SOCIETY Human Shield: China's Bravest Attorney ENVIRONMENT Horned Dilemma: Rhino Farmers
SLEEPER CELLS How cancer in China went from being relatively uncommon to a leading cause of death in the time it has taken the country to industrialize
Volume No. 058 June 2013
SPECIAL REPORT Is Bigger Better? Urbanization Push
Published by China Newsweek Corporation Publisher: Liu Beixian Executive Directors: Liu Beixian, Zhou Jianming Editor-in-Chief: Wang Xiaohui Editorial Office Managing Editor: Zheng Zhonghai Advisor: Liu Dizhong Senior Editor: Yang Yi Copy Editors: Jack Smith, Alex Taggart Lead Writer: Yu Xiaodong Editors: Wang Yan, Yuan Ye, Xie Ying, Sun Zhe, Li Jia First Reader: 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: email@example.com www.newschinamag.com Art Department Art Director: Wu Shangwen Art Editor/Designer: Zhang Dawei Marketing Office China Newsweek Corporation President: Wang Xiaohui Chief Executive: Fred Teng Tel: 1-212-481-2510 Fax: 1-212-481-2503 Address: Suite 1101, 15 East 40th Street, New York, NY 10016, USA Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Toronto Office Director: Lai Hailong Address: 51 Halstead Drive, Markham, ON Canada L3R7Z4 Tel: 1-905-604-6150 Fax: 1-905-604-6170 Email: email@example.com Marketing Director: Wang Chenbo Account Manager : Ren Jie Tel: 86-10-88388027 Circulation Manager: Yu Lina Tel: 86-10-88311834 Advertising Director: Gao Weiwei Tel: 1-212-481-2510 Marketing Promoter: Jerry Meng Tel: 1-212-481-2510 New York Office: Wang Yongzhi, Ruan Yulin, Li Yang Washington Office: Wu Qingcai, De Yongjian Los Angeles Office: Mao Jianjun San Francisco Office: Liu Dan Houston Office: Wang Huan London Office: Zhou Zhaojun Tokyo Office: Sun Ran Paris Office: Long Jianwu Bangkok Office: Yu Xianlun Kuala Lumpur Office: Huang Hongbin Moscow Office: Jia Jingfeng Manila Office: Zhang Ming Berlin Office: Huang Shuanghong Sydney Office: Zhu Daqiang Legal Advisor: Allen Wu ISSN 1943-1902
NEWSCHINA I June 2013
It is time for the State to protect the property it claims to own
n a recent announcement, the State Council pledged have no reliable legal recourse. that it would release a regulation on establishing a Without a unified system to protect their property, no unified national property registration system by June individual can be confident that their rights will be respectof 2014. In effect, this would ed, and all homeowners live with finally extend State protection the threat of losing their home to The State Council has to private property – an unan overnight policy U-turn. The precedented economic shift in government is well aware that pledged to enshrine nominally socialist China. defending the rights of citizens is property rights into law for Considering the boom in one of the fundamental responthe first time. But this could China’s property market in resibilities of any government, be the most daunting task cent years, it seems odd that such regardless of ideology, and thus it has ever undertaken a step has been such a long time State credit must protect the valcoming. ue of the property it, in China’s According to China’s existing property rights law, passed case, leases to its citizens. Only then will Chinese people feel in 2007, the government is required to defend individual secure in their own homes. property rights. But this law has never been enforced, thus The task ahead for the government is daunting. In orstifling consumer confidence, and no single authority has der to genuinely extend State protection to homeowners, responsibility for protecting property rights. Now, the State a leaky and outdated personal and organizational identifiCouncil has finally made its move. cation system will need to be overhauled. Recent scandals A unified property rights registration system is a prereq- involving government officials and State-owned bank uisite for social prosperity. Such systems allowed Europe executives who have purchased multiple properties under and North America to industrialize by allowing middle false names, is evidence of the pressing need to tighten up and working class people the opportunity to own their government databases and ID registration. own homes. As property security is perhaps the most pressBut most observers agree that change, if it ever comes, ing concern of citizens in any market economy, only when will likely be slow to make itself felt, largely because so many people are confident that their property will be protected special interest groups are profiting from the status quo. will they strive to create and pursue wealth, thus fueling Even if the State Council released a regulation on real economic development. estate registration worded precisely as it has already pledged, Currently, China manages property rights through a it would only be a step along a long march toward reform. complicated and uneven system of official certification. Ten agencies currently lay claim to jurisdiction over private Credentials can be easily forged, and different official agen- property registration, each with its own rules, procedures cies do not share a single national property database, the and interests, with the correspondingly slanted data to property rights of private citizens are largely unprotected by match. In some localities, information registration has yet to be computerized, an indication of just how far China is law. In China, when a property transaction is filed with a from truly realizing its goal of a comprehensive and usable real estate agency, it cannot be guaranteed as secure, nor citizens’ database. The government must take swift action to establish concan property disputes be effectively resolved in court. Thus, if conflicts arise, the authorities typically refuse to take any crete procedures and guidelines to consolidate both authorresponsibility, meaning that the property market in China ity and responsibility under a single agency. Beginning with residential property in urban areas, this typifies the “buyer beware” school of commerce. Unscrupulous realtors have every opportunity to defraud clients, system should eventually cover all property, from farmland even incite State banks to foreclose on homes already paid to factories, to make the rights of the individual as imporfor, before splitting the profits. Their victims, meanwhile, tant, and influential, as the powers of the State.
Photo by CFP
As China has industrialized, cancer has leap-frogged other illnesses to become a leading cause of death, with poor diagnoses and treatments contributing to spiraling death rates. Can an overstretched healthcare system, already struggling with the added burden of an aging population, cope with the strain?
01 It is time for the State to protect the property it claims to own 10 12
Central and Local Governments : The Asset of Ambiguity Laws & Regulations : Permanently Provisional
14 Cancer in China : A Malignant Issue/Refusing Treatment
24 26 30
Labor Rights : State of the Union Wu Renbao : No More Miracles Chi Susheng : Born Defensive
P57 NEWSCHINA I June 2013
P38 32 Polystyrene : Taking Back the Trash
57 Hu Fayun : In Pursuit of Truth
35 Messenger App : Data Discrimination special report
38 Urbanization Blessing or Burden?/Flipping Farmland
60 Bird Strike outside in
Brisk Dalian : Sun, Sand and Sea Battles Flavor of the Month : Breaking it Fast
46 The Birth of New China : Censorship Survivor environment
50 Imported Rhinos : No Introduction Necessary? culture
54 Wang Feng : Rock for the Masses
NEWSCHINA I June 2013
04 MEDIA FOCUS 05 What They Say 06 NEWS BRIEF 08 Netizen Watch 37 China by numbers 66 real chinese 68 ESSAY 70 CULTURAL LISTINGS 72 Commentary
NewsChina Chinese Edition
April 8, 2013
April 8, 2013
Xi’s First Diplomatic Visit
The Vitamin Monopoly
Chinese President Xi Jinping’s first diplomatic visit at the end of March has been interpreted as an attempt to further diversify China’s diplomacy, though relations with the US will remain the country’s top priority.While Xi’s visit to Russia reflects the importance of relations with its biggest and most powerful neighbor, his visit to Africa aims to boost ties with other fast-growing economies and developing countries. At the BRICS summit in South Africa, agreements on building cooperative institutions, particularly the concept of a BRICS Development Bank, an Indian initiative, and the IMF-style US$100 billion Contingent Reserve Arrangement, were finally reached after the previous four summits had proved largely fruitless. Negotiations on the bank will face difficult issues, mainly in terms of location, initial capital contribution and operation.The summit also highlighted the BRICS countries’hope for a stronger presence in Africa. Furthermore, Xi’s trip led to deals on China-funded infrastructure projects in some African countries.
Southern Metropolis Weekly April 8, 2013
On March 14, 2013, the Brooklyn Federal Court in New York ruled that a Chinese vitamin C producer, along with its parent company, will pay a fine of US$162.3 million for price-fixing on the US market. It was found that in order to curb the slump in export prices due to overcapacity, the China Chamber of Commerce for Import & Export of Medicines and Health Products had orchestrated production restriction and price agreements among major Chinese producers. The company claimed that the practice was ordered by the Chinese government, and should thus be exempt from liability under the US anti-trust law. The jury rejected the claim. However, this kind of government intervention in industrial operation could possibly be cited in other anti-monopoly cases involving Chinese companies, and undermine China’s efforts to be granted full market economy status by its major trading partners.
China Economic Weekly April 8, 2013
Toxic Medicine A scandal has halted the ambitious expansion of Guangzhou Pharmaceutical Holdings Limited (GPHL) to become the first company in the industry to be listed on the Shanghai, Shenzhen and Hong Kong stock markets. In late March, State broadcaster CCTV revealed that a GPHL subsidiary had misused a key ingredient in the preparation of a herbal pill popular with Chinese families, resulting in a toxic product. The company has suspended the medicine’s production, and stopped buying from the supplier in question. Recently, GPHL announced that batches of sample tablets had passed national standards. However, the existing standards are insufficient to detect all ingredients in herbal medicines, and more importantly, the company’s supply chain is becoming too long and too fragmented to ensure the quality of its products.
Lost in Dongguan Owing to continued economic decline since the Global Financial Crisis in 2009, even locals are moving out of Dongguan, once one of the earliest and most successful players in China’s rise as the world’s factory – in just four years, the city’s population has reduced by 4 million. Rents are dropping rapidly, and many of the city’s notorious brothels have to compete more fiercely than ever. The hardest-hit have been investors from Taiwan, many of whose labor-intensive factories have underwritten the export-oriented rise of Dongguan. Some have already closed, or moved some of their production to cheaper neighboring countries. Those who remain hope to improve productivity with increased mechanization, or by adjusting their business models to target the Chinese mainland market.
Xinmin Weekly April 4, 2013
Mass-produced Ladies Learning how to behave like a lady at formal occasions, such as banquets or business receptions, is the latest fashion in China. A 12-day training course that teaches basic etiquette, from the proper use of silverware to choosing appropriate dinnertable conversation, costs the equivalent of a few thousand US dollars. The boom is due in large part to the demands of wealthy men – young women want to learn to be elegant enough to land a well-heeled man, rich housewives hope to be more helpful to their husbands, and businesswomen are keen to know the proper protocol when meeting international business partners. NEWSCHINA I June 2013
Illustration by Wu Shangwen
“We sold it all to you.”
A villager in Dakuai, Henan Province, when asked by a reporter what the village had done with its crop of rice irrigated with contaminated waste water from a local paper mill.
“Both sides are inflamed. They challenge one another mostly out of a sense of pride.” People’s Liberation Army commissar Liu Yuan on China’s stormy relationship with Japan.
“Entrepreneurs should be a nation’s most treasured group, much more valuable than politicians and economists, because the future depends on pioneers.” Liu Qiangdong, CEO of JD.com, a leading online retailer, calling for a more pro-business attitude.
“The longest distance in the world is between the baby in your arms and their foreign milk formula.” Microblog star Yao Chen on Hong Kong’s recent restrictions on the export of infant formula to the mainland.
“Private enterprises may flirt with government, but must not climb into bed with it… In a society that drives virtuous girls to prostitution, it is a constant but necessary fight to maintain a bottom line.” Economist Xu Xiaonian on the need for enterprise to maintain a certain distance from politics. NEWSCHINA I June 2013
“Let’s engage in a‘People’s War’against the practice of blackmailing government officials by fabricating obscene pictures.” A slogan launched by Shuangfeng county, Hunan Province, one of many areas hit by allegedly manufactured sex scandals involving officials. “If this body is called the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), why has it only focused on development for a full decade?” Economist Zhang Weiying challenging China’s top macroeconomic agency on its perceived failure to deliver meaningful reforms. “Since Hong Kong’s return to China, the Chinese government has been emphasizing that candidates for the post of Chief Executive must love the country and Hong Kong, be trusted by the government and supported by the Hong Kong people. In other words, opponents of the [mainland] government need not apply.” Qiao Xiaoyang, director of the legal affairs committee of the National People’s Congress, on Hong Kong’s election of Chief Executives. “The real estate market is risky. Divorce requires discretion.” Shanghai’s civil registration bureau warning against bogus divorces initiated for tax purposes. The city recently levied heavy taxes on the sale of a married couple’s second home, causing a spike in the divorce rate.
Deadly Earthquake Rocks Sichuan A 7.0-magnitude earthquake struck southwest China’s Sichuan Province at 8 AM on the morning of April 20, just three weeks before the anniversary of the 8.0 earthquake that devastated the same province in 2008. The quake’s epicenter was located just 13km below Lushan, a county under the administration of Ya’an city, less than 250 kilometers from Wenchuan, the epicenter of the 2008 quake that killed 87,000. By April 22, a total of 187 people had been confirmed dead in Ya’an, which has a total population of 1.53 million. Though experts claim the quake has not caused as much damage as the Wenchuan disaster, strong tremors were felt in Chengdu, the provincial capital located about 140km from Ya’an, due to the comparatively shallow epicenter. Jiang Haikun, an official with the China Earthquake Networks Center’s (CENC) forecasting department, told the media that the Ya’an quake resembles that in Wenchuan, as both were formed in a similar way on the Longmen mountain fault zone. Earthquakes on this 500-km belt are not frequent, but very powerful. 12 quakes above 5.0 on the Richter scale have occurred since 1900, of which the Wenchuan earthquake was the most powerful, Jiang said. Government scientists have confirmed that the Ya’an quake was not an aftershock of the Wenchuan earthquake. So far, there has been no official comment on why two powerful earthquakes have occurred in the same region during such a short period. Scientists and geologists have suggested that rampant construction of hundreds of dams on major rivers in southwestern China could be to blame. Fan Xiao, a geologist from Sichuan Province, recently warned that concentrated reservoir construction and water storage over the coming decade could potentially cause quakes in nearby regions
According to Fan’s research, a large-scale hydropower station has been built on the Dadu River, 80 kilometers south of Lushan, the epicenter of the 2013 earthquake. Yang Yong, a well-known Chinese independent scientist also agrees that massive man-made structures could possibly cause geological instability. According to Yang, there are currently more than 100 reservoirs of various scales within a 100km radius of Lushan, and their processes of water storage and release for power generation could definitely influence the region’s natural geography.
NEWSCHINA I June 2013
Defense White Paper Reveals Military Strategy On April 16, China issued its eighth white paper on national defense since 1998. Titled The Diversified Employment of China’s Armed Forces, the paper sets new goals for its armed forces under five basic policies and principles to meet the evolving challenges of international and domestic security. While claiming that China “will never seek hegemony or behave in a hegemonic manner,” the paper also indicates that the country will build a strong national defense and powerful forces which are “commensurate with China’s international standing and meet the needs of its security and development interests.” Among the five policies and principles, technological readiness for regional conflict comes second only to safeguarding national sovereignty, security and territorial integrity. China’s maritime interests have also risen in importance. Other policies and principles include carrying out effective non-combat operations, strengthening security cooperation with other countries and fulfilling international obligations. The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) for the first time revealed the actual number of army, navy and air force personnel for the first time, as well as designations of its army combined corps and its main missile lineup. With 2.3 million active military personnel, China now has the largest armed forces in the world.
Military Personnel Army: 850,000 18 corps deployed to seven “military area commands” Navy: 235,000 Divided between three fleets Air Force: 398,000 One “air command” in each of the military area commands The PLA Second Artillery Force controls both nuclear and conventional missile forces
John Kerry Visits During Korean Crisis Against the backdrop of ongoing tensions on the Korean Peninsula, United States Secretary of State John Kerry’s visit to China on April 13 and 14 drew much attention from the Chinese public. Amid speculation that North Korea was preparing for a missile launch on April 15, the 101st birthday of the nation’s founder and former leader Kim II-sung, John Kerry urged Beijing to join the US in a policy of denuclearization with “teeth.” President Xi Jinping and Foreign Minister Wang Yi held talks with John Kerry, but according to reports from Chinese media, aside from re-affirming their respective concerns, the two sides did not reach any further agreements on the Korean question. Kerry also touched upon other issues in talks with Beijing. According to Chinese media, the two parties also reached a preliminary consensus on reshaping their bilateral relations, strengthening cooperation on network security, energy and climate change. NEWSCHINA I June 2013
Farewell to MSN Microsoft switched off its Windows Live Messenger service (formerly known as MSN Messenger, often shortened to MSN) in most countries around the world in early April, making the Chinese mainland the final outpost where the service remains available. However, given that MSN’s share of the Chinese market has been in decline in recent years, neither users nor industry insiders are predicting a bright future. Having entered China in 2005 and gained a market share of about 10 percent in its first year, MSN’s popularity once exceeded that of its main competitor QQ among Chinese young white-collar workers. For a time, QQ and other instant messenger software providers were adapted to be more like MSN. Yet in the following years, MSN fell behind while QQ improved its service to better suit users’ needs in various areas including file transfer, email and audio and video chat. Losing out on the rapidly expanding mobile market, MSN’s share had dropped to 4.95 percent last year in China.
Photo s by CFP
What’s Making China Sad ? A freshman at Jinggangshan University in Ji’an, Jiangxi Province was crushed to death by a falling basketball hoop while warming up for a game. The base of the hoop had rusted through due to lack of maintenance.
Poll the People A netizen from Wuhan, Hubei Province took this picture of a passenger eating noodles on the subway. The diner later realized, and smashed her bowl on the photographer’s head. What would you do if you saw someone eating on public transport? Respondents: 9,093
What’s Making China Angry ? In order to keep his government salary, a public servant from Yulin, Shaanxi Province had his wife fill in for him at the office while he took a four-and-a-half-year leave of absence to do business elsewhere. The man’s colleagues commented that the wife was a much more dedicated and capable official than her husband.
What’s Shocking China ? Guards at a prison in Tieling, Liaoning Province, provided inmates with drugs, alcohol and even prostitutes, all of which are illegal in prisons, according to a report on the website of the People’s Daily. The prison was reported to be running a supermarket selling contraband to inmates at high prices.
Take a picture and post it to your microblog 1,255 Stop them 958 Remind them with a glance 1,776 Hate them silently 4,362 Ignore it 762 Inform the driver or inspector 548 Not sure 1,477 Don’t care…I eat in the subway too 785 Source: www.weibo.com
Most Circulated Post Retweeted 160,861 times This post on the official Weibo account of the prestigious Fudan University revealed a 27-year-old postgraduate at the school had allegedly been poisoned to death by his roommate. The suspect was arrested by local police after lethal chemicals were detected in the dormitory’s water cooler.
We are sad to notify that Huang Yang, following hospital treatment, passed away at 15:23, April 16
NEWSCHINA I June 2013
Top Five Search Queries On
Over the week ending February 18 Gold Price 242,289 The slump in gold prices has resulted in high demand from China.
HOT? WHO’S NOT?
Bikini Restaurant 123,383 A seafood restaurant in Changsha, Hunan, required its employees to wear skimpy swimwear. Boston Explosion 106,667 One Chinese national has been confirmed dead in the attack.
Liu Zhijun 61,436 The former minister of railways faced trial in Beijing on April 10.
Top Blogger Profile Pan Shiyi
Some of the pictures used in this section are from the internet
Yunnan Prison Break 78,171 A total of 37 inmates of a forced drug rehabilitation facility broke out early April.
Bold Suitor A senior high school student surnamed Ding from Xi’an, Shaanxi Province, wooed a female classmate with a public speech in front of the school’s students and faculty. He received thunderous applause from his schoolmates, but was pulled down from the podium and sent home from school.
Not-soquakeproof While the local government in Zhaotong, Yunnan Province boasted that the houses they had built for local villagers could withstand an earthquake measuring eight on the Richter scale, they were recently blown over by the wind.
Followers: 15,044,031 The 50-year-old chairman of SOHO China, the largest premium office space developer in China, is one of the few businessmen who dares to speak openly on public affairs. Taking a key role in pushing the government to monitor and publish data on PM2.5, a vital air pollution reading, Pan was among the first to retweet late last year on his Weibo account the PM2.5 reading released on the US embassy’s Twitter feed. NEWSCHINA I June 2013
Cometh the Hour A six-year-old girl who fell from a sixth-floor window in Zhongshan, Guangdong Province was caught by a passer-by. With a broken arm, the girl survived, and the man picked up a few bumps and bruises himself.
Fraudulent Romantic A college student surnamed Zhao from Wuhan, Hubei, posed as a journalist from the State-owned Xinhua News Agency in order to illegally obtain the test paper for his girlfriend’s upcoming English exam. He was caught while sending her the paper.
Central and Local Governments
The Asset of Ambiguity Blurred boundaries between central and local power are at the root of the disjointed enforcement of central policy in China. The recent “re-interpretation” of housing price regulations in local jurisdictions is a case in point By Min Jie
he State Council launched a highprofile white paper on February 20 requiring local governments to “regulate more effectively” the country’s real estate market. It is considered the most forceful step taken to curb runaway housing prices in recent years, and yet has so far failed to have a significant impact. Imposing a 20 percent real estate gains tax on housing transfers, among other provisions, the guidelines demand that local governments work out their own “detailed rules for implementation,” while also capping housing prices in their jurisdictions. This has triggered a sudden surge in real estate transactions as home buyers as well as homeowners have panicked in anticipation of a massive tax hike. Meanwhile, couples have rushed to file for divorce in order to evade heavier taxes levied on jointly-owned multiple properties, only to remarry once they are in the clear. While all agree that something needs to be done, there is little consensus in government on precisely how China can bring its chaotic housing market, now a social problem as much as an economic one, to heel.
As local governments dutifully released their various takes on the ambiguous phrase “detailed implementation rules” required by the State Council, little enthusiasm for reining in house prices was apparent. In Nanjing, capital of East China’s Jiangsu Province, for example, the “detailed implementation rules” issued by the local government con-
sisted of 114 words, far shorter than the State Council’s 3,500-word white paper, itself unusually short for a national-level guideline. Nanjing, however, was outdone by Hangzhou, capital of East China’s Zhejiang Province, who won the brevity prize with only 62 words. Both these “detailed” sets of regulations would fit easily into a Chinese microblog post, with room left for a link to a real estate developer’s website. With regard to specifying how the new 20 percent gains tax would be calculated and collected, as demanded by China’s new leadership, not one city’s government chose to elaborate, with many not even mentioning the tax in their press releases. Nor has a single local authority introduced a housing price cap, again, flouting a direct order from their Beijing paymasters. Instead, most have chosen to drone on about keeping housing prices “stable,” a state housing prices in China have not been in since the 1980s. Keeping price increases in tandem with rising local incomes, with statistics for both rates in dispute, was as close as any local government got to being specific. According to Professor Wang Yukai, vice director of the Chinese Academy of Governance, it is impossible for local governments to be as enthusiastic as the central government about curbing housing prices as long as they depend on the proceeds from a booming real estate industry for much of their revenue. In recent years, local governments have become dependent on profits from the real estate industry, one of China’s only truly lucrative private business sectors. Much of this money has
come in the form of “land grant fees,” paid by developers to local government officials, as no private citizen in China has the right to own land. In some localities, these fees account for more than half of total local government revenue. There is no indication as to what might replace them. However, since the central government tightened controls over the real estate industry in 2010, warning that runaway prices were widening China’s wealth gap and threatening social stability, local government revenue derived from the housing market has slumped, putting a strain on local governments’ coffers. As a consequence, many face a looming debt crisis, as the bills for projects begun in the boom years begin to pile up just as their revenue stream is cut off. In 2012, for example, land grant fees accounted for an average 31 percent of local government revenue, a 7 percent drop on the previous year. Fearful of a growth slowdown or even bankruptcy, few officials want to see this percentage shrink any further.
Officials and experts are now concerned about what they call “implementation incapacity” in local government. Resistance to and bending of central policies is now spreading to a variety of fields related to people’s livelihoods such as environmental protection, carbon emissions reduction, land appropriation, and education – all sensitive areas in which the central government is now fighting to retain a semblance of unity. NEWSCHINA I June 2013
Such local resistance and distortion has become so common that, in a rare admission, the central government officially acknowledged the problem in 2006 when former Premier Wen Jiabao included “improving implementation capability” as a major task in his annual work report to the National People’s Congress. While, to outsiders, China’s effective singleparty state speaks with a unitary voice, on the ground the reality is much more complex. At a news conference in 2012, prior to his retirement as premier, Wen admitted his “sadness” at failing to bridge the growing gulf between centralized policymaking and local implementation. Zhang Baoqing, former vice-minister for education, told NewsChina that the biggest problem he encountered during his tenure was that “policies go no farther than the confines of Zhongnanhai [Beijing’s central government compound].” Zhang added that it was “pretty common” to see a direct order from the State Council diluted or redirected as it travels down the chain of command, often losing any semblance of its original force once it finally reaches the local level. For example, in order to spur agricultural production, the central government subsidizes Chinese farmers. However, farmers across China claim ignorance of such subsidies, sometimes years after they are supposedly put in place. The money, instead of being invested in agriculture, is instead siphoned off by various elements of the bureaucratic chain until there is virtually nothing left for its intended recipients. An explanation frequently offered by local NEWSCHINA I June 2013
officials is that the core of this problem, which critics attribute to simple corruption, is in fact “implementation difficulties,” particularly the uneven distribution of revenue, and the unequal sharing of responsibilities between central and local governments. In 2011, for example, despite receiving only 50.6 percent of total national tax revenue back from the central government, local governments shouldered 84.9 percent of expenditure. However, central officials argue that this disparity is more than compensated for by government subsidies. Rather than undermining the enforcement capabilities of local governments, this system is intended to make them more responsive and thus accountable when it comes to implementing policy, taking into account that a large portion (43 percent in 2011) of local revenue comes directly from central coffers.
According to Professor Xiong Wenzhao, director of the Research Center for Central and Local Systems under the Minzu University of China, the State Council’s failure to hold the local governments accountable for the full implementation of its own policies lies in the lack of transparency in this fiscal chain. As both budgets and subsidies are agreed behind closed doors, local governments face no pressure to explain where they have spent the central funds. A much more profound problem is that there are no established legal procedures that regulate the relationship between central and local officials. “Instead of being defined by law, central
and local relationships vary depending on different policies, and is subject to power negotiations,” Xiong told our reporter. As China’s local officials are appointed, rather than elected, and are therefore not held accountable to the public, they tend to adopt an opportunistic approach in dealing with the central government. Inefficiency when it comes to improving the lot of citizens often translates into the surprisingly effective appropriation of central funding. For example, when the central government released a 4-trillion-yuan stimulus package in late 2008 to salvage the Chinese economy amid the global financial crisis, local officials immediately flocked to Beijing to sell investment projects to the central government in the hope of getting more than their allowance. The central government, for its part, is also adept at exploiting the murky relationship between it and its local branches. “With no legal explanation defining the boundaries of its power, the central government can choose to take responsibility or pass the buck at will,” Professor Ying Songnian from the China University of Political Science and Law told NewsChina. The State Council’s recent guidelines on curbing housing price, which urges local governments to draft implementation plans, for example, is considered a classic example of Beijing shirking its responsibilities. “Now the message has been sent that the central government has done its job, and that it is down to local governments to do theirs,” said Ren Zhiqiang, an outspoken real estate developer, at the Bo’ao Forum for Asia held in early April. “China desperately needs to define the relationship between central and local government in law,” said Professor Ying Songnian. “It is an important component of the rule of law.” So far, the prospect of genuine change seems remote, as all levels of the Chinese government still thrive on the ambiguities present within the system. Some academics agree that, on occasion, immunity from being held to account is preferable than a poor policy decision leading to a systemic collapse. Professor Lu Minghong of Nanjing University told NewsChina, “at the very least, leaving local governments some room to maneuver can prevent a bad policy from damaging central legitimacy.”
Laws & Regulations
Permanently Provisional Many “provisional” regulations hurriedly imposed decades ago remain in force in China. But why? By Hua Xuan
Photo by CFP
ith the release of the State Council’s five-point plan on curbing runaway housing prices through housing transaction taxes, once again the government’s attempts to legislate away a burgeoning real estate crisis are in the spotlight. It might surprise China’s real estate hawks to discover that, as early as 1986, the State Council formulated the Provisional Regulations on Real Estate Tax, which demands that homebuyers pay a 1.2-percent tax on 70-90 percent of the value of any purchased property. This regulation has attracted little attention, largely because it is rarely collected. Poor enforcement over 27 years, however, has not resulted in the lifting of this regulation. In this respect it is similar to thousands of other “provisional” regulations imposed at the local, provincial and national level across China. These are often sporadically enforced at the whim of local officials as a method of social control, self-promotion, or both, rather than out of any broader sense of their value to society. Some even date back to the earliest days of communist China. In 1950, the Provisional Methods on Checking Mail Secretly Carrying Foreign Currencies was formulated to restrict foreign currency to government agencies, and keep it out of the hands of private citizens. Over the last 63 years, this regulation has never been amended and is still enforced, at least in theory, despite the ready availability of foreign currency in China’s booming banking sector. According to data on the official website of
A man reads a notice announcing a provisional regulation on affordable housing applications, Shanghai, December 19
the State Council, a total of 279 provisional rules and regulations have been formulated since 1949, of which 97 have remained in force. This makes a full one-seventh of the administrative regulations in China technically provisional.
Li Lin, director of the Institute of Law at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told NewsChina that those who drafted these provisional rules had hoped that they would be eventually be upgraded to the status of laws after three to five years of enforcement, in line with the steady development of a judi-
ciary founded on the rule of law. Rarely, if ever, did this actually happen, and achieving genuine rule of law remains on the government’s to-do list. The first batch of provisional regulations came into force in the 1950s shortly after the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949. Abolishing numerous laws and decrees enacted by the ousted Kuomintang regime, as well as some which had their roots in the Imperial era, the new government quickly put in place its own laws and regulations. Data show that from 1949 to 1966, 244 normative documents were released by the Chinese People’s Political Consultative ConNEWSCHINA I June 2013
ference (CPPCC) and the National People’s Congress (NPC). However, only 12 of these documents were formally signed into law. The others fell under the broad category of “guidelines, orders, and resolutions,” a euphemism for regulations which could be selectively enforced. “Legislative concepts at that time were totally different from those of today,” Li Lin told NewsChina. “Except for several laws enshrining the legitimacy of the regime, such as the Marriage Law, the Agriculture Law, the Electoral Law and a number of organizational laws, most ‘legally binding’ documents were decisions, resolutions, orders and regulations.” In the 1980s, China embarked on the road of Reform and Opening-up. In this new context, with the planned economy dismantled in favor of a mixed system incorporating the marketplace and the State sector, new legal problems kept cropping up, requiring immediate solutions. Provisional rules and regulations, with enforcement at the discretion of officials, offered a convenient remedy. In order to legitimize numerous provisional regulations, the NPC and its Standing Committee gave authorization to the State Council on three separate occasions to bypass China’s formal legislature and formulate administrative rules and regulations that actually enjoyed equal status with laws. In 1987, the Provisional Regulation on the Formulation of Administrative Decrees was released. This particular regulation is unusual in that it declares that the formulation of provisional rules is itself a “provisional” legislative measure. It would take 14 years to remove the word “provisional” from this particular regulation, an indication of the glacial pace of legal reform in China.
As provisional regulations are exploratory and experimental by nature, they can be controversial. Widely influential regulations, regardless of their efficacy or objective fairness, may remain in force for quite a long time, becoming what academics term “indefinitely provisional” regulations. Among these, the most controversial tend to involve taxation. According to data released by chinalawinfo.
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com, the website of Peking University’s law faculty, 57 historic administrative regulations covering taxation have provisional status, 30 of which remain in force. Shi Zhengwen, director of the Center for Research on Fiscal and Tax Law at China University of Political Science and Law, told NewsChina that among China’s 18 current taxation categories, only three have resulted from laws passed by the NPC and its Standing Committee. All the rest are the product of provisional regulations imposed unilaterally by the State Council, which account for 70 percent of China’s total tax revenue. Observers argue that collecting taxes under provisional regulations does not comply with the legal principles of tax collection, and there are near-universal calls for reform of the system. Liu Jianwen, director of the Center for Research on Fiscal and Tax Law of PKU, is one academic passionately advocating a rebalancing of China’s tax law. “The principle of legally authorized taxation helps protect human rights and has been adopted by most countries,” he told NewsChina. “The 2000 version of the Legislation Law states that legislation comes before taxation. Taxation involves the deprivation of private property and thus must be approved by the NPC or its Standing Committee.” Li Lin pointed out that the involvement of government interests is one of the key reasons why those in power have not pushed for the drafting of a unitary tax statute, preferring poorly-defined provisional regulations. During this year’s NPC and CPPCC sessions in March, Zhao Dongling, a member of the National Committee of the CPPCC, submitted a proposal entitled On Terminating Provisional Regulations or Rules for Taxes Issued by the State Council, calling for an end to provisional tax regulations.
End in Sight?
Now, legal advocates have begun to speculate whether or not provisional regulations should have a specific expiration date. In 2007, an official from the Office of Legislative Affairs under the State Council indicated that as long as provisional regulations do not conflict with the basic principles of law, they
should not necessarily expire. Critics countered by asking that if time was not a factor, why did the government persist in classifying regulations as “provisional.” “In the Chinese legal system, laws are higher in status, more stable, and more difficult to alter than administrative rules and regulations,” said Li Lin. Li provided statistics which indicated that, by 2008, the 229 extant laws in China introduced since 1949 had been amended a total of 71 times. The 32 laws formulated between 2003 and 2008, meanwhile, had been amended 37 times. “If laws are subject to revision, why can’t provisional rules and regulations be amended or curtailed?” he asked. Li Lin proposed that time limits be imposed on provisional rules according to their status – five years for regulations enjoying the status of laws, three years for national administrative regulations and two years for the local regulations. “Time limits should be prescribed for each provisional legislation,” said Li. “In case no period of validity is stated, the provisional rules shall automatically become invalid when they reach the aforementioned time limits.” Although no provisional regulation issued by the State Council has a specified period of validity, some local governments have already started to cap their validity. In 2008, the government of Hunan Province released its Hunan Provincial Administrative Procedure Provisions. Article 45 of this document stipulates that normative documents are valid for five years. Those labeled “provisional” or “trial” are valid for two years. Normative documents automatically become invalid upon expiry. In 2010, the Sichuan provincial government issued similar regulations. Yet, these reforms only dealt with government-issued circulars, and neither government has so far dared to target provisional rules and regulations affecting millions of individual citizens. Whether or not China can turn relevant regulations into laws, while eliminating others, will be a test to see whether or not the country can move towards a more rigidly-defined, and far less malleable, legal system.
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KILL OR CURE?
One third of the world’s cancer deaths occur in China, with all types of cancer on the rise across all demographics. Yet, with the State’s healthcare system already overstretched by an aging population and with prevention initiatives hamstrung by vested interests, little is being done to meet this lethal challenge head on. NewsChina lifts the lid on China’s fastest-growing epidemic By Qian Wei and Li Jia
NEWSCHINA I June 2013
Cancer in China
A Malignant Issue
Chinaâ€™s cancer rate has outpaced all expectations, hitting a wide range of demographics. Can the country deal with it? By Qian Wei and Li Jia
A doctor updates information cards for cancer patients at a hospital in Fuzhou, Fujian Province, March 31, 2011
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or the family of An Yang, a 30-year-old IT engineer in Beijing, the world was turned upside down in the four short months between An’s cancer diagnosis and his death. Li Jing, his fiancée, told NewsChina that before then, none of the family had ever had to deal with premature death. Li remembers their conversation the day before An was hospitalized in March 2012: “It would be good if I could have another 10 years. I will stop doing IT and start a small tutoring class, or be a grocer back in my hometown in the northeast,” An said. Lost for words, Li simply nodded. An died from a malignant brain tumor. Every minute, six Chinese people are diagnosed with cancer – a total of 8,550 per day. Cancer death rates stand at about 2.5 million Chinese per year, and that number is very likely to rise to 3 million by 2020. These shocking figures are estimates by the National Cancer Center, revealed at a January 2013 press conference for the release of the Chinese Cancer Registry Annual Report, based on 2009 figures. According to data in 2010 from the World Health Organization, cancer accounted for 21 percent of all deaths in China, compared with the world average of 13 percent. Previous reports by the National Cancer Center show that this rate was 11 percent in the 1970s and 18 percent in the 1990s. 20 of 53 local cancer registry centers with complete
historical records reported more than a 10 percent year-on-year rise in cancer cases in 2009. Cancer kills more Chinese people than any infectious disease. In some places, such as the capital of Beijing and the southern Fujian Province, cancer has replaced cardiovascular disease as the number one killer. While most cancer patients in China are over 50 years old, with 63 percent of deaths in the age group over 60, the number of younger patients is also growing. In fact, the number of cancer diagnoses has increased across nearly all demographics. These figures are not as accurate as they could be. The national cancer registry network itself did not exist until 2002, and the latest survey, despite being the most comprehensive in history, only covers 8.2 percent of the country’s population. By any standards, though, the figures paint a dire, complex picture.
The Chinese Patient
Wei Kuangrong is one of the few Chinese people who are not surprised by these sad figures. As one of the first cancer statisticians in China, Wei has witnessed rising death rates since he began working at the cancer prevention research institute in Zhongshan City, Guangdong Province in 1986. He told NewsChina that in 2009 in Zhongshan, 8.34 cancer cases were diagnosed and 5.27 cancer deaths were
Photo by CFP
NEWSCHINA I June 2013
Photo by Liu Guang
58-year old Ma Haipeng is one of many people living along the Hong River in Henan Province, who have caught cancer as a result of water pollution from nearby factories. He lost his ability to work after stomach cancer surgery
Most lethal cancers in China Mortality rate (per 100,000 population)
Lung 45.57 Liver 26.04 Stomach: 25.88 Esophagus: 16.77 Bowel: 14.23 0
Most common causes of death in China (% of total deaths, all age groups)
Cardiovascular diseases: 38%
Cancers: 21% Respiratory diseases: 15% Diabetes: 2% Other non-communicable diseases: 7% Communicable, maternal, perinatal and nutritional conditions: 7% Accidents: 10% Source: China National Cancer Center / China National Health and Family Planning Commission
reported every day, compared with 0.78 cases diagnosed per day in 1970. In 1987, when Peng Jiewen became a doctor at the cancer department of the People’s Hospital of Zhongshan, the sponsor of Wei Kuangrong’s institute, he and two or three colleagues were allocated thirty to forty beds, many of which were left empty. Now, he leads a 10-strong team of doctors who operate the most expensive apparatus in the hospital, and despite the ward now having hundreds of beds, the hospital has a long waiting list. Cancer patient registration in China was first launched in areas vulnerable to particular kinds of cancers. In Guangdong, for example, incidences of nasopharyngeal cancer (a form of throat cancer) were so
common that the disease was dubbed “the Cantonese cancer.” High incidences of esophageal cancer in Linzhou city, Henan Province and liver cancer in Qidong, Jiangsu Province, prompted the establishment of registry centers there in 1959 and 1972. However, even in those areas, the range of cancers is now more diverse than ever. Since the 1990s, lung cancer has replaced nasopharyngeal cancer as the most lethal cancer among the local population in Zhongshan. Indeed, lung cancer has resulted in more deaths in China than any other cancer. Lung cancer, along with breast, colon, lymphatic and prostate cancers, are thought to be more prevalent in developed countries, where unhealthy lifestyles, high-fat diets and a lack of physical activity are largely to blame. Meanwhile, stomach, liver, esophageal and cervical cancers are more common in developing countries where poor sanitation and nutrition cause chronic infections, according to Chen Wanqing, director of the National Cancer Center. In China, however, both categories are growing rapidly, he added. Ji Jiafu, director of the Beijing Cancer Hospital, finds that most of the stomach cancer patients who line up outside his office are from rural areas. Urban women, on the other hand, are nearly twice as likely to die of breast cancer than their rural counterparts, according to the recent report. A survey by Wang Ning at the Beijing Institute for NEWSCHINA I June 2013
Photo by Lu Guang
In a villiage in Henan Province, four-year old Wang Ying and her grandfather visit the grave of Zhu Xiaoyan, Wang’s mother, who died from cancer in 2008 at the age of 23
Cancer Research revealed that while women in Beijing were most at risk of developing breast cancer at 45 and 65 years old, they are now equally at risk throughout the period between those two ages. For many doctors, the most shocking phenomenon is the rocketing number of young sufferers, who were found to have less chance of survival than the elderly. The 2012 report shows that the average age of sufferers of several major cancers, including breast and lung cancers, are all lower than had been found in previous surveys.
A Crushing Burden
Cancer is a heavy burden for individuals and their families, as well as the country. In its white paper issued in December 2012, China’s former Ministry of Health noted that 70 percent of the healthcare budget was spent on chronic diseases, including cancer. Although according to the white paper, the proportion of out-ofpocket expenditures in the average total health care bill decreased to 35 percent in 2011 from 58 percent in 2002, it is still more than double the 15 percent recommended by the WHO. Cancer patients may find this particularly difficult to swallow. Firstly, as pointed out in the paper, the total amount spent on healthcare in the country has swelled by 11 percent annually between 1978 and 2011, much of which has been reflected in bills for cancer treatment. NEWSCHINA I June 2013
A report on China’s pharmaceutical market published at the end of 2012 by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences shows that the percentage of cancer pharmaceuticals rose sharply as a proportion of prescriptions at big hospitals in China between 2008 and 2011. Secondly, severe diseases are poorly protected by the national health insurance scheme. In a report in 2012, the State-owned Xinhua News Agency revealed that many cancer drugs were not included in the national health insurance system. Most crucially almost no drugs for cancers of the liver, esophagus or stomach are covered. The financial burden of medical bills is particularly heavy for rural residents, whose average income per capita was only 32 percent of that of their urban counterparts in 2012, according to the National Bureau of Statistics. Rural citizens also have a much weaker social security net. The World Bank stated in its 2011 report on chronic diseases in China that rural patients are twice as likely as urban patients to discontinue their cancer treatment due to the high cost of care. The World Bank also warned that the growing healthcare burden and loss of labor due to chronic diseases serve to undermine prospects both for individual patients and for the country’s economy as a whole. On a WHO-sponsored list of the most burdensome diseases for Chinese people (calculated by years of life spent unable to work) compiled by the University of Washington, four cancers now rank among the top ten, while in 1990 cancer did not appear on the list. Patients also suffer psychologically. Daisy (pseudonym), a translator in Beijing, was diagnosed with kidney cancer in 2012. Although her tumor was later founder to be benign, in her desperation before the operation, she felt that prayer was her best course of action. “I did not know what else I could do,” she told our reporter. She said she had known other patients who had suffered from such severe anxiety that they had resorted to psychotherapy to ensure normal blood pressure and heart rate for their operations. Following his painful treatment, An Yang spent his final days in his hometown with his family, by that time unable to recognize his fiancee Li Jing, or even his own mother. Every day, those around An tried their best to see his emotional instability and worsening sickness as a side-effect of the treatment, and not to think too much about tomorrow. Now, Li lives alone. She tries to remain positive about life, but she still struggles to deal with her loss: “I always tell myself that there is another side of life, a world of disease and death, which could take everything here away at any time,” she said. According to analysts, statistics show little likelihood of improvement in the near future. According to Wang Ning, even the most optimistic predictions estimate that it will take ten years before China’s cancer growth begins to level off. While the causes of the disease are not fully known, the risks can be reduced if proper measures are taken. If China is to put up a fight, there is urgent work to be done.
Cancer in China
Refusing Treatment Choices can have a big influence on China’s cancer problem, but whose matter more – those of individuals, or of policymakers? By Li Jia
ince the 1980s, melodramatic soap operas from Japan and South Korea have been a staple of Chinese TV programming. Among their rather limited range of plotlines, those involving cancer tend to be the most popular with audiences – a character is struck down with the usually symptomless but unquestionably terminal disease, declares their true love, and a tear-jerking season finale ensues. In the real world, cancer is seldom so romantic, particularly in China. One third of the world’s cancer deaths are in China, a rate
that, optimistically, will fall to about one fourth by 2030, based on data and forecasts from the World Health Organization (WHO) and the China National Cancer Center. Cancer, as defined by the WHO, results from the “interaction” between genetics and innumerable external risk factors. In terms of the former, very little is understood – cancer often runs in families, and incidences and mortality rates of certain cancers are linked to ethnicity, age and gender. However, much can be done about the latter. Unhealthy lifestyles, exposure to carcinogens at work or in the home, NEWSCHINA I June 2013
Cancer cells under a microscope
and viral infections like hepatitis B have all been identified as leading risk factors for cancer deaths worldwide. Addressing those issues, according to the WHO, can reduce cancer deaths by at least half. All of these risk factors are on the increase in China today. This partly reflects the country’s changing demography and lifestyles, against the backdrop of a growing wealth divide. However, it is equally due to a deficit in public policies and investment in health care.
A Personal Affair?
As people get older, cancer risk factors build up and cellular repair mechanisms slow down. 15 percent of the Chinese population is now over 60, well above the 10 percent threshold that the World Bank defines as constituting an “aging population,” and life expectancy in China is predicted to rise to 74.5 years by 2015 from the current 73.5. “Most people used to die before they were old enough for cancer to catch up with them,” said Chen Wanqing, director of the National Cancer Center. As the population ages and lifetimes get longer, China will see more and more cancer cases, Chen told NewsChina. As incomes have risen, many Chinese people have paid a heavy price for their increasingly unhealthy lifestyles. Bowel cancer, usually more common in developed countries, has become one of the most prevalent ailments in China. It was the cause of 17 deaths out of every 100,000 in urban areas, and double that in rural areas. Obesity and a lack of physical activity are thought to be two main causes of bowel cancer, as well as major causes of pancreatic, breast and lymphatic cancer. All of these claim far more lives in China’s urban areas than in rural ones, according to the Chinese Cancer Registry Annual Report issued in January. The World Bank estimated in a 2011 report about chronic diseases in China that 200 million Chinese are overweight or obese due to their excessive intake of fat and salt. In big cities like Beijing, it is
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common to hear of young and middle-aged office workers whose sedentary lifestyles have left them far less physically fit than their retired parents. As in developed countries, lung cancer is more lethal than any other cancer in China, despite also being one of the most preventable with changes in lifestyle. 71 percent of deaths from lung cancer worldwide are caused by smoking, according to the WHO. Out of nearly 150 countries included in World Health Statistics 2012, a report that provides analysis of 2009 data of WHO member states, only nine countries have a percentage of male smokers equal to or higher than China’s. This also means that Chinese women, themselves unlikely to smoke, are highly likely to be exposed to second-hand smoke. Professor Qiao Youlin at the Cancer Institute and Hospital of Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences quit smoking when he learned about the lung cancer risk as a college student. However, few smokers have Qiao’s resolve – he ranked smoking and passive smoking the first and second biggest causes of cancer in China. Many cancer patients have died not from the disease itself, but from their cancer treatment – for late-stage cancer patients, operations and drugs can often do much more harm than good. However, many patients refuse to accept this, and are ready to pay for any potential cure, no matter how experimental or pricey, often worsening their condition and pushing them toward bankruptcy. Many doctors, generally low-paid and reliant on prescription fees for their livelihood, take advantage of this mindset to profit from unnecessary drug sales. A report by the State-owned People’s Daily in 2011 noted that excessive medical treatment was “particularly severe” in cancer treatment. In 2009, a taxpayer-funded project to screen for breast and cervical cancers was launched for rural women. However, some rural women were too embarrassed to sign up for the test.
While aging is unavoidable, and personal behavior can be altered, exposure to occupational and environmental pollution is something that can be prevented only through public policies designed to protect people working and living in high-risk situations. Peng Jiewen, a doctor at the People’s Hospital of Zhongshan city, Guangdong Province, remembers a 20-year-old man, one of his youngest cancer patients in 20 years, whose cancer was most likely caused by inhaling wood fibers in the furniture factory where he had worked for several years. Indeed, it has been found that towns with many small factories have higher cancer rates than areas with less industrial production. Workplace exposure to asbestos, welding fumes, and coal and aluminum dust have been listed as risks of lung cancer by the International Agency for Research on Cancer, the WHO think tank. They are also included in China’s national catalog for occupational disease prevention, launched in 2009. A survey released by the country’s former Ministry of Health in 2010 showed that 78 percent of 18,000 newly recorded incidences of occupational disease in 2009 were lung diseases, with coal, non-ferrous metal and metallurgy the three most dangerous industries. Chen Zhu, former Minister of Health, admitted at a conference in 2010 that the actual figures could be higher, since few hospitals were capable of diagnosing occupational diseases. Chemical emissions from factories are often blamed for particular cancers among residents in affected areas. Over the past two years, a national map showing more than 200 “cancer villages” was published on the Internet by media and environmental organizations, and is constantly being updated. Though very limited systematic research has been carried out into whether and how chemical pollutants are linked to local cancer cases, in February 2013 the Ministry of Environment recognized that toxic chemicals have caused “a number of air and water pollution crises and…a few severe health and societal cases of ‘cancer villages’ in recent years.” However, it is not only people in high-risk industries and regions that should be worried. This winter, some of China’s most developed areas, covering roughly one-tenth of the Chinese mainland, suffered an extended period of heavy air pollution. At a press conference in March, Wu Xiaoqing, deputy Minister of Environmental Protection, disclosed that per-square-kilometer pollutant emissions from fuels in these areas were five times higher than in the rest of the country. On the streets in Beijing, pollution masks became commonplace. In an interview with State broadcaster China Central Television (CCTV) in January 2013, Zhong Nanshan, a prominent expert on respiratory diseases and an academician with the Chinese Academy of Engineering, warned that air pollution was an important reason for the 60 percent rise in lung cancer cases in Beijing over the past decade. Rural areas, even those with comparatively low levels of industrial pollution, are far from safe. Rural pollutants, including animal waste
Photo by Chu Yongzhi/CFP
Workers wearing masks operate in dust cloud at a stonemason in Quanzhou, Fujiang Province, October 25, 2012
and garbage, are rarely disposed of safely. Unsafe water and poor hygiene increase the risks of viral infections, the major causes of cancers of the liver and cervix. In World Health Statistics 2012, the percentages of people with access to improved drinking water and sanitation in 2010 were lower than the world median. The worsening of pollution puts younger generations particularly at particular risk of cancer, as they are exposed to poor environmental conditions from an early age. This, argue some experts, is one of the reasons why the number of young cancer patients is rising.
In the Shadows
Public health policies can effect change in both the personal and public domains when it comes to disease control. But since cancer incidents rarely rise or decline sharply in a short period of time, there is limited supervision of irresponsible health policies pertaining to cancer, and significant incentives to align with vested interests to block responsible ones. Over the past few years, top Chinese policymakers have repeatedly acknowledged the health costs that the country has paid for economic growth, and have vowed to put a stop to environmental damage. The environment has also become one of the indicators by which the careers of officials are assessed. However, without fundamental reform of the country’s growth model or bureaucracy system, the environment is often compromised. In February, based on data from 283 out of 287 city-level municipal governments between 1999 and 2009, research on China’s environment policy led by Professor Deng Yongheng at the National University of Singapore concluded that “city governments’ spending on environmental improvements is at best uncorrelated with cadres’ promotion odds,” while investment in GDP-boosting infrastructure is “relevant” to their chances of promotion. In 2006, the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control came into effect in China. It requires signatory members to deploy “a NEWSCHINA I June 2013
comprehensive ban on all tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship” through “appropriate legislative, executive, administrative and/or other measures” within five years following the convention’s implementation in their country. Today, there is still no national law on tobacco control in China. Dr Yang Gonghuan, former director of the National Office of Tobacco Control, has argued over the past few years that as the China National Tobacco Corporation, the largest tobacco producer in the world, plays a major role in deciding China’s tobacco control policy, its power must be curtailed. In 2008, the company and its five local subsidiaries were even shortlisted for a national charity award, and were only removed after protests from the public, the former Ministry of Health (now the National Health and Family Planning Commission) and the WHO. Tobacco advertising is still visible in poor areas, often in elementary schools sponsored by or even named after tobacco brands. Smoking remains ubiquitous among Chinese men, and is seen as an important social custom. Research led by Dr Yang and many other Chinese and foreign experts in 2011 found that 50 percent of Chinese smokers smoked cheap cigarettes, suggesting that a slight price increase would likely be highly effective in forcing smokers to quit. Tobacco companies have refused to raise their prices. The last time that China saw a cause-specific mortality survey covering the whole population was in 1975, which led to the publication of cancer death statistics. Since then, no such comprehensive survey has ever been conducted. It was not until 2003 that a national cancer control strategy was drafted, as part of the efforts to rebuild the country’s public health system following the SARS epidemic. However, “public health resources have been focused on infectious diseases,” with control of chronic diseases like cancer marginalized, Dr Yang told NewsChina. While this is due in part to the prioritization of potentially devastating epidemics like avian flu, it has meant that the slower, less visible deterioration of the cancer problem has been swept under the rug. The most effective way of preventing liver cancer, the second most lethal cancer in China, is hepatitis B virus (HBV) immunization for infants. It was not until 2002, twenty years after the vaccine was made available and ten years after the WHO recommended global vaccination, that China began to vaccinate infants free of charge. This was also a period when China’s public health system nearly collapsed due to excessive market-oriented healthcare reform. The cost of the delay has been severe. Thanks to this vaccination effort, which in 2009 extended to all children under 15 years old, China’s HBV carriers have decreased to 7 percent of the population from nearly 10 percent a decade ago, and the rate is lower than 1 percent among children under 5 years old. However, due to the delay, the positive effect of this progress on reducing incidences of liver cancer may not be seen “for 10 or 20 years,” said Chen Wanqing. NEWSCHINA I June 2013
Prevention of cervical cancer is also being stalled. Two vaccines that can protect women against certain types of human papillomavirus (HPV), the cause of 70 percent of cervical cancer cases worldwide, were approved by the US Food and Drug Administration in 2006 and 2009. More than 160 countries and regions have begun importing the vaccines, but in China, they remain under clinical testing. As the vaccines are effective on women between 8 and 25 years old who have never been exposed to HPV, many will miss their chance to be vaccinated before clinical testing is complete. Professor Qiao Youlin at Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences called for the tests to be sped up, but was ignored. Various experts, all of whom spoke on condition of anonymity, told our reporter that some Chinese HPV vaccine R&D institutions were obstructing the vaccines’ approval, in the name of “protecting indigenous innovation efforts.” China is in a race against time, with millions of lives at stake. While individuals can take certain measures to reduce their risk of developing the disease, all the willpower in the world may not be enough.
Price per pack of top-selling cigarette brands, 2010 10 8 6 4 2 0 C Ire UK Ni Ru US ge lan ssi :U 19 hina: US ria a: S dU 4c U $ $ 5.7 9.3 S$ ou S$1 US$1 US$ 2 6( 9.5 ntr .2 3.0 . 5 w ies 9 ( 1( 3 2 o rld (87 ) 17 ’s 2 world th th) low nd ’s h est hig igh he pri est st) ce ) ou t of Source: World Health Organization
State of the Union Lacking real independence and expertise, one of China’s first elected labor union leaders faces dismissal after a vote of no confidence By Liu Ziqian in Shenzhen
hao Shaobo felt nothing but relief when a group of his colleagues signed a proposal on February 28, moving to dismiss him as chairman of the company’s labor union only nine months after they elected him to the post. For 37-year-old Zhao, the first elected trade union chairman at OHMS, a Shenzhen-based subsidiary of Panasonic, the past nine months had been a constant uphill battle, and one that had left him without much of a sense of accomplishment. OHMS is one of the 163 companies in Shenzhen, Guangdong Province, where direct election of union leaders was introduced last year to buffer conflicts between labor and management that began in 2010 and had resulted in a spate of strikes in the manufacturing hub. Before then, trade unions were either non-existent, or union leaders were appointed by management (see “Assembly Line Democracy,” NewsChina August 2012). On the printout of the dismissal proposal posted at the front gate of the OHMS factory, the workers listed their grievances with the union, such as its lack of transparency, its proximity to management, and the lack of attention it paid to workers’ interests and complaints. Around 160 out of the company’s 400-strong workforce had signed the notice, drafted by 22 workers who were disappointed with the trade union’s performance in handling their dispute with the company over severance pay. According to Shenzhen’s trade union regulations, consensus among 10 percent of trade union members was enough to initiate the dismissal procedure.
A producer of circuit boards and power transformers founded in 1996, the company once boasted a workforce of more than 1,100.
But since the Great Recession in 2008, employee numbers have been continually in decline, reaching a low of 400 this January. That same month, the company’s upper management gathered 22 workers whose contracts were due to expire a month later, and asked them to sign resignation letters, on condition that the company would pay them a lump sum equal to one month’s salary for each year of their tenure at the company, plus an extra month’s pay as compensation. Luo Yingchi, a driver for the company and one of the 22 who drafted the dismissal proposal, said that he had originally judged the compensation to be acceptable, given that most of the 22 had worked at the company for six or seven years and would receive 30,000 to 40,000 yuan (US$4,800-6,400) when leaving. All 22 signed. However, shortly afterward, one of the workers consulted a labor lawyer and learned that he and his fellow employees were legally entitled to severance packages twice the size of the ones they agreed to. In accordance with the country’s labor law, after two fixed-term contracts expire, the employee is entitled to an open-ended contract with the employer. In cases where employment is terminated, the company should pay the employee a lump sum equal to two months’ pay for each year of service at the company. After learning of this law, the 22 workers demanded that the company increase their compensation accordingly. Management refused, on the grounds that they had already signed their resignation agreements. The workers then turned to their labor union for help, and Zhao, the union leader, met with management to attempt to resolve the issue. The company’s chief manager told Zhao that no new demands would be considered, since the compensation agreements had already NEWSCHINA I June 2013
Photo by Liu Ziqian
Photo by Chen Yihuai
gotiations with upper management. Zhao had only worked at OHMS for one year when he was elected chairman of the union, though he had more than 10 years’ experience at other Japanese companies. He was elected mostly because he was a college graduate – the highest educational background among the company’s Chinese staff. Also, because Zhao was new to the company, he was seen to be less involved in the complex network of personal connections, and thus deemed more impartial than others. But like the other 10 union council members, Zhao had no experience of working in an elected labor union. During his nine-month tenure, Zhao had performed a function more akin to China’s old government-sponsored union leaders than a modern-day labor rights crusader. His duties OHMS workers during union elections, May 27, 2012 mainly included drawing up a union constitution, holding regular union meetings, organizing day-trips and fundraisers, been signed. The workers inand handling minor complaints sisted that they were tricked into from union members. signing. Chen Zongyu, one of the “I was simply unable to get union’s council members, told what the workers wanted, even if NewsChina that the labor union Zhao Shaobo, chairman of the OHMS labor union I had jumped to my death from had barely any bargaining chips the rooftop,” Zhao told Newsin its negotiations with manageChina. ment. For the workers, this seemed worth a try. At dawn on February 27, “When the management representatives refuse our demands, we the day before their contracts expired, nine of them gathered at the find we have virtually nothing to fight back with,” Chen said. edge of the rooftop of a six-story building in the company compound, Zhao and the union council members had heard a lot of comand threatened to jump off. It took five hours to talk them down. plaints about distrust in the union. Some employees had been known Disappointed with what they saw as the labor union’s failure to to count on the union to get them out of trouble with the company, defend their rights, the workers posted their proposal to remove the and others accused union council members of taking double pay, deunion chairman. spite the fact that positions on the council are not remunerated. And, Zhao claimed, while workers’ demands were often unreasonRift able, they would regularly accuse the union of siding with manageThe workers had the option to reject the original compensation ment if they were dissatisfied with the outcome of any dispute. agreement, according to Li Ying, director of the legal affairs departHowever, the workers do have cause to question the reliability of ment of the Shenzhen Federation of Labor Unions. Li said that the their union leaders. Since the union chairman and council members company’s actions, though arguably dishonest, were completely legal. are all full-time employees of the company, the union is unlikely to “If they didn’t know the labor law, they should have consulted their fight very hard for workers’ rights, as union leaders may put their own labor union first. As adults, they should be responsible for their own careers in jeopardy if they happen to offend the company’s manageactions once signing the agreement,” said Li. ment. In fact, even OHMS labor union council members had barely any However, friction between union leaders and the general workforce legal knowledge at their disposal in their negotiations with manage- is not necessarily a bad thing, according to Zhai Yujuan, a researcher ment, according to Zhao. on labor laws at Shenzhen University. As a junior manager, Zhao had no access to the company’s decision“Both the labor union and the workers need to mature side by making meetings, putting him at a disadvantage when it came to ne- side,” Zhai said. NEWSCHINA I June 2013
No More Miracles
The death of Wu Renbao, the Party secretary who led impoverished Huaxi village to relative prosperity, has opened up debate on the viability of Wu’s successful, yet controversial, economic model By Xie Ying
n March 18, all the lights were switched off at the fivestar Longxi International Hotel, a 74-story skyscraper in Huaxi, Jiangsu Province, as the small village mourned the passing of Wu Renbao, its beloved Party secretary who died of lung cancer earlier that day. With tear-stained faces, crowds of villagers lined up to pay their last respects to the 85-year-old man who, according to his daughter Wu Fengying, was still dealing with village affairs in his final moments. “His last words were ‘Let’s have a meeting,’” Wu Fengying told the media. Having served as Huaxi’s Party secretary for nearly half a century, Wu Renbao, lauded by the government as “China’s number-one farmer,” is famous for leading the once-impoverished village to relative prosperity. “I will award US$10 million to anyone who can find another village in the country where everyone is as rich as the villagers here in Huaxi,” Wu once claimed in an interview with State broadcaster CCTV. Since Wu’s death, though, there is concern over the village’s future. Debate is growing over whether its controversial collective economics and top-down management style, while undoubtedly successful up to
now, have anything to offer modern China.
“We vow to create revenue of 100 million yuan (US$16.1m) for Huaxi village in three years, in spite of all the twists and turns that may be ahead,” pledged Wu Renbao in Nanjing, capital of Jiangsu Province, in 1985. Wu had been Huaxi’s Party secretary for 46 years since 1957 when the village, less than one square kilometer in size, plunged into huge debt, its 677 residents eking out a living on a meager annual income of 53 yuan (US$8.50) per person. At the time, a popular saying in the neighboring villages went: “A parent would rather throw their daughter into a river than marry her to a man in Huaxi.” In the first eight years of his tenure, Wu focused on turning Huaxi’s 13,000 scattered plots of barren land into 400 plots of fertile farmland, but even this was not enough to lift the village out of poverty, despite producing the largest yield per unit of area in the country six years in a row. Inspired by a flour-processing mill he once bought from a neighboring village – another attempted moneymaking scheme for the vilNEWSCHINA I June 2013
Photo by Yang Bo
A portrait of Wu Renbao at his funeral, March 22, 2013
lage – Wu decided to turn to industry. He set up a smelting plant in 1969, resulting in massive growth in the village’s revenue. According to official statistics, by 1978, Huaxi boasted annual revenue of over one million yuan (US$161,200), more than half of which came from the village’s burgeoning industrial sector. “[The village] risked being accused of ‘taking the capitalist road,’ since at the time, the whole country was promoting agriculture and fighting ‘capitalist tendencies,’” Wu said in the interview with CCTV. “But I believed [industrialization] would lead the village to wealth, so we just quietly did what was right, without making a fanfare.” Spurred on by this initial windfall, plants and factories continued to spring up in the following years, especially after the nation embarked on its program of Reform and Opening-up in the late 1970s. Wu kept his promise – in 1989, the village ended the year with revenue of 100 million yuan (US$16.1m). Two years later, Wu merged 38 Huaxi enterprises into a corporation – the Huaxi Corporation – transferring more of its labor force to the industrial sector while contracting all the village’s farmland to more than 30 households particularly skilled at farming. NEWSCHINA I June 2013
During interviews with various media outlets, Wu Renbao often attributed his success to his being “practical-minded.” “We implement the government’s policy on the basis of the actual situation in Huaxi village,” he said. Wu continued with this collectivized philosophy even through the 1980s when China began to roll out the household contract system, an initiative that allowed individual farmers to take responsibility for the profits and losses of the land they contracted, and gave them the freedom to. “To collectivize or not is merely a matter of method. What is important is that government policy is ultimately aimed at leading farmers to wealth. Since the collective economic model has allowed the Huaxi villagers to live a rich life, what would be the point of changing it?” Wu explained to the media. Today, “collective economy” remains the hallmark of Huaxi village – each villager working for the Huaxi Corporation receives 20 percent of his or her monthly salary in cash, while the remaining 80 percent is “invested” in the corporation, with part of the dividends distributed to villagers, effectively shareholders, at the end of each year.
Photo by CNS
A 328-meter skyscraper under construction in the center of Huaxi, January 26, 2010
Thanks to this pool of “public funds,” the Huaxi Corporation has been able to branch out into various fields, which now encompass over 60 economic entities engaging in the production of steel and fiber, warehousing, tourism, finance and much else besides. By 2012, the village reported annual revenue of more than 50 billion yuan (US$8.1bn), paying nearly nine billion yuan (US$1.5bn) in tax to the State. Huaxi shareholders got their dues. Based on Wu’s “collective distribution model,” each household in the village was allocated an identical villa of 400-600 square meters, and at least one car. Besides cash and stock dividends, free rice, medical care and daily necessities were also provided, and the village also offers yearly free chechups with world-class medical equipment. Given the widening income gap and heavily criticized social welfare system in the country, it is no wonder that a system that seemed able to ensure relative prosperity became a big attraction to those outside the village.
As the Huaxi story developed, the neighboring villages began to play a role – whether they liked it or not. Beginning in 2001, Huaxi began to incorporate 16 neighboring villages to form “Greater Huaxi,” but disputes and clashes soon erupted, with some “incorporated” villagers accusing Huaxi of seizing their land for its new industrial zone. “[Huaxi village] evaluated my old 200-square-meter house at 40,000 yuan [US$6,451] and told me to pay 250,000 yuan [US$40,000] more in exchange for a [Huaxi-style] villa,” Zhou Yi, a resident in a neighboring village, told Southern Metropolis Weekly in 2011. According to Zhou, about 80 percent of people in his village owed a considerable amount of money to Huaxi because of the villa deal, which they had to pay off by working for the Huaxi Corporation. And while new residents in the expanded Huaxi were also given stock in the corporation, their shares were much smaller than those originally offered to residents of Huaxi village proper.
“The cash and the supplementary food are far from enough to support a family,” complained Wang Zhe, another “incorporated” villager. As the number of residents rose from 2,000 to 30,000, observers found that society in the extended village, which now covers 30 square kilometers, was becoming increasingly stratified – migrant workers, “incorporated” villagers and the 2,000 original Huaxi residents forming the low, middle and upper classes, respectively. Migrant workers were crowded in shabby dormitories without separate bathroom facilities, while native Huaxi villagers lived in three- or four-storied villas, employing migrants-turned-servants to take care of their housework. Many critics called the village “a large capitalist factory that benefits the original 2,000 by exploiting its neighbors and migrant workers.” Wu Renbao refuted these accusations. “Common prosperity does not mean egalitarianism. It is reasonable that Huaxi natives, who have worked for Huaxi for a longer time, should enjoy better welfare,” he argued in an interview with Oriental Outlook magazine. “Many people [from neighboring villages] would earn less or even nothing if they were to leave Huaxi,” he added. Huaxi’s vice-Party secretary Sun Haiyan was more blunt: “Would the US treat Chinese citizens the same [as its own citizens] if we were to emigrate there?”
Ruling the Roost
Conflict between the village and its neighbors spilled over into the public domain when new Greater Huaxi villager Dai Jinxing in October 2011 distributed leaflets around the village accusing Huaxi of being “a self-contained autocratic realm.” According to media reports, he and several other “democrats’“ were even planning a demonstration. Dai’s plan was foiled – he was detained by police, and the other leading dissident was made to apologize to the village council for “hurting the village Party secretary,” fueling concern over Wu Renbao’s “control” over the people of Huaxi. A crucial aspect of the relationship between Huaxi and its NEWSCHINA I June 2013
Photo by Qian Xingqiang
Photo by CNS
Wu Renbao in his youth
Wu Renbao meets models visiting his village, September 15, 2005
people is that if any villager chooses to leave, his or her shares are forfeit. The villagers had no right of ownership to their villas or the cars they had bought with their “shares.” Moreover, all villagers are subject to regulations, drawn up by the village Party committee, which enforces heavy restrictions on behavior. Rules range from “no gambling,” to “no picking fruit from the trees,” to “keeping cats is preferred to keeping dogs.” The village authorities have reportedly forbidden nightlife. Except for during the Lunar New Year holiday, the Huaxi working day lasts eight hours, with loudspeakers constantly blaring out the village song, the lyrics to which were penned by Wu himself: “Huaxi is led by the Party, Huaxi relies on socialism.” “Huaxi villagers are like monkeys in a gilded cage. They are rich in life, but poor in mind,” commented a netizen on a forum on the popular Web portal qq.com. His words were echoed by several media reports which revealed that Huaxi village was “heavily guarded” and its villagers “seldom went outside.” Wu Renbao once told the media that Greater Huaxi had at its disposal more than 3,000 paramilitary policemen and a 200-member defense force. “We cannot get first-hand research sources, because it is difficult to talk with the original villagers,” said Dang Guoying, a researcher on rural issues from the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, in an interview with Southern Metropolis Weekly. In 2003, Wu Renbao once again came under fire when his fourth son, Wu Xie’en, took over his position as village Party secretary, triggering public speculation that the younger Wu’s appointment was an omen that Huaxi would effectively become the domain of a family dynasty. According to Zhou Yi (alias), an agriculture professor from Fudan University, members of Wu’s family have controlled (though not owned) 90.7 percent of shares in the Huaxi Corporation, and occupied more than half of the top positions in the village Party committee.
A Political Example?
Wu Renbao, however, was very positive about this “family-style
NEWSCHINA I June 2013
management.” “I don’t understand why people are always critical of [our] ‘family management.’ It works well, as long as the family members make the people’s interests their top priority,” he once told CCTV. “China needs more of these families to lead more people toward relative prosperity,” he added. Judging from the myriad photos of Wu Renbao posing with China’s top leaders over the decades, Wu and his model village effectively received official endorsement. “We must learn from Wu Renbao’s belief in the Party and in socialism... We must follow Wu Renbao’s route of leading people to prosperity,” read a resolution by the Jiangsu provincial government following Wu’s death. According to Wu Xie’en, Huaxi has conducted training programs targeting village officials across the country since 1994, but the model is yet to be successfully replicated. “Huaxi village received powerful [financial and policy] support from the government at the very beginning, which is an impossible dream for other villages,” an anonymous village official from Heilongjiang Province told NewsChina during a training course in 2006. “The development of a village depends on both economic and political resources, and Wu Renbao is skilled in juggling these, turning the former into the latter and vice versa,” Feng Zhi, a professor from the Party School of Jiangsu Province, who has studied Huaxi village for many years, told NewsChina. In death, Wu has practically been deified. In Huaxi, urban legend has it that it never rained when he held a meeting, and that Wu could solve any problem with a single letter to the State Council. However, as Chinese people become better acquainted with concepts like democracy and the rule of law, analysts are doubtful that the Huaxi model can ever be replicated. “The village relied heavily on Wu’s personal charisma and ability, so his death will have a large [negative] impact on the future of the village,” said Dang Guoying of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in a video interview with ifeng.com.
Born Defensive In a country that often brings charges against defense attorneys upon the conviction of their clients, lawyer Chi Susheng has stood out simply by standing up to power By Sun Zhe and Liu Yanxun
Photo by Xinhua
hen Li Zhuang called up Chi Susheng one day in late 2011 and asked her to serve as his defense attorney, he did not expect her to say yes. Li, himself a Beijing-based lawyer, was jailed for 18 months until June 2011 for “perjury” after his client, an alleged gangster convicted under disgraced Party secretary Bo Xilai’s controversial anti-mafia crackdown in Chongqing, was convicted and sentenced to death. Li Zhuang, from his own experience, knew the potential consequences of defending in courts controlled by Party officials with an agenda. Nevertheless, he persisted, and soon found himself in the dock. His former client, Gong Gangmo, was one witness called to discredit his attorney. While he got away with a short prison sentence, his early parole went unreported in the local press for fear of offending Bo, who was still ruling Chongqing with an iron fist at the time. However, since Bo’s removal from office in the wake of his wife Gu Kailai’s implication in a murder case, the injustices of his time in office are slowly being laid bare. Gong Gangmo changed his testimony against Li in November 2012 after the downfall of Bo Xilai, instead telling the Beijing News that the Chongqing police, then under the control of Bo’s ally Wang Lijun, had forced him to testify against his former defense attorney. “This is not a case involving you alone. It is a case that concerns all criminal defense lawyers in the country,” Chi Susheng told a desperate Li over the phone, shortly after accepting his case. Chi then called her son, then living in Australia, and told him that she might be about to lose her license. Not only was Chi agreeing to defend a convicted criminal, she was taking on a legal system controlled by the very interests that had initially convicted him. NEWSCHINA I June 2013
Her son, much to her surprise, was supportive. “Good! You’d better quit as soon as possible, Mom,” he told her. Chi, 57 years old, has been troubled by diabetes, hypertension and heart problems for years, in addition to the severe stress of her chosen career. Being a defense attorney is hardly a dream career in China, whose courts secure convictions in over 95 percent of criminal cases, often following these up with separate charges against the defense counsel.
Li said he chose Chi as his defense lawyer because she was a deputy to the National People’s Congress (NPC), and her political influence gave her a distinct advantage over other legal representatives. Her deft handling of cases has made her something of a champion of the downtrodden in China, a country still without true rule of law, and she is often sought out by those who have found themselves on the wrong side of politicized court cases. Chi’s most famous case was her defense of four fellow defense attorneys jailed by a Beihai, Guangxi court for “falsifying evidence” in a murder case in 2011. In this case, “falsifying evidence” meant persuading clients to retract confessions made under torture. Confident that the evidence of police brutality and the perversion of justice in the Beihai case was compelling and offered a chance of overturning the verdict, a number of criminal lawyers from outside Guangxi teamed up to aid their jailed peers, only to find themselves tailed, harassed and even beaten up upon arrival in Beihai. One attorney was even strip-searched before being allowed to meet with his clients, a meeting which took place, as do all meetings between accused criminals and their defense counsel in China, under police guard. Learning about the case from Weibo, China’s most popular microblogging service, Chi flew to Beihai to throw her weight behind the four jailed attorneys. Her status as a NPC deputy also helped her gain access to the detainees while avoiding police interference. One policeman even saluted her after viewing her credentials. She soon composed a report and submitted it to the NPC’s legal committee, attaching a video disc of security camera footage showing the lawyers being beaten up in their Beihai jail. In less than a year, all verdicts in the case were overturned, and the detainees freed.
Since qualifying as a lawyer, Chi has become a minor celebrity in a country where few ordinary people can stand up to the State-controlled, highly partial court system. In 1979, Chi, then 23, became the youngest of the first batch of six lawyers to graduate in Tsitsihar, Heilongjiang Province. At the time of her graduation, lawyers had not been a part of China’s court system for over twenty years. Even in the atmosphere of Reform and Opening-up, Chinese lawyers at that time were also government employees. Defending a client was tantamount to putting your own boss on trial. However, this did not faze Chi, who remained committed to social justice. In a juvenile murder case in 1980 which resulted in death sentences for two young men who had been children at the time of the alleged murder, Chi successfully argued that to carry out the death penalty would violate NEWSCHINA I June 2013
China’s laws. Following a retrial, their death sentences remained in place, though they were extended a two-year reprieve which, in China, typically means life imprisonment. Boosted by her success, the young, eloquent and vigorous Chi took more than 50 cases each year during the 1980s, becoming a household name in the city of Tsitsihar, drawing audiences of hundreds to the local theater, which was used in the absence of a purpose-built courthouse, to witness her skill before the bench. In another case in 1984, local government and Party officials had sentenced a civil servant to death sentence for allegedly embezzling 132,000 yuan (US$21,300), a mammoth sum at the time. Chi argued for clemency on the grounds that the accused had paid back the money in full and, despite being threatened by the judge, ultimately secured a life sentence for her client. With the relaxation of laws in the 1990s, Chi quit her post as a government-sponsored attorney in 1994 and established her own private practice. She also took a slot on a local radio station, where she offered legal advice and lectures on China’s legal system, a job she retains to this day. On one occasion, a murder suspect called her from the cornfield where he was hiding and offered to turn himself in to the police if Chi would act as go-between. In another case, a suspect on the run came directly to Chi’s doorstep to turn himself in, again on the condition that she would represent him at trial. Her role as an NPC deputy has placed her at the heart of China’s parliamentary debate on establishing rule of law, and Chi has served three consecutive terms since 1998. A particular cause célèbre of Chi’s has been her campaign to decriminalize prostitution, establish designated red light districts in China’s cities and impose regular health examinations on sex workers in order to combat the spread of sexually transmitted infections. Her controversial stance has divided public debate on the subject of prostitution, which is rampant in China despite being a social taboo. Critics argued that to decriminalize prostitution would hasten moral degradation. Chi fought back, claiming her critics were actually opposing her from a financial standpoint – fines imposed on detained prostitutes are a well-known source of illegal income for Chinese police officers. Chi even accused police of colluding with johns in order to entrap vulnerable prostitutes and blackmail them. Chi has maintained her argument that, with sex workers China’s highest-risk social group for HIV/AIDS according to the WHO, the benefits of legalized prostitution were just too great to be ignored. Rather than turning a blind eye to the ubiquitous sex trade, she suggested that the government legalize and regulate the sex industry, restricting it to designated areas and reducing its negative impact on society. Despite earning her notoriety, Chi’s stance has remained solid, and she had kept pushing this issue until the Party rescinded her NPC membership earlier this year. “I could not tell the 50-year-old Chi Susheng from the 30-year-old one,” said Pu Zhiqiang, an old friend of Chi’s and a renowned lawyer who also defended Bo Xilai’s critics jailed over his tenure in Chongqing. “She has always lived up to her true colors.”
Taking Back the Trash
China’s 14-year blanket ban on polystyrene containers is to be lifted on May 1. Banned in the name of public health and environmental protection, officials are now using the same arguments to justify returning polystyrene to the domestic market. Is lobbying now the norm in China’s corridors of power? By Wang Yan
hile New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg continues to spearhead efforts to outlaw plastic packaging, China’s National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), the country’s top macroeconomic agency, announced late March that it would lift a 14year ban on disposable polystyrene food containers as of May 1. Described by scientists as almost indestructible, polystyrene foam is seen as one of the most environmentally unsound packing materials on the planet. As China has struggled with an ever-deepening litter problem, the government has targeted polystyrene containers and polythene shopping bags in its attempt to clean up the streets. To the dismay of the public and environmental activists, however, the infamous polystyrene box is now making a comeback. Why? The answer, it seems, is naked self interest. As activists and consumer groups investigated why this popular and enduring ban was to be suddenly lifted, they uncovered a
4.5 million yuan (US$727,000) deal between foam packaging producers and a Beijing legal firm. According to a report by the Beijing Times newspaper on March 21, this contract, which saw legal lobbyists Beijing Junzejun Legal Firm paid 4.5 million yuan in fees by 10 polystyrene concerns in Guangdong Province. In return, Junzejun lobbied the powerful NDRC and related government departments to rehabilitate China’s failing polystyrene industry, which has been hit hard by prohibitions against this resilient material that have been snowballing across the globe. The content of the contract was later revealed by the owner of one of the 10 polystyrene foam manufacturers named in the deal. In addition, he told media that each company had contributed 50,000 yuan (US$8,100) as a down payment to the legal firm, with the rest to be paid once the NDRC had lifted the domestic ban on their product. Beijing Junzejun Legal Firm has declined to comment on the emerging scandal. The NDRC has released a statement on its
official website defending the policy change by citing five factors in the lifting of the ban. Stating that it had come to its decision after consulting other government watchdogs including the Ministry of Environmental Protection, Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, Ministry of Health, and the State Food and Drug Administration, the NDRC argued that there was no reason to extend the prohibition on polystyrene foam packaging. The statement claimed that: “Plastic foam dinnerware” complies with national regulations on food packaging; it is recyclable after usage; many other countries and regions, including the US, the EU, and Japan, allow its manufacture and application; its production “helps conserve oil resources”; and that “enhanced popular awareness of environmental protection” will lead to far less littering compared with years ago. Those familiar with the Chinese habit of tossing used containers and other litter into the road rather than a trash can, a habit coddled by legions of urban road-sweepers, might NEWSCHINA I June 2013
Photo by Liu CFP
An underground producer of polystyrene containers is closed down in a police raid, November 11, 2010
argue that the NDRC has overestimated “popular awareness of environmental protection” in China.
China, the birthplace of takeout, embraced polystyrene foam in the 1980s as a lightweight, insulated, waterproof and, above all, cheap alternative to more expensive plastics used for food containers. That was until the urban landscape and areas of the countryside turned into floodplains of indestructible white containers. As polystyrene takes centuries or even millennia to biodegrade, this material quickly became a major source of “white pollution” in a country still unfamiliar with the concept of recycling. The polystyrene “lunch box” was therefore targeted by litter reduction campaigns approved by the State Council, China’s cabinet, in 1999. Along with environmentalists, doctors also applauded the ban, as some research has identified carcinogens in polystyrene that are released when the material is NEWSCHINA I June 2013
heated – in a microwave oven, for example. Some, particularly those involved in the plastics industry, claimed the ban was simply a hasty knee-jerk response to China’s litter problem. Nevertheless, regulators pushed ahead. Now, China’s plastics industry, losing out to cheaper labor markets in Southeast Asia and Africa, has resumed lobbying to have this cheap, convenient product reinstated.
A debate over whether or not to lift the ban on polystyrene began in the corridors of power as early as 2009. According to Dong Jinshi, vice-president of the International Food Packaging Association, the existing ban never truly curtailed the underground production and marketing of polystyrene foam, largely due to its cheapness. Dong also added that roadside food stalls and small restaurants across the country covertly flouted the ban in the interests of profitability. A recent report in the China Daily quoted the International Food Packaging Association
as saying that about 2 million disposable lunch boxes are used daily in Beijing, with outlawed polystyrene accounting for 20 percent of the total. According to Ma Zhanfeng, secretarygeneral of the China Plastics Association, a total of over 100 enterprises in the country are engaged in producing polystyrene containers, accounting for some 70 percent of the packaging manufacturing industry, or some 10 billion units annually. People in favor of lifting the ban insist that plastic-foam food packaging is non-toxic as long as it is produced and used properly. The problem in China, as with many manufactured goods, is that such guarantees of quality and safety can be impossible to secure. Xu Peilei from the Plastic Dinnerware Union said in an interview with State broadcaster China Central Television (CCTV) that “the ban on polystyrene foam containers was mainly due to low public awareness of environmental protection in the 1990s.” Xu went on to state that, in the 1990s, “wanton littering was an unpleasant sight,” suggest-
Photo by CFP
Restaurant waste, Nanjing, January 30, 2012
ing that China’s litter problem has somehow disappeared in the intervening years, and backing up her claim with a report from the China National Center for Food-Safety Risk Assessment indicating that polystyrene foam packaging now meets environmental requirements. “Polystyrene is non-toxic,” Xu continued. “It depolymerizes only when its temperature reaches 250 degrees Centigrade, thus making it generally safe for food storage.” She did not elaborate on precisely what “generally safe” actually means. However, food being reheated in a plastic container can easily reach temperatures exceeding 250 degrees. Indeed, many plastic containers, particularly cheaper varieties, dissolve in a microwave oven, particularly when being used to reheat oily dishes. An even bigger cause for concern are the known carcinogens present in all plastics – no comprehensive studies have been conducted into just how many toxic gases are released when polystyrene is heated. Tests on the heat-endurance of polystyrene foam packaging, aired as part of a Beijing local television report, showed that boiling water and several minutes of microwaving easily
melted packaging. The arguments for the reinstatement of polystyrene food containers have come almost entirely from lobbyists, government agencies with a stake in the manufacturing industry, and economic planners. The arguments of consumer groups, independent scientists and environmental watchdogs have been shut out of the debate.
A polystyrene food container sells for 0.1 yuan (less than two US cents), less than a paper equivalent. Huang Xincheng, a disposabledinnerware dealer at Shunyi Shimen wholesale market in Beijing, told NewsChina that even this small difference is enough to affect his profit margins, and thus he has never stopped selling them. “Restaurant owners won’t buy polystyrene foam containers because of the ban,” he told our reporter. “But street vendors dare to use them.” With China’s polystyrene industry now driven underground, quality standards are virtually non-existent, with unscrupulous factories using recycled plastic waste to churn out cut-price and highly toxic containers. A recent investigation conducted by CCTV in Zheji-
ang Province found that the materials used in producing polystyrene containers for China’s domestic market are different from those used in manufacturing containers for export, largely because there are no extant regulations on the quality and safety of domestic polystyrene. “No production information is printed on the packaging of polystyrene foam containers,” Huang Xicheng told NewsChina. “They are not safe for people’s health. The market is unregulated and there are no safety guarantees.” Unsurprisingly, however, restaurateurs across China are also coming out in support of lifting the ban, as this will allow them to increase profits. Zhu Ping, 30, a restaurant owner in Beijing, said his restaurant has used paper food containers in line with current regulations, but will “switch to polystyrene containers after the ban is lifted because they are much cheaper.” “I believe the government’s new policy is based on sufficient research and the supervising departments will ensure the safety of such containers,” he added.
In an interview, Dong Jinshi told the media the claim that the polystyrene products are “green” is utterly unsubstantiated, and that no portion of China’s industrial plastics chain, from production to recycling, could be described in such terms. “A complete recycling system for these products is absent,” he said. “In addition, insufficient personnel are available for this time-consuming and thankless task.” The General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine, China’s only quality control agency, is now drafting a document to license the production of polystyrene containers, however critics argue that this is already a moot point, akin to issuing liquor licenses to existing speakeasies following the end of prohibition. Ge Jianxiong, a professor from Fudan University, believes that those opposing the lifting of the polystyrene ban deserve a fair hearing, but acknowledges that this is now unlikely. “If the ban was a hastily-made decision in the first place, I doubt if its lifting will be any more well thought-out,” he made this remark to comment on the lifting of the ban in 2010. NEWSCHINA I June 2013
China’s State-owned telecom giants have enlisted the help of the industry regulator to impose charges on a hot smartphone app that is eroding their profits By Sun Zhe
o China’s mobile carriers, some data flowing through their networks are different from the rest. China Mobile, the world’s largest mobile carrier, has been leading the country’s three State-owned telecom oligopolists in lobbying industry regulators to impose higher charges on data used by mobile messaging app WeChat, claiming that information sent through the app is overloading its network and could potentially cause a collapse. WeChat, an app developed by China’s largest online gaming and social networking company Tencent, is the most popular messenger among China’s smartphone users. A free text- and voice-messaging tool that also incorporates social networking and a host of other features, WeChat’s popularity is due in part to the fact that it can cut down users’ expenditure on phone calls and text messages.
NEWSCHINA I June 2013
Phone calls made through the China Mobile network have seen a severe drop in quality over the past two years, according to Xiang Ligang, CEO of industry portal cctime.com. Xiang attributed this to network bottlenecks caused by the large amounts of data sent by WeChat users. China Mobile, with its user base of around 710 million, has more to lose from overloading than its rivals, said Xiang. He added that China Telecom and China Unicom, the other two State titans whose user bases total 161 million and 239 million respectively, are better placed to adjust their technology. However, the reduction in call quality does not justify the extra charges China Mobile hopes to impose on WeChat, according to Fu Liang, an independent industry analyst based in Beijing. “If the telecom carriers cannot handle the
data traffic, it’s their own problem,” said Fu. Since WeChat users have already purchased data from their mobile carrier, a supplementary charge is unreasonable, said Fu. He added that the company should either upgrade its network or raise the charges for its data service, instead of forcing app developers to charge their users. The majority of China Mobile’s subscribers use the company’s 2G GPRS network, a protocol more susceptible to data bottlenecks than modern networks. Only 13 percent of China Mobile users are subscribed to its 3G network, in contrast to one third of China Unicom’s and 44 percent for China Telecom, which means China Mobile’s revenue is more reliant on charges for traditional phone calls and text messages than its two rivals. Fu Liang said that the major motivation behind the move by China Mobile, whose profits grew 2.7 percent to 129.3 billion yuan
(US$20.8bn) in 2012, is the threat posed to its revenue streams by the rise of WeChat and other “over-the-top” (OTT) apps, those that enable users to circumvent carrier charges by sending messages via mobile Internet. According to the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT), in 2012, growth in the number of text messages sent by Chinese cell phone users slowed from 6.2 percent to only 2.1 percent, the lowest growth over the past four years. In the first two months of 2013, the number of text messages fell 10.6 percent compared with the same period last year. Carriers’ average monthly revenue per user declined to 68 yuan (US$11) in 2012, a slip of 5.6 percent from 2011. However, its data traffic almost tripled last year, and data revenues grew by about 54 percent, thanks to the growing popularity of apps like WeChat. Around 12 percent of China Mobile’s total revenue now comes from its data services. “Now, technological progress is pressuring mobile carriers to turn to data services for revenue, but for the Chinese telecom giants, the text message and phone call business could be too lucrative to give up on,” Fu said. WeChat, launched in early 2011, has dealt a fatal blow to Fetion, China Mobile’s own messenger app, which has yet to incorporate voice messaging and at present can only be used on phones subscribed to China Mobile. Fetion used to be the country’s second most popular instant messenger service, behind QQ, Tencent’s online messenger that boasts a user base of 780 million.
So far, WeChat has amassed more than 300 million registered users, including more than 40 million overseas, making it one of only a handful of fully Chinese-owned, Chinese-built apps to make a dent in the international market. The company’s international expansion is currently focused on Southeast Asian markets, and WeChat has already become the top grossing mobile app in Thailand and Malaysia. Tencent has also opened a US office in preparation for a marketing push in the country, although currently, the majority of
WeChat users in the US are Chinese people living and studying in the country, who use the app to stay in touch with their family and friends back in China, as well as with other Chinese people in the US. Miao Wei, minister for industry and infor-
mation technology, in late March voiced his support for the telecom carriers’ plan to start charging WeChat for extra data. Given that China Mobile is a State-owned oligopolist whose senior management frequently pass through a “revolving door” into
Number of text messages sent via China’s three mobile carrier networks, and their year-on-year growth 897bn
Monthly average revenue per user (yuan) 80 70
20 10 2009
Monthly average call time per user (minutes) 600
500 400 China Unicom 300 200 China Telecom 100 2009
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high-ranking positions at the MIIT, the regulator has every incentive to side with China Mobile, according to Fu Liang, the industry analyst. While Tencent is yet to monetize its WeChat service, it is unlikely that potential government-imposed charges will be passed directly onto its users – instead, it might try to sell games or premium services through the app, or integrate e-commerce. For instance, its location-based search feature might enable restaurants or cafes to sell coupons to WeChat users in the area. “We want to join hands with carriers to offer more value-added services in order to sustain a win-win situation that would help enhance their interests,” said Liu Sishan, a spokesperson with Tencent, in an email to NewsChina. The two parties – the telecom operators and OTT developers – should team up to provide better services and create a larger market to generate more profit, rather than attack each other before the market matures, according to Dong Xu, an industry analyst with Beijing-based Analysys International. In a message sent to all users of WeChat in early April, Tencent vowed that it would never charge for the service. “If Tencent were to charge for WeChat, its users would turn to other similar free apps, and there are a great many of these,” said Dong. “Chinese have become accustomed to free internet products and services.” Dong predicted that Tencent, a giant of the private business world, would pay the carriers a lump sum to settle the case. Tencent’s 2012 revenue totaled 43.9 billion yuan (US$7.1bn), 54 percent up from the previous year, and its profits grew about a quarter over the same period to 12.3 billion yuan (US$2bn). But even if a cash payoff solves the problem this time, private enterprises may be wondering whether innovation is really worth the risk of angering a State-owned dinosaur. If a giant like Tencent can be punished for creating an internationally successful product, the future does not look bright for smaller private companies, or for the industry as a whole.
EU FDI in China, 2012-13
Y-o-y increase in actual investment in China by EU-funded companies in Q1, 2013, a much greater increase than the 1.44% rise in total FDI inflow. Source: China Ministry of Commerce
40 30 20 10 0 -10 -20 -30 -40
Value of US Treasury bonds and bills purchased by China in February, the largest increase since December 2011.
Increase in power consumption in March in China, the second lowest increase since June 2009, interpreted as evidence of an economic slowdown. GDP growth in Q1, 2013 was down to 7.7 percent from 7.9 percent in Q4, 2012.
China’s US T-bills and bonds holdings, US$bn
Power consumption in Q1 2013
Primary industry: 1.4%
Secondary industry: 74.5% Tertiary industry: 10.8% Household: 13.3%
12,2011Source: China National Energy Administration
1,2013 2,2013 0 12,2011 2012
Source: US Department of the Treasury
The share of outstanding loans to rural households as a percentage of total outstanding loans issued by financial institutions in China by the end of 2012. These loans have a total value of US$577bn, a 170% increase since 2007.
US$9bn The reduction in corporate taxes for the transport and service sector by the end of February 2013. This comes after turnover tax was replaced with value-added tax in some areas in January 2012. Source: China Ministry of Finance
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Source: People’s Bank of China
Blessing or Burden?
A shrinking trade surplus and economic uncertainty are looming over Chinaâ€™s new leadership. Their response has been a renewed call for further urbanization to boost domestic consumption. But are even bigger cities the solution? By Yu Xiaodong and Yang Zhongxu
NEWSCHINA I June 2013
Photo by AP
ccording to official data, China maintained a steady GDP growth rate of 7.8 percent in 2012. Upon taking office, the country’s new leadership set its GDP growth target for 2013 at 7.5 percent. While still enviable, few now doubt that China will fail to sustain the kind of unprecedented economic growth it has managed to maintain through the past two decades. Both domestic and overseas uncertainties including stagnating exports and an aging population have, in the view of all but the most starry-eyed observers, guaranteed an end to China’s boom years. In March, Zhou Xiaochuan, the director of China’s central bank, warned National People’s Congress (NPC) delegates that the ratio between China’s trade surplus and its annual GDP had dropped to 2.6 percent in 2012, a sharp decline from 10.1 percent in 2007, a two-decade low. With Europe still mired in debt crises and the US still struggling to prop up its manufacturing sector, most economists agree that China’s surplus, the main driving force behind its GDP growth, is doomed to dwindle further in the coming years. NEWSCHINA I June 2013
In their frantic search for a new source of growth, China’s new leadership has long been pushing what its politicians term a “new type of urbanization.” The argument goes that urbanization offers a solution to various economic and social challenges by boosting domestic consumption, narrowing the wealth gap by increasing rural income, rebalancing the costs of an aging population and promoting the development of the service sector. China’s new premier Li Keqiang, who assumed Wen Jiabao’s mantle in March, is a leading advocate of “new urbanization.” In an article published in the State-owned periodical Qiushi on February 16, 2012, Li argued that a 1 percent increase in the rate of urbanization translates into 13 million additional urban residents. As urban residents spent 15,900 yuan (US$2,540) per capita in 2011, 3.6 times of the consumption of rural residents (4,455 yuan or US$712), these new urban residents would create a 1.5 trillion yuan (US$240bn) increase in domestic consumption, according to Li. Since China’s rural population only contributes 10 percent of na-
tional GDP, by transferring surplus rural labor into China’s ballooning cities, the government hopes to boost both rural productivity and the declining urban labor force, which has been decimated by China’s aging population. This argument has recently been adopted by experts from various government think tanks, especially those under the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), China’s top macroeconomic planning agency and one of the most powerful arms of government. “Massive urbanization will enable China to continue to grow rapidly in the next 10 years,” argued Wang Jian, vice-director of the China Society of Macroeconomics under the NDRC. Wang echoed the sentiments of other government pundits, arguing that a massive influx of rural residents will boost demand in the chaotic property market. Wang’s colleague Jiang Kejun added that urbanization can absorb much of China’s production surpluses, particularly in the construction materials manufacturing industry, which have increased at an alarming rate as growth has slowed. Yi Peng, a researcher with the NDRC’s Institute of Cities and Towns told NewsChina that a potential 300 million new urban residents are currently living in rural areas, contributing less than they might to the national consumption rate.
However, contrary to the optimistic projections of the NDRC, many independent economists foresee a rocky road ahead for the already-controversial policy of government-initiated urbanization. In a widely-cited commentary published in the Economic Observer, economist Xu Xiaonian warned against making urbanization the centerpiece of policymaking. According to Xu, what the government should do is not to take a proactive approach in promoting urbanization, and instead scale back its interference in the process to allow the market to take over. “Urbanization should be a natural result of the market economy, rather than a policy tool of the government,” commented Xu. Urbanization has been an ongoing process in China. From 1990 to 2012, China’s urban population increased from 254 million to 690 million. Correspondently, the percentage of the population represented by urban residents shot up from 22 percent to 52.6 percent, a historic shift which has led to calls for a scaling-back of the pace of government-sponsored urbanization. The average rate of personal consumption, meanwhile, has barely shifted, confounding the predictions of many economists, who claimed that the new influx of rural residents into urban residents would lead to a consumption boom, as happened in Industrial Revolution Europe and America. China’s personal consumption-GDP ratio has remained stagnant at about 35 percent, about half the rate
After moving into cities, China’s rural migrant workers face the challenge of making a living
in the US and considerably lower than in most developed and developing nations. Now, analysts are scrabbling to determine why new additions to China’s urban class aren’t opening their wallets as readily as was predicted. The blame has largely fallen on a litany of institutional barriers set up by the government which restrict the movement of China’s citizens based on their birthplace. The notorious household registration, or hukou system, has come under particular fire. Effectively an internal visa, it restricts an individual’s access to welfare, housing, education, healthcare and even vehicle ownership to their place of birth. As a result, rural residents who have lived in cities for most of their working lives cannot access city schools or hospitals, or purchase homes, severely limiting their ability to settle and thus constricting their potential consumption. Compared to the calculation of the urbanization rate (52.6 percent) officially adopted by the National Bureau of Statistics, which classifies anyone who has lived in a city for more than 6 months as an “urban resident,” data from the Ministry of Public Security shows that only 35 percent of the population have an urban hukou. In other words, 17.6 percent of China’s population, some 230 million people, are living in areas where they cannot purchase property, obtain subsidized healthcare, claim welfare or send their children to school. This has forced many migrant workers to leave their dependents in the countryside while working full-time in the cities, further constraining rural development as well as leading to the breakdown of families and the neglect of the most vulnerable in society. Although it is mandatory for employers to provide basic medical insurance and social security for their employees, this policy is poorly enforced. According to Chen Xiwen, the director of the government’s Central Rural Work Leading Group, In 2011 only 18.6 percent of China’s floating population were insured by their employer, while only 16.4 percent had access to social security.
While rural migrant workers struggle in vain to be fully embraced by the urban environment, the homesteads they leave behind are rapNEWSCHINA I June 2013
Photo by Ran Wen
Photo by Ran Wen
Under calls for greater urbanization, Chongqing Municipality has issued urban hukou to millions of rural residents
idly being turned into urban land due to the widespread practice of government-led land appropriation. By selling or leasing seized landholdings to enterprises and developers in return for heavy “land grant fees,” the Chinese government’s revenue stream has outpaced even national GDP growth almost two to one. For this reason, critics have called the government’s urbanization drive an effort to urbanize dwindling rural land resources, rather than give impoverished rural citizens the chance of a better life in the cities. This unbalanced management of limited land resources has led to astronomical increases in the price of housing prices, further limiting the ability of working and middle class Chinese to settle down. In recent years, municipal governments across the country have broken ground on 36 million low-cost housing units, but denied those without an urban hukou the right to purchase any of them.
It is obvious that China’s new leadership, including Premier Li Keqiang, is well aware of these problems. This has prompted economic planners to talk in terms of “humanitarian” urbanization, indicating a shift in focus. One notable announcement made in the annual government report during the annual NPC session held in March was reform of the hukou system, though no specifics were given. Attempts to reform this hugely unpopular institution have been underway in communities across the country. In 2012, quite a few provinces and several major cities started to allow the children of new urban residents to attend public schools and take the local college entrance examinations, NEWSCHINA I June 2013
though these young people remained subject to a raft of conditions. Despite being a very small step towards granting new urban residents equal access to public services, local residents, particularly in Shanghai and Beijing where educational resources are most abundant, pushed back, claiming that the influx of “outsiders” was denying resources to their children. “It is just the beginning of a long-term struggle between native and non-native urban residents,” Li Tie, director of the Institute of Cities and Towns under the NDRC, told NewsChina. Even some senior officials are pessimistic about the prospect of extending the urban safety net to migrant workers. Chen Xiwen, director of Central Rural Work Leading Group, admitted in 2010 that the State Council had “considered” such measures as early as 2000, but had to drop their plans based on calculations of the potential financial cost of such reforms, which, he claimed, would outstrip even national GDP. It is estimated that extending urban welfare coverage to migrant workers would cost 35 trillion yuan (US$5.6tn). The public purse simply cannot bankroll such a costly reform. The government is hoping to finance this process by modifying a similarly restrictive policy on rural land ownership, allowing residents to trade land on the open market. According to a keynote decree issued by the State Council, this will require local governments to finalize the registration of land rights within their jurisdictions within five years, in order to prevent such a change from causing a legal and administrative catastrophe due to conflicting claims. Currently, with the exception of a few pilot programs, rural land trading is illegal, due to the official policy that demands that all rural land must be collectively owned. It is estimated that by capitalizing China’s rural land market, the government would effectively be creating a land market worth of 40 trillion yuan (US$5.6tn), a figure more than paying for the full “urbanization” of migrant workers. It is hoped that by selling or leasing their collectively owned land back in their rural village, migrant workers will have the resources to properly settle down in cities. According to a source close to the NDRC, the Commission is drafting a grand urbanization strategy centering around several key issues including granting access to the urban safety net to migrant workers and reforming land ownership policy. Such changes would do away with the unpopular legacies of the planned economy era, but as such will take years to bring to fruition. With a powerful state sector and a predatory real estate industry that have reaped rich rewards from China’s State-directed distortion of the urbanization process, it remains a concern whether the country’s evermore marginalized rural society will ever genuinely benefit from policies drafted by the very people with the smallest stake in the eventual outcome.
NEWSCHINA I June 2013
While China’s new leadership has stated its aims to liberalize rural land policy as a part of a grand urbanization strategy, it seems reluctant to proceed By Yu Xiaodong and Zhou Zhenghua
Photo by AFP
NEWSCHINA I June 2013
It is now time for China to transition its traditional agriculture into modernity,” Xu Xiaoqing, director of the Department of Rural Economic Research at the Development Research Center of the State Council told NewsChina, referring to fragmented messages sent out by the State Council, China’s cabinet, pressing for the introduction of market forces into China’s countryside. In a keynote white paper released in February, the State Council called for the development of “family farms,” encouraged enterprises to “go rural,” and promised that the government would finalize the registration of rural land rights, a ongoing task, within five years. Following the announcement, China’s new Premier Li Keqiang, the alleged mastermind behind the white paper, remarked during an inspection tour of the Yangtze Delta that some of China’s family farm units should transition towards larger-scale production. On April 7, the State Council approved agricultural reforms in northeastern Heilongjiang Province aiming to consolidate farmland into large-scale plots.
Observers believe that these developments signal the beginning of long-term reform of China’s rigid system of rural farmland rights, reform expected to end with market-based land trading. Others, however, are not so sure.
China’s agricultural policies, particularly those regarding land rights, have long been under scrutiny from experts and officials. Under China’s current rural land policy, which has its roots in communist ideology, China’s rural land is collectively owned by villages, rather than individuals. Since China kicked off economic reforms in the late 1970s, collectively-owned land was made available for lease to rural households, but the right to sell or trade land remained in the hands of the collectives. These policies restricted all farmers, regardless of productivity or efficiency, to tiny plots of land. According to official data released in 2006, each rural household works an area of a farmland averaging 1.5 acres, a fraction of that farmed by their peers in India and Japan.
Photo by AFP
The result is stagnation in terms of both productivity and rural income growth, which has in turn driven hundreds of millions of rural laborers into China’s burgeoning cities in search of a better life. The economic boom led by a prosperous manufacturing industry only served to exacerbate the urban-rural income divide, leading farmers to cut even more corners to turn a profit, resulting in food safety crises and the widespread pollution of arable land. However, urbanization, the cause of many of these ills, is now being touted as a potential solution.
Increasing urban demand for food and other necessities puts strain on a shrinking number of farmers
Photo by AP
With millions of rural residents abandoning the countryside for the cities, experts believe that rural populations have reduced sufficiently to safely liberalize the rural land policy and promote larger-scale agriculture without risking either food security or a complete collapse of the socialist system. However, despite initiating a number of pilot land exchange programs in the past few years, the government has balked at rolling out provincial or national-level reforms. While political conservatives are worried that a shift in land policy would represent the final abandonment of Marxist doctrine in favor of economic pragmatism, the biggest concern for academics is that China’s small farmers would be rapidly marginalized in a free land market hijacked by special interest groups. Many point to the urban slums that have emerged from the process of urbanization in other developing regions such as India and South America, warning that liberalizing land trading could spur the disenfranchisement of millions, resulting in political and social turmoil as the indigent converge on the cities. The fact that 250 million rural migrants are still denied access to urban public services shows that these concerns are well-founded. Were these people to lose access to their existing rural safety net, effectively making them and their families both stateless and penniless, the results could be catastrophic. “China should not promote consolidating farmland until it can genuinely turn rural migrants into urban residents,” Professor He Xuefeng, director of the China Rural Governance Research Center under Huazhong University of Science and Technology, told NewsChina. China’s new cabinet seems to have adopted a new line of thinking on this problem. Relating the rural reform to a grand plan for promoting “human-based urbanization,” Premier Li Keqiang has offered an ambitious and comprehensive solution to a number of problems challenging today’s China. According to Li and his supporters, by making making land a tradable asset, rural residents can tap into credit allowing them to become
A rural migrant worker moves from one Beijing construction site to another NEWSCHINA I June 2013
businesspeople or build a new life in one of the country’s cities without relying on government handouts. In Li’s view, such reform would create a steady flow of labor into developing urban areas while also enabling larger-scale modern agriculture, generating more income for farmers and narrowing the urban-rural income gap while greatly boosting productivity.
Bloodlines or Businesses
While there is agreement at the administrative level on this general strategy, what appears to have divided the new leadership is the potential speed and extent of its implementation. In the aforementioned white paper, two concepts were raised in this regard, “family farms” and “capital going rural.” Family farms, or the consolidation of several family homesteads, are both common concepts in modern China, as many rural residents rent their land to relatives and fellow villagers when they go to work in cities. According to the Ministry of Agriculture, officially recognized family farms in 33 pilot areas number at 6,670. Unofficially, more than 2.7 million rural households operated a plot larger than 16.5 acres by the end of 2012. As a more moderate solution, family farms, which can help a rural household to boost its income, also have their limits. A larger operation also means a bigger risk for farmers trading in specific commodities. Moreover, consolidating farmland alone cannot bring muchdesired capital and technology into the countryside. Farmers in areas initiating pilot land transfer schemes have already been complaining about the rising price of land and a shortfall in skilled agricultural labor that has held back attempts at greater mechanization. As a solution, the government has been encouraging the development of rural cooperatives. Data from the Ministry of Agriculture shows that the number of rural cooperatives has reached 600,000, meaning that 18 percent of farmers nationwide are part of one. However, according to Professor Han Jun, vice-director of the Development Research Center of the State Council, the majority of these cooperatives only exist on paper, with farmers operating as individuals in practice while using their certification as a cover. With the stagnation of the development of rural cooperatives, the government is now sending tentative signals encouraging enterprises to “go rural,” a concept anathema to Marxist doctrine which has raised alarm among conservatives and rural activists. In the past decade, urban capital has developed a strong foothold in the countryside, often colluding with local governments to appropriate land and evict farmers in order to construct development projects. To allay fears of a complete takeover of rural land resources by big NEWSCHINA I June 2013
business, the government has pledged to keep enterprise out of the rural land market. “By encouraging enterprises to go rural, the government should only encourage them to bring capital, technology and market forces to the countryside,” said Xu Xiaoqing. However, as central policies are often distorted at the local level, few believe Xu’s pledge to end the illegal appropriation of land will be delivered in practice. Consensus on these sensitive issues, which tap into the heart of China’s political ideology as much as into the heart of her agriculture, remains elusive even in a consensus-led government.
No matter which direction the government ultimately takes, one action now appears unavoidable – the full recognition of the land rights of farmers. Only such an acknowledgement could give individual households a clear link to their holdings and thus place a verifiable value on such property. In its white paper, the State Council required local governments to finalize land rights registration within five years. Many have called this deadline overoptimistic. The State Council made a similar demand in 2010, and progress has been slow in a country with no recent history of extending land rights to individuals. According to Professor Zhao Junchen from the Academy of Social Sciences of Yunnan Province, governments at county and village level have been very passive in implementing the policy, most likely because the appropriation of rural land remains the primary source of income for local governments across China. Indeed, the vague legal status of collective rural land ownership has proven hugely lucrative for rural officials, allowing them to claim to represent both individual farmers and rural collectives in deals with developers. The State Council is painfully aware of the difficulty they face in getting local governments to surrender their powers to appropriate and sell land, but are nonetheless experimenting with reforms in this area. According to one experimental reform in Shenzhen, for example, local governments will be cut out as middlemen, allowing farmers to deal directly with developers. However, this is no guarantee of a square deal, and it is unlikely officials will have no hand whatsoever in such tricky negotiations. Professor Zhao said that it would require great political determination for the central government to overcome local resistance in pushing forward the task of land rights registration. Fragmented and hesitant messages on the issue of land rights are no longer any use – nothing less than a concrete plan for overhauling rural land rights, and its vigorous enforcement, even at the expense of political capital, will do.
The Birth of New China
In 1989, in the wake of the Tian’anmen Square incident, the historical epic The Birth of New China was almost pulled due to its controversial portrayal of China’s former leaders By Yang Min and Xie Ying
t took much persuasion to get director Li Qiankuan to agree to an interview about his magnum opus The Birth of New China (1949), a movie that tells the familiar story of how the Communist Party of China (CPC) defeated the Kuomintang (KMT) army led by Chiang Kai-shek and founded the People’s Republic of China on October 1, 1949. Considering the ordeal that Li went through to get the movie released, it is not surprising that he doesn’t often feel like talking about it. Although made as a tribute for the 40th anniversary of the People’s Republic in 1989, the movie had to pass four rounds of reviewing and examination by top officials before it had a hope of being screened. At one point, it appeared that the film was not going to make it to theaters. “I believed I could ride out the censorship, since I was confident that my movie was right, and good,” Li Qiankuan told NewsChina. He was not disappointed. The Birth of New China made 170 million yuan (US$27.5m)
at the box office after its premiere on the Chinese mainland, an astounding achievement considering its modest investment of 5 million yuan (US$810,000). The movie ran for 143 days in Hong Kong cinemas, a record that has yet to be broken. “All tickets [for The Birth of New China] are booked up in advance... People often say that Hong Kongers don’t care about politics and history, and that they were disappointed by the [Tian’anmen Square] incident, but then why do so many people flock to the cinema to see the movie? Is it because they know the movie is fair and objective, or because the movie is thought-provoking?” commented Hong Kong Commercial Daily.
No Longer God
Nearly all critics argued that director Li Qiankuan’s success lay largely in his portrayal of the CPC leader Mao Zedong. Breaking away from the stereotyped godlike portrayal of Mao, Li treated the leader as a human being with emotions and desires. The audience no longer saw Mao standing with one hand on his hip and the other wav-
ing in the air – his signature gesture in propaganda portrayals. Instead, various details were added to make Mao seem more human, such as striking a match against the sole of his shoe, chewing tea leaves while reading a book, hiding a carton of cigarettes behind his back to avoid detection, and arguing with his son about the latter’s marriage. A scene shows Mao secretly visiting a night market in Beijing that was to be officially taken over by the CPC. But when paying for his noodles, he finds to his embarrassment that he has left his wallet at home. After returning home accompanied by his bodyguard, he sheepishly apologizes to his fellow officials for his visiting the capital without Party permission. “Those stories had never been seen in similar movies before... We wanted to tell the audience that Mao also had a human side,” said Li Qiankuan. This rethinking of stereotypes won support from government leaders during the first round of reviewers, who praised the movie as truthful and vivid. Li was soon told that the authorities planned to promote the movie in NEWSCHINA I June 2013
On the set of The Birth of New China in Nanjing
the Party newspapers the People’s Daily and the Guangming Daily. But three days later, the promotion plan was suddenly canceled due to the second round of censorship, this time by higher-ranking officials.
The problem lay in the characterization, but not that of Mao – government higherups objected to the portrayal of Chiang Kai-shek, leader of the KMT, or Nationalist, party. Contemporary critic Lu Jianhu said that Chinese mainland movies habitually placed major CPC figures center stage, while demoting opposition, like Chiang, to supporting roles who served only to accent the virtues of the protagonists. In The Birth of New China, however, Mao and Chiang were given equally important roles, with Chiang enjoying more screen time than Mao. “The movie showed the contrast between the ascendant CPC and the crumbling KMT. The two parties were like twin trees, and Mao and Chiang were both the trunks,” Li explained. In addition to dramatizing how Chiang
NEWSCHINA I June 2013
tricked the CPC as well as rival factions within the KMT, the movie also depicted Chiang’s staunch resolve in his refusal to admit defeat. For example, he tells his young grandson when retreating to Taiwan: “Your grandpa may not come back, but you can.” One of the most memorable scenes takes place as the KMT defends the Yangtze River Line from the advancing People’s Liberation Army (PLA), where Chiang walks in on four officers gambling in their quarters. Facing the horror-stricken subordinates, Chiang does not scold them for neglecting their duty, but sits down and plays with them. He helps one general win his money back, telling him: “You are as bad at playing mahjong as I am at generalship. I depend on you all for the defense of the Yangtze River. Please help!” The man was so moved by Chiang’s words that when the PLA overwhelmed his defensive positions, he was overcome with shame and shot himself. “Chiang Kai-shek was actually an outstanding general. Watch how he skilfully boosted the depleted morale of his battle-
weary troops,” said a post about the movie on popular online cultural platform Douban. “This is my favorite scene,” Li Qiankuan told NewsChina. “It is better to show Chiang’s true inner world than to make him a ferocious-looking and hysterical monster,” he told NewsChina. Some high-ranking officials reviewing the movie evidently disagreed. “What do you mean to achieve by pulling Mao off his pedestal and resurrecting Chiang? You simply have no class consciousness,” one of the reviewers, whose name Li declined to reveal, asked the director. Another scene, one that shows Mao sitting back in his chair and letting a soldier comb his hair, also came in for criticism. “[The scene] reminds the audience of a eunuch combing the hair of the Empress Dowager,” claimed a top official. Li explained to the censors that the scene was not fabricated, but based on the account of Li Yinqiao, Mao’s bodyguard, and it revealed that Mao liked to have his hair combed to relax. Thanks to Li’s persistence, the controver-
Considering the political environment in 1989 following the Tian’anmen Square incident, some lines in the movie seemed jarring to political hardliners. Li Qiankuan revealed to NewsChina that the original script contained a conversation between Mao Zedong and his son Mao Anying – when the younger Mao asked his father what could ensure the longevity of the new regime, to prevent it from becoming just another link in the dynastic cycle Mao answered: “Democracy,” and “Let the people supervise the government.” Needless to say, these lines were cut. In the second round of censorship, some high officials accused the movie of “taking the wrong stand,” with Li being criticized for being “too partial in portraying Chiang” and for “attempting to replace Mao’s concept of ‘people’s war’ with civil war.” Li Qiankuan (right), Xiao Guiyun (left) advise the actress playing Soong Ching-ling
sial scenes featuring Mao and Chiang eventually made it through the cutting room untouched, though voiceover was added to emphasize Mao’s “mightiness” and Chiang’s “frailty.”
Madame Mao Cut
As the CPC’s antagonist, Chiang Kai-shek is an indispensable character in The Birth of New China. But some controversial figures are not. Jiang Qing, Mao’s fourth wife who was to become the leader of the “Gang of Four” who hijacked control of the CPC in the late 1970s, is a typical example. According to Li Qiankuan, the movie originally had two scenes that featured Jiang. One featured her attempting to meddle in the planning of a major campaign, only to be stonewalled by Mao. In the other, she angrily slams the door behind her when she finds a letter written by Mao to his ex-wife He Zizhen. “I like the scenes. They indicated Jiang’s ambition to get involved in politics and also implied Mao’s attitude toward her,” Li said. “But both were cut as ordered. [The censors] said ‘Jiang Qing has no place in grand historical movies like The Birth of New China.”
A Favorable Turn
For one month, Li Qiankuan was worrying whether his movie would be killed, until he was told to get prepared for the third round of reviewing. This time, Jiang Zemin, who had replaced Zhao Ziyang as the general secretary of the CPC just three months earlier, was to be present. The review took place at Zhongnanhai, the CPC’s headquarters in Beijing, where Jiang Zemin and other members of the Politburo watched a copy of the film. Li sat nervously beside Jiang through to the the end of the movie. When the screen lit up with explosions, alternating with images of thousands of soldiers falling on the battlefield, Jiang Zemin gave Li a congratulatory tap on the hand, and Li noticed that some of the other government leaders in the room were moved to tears. “Young people today only know that life in the West is better than here, and that Hong Kong and Taiwan are richer than the mainland, but they don’t know how far we have come to be where we are today, through all the bumps, twists and turns over the years. So, it is very necessary to screen this movie and let young people know that it is the older generation, paying with their lives and their blood, who have given them the life they have today,” Jiang concluded in his final ap-
praisal. “The theme of the movie is that the [CPC’s] victory was hard-won, right?” he added.
Thanks to Jiang Zemin’s positive comments, The Birth of New China was finally approved, and went to theaters on schedule. It was so popular with audiencess that it is now honored as a “history textbook” of the country’s founding, and recognized as an accurate portrayal of both Mao Zedong and Chiang Kai-shek. Twenty years later, on the 60th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic in 2009, a similar movie, The Founding of A Republic, was released in theaters. It featured 172 movie stars from the mainland, Hong Kong and Taiwan playing the parts of various historical figures, was released in theaters. The film depicts the CPC cooperating with other political parties to found the People’s Republic of China. Audiences could not help but compare the two films. Although the newer movie purportedly raked in a box office take of 430 million yuan (US$69.4m), many believe it benefited largely from its all-star cast. “The Founding of A Republic covers a longer period of time, and narrates history from a different angle, but some scenes involving big characters are fictitious. Meanwhile, The Birth of New China is much closer to the truth,” remarked a post on Douban. “Watching The Founding of A Republic is like taking a brief, forgettable visit to Chinese history between 1945 and 1949. But The Birth of New China is much more impressive, in its truthful attention to detail,” said another post. In general, NewsChina found that online reviews of The Founding of A Republic focused mainly on the performances of its cast, while reviews of The Birth of New China centered more on memorable scenes involving Mao and Chiang. This perhaps explains why The Birth of New China has been watched 200,000 times on Youku, China’s YouTube equivalent, even though it was released 17 years before the website existed. NEWSCHINA I June 2013
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South African white rhinos in Yunnan Wild Animal Park, July 27, 2010
Photo by CFP
NEWSCHINA I June 2013
No Introduction Necessary? The controversial introduction of seven non-native white rhinos into Pu’er National Park in southern China has been marketed as a “re-introduction” of an extinct, unrelated local species. However, critics claim it is an attempt to kick-start a rhino-farming operation to feed China’s insatiable demand for rhino horn By Wang Yan
rom late March to Early April, a total of seven white rhinos raised in the Yunnan Wild Animal Park (YWAP), Kunming, Yunnan Province, were transported to a national park in Pu’er. Both State and provincial media covered the event, claiming it a successful example of the reintroduction of an extinct species into the wild. There was one flaw in this narrative. These were African white rhinos, which have never lived in Asia. According to Li Li, marketing manager from YWAP, these rhinos, now juveniles of six to seven-years old, are expected to breed in the wild in three to five years. “These rhinos have come to stay in the YWAP for two years and eight months, and grew accustomed to the climate and environment here before they were released,” Li Li told NewsChina during a telephone interview in mid-April. “In Pu’er National Park, which covers 216 square kilometers, they will enjoy a wetland range of over 66,667 square meters (717,594 sq ft) in the first phase of the reintroduction program.”
Five species of wild rhinoceros survive worldwide; the Javan, Sumatran and Indian rhino in Asia, and the black rhino and white
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rhino in Africa. Historically, all three Asian rhino species were found in southwestern China, and are even mentioned in Tang Dynasty (618-907) records as living in Hunan, Guizhou, Hubei and Sichuan provinces. However, by the Song Dynasty (960-1279), records indicate the number of wild rhinos was dwindling. Rhino horn, a precious medicine in China, led all three species to be extensively hunted. Consequently, the range of wild rhinos retreated from the heavily-populated central China plain until it was restricted to the remotest corners of Yunnan Province. In 1933 the last two surviving Javan rhinos were shot for their horns and skin. Elsewhere in the world, rhinos were also under threat from big game hunters and poachers. The illegal trade in rhino horn, most of which ends up in Chinese medicine, poses the greatest threat to rhinos today. According to Saving Rhinos, an animal protection NGO, “the trade is run by organized crime syndicates, who stay in business because of the medicinal myths about rhino horn.” Now three species of rhinos are listed as Critically Endangered (Sumatran, Javan and black rhino) on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. The Indian and white
rhino are classified as Vulnerable and Near Threatened respectively. However, conservation was not at the forefront of the decision to introduce non-native rhinos to southern China. Pan Hua, former General Manager of YWAP, told NewsChina that the idea of importing rhinos from South Africa stemmed from a 2007 decision by national park directors to bring exotic species into the park to attract more tourists. Park officials have since attempted to retroactively mold the narrative along conservationist lines, adopting a rather tortured logic in the process. “As we started contacting and visiting South Africa’s national parks and private game reserves, we gradually developed the idea of importing more for the purpose of reintroducing the species to Yunnan,” Pan continued: “despite the fact that the white rhino is not the same species as the nowextinct indigenous Chinese rhino, Yunnan is where this species died out. Thus in 2009, after a long negotiation process, we signed the contract to buy 12 white rhinos from South Africa.” However, the South African Department of Environmental Affairs (SADEA), alongside the country’s CITES (Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Spe-
environment Distribution of wild rhinos Indian rhino 2,949 White rhino 20,600 Yunnan
Black rhino 4,860 Javan rhino < 50 Sumatran rhino < 200
cies) Management Authority, told NewsChina that, based on information relating to permits for the export of live white rhino, 6 white were exported to China in July 2010, for “zoological purposes” only. A recent downturn in the bilateral relationship between China and India over longstanding territorial disputes effectively made Indian rhinos, a closer species to the extinct Yunnan rhino, off-limits. Pan told our reporter that the scarcity of other rhino species discouraged him from attempting to secure Javan or Sumatran specimens. Instead, YWAP chose South Africa, a country with close ties to the Chinese government, and, more importantly, one with a sizeable wild population of white rhinos, as the donor. In total, YWAP purchased 12 white rhinos from diversified sources, including the Kruger National Park and private game reserves. “Three were dead upon arrival due to the long journey,” Li Li admitted to our reporter. “After passing the customs quarantine and examination process, the remaining nine rhinos finally arrived in the YWAP.” The total expense of bringing the rhinos to China was not divulged. However, Li admitted that Kingland Group Co., Ltd, an oil and gas pipeline operator as well as an eco-tourism promoter and the investor backing the project, laid out a hefty sum of money. Li went on to say that Kingland planned to import another 30 rhinos for the sake of building up a healthy herd, yet further negotiations with South Africa and other African countries had re-
cently stalled. In response to NewsChina’s inquiries about the reintroduction of white rhinos, SADEA responded by email, stating that it will not allow the export of live rhino to China for “reintroduction or rewilding” attempt since southern China does not form part of the natural range of the white rhino.
Jiang Xuelong, a researcher at the Kunming Institute of Zoology at the Chinese Academy of Sciences and the project’s unofficial zoological consultant, claims what he calls the “reintroduction” of non-native rhinos to China will “raise awareness of the harmonious interaction between animals, nature and humanity.” Jiang Zhigang from Institute of Zoology with Chinese Academy of Sciences also calls the project “pioneering,” claiming it will not negatively impact South Africa’s white rhino species, comparing it to the “Re-wild North America” project which aimed to reintroduce extinct or rare native species to the plains of the US midwest. However, critics have pointed out that the reintroduction of extinct or vulnerable species to their native environment, as China is attempting to do with the giant panda, is very different from introducing completely non-native species to an unfamiliar habitat, as in the case of the Yunnan white rhinos. Jiang Zhigang, however, will not be deterred. “This is a meaningful attempt to see the reactions of white rhinos to a comparatively larger natural habitat,” he told our reporter. “However, the
project itself is not a re-wilding project, since these rhinos will still be managed in a national park.” While unflaggingly optimistic about the scientific value of the YWAP project, Jiang Zhigang did voice concerns that the scheme was being subverted for commercial gain, an accusation environmentalists and academics have made against the plan from the beginning. As NewsChina learned from YWAP, so far, the reintroduction project of white rhinos does not relate to any research or study projects from the academic circle, and the only involved scientist is Jiang Xuelong from Kunming Zoology Institute. Zhang Li, Director of Programs of Conservation International (CI) in China and an associate professor at Beijing Normal University on Animal Behavior told our reporter in early April that white rhino is a completely different subspecies, largely unrelated to the Javan rhino which vanished in Yunnan 80 years ago, thus, from a conservation perspective, the project was neither a “re-introduction” nor necessarily beneficial to the local ecosystem. “Furthermore, mammals require a breeding population of at least 50 to sustain their development and biodiversity in their original environment,” he continued. “Small groups will gradually degrade.” Zhang added that, strictly speaking, this is a commercially-operated rhino husbandry project rather than an academic endeavor, and should be marketed as such. Xie Yan, China’s National Program Director of the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) has been personally involved in many previous reintroNEWSCHINA I June 2013
2.0M 1.5M 1.0M 0.5M 0.0M
duction projects including the reintroduction of Chinese alligator, a species categorized as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List. According to Xie, despite many successful examples such as Przewalski’s wild horse and Père David’s deer reintroduction projects in China during the late 1980s, not all species could be reintroduced. “Sufficient scientific research and investigation, not just the release of some animals, is required,” Xie told our reporter. In her view, five prerequisites must be met before any reintroduction project can begin, namely: the species reintroduced should be indigenous; second, enough space and a proper environment must be provided for the population to be self-sustaining; third, sufficient numbers should be present to maintain a breeding population; fourth, the health and wellbeing of the newlyintroduced animals must be carefully monitored; fifth, the animals should receive appropriate protection from poaching and human activity, and likewise, local communities should receive protection from potentially dangerous species. “Generally speaking, I do not support the rhino reintroduction project, since they are large, fiercely territorial animals which can be potentially dangerous to humans,” Xie told NewsChina. “Individual rhinos require a wide territory, yet human development has encroached upon most of Yunnan’s former wildernesses. There are frequent clashes in the area between wild elephants and local people due to habitat loss, and rhinos, if released into the wild, are similarly likely to cause damage to human life and property.” “From my perspective, China is not ready to NEWSCHINA I June 2013
rush out the re-introduction of this extinct species,” he added.
Other critics have accused YWAP of exploitation, with some even suggesting the project is ultimately a step towards the farming of rhinos for their horns. Illegal rhino horn is sold in slices or processed into powder and marketed by wildlife traffickers as a remedy for pain, fever, acne, laryngitis, impotence and even cancer. The Javan rhino was hunted to extinction in Vietnam in 2011 due to the popularity of its horn as a status symbol. Demand has soared alongside incomes in China and Southeast Asia, with many people still keen to consume illegal animal derivatives as medicine, or exhibit exotic animal parts in their homes. The trade in rhino horn, like the trade in processed coral, elephant and narwhal ivory, and turtle shell, has continued to grow despite the bans, which are generally poorly enforced by customs agents. Between 1990 and 2005, poachers in South Africa killed an average of 14 rhinos a year. Since then the number has soared. In 2010, 333 rhinos were shot. In 2011, it was 448. 2012 marks the deadliest wave of rhino shootings since records began, an annual 633 rhinos killed, according to the country’s environmental ministry. A 2012 report in the Guardian quoted Tom Milliken from TRAFFIC, the wildlife trade monitoring network, as saying: “Losing 500 a year, when it used to be 12 or 14 a year, is a crisis.” Despite the elimination of rhino horn from China’s official State pharmacopeia in 1993, followed by a ban on its sale in 2003, the bulk of the illegal rhino horn trade remains destined for China and other neighboring Southeast Asian countries. According to Jeremy Smith, writing for Chinadialogue, research shows that China consumes up to one third of the world’s total of illegally trafficked rhino horns. While trade in rhino horn is prohibited under CITES, increasing demand from countries like Vietnam has continuously driven up the black market price. “Ordinary people cannot afford to use [rhino horn], since the price has skyrocketed since the trade ban,” said Jiang Zhigang. “Now it is sold for at least US$100 per gram.” While no concrete links between the YWAP project and the animal parts trade have been uncovered, conservationists are scrutinizing the deal
to see if it might lead towards the harvesting of the newly-introduced animals’ horns. An insider source told NewsChina there have been recent attempts in Hainan Province to breed captive white rhinos for the purpose of grinding powder from their horns. “Since rhino horns are comprised of compressed keratin, like hair or fingernails, the horns were shaved from the living animal,” the anonymous source told our reporter. A critical article from the Saving Rhinos’ website also mentioned the Hainan project and concluded that “Horn harvesting experiments are apparently taking place under the guise of ‘reintroducing wild rhinoceroses from overseas through the establishment of breeding centers’.” The reintroduction of white rhinos in Yunnan, according to the source, might be closely related to the Hainan program, though YWAP has denied these allegations to the reporter. In early March, a group of environmental researchers including Duane Biggs from the University of Queensland, Australia published an article in Science arguing that a global ban has failed to stem an “insatiable international demand” for rhino horn. The authors say the market could be met by humanely shaving the horns of live, farmed rhinos rather than relying on poaching. However, international conservationists have opposed this idea, arguing that it is impossible to determine whether or not such procedures cause pain or severe long-term damage to rhinoceroses. Xie Yan expressed her strong opposition to any such move. “If the consumption of farmed rhino horn is legalized, social demand will surge and the market will stimulate poaching.” Precedents for this include the market for elephant ivory, shark’s fin, turtle shell and animal hides. Jiang Zhigang disclosed that during the recent CITES COP 16 meeting in Bangkok, Thailand, South African delegates expressed their country’s willingness to commercialize their “rhino resources” so as to develop a rhino farming economy. SADEA confirmed the initiative, and states “the modalities of rhino economics will be developed through a process of consultation both nationally and internationally... all decisions to be made relating to this matter will be aimed at protecting the species, securing populations and ensuring the long-term conservation of the species.” For now, it seems, the safety of this tiny, anachronistic community of African white rhinos in Yunnan Province is no more clear than the reasons why they were brought there in the first place.
ROCK FOR THE MASSES
Rock singer Wang Feng’s dream of going mainstream is coming true By Yang Shiyang, Chen Tao and Yuan Ye
lad in a black leather jacket and pants, and sporting a voluminous pompadour, Wang Feng strikes an imposing figure as he poses for the paparazzi. The 42-year-old rock singer is promoting his upcoming 15-city 2013 tour, which kicks off in Tianjin on April 13. With a production team numbering in the hundreds, and investment of more than 100 million yuan (US$16m), the scale of the tour is unprecedented in Chinese rock ’n’ roll history. Earlier this year, despite its cautious attitude toward alternative music, State broadcaster China Central Television (CCTV) surprised many by inviting Wang Feng to perform at the Spring Festival Gala, which, aired on Chinese New Year’s Eve, is watched by millions throughout the country and in Chinese communities overseas. Wang performed his famously patriotic piece I Love You, China and fell to his knees, apparently overwhelmed with passion, when the song reached its climax. Instantly, China’s microblogs lit up with criticism of Wang’s display of patriotic fervor, calling it a feigned show of “cheap emotion.” Wang, known for his efforts to perfect the art of “mainstream” rock music, has been the target of criticism ever since he left his funk-influenced classic rock band No. 43 Baojia Street to pursue a solo career in 2000. In an interview with NewsChina, Wang explained: “I wanted to
make mainstream rock right from the start. The idea that rock music knows no boundaries is deeply rooted in my mind, and rock should be the most widely embraced and the most popular form of music.”
A Fresh Start
After the press conference, Wang relaxed and lit a cigarette. Having been invited to perform at the Spring Festival Gala, an event often derided as an unimaginative showcase of State-sanctioned entertainment, he was a little more restrained than usual. “When [Gala director] Ha Wen approached me, I was moved by his sincerity,” he recalled. “The team are trying their best to deliver a superior show.” “What matters most is that I was there to be the face of rock music,” Wang said. I Love You, China could scarcely be called a true rock ‘n’ roll anthem, but Wang insisted that while his performance may not have been perfect, it certainly marked a fresh start. Refusing to be “alternative” is a trait that has set Wang apart from China’s other current rock musicians. A keen follower of the Beatles, John Lennon and Bob Dylan, he has long believed that for a true rock musician, going mainstream is always more challenging than remaining alternative, a philosophy that has driven him to try numerous different marketing approaches over the past decade. On the cover NEWSCHINA I June 2013
Photo by CFP
Wang Feng makes a guest performance on reality show The Voice of China, November 3, 2012
of his 2004 album Crying While Smiling, Wang abandoned his oncefavored “garage band” look, opting for a more clean-cut image, closely cropped hair, fashionable sunglasses, and an open-necked shirt. In Flying Higher, the album’s title track that marked an important step forward in his courtship of the mass market, he sings: “Life is like a long river, at times flowing peacefully, then raging the next moment.” Fans saw Wang drop his introspective, thoughtful lyrics, favoring instead a more romantic style in the following years. Flying Higher became a ubiquitous fan-favorite, and was met with enthusiasm from the media. CCTV even used the song as background music during a live broadcast of the launch of the Chinese space shuttle Shenzhou VI in 2005. “That was my happiest moment as a rock musician, as so many ordinary people fell in love with my music. At the same time, however, rock musicians and fans thought I had betrayed rock ‘n’ roll,” Wang told NewsChina. At the end of 2005, Wang released his second power ballad Blooming Life, the title song of his new album, very much in the same vein as Flying Higher. Together, the two pieces became anthems for Chinese people stuck in the daily grind, and established Wang as one of the country’s most popular live performers in an age where plummeting record sales have meant that singers have to rely on performance fees NEWSCHINA I June 2013
for income. However, critics were unkind to this so-called “rock ‘n’ roll traitor.” Many of his songs were accused of being “weak chicken soup for the soul.” To these critics, Wang Feng was no longer the forlorn, melancholy rocker who composed contemplative rock anthems like Good Night, Beijing.
Even as a rebellious young man, Wang had always had designs on being the publicly acceptable face of rock ‘n’ roll culture. In 1993, he and a group of friends formed a rock band called No.43 Baojia Street. At that time, Chinese rock had recently reached a peak in terms of both creativity and popularity, with rock groups such as Tang Dynasty and Black Panther forming an integral part of urban youth culture, and selling millions of albums. However, Wang and his band were distinguished by their neat rhythms and musical arrangements, and their introspective lyrics – features widely believed to have come from Wang’s solid academic musical background. Three years later, No. 43 Baojia Street released their eponymous debut album, an instant hit that catapulted the band to stardom in
Just as he was waving a final goodbye to his youth as a hot-blooded young rocker, Wang was offered a record deal by Warner Music Beijing. The deal, however, came with a stipulation: ditch the band.
Photo by Ah Zhuo/CFP
Wang Feng (left) plays guitar at a solo concert in Beijing, September 2, 2012
the rock scene, with songs like Small Birds and Goodnight, Beijing. In Small Birds, Wang sings: “I don’t want to squander my life on lies… we once fought for freedom with clenched fists.” In Goodnight, Beijing, he uses images including insomnia and loneliness to illustrate his bewilderment with modern life. In the context of the whirlwind social change of the 1990s, these two pieces reflected the clashes between the younger generation and the establishment, and were seen for a time as the voice of the country’s urban youth. Yet, the band’s flash-in-the-pan success did not allow Wang and his friends to live like rock stars. Despite the genre’s apparent commercial potential, most Chinese rock musicians at the time were living in a difficult situation – due to a lack of proper communication with investors, and their own stubborn insistence on “100-percent pure” rock music, many were facing economic ruin. The song Farewell, 20th Century mirrors Wang’s life at the turn of the millennium: “I started singing when I was five, but now I’m still an empty-handed loser.” After completing his education at the prestigious Central Conservatory of Music, Wang gave up a steady job with the symphony orchestra of the National Ballet of China, and threw himself into rock music. After years of hard work, he found he had made little progress, feeling like an “in-betweener” who had neither the fame and fortune of those who had gone with the tide of commercialization, nor the integrity of the die-hard rockers who refused to give up the purity of their music.
It was an offer Wang could not afford to refuse. Despite being accused of “trading integrity for profit,” he eventually left the band and signed a deal with Warner in 2000. The same year, he released his debut solo album Flower in Flame, which, with its heavily skeptical, poetic lyrics, was thought to be heavily influenced by his earlier work. However, Wang’s business acumen soon began to kick in - he began to realize that with the rapid commercialization of the music industry, the audience for rock music as social commentary was gradually shrinking. In 2002, after two years of work in the studio, Wang released his second solo album Love is a Happy Bullet, whose sentimental themes raised eyebrows across the industry. The title song, In the Rain, tells the story of two long-separated lovers who reunite on a rainy day. The song endeared him to many pop fans. What Wang needed was a truly rousing anthem, but one tame enough to be performed at commercial gigs, especially large-scale performances. The following years saw Wang rise to fame with tracks such as Flying Higher and Blooming Life, but it was In Spring that made him a household name. In 2010, a video clip of two migrant workers belting out this power ballad went viral on all of China’s major video websites, and became an overnight Internet sensation. From then on, he has frequently staged solo concerts, pulling in enormous audiences. His dream of becoming a mainstream rock star was coming true. “Making mainstream rock music is probably the hardest thing I have ever had to do. You have to withstand criticism from both the rock and pop worlds. In addition, you need to strike a subtle balance between the artistic and the commercial,” Wang told NewsChina. In fact, Wang continues to use his music to portray social reality. On his 2009 album Belief Flies in the Wind, for example, he lashes out at the “poisonous social malady” of materialism, and Vanity Fair and Was It Fun? are further evidence of his undiminished critical spirit. “Actually, half of my songs are either sentimental stuff, or else laden with scathing criticism,” he said. Despite his constantly evolving approach to the task of popularizing rock ‘n’ roll in the world’s largest consumer market, Wang has always managed to keep in touch with the zeitgeist. In the 1990s, his music reflected confusion, a sense of confinement and a yearning for freedom, giving the younger generation a voice. In the early 2000s, he embraced the fashionable, taking up the mantle of the “rock ‘n’ roll cheerleader” and doing his best to cheer up a public worn out by societal pressure. Now, famous beyond his wildest dreams, he seems to have achieved his commercial goals in spectacular fashion. He may no longer be popular with rock ‘n’ roll purists, but the ambitious, enterprising Wang Feng has certainly stayed true to himself. NEWSCHINA I June 2013
In Pursuit of Truth In his novel Winter of Bewilderment, writer Hu Fayun tries to dissect the impact of the Cultural Revolution through individual stories, rather official interpretations By Tang Lei and Yuan Ye
group of young people ostracized from the ranks of the Cultural Revolution’s “revolutionaries” because of their less-than-red family backgrounds play the leads in Hu Fayun’s latest novel Winter of Bewilderment. Hu Fayun’s own experiences during this chaotic period from 1966 to 1976, when thousands died in a tidal wave of political purgues, are reflected in those of the novel’s protagonist Duo Duo. Aged 17 when the NEWSCHINA I June 2013
Cultural Revolution was set in motion, in the summer of 1966 Hu found his education cut short as schools and colleges across China were closed, and the students, at the urging of hard-line leftist activists, told to “make revolution,” “struggle against the “old educational system” and tear down “reactionary intellectuals,” namely their teachers. However, Hu was unable to join his classmates in this orgy of destruction. His father’s status as a former Kuomintang army
doctor had caused his son to be blacklisted as a potential counterrevolutionary. Isolated from his peers, Hu became introverted and depressed. To ease his loneliness, he turned to reading, playing the erhu (a two-stringed Chinese instrument), and swimming in a nearby river. “My father was a very good man indeed,” Hu told NewsChina. “However, at that time, he was perceived as a bad guy. My family had paid a dear price in defending our country.
Photo by Stephen Zhou
Hu Fayun at his home in Wuhan, March 24, 2013
But all this was ignored. It takes too long for people to face up to real history.” In 1966, some of Hu’s friends started posting so-called “bigcharacter posters” attacking “capitalist roaders” and “counterrevolutionary intellectuals.” Some of his friends with a “questionable family background,” in a desperate effort to prove their revolutionary zeal went so far as to bring Red Guards, detachments of hard-left militia, into their homes to search for incriminating evidence against their parents. Hu was horrified by the efforts people went to in the scrabble to discredit and destroy their relatives, and began to identify with the victims of persecution. “I felt I was closer to the repudiated than to the people who repudiated others,” he told NewsChina.
Hu’s uncle owned a big collection of books and records that would become Hu’s sole source of education, finding particular inspiration in poetry anthologies by Alexander Pushkin. He believes the strong sense of individualism in Pushkin’s poetry and prose went on to cement his belief in the value of independence and human dignity. In 2003, Hu’s first novel Ruyan@SARS. come was released on the Internet to widespread critical acclaim. Hu based his controversial debut on personal accounts of the SARS epidemic in 2002 and 2003, criticizing the official cover-up and equating current efforts to stifle freedom of expression in China with the politics of the Cultural Revolution. Ruyan@SARS.come was immediately
n Fayu y Hu b e .com ARS n@S a y u R
banned by the authorities, though the ban was lifted three years later. The book was only published after some 5,000 particularly “sensitive” words were removed by official censors. Prime targets were references to the famine resulting from misguided agricultural policies during the Great Leap Forward of the late 1950s, a famine that official records still largely attribute to natural causes. He also made references to Hu Feng, a left-wing writer who was purged after daring to criticize Chairman Mao, as well as the 2003 death in custody of fashion designer Sun Zhigang, allegedly beaten to death by Guangzhou police for not carrying a local residency permit.
Winter of Bewilderment, by contrast, debuted almost unedited. Hu told our reporter that this was a first for him as a writer, and he attributes the decision to leave his work intact to growing concerns in the corridors of power that the upheaval of the Cultural Revolution could recur, something China’s top leaders have warned of in recent years. “In its heyday, the Cultural Revolution appealed deeply to many young people with its demagogic rhetoric and slogans,” said Hu. “These slogans, revised to fit the situation today, could be an irresistible attraction to the young. If we fail to deal with this situation, many young people would likely plunge themselves into another Cultural Revolution.” Hu told our reporter that 1966 was like “a grand play unfolding throughout the country. The political attitudes and yearnings of different groups of people involved in the revolution and the fights and correlations between them foreshadowed the course of developments in the following years.” In 1976, the members of the Cultural Revolution Group, spearheaded by Mao Zedong’s widow Jiang Qing and branded the “Gang of Four,” were arrested and put on trial, where they were made the scapegoats for an entire decade of chaos. Hu, though he had opposed the Cultural Revolution, once again found himself on the wrong side of history, branded a counterrevolutionary for the second time in his life after daring to question the legality of the arrest of the Gang of Four. In the eyes of the authorities, he further compounded his error by publicly questioning if the Gang of NEWSCHINA I June 2013
Four had opposed Mao’s ideology, which was the main charge leveled against them during their show trial. Despite the chaos unleashed by the Cultural Revolution in Mao’s name, nobody dared criticize the deified founding father of modern China. Hu’s questions were borderline heretical, but now, as then, he remained unrepentant. “[Speaking the truth] is about human dignity,” Hu told our reporter. “When you are afraid to speak the truth, you are actually belittling yourself.”
Seeds to Shoots
tive,” he added. Winter of Bewilderment spans 1966, the first and arguably most chaotic year of the decade-long Cultural Revolution, and Hu has revealed that it will be the first book in a planned trilogy entitled Feast and Purgatory. The second book will cover the years between 1967 and 1971 during which Marshal Lin Biao, Chairman Mao’s anointed successor, died in a plane crash in Mongolia following a
Hu began work on Winter of Bewilderment in 1984 but soon found himself unable to write about the Cultural Revolution without being overcome with emotion and what he calls “prejudice” about the period. Believing his writing should stem from “reason and objectivity,” it took him 12 years to broach the subject again in his short story The Red Lu Xun Arts Academy. From this work, Hu found the inspiration to write the 450,000-word novel Winter of Bewilderment. Despite interest from a publishing house in 2006, Hu held out little hope his finished work would be published, even after he completed it in 2010. “It should have taken me less than a year to finish the book,” Hu told NewsChina. Win “However, I ter o f Be slowed down wild erm ent to make sure by H u Fa I wrote it obyun jectively.” “I wanted to reveal the truth of the Cultural Revolution. This truth had been buried beneath the official narra-
NEWSCHINA I June 2013
failed coup. The third book will deal with the death of Mao and its fallout. In the 1980s, Hu wasn’t able to celebrate the “great social transformation” resulting from Deng Xiaoping’s policies of Reform and Opening-up – a requirement of all writers working at the time. He simply produced sufficient works to make a bare living. A lifelong smoker, in 1995 he had a serious heart attack, which prompted him to be more productive, even if it meant offending the powers that be. He also decided to travel as much as possible, and spends much of his free time poring over newspapers and magazines to keep abreast of current events. Hu’s latest novel has already struck a chord with nowaged survivors of persecution. A 70year old professor from Wuhan University contacted Hu after reading Winter of Bewilderment, recalling the day her husband returned from a “criticism session” during the Cultural Revolution. He sat in silence before uttering a few words, “They used sulfuric acid on me.” “We face an absence of historical records in our society,” Hu told NewsChina. “Literature, in a sense, compensates for that absence. We should leave these stories to posterity.” “I’ve tried to offer clues to the truth through my works and lend my readers the passion to find out the complete picture,” he told our reporter. “I intend to outline the most genuine mindsets of different generations, for once something is written down on paper, it doesn’t easily fade away.”
Medical staff carry out an emergency drill in case of a H7N9 outbreak, Wuhan, April 8,
By April 19, a total of 87 reported cases of H7N9 avian flu had been documented in China since the outbreak was made public in late March. Despite scientists claiming that the new strain is no more deadly than other common flu viruses, the Chinese authorities and ordinary people, with SARS still a fresh memory, are following their own instincts. As a result, a massive mobilization of medical services has been launched across China’s Yangtze River Delta, where the first cases emerged. Major cities including Shanghai, Hangzhou and Nanjing closed open-air markets and banned the sale of live poultry, while hundreds of thousands of chickens and ducks were exterminated in an effort to contain the virus. In some places, wildfowl were also culled despite there being no proven link between wild bird populations and H7N9. Also ignoring scientific evidence were consumers, who boycotted poultry products, living or otherwise, in their millions, with repercussions that spread across China’s food industry. He Hongxuan, a researcher and virologist at the Institute of Zoology under the Chinese Academy of Sciences told NewsChina in mid-April that no cases of direct bird-human transmission of the virus have been recorded. However, the Chinese public and their government seem unwilling to take any chances. This chicken farmer in Jiaxing, Zhejiang Province is one of many to suffer after the H7N9 outbreak caused poultry prices to fall
NEWSCHINA I June 2013
An employee disinfects a pigeon coop in Beijing, April 13 NEWSCHINA I June 2013
Shanghai puts its poultry markets on lockdown and launches a citywide cull of chickens and ducks ,April 5
Despite nationwide panic, this pet bird market in Guangzhou remains open, April 16
H7N9 virus test kits are dispatched to cities throughout the Yangtze River Delta
Despite clear skies, people are on high alert and wear masks in Beijing
NEWSCHINA I June 2013
Reporters watch a live feed of a hospitalized seven year-old girl infected with the H7N9 strain of avian flu, April 13
Flamingos in Hongshan zoo, Nanjing, are vaccinated against avian flu, April 12
Over a hundred chicken farmers hold a chicken banquet in an attempt to reassure consumers NEWSCHINA I June 2013
OUTSIDEIN perspectives from within China
Sun, Sand and Sea Battles While firmly on the business map, the northeastern port city of Dalian rarely features on a tourist’s itinerary. That is a shame By Zach Valenta
Getting There: A burgeoning international city with significant Japanese, Korean, Russian, and American expat populations, air travel is convenient, and nearby metropolises like Seoul and Tokyo offer daily flights. As the main shipping hub in the northeast, Dalian can be reached by boat from Shandong’s Yantai and Qingdao. Buses and trains are easy enough, but remember that rounding the Bohai Sea to the Liaodong peninsula is a much longer way around; a flight from Beijing barely takes an hour, but buses and trains both run close to ten hours.
Photo by Liu Zhongjun
Getting Around: Until the subway is finally completed, Dalian’s traffic will be a bit much, though its gridlock doesn’t approach many other first and second tier cities. Take a chance and hop aboard one of the last remaining colonial trams in mainland China or, alternately, a light rail line connecting downtown with the emerging development outside the city. Public transportation offers easy access to most historical and tourist sites, though getting to a few of the beaches requires a taxi.
NEWSCHINA I June 2013
Photo by Wang Xizeng/CFP
Photo by Zhang Xin/CFP
Xinghai Square, built in 1997, is one of the largest public spaces in Asia, and has its own seafront promenade
ing Dynasty city walls, Terracotta Warriors, the (in)famous “5000 years of history:” China has no shortage of very old things. When measured against the country’s multi-layered historical narrative, then, the northeastern port city of Dalian is a very fresh face. Perched on the southern coast of Liaoning province, this port city, formerly known as Dairen, only emerged onto the historical stage in the late 19th century. Situated at the crosswaters of the Bohai Bay and the Yellow Sea, Dalian’s favorable location initially attracted settlers from nearby Shandong Province. The geographic bounty of beachfront real estate also garnered unwanted attention from neighboring powers: Dalian and the nearby port at Lüshun were a proxy for battles between the Russian and Japanese empires. A series of bloody contests culminated in the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-05, which the Russian Empire lost spectacularly later, as part of wider Japanese expansionism during the 1930s, the area fell under control of the puppet Manchukuo regime in the run-up to the full-scale Japanese invasion of China. After World War II, the city was transferred to Soviet administration, only returning to Chinese control in 1950. That’s a fair few back pages for such a young city. Then again, Dalian’s shifting identities and rapid internationalization make it a fitting emblem of China’s turbulent course in the 20th century. The same blink-and-you-miss-it pace is only increasing as the city drives to become the cultural, technological and financial capital of northeast China. The past decade has witnessed Dalian take steps onto the world stage; the city hosted the summer Davos conference, and homegrown industry is also booming as Dalian Wanda, a real estate conglomerate, put the media world on notice with its 2012 acquisition of American theatre chain AMC. Dalian has even been crowned “the Bangalore of China” by the likes of Tom Friedman for bringing tech giants like Sony and Accenture to town. Unlike many of its regional peers (Shenyang) or economic competitors (Shenzhen), Dalian has managed to unite easy living with the buzz and class of a top-tier metropolis. Intrigued? Stop by and see what all the fuss is about.
NEWSCHINA I June 2013
To make sense of downtown Dalian, one has to travel 40km south of the city center and 100 years back in time. 1904 was the year that birthed the city’s ongoing story. Known in Russian as “Dalny” and in Japanese as “Ryojun,” present day Lüshun is also commonly referred to as “Port Arthur.” The center of a complex web of territorial and national claims by the competing powers of the day, the military outpost played site to a foreign policy sea change with the Battle of Port Arthur, when Japan became the first Asian nation in history to best a European power on the high seas. The humiliation of the defeat, which saw the Russian Empire’s entire Pacific fleet scattered, is believed to have served to hasten the collapse of the Romanov dynasty. Port Arthur remained under Japanese control until the end of WWII. Following the fall of the Japanese Empire, the USSR then took control of the port and the now bustling city of Dalian. After a half decade of Soviet management and infrastructure building, the area was returned to China in 1950. Remnants of this period of happy Sino-Soviet cooperation, before China’s northern border became a virtual DMZ after the death of Stalin, are on full display in present-day Lüshun. One has to look no further than the SinoSoviet Friendship Monument, not far from Stalin Road. Lüshun’s railway station, meanwhile, still retains vestiges of Eastern Orthodox architecture, a style common the closer one gets to the border. Lüshun is a great afternoon away from it all, strolling cozy alleys and sampling seafood. Once you’ve had your fill, catch one of the daily trains from Lüshun Station to the big city. Dalian proper holds similar vestiges of a complicated past. Two streets, “Russian Street” and “Japanese Street,” lay near downtown’s Victory Square. Featuring distinctive architecture from Dalian’s lessthan-welcome former overlords, both areas are stuffed with physical landmarks that now demarcate the city’s history. With many older Occidental buildings falling by the wayside of rapid development, the most enduring testament to foreign architecture may be Zhongshan Square. Ringed by glass and steel skyscrapers, the stone-hewn and red-brick buildings—hotels and pleasure palaces from an earlier era, now mostly bank headquarters —are an uncanny, almost antique anachronism in the urban jungle.
Residents will tell you: Dalian is not a winter city. Changchun has the funny accent and frozen fruit treats; Harbin has its famous ice festival and a general dare of “come and get it;” Dalian, meanwhile, is just really, really cold. Broad boulevards offer little protection from biting winter gusts, fresh from the Sea of Japan. There are few places to hide. But in summer time, ah, the same sharp gusts turn into a fresh breeze off the Bohai Sea. The city is a welcome antidote from the dry, dusty heat that besets much of northern China and far more refreshing than the furnaces of southern China. Cool breezes also mean blue skies. Hear that, Beijing? Come east! Chinese tourists aren’t the only ones who fancy summertime Dalian. As China’s northernmost beach area, and one of only a handful of yearround ice-free ports, Dalian doubles as the most convenient getaway for Russia’s east coast, transforming into a global attraction for three months of the year, with Russian tourists joined by groups from Korea and Japan. Part of its relaxed attitude has to do with the sheer range of beaches available. Exclusive enclaves near the Golden Pebble tourist area are balanced by other options closer afield such as Fujiazhuang and Tiger Beach. In fact, much of the city’s southern coast is covered in beachfront parks, and swimming spots abound. Dalian’s most festive beach atmosphere, however, belongs to the Xinghai area. Xinghai Square is one of the world’s largest manmade spaces, and walking in its round is an experiment in urban planning. All that space comes in handy every July when Dalian plays host to an annual beer festival. The square doesn’t shrink much, but it is homier with 20,000 other revelers sharing a draft together. Located next door, smaller Xinghai Park is easy to overlook in favor of its eye-catching neighbor.
Xinghai’s shingle beach is no proper lido, but that doesn’t keep away crowds attracted by an amusement park area, fishing piers, and China’s largest aquarium. Depending on just how many drafts you’ve had at the beer festival, you might muster up the requisite bravery (or foolishness) to try the bungee jumping and zip wire attractions along the beach.
Nightlife and Daytime Kicks
Don’t be fooled, however: aside from its family-friendly daytime attractions, Dalian still knows how to have a good time at night, especially in the Zhongshan area. Generic clubs like Suzie Wong’s and Mango abound, but the real scene can be found on the street. Tianjin Street and the surrounding alleys are home to some of NE China’s best corner gourmet, with fresh seafood prepared as many ways as you care to imagine. Intrepid travelers will also find that clubbing in Dalian doesn’t require much more than a pair of sneakers; the downtown is cozy, and whether you’re eating around or clubbing it up, many venues are within walking distance from one another. The same goes for daytime attractions: the large Korean market across from the train station (offering fast fashion from Asia’s trendiest peninsula) is only 10 minutes by foot from Labor Park. A hilly downtown playground, the park is topped by a giant soccer ball commemorating the city’s past achievements. Nowadays, just head uphill for a different slice of glory at Eurobake Cafe. Tucked into the hills atop Labor Park, lunch items like oven-baked pizza and delicate desserts are equally worth the hike. The park itself is a popular attraction from spring until late autumn; populated by mahjong veterans and newlywed photo shoots, weekend afternoons can be hectic. When you’re atop the city with a slice of NYC-style pie, however, the journey will be worth it.
guolao fei Worked Into Obesity Prior to the postindustrial era, common sense held that the hardest workers were likely to be the thinnest. Like the West before it, China is now coming to terms with the new phenomenon of “guolao fei” – to be worked into obesity – a common complaint of the country’s legion of cubicle zombies. With guolao meaning excessive work and fei meaning fat, guolao fei has spread as a buzzword since a survey by the China Youth Daily showed that nearly 85 percent of 2,848 respondents reported weight gain after graduation. Over 33 percent of these self-defined as overweight or obese. China’s first report on employee health, pub-
lished at the end of 2012 by Ciming Checkup, a well-known medical screening company, seems to support this data. Based on the annual checkup records of over one million employees, the report concluded that obesity was now the leading cause of illness in Chinese workers, followed by liver disease and diabetes. Remaining sedentary for entire working days, all the while consuming snack foods at irregular times, can make even the most diligent office worker balloon in size. Due to long working hours, many Chinese people simply collapse when they get home from the office, ordering takeout as they are too tired to cook, with the notion of a gym membership
a mere pipe dream. A late night typically follows, chased with an early morning and a long commute, another feature of modern urban life which, some doctors claim, can throw the endocrine system further out of whack, contributing to weight gain. Doctors have warned that China is now experiencing an obesity epidemic, linking, guolao fei to guolao si – death from overwork. Medical research has borne this out – obese people are 10 times more likely to develop diabetes, as well as being high risk groups for multiple cancers, heart disease and other fatal diseases. Are you still reading this? Perhaps its time to go outside and exercise! NEWSCHINA I June 2013
flavor of the month
Breaking it Fast By Stephy Chung
NEWSCHINA I June 2013
crust-less, and scrambled eggs always manage to look extra light, fluffy and yellow. The mark of a truly traditional Hong Kong breakfast is a comforting bowl of macaroni soup. Tsui Wah’s broth is salty and lightly seasoned – and the dish is topped with strips of ham and abalone. Another delicious twist is ramen noodles with a slab of Spam – a popular delicacy – and a fried egg with runny yolk. The institution is particularly famed for its milk tea and the crispy condensed milk bun – the latter revealing Hong Kong’s surprising fondness for the very, very sweet – at least in the mornings. Effectively, this “dessert” breakfast is toasted halves of white bread coated with melted butter and a thick layer of sweetened condensed milk. Locals rave about it – though mine came out cheerlessly lukewarm and was consequently a soggy and buttery mess. I preferred a similar variant, an inch-thick slice of toast, glossy with a dense layer of peanut butter and sweetened condensed milk, and best eaten with a fork and knife. To dunk, Tsui Wah’s milk tea does indeed live up to its reputation, and in my opinion, rivals any “cuppa” – though some don’t favor the deviant. In Hong Kong’s version, regular milk is swapped out for evaporated milk – again, nursing that sweet tooth through the most difficult time of day. The secret blend of black tea leaves can make or break a cup, and the amount of evaporated milk poured into the beverage is easier to screw up than it sounds. Watch the kitchen, and you’ll see no measured science, but skimp on the evaporated milk and the tea unacceptably drinks too much like, well, tea. Overdo it and the milk curdles, turning the drink unpalatably sour. The creaminess of the tea takes is perhaps enhanced by its appealing tan-orange hue. The full-bodied, malty flavor is quite unique, very strong, and bitter enough that I needed to add a few teaspoons of sugar, even though I usually drink without. The iced version is superb, and perfect for what’s sure to be a sweltering Hong Kong summer. The oldsters can keep their dim sum – for me, breakfast in Hong Kong means a stodgy slab of comfort accompanied by tea thick enough to stand a spoon in. Courtesy of Stephy Chung
oozing your way through Hong Kong’s rollercoaster nightlife inevitably lands you in a cha chaan tang, or tea café, as dawn breaks over the harbor. These 24-hour havens offer a means of air-conditioned escape from the muggy heat, and a stiff milk tea to help sober you up. My first encounter after stumbling into one of these cafés was inhaling a rather simple bowl of oatmeal – smooth, finely-milled oats with the perfect amount of sweetness. “Best oatmeal ever,” I thought to myself, and then later attributed this starry-eyed reaction to my inebriated state. Turns out, breakfast is just that good in Hong Kong. However, it has had something of a 21st century makeover. While still a staple, the city’s celebrated dim sum has become more of a senior citizens’ affair. Trendier, and still trending after more than half a century are Hong Kong-style breakfasts that flawlessly fuse the city’s former colonial past with Cantonese flavors - where rice vermicelli rolls with XO sauce can be served with a side of French toast. The hybrid emerged when locals, under colonization, began eyeing British fry-ups with both curiosity and a wee bit of envy. “Baked beans were completely foreign,” recalled 81-year old Hong Kong resident Kai Chan, “I really wanted to try them, but eating at the restaurants that served them was much too expensive.” Chan’s desire for canned flatulence soon came to fruition. Hong Kong’s speedy postwar recovery meant that within a few years, locals began opening up joints that served their own take on Western food – at cheaper prices. Tsui Wah was one of the earlier tea cafés, with 20-or-so branches opening in Mong Kok in 1967. More diner-like in nature, its tight seating, lime popsicle tinted décor, and snappy service, echoes the city’s hustle and bustle. The wait staff barely has the time or patience to take your order, much less handle the bill. Thus, as with many local dives, you pay at the register. Menus here – in both English and Chinese, are extensive – while a list of breakfast sets, priced at the equivalent of US$6 to 8, can be read through the glass tabletops. The deals – which usually include a beverage, main and side, resemble toy food – sandwiches are served
I do. And...cut! When the Shanghainese operations manager at my company invited me to join his banlangtuan (the team of groomsmen at a traditional Chinese wedding), he approached me in the usual fashion: "Jimmy, come for a smoke!" Outside, by the window in the stairwell, he asked me what I thought of being his groomsman for his imminent wedding. I was touched that he would ask me to do this and agreed enthusiastically. I later found out that the main reason he chose me in fact was that I wasn't married, a prerequisite for a groomsman at a Chinese wedding. Being the commitment-phobic type, he was one of the last in his immediate circle of friends to get hitched, so his pool of eligible groomsmen had basically dried up. The remaining available candidates were me and a colleague who reported directly to him (and probably didn't have much choice in the matter). Below are the highlights of the wedding day: 9.00: We arrive outside the bride's living compound. The groom has arranged for a motorcade of eight gleaming Audis to transport the newlyweds and their retinue for the day. The temperature is around eight degrees and, dressed in a thin tuxedo, I freeze outside for about an hour. 10.00: We proceed to the bride's apartment. At this point, and at every point throughout the day, we are surrounded by a film crew. Before entering, we announce our intentions in unison: "Lihua, we're here to marry you!" When we enter the flat, the bride is firmly ensconced in her chambers and the groom must undergo a series of trials to prove his worth to the bridal team. Challenges include: saying "I love you" in 10 languages, doing 100 push-ups, posting red envelopes stuffed with cash under the crack of the door; the groom is essentially at the mercy of the imagination of the bridal team. Once entrance is granted, we witness the bride for the first time. Dressed in traditional red garb, she sits demurely on the bed awaiting her husband. One last challenge: the bride and groom must lock lips for 30 seconds in front of their
Illustration by Xiang Zhaohui
By James Cowan
“What on earth did I just drink?” he asks me wordlessly. I give an apologetic shrug and move silently to the next table.
assembled relatives. In the middle of the act, the bride cracks up out of sheer embarrassment. 11.30: We return to the groom's apartment and are served delicious wonton soup. Conversation turns to the groom's pet mouse, the most recent of several consecutive, very short-lived pets that have occupied the groom's house over the course of the year. Horrifyingly, one of these was a husky. "Too many pets died in my house this year, Jimmy," says the groom, matter-offactly. Hopefully marital life will help him to foster a more responsible outlook towards life and the creatures in his care. 14.30: The procession of Audis sets forth again and we arrive at our next destination: a building of massive scale that seems to cater exclusively towards massive Chinese wedding parties and features a large room that bears a close resemblance to the interior of a Western church. 15.00: We rehearse, perform and film a full-blown Western-style white wedding in the church-like section of the building complex. The ceremony is conducted with the formality and precision of an ancient Chinese Confucian
court ritual. Intriguingly, proceedings are directed entirely by the leader of the film crew. This is starting to feel more like a film shoot than an actual wedding... 17.30: Dinner is served. Dishes include lobster, crab with sticky rice and a variety of other impressive culinary concoctions. Photo montages of the bride and groom play in the background on 10 foot screens. 18.55: It's almost time for toasts, but first another video. In an impressive logistical feat, the film crew has edited and finalized a 2 minute video montage of the day's events in just two hours. With saccharine music and lingering slow motion shots, the reality depicted in the video shares little in common with the events I have just experienced. It occurs to me: is the act of making the video about the wedding a modern day Chinese wedding ritual in its own right? 19.00: Toast time! In accordance with tradition, the groom visits around each table, downing a glass of wine with each toast. This is when the groomsmen come into their own, pouring wine for the groom and drinking on his behalf when required. "Don't make them drink too much!" barks the winsome yet formidable mother-in-law. Yet even this exhortation is part of the ritual; the wine bottles are labelled "for use by the bride and groom only" and the contents are more than 60% grape juice, presumably so that they don't need to have their stomachs pumped afterwards. Unfortunately I give the game away when a brother-in-law approaches me with an empty glass. I have no choice but to pour him the grape juice and after we empty our glasses a confused expression appears on his face. "What on earth did I just drink?" he asks me wordlessly. I give an apologetic shrug and move silently to the next table. 21.30: The last of the guests make their way out of the building and it's time to go. As I take my leave, I text the groom thanking him for letting me be a part of the day. He replies: "Thanks mate, it was great to have you. Gotta remember this forever!" I think I will. NEWSCHINA I June 2013
Finding “The One” When my husband asked me to marry him days before we boarded a plane bound for Beijing, I was ecstatic. Not only would I be marrying the man of my dreams, but China was the land of low-cost manufacturing and to me that meant inexpensive wedding dresses. I dreamed about beautiful Vera Wang ripoffs shimmering on endless racks. Immaculate shop assistants in trendy boutiques bending over backwards to help this blushing foreigner find the perfect gown – “the one.” I was in no rush because a megacity like Beijing, I assumed, would have an endless selection. This doesn’t mean I didn’t do my research. I spoke to Chinese brides, foreign brides, Chinese wedding planners and foreign wedding planners. I spent countless hours surfing Chinese and English websites for commercial stores, boutique stores and wedding photo studios. I even dragged my fiancé to the Beijing New Wedding Shopping Center in Xidan District. I had already learned that Chinese tastes were different from mine; however, no amount of research prepared me for wedding dress shopping in China. Four months before my wedding day, I embarked on the search for a dress flanked by two girlfriends and fueled by a wine-heavy liquid lunch, I opened the door of my first wedding showroom and my bubble promptly burst. My idealized vision of wedding dress shopping had vanished faster than Beijing taxis on a rainy Friday night. The soiled pink carpet led into a small, bedroom-sized showroom that was bursting with outdated, tired-looking taffeta and crinoline conventions that would have looked outrageous on the sugar plum fairy. However, my date was looming and my entourage and I had crossed Beijing to find this store. We were determined to make the most of it. The results were more comical than magical. This particular store, and the subsequent 11 we went on to scour, would have been the couturier of choice for the Good Witch NEWSCHINA I June 2013
Illustration by Xiang Zhaohui
By Staci Ahonen
However, brides in China don’t form as much of an attachment to their wedding dress. Rather, they’re looking for “the one of many.”
of the North, but not me. I tried on the most amazing explosions of tuile, crinoline, ruching, scalloping, fake silk, slippery satin, and mirror-beaded bodices. As I flounced around the small and overly exposed fitting rooms, I really did feel like a princess. A 1950s Disney princess. On a budget. I consoled myself with the thought that, dressed up to look like a collision between a cream cake and Cinderella, all eyes would be on me. However, I wanted a mermaid-style dress. For the next two months, I crisscrossed Beijing, squeezing and twisting my curvy Western body into dresses made for petite Asian girls, heedless of the cries of “too fat!” that hounded me at every turn. I began to get desperate – I needed a dress. Any dress. In China, the wedding industry is huge, with a value of some US$34.5 billion a year industry as more and more businesses try to satisfy the appetites of young couples seeking to make an ostentatious statement with their nuptials. With rising income levels, couples are
casting away the traditional family dinner and a couple of wedding photos and opting for immense banquets, Tiffany engagement rings, day-long pre-wedding photoshoots, rented limousines, and enough costume changes to make Eva Peron look restrained. When I learned from my Chinese friends that brides can change two to four times during their wedding day, my shopping disasters began to make sense. For a Western bride, their wedding dress is the first thing guests (and maybe the fiancé) will see when they walk down the aisle, and the last thing they see as she departs for her bridal suite in the evening. More often than not, brides spend hours searching for and trying on dresses, basically waiting for the special feeling that tells you it is “the one.” However, brides in China don’t form as much of an attachment to their wedding dress. Rather, they’re looking for “the one of many.” As a friend from Shanghai explained to me, in addition to a red qipao and an evening gown, the white wedding dress is just one component of the wedding wardrobe. There is little or no sentimental value attached to it. This is why a lot of Chinese women rent their white wedding dresses, or buy something on the cheap. Better to wear an enormous, Zeppelin-like ball gown, even if it’s made of polyblend, than to break the bank with a more subtle, tasteful offering you’re likely to have thrown away before the honeymoon. With my new perspective, my wedding less than two months away, and panic at fever pitch, I turned to what China is well known for – knock-off tailoring. I found my dream dress online and the material I wanted in a Beijing store and within one month I had a custom-made exact replica. I couldn’t have been happier with the result. When I stepped into my dress on my wedding day, my bridesmaids squealed with excitement, my face beamed with delight and I finally had the feeling of knowing that the dress I was wearing was “the one.”
Cultural listings Exhibition
Colorful Cloud From mid-April to early May, works from six female artists based in Beijing, Shanghai and Zhejiang Province were showcased at Shanghai’s World Financial Center in the exhibition Days on the Cloud. Born in the 1970s and 1980s, these artists are among the most active in China’s modern art scene. The exhibition aims to bring the audience a unique experience by showcasing these very feminine perspectives. Yet at the same time, the artists’ styles vary widely, ranging from the realistic to the abstract, and from the traditional to the experimental.
Rock Exchange As more foreign bands come to perform at China’s increasingly numerous music festivals, their Chinese counterparts are now regularly invited to participate in overseas performances and cultural exchange projects. Sound of the Xity, a forum created to facilitate the exchange of independent music between China and the rest of the world, was held in early April. Consisting of three days of shows and two days of conferences, the forum attracted representatives from a number of international music festivals, such as Japan’s Fuji Rock and major New Zealand arts festival WOMAD, as well as many Chinese music festivals and organizations. Also on the agenda at the forum were topics including music festival operation, the future of the record industry, and modern music education.
Bruce Lee: Artist of Life By Bruce Lee
Light Entertainment Finding Mr. Right, a rom-com in which the pregnant mistress of a wealthy Beijing man falls in love with an out-of-luck doctor in Seattle, topped the box office chart in China in March and April. Starring popular actress Tang Wei and actor Wu Xiubo, the lighthearted comedy was released on March 21, earning a box office take of 474 million yuan (US$75m) in four weeks. Though having only made her directorial debut in 2010, Xue Xiaolu, the movie’s 43-year-old director, has accumulated a wealth of movie production experience as a veteran screenwriter and a professor at the Beijing Film Academy. Tang Wei, an actress not known for comedy roles, has also won over critics with her refreshingly relaxed performance.
After its original release in English in 2001, Bruce Lee: Artist of Life, a biography accompanied with a collection of Lee’s private writing, has now been published in Chinese on the mainland, to a warm reception from readers and fans. A source of pride for many Chinese people, Lee has left a lasting influence on the country, especially in the movie industry. With rare letters, essays and even poems, the book offers readers a glimpse into the mind and work ethic that drove Lee, as well as a window into his philosophy. NEWSCHINA I June 2013
NEWSCHINA I June 2013
Delivering justice means making the police accountable As a newly-discovered wrongful conviction rekindles public ire over the use of torture to extract confessions, the government is under pressure to deliver on its promise of justice for all By Deng Yuwen
n a keynote speech in February, Chinese President Xi Jinping In the wake of the wrongful conviction, Zhang was acquitted pledged that the government will work hard to ensure that the and freed, and the Zhejiang Province authorities claimed to have public feels that justice is served consistently in the legal system. set up a joint investigation team to look into perversions of justice Now, with media reports of a wrongful conviction of two people in involving police officers, including Nie. Zhejiang Province, Xi’s pledge is already being put to the test. However, there is reason to doubt whether such investigations Convicted of raping and murderwill lead anywhere. In a similar ing a young woman in 2003, Zhang case, Nie Shubin (no relation to The public is becoming increasingly Gaoping and his nephew Zhang Nie Haifen), a 21-year-old villager Hui were given a life sentence and in Hebei Province was executed for aware of the use of torture to extract 15 years in prison respectively. Afthe rape and murder of a woman confessions in criminal cases in China ter serving for more than ten years, in 1995. But in 2005, convicted sea recent DNA test has revealed that rial killer Wang Shujin confessed to the two are innocent, and revealed police that he was the real culprit. the real culprit to be a man who had already been executed for a However, despite Wang’s detailed confession and persistent meseparate murder. dia inquiries over the past eight years, the authorities have refused A closer review of Zhang’s case reveals significant flaws in almost to bring justice to Nie’s family. Hebei officials claim that the case is every legal procedure that led to his wrongful conviction. Accord- “too complicated,” and is still under investigation. What is coming to Zhang, he was severely beaten up by an inmate during his plicated may not be the case itself, but the relationships between detention, and was provided with a confession paper to sign. Court police officers, many of whom have been promoted to senior posidocuments show that the key evidence against Zhang came from tions following their involvement in the case. This complex web of the same inmate, who claimed that he had heard Zhang talking considerations will not only obstruct justice, but will jeopardize the about having committed the crime. Zhang’s lawyer later found the legitimacy of China’s judicial system. inmate had also made a similar claim in another unrelated case that Wrongful detention and conviction exists in any country, but the led to his own sentence being commuted, suggesting possible collu- question is whether a judicial system will strive to minimize the sion with police officers. chance of such things happening, and whether it will take swift The public is becoming increasingly aware of the use of torture to action to restore justice when a wrongful conviction is discovered. extract confessions in criminal cases in China, perhaps the biggest In order to restore confidence that the government is serious threat to the justice that President Xi has called for. Ironically, there about and capable of ensuring justice for the masses, the authorities is so far no sign that the authorities are taking serious action to tack- should not only bring justice to wrongfully convicted citizens, but le the issue. For example, Nie Haifen, the chief detective responsible also show determination in holding the police accountable for their for the case at the time, was previously portrayed by local police as wrongdoings. a “heroine detective,” maintaining a “100 percent detection rate in more than 350 major cases.” (The author is a senior media commentator.)
NEWSCHINA I June 2013
NEWSCHINA I June 2013
NEWSCHINA I June 2013