Runaway Brides: China's Cross-Border Marriage Market
Commercially Creative: Singer-Songwriter Li Zhi
TOXIC LEGACY Can a bold new action plan reverse decades of unchecked waste dumping?
Grand Designs: Belt and Road Initiative Goes Global
Volume No. 083 July 2015
Published by China Newsweek Corporation Publisher: Liu Beixian Executive Director: Liu Beixian
China needs to coordinate its new fiscal and monetary policies
Editor-in-Chief: Wang Xiaohui Editorial Office Managing Editor: Zheng Zhonghai Advisor: Liu Dizhong Senior Editor: Ruan Yulin Copy Editors: Jack Smith, Alex Taggart Lead Writers: Yu Xiaodong, Li Jia Editors: Wang Yan, Yuan Ye, Xie Ying, Sun Zhe, Du Guodong First Reader: Sean Silbert Address: 5th Floor, 12 Baiwanzhuang South Street, Xicheng District, Beijing, China Post Code: 100037 Tel: 86-10-88395566 Fax: 86-10-88388045 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org www.newschinamag.com Art Department Art Director: Wu Shangwen Art Editor/Designer: Zhang Dawei Publishing and Development Office China Newsweek Corporation President: Wang Xiaohui Chief Executive: Fred Teng Tel: 1-212-481-2510 Fax: 1-212-481-2503 Address: 820 2nd Ave, 3B-C, New York, NY 10017, USA Email: email@example.com Toronto Office Director: Xu Changan Address: 51 Halstead Drive, Markham, ON Canada L3R7Z4 Tel: 1-905-604-6150 Fax: 1-905-604-6170 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Marketing Director: Wang Chenbo Account Manager : Ren Jie Tel: 86-10-88388027 Circulation Manager: Yu Lina Tel: 86-10-88311834 Advertising Director: Gao Weiwei Tel: 1-212-481-2510 Marketing Promoter: Jerry Meng Tel: 1-212-481-2510 New York Office: Wang Yongzhi, Ruan Yulin, Deng Min Washington Office: Zhang Weiran, Diao Haiyang Los Angeles Office: Mao Jianjun San Francisco Office: Liu Dan Houston Office: Wang Huan London Office: Zhou Zhaojun Tokyo Office: Wang Jian Paris Office: Long Jianwu Bangkok Office: Yu Xianlun Kuala Lumpur Office: Zhao Shengyu Moscow Office: Huang Xiujun Manila Office: Zhang Ming Berlin Office: Huang Shuanghong Sydney Office: Zhu Daqiang Brussels Office: Shen Chen Astana Office: Wen Longjie Rio de Janeiro Office: Mo Chengxiong Johannesburg Office: Song Fangchan Jakarta Office: Gu Shihong Kathmandu Office: Fu Yongkang Legal Advisor: Allen Wu ISSN 1943-1902
NEWSCHINA I July 2015
s China’s economic growth rate has con- well. Not only should the government allow pritinued to slow in the first quarter of 2015, vate capital to enter the industry, but it should also the country’s leadership continues to look encourage the establishment of small and commufor ways to achieve economic restructuring while nity-level financial markets. avoiding a hard landing. The leadership also promised in With stagnation in the country’s the meeting that it would adopt A major reason exports resulting from rising labor a more “proactive” fiscal policy why small and costs and a decline in demand for by increasing public spending Chinese-made goods in the deand reducing overall corporate medium-sized veloped world, the government tax. Officials also re-emphasized businesses is now looking inward for a new the importance of investment in struggle to access source of growth. boosting the economy, outlining financing is that At a Politburo meeting on seven sectors where the governthe financial April 30, the leadership outlined ment would launch major insystem remains in two sets of policies it will adopt vestment, including information to boost economic growth and technology, power infrastructure, thrall to big State achieve economic restructuring. energy, health and elderly care, banks The first entails adopting a “baland industries related to environanced” monetary policy to promental protection. mote an influx of capital into the In implementing the policy, real economy, and while officials the government must learn from did not elaborate on specific deits previous investment strategy. tails, this was widely interpreted to China launched a US$4 trillion mean that the government will continue with its investment package in 2008 to boost the economy relatively liberal recent monetary policy. in the wake of the global financial crisis. While the China’s central bank has already lowered the in- package proved effective in boosting short-term terest rate and the statutory deposit reserve ratio economic growth, it has resulted in an array of new twice in 2015, and economists believe that both problems, such as massive over-production in varirates will be lowered again in the coming months. ous industries. By injecting more capital into the economy, it is China’s future investment should have long-term hoped that a more liberal monetary policy will help objectives like improving the competitiveness of China’s money-thirsty small and medium-sized the economy and promoting domestic consumpbusinesses, and support the country’s innovation- tion. For example, by investing in the education inoriented “Made in China 2025” strategy. frastructure of its less developed regions, China can However, to achieve this goal, China will need to achieve multiple goals, including improving the conduct an overhaul of its financial system. A ma- skill level of its labor force and reducing regional jor reason why small and medium-sized businesses wealth disparity. struggle to access financing is that the financial sysMoreover, the government needs to coordinate tem remains in thrall to big State banks, which lend its monetary and fiscal policies to ensure that capimoney almost exclusively to big State companies, tal and investment will move into the desired secmany of whom have monopoly power in their re- tors and industries. Otherwise, the combination of spective industries. a liberal monetary policy and increasing investment For a liberal monetary policy to be effective, may exacerbate the existing problems of inefficient China needs to liberalize its financial system as use of capital and excessive production capacity.
01 China needs to coordinate its new fiscal and monetary policies
Hong Kong Electoral Reform: Final Round Civilian-Military Integration: Priority One
Judicial Corruption: Breaking Down the Courtroom Door Overseas Rescue : Stronger Together
16 Water Pollution: Actions Speak Louder/All Bark, No Bite
P48 NEWSCHINA I July 2015
Photo by CFP
Decades of lax regulation have allowed Chinaâ€™s factories to get away with dumping toxic waste into the countryâ€™s rivers. Can a bold new action plan put a stop to water pollution?
32 China and India: An Asian Century?
58 New Openings
60 All You’ve Got
34 Vietnamese Brides: Closer than Heaven economy
52 54 56
Chi Zijian: From the Heart, Among Mountains Folk Singer Li Zhi: Music Businessman Modern Dance: Dances with Robots
NEWSCHINA I July 2015
64 Unmissable Yunnan: Minority Report
40 Belt and Road : All In/A Grand Chorus 48 Lost Documentary: Reel Resurrection
72 China’s FTZs can catalyze a new round of economic reform 04 MEDIA FOCUS 05 What They Say 06 NEWS BRIEF 08 Netizen Watch 47 China by numbers 66 real chinese 67 Flavor of the Month 68 ESSAY 70 CULTURAL LISTINGS
NewsChina, Chinese Edition
May 18, 2015
May 9, 2015
On May 3, a dashboard clip of a male driver physically assaulting a female driver went viral online. The 35-second video showed the man forcing the woman to stop her car before yanking her from the vehicle and kicking her repeatedly in the head. The incident took place at an overpass in Chengdu, Sichuan Province, after the female driver dangerously lurched across lanes and the male driver retaliated by chasing and verbally abusing her. Online opinion divided instantly, with many netizens condoning the violence, and even releasing the female driver’s private information, including driving records and check-in information at hotels. The incident de-escalated days later after both the male and female drivers made public apologies. In a country which sees 200,000 traffic-related deaths and 20 million new vehicles hitting the streets each year, 35 percent of Chinese drivers labeled themselves as “angry drivers” according to a 2014 survey by the Chinese Academy of Sciences Institute of Psychology. Road rage, which is now translating into online violence, reflects the current emotional state, mentality and social morality of China’s population.
China Economic Weekly May 4, 2015
Nuclear Power Strategy During this year’s “Two Sessions” in March, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang emphasized the importance of nuclear power in his government work report, saying that nuclear power will play a bigger role in improving the country’s energy infrastructure, coping with climate change and curtailing air pollution. After the Fukushima nuclear accident in 2011, China halted the construction of three nuclear plants, and controversy surrounding nuclear power remains. China Economic Weekly secured an exclusive interview with China Nuclear Energy Association chairman Zhang Huazhu and asked him to clarify the prospects of nuclear power growth in China within the government’s 13th Five-year Plan (201620). Zhang said that going global with China’s nuclear power has become a national strategy, but the country needs time to accumulate technology and brush up on management skills.
Ever since the Ming and Qing dynasties (1368-1912), Chinese people have nursed a passion for rosewood furniture, which the upper classes deemed a symbol of social status. Starting from the 1990s, the popularity of rosewood furniture resurged in China, with 2003-13 regarded as its golden years – in 2007, prices shot through the roof, increasing tenfold. China’s nouveau riche drove the rosewood furniture craze. As the biggest importer of rosewood in the world, China shipped in almost 1.2 million cubic meters of rosewood in 2013, mainly from Southeast Asian countries and Madagascar. This, according to China’s General Administration of Customs, fueled illegal logging in those countries. After reports of the prevalence of fake products surfaced in 2014, the bubble burst and both the price of and demand for rosewood furniture dropped sharply. Now, traders might have to rethink their commitment to the rosewood market.
Oriental Outlook April 20, 2015
Water Filter Concern On April 16, China’s State Council unveiled its much-anticipated Action Plan for Water Pollution Prevention and Control, intensifying the fight against contaminated water. Worsening pollution in recent years has also generated commercial opportunities — in 2014, 7.98 million water filters were sold in China with a sales volume of over 12 billion yuan (US$1.9bn), an increase of 145 percent and 67 percent respectively yearon-year, according to industry analyst All View Cloud. Nevertheless, China’s General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine surveyed 33 water filter producers in several provinces last year, discovering that 40 percent were not up to standard, partly because of high levels of arsenic and lead emissions as well as lowquality activated carbon. Low initial costs lured a growing number of producers to cash in on the expanding market, so tougher regulations by the government are expected.
Minsheng Weekly May 14, 2015
Online Diagnosis Ban In a bid to curb malpractice, China’s National Health and Family Planning Commission announced on April 12 that hospitals offering medical advice over the Internet should not provide online diagnoses and treatment. Commission spokeswoman Song Shuli elaborated that the ban will not cover online services provided by a few authorized hospitals to address the poor medical conditions in some of the country’s impoverished regions. However, insiders expressed that the government-approved online services won’t even come close to fulfilling this rapidly expanding market. Besides, the boundary between online diagnosis and medical advice is still blurry. The market size of China’s online medical services hit 11.4 billion yuan (US$1.8bn) in 2014 and it is expected to reach 36.5 billion yuan (US$5.9bn) in 2017. NEWSCHINA I July 2015
Illustration by Wu Shangwen
“Apple has violated the Internet’s spirit of openness, freedom and sharing by sealing itself off from other companies. A business model that stifles innovation will not survive this era.”
Jia Yueting, founder of major video portal LeTV, attacking market leader Apple. “Under the Chinese education system, we studied English from middle school through college. My English always earned me good exam scores, but it seems it is limited to exams.” Lei Jun, CEO of popular Chinese smartphone brand Xiaomi, responding to online mockery of his strong accent when addressing the crowd in English at a product launch in India.
“It doesn’t matter how many‘tigers’fall, people will not be satisfied with the country’s fight against corruption if we fail to drive away the‘flies’– the corrupt local officials buzzing around them.” Wang Rulin, Party secretary of Shanxi Province, calling for greater efforts to fight county- and village-level corruption.
“I cannot accept that the Monkey King sleeps with a female monster. Why do you have to assign a girlfriend to a traditional Chinese mythological character? Is it interesting? Funny? No Chinese person would ever do this.” Liuxiao Lingtong (stage name), lead actor in the 2016 Sino-US co-production Journey to the West, opposing the new concept for the film adapted from the classic Chinese novel of the same name.
“My salary was even lower than my husband’s income tax [from his IT job].”
“It is time to say goodbye to imitation.” Wang Shi, founder of real estate giant Vanke, arguing that the diversified demands of the Chinese market will force Chinese enterprises to innovate.
“The study of government-business relations in China should be more highly regarded than a doctorate. It’s a pity that no university teaches this subject.” Wang Jianlin, Wanda Group real estate mogul and China’s richest man, advising that Chinese businesspeople maintain an appropriate distance from the government.
“What is the point of pursuing fast GDP growth if people get sick [due to pollution]? We will have to spend all of that newfound money on treatment.” Xie Fuzhan, governor of Henan Province, expressing his dissatisfaction with his province’s air quality.
“While people complain about excessive government bureaucracy, this woman easily faked her way through it. How ironic that the government has so many complicated administrative formalities, but fails to prevent fraud.” CommentatorLiuXuesong,onanewsstoryclaimingthatawomanin Chengdu,Sichuan,hadswindledaboutUS$124,000worthofbankloansby employingdifferentpeopletoimpersonate hermotheratthelocalnotaryoffice.
Huang Yan, 30-year-old former deputy director of a county-level human resources bureau in Hubei Province, explaining why she resigned from her job.
NEWSCHINA I July 2015
KMT Chairman Visits the Chinese Mainland
Chu Li-luan, the new chairman of the Kuomintang (KMT) in Taiwan, visited the Chinese mainland from May 2-4, promoting a closer relationship between the KMT and the Communist Party of China (CPC). Before being elected KMT chairman in January, Chu had made two visits to the mainland, one in 1998 and the other in 2009, both of which focused on cooperation across the strait. That theme was retained for his May visit, during which the General Secretary of the CPC Central Committee Xi Jinping met with Chu in Beijing, emphasizing that the
mainland and Taiwan share a “common destiny”– a concept initiated by China’s former president Hu Jintao – and that exchange and cooperation across the strait is based on the “One China” principle, meaning that there is only one China, but both sides have their own understanding about what that signifies. Chu expressed full agreement with Xi’s emphasis on the bilateral exchange. He also attached heavy importance to today’s youth by delivering speeches at Peking University and Shanghai’s Fudan University, during which he indicated that developing mutual understanding between mainland and Taiwanese youth is necessary to strengthen ties between the two sides. Although Chu has announced he will not run in Taiwan’s 2016 general election, his meeting with Xi still caused a stir on the island. Before Chu’s visit, many Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) members, including the DPP leader Tsai Ing-wen, had criticized the KMT for making “relations with the CPC” too much of a priority, with some independence advocates even accusing Chu of “surrendering to the CPC.” Chu’s visit seems to have reinforced his stance that maintaining “a good relationship with the mainland” is a crucial policy to the KMT, regardless of whether or not the party is in office. Many Taiwanese analysts believe that Chu’s visit was actually part of an effort to give Taiwan more leeway to participate in international affairs involving the Chinese mainland.
China Issues Annual Report on Rural Workers
273.9 168.2 105.7
268.9 166.1 102.8
262.6 163.4 99.2
252.8 158.6 94.2
the country’s central region and 51.1 mil5 4 lion in the west. Numbers in the eastern and central regions grew by 1.6 percent4 in 3 comparison to 2013, whereas that in 3the 2 west jumped by 3.1 percent. 2 Around 43 percent of rural workers 1 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 were engaged in the service sector, with 1 2011 in Number 2012 of Rural 2013 Growth Workers 2014 the percentage of those working in trans- 2010 Growth in Number of Migrant Rural Workers portation, logistics, delivery, hospitality Growth in Number of Local Rural Workers and food and beverage rising in the country’s middle and western regions. Thanks Population of Rural Workers (2010-2014) to growing demand, the monthly income of rural workers saw an average growth of 9.8 percent throughout the country, increasing from 2,609 yuan (US$421) in Total Migrant 2013 to 2,864 yuan (US$462) the follow2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 Local ing year. 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 242.2 153.3 88.9
According to an April 29 report issued by China’s National Bureau of Statistics, the country’s population of non-agricultural rural workers numbered 273.9 million in 2014, including 168.2 million who are migrant workers and 105.7 million who have remained in their hometowns. While the total number of these workers grew by 1.9 percent, the report indicated that the number of those remaining in their birthplaces grew at a higher percentage than that of migrant workers. On average, rural workers are getting older and are better educated than in previous years. As for the geographic distribution, around 164.3 million rural workers worked in eastern China, 57.9 million in
NEWSCHINA I July 2015
China Once More US’ Biggest Creditor
China once again became the world’s largest holder of US debt, superseding Japan after it boosted its US Treasury holdings by US$37.3 billion in March, according to recent US Treasury Department data. This was China’s first increase in its holdings of US bonds since last August. After this latest acquisition, China now holds a total of US$1.26 trillion in US bonds, US$34.1 billion more than 1300 US Debt Held by China (US$bn)
Yunnan police recently arrested 10 suspects for killing and selling the carcass of a giant panda. Police also seized the panda’s skin as well as 9.75 kilograms of meat and other organs. According to the police, the chief suspects are two brothers who allegedly shot the female panda after they discovered it had harmed their goats. The brothers then allegedly dismembered the animal and sold its meat and paws. Analysts said that the panda may have come from Sichuan Province, home to many of China’s giant pandas, or it may be native to the region in which it was found. China’s Ministry of Forestry and related local departments have sent eight teams of experts to figure out if there are other pandas living wild in Yunnan. Given the giant panda’s status as a national treasure, the chief suspects may be sentenced to more than 10 years in prison based on the country’s laws on wild animal protection.
the amount held by Japan. 1269.7 According to analysts, China’s earlier dip was due to the depreciation of the yuan 1266.3 against the US dollar. Since March, China’s 1250 stockpile of greenbacks has been increasing due to a stabilizing exchange rate and falling imports. Despite the fluctuating index of the US dollar, analysts believe that the US dollar remains a safe investment for China 1200 AUG2014 SEPT in the short term.
1261.0 1252.7 1244.3 1250.4 1239.1 1223.7
Chinese High-Speed Rail Takes First International Step China Railway Group (CRG) announced on May 13 that it had succeeded in its bid to construct and design a high-speed railway connecting the Russian cities of Moscow and Kazan. The formal contract is scheduled to be signed at the end of May. The Moscow-Kazan railway will be 770 kilometers long and allow for speeds of up to 400 kilometers per hour. The group said it plans on finishing the project before the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia, for which Kazan is a host city. Once finished, the line will shorten the journey between Moscow and Kazan from 14 to 3.5 hours. This is China’s first overseas contract for its high-speed rail technology. According to CRG president Li Changjin, China will provide consultation and assistance in regards to the railway’s technology, design, construction and management. Analysts believe that the sanctions imposed on Russia by Western countries have given China a good opportunity to cooperate with its northern neighbor.
China Abolishes Price Controls on Most Medicines China’s National Development and Reform Commission recently announced it will abolish government price controls on most pharmaceuticals as of June 1. The new measure, according to the macroeconomic planning agency, aims to open up the market while maintaining price supervision. In order to keep the price of pharmaceuticals at a relatively affordable level, the Chinese government has adjusted pricing on nearly 3,000 kinds of basic and prescription drugs for two decades, only to find that the public still struggled to buy low-cost drugs, with many price-controlled drugs much more expensive than their official market price due to corrupt drug vendors inflating costs. While many people fear the new measure will cause a sharp increase in prices, analysts believe it will keep costs at a reasonable level through market competition. They also suggested including the social insurance departments into the government’s bidding process to further reduce the possibility for corruption and allow medical insurance to play a larger role in adjusting price. NEWSCHINA I July 2015
Photos by IC
Controversial A man in Urumqi, Xinjiang, infuriated dog lovers by beating a stray dog that had barked at his son. Animal rights activists hunted the man down and forced him to apologize and pay the owner’s veterinary bill. Some more radical activists physically assaulted the man, as well as his father and their car. Many netizens joined in criticism of “extremists” caring more about animals than people.
Song Bo, from Tianjin, aroused public sympathy when news reports emerged that he had been “raising” a blow-up doll as his own daughter for a number of years. Media reported that Song suffers from an intracranial arachnoid cyst, and has decided to live alone, keeping the doll in order not to feel lonely. Song often plays with his “daughter,” and takes her out for meals and on shopping trips.
In order to encourage its students to exercise more often, Chongqing University recently announced an initiative to award cash bonuses to students who have lost weight, with rewards ranging from 10-40 yuan (US$1.60-6.60) per half-kilogram of weight lost per month. By May 15, around 500 students had signed up to participate, 60 percent of them female. The PE commission of the university also organized morning jogs on campus, providing every participant with breakfast coupons and milk.
Li Lebin, a policeman in Qing’an county, Heilongjiang Province, caused a storm online by shooting rural resident Xu Chunhe dead, after Xu allegedly blocked the entrance to a local railway station, verbally and physically abused police officers who tried to remove him, and attempted to seize Li’s baton and gun. Many people criticized Li for unnecessarily discharging his firearm, while many others believed that the officer was right to shoot Xu. A government investigation deemed that Li’s use of his firearm was lawful and correct.
Poll the People Many netizens believe that current penalties for child trafficking are too light to keep children safe, while others argue that the root of the child trafficking problem lies in the low conviction rate for such crimes, and the lack of opportunities for NGOs or individuals to run orphanages. What is the best way to reduce child trafficking? Sentence more traffickers to death 75% (75,110) Improve social structures 25% (24,701) Source: view.news.qq.com
Most Circulated Post Retweeted 95,144 times by May 15 René Liu, a Taiwanese pop star, received the support of netizens after she published a post on Weibo to raise awareness of senile dementia, a disease affecting around 9.2 million Chinese people, according to official data from 2010. “Take note of the old men wearing yellow wrist bands in these photos. It means that they are suffering from senile dementia. If you see them walking on the street or sitting in a corner alone, please call the number printed on their strap to help contact their family members. Retweet this post to help them get home!”
NEWSCHINA I July 2015
Top Five Search Queries On
HOT? WHO’S NOT?
over the week ending May 15 New Drug 1,147,371
Police in Harbin, Heilongjiang Province, claimed to have discovered a new illegal drug, which causes users to bite other people “like zombies.“
Parade in Russia 610,921
An honor guard from China’s People’s Liberation Army participated in Russia’s military parade commemorating the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II.
Heavy Shares 607,335
Due to Chinese people’s continued enthusiasm for buying stocks, on May 8 the Shanghai A-share market saw its first stock priced at over 400 yuan (US$66).
A Beijing-based commercial data company published its rankings showing the relationship between graduate salaries and universities attended. Tsinghua University topped the list with an average monthly salary of US$2,100.
Lottery Scandal 439,113
A group of managers at a State-owned lottery website, zhcw. com, allegedly embezzled millions of dollars using various means, including insider trading.
Top Blogger Profile Tim Cook Followers: 639,943 “Hello China! Happy to be back in Beijing, announcing innovative new environmental programs,” was Apple CEO Tim Cook’s first post on Weibo, China’s Twitter equivalent, when he visited Beijing in early May. According to media reports, Cook – the first Apple CEO ever to visit China – aims to use Weibo to develop a closer relationship with the Chinese market. Thanks to China’s large population of Apple fans, Cook’s Weibo account garnered around 440,000 followers in its first day. Although Cook’s May visit focused on environmental protection, netizens seemed more interested in Cook himself – some even called him a “dream lover” or a “perfect husband.” Many netizens also offered comments on the iPhone 6 and Apple Watch, with some asking Cook to set up Apple servers in China. NEWSCHINA I July 2015
Some of the images used in this section are from the internet
Graduate Salary Rankings 524,372
Zhang Nengli, a 51-year-old professor at Wuhan University of Technology, shocked his students by lying on the floor and asking them to step over him. He told the students that he was trying to encourage them to challenge authority and power, which he views as a way of fostering creativity.
Hospital Tycoon Wang Tianchao, former director of the No.1 People’s Hospital of Yunnan, was recently alleged to have taken bribes in the form of over 100 houses and parking complexes. Media said that the majority of Wang’s corruption was related to construction of the hospital and the purchase of medical equipment.
Healing Husband 31-year-old soldier Lu Lei moved netizens by not abandoning his fiancee when she suffered serious brain damage in a car accident five years ago. After the two married, Lu spent all his time teaching his wife – who doctors say was left with a mental age of three – to walk, eat and speak. Now, his wife’s mental age has increased to five. Lu told the media that he will accompany his wife throughout her process of “growing up.”
Gun Runner A 19-year-old man was sentenced to life imprisonment for buying 24 imitation guns from a supplier in Taiwan. Many netizens saw the penalty as overly harsh, but the court claimed that most of the guns were just as dangerous as real ones, and were smuggled into the mainland illegally.
Hong Kong Electoral Reform
Hong Kong’s lawmakers and citizens are split over an upcoming vote on the central government’s proposal for establishing universal suffrage in the territory By Yu Xiaodong
lthough it has been several months since Hong Kong’s Occupy movement ended its street protests, the group’s focus – debate over proposed nomination procedures for the position of Chief Executive, Hong Kong’s highest political office – has continued to rage. According to the framework announced on August 31, 2014 by the Standing Committee of China’s National People’s Congress (NPCSC), only two to three candidates approved by at least half the members of a nomination committee will be allowed to run in elections for the territory’s Chief Executive. The nomination committee itself will be elected in the same way as Hong Kong’s existing election committee – by 250,000 individual and corporate voters chosen from four major commercial and civil sectors as well as 38 subsectors. As pro-establishment figures now allegedly account for about 70 percent of the existing election committee, opposition politicians are concerned that the NPC framework will effectively bar any pan-democratic candidate from appearing on a future ballot. After the Hong Kong government officially unveiled its electoral reform proposals on April 22, the situation has heated up again, triggering fresh debate and new protests.
Although the Hong Kong government’s proposal is within the framework specified by the NPC, it appears to have made some concessions to pan-democratic demands by dividing the nomination process into two stages. In the first stage, the nomination committee will consider at least five and no more than 10 “potential candidates,” who
would need only 120 “recommendations” from 10 percent of committee members to qualify for a second round of nominations. The second stage would see two to three of these candidates placed on the ballot after being approved by at least 50 percent of the nomination committee through anonymous voting. The government argues that this plan increases the possibility for opposition politicians to participate in the nomination process, and that by allowing an anonymous ballot, the process will guard against alleged political pressure exerted by Beijing on individual committee members, which had been a major criticism of the opposition. The proposal, which is expected to be subject to a Legislative Council (LegCo) vote sometime between mid-June and late July 2015, will need a two-thirds majority, or 47 votes, to pass. As the pro-establishment bloc has only a 61 percent majority in the LegCo, they need to win the support of at least four pan-democrats to pass the plan. In promoting the package, Hong Kong’s current chief executive Leung Chun-ying called upon opposition lawmakers to support the plan to achieve “one man, one vote,” which supporters of the bill have described as a “historic milestone” in the history of democracy in the territory. Admitting that the proposal is not perfect, Leung argued that Hong Kong should first “pocket” some democratic progress and seek to make improvements in the future. Leung warned that if the plan is voted down, it will deprive Hong Kong’s five million eligible voters of their voting rights as the city would have to stick to its current system for choosing a chief executive. Leung also urged pan-democrats to be aware that rejection of the proposed electoral package would postpone the realization of universal suffrage for the LegCo until at least 2024. Currently, half of the NEWSCHINA I July 2015
Photo by IC
Hong Kong’s Chief Secretary for Administration Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor announces the proposal for the election of the chief executive at a LegCo session, April 22, 2015
LegCo’s 70 members are directly elected by geographical constituencies, with the other 35 elected by so-called functional constituencies made up of 29 industrial and trade sectors. Despite the efforts of the government, currently there are no signs that the opposition pan-democrats in the LegCo will backtrack from their position, as they insist that the plan exists to serve as a screening mechanism allowing Beijing to filter out potential candidates whose interests do not align with its own. Currently, all 27 pan-democratic lawmakers have publicly reiterated that they will vote against Leung’s proposals. As with the territory’s politicians, Hong Kong’s population appears to be divided over the proposal. A poll conducted by the Hong Kong Research Association between April 22 and 24 showed that 61.3 percent of 824 respondents agreed that the LegCo should pass the proposed reforms, while 30.6 percent supported a veto. According to another survey conducted by the University of Hong Kong, the Chinese University of Hong Kong and Hong Kong Polytechnic University between May 10 and May 14, 47 percent of 1,129 respondents supported the plan, while 39 percent opposed it. Analysts believe that the large discrepancy (up to 20 percent) between various polls on the issue of electoral reform can be explained by the different wording used by various polling agencies. Although polling data universally shows that support for the proposal consistently exceeds opposition, they still indicate how contentious any decision is likely to be. It is argued that, as the reform proposal needs two-thirds majority support in the LegCo, rates of support among the general public would need to stand at 70 percent or higher to cause opposition lawNEWSCHINA I July 2015
makers to feel sufficient pressure to switch sides.
For many observers, the debate over the election of Hong Kong’s chief executive is a manifestation of divisions regarding a more profound question – namely, the fundamental relationship between Hong Kong and the Chinese mainland. While the pro-establishment camp supports closer ties with the mainland, wherein it argues lies the economic future of Hong Kong, many pan-democrats and young Hong Kongers argue that contact with the mainland should be minimized, with many blaming mainland social problems – including a widening income gap, rising housing prices and a perceived clash of cultures – on the influx of capital, immigrants and tourists from the mainland in the past two decades. In the meantime, a so-called “nativist” cell has arisen among young people in Hong Kong involved in the city’s democratic movement, which runs parallel with rising antipathy against not only the central government in Beijing, but also against mainlanders in general. Prior to and during the Occupy Central protests last year, some protestors even called for the territory to be returned to its former colonial occupier – the UK – with many colonial-era flags unfurled at the barricades in Central, though colonial Hong Kong was never a democracy. During recent protests against mainland retail tourists in February and March, the message that “we are Hong Kongers, not Chinese,” also took a prominent role, with mainland shoppers harassed and told to “go back to China.” According to a recent Reuters report, 28 percent of 569 students polled by Undergrad, the official magazine of the University of Hong
Photo by IC
Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor arrives at a press conference after unveiling her administration’s electoral proposal, April 22, 2015
Kong (HKU) students’ union, supported full political independence for the territory. Such a mentality, viewing Hong Kong as a separate cultural, political and even ethnic entity from the Chinese mainland, is believed to be a major factor contributing to youth opposition to proposed electoral reform. In the aforementioned HKU opinion poll, 63 percent of respondents aged 18 to 29 opposed Leung’s electoral reform proposal, considerably higher than the average rate of 39 percent recorded across all surveyed age groups. This apparent identity crisis has also sown disagreement within the pan-democratic camp itself. While Hong Kong’s democratic movement has long been considered an integral part of broader calls for greater democratic freedoms in Greater China as a whole, many are now espousing a different, less pan-Chinese view. On April 27, the Hong Kong Federation of Students (HKFS), a major organizer of the Occupy movement in 2014, announced that it will not participate in this year’s planned June 4 candlelight vigil in remembrance of the 1989 Tiananmen Square incident in Beijing. It has been hinted that the HKFS decision was made under pressure from students of member universities who argue that political movements on the mainland are irrelevant to Hong Kong. This is the first time that the group will not be officially represented at the vigil, which has been held consistently for 26 years.
With rising sentiment supporting independence among Hong Kong’s democratic activists, Beijing has made its position clear. For the central government, upholding the NPC framework is a matter of asserting its sovereignty and authority over Hong Kong. With such a mentality, Beijing is not arguing that the NPC framework does not serve as a screening mechanism. Instead, it is empha-
sizing its legal authority over constitutional change in Hong Kong and its practical concerns over what it calls the “radical” aspirations of the pan-democratic groups. For example, in a strong show of support for the Hong Kong government’s proposed reform plan, China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Hong Lei described Leung’s proposed reforms as “legal, feasible, rational and practical.” In an April 28 meeting with a delegation from the Hong Kong Bar Association, the territory’s top legal regulatory body, Li Fei, chairman of the Basic Law Committee in Beijing, said that the door for communication with pan-democrats would be open for as long as they recognized Hong Kong and the mainland as “one country.” In previous months, Beijing officials have repeatedly said that the framework serves to ensure that the Hong Kong Chief Executive will be someone who “loves the country and loves Hong Kong,” a line that pro-Beijing Hong Kong officials have repeated in campaigns supporting the proposals. On May 5, former chief executive Tung Chee-hwa said that those who challenge the legitimacy of the ruling status of the Chinese Communist Party “cannot serve as the Chief Executive.” By stressing that the screening mechanism mainly targets “extreme” democrats who adopt a confrontational approach to Beijing, the Hong Kong authorities are hoping to sway political moderates among the pan-democrats. On May 5, Fanny Law Fan Chiu-fun, an executive council member and former top aide to Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying, named moderate pan-democratic lawmakers Ronny Tong Ka-wah and Dennis Kwok as potential candidates for chief executive, citing their willingness to engage in dialog with the central government. Both Tong and Kwok took part in the Bar Association’s biennial visit to Beijing. However, this strategy has been criticized by some pro-establishment politicians as counter-productive, as, were they to publicly switch their stances, both Tong and Kwok could be seen as aiming to exploit a delicate political situation for personal gain. Tong himself responded that Law’s comments could put him under heavy pressure from his fellow pan-democrats. Both he and Kwok have since declared that they will not change their position. Now, with the timeline set and the battle lines drawn, both sides have promised to take to the streets to swing public opinion. Many are concerned that more Occupy-style protests will re-emerge, especially after protestors representing both sides clashed outside the LegCo building on the very day when the reform plan was announced. With pan-democrats already reported to be planning “the second Occupy” movement outside the LegCo building when the reform package goes to a vote, the Hong Kong police, it has been alleged, have made plans to mobilize 8,000 police officers during this period. Regardless of the final result of this contentious LegCo vote, Hong Kong may witness greater divisions within its already splintering society. NEWSCHINA I July 2015
As China launches its ‘Made in China 2025’ strategy to promote innovation, it is escalating integration between civilian and military interests By Xi Zhigang
n the past couple of years, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has unveiled a wide array of new generation weaponry and equipment tailored to the expanding needs of its army, navy and air force. Not only is China developing a series of new weapons systems – including a homegrown aircraft carrier and its first two stealth fighters, J-20 and the J-31 – it has also made major improvements across the board, reducing its arms imports, mainly from Russia, and becoming a major arms exporter in its own right. A recent rumor that Russia is interested in purchasing China’s Type 054 frigate has also led military experts to surmise that the quality of some Chinese-made hardware is catching up with Western equivalents. Analysts attribute much of this progress to the rapid development of dual technologies in China’s commercial center during its emergence as the world’s factory. Now, as China adopts a more assertive defense policy and seeks to transform its manufacturing industry to become more innovation-oriented, civilian-military integration (CMI) has been given renewed priority on the agenda of the country’s leadership. In a meeting with a PLA delegation on the
NEWSCHINA I July 2015
sidelines of the annual National People’s Congress (NPC) session held on March 12, Chinese President Xi Jinping, who is also head of the country’s Central Military Commission, called for deeper integration between State and private firms in order to meet China’s defense needs. Xi’s remarks were interpreted as having turned a decade-plus effort to fuse business and the military into national policy.
Efforts to integrate private firms into China’s defense sector can be traced back to 1999, when the country started to issue permits to qualified firms allowing them to manufacture military equipment. Prior to that, China’s defense industry, including the weaponry industry, aerospace, shipbuilding, and the nuclear industry, was carved up and ring-fenced by ten major State firms and their subsidiaries. Although the overwhelming majority of 540 permits initially issued went to Stateowned firms with very few private firms allowed access, 1999 marked the beginning of the gradual opening up of China’s defense industry to the private sector. After 2005, when the State Council issued a guideline to open the defense industry
to private firms in order to introduce more competition into perhaps the country’s most opaque industrial sector, some real efforts began to be made to deepen the impact of CMI. Currently, of the 2,343 enterprises officially certified to manufacture military equipment for the use of the PLA, 879, making up more than one-third, are private firms. However, CMI in China, as highlighted in Xi’s March remarks, remains in a “preliminary phase” of development. Not only are private firms forbidden from engaging in the development of what the PLA classifies as “core” weapons systems, they are also only allowed to supply auxiliary and peripheral products to the military, with the bulk of hardware still produced by an old guard of State-owned and -operated monopolies. While private firms may engage in the development of China’s most advanced weapons system – it is reported that radar-jamming composite materials used by the J-20 stealth fighter were supplied by a private firm – few commercial firms are equipped to meet the full range of needs of a modernized PLA. The most successful example case of entirely privately funded R&D in China’s military so far is a high-speed patrol boat recently adopted by the PLA Navy.
According to senior colonel Zhang Jian, an expert from the PLA National Defense University (CNDU), 85 percent of core military technologies can be used for civilian purposes, while 80 percent of commercial technologies, such as IT, microelectronics and aerospace tech, have military applications. However, the level of CMI in China, according to a report on the development of civilian-military integration published by CNDU, is only about 30 percent. In his March speech to the PLA, Xi called for CMI reforms that would “break new ground” in developing the PLA’s capabilities, adding that efforts should be made to improve both implementation and “top-level coordination.” There are signs that change is already underway. In May 2014, the PLA’s General Armament Department (GAD), the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) and the State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defense (SASTIND), three major agencies responsible for CMI, co-launched an industrial exhibition and forum with the All-China Federation of Industry and Commerce. Releasing procurement information for more than 200 pieces of military equipment, the exhibition attracted more than 100 private firms. Then, just one week after Xi’s speech, the PLA initiated an open bidding process through its newly established procurement website for the purchase of general and maintenance equipment such as storage containers, gas masks and field lighting. More than 20 enterprises took part in the bidding process, with a mix of State-owned
and private contractors ultimately winning out. The PLA claimed that the total volume of winning bids, valued at about 90 million yuan (US$14.48m), saved the army close to 12 million yuan (US$1.93m) on the list price of the various contracts. This move by the PLA, military experts believe, has set a precedent for open bidding on military contracts which could become standard practice in the future.
However, military observers have pointed out that the authorities would need to address some major political and technical barriers to achieving even deeper CMI in China. In the past, a major obstacle has been the secrecy which continues to shroud the country’s arms sector. This institutionalized lack of transparency continues to be justified as being in the interests of protecting the secrets of China’s military development. The relative lack of public information available on the country’s military is painted as an advantage over potential enemies who are often equipped with more advanced weaponry. Under this doctrine of secrecy, the PLA has traditionally been wary of private firms and the profit motive. As a result, private enterprises hoping to engage in the defense industry have to undergo lengthy assessments from the authorities. Currently, private firms need to obtain four permits and certificates from several different departments, such as the GAD, the National Administration for the Protection of State Secrets, and the SASTIND before they can legally enter the defense industry.
These certificates can take months, if not years, to obtain. According to an executive from Shenzhou Tianhong, a company contracted by the PLA to produce global positioning devices based on China’s GPS rival, the Beidou satellite network, the company’s executives, major shareholders and their immediate family members had to go through lengthy and strict background checks to obtain the relevant permits. Not only does a labyrinthine bureaucracy deter private firms from cooperating with the PLA, it also leads to a degree of information asymmetry, with the commercial sector intentionally kept ignorant of the needs of the military – needs that private firms might otherwise be better placed to fulfill than State contractors.
As China has become more confident in its military development, largely thanks to advances made in the domestic arms industry, the Chinese leadership appears to be ready to adopt a more liberal set of policies to allow more active participation from the private sector. The edge held by the private sector in certain fields, particularly drone and new materials technologies, is likely to be particularly appealing to policymakers. On April 3, the MIIT released a grand plan on deepening civil and military industry integration. It defined 12 concrete tasks, including formulating a five-year (2016-2020) plan for CMI. A major pledge is to simplify administrative procedures on industry access, with experts now predicting that the various NEWSCHINA I July 2015
Photo by CFP
Logistics equipment manufacturing, such as anti-chemical weapons tech, is one of the major military fields attracting private enterprises NEWSCHINA I July 2015
permits and certificates from various agencies currently demanded by the PLA will soon be streamlined into a single permit. The plan also highlights specific areas of innovation, including the new materials industry and application of super materials and carbon fiber technology in armaments manufacture, two key areas for cooperation between civilian and military manufacturers. More specifically, the MIIT also pledged to establish “innovation centers” in seven national universities and to support the transfer and industrialization of no fewer than 20 key military technology programs. It also vowed to draft policies and rules to facilitate the development of industries requiring military and civil integration such as civil aviation and shipping. As broad and ambitious as it is, CMI is also a major area highlighted in the so-called “Made in China 2025” initiative, a national economic strategy recently announced by the Chinese leadership. Focusing on promoting innovation, industrial upgrading, the integration of industrialization and information technology, “Made in China 2025” calls for the creation of world-leading industrial giants to make China the world’s number one manufacturing powerhouse in terms of both quantity and quality. While the details of China’s CMI strategies remain hazy, the country’s leadership seems determined to construct its own version of the US’s military-industrial complex. Its success will hinge on the military’s willingness to give ground to largely untested private interests in a vast and rapidly developing industrial sector.
toxic torr A
n increase in citizen reporting and NGO activity has exposed water pollution as of the most hazardous side-effects of Chinaâ€™s economic miracle. With heavy-polluting industries often forming the backbone of local industry, can the governmentâ€™s new action plan on water pollution clean the pipes without blocking the flow of development?
NEWSCHINA I July 2015
A paper mill discharges waste water directly into the Yangtze River in Anqing, Anhui Province, December 2013 NEWSCHINA I July 2015
Photo by Chu Zhiyong/CFP
cover story Water Pollution
Actions Speak Louder
China’s ambitious top-level plan to tackle water pollution has finally been released, but with so many interests at stake, can the the authorities make good on their promises?
Photo by CFP
By Wang Yan
Industrial runoff creates foam in a river in a town in south China, July 2013
n April 6, 2015, Jin Zhongyi, director of the Haining Justice Bureau in Zhejiang Province, posted photos taken that day of a section of the local Qiantang River on Weibo, China’s Twitter equivalent. The river water in the photos, rushing out from a dam, appeared jet black. In a telephone interview, Jin told NewsChina that his immediate impression was that enterprises in the upstream Xiaoshan area must have been dumping illegal waste water. With over one million Weibo followers, Jin’s post
was soon reposted hundreds of times, arousing the attention of the local Zhejiang provincial environmental bureau. Given that water pollution has been a chronic problem for over a decade in China, photos of dirty rivers are nothing new. However, Jin’s Weibo post happened to almost coincide with the April 16 release of the State Council’s Action Plan for Water Pollution Prevention and Control, a document long-awaited by environmentalists, aimed at taking the fight to those who pollute the
“From 2010 to 2012, over 50 percent of GDP in Hangzhou was contributed by high polluting, energy-intensive industries including chemical manufacturing, printing and dyeing, and paper making, most of them located along the Qiantang River, ” Hu Wei, Hangzhou Environment Protection Bureau chief said at the annual Zhejiang Province “Two Sessions” political conferences in 2014. NEWSCHINA I July 2015
NEWSCHINA I July 2015
added Chen. The Action Plan will gradually eliminate “backward” industries, including small, unqualified companies, indicating a desire to steer the country’s economic development onto a more advanced and eco-friendly path. According to Chang Jiwen, vice-director general of the Research Institute for Resources and Environment Policies at the Development Research Center of the State Council (DRC), only enterprises who obey the environmental law can survive this process, and thus local governments will be required to adjust their industrial structure.
Photo by IC
Hu further explained that since such industries consume and discharge large amounts of water during production, they prefer to build factories closer to scaled rivers or waterways. Low water costs are a significant economic benefit, and these enterprises have developed into local pillar industries. Indeed, Hangzhou’s Xiaoshan District, upstream of the inky river photographed by Jin Zhongyi, is famous for its printing and dyeing industry. The Action Plan addresses the phenomenon of industrial water pollution on a national scale: approximately 80 percent of China’s chemical and petrochemical projects are located along rivers in regions with a high population density. Of the 98 major pollution incidents in 2014, 60 were related to water pollution, and the number of “mass incidents” – the Chinese government’s euphemism for public protests – caused by water pollution has seen a significant increase. Facing a severe pollution threat from manufacturing industries, the plan makes the crackdown on industrial pollution the top priority of its total 35 major measures to combat water contamination. As part of the plan, many small companies that fail to meet modern pollution standards could be forced to close. The document calls for the closure of small plants that fail to meet pollution control standards, including paper mills and oil refineries, by the end of 2016. Meanwhile, 10 major industrial sectors, including paper-making, coking, nitrogen fertilizer manufacture, non-ferrous metals, dyeing and printing, food processing, API (active pharmaceutical ingredient) production, pesticide production, tanning and electroplating, will be put under special scrutiny as they adapt to clean production methods. Authorities will issue warnings to companies that discharge excessive levels of pollutants, and in some cases order the suspension of operations while improvements are made. If such companies still fail to meet standards, they will be forced to close. Starting from 2016, the authorities will publish the names of companies that have received warnings and have been shut down. Such harsh measures are considered a concrete follow-up to the newly amended
Various items found floating in the Yangtze River in Yichan, Hubei Province, April 2015
Environmental Protection Law promulgated on January 1, 2015, which will force operators in the relevant industries to prioritize waste water treatment. “Fines may do little to frighten polluters, but now they might face criminal charges, which will force them to pay attention to pollution control,” Wang Guoxiang, Deputy Chairman for Shanghai Electroplating Association, told China Environment News in late April 2015. Chen Yongqing, an official with the pollution prevention department of the Ministry of Environmental Protection (MEP) told China National Radio in mid-April that the rule would put industrial companies under public supervision. “We will use different methods to supervise different companies. The rule will encourage companies to shoulder their social responsibility. Companies that obey the law will receive public recognition, while those that break the law will pay a heavy price,”
The Action Plan, which was passed by central authorities on February 26, 2015, has been in development since April 2013, and draws on suggestions from 34 different government departments and assigns direct responsibilities to 15 different ministries. Aside from setting detailed pollution control measures in specific industries, the plan also requires cities to put extra effort into other aspects of water quality maintenance, such as treatment of “black and foul-smelling bodies of water,” and national tap water standards. By 2017, major cities will be required to eliminate unsightly and foul-smelling bodies of water. Some major cities have already begun taking action on this front. In Beijing, for example, various sources confirmed to NewsChina that a total 900 kilometers of the city’s waterways have already been cleaned, with another 680 kilometers to be cleaned within the next year. The notoriously sewagefilled Xiaozhong River in Beijing’s northeastern Shunyi District, for example, was undergoing a large-scale cleaning operation when NewsChina visited in early May. Shunyi resident Li Yun said that the work had somewhat alleviated the bad odor in the area. In terms of drinking water, the plan stipulates a comprehensive supervision process over water quality from source to tap, and encourages reform of water prices. Wang Jinsheng, with the National Environmental Emergency Response Team, said that these changes were significant. “There is now supervision of the whole process, which is a
Photo by CFP
Large numbers of dead fish lie washed up on a beach in Guangxi Province, July 2014
huge step forward. To ensure the quality of tap water, it is important to ensure the safety of the pipeline system. This will take huge efforts and manpower.” Similar to the National Action Plan on Air Pollution Control issued on September 12, 2014, the plan states that the authorities will list the ten cities in China with the best and worst air quality once a year.
However, industry insiders told NewsChina that some targets may be unrealistic. Xue Tao, deputy director of the Industrial Institute of the Environmental Academy of Beijing University and the E20 Platform, said that even in Beijing, water authorities are uncertain about the feasability of treatment of black and foul-smelling water. “Obstacles include both a lack of funding and a shortage of technological support,” added Xue. China has increasingly strengthened investment in environmental protection in recent years. According to Zhang Yong, vice director from the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), China has invested a total of over 920 billion yuan (US$148bn) in soil management, air pollution control and clean water initiatives since
2014. According to China Environment News, it is estimated that industrial waste water treatment investment will amount to over 100 billion yuan (US$16.12bn) in heavy polluting industrial sectors. Liao Zhimin, chairman of JDL Environmental Protection Co. Ltd. in Jiangxi Province, told China Environment News that since waste water treatment technology requires heavy investment, the industry is in need of scientifically sound and economically workable standards. For example, in the printing and dyeing industry, a large number of enterprises across the country have been forced to close down or downsize production due to the pressure of pollution control. Hu Kehua, from the China National Textile & Apparel Council, told NewsChina that the plan is both an opportunity and a challenge for the textile industry. Scaled companies can normally benefit a lot insofar as they can upgrade their equipment and technology in time; yet for small or medium-sized companies, many would be forced to either merge with others or close down. According to Xue Tao, the situation is compounded by China’s lack of affordable green technology. “The environmental in-
River water turned green by heavy metal pollution caused by mining in nearby Wushan Town, Guangxi Province, December 2014
dustry market is very much divided. While private environment enterprises enjoy mature technology in certain fields like desulfurization, denitrification and membrane technology, we have to admit the weakness of our existing technologies,” said Xue.
Enacting the government plan is expected to cost up to five trillion yuan (US$806bn) by 2020, creating nearly four million jobs in the process, potentially creating a boom in the water conservation industry. Chen Yongqing expressed to the media that the implementation of the Action Plan would be beneficial in many ways by revitalizing a flagging economy, creating new jobs and at the same time gradually improving water resources. “Water conservation, pollution control, ecological rehabilitation, ground water remediation, pipeline system construction... all of these will require a large amount of investment,” added Chen. “The Action Plan is the central government’s promise to our society, the goals of which cover many complex issues. The responsibility to achieve these goals cannot be the government’s alone,” said Professor Fu Tao, director of Tsinghua University’s Water NEWSCHINA I July 2015
Water Pollution in China July 2010, oil pipelines exploded in Dalian, northeast China, resulting in an oil slick stretching over 180 square kilometers of ocean near the port of Xingang. July 2010, floods swept some 7000 chemicalfilled barrels into the Songhua River, a major drinking water source for millions, in northeastern Heilongjiang Province. Despite the spill, officials claimed the accident “posed no threat” to public health.
Photo by CFP
Photo by CFP
June 2011, a massive oil spill from offshore wells operated by ConocoPhillips occurred in China’s Bohai Bay area, affecting over 5,500 kilometers of ocean.
A waste leak at a dyeing company led to pollution of the nearby Malan River in Ruma County, Luoyang, September 2014
Policy Research Center in mid-May, adding that the new dynamic will be “market-driven, with government guidance and participation from private enterprises and the public.” While most of China’s previous public water treatment projects have been built by private enterprises but funded and operated by the government, few of these projects have yielded satisfactory results. The government’s plan makes pioneering changes to allow private enterprises to manage contracted water treatment projects from start to finish. Since 2010, the central government has listed the environmental protection industry as one of the country’s strategic emerging industries. This March, during the “Two Sessions” government conferences in Beijing, Premier Li Keqiang mentioned in his central government work report that energy conservation and environmental protection have significant potential and should be pillar industries. It is estimated that in order to achieve targets around 4 to 5 trillion yuan (US$600800bn) will be invested by 2020, of which around 1.5 trillion (US$240bn) will come from various levels of government, with the rest contributed by social capital. Xiu Jun from the China Development Bank recently NEWSCHINA I July 2015
told media that the plan could potentially create a market in the tens of trillions of yuan. “Of course, there are many problems ahead,” said Professor Fu Tao. According to Fu, there is an urgent need for sound systems to combine social capital with government money, encourage technological innovation, assess performance and allow for government supervision. Presently, “build-operate-transfer” and public-private partnership models are most popular. Since the release of the government plan, Fu Tao and his team have been holding forums in various major cities, inviting private entrepreneurs to explore cooperation possibilities with the government. However, due to the market’s newness, there is a tangible hesitance among private investors – most are keen to see detailed stimulus policies before taking action. “The possibility for overall success is quite high,” commented Xue Tao. The government appears to be focused on improving the environment and supporting service providers in the environment sector – an Action Plan for Soil Pollution Control is expected within the year. While the effects of the water plan may take some time to be felt, it will not likely be due to inaction.
December 2011, mines operated by Jiangxi Copper Cooperation were revealed to have been discharging waste into the Le’an River for years, causing heavy metal pollution in both local water resources and neighboring arable land. January 2012, industrial waste from a local mining company flowed into the Longjiang River in Guangxi Province, causing cadmium contamination of a 300-kilometer section of the river and the Liujiang River downstream. February 2012, a cargo ship from Korea docking in Zhenjiang, Jiangsu province leaked phenol into the Yangtze River, causing local tap water to develop a pungent smell. May 2012, Tangshan Sanyou Group was reported to be illegally discharging waste water containing high volumes of soda, decimating nearby aquatic life. March 2013, thousands of pig carcasses were found floating in the Huangpu River in Shanghai, causing panic among local citizens. March 2014, tap water was contaminated with crude oil from a petrochemical pipeline in Lanzhou, Gansu Province. The oil leak poisoned the water source for the Veolia Water plant, leaking hazardous levels of benzene into the city’s tap water. September 2014, the Tengger Desert, China’s fourth largest, located in Inner Mongolia, was severely polluted by untreated waste from factories. Local authorities said loopholes in regulations were to blame.
All Bark, No Bite
Have China’s environmental protection departments really been given “teeth?” By Xie Ying
hree months ago, a video of a TED Talk-style lecture about China’s air pollution delivered by renowned Chinese journalist Chai Jing went viral on the Chinese Internet, not least for a segment in which Ding Yan, an official with the Ministry of Environmental Protection (MEP) called his own department “toothless.” Since its establishment in 2008, the MEP and its local branches have faced constant criticism for what the public perceives as feeble efforts to combat pollution, with environmental officials often accused of turning a blind eye, or even colluding with polluters. With China’s pollution problem becom-
ing increasingly intolerable for the public, the Chinese government has formulated a series of new laws and regulations over the past few years, aiming to “arm environmental protection departments with ‘sharp teeth.’” In June 2013, China’s State Council issued its Action Plan for Air Pollution Prevention and Control, pledging to curb emissions by shutting down heavy-polluting factories and forcing industrial adjustment. Ten months later, the government approved a new revision to the Environmental Protection Law, grabbing headlines nationwide by introducing harsher punishments for polluters, including unlimited per-day fines, and criminal
charges for serious violators. Tough measures continued with the release of the latest Action Plan for Water Pollution Prevention and Control issued in April, 2015, which not only mandates the closure of factories unable to install pollution control equipment, but also sets specific pollution control indices and tasks for each of the relevant departments. According to incomplete statistics from the MEP, within the first two months following the promulgation of the new Environmental Protection Law, the ministry had imposed per-day fines on at least 15 polluters, took control of around 136 factories, closed another 122, and handed over 107 criminal NEWSCHINA I July 2015
Photo by CFP
Residents of Lanzhou, capital of Gansu Province, line up for clean drinking water provided by the local government after water resources in the area were reported to contain excessive levels of benzene, April 12, 2014
suspects to the police. “Many polluting enterprises had previously ignored environmental protection laws and regulations, since the small fines had a negligible impact on their operations and production, while ‘daily-basis’ fines are a much more effective method of prevention,” Xie Zhenhua, China’s lead negotiator for the UN Climate Change Conferences, told the China Youth Daily during the 2015 sessions of the Chinese government’s political advisory and legislative conferences, also known as the “Two Sessions.” “The next key task is to ensure the implementation of the laws and regulations,” he NEWSCHINA I July 2015
added. Many experts agree with this sentiment, particularly given President Xi Jinping’s recent proclamation that “the dignity of the law lies in implementation.” Given China’s evident previous failure to control pollution, many experts and critics are questioning whether environmental protection departments are even capable of using their new “teeth.”
Such worries came to the fore recently as the Tengger Desert, China’s fourth largest desert that stretches between Inner Mongo-
lia and Gansu Province, was exposed to have been polluted by local industrial and trade company Ronghua. According to media reports, Ronghua allegedly discharged over 80,000 tons of waste water into the desert from secret pipes that had been laid illegally, leading the public to question why the company had dared to pollute the desert despite the government’s tightened control. “Local residents reported [Ronghua’s] pollution to the provincial environmental protection bureau as early as September 2014, when Gansu Province was conducting an anti-pollution campaign. However, the bu-
Photo by Xinhua
A drinking water reservoir serving over 50,000 people in Wushan County, Chongqing, has been polluted with industrial runoff, August, 2014
reau simply transferred the case to a lowerlevel bureau, which turned a blind eye to the report,” ran a report by the official Xinhua News Agency. Many analysts have pointed out that the new powers bestowed upon the environmental protection departments are not effective enough, partly due to a lack of pollution control experience and expertise, and partly due to the polluters and officials’ weak general awareness of environmental protection. “With their current capabilities, the environmental protection departments seem unable to meet the urgent need for strict pollution controls, and to carry out duties and functions with which the new laws and regulations have endowed them,” Qi Xuekun, policy and regulation director with the environmental protection bureau in Jinan, Shandong Province, told local media. Qi Xuekun’s words were echoed by Li Chunyuan, environmental protection director of Langfang, Hebei Province, who shot to
fame with his book The Smog Comes, which tells fictional – although uncannily realistic – stories centering on a county-level environmental protection official. In the book, Li highlighted the dilemma faced by Chinese environmental protection departments, as the protagonist is repeatedly obstructed by the county mayor in his efforts to control pollution. Although the book was defined as a novel, Li told NewsChina that most of the stories are based on what he had experienced and heard. “Environmental protection has become a hot potato that few officials are willing to touch,” Li said. “If an environmental protection director wants to fight against pollution, he might be under pressure from higher-level officials, while if he wants to keep his position, he may have to yield to the inevitability of pollution,” he added. According to media reports, pollution has remained the norm in the Tengger Desert since 1999 when the local government es-
tablished an industrial zone to attract investment. Before the exposure of the Ronghua pollution scandal, many other factories in the area were revealed to have left raw sewage to evaporate in the open air and buried the residue under the desert sand, an accusation that local officials had denied until President Xi Jinping ordered a nationwide investigation into pollution. In order to push local governments to care more about pollution control, the latest antipollution laws and regulations have made “green GDP” a performance assessment criterion for officials, with many lower-level officials complaining that the situation on the ground is far more complex than their superiors may believe. For example, given the relative poverty of many of China’s western regions, local governments are often reluctant to shut down the polluting companies, particularly big taxpayers. Xiong Yuehui, an MEP official, told Chai Jing, the journalist whose pollution lecture went viral, that Hebei Province, a Chinese steel base where unlicensed steel plants employed hundreds of thousands of locals, was a particularly tough nut to crack. Given China’s prioritization of rapid GDP growth over the past decade, the MEP and its local branches have been marginalized and their ambitions made subordinate to those of the ministries of finance, education and commerce, among others, making it difficult for environmental protection departments to receive support and cooperation from the other departments. In January 2015, the same month the new Environmental Protection Law took effect, a group of environmental protection officials in Xiangtan, Hunan Province, were reported to have been physically assaulted by officers from a local urban management bureau that refused to issue a fine to a garbage dump under its jurisdiction. More recently, a villagelevel Party secretary in Dongming County, Shandong Province, was revealed to have led NEWSCHINA I July 2015
While the public reacted positively to the granting of increased power to the MEP and its branches, many have expressed concern that these departments may misuse their new “teeth,” alleging that corruption might be NEWSCHINA I July 2015
Photo by CNS
a group of people in an assault on six local environmental protection officials who were investigating the illegal discharge of sewage into local drinking water. When formulating environmental policy, such as setting gasoline quality standards, for example, the MEP is often shut out of the planning committee, with relevant industrial commissions instead taking a leading role. Worse still, many regulations or articles relating to environmental pollution fail to clarify which department should have authority over pollution control, leading the relevant departments to shift responsibilities onto each other when pollution is discovered. As a result, environmental protection departments often shoulder the majority of the blame. Perhaps for this reason, the latest Action Plan for Water Pollution Prevention and Control clarifies the responsibilities and tasks of relevant departments to ensure the environmental protection department has sufficient support in its efforts to fight pollution. At the Third Plenary Session of the 18th Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC), General Secretary Xi Jinping proposed that one department be placed in charge of overseeing the protection and recovery of all State land, including mountainous areas, water, forestry and farmland. State media have reported that the MEP has established a reform team, which will be responsible for working out an overall anti-pollution plan. “We have to turn ‘iron-fisted’ measures into the status quo. Laws and regulations are not mere scraps of paper,” Chen Jining, China’s minister of environmental protection, pledged in a recent press conference.
The local government of Hezhou, Guangxi, demolishes illegal mining plants located beside local rivers
the primary reason behind the local government’s inaction regarding the pollution of the Tengger Desert. Actually, numerous media reports have revealed how environmental protection officials or government-backed environmental assessment organs have colluded with polluters – a major reason why more and more local residents tend to protest any chemical project located beside their homes no matter whether its owners hold a government permit or not. In March 2015, Liu Xiangdong, former director of the environmental protection bureau of Shanxi Province who complained about his department’s lack of power in Chai Jing’s lecture video, was detained for alleged corruption. Public supervision, an aspect of pollution control that has traditionally been actively discouraged, has now been made a higher priority. “Why are we unable to solve so many pollution problems without the decree of top leaders, while public and media supervision remain an empty shell?” questioned commentator Hu Xianda on popular online message board Tianya. The central government has already ac-
knowledged the problem and made some initial improvements to laws and regulations. The new Environmental Protection Law, for example, emphasizes transparency in the publication of environmental protection information and allows environmental NGOs legal recourse to deal with pollution. The MEP has set up a pollution reporting platform within popular instant messaging and social media smartphone app WeChat. However, in terms of making provisions for public and media supervision of pollution, the recent laws and regulations are relatively less detailed and feasible. “[The Environmental Protection Law] is just the first step of the long-term anti-pollution journey, and we have a lot of problems to solve in the future, especially about the public’s and NGOs’ involvement in pollution control,” Chang Jiwen, vice-director general of the Research Institute for Resources and Environment Policies under the State Council, told the China Youth Daily. “It is natural that the new law will place pressure on both enterprises and officials, since both sides need time to adapt to the new situation,” he added.
Breaking Down the Courtroom Door
A lack of transparency and a rigid hierarchy is fostering corruption among China’s courts. Can the authorities force internal court politics into the light? By Ma Jing
Photo by CFP
ment, becoming the highn the first four est ranking judicial official months of 2015, at to be convicted of a crime least 10 presidents since the founding of the or vice-presidents of ChiPeople’s Republic of Chinese courts at different na in 1949. levels were investigated or formally disciplined, bringing the rate of inAuthority vestigations resulting in According to China’s criminal charges between Judges Law and the OrJanuary 2008 and April ganic Law of the People’s 2015 to 93.57 percent, Courts – the two main 33 percent of which were statutes governing China’s for “violation of law and judiciary branch – the auJudges from Shenzhen Intermediary Court publicly take their vows on China’s first discipline,” and 10 per- Constitution Day, December 4, 2014 thority of Chinese judicial cent for “serious disciofficials falls under three plinary violations.” main jurisdictions: trials, China currently has 32 personnel and administrahigh courts, including one military court, 409 intermediate courts, tive management. In all Chinese courts, however, the court president and 3,117 local courts. Among the judicial officials to have fallen in retains the highest authority. the past eight years, 67 were from local courts, 21 from intermediate He Bing, law professor at the China University of Political Science courts, four from high courts and one from China’s Supreme People’s and Law, told NewsChina that judges have the fundamental right to Court (SPC). Based on public data, NewsChina found that among conduct trials independently, and that only particularly complex cases closed cases, 60 percent involved bribe-taking, corruption and the are turned over to the judicial committee, and, by extension, the overlarge-scale acquisition of illicit assets. sight of the court president or vice-president. Huang Songyou, former vice-president of the SPC, was jailed for Nevertheless, He claims that because court leaders are authorized life in 2010 after being found guilty of corruption and embezzle- to appoint a presiding judge at trial and assess the performance of all
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judges, their relationship is, in practice, rigidly hierarchical. What’s more, court leaders also have the right to make judicial decisions, and the right to supervise trials. Sometimes, for example, publication of details relating to cases that do not require referral to a judicial committee have to be signed off by the court president. Chen Yongsheng, law professor at Peking University, told NewsChina that an unavoidable consequence of this structure is that “if a court leader wants to, he or she can play a role in any trial he or she likes, resulting in widespread bribery.” In February 2011, the SPC published a number of regulations aiming to prevent court officials from interfering in due process, requiring judges to file a written record of their involvement in cases for which they were not responsible. In February 2015, the SPC made public its fourth set of reform guidelines (for the period 2014-2018) in which it stated that all written records made under the supervision of court presidents and presiding judges must be properly filed; an attempt to introduce a system of checks and balances into the court system. In 2013, the Intermediate People’s Court of Kaifeng, Henan Province, conducted a survey of 240 judges in the city to determine the effects of this new mechanism. They found that only 25 percent of respondents were familiar with the new regulations, while 22 percent were aware of them, but paid them no attention. 48 percent of respondents claimed to be completely unaware of the regulations. According to the court’s research group, the reason for this lack of awareness was that the boundary between legal and illegal involvement in trials remains blurry. What’s more, court presidents or vicepresidents all possess the means to deliberately prevent their illegal activities from being documented.
Peking University law professor Zhang Qianfan told our reporter that a main contributer to judicial corruption is the lack of transparency in the legal system. “Absence of judicial transparency is seen in the court’s unwillingness to disclose trial decisions,” he said. In addition, some courts even “hire people to sit in on trials in order to occupy more seats in the courtroom, insulating themselves against public oversight.” In 1998, the SPC stipulated that in civil and economic cases, judges are not allowed to privately contact either party or their legal counsel. But in reality, violations abound. Professor Chen Yongsheng has found that compared to courts, heads of procuratorates and lower-level procurators are less likely to be involved in corruption. Chen told NewsChina that a main reason for the difference is that procuratorates are mainly responsible for prosecuting criminal cases. The checks and balances between public security and the procuratorate authorities are “relatively strong,” according to Chen. “In criminal proceedings, the only way for a procuratorate to illegally interfere with a trial is to refuse to file a case,” Chen told NewsChina. “But this [decision] still falls under the supervision of the public security department, leaving little opportunity for the procura-
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torate to break laws and regulations.” In comparison, courts have more space to exercise discretionary power. For example, a judge can hand down a maximum prison sentence of 10 years for robbery. In civil cases, however, judges have more room to individually determine the amount of compensation involved. In China’s current legal context, Chen said, court presidents are elected and dismissed by their relevant People’s Congress, whose delegates usually have a five-year tenure. The problem, Chen claims, is that “after the annual congress, delegates return to their regular jobs, and can hardly be expected to continue to fulfill their supervisory duties.”
Between 2006 and 2013, Zuo Weimin, law professor at Sichuan University, conducted research into the role of court leaders. He found that the majority of leaders’ work pertained to management and politics rather than the law, at least according to feedback from judges, lawyers and the public. The higher the court, the more obvious the managerial role played by its leaders. Zuo Weimin also found that among the 31 high court heads he surveyed in 2008, only 13 had experience conducting trials, a number that had fallen to 10 by 2013. That year, in another survey of 40 intermediate court leaders in two provinces, Zuo found that only 60 percent had experience working in the judicial system. Of those who did, many had no experience conducting trials. A high court judge, who spoke to NewsChina on condition of anonymity, said that court leaders generally play the role of a “behind the scenes coordinator, especially in situations involving specific ‘connections.’” Even though Professor Zuo’s research did not identify any direct link between the role of court leaders and corruption, some law professors believe that the judicial system has developed a bureaucratic hierarchy in which court leaders hold paramount authority. “In some developed countries, the president of a court is usually the chief judge, who presides over trials. Some cases heard by court leaders are used as case studies in law schools,” Jiang Ming’an, law professor at Peking University told NewsChina, adding that in China, it was likely to be a different story. Jiang said that public trials conducted under civil supervision in which each party’s right to appeal is safeguarded are a good way to weed out judicial corruption. He said that the SPC has been taking steps to promote transparency, particularly in recent years, including the live microblogging of the trials of disgraced former Chongqing Party chief Bo Xilai, the promotion of the judicial system as well as the practice of simultaneous publication of verdicts by courts at different levels in 2014. Professor Jiang emphasized the importance of promoting conscientiousness within the legal community, particularly at universities. “When everyone in the legal circle is aware of the rules governing everyone else, engaging in corruption will be a bigger risk.”
China’s overseas rescue work in Nepal has highlighted the need for better coordination between the country's upstart relief teams By Xu Fangqing in Kathmandu
arly on the morning of May 1, 2015, two young Nepalese men came to Wu Hao’s office in Thamel, Kathmandu. They had ridden a motorcycle from the northern part of the capital, 30 kilometers away, to seek help. Nearly a week had passed since a devastating 8.1-magnitude earthquake struck Nepal on April 25, but the men’s village of 1,500 people had received no assistance, other than a call from the police to ask the number of casualties. Pokhara, a tourist city 200 kilometers west of Kathmandu, was the epicenter of the quake. While at least 28 countries and international rescue organizations dispatched teams to Nepal as soon as the news broke, it was five days before the first batch of aid arrived in the most severely hit areas.
On May 2, the UN disclosed that the quake had claimed over 7,000 lives, that 160,000 buildings had collapsed and 140,000 were seriously damaged, and that over three million people were left in need of food. Born in 1982 and a Kathmandu resident for two years, Wu is a founder of C-Center, an international language school in the Nepalese capital. His office, staffed by six Chinese and two Nepalese, decided to join the rescue effort in two teams – one headed to survey the damage to cultural relics in Nepal, and another, led by Wu, aiming to assess casualties in the worst-hit regions – before contacting rescue teams from China. On May 2, Wu rented an SUV and drove to the village where the two Nepalese men lived. Wu gave the village leader and some local young men a registration form, and
taught them how to collect disaster information, as well as some basic emergency survival skills. After the quake, more than 20 rescue teams from China set out for Nepal, joining a number of Nepal-based Chinese enterprises who had already begun rescue work. In addition to the official China International Search and Rescue Team (CISAR), the remainder were all private organizations. The information provided by Wu served as a briefing for these teams upon their arrival in the area.
Despite its modest, 20-strong passenger manifest, on April 29, Air China flight CA437 from Chengdu, Sichuan to Kathmandu was delayed due to the need for a larger aircraft – the airline had not anticipatNEWSCHINA I July 2015
Photo by Niranjan Shrestha
Photo by Zhang Hao
The devastated facade of Fasidega Temple in Kathmandu after the quake, April 28, 2015
ed so much cargo. “The aid packages overloaded the [smaller] plane,” a crew member, speaking on condition of anonymity, told NewsChina. Besides reporters and Nepalese people returning from China to Nepal, all of the plane’s passengers were rescue workers, including a nine-member group of experts headed by Cui Peng, an academician from the Chinese Academy of Sciences and an expert in “secondary disasters” like landslides. Cui had participated in the rescue effort following the 2008 Wenchuan earthquake in China’s Sichuan Province. Du Ruihai, general manager of the overseas branch of China Railway Shisiju Group Corporation (CRSGC), was initially prevented from boarding the plane because his relief cargo was too heavy, but was given the green light after the airline learned that he was inNEWSCHINA I July 2015
tending to join the rescue effort in Nepal. The second day after the quake, Dong Guangxian, a CRSGC project manager in Nepal working to build an Armed Police Forces Academy, received a call from the head of the Nepalese armed police forces, seeking heavy equipment for use in the rescue effort. The company instantly dispatched an excavator, a truck loader and local staff. “I was soaked with sweat even before work began,” said 30-year-old Liu Mingkui, the excavator driver, recalling the experience of working to find bodies. Within a week, Liu and his colleagues had excavated a dozen bodies. Like Du Ruihai, Yu Shaoning, PR manager for Chinese telecom giant Huawei in Nepal, arrived in Kathmandu shortly after the quake from Thailand where he had been
A monk carries a sacred statue to safety, Kathmandu, April 30, 2015
on a business trip. As the main equipment provider for Ncell and NTD, two major mobile operators in Nepal, Yu said the main task for Huawei was to ensure the stability of core communication networks. “If a base station breaks down, it will affect a specific area, but if the core networks break down, all telecommunications in Nepal are likely to be paralyzed,” Yu told NewsChina. While a number of base stations broke down in the worst-hit region, Nepal’s communication networks were not interrupted for an extended period of time. Five days after the quake, several Ncell and NTD telecommunications offices in the capital resumed business.
On May 1, the day China’s private Blue
Sky Rescue Team (BSRT) arrived in Nepal, the team dug out a total of 24 bodies. While inspecting a collapsed building, the team discovered the body of a victim whose legs were trapped beneath rubble. When Nepalese military staff advised rescuers to cut the legs, the rescue team refused. “Our rescue team members placed a mattress over the body and spent six hours digging the victim out,” Yuan Shan, head of BSRT told NewsChina. “It takes both professional skills and respect for life when searching for survivors and bodies.” China’s official CISAR team in one case spent 34 consecutive hours working to save a single survivor. “It is impossible for a rescue team to work independently without rescue dogs. Life detection instruments alone are insufficient. It is difficult to find survivors buried deep in the rubble without using both,” Qu Guosheng, deputy director of CISAR, told NewsChina in Kathmandu.
Qu, also chief engineer of China’s National Earthquake Response Support Service, pointed out that CISAR arrived in Nepal the second day after the quake, one of the first rescue teams to arrive. “CISAR has obvious advantages in organizing rescue work [compared with private ones]. We coordinated our work deep into the night and took off for Nepal early the next morning,” Mi Hongliang, spokesman for the China Earthquake Administration, told NewsChina. Mi said that an important yardstick to gauge whether an international rescue team is qualified or not is its capacity for self-sufficiency and independent work. Currently, China’s private rescue teams fail to meet this requirement, according to Mi. While the Wenchuan earthquake in 2008 sparked explosive growth in China’s private rescue teams, even BSRT, the leading private team, lacks its own tents.
“There is still much room for China’s private rescue teams to improve. Leading international rescue teams have their own bags, outfits and equipment,” Yuan Shan said. “The most important indicator of a good rescue team, however, is its determination, which is not directly linked to money, equipment and aid packages.”
Wu Hao and his team agreed upon a guiding principle: never to take on any task in excess of their capacities. They set up a public account on popular Chinese social networking platform WeChat, explaining clearly that C-Center is dedicated to collecting disaster and relief information, and would not be accepting donations from the public. “We do not have the capacity to arrange donations and relief goods,” Wu told NewsChina. Wu’s organization lacked funding, and struggled even to
China International Search and Rescue Team members discuss their rescue work, Kathmandu
Villagers in Pokhara, the epicenter of the quake, wait for helicopter evacuation, April 29
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organizations was something of a headache. “It was mainly due to lack of experience. Some Chinese private rescue teams do not know where to start, or with whom to communicate,” Yuan Shan told NewsChina. “After the rescue work in Nepal is finished, we will try to establish a Nepalese BSRT. BSRT in Myanmar is also under construction,” Yuan said. Even considering the challenges, Yuan remains optimistic about China’s private rescue teams, and hopes that BSRT’s service can cover all developing countries in five years. “BSRT is set to go international and China needs a new private humanitarian aid brand,” Yuan said. According to a report on overseas Chinese professionals published in 2014 by the Center for China and Globalization, a non-governmental think tank in China, the number of ethnically Chinese people living overseas is around 50 million, a population whose local knowledge could
be a “big advantage” to BSRT’s expansion, Yuan added. In Nepal, in addition to assistance from Wu Hao, many local Chinese people pitched in with BSRT’s efforts, particularly in terms of food and shelter. Qu Shengguo told our reporter that when working overseas, the primary task for Chinese private rescue teams was to identify the worst affected areas they can reach, and carry out rapid rescue efforts. Besides, Qu added that logistical support, including information sharing, transport and translation support, should be strengthened. “China’s private rescue teams need planning – unity and specialization is the way forward. The Chinese government needs to establish certification and assessment criteria to advise on which specific rescue teams are needed for a specific disaster,” Yuan told NewsChina. “The criteria are expected to be unveiled by 2020.”
Photo by wally santana
Photo by IC
rent a vehicle for their disaster surveys. However, some saw Wu’s team as surplus to requirements – immediately following the quake, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in Kathmandu began a coordinated effort with the Nepalese government to conduct a survey of over 90 percent of quake-hit regions in the country. In the UN office in Kathmandu, representatives from international rescue teams held coordination meetings nearly every hour on topics including shelter, medical care, food and child protection. The disaster information was updated on a daily basis. While BSRT partnered with OCHA, the team also expressed gratitude for the disaster information collected by Wu Hao, which BSRT said it used for specific relief efforts. But for other Chinese private rescue teams, many of them making their first trip outside of China, coordinating with local Chinese
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China’s private Blue Sky Rescue Team members on assignment, Kathmandu, April 30
China and India
An Asian Century? Amid border disputes and a strategic rivalry, China and India seek to improve economic ties and develop mutual trust By Yu Xiaodong
Photo by Liao Pan
thorny issue. India is ready for business,” Narendra Modi Moreover, ongoing strategic told a group of Chinese engagements with each others’ entrepreneurs at the Indiaadversaries have also led to muChina Business Forum held in tual suspicion over both sides’ Shanghai on May 16, 2015, strategic intentions. While during which the Indian prime New Delhi considers China’s minister called for a “harmonilong-standing partnership with ous partnership” between Asia’s Pakistan and its recent efforts to two largest nations. improve ties with Nepal and Sri The forum was part of a Lanka an effort to encircle Inthree-day visit to China by dia, Beijing is looking warily at Prime Minister Modi which India’s broadening partnership dominated media headlines with countries such as the US, in both countries. During the Japan and Vietnam, particuvisit, China and India signed larly in the context of the South 20 bilateral agreements and 26 China Sea. business deals. Valued at US$32 Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi visit the However, as two rapidly billion, the agreements cover a Temple of Heaven in Beijing before attending a tai chi and yoga display, May growing emerging economies, 15, 2015 vast range of areas including China and India also share a infrastructure, high-speed rail growing portfolio of common (HSR), energy, aerospace techinterests when it comes to renology, education, research centers and industrial parks. shaping the international economic order. Modi has spoken of repModi’s trip, a reciprocal visit following Chinese President Xi Jin- licating China’s development model in India, focusing on building ping’s visit to India last year, is believed by many analysts to serve to infrastructure and increasing manufacturing capacity, and India has “reset” a bilateral relationship which media commentators have for much to gain from a more amicable relationship with China. In turn, years likened to a rivalry of “elephant vs. dragon.” India also serves as an important market for China’s products and investment, and its booming service sector could potentially serve as a Reset model for upgrading the tertiary sector of China’s economy. Indeed, the relationship between the world’s two most populous In the run-up to Modi’s visit to China, both countries appeared to countries has long been overshadowed by a brief but bloody border be making efforts to tone down the frosty, even openly hostile tone war in 1962 which, despite a Chinese victory, failed to dissipate en- that has in recent years dominated bilateral engagements. It is reportduring tensions surrounding a disputed border in the region which ed that President Xi’s repeatedly delaying his state visit to Pakistan China calls South Tibet and India calls the state of Arunachal Pradesh. since assuming power, even declining an invitation to attend a miliIndia’s continued asylum and support for the Dalai Lama and his tary parade in Islamabad on Pakistan’s National Day on March 23, entourage, which Beijing considers a separatist movement, is also a was part of a wider effort to avoid further alienating India.
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Although Xi’s eventual visit to Islamabad in April, during which China signed agreements worth US$46 billion, caused irritation in New Delhi, the fact that Xi had already visited India in September 2014 was interpreted as a sincere effort by Beijing to improve bilateral ties. Meanwhile, in preparation for Modi’s trip to China, India also backed down on various issues that were causing consternation in Beijing. On May 2, a scheduled meeting between ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) president Amit Shah and the Dalai Lama in Dharamsala was canceled at the last minute by the BJP leader, a move viewed as designed to placate Beijing. In a May 2 interview with Time magazine prior to his visit, Modi also played down tensions along the border between China and India, stressing that “not a single bullet has been fired for over a quartercentury.” Modi added that both countries are showing great maturity and a commitment to economic cooperation. Modi’s trip to China was also carefully orchestrated by both sides. Xi’an, capital of Shaanxi Province and the first stop on Modi’s itinerary, appeared to be deliberately selected for symbolic reasons beyond the presence of the Terracotta Warriors. Not only is Xi’an Xi Jinping’s hometown, it was also an ancient gateway where Buddhism was introduced to China from India via the Silk Road. Emphasizing cultural ties between the two ancient civilizations and citing former Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping’s saying that the 21st century could only be the “Asian Century” if India and China worked together, Xi has called for the “revitalization” of both nations, with China and India leading the charge to realize Deng's goal. Analysts believe that the embellished rhetoric of closer ties and the stress placed on partnership above division reflect mutual pragmatism in achieving both countries’ respective strategic goals.
Despite disagreements and rivalry in the field of security and geopolitics, China and India share many common interests in the areas of trade, investment, and finance. Both countries have aspired to have a larger say in the management of the international financial system. India has joined the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) and the New Development Bank (NDB), formerly referred to as the BRICS Development Bank, both of which are China-led initiatives. This point was highlighted by Xi in his meeting with Modi, during which the Chinese president called upon India to increase its cooperation with China within the AIIB to guide the international order in “a more just and reasonable direction.” In addition, despite his well-documented nationalism, Modi’s core electoral promise was to foster economic development. With a GDP currently five times that of India’s, China plays an important role in India’s economic, trade and investment landscape. As bilateral trade volume increased from US$4.95 billion in 2002 to US$70.6 billion in 2014, China has become India’s largest trading partner. Although trade with India accounts for only a small portion of China’s US$4 trillion trade volume, the country has taken on a more
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significant role against the backdrop of stagnation in Chinese exports to the developed world. For example, Chinese exports to India increased by 23 percent in the first quarter of 2015. For New Delhi, a US$48 billion trade deficit with China is also a matter that needs urgent attention. By attracting investment from China, Modi hopes to rebalance bilateral trade through the government’s “Make in India” campaign. While Beijing has promised to improve market access for Indian software, pharmaceutical, food and textile companies, Modi called on Chinese companies to take advantage of “India’s potential” and assured that he would pay “personal attention” to Chinese business operations in India during his trip. Among the deals struck between the two countries was the establishment of several industrial parks, and Chinese companies such as Alibaba (e-commerce), SANY (heavy machinery), Xiaomi (electronics) and Harbin Electric (power) all expressed interest in Modi’s “Make in India” and “Digital India” projects.
China’s apparent enthusiasm for investing in India is consistent with its grand “One Belt, One Road” initiative, which has now been placed at the center of China’s global diplomacy. Chinese strategists argue that against the backdrop of the US’s “Pivot to Asia,” which focuses on security and geopolitics, China should focus on economic development and seeking regional integration that promotes a win-win situation while avoiding direct “zero-sum” security conflicts, an area in which the US enjoys a distinct advantage. With India among the US’s major strategic partners in Asia, China’s rolling out the red carpet for Modi appears to follow that rationale. In a joint statement issued on May 15, both sides pledged to maintain peace and stability in contested border areas by establishing military-to-military hotlines and agreeing on border personnel meeting points. After his May visit to Russia, another major partner of India, as well as Belarus and Kazakhstan, during which Xi Jinping successfully persuaded Russian President Vladimir Putin to integrate his “Eurasian Union” doctrine with China’s Belt and Road program, China’s president also tried to alleviate Indian concerns surrounding the strategic goals underlying these initiatives. During his meeting with Modi, using one of the most-repeated diplomatic phrases of his administration, Xi said that China and India can achieve “mutual benefit and a win-win result” by connecting China’s Belt and Road initiative with India’s “Act East” policy. Modi responded by saying that India is willing to enhance cooperation with China, and Beijing is now conducting a feasibility study in India regarding the establishment of a high-speed rail line to link Delhi with the southeastern city of Chennai. Xi and Modi, both seen as strong, assertive leaders in their home countries, shook hands in Beijing over a pledge to allow one third of humanity to live in peace and prosperity. Whether they can deliver on this grand plan remains to be seen.
Closer than Heaven
NewsChina interviewed nearly 20 Vietnamese women who have entered cross-border marriages with Chinese men. Their stories provide a window into these unconventional couplings, and the pressures that created them By Gong Longfei in Zhangzhou, Fujian
espite spending a small fortune on five previous marriages, 46-yearold ethnic Vietnamese Chinese national Ye Jincheng, who is also deaf-mute, hid his plans to attempt a sixth, concealing a fourth trip to Vietnam in search of a bride. Ye went to a local Vietnamese food store to consult owner Zhou Jiazhen, or Chau Gia Tran, another ethnic Vietnamese. He asked her to draw him a map of Ho Chi Minh City, writing her a note stating confidently that: “It will be a success this time.” Hong Lijuan, Zhou’s sister-in-law, told NewsChina that Ye had been flirting online with a woman in Ho Chi Minh City. Ye had previously married two Vietnamese women, his fourth and fifth wives, both of whom vanished shortly after their weddings. Arranging
both marriages cost Ye’s family more than 70,000 yuan (US$11,200), and after his fifth wife left him, his parents forbade him from marrying another Vietnamese woman. Like many Chinese men living in the country’s south, Ye is a willing contributor to a growing market in cross-border marriages. In February 2011, Ye and three fellow villagers, with an average age of 45, traveled to Ho Chi Minh City with the help of a matchmaking agency. Each returned home with a bride around 20 years younger than himself. Ye’s fourth wife (previous marriages to three Chinese women had ended in divorce) apparently absconded from their home two weeks after arriving in his village. Undaunted, Ye returned to Vietnam to try his luck again. However, one month af-
ter their wedding, while on a return trip to Hanoi to visit his wife’s family, Ye’s new bride disappeared from an airport bathroom, along with 20,000 yuan (US$3,200) in cash.
In 1978, when political tensions between the Soviet-backed Vietnamese regime and China were at an all-time high, an estimated 263,000 ethnic Chinese living in Vietnam fled across the border into China in the wake of widespread anti-Chinese violence. These refugees were offered employment on 43 designated farms, 17 of which were located in Southeast China’s Fujian Province. Ho Chi Minh City has a population of some 550,000 ethnic Chinese residents, and an estimated 80 percent of the country’s NEWSCHINA I July 2015
Guihou Village, Fujian Province, is home to more than 10 Vietnamese women married to locals
Chinese minority of 1.5 million live in the areas surrounding Vietnam’s commercial capital, according to Wu Yanhua from Xiamen University, who is conducting a longterm study into Sino-Vietnamese cross-border marriages in Fujian. According to Wu, after China and Vietnam restored diplomatic relations after decades of conflict in November 1991, cross-border commerce boomed and many Vietnamese-born Chinese used their language skills and cultural knowledge to return to Vietnam and establish businesses. To maintain a stable workforce, these entrepreneurs encouraged their Chinese employees to marry ethnically Chinese Vietnamese women, with the largest cohort of bachelors originating from Fujian, creating a NEWSCHINA I July 2015
contingent of Vietnamese-born wives in this prosperous coastal province. From 2002, marriage agencies began to bring more Vietnamese brides into China. This network originated in Guangxi and Fujian provinces, home to the largest populations of Vietnamese-Chinese residents, before expanding as far as China’s remote northeast. A paper by Professor Luo Wenqing of the Guangxi University for Nationalities said that the number of Vietnamese women legally married to Chinese men reached 47,000 in 2010. Most of these couples, according to Luo’s data, lived in impoverished conditions in the Chinese countryside, with most lacking any legal status or identification. Liu Jifeng of Xiamen University cited
Guangxi police statistics estimating that the number of unregistered Vietnamese wives living in China in 2011 exceeded 65,000. In Fujian, Vietnamese-born women married to Chinese men mainly live in the south of the province, with large populations in the town of Zhangzhou and the village of Longyan. Fujian has been the province with the highest number of legally registered Sino-Vietnamese marriages since 2005. In Yanxi town, located in an area under the jurisdiction of Zhangzhou city, there are about 146 Vietnamese-born women married into local families, according to Fujian’s civil affairs department. Of the 20 Vietnamese women in the town interviewed by NewsChina, nine were ethnic Chinese from Ho Chi Minh City and the surrounding areas.
Unlike other rural areas of Fujian, Yanxi is comparatively prosperous, with a climate similar to that of Vietnam. Yan Jinrong, an official with Changtai County’s publicity department, believes that this means that Vietnamese women who marry into the province are more likely to stay. Yan told NewsChina that many local women have left their hometowns to find work in bigger cities like Xiamen, Quanzhou and Zhangzhou, leaving many single men behind. He remarked that many of these “left-behind” men are poor, older males who are often mentally or physically disabled, placing them at “the bottom” of a society already struggling with a skewed gender ratio. Chinese data indicate that Chinese men born before 1978, when China began to implement the One Child Policy, constitute
the bulk of single Chinese men looking for brides in Vietnam.
According to the National Bureau of Statistics, Chinese men reaching the legal marriage age outnumber their female counterparts by about 1.2 million. Chen Fenglan, a sociology professor at Fuzhou University, said that China’s gender gap has forced some single people to seek spouses abroad. According to Guangxi police estimates, over 12,000 Vietnamese women entered China illegally for the purposes of marriage in 1995, most of whom used a Chinese agency as a go-between. Culturally, Vietnam has a long history of intercultural and cross-border marriages, and as China’s economic status in the world has risen, increasing numbers of eligible women
are willing to consider a Chinese spouse. In 2008, when the global financial crisis left many Vietnamese women out of work, the Beijing Olympics and China’s seeming immunity from insolvency and unemployment led to a spike in cross-border marriages. A popular saying in parts of Vietnam goes: “Heaven is too far, but China is close.” However, securing legal status in China takes a lot more than a marriage certificate, as Zhou Jiazhen, the food store proprietor in Yanxi, Fujian, is learning first-hand. Foreign nationals wishing to apply for the Foreigner Permanent Residence Certificate, China’s green card, through marriage, must have been resident in China with their Chinese spouse for five years, and either own or rent their own marital home. While a green card will entitle Zhou to the right to both claim welfare and to work, as well as the right to NEWSCHINA I July 2015
Photo by tomoo
5 1. A 36-year-old Vietnamese woman with her husband and son beside their home’s pigpen 2. Vietnamese woman Xiu Lan with husband Ye Afa and son Ye Jinhong 3. Vietnamese woman Duong That Muoi and her family 4. A Vietnamese woman surnamed Ruan feeds her second child at their home in Changtai County, Fujian Province
leave and enter the country freely, neither she nor her husband, Shi Hongzhong, earn enough to meet the housing requirement. Zhou was the first foreign bride to arrive in Huzhu village, Yanxi township. Her fluent Chinese and ethnic background makes her largely indistinguishable from the local women. Two days after her first blind date with Shi, they held a Chinese-style wedding ceremony at Zhou’s family coffee plantation. However, Zhou told NewsChina that she sees herself as neither Chinese nor Vietnamese. “In Vietnam, Chinese only marry Chinese,” she said. When her neighbors teased her about which side she’d take in another Sino-Vietnamese war, she quipped: “I’d stand in the middle and watch them fight.” When asked if she was worried about being tricked into marriage, Zhou said: “[Shi] told me he had no money, no house and no NEWSCHINA I July 2015
5. Vietnamese woman Ruan Qunzhen, in traditional Vietnamese garb, Changtai County, Fujian Province
parents. Who would lie about that?” In early 2014, Zhou and her husband’s younger sister Hong Lijuan jointly opened a store in Yanxi, selling specialties from Vietnam. The business initially thrived thanks to growing numbers of Vietnamese brides arriving in the town, but has dwindled as dozens have trickled back over the border. To make ends meet, Zhou now moonlights as a seamstress at a local factory that makes tents. Many Chinese men in rural areas believe a marriage certificate automatically means their wives can legally live and work in China. Most are entirely ignorant of the complex and highly restrictive national immigration laws that prevent foreigners from marrying into China. An official surnamed Lin working in Zhangzhou’s Entry-Exit Administration (immigration) Bureau told NewsChina that
over 2,000 Vietnamese nationals were married to local residents. “They often ask about permanent residence, but applications have to be approved by the Ministry of Public Security and the local government is not in the position to make a decision. We can do nothing to help them,” Lin said. “Children born overseas to two Chinese citizens, and foreigners who invest tens of millions of dollars into Zhangzhou or have made outstanding contributions to the city can be granted permanent residence, but even so, they have to go through complicated procedures to get green cards,” he continued. “So far, fewer than 10 foreigners have succeeded in gaining permanent residence status in Zhangzhou. Most have almost no chance of getting a green card.” Vietnam-born Mi Chau, or Mei Zhu, 28,
Photo by cfp
Zhou Jiazhen, or Chau Gia Tran, stands in her home in Yanxi County, Fujian Province
has lived in Zhangzhou as a housewife for four years. Her husband Ye Xiaoqing, 51, was badly injured in a car crash in 2014 and narrowly escaped death as his wife, lacking any identification, was not recognized by the local hospital as Ye’s legal next of kin. Ye spent all the couple’s savings paying his medical bills, and is now unable to do manual labor, placing the entire burden of supporting the family on his wife’s shoulders. Although Mei wants to return to Vietnam this year, the country of her birth has never seemed so distant. Her husband, meanwhile, is anxious that she might never come back. Duong That Muoi, or Yang Qimei, a Vietnamese-born ethnic Chinese woman from Ho Chi Minh City, is married to Yanxi local Wu Ajian. Yang works at a local toy factory, and told NewsChina that she was satisfied with her monthly income of more than 2,000 yuan (US$322), which she claims is nearly twice what she could earn in Vietnam. However, her illegal status means she
has no access to social security. “Because [Vietnamese women] have no legal identity, we have no way to apply for social security,” said Zhang Jianhong, owner of the plant. “We could face fines or other legal trouble if we are found out. Our [Vietnamese employees] have no bank cards, so we pay them in cash, which creates other financial problems. We didn’t know the relevant rules before we hired three Vietnamese workers. We have no plans to hire more.” Despite being barred from claiming welfare or seeking legal employment, however, China’s Vietnamese-born brides are still subject to other social obligations. When Liu Ruiming’s Vietnamese wife gave birth to their second son, their local family planning affairs authority in Xihu village immediately sent a bill for more than 70,000 yuan (US$11,280) in “social maintenance fees,” a standard punishment in China for violating family planning rules. Indeed, ongoing issues with immigration
and the expense of raising undocumented families have led to a drop-off in the numbers of new cross-border marriages. In 2014, China hiked visa extension fees for foreign passport holders to 800 yuan (US$129) a year, a considerable sum for a rural farming family. Some have claimed that this hike, coming after years of struggle with the problem of stateless spouses in Yanxi, explains why no cross-border marriages between local men and Vietnamese women were recorded that year, according to the local civil affairs bureau. According to the Fujian civil affairs department, 126 Vietnamese women married Yanxi locals between 2010 and 2014, with cross-border marriages peaking in 2011. Meanwhile, the number of Vietnamese brides who went missing soon after marriage was estimated at 30 to 40 or more.
Some media reports have exposed human NEWSCHINA I July 2015
NEWSCHINA I July 2015
Photo by cfp
Chen Xingyan married a man in Yanxi County, Fujian Province
Photo by CFP
trafficking rings which may have contributed to these “disappearances,” according to Wu Yanhua of Xiamen University. “According to my research, there were a handful of cases in which Chinese men lied to their prospective Vietnamese wives,” Wu told NewsChina. “Owing to [the] distance and limited personal contact, Vietnamese women easily fall victim to fraud.” Wu also claims that multiple factors, including limited loyalty to their Chinese spouse, a language barrier, unfamiliar food, family conflict and general disillusionment with Chinese village life, can all push new brides to abscond and return to Vietnam. Some agencies even offer to escort women back to Vietnam if they are unsatisfied with their husbands, while others, it is claimed, conspire with the future brides to secure a hefty commission before arranging a “disappearance” shortly after marriage. Of the nearly 20 Vietnamese women interviewed by NewsChina, most stated that they felt regretful, frightened and unsatisfied on arriving in their new homes. All described quarreling with their husbands. Li Guangyu, also known as Li Quang Ngoc, 23, was already a divorcee when she married 49-year-old Chinese national Wu Baolin, a fact she kept secret until after their wedding. She also concealed her 7-year-old daughter, who later came to China with her and took her husband’s surname. Since then, Li and Wu have quarreled over her perceived failure to provide him with his own child, with each side claiming that the other is infertile. While Li claimed that the couple “had no plans to have another child” during our interview, her husband, who was interviewed at the same time, asked our reporter to read the Chinese characters on the packaging of a folk remedy for infertility he had brought with him. Li now works at a plastics plant in Yanxi and seldom asks her husband for money. She supports herself, her daughter and her brother in Vietnam, who is currently going through college. She has, however, ruled out the prospect of her daughter marrying a Chinese man. “I want her to get married in the United States,” she told NewsChina.
Duong That Muoi’s wedding photo
Belt and Road
63% of the world’s total
The private sector, including businesses and non-profit organizations, is expected to set the tone of One Belt, One Road By Li Jia
n May 10, 2015, International Mother’s Day, China’s central bank declared its fifth move in six months to ease monetary policy, proving itself, in the words of some observers, to be the “loving mom” to market liquidity. More of such love is anticipated in the coming months, as the Chinese government is worried about the potential risk of undershooting its 7 percent growth target for 2015. Despite sluggish growth and increasing unease, one group of investors are celebrating. Tens of millions of new accounts have been opened by Chinese stock investors excited by record price rises in the second half of 2014. With an augmented money supply from the central bank, grandiose national strategies such as SOE reform, the rise and rise of Internet-based startups and a developing new energy sector are thought to have buoyed up share prices. Among these initiatives is the One Belt, One Road policy, a scheme with a more ambitious scope and broader range of stakeholders than any other. This Belt and Road is expected to run all the way from Asia to Europe by linking all the economies in between through trade and investment. By the end of April 2015, the One Belt and One Road Index, jointly launched by China Securities Index and Shenyin Wanguo Securities, had soared 69 percent from the beginning of the year. Institutional investors, including foreign funds, have poured money into companies listed in the Index, according to a report by the Securi-
GDP US$21tn 29% of the world’s total
ties Daily newspaper on May 11, 2015. Most companies included in the Index are Stateowned giants focusing on infrastructure, companies which are supposed to be the first to benefit from the initiative. The stock market is not the only way that China’s private sector can join the Belt and Road initiative. Private companies are also eager to explore the markets that the scheme aims to link up. Many Chinese NGOs believe it is time for them to go international. Though discussions about the potential participation of China’s private sector have received far fewer headlines in the Chinese media so far, some analysts have stressed that the private sector is not only welcome, but crucial for the success of the whole initiative.
60+ countries and regions
23.9% of world’s goods and services export market
The business map of Peidi, a pet food manufacturer in Wenzhou, Zhejiang Province, illustrates what the Belt and Road could mean for Chinese private companies. Peidi imports leather goods from Uzbekistan to turn into dog chews in China before shipping the finished products as far as Europe and the US. Peidi plan to invest about US$10 million building plants in Vietnam and Cambodia to take advantage of a much cheaper labor force than is found in today’s China while also avoiding possible trade restrictions imposed by European countries on Chinese goods and exploiting the market potential of Southeast Asia. Tang Zhaobo, one of Peidi’s managers, told
Eurasian railway network 81,000 kilometers
NEWSCHINA I July 2015
NewsChina that he expects the implementation of the Belt and Road initiative to streamline customs declaration and quarantine procedures both in Uzbekistan and China. The company is also considering the possibility of using existing rail networks linking several Chinese and European cities. Those involved in more heavy-duty manufacturing will also find their way onto the Belt and Road. Zhou Juezhong, director of the Economic and Trade Promotion Center in central China’s Hunan Province, told NewsChina that infrastructure projects included in the initiative, most of which will be contracted to Chinese SOEs, could bring opportunities for big Hunanese private enterprises involved in heavy equipment, steel and cement manufacture. These businesses in turn would need a greater supply of goods and services from smaller private companies. Zhou has recently been busy leading Hunanese business delegations on visits to Vietnam, Thailand and Pakistan to seek trade and investment opportunities in these developing markets. Financiers are also on the move. China Minsheng Investment, founded in May 2014 by 59 leading Chinese private enterprises representing various industrial sectors, hosted a Belt and Road reception for all Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) ambassadors to Beijing in February 2015. The following month, a US$5 billion agreement to build an industrial park in Indonesia became the initiative’s first project, with hopes that investment will increase to more than tens of billions of dollars in the near future. Also in early March 2015, six big Chinese private enterprises launched the country’s first private equity fund focusing on green tech, such as solar power, also part of the Belt and Road initiative.
While the private sector regards the Belt and Road initiative as a source of new business possibilities, private participation is regarded as indispensable to the success of the initiative itself. There is little doubt among Chinese and international analysts and business leaders that better transportation and communication services are urgently needed for the development of the Belt and Road
NEWSCHINA I July 2015
economies, and will in turn boost world trade and investment as a whole. However, there is widespread concern about the investment returns of such an expensive and complicated cross-border infrastructure project. Infrastructure itself does not automatically generate returns. “Infrastructure is only useful if people use it,” said Ben Simpfendorfer, managing director of Silk Road Associates, a Hong Kong-based consultancy. This issue has been made crystal clear, he explained to NewsChina, by China’s own economic takeoff in the past decades, which is not just built on infrastructure improvement, but also on improved flow of goods, services, information and people. “If the private sector doesn’t follow, then ultimately the whole project will fail,” he noted. Another reason for more private sector participation cited by analysts is political, or more precisely, apolitical. Governments are typically much more sensitive towards investment from foreign SOEs than foreign private companies. A recent report issued by Ernst & Young, an international accounting firm and consultancy, predicted an outbound boom for Chinese companies starting this year driven by the Belt and Road initiative and new policies relaxing approval reviews for overseas investment. The same report stressed that, in recent years, Chinese private companies were catching up rapidly with Chinese SOEs in overseas investment, and would likely be able to do a better job due to their greater flexibility, more diversified investment and the fact that such enterprises are “less affected by possible stringent political censorship in the host countries.”
No Profit, But Heart
If the One Belt, One Road initiative will accelerate overseas investment by Chinese companies, an ongoing process throughout the last decade, then it could prove a kickstart for China’s nonprofit social organizations which have yet to develop both competence and a global vision. According to China’s Ministry of Civil Affairs, less than 0.1 percent of the country’s nonprofits are engaged in international services outside of China. Recently the discussions on their role in realizing the Belt and Road vision have
heated up. At a forum at Tsinghua University on April 29, 2015, Chinese academics and government officials, as well as NGO representatives from China and the US, highlighted the importance of China’s NGOs in facilitating communication between Chinese investors and various groups in the Belt and Road countries. The panel highlighted how exchanges via NGOs were often seen as more acceptable than those conducted by businesses or officials at the community level, and that NGOs were also instrumental in promoting a green supply chain. The consensus was that NGOs are voluntary, and therefore less politicized, with their activities generally perceived as being in the public interest. The preliminary findings of a study by SynTao, a Beijing-based consultancy on corporate social responsibility and responsible investment, conducted in partnership with Tsinghua University and sponsored by the British Department for International Development, show that some Chinese companies are seeking cooperation with Chinese NGOs when it comes to understanding local needs, communicating with local communities and carrying out social projects. Zhang Hongfu, senior research manager with SynTao, said governments and enterprises need NGO expertise in particular areas, including the environment, poverty alleviation, education and communication. In 2012, Sinohydro and the Beijing-based NGO Global Environmental Institute jointly completed a methane project in Laos, the first overseas project jointly conducted by a Chinese company and a Chinese NGO. However, such examples are far from common. It is expected that implementing the Belt and Road initiative could provide more incentives and opportunities for Chinese companies and NGOs to work together overseas. The “people-to-people bond” to be built through such social exchanges, including those involving NGOs and think tanks, is one of the five priorities in the government’s Action Plan on the Belt and Road Initiative released on March 28, 2015. Chinese analysts are increasingly accepting that non-profit social organizations, particularly NGOs, can serve a vital purpose as a part
Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road the Baltic Russia
Eurasian Land Bridge China-Mongolia-Russia Economic Corridor
China-Central Asia-West Asia Economic Corridor Persian Gulf
West Asia South China Sea
of public diplomacy and a bridge between China and local communities in the Belt and Road economies.
Chinese private companies and non-profit social organizations, both of which remain in the formative stages of going truly global, have plenty of homework to do when it comes to preparing to embrace the opportunities presented by Belt and Road. On top of their efforts, their ultimate success will be closely related to reforms within China itself. One of the major barriers for Chinese private companies seeking to go abroad is a lack of funding due to the high cost of loans and limited legal sources of finance. This is a problem that has dogged private enterprise in China, and is recognized as one of the leading constricting factors to ongoing problems in the private sector and, by extension, exacerbating the country’s current growth slowdown. The government has been trying to solve this headache over the past few years by pushing forward a financial reform agenda. However, analysts believe substantial progress cannot be made until the other two major drains on funding – governments and
China-Indochina Peninsula Economic Corridor
SOEs – can be disciplined more effectively either by the law or more equitable market competition. Dr Huo Jianguo, former president of the Chinese Academy of International Trade and Economic Cooperation, a think tank under the Ministry of Commerce, stressed that putting all enterprises, no matter their ownership, on a level playing field within the country would boost the global growth and competitiveness of Chinese companies. As he explained to NewsChina, strong multinationals grow out of real competition at home. There are some administrative barriers yet to be removed and financial support to be provided before Chinese social organizations can go international on a large scale. In his recent book Study on Strategy and Route of China’s NGO Internationalization, for example, Huang Haoming, director of the China Association for NGO Cooperation, described how NGO staff members are required to go through the same complicated and lengthy administrative approval processes as civil servants when applying for visas for overseas business visits. As many NGO events are organized on short notice, unlike intergovernmental exchanges which are usually
Southeast Asia South Pacific Ocean
scheduled months in advance, delays in visa issuance are a major problem. In addition, Huang noted, unlike in developed countries, NGOs in China are excluded from joining in overseas official aid programs that would allow them to receive government funding. Distrust between the government and NGOs in China is also hard to ignore. As shown in recent research sponsored by Oxfam and conducted by the Social Resources Institute, a consultancy in Beijing, the Chinese government and its enterprises maintain “constant vigilance” against NGOs and demonstrate poor awareness of their value. In turn, the study claims, NGOs keep directing “moral criticism” at the government and enterprise but offer insufficient constructive suggestions. The government, as the strongest player in this triangle, is the side that needs to make the biggest change in attitude. Restructuring its relations with the market and society has been defined as the core mission of China’s ongoing reform agenda. The ambitions crystallized in the Belt and Road initiative depend not only on China’s own growth prospects, but also on the country’s entire global outlook. NEWSCHINA I July 2015
Q1, 2015 US$236bn trade value between China and Belt and Road economies 26% of China’s total foreign trade
US$144.5bn exports from China to Belt and Road economies
Belt and Road
A Grand Chorus China needs to work in harmony with a global chorus of stakeholders. Its Belt and Road initiative will prove to be a precipitous learning curve By Li Jia
28% of China’s total exports
US$91.5bn imports from Belt and Road economies to China 23.4% of China’s total imports
US$2.6bn outbound direct investment from China to Belt and Road economies 9.9% total outbound direct investment
457 enterprises funded by Belt and Road economies in China 18.4% y-o-y increase
NEWSCHINA I July 2015
chorus of diverse voices, such as that promised by China’s grand global Belt and Road trade initiative, only works when every part comes together in harmony. Comparing future programs to “a real chorus comprising all countries along the routes, not a solo for China itself, ” Chinese President Xi Jinping declared his commitment to the openness and inclusiveness of the One Belt, One Road initiative in his keynote speech at the Boao Forum for Asia on March 28, 2015. As more than 60 countries and international organizations have shown interest in joining the scheme, an almost universal consensus has emerged among Chinese analysts that wringing an angelic chorus out of such a vast and diverse choir will be massively challenging. In the government action plan released on the same day that Xi delivered his speech, core principles have been outlined on how best to achieve this. Proposed programs will be required to fit well into host countries’ own development agendas, in pursuit of the much-vaunted “win-win” that is a key policy point for China’s economic architects. The entire endeavor, analysts say, will be a steep learning curve for Chinese institutions unused to working with such a diversified range of stakeholders; a curve that will test China’s commitment to further opening up to the limit.
Alone No More
The One Belt, One Road initiative will commence with infrastructure construction, an area in which Chinese contractors have established a robust presence in developing countries. These firms are known for getting the job done alone, and at rock-bottom prices. This strategy, however, is now believed to have had its day, thanks both to changes in the market and the advent of the Belt and Road initiative. Ben Simpfendorfer, managing director of Silk Road Associates Limited, a Hong Kongbased consultancy, told NewsChina that Chinese companies have used a low price strategy to grab market share in the past decade. However, he explained, these same companies no longer need to, or indeed are unable to, continue to adhere to this strategy. There have been cases, he continued, in which Chinese contractors have had to increase their prices to a similar level of that offered by European and American bidders simply in order to match the quality demanded by tendering companies. Simpfendorfer cited Saudi Arabia as a pertinent recent example. Middle income economies along the Belt and Road, he added, have higher quality requirements than ever before. Dr Li Kaimeng, director general of the research center of the China International Engineering Consulting Corporation, told NewsChina that Chinese companies have
also been required by Chinese regulators to improve the quality of their overseas construction projects for the sake of China’s international reputation. Nowadays, he said, host countries do not complain much about quality, but often raise issues relating to environmental protection and labor. In 2013, the Ministry of Commerce and the Ministry of Environmental Protection issued a guideline urging Chinese companies to improve environmental and labor practices in accordance with the rules set by host countries and the international community. The combination of internal and external pressure, Dr Li added, means that more investment in quality and social responsibility standards will in turn further narrow the price gap separating Chinese companies from their Western competitors. Given this state of affairs, both Dr Li and Mr Simpfendorfer believe the trend will be for Chinese companies and those from other areas, such as Europe, the US, India and Turkey, to tender together as consortia. This is also one of the ways for China to prove that its Belt and Road initiative will be founded on open, fair and transparent market principles. Both experts also agree that this would create complementary, wellmatched partnerships. For example, Chinese engineers, with rich experience in developing markets, are more flexible in designing solutions balancing both budgets and technical requirements, while their European and US colleagues may be able to offer more sophisticated technologies also needed in such joint schemes.
China’s private sector, including both its companies and NGOs, may find that their diverse areas of interests will find even more potential partners along the Belt and Road than those equipped to work with SOEs. Jointly sponsored industrial parks are highlighted in the government’s action plan as an important platform of cooperation along the international supply chain. On May 16, 2015, China’s State Council issued a guideline on promoting Chinese investment in a number of sectors mainly in developing countries. These included steel, chemicals, textiles, automotive, telecommunications and civil engineering. China’s midwestern region is also being encouraged to link its regional economies with the Belt and Road markets to the west through enhanced trade and investment, particularly in labor-intensive sectors. A localized labor force, suppliers and distributors are all essential components of this task. For example, domestic smartphone heavyweight Xiaomi now sells its products through the India-based online electronics retailer Flipkart. Oppo, another Chinese cell phone manufacturer, is also courting the South Asian market by inviting
Chinese and Spanish officials watch a train depart from Madrid, Spain, bound for Yiwu, Zhejiang Province, loaded with wine, olive oil and other Spanish products, May 18, 2015
Bollywood stars to advertise its products. According to Wu Sike, China’s Special Envoy to the Middle East from 2009 until September 2014 and now with the Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies at Renmin University of China, oil-rich Gulf states are stepping up their efforts to diversify their economies while they can, and seek to work with Chinese companies as part of the Belt and Road initiative in order to expand their international business ventures to include ports, airports, tourism and finance. Several countries in the region have expressed interest in financial products managed by Chinese financiers in accordance with Sharia law. Wu told NewsChina that Arabs and Persians, historically representing the most active mercantile cultures along the ancient Silk Road, remain important partners for Chinese companies exploring the Belt and Road markets, a prospect that is made clear by the presence of thousands of Arab traders in Yiwu, Zhejiang Province. As private Chinese companies are also strong players in the consumer goods market, Simpfendorfer believes that partnership should be sought with enterprises in other major countries along the Belt and Road, like Turkey, Indonesia and Malaysia. Loletta Chow, Global Leader of the China Overseas Investment Network at Ernst & Young, argues that foreign banks, either those in Belt and Road economies or international giants, can help provide much-needed funding for the overseas expansion of private Chinese companies, as they are generally less vulnerable to shifting exchange rates. She also advocates for Chinese companies to look beyond the developing world to economies with both strong innovation markets and visible desire for cooperation with Chinese companies, such as Israel. For Chinese NGOs, meanwhile, a lack of overseas experience NEWSCHINA I July 2015
Photo by Xinhua
Photo by ic
The first freight train from Yiwu, Zhejiang, arrives in Madrid on the world’s longest direct rail journey of 13,052 kilometers, December 9, 2014
makes finding the right international partner particularly important. In his Study on Strategy and Route of China’s NGO Internationalization, director of the China Association for NGO Cooperation Huang Haoming stated that choice typically recommended by experts is for Chinese interests to cooperate with NGOs operating in host countries on projects sponsored by China’s official aid agencies. The second best option, according to Huang, is to act as an accredited consultative agency to UN organizations. So far, only about 20 of more than 4,000 such agencies operating internationally are from the Chinese mainland, yet these strategies are already widely used by NGOs from developed countries, and have been for decades. Some also claim that international companies and NGOs already operating in China are the best advisors for their Chinese partners when embarking on Belt and Road projects.
While entering an official, international partnership is always optional, it is hard for any enterprise to survive abroad without understanding the land and its people. Interpreters are available in today’s globalized world, but linguistic barriers are merely one obstacle that Chinese companies need to overcome. Learning from a litany of bitter lessons over the years, Chinese companies are more aware than ever of the importance of observing laws and bringing jobs to local communities in host countries. This kind of on-the-ground understanding, however, is not simply a case of hiring an interpreter or a local law firm. “It’s the idea behind the language,” Loletta Chow told NewsChina, citing an example where one of her Ernst & Young clients, a potential Chinese buyer, had problems understanding a representative of
NEWSCHINA I July 2015
a French company negotiating an acquisition case. While both men spoke excellent English, an evident cultural gap was a barrier to effective communication. People with a foot in both cultures, therefore, provide the best bridge in such situations. These could be Chinese with a deep and ingrained understanding of an area and its customs, possibly overseas Chinese, or a local with experience of living and working in China. European and US multinationals regularly employ a lot of Europeanor American-educated local talent in both joint ventures or whollyowned subsidiaries in host countries. The number of foreign students in China, however, remains small, and Chinese companies are relative newcomers to developing markets, with their staff often lacking essential knowledge of specific local cultures. This issue does not have to become a major problem for Chinese companies so long as they remain open-minded on cultural matters, according to Joerg Wuttke, president of the European Chamber of Commerce in China. Wuttke argues that dealing with local cultures and local communities is always a difficult challenge for multinationals emerging from developed countries, and the most successful examples quickly learn the value of humility. “It’s a mindset. You go there. You are open. You are curious. You accept local culture,” he said. Different understandings of what constitutes happiness and development are a good example of potential cultural misunderstandings. While most countries’ preferred growth models are largely the result of economic globalization, like anywhere else in the world, many ordinary people in Southeast Asian economies, for example, have traditionally eschewed the high-intensity work ethic of their northern peers, regardless of potential financial rewards. Zhang Hongfu, a senior research manager with SynTao, a Beijing-
Photo by cns
The unloading of cargo at Lianyungang Port, Jiangsu Province, a terminal linking China with East Asia and Central Asia, March 14, 2015
based consultancy on CSR and responsible investment, told NewsChina that Chinese companies, inclined to jump to the conclusion that local workers lack drive or are simply lazy, need to accept this as a reflection of the values central to predominantly Buddhist cultures.
There is a lot to be done, however, to turn an open mindset into action. At the macro level, Dr Huo Jianguo, former president of the Chinese Academy of International Trade and Economic Cooperation, a think tank under the Ministry of Commerce, thinks China’s opening up process is one of the cornerstones of the Belt and Road initiative. For example, industrial links between China’s midwest and the Belt and Road markets can only be possible, Dr Huo told NewsChina, when China’s industrialized east coast shifts focus towards advanced service and manufacturing sectors, thus incentivizing lower-end enterprises to move out west. The government has tried to promote these two processes for several years, but progress remains slow. Dr Huo stressed that currently highly restricted areas of the service sectors – specifically finance, law, accounting and healthcare services – need to be more open to both Chinese and foreign private investors. In addition, the existing China-Europe railway network, an important feature of infrastructure along the Belt and Road, is running on subsidies due to too little freight traveling to China from Europe. Wuttke hopes that the Chinese market will, in the future, be more open to European goods. While demand is proven by the popularity of imported and foreign-owned brands in China, as well as the shopping sprees popular with Chinese tourists, the country’s domestic market remains tough to tap for all but the biggest brand names. Moreover, Wuttke argues, foreign companies in China should be treated the same as Chinese companies when acting as equipment suppliers in projects funded by China whether within or beyond its borders. At the micro level, Zhang Hongfu of SynTao stressed the importance of field research to match NGO projects to local need. For ex-
ample, he said, offering rice to northern Laotian communities, most of which rely on glutinous rice, would be poor strategy for poverty alleviation. The same is true when it comes to Chinese contractors, says Li Kaimeng. While these companies are eager to promote Chinese technical standards on the overseas market through the Belt and Road initiative, compatibility with existing standards and conditions in local markets, whether installing a lightbulb jack or determining the thickness of a hydroelectric dam, must be taken into consideration. Two recently issued surveys, one by the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) and the other by the Global Economic Governance Initiative (GEGI) at Boston University, found that Chinese companies do not lag behind foreign companies in terms of information disclosure or corporate social responsibility (CSR) in their overseas operations. However, as the EITI report says, there is often an assumption of less transparency when it comes to Chinese investors than their foreign counterparts. Now, Chinese academics are urging businesses to divest themselves of a “do more, say less” image. Nearly all the Belt and Road analysis carried out in the Chinese media has called for more communication between enterprises and local communities, particularly through NGOs, rather than relying on government contacts. More professionalized communication, as well as more communication in general, is likely to be a crucial factor in improving the operations of Chinese enterprises abroad. Damien Fruchart, a senior analyst with Ethix SRI Advisors, a Swedish consultancy on sustainable and responsible investment for institutional investors worldwide, suggested, for example, that it may not be a good idea just to put hundreds of pages of environmental assessment reports in English up on a website, particularly when the local language is not English, or in areas with limited Internet access. Reaching out to all stakeholders and consulting independent parties like academics or professional organizations, rather than blaming NGOs for being reactionary or waiting to be approached, he added, will help companies, no matter their origin, to meet their critics in the spirit of cooperation.
The Belt and Road initiative is, therefore, dependent on relations between Chinese stakeholders themselves, the government, companies and social organizations. It is widely agreed that it is the government’s responsibility to protect overseas investment at the intergovernmental level. Dr Shen Yiyang, a senior advisor with the China International Chamber of Commerce for the Private Sector, told NewsChina that the expectation of better protection through diplomacy is one of the important reasons underlying the strong interest shown by Chinese private companies in the Belt and Road venture. There are cases in which Chinese companies did not face legal barriers, but instead were confronted with public protests in countries with a weak legal framework. Shen hopes that the Chinese government will demand improved environment and labor standards from projects launched overseas as part of the Belt and Road initiative. NEWSCHINA I July 2015
NEWSCHINA I July 2015
Monthly y-o-y change in floor space of housing sales
Year-on-year increase in real estate floor space sales in April 2015, the first period of overall growth since early 2014
Source: China National Bureau of Statistics / China State Information Center
Jan’-Feb’14 Mar’14 Apr’14 May’14 June’14 July’14
Dec’14 Jan’-Feb’15 Mar’15 Apr’15
Monthly y-o-y reduction in China’s import value, US$bn
Trade and investment settled in yuan for the first four months of 2015
The share of yuan-denominated nonbanking cross-border trade and investment in China’s total cross-border capital flow in Q1, 2015, the largest since the Chinese currency overtook the euro as the second most used denomination in China’s foreign trade and investment in 2011.
Trade in goods US$323.7bn
The reduction in foreign exchange paid for eight major commodities imports into China (crude oil, iron ore, plastics, gas, paper pulp, grains, fertilizer and copper concentrate), due to price falls in international markets in the first four months of 2015
These new standards, Shen argues, should be based on widely accepted international precedents and be tailored to the individual circumstances of each host country. This, he explained to NewsChina, will serve as a “safeguard” for Chinese investors, and help answer recent calls in China for a more watertight and enforceable overseas investment law incorporating clear CSR standards. The question, Wuttke argues, is whether the Chinese government will facilitate, but not totally sponsor, Belt and Road ventures launched by Chinese companies. While it remains the right of Chinese companies, as is the case for multinationals, to rush to their local embassies when things go wrong, the Chinese government needs to step back slightly from its front-and-center role in the overseas operations of Chinese companies. “It has to be genuine bottom-up work by companies,” Wuttke noted, suggesting that Chinese companies improve their self-governance, mainly in the form of business associations, to gain the ability to avoid “initial mistakes” and solve their own problems, rather than relying on the government as a “nanny.” In China, the process of separating industrial associations from the centralized administrative system has yet to be achieved. Cooperating with companies or governments is not rare for international NGOs, and can also put their independence under scrutiny. At a Tsinghua University forum on the role of NGOs in the Belt and Road initiative convened in April 2015, Professor Wang Ming, director of the Tsinghua Univeristy NGO Research Center, agreed that NGOs should represent their own missions, such as environmental protection, rather than a particular official agenda or industry. This, he said, would likely better serve the national interest. The challenges that the Chinese government and private sector will face along the Belt and Road are neither unique nor new – many economies have been here before, though perhaps not on such a grand scale. China’s policymakers know that the best solutions to its major problems are openness and inclusiveness. Now, the world is waiting to see how these ambitions will be turned into realities.
Trade in services US$35.4bn
-5 -10 -15 -20 -25 -30 -35
Outbound investment US$12bn Source: China State Administration of Foreign Exchange
Foreign direct investment US$51.5bn
The number of 4G cellular service users in China by the end of March 2015, 13 percent of total cell phone users in China, expected to reach 300 million by the end of 2015
The current income gap between the bottom 20% and the top 20% of wage-earning households in China Source: China National Health and Family Planning Commission
Source: China Ministry of Industry and Information Technology
Photo by Dong Jiexu
NEWSCHINA I July 2015
Kukan, a documentary about China’s resistance against Japan during World War II, produced by ChineseAmerican Ling’ai Li and shot by American journalist Rey Scott, won an Academy Award in 1942, before being lost, seemingly forever. 70 years later, Robin Lung, another Chinese-American, located the only copy and facilitated its re-release. NewsChina looks into the story of the documentary and the people behind it By Wen Tianyi
n 1941, China saw most of its cities and ports fall under the control of the Japanese Imperial Army, with the wartime captital Chongqing (Chungking) bombarded several times. Across the Pacific, the US, still officially neutral, received little first-hand information about the conflict. However, with the theatrical release of a documentary movie, Kukan, Americans witnessed for the first time the horrors that the Chinese people were suffering. Subtitled The Battle Cry of China, the documentary was produced by Chinese-American artist Ling’ai Li and shot by American photojournalist Rey Scott, the latter having traveled from Hong Kong to Chongqing through various Chinese cities, narrating what he saw and heard, including the Japanese blitz of Chongqing on April 19 and 20, 1940. The 90-minute documentary received widespread praise following its release in the US, and Rey Scott won an Honorary Academy Award – the Oscar for best documentary feature – in 1941. However, the only copy of the film disappeared before it was ever screened outside of the US. In the database of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS), the documentary was labeled “lost.” 70 years later, Robin Lung, a Chinese-American independent filmmaker, began her search for the documentary due to her interest in prominent Chinese-American women of previous generations like Ling’ai Li, and with the help of Rey Scott’s family, she was able to locate it. She then facilitated negotiations between the Scotts and a Chinese partner to release the film in China. On April 8, 2015,the Chongqing Institute of the Rear Areas in China’s Resistance against Japanese Aggression signed an agreement with the Scott family for the rights to use the documentary, and announced that it would release part of it in China in May. “It is more indubitable proof of Japan’s bombardment of Chongqing and the massacre of innocent civilians [during World War II],” Zhou Yong, director of the institute, told the media.
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“Though filmed by a Westerner, the documentary is objective and accurate. Rey Scott and Ling’ai Li made it with sympathy and respect to China, and also helped the world to know more about the war and the Chinese people,” he added.
Lung and Li
According to Robin Lung, it was the similarity between Ling’ai Li’s background and her own – both women were born in Hawaii – that aroused her interest in tracking down the documentary. By coincidence, Lung’s father had studied Chinese at a school run by Li’s father. A fourth-generation child of a Chinese-American family, as a college student Lung developed a strong interest in her origins and race. Several years ago, Lung planned to make a documentary about Chinese-American women, and received a book written by Li from one of her friends, Life is for a Long Time. In the book, Li narrated her family’s immigration to and experience in Hawaii, but mentioned little about her own life. Lung, however, was intrigued by a single sentence at the end of the book, saying that Li had once made a documentary about the Chinese resistance against Japan, named Kukan. Never having heard of the film, Lung looked it up on the Internet, but failed to find much beyond a simple description of the film and the award it received. Copies seemed to be nonexistent – even the AMPAS, the body that administered the Academy Awards, had only a fragmented copy. They told Lung that they had been looking for a complete print, but with no success. Feeling a growing attachment to Li, Lung decided to delve deeper into her life, to search for Li’s only documentary. “Information online showed that Li was an actress, a dancer and a writer, rather than an artist. I found that she hadn’t left behind any masterpieces,” Lung told NewsChina. According to Lung, Li was born into a family of doctors in 1908, and received her middle school education in Punahou, at a school
history later attended by future US President Barack Obama. Raised on both Western and Chinese culture, Li grew into “a charming lady.” During her stay in Beijing in the 1930s, Li studied dance and various Chinese traditional arts, including Peking opera, also meeting her future husband, though their marriage would not last long. Lung once found a video clip of an interview with an 85-year-old Li, dressed in a traditional sleeved robe and an elaborate Qing Dynasty-style headdress, speaking eloquently, with vigor and confidence. In Lung’s opinion, given Li’s independent and unconventional conduct, the break-up of her short-lived marriage likely had little effect on her mentality – witnessing the Japanese occupation of China, Li cared more about finding a way to help her ancestral homeland. So, at a time when few women undertook such projects, Li tried various means to raise money for China, such as participating in a fashion show conducted by United China Relief, and even receiving training to fly bomber and transport planes, attempting to assist the Chinese war effort. Due to limited contact with the outside world, China had something of a poor image in the West at the time. Li hoped to make a documentary featuring real Chinese people, in order to draw more international attention to their plight. By chance, Li came across Rey Scott, a photo-journalist who had taken a number of shocking photos of the Nanjing Massacre, also known as the Rape of Nanking, and managed to convince him to shoot a documentary about the battle for China. “I had never felt proud of being Chinese before I knew about Li. But Li believed that Chinese people are always noble, and she felt proud to be one. It was Li that changed my thinking,” said Lung.
Li’s story provided Lung with an abundance of information about Chinese-American women of earlier generations, but failed to help her find a copy of the documentary. Lung described the feeling as “seeing leaves swaying on a tree, but never being able to touch them.” Unable to find any more leads about the documentary from Li’s relatives, Lung changed tack, setting out to contact the family of Rey Scott. After trawling through online obituaries, she eventually found Scott’s son through a genealogy website, and got in contact with him through Twitter and Facebook. Lung remembered that her heart leapt when Scott’s son called her, but she was disappointed to learn that he knew nothing about his father’s film. To comfort Lung, the man told her that he would ask his brothers for help. Lung described the search as a rollercoaster of emotions. A breakthrough finally came in the form of Rey Scott’s granddaughter Michelle Scott, who told Lung that she had seen some records of her grandfather’s documentary in his basement. They found a complete copy of the documentary that had lain undisturbed for over 70 years. “People always focus on their current reality, while ignoring their ancestors. Americans and the Chinese may be the same on this point,” Lung told NewsChina.
After three years of repair, AMPAS restored the copy into an 85-minute videotape, which opened with a shot of the south of the Yangtze River: green mountains and a green lake form the background, while a pretty girl smiles shyly at the camera. Suddenly, the
Contemporary poster art for Kukan: The Battle Cry of China
NEWSCHINA I July 2015
Top: Chongqing residents go about their daily lives prior to a bombardment Bottom: Lanterns are raised above a government building to warn of an imminent air raid
Top: Chongqing residents make their way to a bomb shelter Bottom: Rey Scott photographs the bombing
Screen Shots of Kukan
Top: Rey Scott rides a horse up to the city wall of Chongqing Bottom: Chongqing after the Japanese bombardment
shot cuts to scenes of war. Financed by Ling’ai Li, who reportedly sold all her property to make the film, from 1937 to 1940 Rey Scott traveled over 3,000 kilometers, venturing nearly halfway across war-torn China, by plane, train, bus, cart, sheepskin raft and on horseback. Holding a handheld 16-millimeter camera loaded with Kodak color film, he filmed various groups of Chinese people who, in the face of Japanese aggression, gave an impression of being tough, firm, indomitable and hopeful. The documentary’s four-minute highlights reel, for example, shows people in Chongqing buying fruit on the street just before a bombing, though many of them would likely be dead within hours. Most striking is a 17-minute segment composed of shots of a Japanese air raid on Chongqing, shot from a vantage point on the roof of the US Embassy, which was near the center of the bombardment, during which around 370 bombers dropped over 200 tons of explosives. On December 17, 1941, Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, forcing the US into the war. That same year, Kukan debuted in the US, and soon became a powerful call to action, inspiring many to donate to aid funds for China. Influenced by the film, many young Americans reportedly joined the American Volunteer Group to fight Japan. “It is one of the most awesome examples of motion picture yet seen NEWSCHINA I July 2015
in these days of horrific news events... somehow this wanton violence appears even more horrible than the scenes we have witnessed of London’s destruction,” read a commentary in the New York Times that year. Meanwhile, the Academy Awards panel recognized Rey Scott “for his extraordinary achievement in producing Kukan with a 16mm camera under the most difficult and dangerous conditions.” According to media reports at the time, US President Franklin D. Roosevelt had planned to only watch 20 minutes of the film at a private White House screening, but altered his schedule and insisted on finishing it. After the screening, he wrote a message on a traditional Chinese scroll, praising the people of Chongqing for their dauntless spirit in the face of aggression. Despite its success, the documentary changed very little in the lives of Li and Scott. Li’s family took little interest in her endeavors, and few of them acknowledged her achievement. Meanwhile, Scott returned to journalism, and remained in the industry for the rest of his life. Were it not for Lung’s efforts, perhaps Li’s and Scott’s greatest achievement could have been lost forever. Lung told NewsChina that she felt very excited about the film’s resurrection, calling it “a victory over time, and over the forgetting of history.” She is currently working on her own documentary, about her search for the film, named Finding Kukan.
From the Heart, Among Mountains
Studiously avoiding the hustle and bustle of literary circles, esoteric Chinese writer Chi Zijian prefers to connect with her readers through her work, both on and off the page
Photo by Zhen Hongge
By Chen Tao
hi Zijian, 51, one of China’s most prominent female writers, is seen by many as the country’s most important literary proponent of the earthy, coal-stained “black soil culture” of northeast China. Chi has published more than 80 books since she began her writing career in 1983, and northeastern settings and themes are prominent in much of her work - the city of Harbin in Snow and Raven, for instance, and the indigenous reindeer-herding Evenki ethnic group of the Greater Khingan Moun-
tains in Last Quarter of the Moon. Her works have been translated into many languages, including English, French, Japanese, Italian and Korean. The latter novel, her best known work, won the 7th Mao Dun Literature Prize, China’s top literary award, in 2008. Other awards have included three Lu Xun Literature Prizes and the Australian Suspense Award. Earlier this year, more than four years after the publication of Snow and Raven, which was based on the epidemic of pneumonic plague in Harbin from 1910-11, Chi sur-
prised readers by releasing a new novel, Peak Among the Mountains. Chi said the book was the result of her meditations on local life and human nature, as well as “the accumulation of my own life experiences, bit by bit, over the years.” The stories in the book play out in the fictional Longzhan Village, located on the tallest peak of a mountain range, where “the little people have lofty thoughts,” she told NewsChina.
Chi was born in Mohe County, on the NEWSCHINA I July 2015
Sino-Russian border in Heilongjiang Province, on Lantern Festival (the 15th day of the first lunar month) in 1964. Mohe Village – China’s northernmost settlement – where she was born and spent her childhood, was later renamed Arctic Village. “It was getting dark when I was born,” Chi recalled. “We put up lanterns on the Lantern Festival, so in my childhood, my father called me ‘Yingdeng’ [literally: greeting the lanterns]. Nowadays, my followers call themselves ‘lantern fans.’” This year, a group of “lantern fans” made a 15-minute birthday video for Chi, in which readers of all ages from across the country wished her well, each of them holding their copy of her latest novel, Peak Among the Mountains. Chi attributes her interest in the lives and customs of the nomadic Oroqen people of the Greater Khingan Mountains to experiences during her childhood. Growing up in Mohe, Chi noticed that horses were an important part of life for the Oroqen. “At that time, they were living in the mountains. Even though they have since been ‘relocated’ to cities, they still love riding horses. Their lifestyles are much the same as Han people, but their [traditional] culture is relatively well preserved. ” In Last Quarter of the Moon, Chi focuses on the lives of the Evenki people – some of whom still live in the Greater Khingan Mountains. “Many readers thought all Evenki people lived that way, but I was only writing about a single tribe,” Chi said. The novel was a reflection on the progress of modern civilization and “not just about nostalgia,” she explained. In 1986, literary journal People’s Literature published her work, Tales from an Arctic Village, in which she examines the life in the polar conditions of Mohe Village through the eyes of a child. Chi said the work was drawn from real life and was popular with readers. “The book also had a big influence on me,” Chi recalled. In 1984, Chi graduated from the Greater Khingan Mountains Normal University, and enrolled in a graduate program co-sponsored by Beijing Normal University and the Lu NEWSCHINA I July 2015
Xun Literature Institute in 1987, where her schoolmates included Mo Yan, who became China’s first Nobel literature laureate in 2012, and Yu Hua, another internationally recognized Chinese writer. Upon graduation in 1990, she returned to Harbin, working as an editor for a local literature magazine. She also joined the Writers Association of Heilongjiang Province, and became a professional writer.
In life, as in literature, Chi’s style is perhaps best described as “earthy.” A supporter of environmental issues, Chi, a delegate to the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), China’s top political advisory body, is known for her willingness to comment on topics outside of literature. “I think she did a positive thing, no matter how much controversy she caused,” Chi said of Chai Jing, a former TV anchor whose hard-hitting pollution documentary Under the Dome briefly went viral in late February before being censored. Chi told NewsChina that air pollution in Harbin, the capital of her home province, was regularly off the charts during the fossilfuel consumption peak months in winter. “Harbin is a beautiful city of ice and snow, and snow shouldn’t be that dirty,” she said. “Unwashed brown coal is burnt to heat the city.” Chi said she had contacted the local government on the matter. “The government should explain to the public why the quality of coal worsened after the price of heating in the city spiked.” Perhaps most surprisingly for a popular writer in modern times, Chi is a self-proclaimed technophobe. While her microblog account has accumulated more than 2 million followers in the five years since it was opened, it has little over 100 posts – however, this may be due to her busy schedule. Chi serves as chairperson of the Writers Association of Heilongjiang Province, organizes various literary competitions, and pays regular visits to elderly writers. Her schedule would
only allow her a few days in Beijing to promote the release of Peak Among the Mountains.
Just as Chi’s bold, weather-beaten style tells of her tough northeastern upbringing, her down-to-earth message is equally rooted in the trials of her adult life. “I want to apply a thick mud mask onto my face, so that nobody can detect my sadness,” wrote Chi in her novella All the Nights in the World. Focusing on the theme of death, told through the medium of coal miners at the very bottom of Chinese society, the novella was written after her husband died in a car accident. “If I had known that our marriage would last only four short years, I definitely would not have spent two years during this period writing Puppet Manchukuo; I would have spent more time with him,” Chi wrote in an essay. While Chi is reluctant to discuss her late husband, he is mentioned in the afterword of most of her later novels – in one, Sunshine Behind the Clouds, she named a character’s dog after him. In an interview published in the Chineselanguage newspaper Beijing Youth Daily, she said: “Death is like a tree in the winter in my hometown. The leaves may fall, but the roots and soul of the tree remain. Once the winter is gone, the tree will sprout and turn green again. The only difference is that in life, a winter can last dozens of years, but eventually there will be a day when life turns green again.” Similarly, when asked about her first major publication in her 50s, Peak Among the Mountains, she told the Beijing Youth Daily she had every reason to be optimistic about her writing career. “The spring of life is leaving me, but the spring of art remains with me,” she said. “So long as there is a tireless pen in my hand, it still has a firm hold on my youth.” Chi told NewsChina that her latest work was just a prelude for a new phase in her career: “The golden age of my writing may have just begun to unfold before me.”
Folk Singer Li Zhi
Music Businessman One of the most recognized independent folk musicians in China, Li Zhi argues that his industry needs to professionalize By Zhao Zhuo
Photo by Dong Jiexu
n 11 years, folk singer-songwriter Li Zhi has singlehandedly released seven studio albums, three live albums and two EPs. As his fame and influence grow alongside an impressive body of work and constant gigging, Li has become recognized as both a mirror of and role model for independent Chinese musicians wishing to succeed on their own merits. On May 23, Li began his Kanjian (To See) Tour in six major cities: Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen, Xi’an, Wuhan and Chongqing. Kanjian marked the first time an independent musician has launched a stadium-level tour in China without external sponsorship. “Our band will improve through large-scale gigs and we will make more money, allowing us to prepare for bigger operations in the future,” Li Zhi told NewsChina. Li Zhi’s music combines folk rock with poetic, satirical and sometimes borderline cheeky metaphorical lyrics. However, his ethos is widely described as conservative and mainstream. In his writing and in interviews, Li emphasizes honesty, diligence, order and obligation, the perceived absence of which in both Chinese society and the music industry is a major appeal. Li also argues that money is a crucial aspect of allowing China’s music industry to develop “correct” values and enter a “virtuous circle.” Making money necessitates large-scale performances, higher ticket prices and a bigger slice of the pie for musicians themselves. NEWSCHINA I July 2015
Li’s hard-nosed business acumen jars with a genuinely artistic temperament. Li himself jokingly self-identifies as “shameless,” but in our interview argued that “today’s shamelessness is for tomorrow’s dignity. It’s just a tool.”
them,” Li said. “But we wanted to have some souvenirs of that time.” When the title track of his second album – Mr Van Gogh – became an Internet sensation among rock aficionados, Li saw the power of the Internet to reach people, viewing it as a chance to go independent.
Money, Money, Money
Change of Heart
“You should understand that ‘commercial’ is not a derogatory term. It’s ignorant to be hostile to commerce,” Li told NewsChina, a “logical conclusion” that he says is the product of years of working independently. He is adamant that his immediate task is to complete his first stadium tour according to the “right business logic.” To switch to stadium gigs was Li’s own idea. In late 2013, when Li and his band were still playing live houses and music festivals, Li had a sudden realization that these old models had come to an end. He simply wasn’t pulling in the income he wanted by playing small venues and festivals, and consequently, Li felt, poverty was preventing the band from improving. He set himself a target of “upgrading” both his band and the scale of their gigs. Li remarked to NewsChina that his band’s gigs had always sold out, yet their income barely allowed them to break even. Li said that every month he would pay his team a combined salary of 60,000 yuan (US$9,700), a sum that didn’t include his own pay. Stadium gigs meant higher ticket prices and bigger audiences.
Li’s pursuit of better production values has convinced him of the importance of money in his industry. “We’ve played a lot of Chinese New Year gigs and I always wanted us to aim higher. And I increasingly saw the importance of money. Mainstream society operates under a set of rules,” he said. In one post on his microblog account, Li comments: “Currently, the Chinese music industry is in a vicious circle of bad work, lazy people and a lack of money. The only possible solution is that musicians take the initiative to work hard and make money fair and square, and then reinvest in music to give hope to young people.” Li Zhi also emphasizes cooperation between musicians. “Independence doesn’t mean isolation,” Chi Bin, Li’s manager, told NewsChina. “Each area [of music] has its own professionals. Our future goal is to have professional partners in most of these areas.” Li Zhi’s background perhaps goes some way to explain his fixation on money. Born in a village in Jiangsu, Li told NewsChina that his family had been poor since his childhood. In 1997, he entered college, majoring in automation at Southeast China University in Nanjing, where he learned to play guitar and became obsessed with Kurt Cobain and Nirvana. The younger incarnation of Li Zhi, in his older self’s words, was “an extremely self-contemptuous, yet extremely peaceful, angry young man.” Li played in a band and wrote songs in college until 1999 when he quit school and started his underground music life by working in bars and guitar stores. Though now unsatisfied with his early works, Li still released them under pressure from his band members. “I was embarrassed to release
NEWSCHINA I July 2015
In 2006, Li, with some popular songs already circulating among his underground listeners, released his third album. Yet he still could not support himself through music alone. In 2007, he chose to work for an Internet company in Chengdu. After two years there, he was named “Best Employee,” and found he had saved enough to release a fourth album, with far better production than its predecessors. The album launched at Star Live, one of Beijing’s biggest live houses, in front of a crowd of 1,000. However, as Li had spent 300,000 yuan (US$48,400) producing the album, which failed to sell well despite its popularity, Li still lost money on it. Li had, however, acquired a considerable audience and recognition from China’s live music circuit. His performance fees had risen, and his leadership over his band and his production team was strengthened. He began to introduce rules to improve performance – for example, his band-mates have to punch the clock when arriving at rehearsals. Li acknowledges that his band was initially resistant to having to work under his restrictions, but he maintains that such practices are necessary. “It’s true that music needs improvisation and inspiration, but only masters create masterpieces. People like us should still seek to improve. At our level, 99 out of 100 attempts are shit. I want a high ‘pass rate,’” he said. Li considers music to be “a serious job,” and sees it as his mission to professionalize both his own band and the industry as a whole. “Why do we punch the clock at work? Why are there work days? Why is there such a thing as a travel allowance? These weren’t invented by Westerners out of thin air – they were the sum of experience.” In February 2011, Li set all his unsold CDs on fire, determined to break the cycle of unprofitable productions. He released his fifth album in September that year, placing a digital version online to be downloaded for free. He also began to negotiate personally with online music platforms for copyright royalties. Now, Li receives tens of thousands of yuan in annual royalties. Li was also among the first people in China to launch online crowdfunding projects in the music industry. In late 2013, a recording of his 2014 Chinese New Year concert received production support from more than 2,600 people in 45 days. Through the Internet, his 2015 Chinese New Year gig sold 3,300 seats and 17,000 digital tickets for the online broadcast in 12 minutes. For his new stadium tour, Li Zhi has had to compromise on some of his former principles. He has accepted interviews, posed for photos and given out complimentary tickets, all things he largely avoided doing in the past. “This tour is way too important to me,” he told NewsChina. “I even asked for interviews, just to reduce the market pressure on our sponsor.”
Dances with Robots
An assembly-line automaton, repurposed into a dancer in an avant-garde piece by Taiwanese choreographer Huang Yi, hints at a future where humans and machines come together side by side to create and perform By Zhou Fengting
rom their timid, tentative first meeting, to the spark of mutual attraction, to the blooming of a deep friendship, Taiwanese choreographer Huang Yi and his robot partner KUKA played out a unique, emotional and somewhat erratic dance between a human and an authentic machine at Beijing’s 77 Theatre on April 18, 2015. The audience watched Huang’s character grow old and eventually pass away, leaving the young, vital KUKA alone on the stage. The performance, a piece of “model scientific art” according to Huang Yi, was sponsored by Taiwanese science and technology-focused art initiative the Quanta Arts Foundation (QAF). In a nod perhaps to the esthetic of modern science, the set design was somewhat minimal: two moving spotlights, two
chairs and a metronome, with accompanying classical music adding a touch of humanity. Given the rarity of such a performance on the mainland, the audience, mostly theater regulars and art industry insiders, found the piece refreshing and impressive. While many were impressed at the interplay between Huang and KUKA, the majority were even more surprised to learn that KUKA’s movements were programmed entirely by Huang himself.
A Robot Dream
For many of Huang’s generation, owning a robot was a childhood fantasy. Born in 1983, as a child, Huang, like many of his peers, was obsessed with Doraemon, the popular Japanese cartoon robot cat. Later on in life, Huang taught himself various disciplines relating to computer technology, including animation design, primarily to create advertising campaigns for his parents’ dance workshop. Probably inheriting the talent from his parents, Huang started to dance at 10 and was a fully-fledged choreographer by the age of 19. His teacher, Lo Man-fei, one of Taiwan’s most famous modern dancers, recommended him to Lin Hwai-min, founder of Taiwan’s Cloud Gate Dance Theatre (CGDT). At 25, Huang Yi became a choreographer with CGDT’s second string troupe. Gifted and diligent, Huang soon earned recognition from his peers for his abilities as a dancer and choreographer. His works, such as The Floating Room and SPIN 2010, received broadly favorable reviews. In 2011, recommended by dancer Sheu Fang-yi, Huang was named in US publication Dance Magazine’s “25 to Watch” list. In 2010, when Huang opened his own dance studio, he found himself ruminating on his childhood dream of having a “robot friend.” He decided he wanted an industrial robot, which he saw as a reflection of himself, “a tool to somebody, some unit and some nation,” just like himself, he told NewsChina. He imagined himself and his reflection dancing together, reaching out, feeling, attacking, embracing and consoling each other – the possibilities were infinite. Huang eventually discovered KUKA, produced by one of the best industrial robot manufacturers in the world, KUKA Robot Group in Germany. As one of the most popular industrial robots, KUKA has six 360-degree rotating shafts imitating the movements of the human arm, a range of movement that can accomplish most manufacturing tasks. KUKA’s various models can bear loads from five kilograms to 1.3 tons, and Huang needed one that could bear 16 kilograms. Not able to afford the robot, Huang had to convince KUKA’s Taiwanese branch to allow him to borrow it. He proposed to take the robot to a digital art competition as promotion for the brand. While KUKA’s Taiwan chairman Liao NEWSCHINA I July 2015
NEWSCHINA I July 2015
Photo by Xinhua
Qin-xin agreed to the proposal, he also told Huang that he would have two major difficulties to overcome. First of all, laws governing industrial robots stipulate that when an industrial robot is operating, no human is allowed to enter within the robot’s range of movement, and Huang’s performance could not break this regulation. Secondly, Huang would have to learn to program the robot himself. Delighted, Huang believed he had solutions to both of these problems. Forbidden from touching the robot during the performance, Huang instead attached a laser beam and a flashlight to KUKA, with the flashlight representing the robot's line of sight, and the laser beam symbolizing touch between the two dancers. With his self-taught computer expertise, it only took Huang a month to qualify as a KUKA programmer. Since the only two participants in the project were Huang and KUKA, Huang saw the piece as a creative collaboration between two performers. Huang recorded their rehearsals on a camera, obsessively reviewing Huang Yi and his robot dance partner KUKA on stage, Beijing, April 2015 and adjusting the choreography, all the while bearing in mind Liao Qin-xin’s reminder that once KUKA was in operation, it could become a “shark” – violent and merciless. After half a year, the first version of Huang Yi & KUKA was the original 20-minute piece as a foundation, Huang began ready – the pair entered the running for the Taipei Digital Art working on expanding the dance. With more practice, he Performance Award, and won first prize. coded more intricacy into KUKA’s movement, and even began to have real body contact with KUKA on stage. Art from Tools He finally succeeded in “taming” the industrial robot, makHuang Yi still remembers one of his teachers once told ing it appear soft and humane. In 2013, Huang and KUKA him that artists are often those who “utilize tools unconven- were invited to perform Huang Yi & KUKA at Ars Electionally,” and that creativity is often born out of these new tronica Festival in Linz, Austria. Before their performance in methods. Huang Yi was happy to be experimenting around Beijing, a 60-minute version was staged at the 3-Legged Dog this concept, and the resulting crossover double-act received Art & Technology Center in New York. support beyond his expectations. In the second part of the Beijing performance, Huang In fact, the KUKA arm that Huang Yi borrowed had al- placed a camera on KUKA, to serve as the machine’s eyes – ready been reserved by a buyer – to be put to use as an as- images of the audience and the stage captured by the camera sembly line machine – meaning that after the competition, were projected onto the theater wall in real time, introducing Huang would have no choice but to bid farewell, and send an element of live interaction between the audience and the his partner off to live out its days working in a factory. For- performers. tunately, Yang Chung-heng, executive chairman of the QAF According to Huang, Huang Yi & KUKA is still in deand a great admirer of Huang’s work with KUKA, offered velopment. In June, a new version will be staged in Taiwan, and Huang Yi even plans to shoot a movie using KUKA – he Huang the money to buy the machine. His dream of owning his very own robot finally realized, hopes that within five years, he and his robot partner will have Huang decided to take the partnership a step further. Taking produced “a strong piece of work.”
Photo by Xinhua
NEWSCHINA I July 2015
New Openings T
he Sixth China (Yongkang) International Door Industry Expo was held in Yongkang International Exhibition Center, Zhejiang Province, May 26 through 28, 2015. Manufacturers had rushed to register for a stall from March 9, making the exhibition one of the largest of its kind in China. A total of 656 companies shared total exhibition space in excess of 80,000 square meters to exhibit doors, windows, raw materials, door-making machinery and other fixtures. China’s leading enterprises in this field, Zhejiang Xingyue Door Industry Company and Zhejiang Jinkaide Industrial Trade Company, occupied the largest exhibition areas, each taking a 382-square-meter stand. In addition, a number of small-and medium-sized enterprises requested to expand their exhibition areas upon arrival, including the Zhejiang Xizerong Paint Company and the Zhejiang Hangying Lock Corporation. “Xingyue Door Industry used to target the wholesale market, but through attending this year’s Expo we plan to attract retailers,” said Xingyue brand manager Ma Zhihua. “We hope to both showcase our corporate image and improve our sales channels.” Xia Ting, general manager of Expo organizer China Technology Hardware Group, was quoted as saying: “Five consecutive years of successful exhibitions have helped established our reputation in the industry. These enterprises really want to display their products here.”
NEWSCHINA I July 2015
Yongkang-based enterprises have become major players in the door manufacturing industry since this local industry took off in the early 1990s. According to brand evaluation by the China Security and Protection Industry Association, secure doors produced in Yongkang accounted for 80 percent of the total produced nationally in 2014, with Yongkang-made doors constituting two-thirds of the country’s total door exports. “The industry’s enthusiasm for participating in this year’s Expo indicates higher expectations,” said Xia Ting. In cooperation with e-retail giant Alibaba, Xia’s company, has begun offering an online B2C service to door manufacturers since February this year. So far, more than 1,000 companies have subscribed. In addition, an app named “Intelligent Market” also made its debut at the Expo, allowing customers to complete transactions by scanning QR codes and search for items in an online database. This, delegates suggested, marked the first step to setting up a fully integrated on- and offline sales chain for the entire industry. “We have achieved the best possible results in the shortest time and at the lowest cost,” said Xia Ting. Many exhibiting corporations expressed their confidence in ongoing robust development of their industry. The Yongkang government seems to share their faith in its future growth potential, projecting 100 billion yuan (US$16bn) in total annual output value from the local door-making industry this year.
All Youâ€™ve Got
Photographer Ma Hongjie has spent 11 years traveling across China, spending time with local families and photographing them surrounded by all of their worldly possessions By Ma Hongjie
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1. A family by the Yellow River, in Huayuankou Town, Zhengzhou City, Henan Province 2. Goatherds in Ba Town, Chen Barag Banner, Hulunbuir City, Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region 3. A couple in Xushe Town, Yixing City, Jiangsu Province 4. The home of the village council head, Chengxi Village, Yacheng Town, Sanya City, Hainan Province
NEWSCHINA I July 2015
NEWSCHINA I July 2015
1. A home in Gujiazhuang Village, Dasungezhuang Town, Shunyi District, Beijing 2. A family by the Xiama Pass of the Great Wall, Tongxin County, Wuzhong City, Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region 3. The home of a soldier on the disputed Chigua Reef, Nansha Islands, Sansha City, Hainan Province 4. The home of a Nuo opera performer, Tunbao, Pingba County, Anshun City, Guizhou Province
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OUTSIDEIN perspectives from within China
Minority Report Our reporter takes a few wrong turns in her quest to explore the diversity of Yunnan’s minority villages By Alice Stevenson
unnan is a province that epitomizes the Chinese saying: “the mountains are high and the emperor far away.” It lies a world apart from China’s cosmopolitan centers and, in most cases, lacks the concrete sprawl that has begun to typify other parts of the country. Yet Yunnan is unquestionably China’s most diverse region. The province is home to more than 25 of China’s officially recognized ethnic minority nationalities, making for a melting pot of different cultures and traditions. The largest groups are the Yi, Bai and Dai minorities but even the term “minority” begins to seem slightly redundant in Yunnan, as these three peoples alone comprise almost half of the provincial population. These ethnic groups have a recognized autonomous status, allowing them, to a limited extent, freedom to uphold their own cultural traditions, civil rights and regulations. Unique languages and belief systems isolate these groups from the Han majority, with many living almost independently on the fringes of the province. Others, meanwhile, inhabit some of Yunnan’s most well-known tourist destinations and have successfully commercialized their cultures in order to exploit the growing number of domestic and international travelers desperate for an “authentic” experience. As a result, a trend that began in the State media has taken root in Yunnan itself. Minority peoples are depicted as quaint characters in
brightly-colored costumes who love to sing and dance for the amusement of both domestic and foreign tourists. And in the Minority Village at Dianchi Lake, just south of the provincial capital Kunming, this kind of spectacle is authentic as it gets.
The cultural traditions of Yunnan’s minorities are indeed evidenced in their intricate and fascinating arts and handicrafts, but the flipside of appreciation is often the trivializing of the people themselves. Considering that Kunming also boasts a tourist-oriented “Dwarf Village” where (mostly domestic) tour groups can gawp at an artificially-created society of little people, it is no exaggeration to say that the image that many Chinese tourist attractions promote is a caricature. On arrival at the Dianchi Lake Minorities Village it is unclear whether one has arrived at an educational attraction or a large crafts market. It is hardly an overstatement to say that everything is for sale. The site has the atmosphere of an amusement park: there are rope swings, elephant rides and even the possibility of taking a helicopter sightseeing tour above the park. There is the option to have a guided tour of the villages in the company of a typically young female guide dressed in a heavy, garish costume herding groups of largely apathetic tourists. The seeming lack of interest is a shame, as there is, despite appearNEWSCHINA I July 2015
Where to Stay Budget travelers will appreciate the small, friendly environs of the Lost Garden Guesthouse, located in the center of the city but tucked away from the bustle and noise. Enjoy wood-fired pizza and a wide selection of popular Western dishes on its bright roof terrace. Staff are more than happy to arrange excursions and further travel. Dorms start at 45 yuan (US$7) a night, with private rooms starting at 260 yuan (US$41). Those wishing to go upmarket should check out the stunning views from the Green Lake Hotel located on the edge of one of Kunming’s most beautiful scenic areas. Facilities are all top of the range and will ensure a relaxed and convenient stay, with Queen Rooms starting from US$177 a night.
Photo by IC
Getting There Kunming is among China’s most popular travel destinations, with hourly flights from Beijing, Shanghai, Chengdu, Xi’an, Chongqing and a number of international destinations. High-speed rail links also connect the city to most other destinations, though advance booking is essential. Dianchi Lake is easily reached from Kunming’s city center by taxi or bus, and an entrance ticket costs 90 yuan (US$14).
Tourists mobbed by gulls at Dianchi Lake, Kunming, Yunnan
Dianchi Lake, Kunming, Yunnan, February 2015
ances, a lot one can learn at the park, so long as one treats it as a learning experience, not an authentic representation of minority cultures. Each minority has been allocated its own “village,” where visitors are introduced to the modes of dress, architecture and lifestyles that endure in the actual communities in the distant reaches of the province. Reconstructions of their religious buildings or icons are a highlight, including Dai stupas and Tibetan gompas. Most of the villages have food stalls where tourists can buy typical snacks or products associated with that particular minority. There are also performances staged throughout the day in different villages. The “villagers” themselves, perhaps understandably, don’t go to great lengths to ingratiate themNEWSCHINA I July 2015
selves with tourists. Instead, most spend their days sitting in the shade, eating, chatting and laughing amongst themselves. One man I spoke to who was a performer in the Wa village informed me he had been working in the park for almost nine years, dancing once a day for the amusement of visitors and otherwise spending the rest of his time as a living exhibit. Po Shui Jie, the Dai minority’s New Year “Water-splashing Festival,” which runs parallel with Thailand’s Songkran celebrations, is the best time to visit. The event draws thousands to the park, and briefly unites performers, staff and visitors in the mutually-enjoyable pastime of drenching one another with water. The festival itself is meant to symbolize a cleansing of the soul and renewal in the New Year. Nowadays, the ritual aspects have given way to an all-out water fight. At the Minority Villages Center, kids and adults alike run around brandishing buckets and water pistols, indiscriminate in who receives a soaking. Be warned: if visiting at this time of year, prepare to be drenched. Leave your electronic devices at your hotel, get stuck in and enjoy the high-spirited fun. Drying off in the sun after the excitement of the water fight I looked around myself with different eyes. Although the Minorities Village can easily be viewed as a kind of ethnic Disneyland, it serves a valuable purpose, educating Chinese schoolchildren and travelers about the diversity that is often invisible in the country’s cities.
title was strangely appropriate, given that the whole event lacked distinction between modernity and tradition. Intricate ethnic costumes were made from cheap, tacky materials; local villagers held aloft outsize hightech cameras to film the event; and the town spokesperson read her traditional welcome address from the screen of her smart phone. Nevertheless, in stark contrast with the circus at Dianchi Lake, Luoping’s Er Yue Er festival demonstrates a consideration and appreciation for the minority people – as Back to Reality people, not attractions – and raises awareDisillusioned with my first exposure to Local minority people in traditional costume ness of their creativity and identity. While “minority tourism,” I was overjoyed to disthe ostentatious colors and excessive detailcover a surging pride in minority traditions ing may not represent the traditional dress of when I took part in the Er Yue Er festival the past (bizarrely proportioned headdresses perched precariously on held in the village of Luoping in the east of the province. The town itself is mainly known for its picturesque setting in bright the heads of the young models posed particular problems on a stage yellow oilseed rape meadows that burst into full bloom in springtime. overhung with tree branches), they represent the latest incarnation of The annual festival is a colorful celebration of Yunnan’s minority a long heritage sustaining ancient handicrafts. Most importantly, the visible enthusiasm of performers and audigroups, notably the local Buyi minority. Luoping’s festivities are about the locals having fun, with the tour- ence members was the reverse of the general indifference seen in the ists merely along for the ride. Local folk songs were followed by a Minority Village. People were genuinely having a good time – withsalsa performance to Robin Thicke’s infamous Blurred Lines. The song out needing to spray one another with water. Photo by Alice Stevenson
Though the appropriation of the Watersplashing Festival by outsiders can be seen as a further example of the loss of tradition and the import of frivolity, monetizing such events does enable minority peoples to support their communities, preserve their village and township traditions, and, perhaps most crucially, protect their actual home villages from being swamped year-round by tour groups.
xiao xianrou fresh meat
Huang Zitao, a 22-year-old Chinese pop star, recently announced he was quitting EXO, a popular South Korean boy band, leading to an outpouring of grief from fans at the loss of their beloved xiao xianrou, literally “fresh meat.” Xiao xianrou, which in Chinese sounds somewhat less carnal than its English translation, has emerged as a popular adjective in China’s entertainment circles to describe fresh-faced male pop stars. With some career performers in China starting out as young as 12, xiao xianrou, as in the West, are popular with young women and girls for their nonthreatening, squeaky-clean personae. Despite being 27 years old, many call South Korean actor Kim Soo Hyun the definitive xiao xianrou. Kim played the romantic lead
in the smash-hit Korean soap My Love from the Star, which told the story of a modernday Seoul debutante who falls in love with an alien. In China, meanwhile, pre-pubescent pop trio TFBoys has accumulated a millionsstrong fanbase. However, some have fought against what they see as a wave of “feminization” of male celebrities. Men in particular are increasingly speaking out about their “disgust” at the soft skin, androgynous features and passive attitude towards relationships which has begun to dominate media portrayals of young men, with some going so far as to claim the trend has essentially begun to fetishize children. The TFBoys in particular, who have many ardent fans that are a decade or more older than the band’s oldest member, have been singled out
for criticism. In February, 2015, a news report emerged claiming that a white-collar woman had spent 1.3 million yuan (US$213,000) on a “xiao xianrou” boy-toy. The story caused a public outcry on social media “How ridiculous that some older women call young boys ‘xiao xianrou.’ Don’t they realize how lascivious they sound?” commented one post on tianya. com, a popular Chinese webportal. However, fans of “fresh meat” have attempted to reclaim the term xiao xianrou, instead accusing critics of being dirty-minded and deliberately seeking to subvert an innocent trend. Some have gone so far as to claim the xiao xianrou phenomenon is simply a manifestation of Chinese nostalgia for the simplicity of youth. NEWSCHINA I July 2015
flavor of the month
Save Our Snacks
ucked away near the western edge of Beijing’s old city is Huguosi Street. This narrow, oft-clogged alleyway was once the site of a grand Buddhist temple, the influence of which spread throughout the gray brick arteries surrounding it. Once a year for more than 600 years, Beijingers traveled from afar for its bustling temple fair that offered a formidable assortment of snacks and treats. It must have been madness. Today, most of that history has sadly disappeared. The temple was mostly repurposed or demolished as Beijing attempted to shed its feudal past in the late 1950s, and the current scrubbed-up, tourist friendly reconstruction – all shiny new bricks and golden signs – has little in the way of historic charm. The developers couldn’t, however, evict the denizens of that bustling market fair: the street is a culinary dream, a street-long cornucopia of snacks that tempt the senses. Beijing has plenty of food streets, though most have only heard of the notorious Donghuamen Night Market: a test-your-mettle carnival of scorpions, bull testicles and starfish. It’s great for goofy photos to prove one’s bravery, but it hardly gets local Beijingers’ mouths watering. Instead, try a fly-by graband-go at Huguosi’s dozens of eateries, offering up authentic eats from savory stewed liver to scrummily overstuffed egg and chive potstickers. Huguosi’s association with food lends its name to a popular Beijing chain, Huguosi Snacks, a semi-State owned enterprise that is also perpetually packed. The main branch is located near the western end of the street, and has an overwhelming variety of local Beijing specialties. Most of the menu involves small bites popular during Chinese New Year festivals, but that is only a start. Stacks of deep-fried dough pancakes and rich, glutinous “rolling donkey” rolls are placed in trays for your perusal. Miancha, a broth of millet and toasted sesame seeds, is seen on every taNEWSCHINA I July 2015
ble, and the chain’s freshly made breakfast items can draw lines out the door. A new building halfway down the street, Huguo Xintiandi, heralds the new Beijing with its glitzy first floor, featuring a subpar Mexican restaurant and an overpriced craft beer bar. Pass on these. Instead, venture further down the street for one of the seemingly endless varieties of popular Chinese food. It’s best to wander and graze: a bowl of lamb soup here, a serving of sour-spicy potato starch noodles there. There are plenty of steamed stuffed buns, but the truly ravenous can choose from larger meals ranging from spicy hotpot to Shanxi-style thick-cut noodles. While the flavor never fades, the neighborhood aspect of the street becomes more prominent the further east you walk. Stores selling fresh meat, vegetables and bric-abrac soon displace restaurants. At this point, take a hard left onto the residential Mian’er Hutong going north; where until recently a sprawling wet market occupied an entire plaza, but now many of the produce hawkers and vendors have spread out into the alley. Here’s where you can pick up far more than a fragrant bowl of spicy noodles, but on-thevine, ruby-red tomatoes, homemade sesame sauce and flaky cornmeal cakes. Try to find the fried pancake vendor who pours batter onto a contraption akin to a potter’s wheel – this ubiquitous local snack (and phenomenal hangover cure) is made extra crispy and thin through centrifugal force. Some might compare streets like these to a time capsule – most of Beijing has been shoved forwards in time, leaving traditions in the dust. Haidian district, a colossal swath of land home to Beijing’s burgeoning tech scene and prestigious universities, banned breakfast
Photo by Xinhua
By Sean Silbert
street vendors in 2014, though they endure in a few isolated pockets of resistance. In the old city, after crumbling hutong alleys were either torn down or became too gentrified for regular folk to live in, the street vendors and their traditional cuisine departed with their clientele. In 2006, for instance, as Beijing dramatically redressed itself for its global coming out party in the 2008 Summer Olympics, all the food vendors in Menkuang Hutong south of the Forbidden City found themselves evicted. Many had staked out the same patch for generations, and could only gawp as their former neighborhood was dwarfed by high rises. 12 to 15 of these displaced hawkers set up residence in a tiny courtyard near one of Beijing’s central lakes, becoming a tourist attraction appearing on the city’s official website. Countless others simply disappeared. But as the old vendors begin to die out, groundswell is growing for an attempt to save some of Beijing’s unique delicacies. A study by the Development Association of Traditional Old Beijing Snacks reported that traditional local foods, many displaced by food trends imported from other provinces, were vanishing at a rate of around 20 percent per year. Famed restaurateur Feng Guangju, who spearheaded a campaign to reopen traditional stores in the 1980s, died late last year. It may be left to food streets, like Huguosi, to keep this disappearing heritage alive.
A Busload of Surprises By Anna Lykkeberg
Once on board, I was surrounded by people staring down at their phones – watching TV shows, listening to music, playing games – anything to distract from the overcrowding
Illustration by Liu Xiaochao
Grannies glare fiercely as the bus pulls up, and the jostling to be first aboard begins. Parents lift their children up and over the crowd. Elderly commuters elbow their way forward. The frantic atmosphere makes a daily bus commute a chore for many. While initially overwhelming and confusing, taking the bus every day provides an interesting glimpse into other people’s lives. Learning how to handle the line is Bus 101. Coming from Europe, I thought I had gotten the hang of this queuing business: nice orderly lines organized according to respect for personal space. In China, I threw all that out the window. The Chinese queue begins as a long irregular snake, its tapering body culminating at a bulging, surging, angry head at the front. It is once one is within the head of the snake that things get bewildering – when a bus pulls up people pile aboard in the hope of a seat, but as soon as the seats are all taken the line disintegrates entirely, and people rush forward as if onto the last helicopter out of a warzone; jostling, elbow-jabbing and swearing. In the mornings the tail of my bus queue stretched down the street and round the block. As I really did not need a seat, and wasn’t likely to get one, I took my time venturing into the head of the snake. Hanging around the edge, I eyed up my fellow passengers; ferocious grannies (never to be underestimated in China), some fancily clad businesswomen whose heels were not necessarily a disadvantage, and of course parents and grandparents taking neon-uniformed children to school. A bus had pulled up, and the calmer collection of people from the long queue had taken their seats, and so it was crunch time. The elbows came out, and the children were slung up the steps by their parents. It did take me about a month to gauge what was the appropriate amount of pushiness, which, as far as I can tell, involves using one’s weight and momentum to board the bus without actually injuring anyone. Once on board, I was surrounded by people staring down at their phones – watching TV shows, listening to music, playing games – anything to dis-
tract from the overcrowding. Potholes, sharp turns, or erratic braking were borne with no discernible effort. It is fascinating to watch the sea of heads sway and jump in unison, and see those in the standing zone in the middle of the vehicle leaning on their neighbors for support rather than holding on. One morning, a big pair of brown eyes seemed to follow me aboard. A small child dressed in pink flowery pajamas sat on the lap of her well-dressed young mother. Every time I looked over the child would cling to Mom and hide, so I shared a smile with the parent, got introduced and eventually her daughter gathered enough courage to peek at me with the hint of a smile. While grannies on Chinese buses are generally kept at a respectful distance, they sometimes surprise you. In the midst of one particularly hellish rush hour, I was pressed up near some seats at the front of the bus, and I suddenly felt a little nudge,
and then a hand suddenly grasp mine. I turned and saw a shrunken elderly lady, her wrinkled fingers clutching a sparkly rhinestone-studded purse, gesturing towards her empty seat. Baffled, I refused – I couldn’t possibly! No, no, she insisted, she was getting off at the next stop. Still surprised, I obliged, spluttering an endless stream of thank yous as I sat down. She expertly negotiated her way to the rear door, and gave me a bright smile as she stepped off – her good deed done for the day. However, having a seat is only an advantage until you reach your stop. On the aforementioned occasion, I found myself wedged into a corner a long way from the exit, and with a labyrinth of bodies between myself and the open air. A frantic and lessthan-elegant operation ensued as I stumbled and apologized my way through the crowd. Lesson learned, I spent days afterward observing how people would edge ever-closer to the exit, stopby-stop, as they approached their destination, ending up facing the exit with perfect grace just in time for their stop. While impressive when executed perfectly by a seasoned commuter, it was not uncommon to hear shouts of “I’m getting off!” and “open the door!” from hapless, trapped passengers. Not confident enough to come off as a brash, Chineseyelling laowai, I began to adopt the first method, picking my way delicately around passengers as unintrusively as I could. Taking the bus every day soon reveals itself to be a contradictory blend of careful planning and surrender to chaos, in which kindness and brashness are both essential qualities to be cultivated. Despite being an able-bodied young person, I was offered a seat several times, and often struck up conversations with curious children. I watched as young men would tenderly hold the purses of their girlfriends in almost Arthurian displays of chivalry long scorned in the West. In conversation with the elderly I would learn about their lives. While cutting my queue etiquette loose was difficult, the unapologetic crush of bodies in China isn’t just frustrating, I ultimately found it to be a sweaty, sharp-elbowed press of egalitarianism. NEWSCHINA I July 2015
Impromptunity By Reece Ayers
NEWSCHINA I July 2015
My role as a foreign attendee was to look nice for the camera
Illustration by Liu Xiaochao
It’s hard to summarize an entire experience, let alone a whole way of life, in a single word, but I feel that, in my case, “impromptu” is quite fitting. Impromptu is the adjective I would choose to describe my initial decision to embark on a journey away from home; a journey that I was blissfully unaware would last for at least four years. Impromptu is also the word I would use when discussing my first ever teaching job, and when reminiscing about being plopped into a rural Chinese village for six months, and when bragging about the drag competition I was the runner-up in, and particularly when nostalgically recollecting the unfathomably peculiar trip I embarked on to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the founding of Huaxi, Jiangsu, the self-proclaimed “Richest Village in the World.” Please, allow me to divulge… I was roughly three months into my Chinese adventure, still a novice and still reeling about the fact that I was a 19-year-old 5,055 miles away from Home Sweet Home, but nonetheless enjoying every second of it. I was teaching English, as you do, in the rural county of Jixian, Tianjin, when I received a rather, ahem, impromptu invitation to visit a place called Huaxi in central China. This invitation came with promises of free flights, accommodation, food and more; who was I, a kindergarten teacher with a 2000 yuan per month salary, to say no to that? Before asking about the “whens,” the “whos” and the “why me's?” the word “yes!” emerged from my mouth and a few days later I was on a bus approaching the most esthetically interesting village I believe I’ll ever see. Little did I know that this excursion would later become my go-to anecdote when trying to explain to others the haphazard nature of life in China. I received a full briefing, shortly before arrival, about exactly what it was that we were doing in Huaxi. Huaxi village, known by some as the “Number One Village under the Sky” was celebrating its 50th anniversary. The village’s found-
er, the recently deceased Wu Renbao, wanted the world to see his fellow villagers’ success, how wealthy each and every family was and, despite facing numerous hardships, how hard work and community spirit can tease a phoenix from the ashes. Wu summoned representatives from every media outlet in the country, as well as internationally, to ensure that his life’s work received the praise it deserved. My role as a foreign attendee (and as someone who had loose connections with a media company) was to look nice for the camera. This
meant front row seats to all of the dramatic celebratory ceremonies, comedy acts, dances and operas featuring A-list celebrities I had yet to learn the names of. It meant a free helicopter tour around the village (though after seeing the size of it from above, it’s hard to see how Huaxi is still considered a village), during which we were treated to a view of an impressive collection of replica international landmarks including the Statue of Liberty, Big Ben and the Eiffel Tower. It meant endless lobster buffets in a rotating restaurant atop the newly constructed 328-metertall Longxi International Hotel. It meant… Well, it meant the experience of a lifetime. I flitted from one event to the next with barely a moment to stop and take in my surroundings. First a press conference, then lunch with some important men, then a trip to the local museum, then a tour of the village gardens, then a chance to lay a hand on a one-ton solid gold statue of a bull. Everything seemed so unplanned, so rushed, so, well, impromptu, but resulted in unforgettable memories and experiences that really kicked off my love affair with China. Sure, preparation and decisiveness are not exactly Chinese characteristics, but I’ve come to learn that a lot of the best things in life, including friends, adventures, opportunities and love catch us unawares. That’s something I think Chinese society has embraced, and, mostly, much to their credit. It’s enviable, really. So much of the world is obsessed with things going exactly as scheduled but, in reality, we have to feel our way through the biggest stuff. I said “yes” to China, I said “yes” to Huaxi and, since that experience, I’ve tried to say “yes” to every single opportunity that comes my way, because China is bursting with opportunities. They may be impromptu but they will almost always be exciting, interesting and sometimes, life changing. My advice to anyone in or coming to China? Just say yes! That is, unless they’re offering you stinky tofu.
Cultural listings Cinema
Singer, Actor, Director The debut directorial work by Taiwanese actor Alec Su, coming-of-age movie The Left Ear, has generated significant buzz since its release in late April, 2015. Su, now 42, first rose to fame at 15 as a member of the teen-pop trio Little Tiger, a group that swept the Chinese pop scene in the late 1980s and early 1990s, before making a successful transition to acting. However, despite his commercially successful entertainment career, film critics were skeptical about the prospect of a directorial work. The movie, adapted from the novel of the same name by Rao Xueman, one of the best-selling writers of youth literature in China, focuses on the young adulthoods of a group of high-school students. China’s massive youth market, combined both with the popularity of Su and the original novel, ensured that The Left Ear performed well at the box office, bringing in 470 million yuan (US$76m) in three weeks. Yet, critics have been less enthusiastic – on Douban, one of the largest cultural social networking websites in China, over 44,000 user votes resulted in an average score of 5.5 out of 10 for the movie.
A Wait of 12 Years In 2003, Chengdu-based band Sound Toy released their debut album The Most Beautiful Journey. Combining impressive melodies, poetic lyrics, distinctive vocals and some elements of the most avant-garde genre of that time – post rock – the album was a hit with China’s rock and alternative listeners. However, the band unexpectedly split soon after, and remained silent in the following years, despite their debut album’s strong performance – the record retains an average rating of 9.2 out of 10 on major music platform Xiami. Thus in late April, when the band’s second album Love Is Expensive was released after a 12-year hiatus, many listeners were thrilled, and the album quickly exceeded one million online plays in just one month. Retaining most of the band’s previous style, the album received much favorable criticism, and a rating of 9 on Xiami.
Goddess No.1 By Feng Tang
Mountains in Meditating Over 150 ink-and-wash paintings by Cui Zhenkuan, one of the most renowned traditional Chinese painters, were showcased at the National Art Museum of China, under the title of Mountains in Meditating, from late May to early June. Born in 1935, Cui has been painting for over 60 years, and while most of his peers attempt to combine Chinese painting with Western style and elements, Cui has made a name for himself by developing the tradition in more traditional ways. By inverting the two painting techniques traditionally used for different elements of the style, critics say Cui’s work has expanded the realm of expression in traditional Chinese painting.
Feng Tang’s sixth novel Goddess No.1, a whirlwind tale of college life overseas that takes a dark turn after the protagonist returns home, perpetuates Feng’s reputation as a poet-novelist, and a “consummate chronicler of youth in Beijing.” Born in 1971 in Beijing, Feng is known for his series of deeply evocative novels about growing up in the Chinese capital, among which Everything Grows, published in 2005 and adapted for the big screen in 2014, is possibly the most popular. Goddess No.1, released this May, discusses the characters’ constant questioning of the outside world, and of their own inner worlds. With Feng’s characteristically dense depiction of sex and uniquely lyrical style, the book has shot to immediate popularity, and is already on the recommended reading lists of many online bookstores. NEWSCHINA I July 2015
NEWSCHINA I July 2015
China’s FTZs can catalyze a new round of economic reform Analysis of free trade zones needs to look beyond their basic function By Sun Xiaolin
n the past months, as plans to esstrategy is working, as governments in tablish free trade zones (FTZ) in several provinces such as Shandong and By setting up FTZs to selected localities have been formuAnhui have declared that they will atexperiment with new lated, debate has continued over their relato replicate the experience of the policies and new models, tempt tive significance in China’s economy. For newly-established FTZ in Shanghai. the central goverment some, the newly proposed FTZs are mereThe goal of sparking national-level hopes to trigger a new ly geared towards promoting trade and inreform is enshrined in the rubric of round of competition vestment through preferential policies. To the implementation plan for Shangthese observers, there is little to distinguish hai’s FTZ, which states that it serves between local FTZs from the economic development “a national strategy” to promote the governments zones already set up by multiple local govtransformation of the function of ernments. government in search for a “new govHowever, as details of the establishernance model” in accordance with ment of FTZs in Guangdong, Fujian international practices and rule of law. and Tianjin are unveiled, it has become more and more appar- A major focus is to reform China’s existing administrative sysent that the long-term vision for FTZs will go beyond promot- tem, which focuses on advance approval for commercial projects, ing trade and investment and mark the start of a new round of rather than supervision and regulation after the fact. economic reform aimed at transforming the country’s existing There is no doubt that China’s FTZ strategy faces a number development model. of obstacles. Firstly, the dependence of local governments on the China’s economic growth in recent years has been achieved in existing development model means that many will resist reform part by encouraging local governments to compete with one an- that may hurt their interests. It is reported that there has been other, which was the rationale behind the establishment of spe- much disagreement between the central government and local cial economic zones (SEZs) in the country’s coastal regions in the governments over the proposed scale of the FTZ plan. 1990s. As the SEZs achieved economic success through reform Secondly, as China’s economic growth may slow further, there and liberalization, their example fostered reform nationwide. has been mounting pressure for the government to prioritize However, as China witnessed rapid economic growth, the divi- boosting the economy over pushing forward reform. The recent dends from the last round of reform have gradually dried up. To suspension of a move to streamline local taxation practices remaintain growth rates, the government has resorted to massive flects the delicacy of its issue. stimulus spending, resulting in a litany of problems ranging from Finally, FTZ reform will have a major impact on the adminenvironmental disasters to excessive production capacity. As Chi- istration of many localities, affecting the interests of many lona’s growth rate stagnates, it is clear that a State-led, investment- cal agencies which have entrenched themselves in the existing driven development model has led to a dead end. administrative system. These agencies will be among the most Despite consensus on the need for change, it is very difficult resistant to reform. for local governments to initiate relevant reforms as they have Despite such difficulties, FTZ reform and the vision behind it become so entrenched in China’s existing development model. marks out the future direction of China’s development. It could By setting up FTZs to experiment with new policies and new well prove as durable and long-lasting as the country’s previous, models, the central government hopes to trigger a new round pioneering economic experiments. of competition between local governments and provide them with the momentum to reform. There is some evidence that this The author is a co-founder of ShiJu Think Tank.
NEWSCHINA I July 2015
NEWSCHINA I July 2015
NEWSCHINA I July 2015