us negotiating on the pavement for ten minutes before agreeing to take us, then bitched the entire way about how we were inconveniencing him, complete with a healthy dollop of offensive language directed mainly at [my boyfriend] and his association with foreigners.” That’s no fun. But neither is driving a cab. A 2009 China Family Planning Association (CFPA) study, in association with the International Planned Parenthood Federation, and published in 2010, found that 57 percent of Beijing’s 90,000 drivers suffered some form of impotence. The causes include 10-12 hours of physical inactivity a day, and excessive smoking. Their main source of entertainment and information, the radio, wants to offer some support, but is often hamstrung by broadcasting restrictions. A proposed CFPA partnership with the cabbies’ friend Beijing Communication Radio (BCR) on a sexual health information show was killed because, according to CFPA rep Qi Yuling, quoted in Xinhua, BCR “can’t talk about anything below the waist.” Wouldn’t you be in a bad mood? Illustration by Xiang Zhaohui
A lot of people have been grumbling about pick up their vehicles and then working 12the capital’s taxi drivers these days – not me, hour shifts, seven days a week, mostly due to though. Chinese friends say drivers are gruff the fees they have to pay their management to the point of rudeness, dishonest, smoke and companies. play the radio too loud. Foreigners complain There isn’t curthat some drivers won’t pick them up “because rently a free-market I’m white.” Both grudgingly agree that they’re approach to licensnormally lucky to even get a ride, given the ing taxi drivers, so dearth of cabs out on the streets these days. it’s pay (the quite Though I’ve had the occasional rotten oys- exorbitant charges) ter, Beijing’s taxi drivers are a pretty decent or join the compelot. Scratch that: they’re among the most tition, the fleets of long-suffering and lowest-paid public ser- “black” cabs that vants around. If you think a taxi won’t stop congregate around because your face is pale and your nose is big, stations and teneget over yourself: an April poll by sina.com ment blocks, chargfound that 94 percent of Chinese respon- ing far more than dents found it equally hard to hail a cab. the standard rate to There are plenty of side issues – traffic, gas compensate for the prices, more traffic – but the main reason for ever-present risk of a police shakedown. an overabundance of curmudgeonly cabbies Being the capital, the government prefers is that the job itself has become increasingly to keep taxi fees pegged below a sensible rate burdensome. Go back ten years and being to project the sense that inflation is firmly a taxi driver was aspirational: a respectable under control. Of course, the bargain fare gig requiring qualifications; decent, steady also means those with rising paychecks – that money; driving a car (still something of a is, everyone apart from taxi drivers – can inrarity back then, at least among the middle creasingly afford to use what’s also becoming classes) instead of working with your hands; a dwindling resource. empty roads with little traffic; and the chance The competition is becoming tougher to hobnob with the out there: it’s like diverse denizens of It’s like watching one of those watching one of a city, from stonythose savannah docsavannah documentaries when umentaries when faced wage slaves to preening foreign half-starved leopards suddenly half-starved leopstart attacking elephants. dowagers. ards suddenly start That was ten years attacking elephants. ago, when a ride was pegged at 10 yuan (11 Nowadays, people are cheating and fighting after 11pm, US$1.55/1.75) for the first three to get a cab. Case in point: I was standing kilometers. Since 2006, the cost beyond three at a downtown intersection, being ruthlessly kilometers increased from 1.6 to 2 yuan (30 “downstreamed” by people simply walking cents) per kilometer; while the rest of the econ- ahead of me in order to flag down oncomomy has moved on much faster. Gone are the ing cabs. This was pretty infuriating but it days when drivers would snooze through a came to a spectacular head when one of these two-hour lunchtime siesta – today, most will ‘downstreamers’ was abruptly beaten to the tell you, they don’t even start to make any door by a skinny man who simply ran out money until after a (hastily grabbed) lunch, in front of her. often commuting an hour or so each way to She grabbed his arm to stop the attempted
Cultural listings Cinema
Justified Resistance? After 30 years of Japanese colonial rule in Taiwan, a rebellion broke out among the Seediq Bale tribes in the island’s mountain areas. Bloody clashes between the Japanese army and the aboriginal warriors caused huge casualties for the invaders, but also brought the tribes close to extinction. Consisting of two episodes and a total length of four and a half hours, the film Seediq Bale was released in early May on the mainland, and received very favorable reviews for its honest depiction of war and its comparatively high production value. Directed by Wei Te-Sheng, a Taiwanese director noted for his 2008 work Cape No.7 which also explored the relations between the Japanese occupiers and the Taiwanese people, the lengthy epic is viewed by some critics as a formidable challenge to the one-sided depiction of the anti-Japanese war in many mainland-produced movies.
Chinese World Music Matures Hanggai, a band devoted to the modern reinterpretation of Mongolian folk music, released their fifth album this May. Blending khoomai (Mongolian throat singing), matouqin (a stringed instrument topped with a wooden horse’s head) and other traditional instruments along with modern elements, the band, founded in 2004, has become one of the most famous Chinese bands overseas, performing at music festivals in more than 40 countries. Entitled Four Seasons, the latest album, consisting of new works and reproductions of previous ones, maintains the band’s unique Mongolian style while adding a richer arrangement and more mature production.
Another Level 13 artists whose painting shares a similar style host a group exhibition entitled Transcendental Artists from May 19 to July 19 at the Shangcheng Art Space in Beijing. Based around the philosophical concept of transcendentalism, the abstract-realist artists paintings feature solid geometric shapes and bright, colorful lines. Directed by veteran painter Shen Weiguang, these young artists aim to express feelings beyond daily life and logic.
My Brother Wang Xiaobo By Wang Xiaoping
A biography of Wang Xiaobo, one of China’s most respected modern writers, was recently published by his brother Wang Xiaoping. With its detailed and truthful depiction of the writer’s childhood and young adulthood, the book provides readers with a close look at the life of “one of China’s most creative writers.” Born in 1952, Wang Xiaobo was renowned for his bold and humorous satirical novels depicting life under Mao’s reign. Yet Wang wasn’t widely known until he turned 42 in 1994, when his novel collection Golden Age was published, to massive popular and critical acclaim. Wang died of congenital heart disease only three years later, leaving China’s literary community in mourning. NEWSCHINA I July 2012
NEWSCHINA I July 2012
Chinese Universities: A Black Hole of Education Corruption in Chinese universities poses a great threat to the nation’s future. By Xiong Binqi
n a recent seminar on “the ideals of higher education,” Professor Qian Liqun from Peking University caused controversy with an assertion that Chinese universities have lost their ideals, and have become a training ground for what he called “sophisticated egoists.” “Smart, tactful, pretentious, they are skilled in serving their own interests through the existing system, and this will pose a great threat to China’s future,” said Qian. Indeed, those in China’s elite academic circles have become more and more skillful at creating and manipulating unwritten rules. For example, in recent years, many wealthy people have been keen to get their hands on the title of “doctor.” In order to be enrolled and awarded a doctorate degree, hopefuls will no longer bribe university faculty directly, as the method is now considered too vulgar. A common practice today is to invite key decision-makers to give lectures or speeches for a very generous fee. This way, both parties feel comfortable. In some cases, in order to be elected as an academician of a national-level institution, a substantial honor often resulting in abundant resources, hopefuls will begin making careful arrangements up to 10 years in advance. Instead of bribing the electoral committee, academics have been known to invite all potential judges to attend various forums and seminars, or to hire them as part-time professors or consultants (at highly lucrative rates) through their institutions, a method which has proved to be both effective and acceptable. It’s no wonder the new term “academic socializing” has emerged among China’s elite academic circles. With corruption so widespread, some researchers don’t even bother to be subtle. In early May, it was reported that Lin Zhihong, a professor at the law school of Wuhan University and a member of the university’s title evaluation committee, was beaten by Chen Shaohong, an associate professor of the same school, after
Chen failed to gain a professorship. According to the report, Chen claimed that he would “deal with” the committee members one by one, starting with Lin. So far, Wuhan University has taken no action against Chen. In another case, Liu Yibing, a member of a title evaluation committee in Hunan, semi-openly solicited bribes from candidates. According to the report, Liu checked into a local hotel and sent a text message to candidates: “Please prepare 30–40 thousand yuan (US$4,700 to 6,300) and send it to Professor Liu Yibing at Room 2408 at the Xintian Hotel tonight, before it’s too late.” In these two cases, professors behave more like gangsters, disregarding all morality, since they seem confident that their behavior will go unpunished. They may be right – so far, neither Chen nor Liu has been disciplined. In recent years, corruption within the academic circle has been conducted more and more openly. Nowadays, many university presidents are not at all shy about discussing their deals with officials. To a certain extent, having one’s bribes accepted by officials is now something to be proud of. China’s universities, which are managed like businesses, will degenerate into training schools for corruption, where education and academic resources are openly traded. Like a black hole, the higher education system sucks ideals and values from young students and researchers. Instead of educational enlightenment, all that young students and researchers can learn from these schools is how to secure one’s own interests at any cost. If serious reforms are not made in China’s higher education system, it will bring a spiritual and moral catastrophe to Chinese society. (The author is a senior editor with the 21st Century Business Herald) NEWSCHINA I July 2012
NEWSCHINA I July 2012
NEWSCHINA I July 2012