INTERNATIONAL Game of Zones: East Asian Standoff ECONOMY Prickly Problem: Cactus King's Death Sentence
The downfall of the renegade Chongqing clique may have ended the Partyâ€™s short-lived love affair with populist justice, but can the new leadership genuinely deliver on its promise of rule of law?
Volume No. 055 March 2013
SOCIETY Roots Maneuver: Rediscovering Hmong Identity
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 Legal Advisor: Allen Wu ISSN 1943-1902
NEWSCHINA I March 2013
Respect for China’s Constitution is a Prerequisite for the Rule of Law
t the ceremony celebrating the 30th Anni- disrespect for the constitution shown by China’s versary of the enacting of China’s current highest authorities is a belief in rule by man, instead constitution on December 4, 2012, Xi of rule by law, that persists within government. Jinping, General Secretary Under the current political of the Politburo, stressed system, government officials that the Party should rule are required to put the word Not only has the Chinese the country according to its of the Party above that of government largely constitution, calling this a the constitution. The Party, ignored the constituion “prerequisite for rule of law.” for its part, reacts caustically in its everyday activities, Incumbent President Hu to any activist or legal entity few ordinary Chinese are Jintao expressed similar senthat pushes for a constitufamiliar with its content. timents ten years ago when tional interpretation of its taking power. actions. The result has been Unfortunately, these senantipathy between constitiments have yet to translate tutionalists and the Party, into affirmative action. Not only has the Chinese which serves only to erode the legitimacy of the government largely ignored the constitution in its Party’s rule and the government’s credibility, and everyday activities, few ordinary Chinese are famil- contributes to political instability. iar with its content. Perhaps some officials prefer it In his December 4 speech, Xi Jinping highlightthat way, given that this document enshrines such ed the urgency of restoring the authority of the rights as freedom of speech, expression, assembly constitution. To achieve its stated goal of establishand protest. The basic denial of these and other ing rule of law, the Party must first learn how to technically constitutional rights is often seen by ac- use the constitution, rather than its own instincts, tivists as a key factor undermining the rule of law as a basis for governance. To facilitate this, China and contributing to social injustice. must empower its legislature, the National People’s For decades, the authorities have treated China’s Congress (NPC), which according to law holds constitution as if it has not existed. The Constitu- the sole power to defend, amend and interpret the tion cannot be used as a basis for legal defense, nor constitution, to actually perform this crucial funccan any individual or institution question the con- tion. As the NPC will convene in March, time is of stitutionality of a law, regulation or executive de- the essence, and a supervisory body that can apply cision. Moreover, despite its nominal status as the constitutional principles to current and upcoming basis for all Chinese law, the constitution is rarely, if laws must be created. ever, mentioned in China’s schools. Only when China’s constitution is made authorThe fundamental reasons behind the manifest itative can there be hope for rule of law.
Photo by CFP
With the Bo Xilai affair exposing the dangers of maverick politicians in Chinaâ€™s top-down justice system, activists like Li Zhuang (pictured) are demanding genuine rule of law - for the Party as well as the people. How will the authorities respond?
01 Respect for Chinaâ€™s Constitution is a Prerequisite for the Rule of Law 10 Party PR : Public Leaders, Private Lives
12 Rule of Law : Policing the Police/Detention in the Detail
22 24 28 31
Chicken Scare : Poisoned, Plucked, Processed Censorship : Keepers of the Keys Black Jails : Halfway House of Horrors Virtual Property : Outlaws of the Wild Web
P34 NEWSCHINA I March 2013
P54 34 Orphanage Blaze : The Forgotten, Remembered
38 East Asian Diplomacy : It’s Complicated feature
42 Hmong Culture : In the Footsteps of the Spirits economy
Anti-Trust Law : Shooting Tigers Fundraising Fraud : The Fall of a Cactus Empire/ Risky Business
54 Choked Up
61 Shen Congwen : Master in the Margins 64 67
Stunning Zhangjiajie : Hiking with the Na’vi Flavor of the Month : On a Mission
04 MEDIA FOCUS 05 What They Say 06 NEWS BRIEF 08 Netizen Watch 53 China by numbers 66 real chinese 68 ESSAY 70 CULTURAL LISTINGS 72 Commentary
58 Contemporary Dance : Wildly Abstract NEWSCHINA I March 2013
NewsChina Chinese Edition
January 14, 2013
January 3, 2013
Property Market to Collapse?
Lanzhou,capitalofGansuProvince,islevelingover700 mountains onthecity’soutskirts,hopingtoexpandurban construction.Stuckinaneconomicrutduelargelytoits remotenessandtoughterrain,Lanzhouattemptedsimilar “cultivation”programs10yearsago,initiatingconstruction onadozen“developmentzones,”mostofwhich,however, weresubsequentlyputoniceduetolackoffunding.This latestprogram,begunin2012,planstoreclaimlandfrom258 squarekilometersofuninhabitedmountainrangeby2016, butlocalshavealreadyexpressedworriesovertheenormous costandpotentiallymassiveenvironmentaldamage.Experts havealsowarnedagainstthemove,predictingthatany interferencewiththebasinsurroundingthecitycouldworsen naturaldisasters,suchaslandslides,whicharealreadya majorprobleminthecity’ssuburbs.
China Economic Weekly
After 2011’s best-selling housing complex in Guiyang, Guizhou Province slashed its prices in half at the end of 2012, rumors that the Chinese property market is on the verge of collapse have been spreading all over the country. Media have questioned moves by certain cities to raise the threshold for housing loans, lower interest rates and even granting urban residence permits with new houses as signs that developers are desperate to shore up a flagging market. Once again, the central government is caught between public complaints that China’s house prices remain disproportionately inflated, and developers and homeowners demanding more is done to rescue the real estate market. In addition, several cities that use real estate as a primary source of income could face recession if this fragile bubble finally bursts.
Caijing December 27, 2012
Chinese FDI in the US Rises According to media reports, China’s foreign direct investment (FDI) in the US hit US$8 billion in 2012, US$3 billion more than in 2011. Many analysts predict that China will continue to fuel FDI growth in the country, though some have warned that Chinese investors are often held back by politics, with US anti-dumping investigations on some Chinese imports and the vetoing of China-invested projects in the interests of national security being examples. Nevertheless, in the latest round of bilateral talks, both sides believe that Chinese FDI in the US is mutually beneficial. Chinese analysts have appealed to the US to expand market access for Chinese businesses, while urging Chinese investors to shift into less controversial industries such as automobiles, electronics and infrastructure.
December 29, 2012
Rural Land Reform Hobbled China’s draft revisions to its Land Management Law are now being reviewed by legislators, pushing forward rural land reforms which focus on allowing farmers to transfer the right of land use to rural collectives for unified operation. However, media reports have revealed that these reforms are now being held back by disagreements between farmers and collectives on issues such as division of proceeds, guarantees of employment for disenfranchised farmers and other issues. Analysts have reiterated that the final objective of rural land reform should be to allow farmers to sell their land on the open market, which currently remains impossible due to State mandates which only allow rural collectives to own land.
Economy & Nation Weekly December 24, 2012
WeChat Stirs the Waters WeChat, a Tencent-engineered smartphone app which transmits voice messages via the Internet free of charge, has shocked its competitors with its sudden explosion in user numbers, which will reportedly surpass 300 million by early 2013. Analysts attribute WeChat’s rise to its use of QR codes – users can easily link to anyone or any service provider by using mobile devices to scan a specific code. Tencent is now planning to expand its WeChat service into an open application platform similar to the App Store, so aggressive a business plan that it has pushed rivals like Twitter equivalent Sina Weibo and Taobao, China’s eBay, to cooperate with each other on a counterattack. Analysts predict that WeChat might trigger industrial reforms turning traditionally portal-heavy Chinese Internet services into more app-driven enterprises. NEWSCHINA I March 2013
“Our society has gone from respecting its elders to respecting its youngsters...the One Child Policy has twisted Chinese parents’ attitudes toward their children.” Illustration by Wu Shangwen
Critic Zhang Ming on the Chinese parents who continue to spoil their children into adulthood. “It is nonsense to believe that The Voice of China can save the Chinese music scene. We’re just trying to do what we can.” Renowned Chinese musician Liu Huan doubting that a search-for-a-star reality show can change anything.
“Sotheymeantotellaudiencesthatthe Chinesenationalsoccerteamaretrulyatthe levelofchildren?Nowondertheycan’twin.” Sports critic Yin Guo’an mocking the rumor that the China Football Association had made its national team wear Communist Youth League scarves to encourage young people to play soccer.
“Inthepast,someofficialswouldn’thelp [privateenterprises]untiltheywerebribed. Butnowit’sevenworse–theytakeyourbribe, theneat,drinkandmakemerry,butthey don’tevenhelpyourcompanyout.” Zhou Qiang, Party secretary of Hunan Province, on the worsening corruption of local officials
“Itshouldbethegrassrootsthatreallylovethe constitution.Youmustbelievethat,oneday, theconstitutionwillbegintobecomerelevant toyou.” Wang Renbo, a constitution studies professor at the China University of Politics Science and Law, advocating the document’s importance on the 30th anniversary of the publication of China’s 1982 constitution. NEWSCHINA I March 2013
“I believe [China supplanting the US as the world’s biggest power] is an absurd fantasy that will not come true for the foreseeable future.” Zi Zhongjun, former director of the Institute of American Studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, on comparative bilateral strength.
“The Chinese Internet community has become a major platform for people to make their voices heard. That’s why it is growing quicker than in Western countries, where blogs are merely a tool for social interaction.” Meng Fei, a Jiangsu TV host, on China’s lack of options for self-expression.
“He’s just that good!” An official at the petitioning office in Taiyuan, Shanxi Province, coming under fire for defending former village committee head Li Junwen, who has 10 children by four different wives.
“A bottle of mineral water costs more than half a kilo of grain. If you were an investor, would you put your money into grain-related agriculture?” Huang Yanxin, vice-director of rural
economics management at the Ministry of Agriculture, appealing for deeper commercialization in order to raise the unreasonably low purchase price of grain.
Breakdown of Social Problems Exposed via the Internet Police Brutality: 13.35% Labor Disputes: 12.8% Corruption: 12.58% Food Safety Scares and Environmental Degradation: 10.5% Crime: 7.55% Accidents or Natural Disasters: 6.46% Others: 36.76%
Negative Mood Among Chinese People the widening income gap, the report says, people tend to sympathize with those on the bottom rung of society or those in the same social class as themselves, with Internet discussion frequently dividing along class lines. “People’s waning tolerance and rising resentment toward society are closely related to aggravated social disintegration. We should be on the alert about a ‘reverse mood’ spreading among the population, whereby people satirize those with whom they should sympathize, mock those who should be admired, or criticize those who should be praised,” the report warns. Besides this negative mood, the report has also brought to light Chinese people’s lack
of confidence in food safety, clean air and water as well as housing and medical insurance, due in part to a heightened awareness of their rights and interests gained through the Internet. The think-tank once again appealed for the government to devote more attention to the livelihoods of the grassroots, and more importantly, to establish a social credit system in order to revive popular trust in the government.
China is home to 249 million singles over 18 years old, accounting for over 18 percent of its total population, according to the latest annual marriage report jointly
published by China’s Commission of Population and Family Planning and jiayuan. com, China’s largest matchmaking website. Canvassing nearly 100,000 respondents,
most of them born between the 1970s and 1990s, the report aims to give an overview of views toward love and marriage in Chinese society.
Gender imbalance among singles born between 1970 and 1999)
Have you had some sexual experience?
Would you like (your wife) to be a housewife? (%)
The Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, China’s leading think tank, issued its annual report on social psychology on January 17, warning against a growing feeling of distrust within society. By studying Chinese people’s satisfaction with social safety, fairness, mutual respect and trust, the report indicates that over 50 percent of Chinese people do not trust most people around them, and over 70 percent would never trust a stranger. Such distrust, according to the report, is particularly apparent between ordinary people and officials or the police, between doctors and patients, and between buyers and sellers. Due to increasing social polarization and
Source: Chinese Academy of Social Sciences
China Issues 2012 Marriage Survey
100 50 0post-70s
Source: 2012-2013 Report on Chinese Views Toward Love and Marriage commissioned jointly by the China Commission of Population and Family Planning and jiayuan.com
80 70 60 50 40 30 20 10 0
NEWSCHINA I March 2013
Statue for Purged Party Leader The Taizhou city government in China’s southeastern Zhejiang Province on January 6 unveiled a statue of Hu Yaobang, General Secretary of the Communist Party of China between 1982 and 1987, at a ceremony attended by hundreds. According to local media, the statue was erected to commemorate Hu’s 1956 calls for the town’s youth to develop Dachen Island, a local district that has now become a world-class fishing port. Supported by Deng Xiaoping, the architect of China’s policy of Reform and Opening-up, Hu was renowned for launching a series of economic and political reforms aiming at a freer market and more transparent government, but was blamed by political opponents for supporting “bourgeois liberalization.” Hu was forced to resign as General Secretary in 1987.
China Restarts Nuclear Power Project China’s biggest ever nuclear power project, the Shidaowan nuclear power plant in Shandong Province, has been under construction since December 26, 2012. According to media reports, the nuclear plant, in which the government plans to invest a total of 100 billion yuan (US$14.7bn), is expected to generate about 6.6 million kw of electricity by the end of 2017, with the preliminary phase restricted to testing the plant’s 200,000 kw high-temperature gas reactor. By adopting its homegrown “4th Generation” technology that eliminates the need to cool its reactors in case of a nuclear leak, the Shidaowan project, according to experts, will be much safer than its predecessors, although it still cannot guarantee 100 percent safety. China halted all of its under-construction nuclear power projects after the Fukushima nuclear disaster in March 2011, and the Shidaowan project is the first one to be restarted. The media revealed that China plans to build 27 more reactors in coastal regions in the near future.
Land Transfer Fee Reduced The Chinese government’s revenue from the leasing of land reduced to 2.69 trillion yuan (US$395.6bn) in 2012, 460 billion yuan (US$67.6bn) less than 2011 (a drop of almost 16 percent), according to China’s Ministry of Land and Resources. At the annual land resource conference held on January 11, Minister Xu Shaoshi partly attributed the reduction to the government’s controlling of real estate prices, revealing that the average increase in the housing prices in 105 Chinese cities had dropped to 2.3 percent in 2012, down 4.1 percent on 2011 and down more than 8 percent from 2010. The minister pledged that efforts to control housing prices would continue in 2013, saying the government would allocate land to build six million low-cost apartments in 2013. China’s Land Transfer Fee (in US$bn) 500
Li Ka-shing Named Hong Kong’s Richest Li Ka-shing, a Hong Kong business tycoon and chairman of multi-national conglomerate Cheung Kong Holdings, was listed as the wealthiest man in Hong Kong on Forbes’ 2012 Top 50 Richest list published on January 16, 2013. It is the sixth time that Li, called “Asia’s most powerful man” by Asiaweek, has claimed the Forbes crown. According to Forbes’ data, Li Ka-shing, aged 84, now possesses US$30 billion in assets, a 36 percent increase on 2011. Despite the effects of the Great Recession, Li’s empire has remained stable thanks to the booming property and stock markets in Hong Kong. Li set up Cheung Kong Industries in 1950, initially engaging in plastic manufacturing. Since listing on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange in 1972, the company soon expanded into a vast conglomerate involved in manufacturing, real estate, energy and various other industries. NEWSCHINA I March 2013
2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012
Source: Ministry of Land and Resources
Photo s by CFP
What’s Amusing China ?
What’s Shocking China ?
Poll the People As southern China is suffering from the coldest winter in almost three decades, the debate over whether buildings in the south should also be fitted with State-provided central heating went viral. What do you think of installing central heating in the south?
A young couple from Zaozhuang, Shandong Province, handcuffed themselves together late December while climbing a mountain, planning to pledge eternal love upon reaching the peak. However, their romantic gesture lost some of its luster when they discovered they had lost the key to the handcuffs during the climb. After stumbling back down the mountain together, firefighters cut them free.
A housing developer from Xiangyang, Hubei, gave an underling 10,000 yuan (US$1,610) to hire a hitman to dispose of a business rival. The teenage boy who ultimately stabbed his unlucky target only received 100 yuan (US$16) for his pains, the money having passed through three middlemen before reaching him. Even more shockingly, the boy later found he had stabbed the wrong person.
What’s Making China Angry ? Shark’s fin, a notoriously popular dish in China which animal rights campaigners have slammed for its cruel sourcing practices, may not be all it seems. A recent report by State broadcaster CCTV revealed that about half of the shark’s fin currently circulating on the market is synthetic, made from materials that could potentially cause kidney failure or cancer. Internet users are debating whether this news will put people off consuming shark’s fin, already losing popularity due to several high-profile campaigns against its sale, or if the scandal will simply drive aficionados to demand the genuine article, leading to a boom in shark fishing.
What’s Making China Sad ? After an old man collapsed in the street in Xi’an, Shaanxi Province, late December due to a heart attack, a passerby who called to inform his family got a frosty reaction. The man’s family didn’t believe the caller, and hung up on him five times, calling him a “swindler.” The man later died.
Respondents: 21,114 as of December 13, 2012
Good idea. The humid, freezing winter in the south is more unbearable than in the north. 17,615 (83.4%) Against it. Winters in the south are short, thus house-byhouse heating might be more reasonable. 2,263 (10.7%) Don’t care. This same debate happens every year. 1,255 (5.9%)
Most Circulated Post Retweeted: 161,936 times by January 16
This post called for the Ministry of Railways to cut the price of standingonly tickets, now sold for the same price as seat tickets, by half. Most of the people buying standing-only tickets are migrant workers who lack the resources to shop for better deals online. NEWSCHINA I March 2013
Top Five Search Queries On
Over the week ending January 16 Smog 91,433 Beijing, Tianjin and Hebei suffered their worst ever recorded air pollution in early January.
HOT? WHO’S NOT?
Cancer Map 81,473 A survey released by the National Cancer Registration Center revealed that particular cancers are more prevalent in certain parts of the country.
Du Zeyong 73,225 A sex tape featuring this Liaocheng, Shandong official was uploaded by his mistress and went viral online.
30 students from a martial art school in Dengfeng, Henan, who had trained at the legendary Shaolin Temple, were recruited into the People’s Liberation Army Marines.
J-16 fighter jet 42,750 China’s new stealth fighter, based on the Russian Su30MK2, debuted early January. Li Chengpeng 40,192 The best-selling author and prominent liberal activist was slapped in the face by an ultra-leftist lawyer at a Beijing book signing in early January.
Top Blogger Profile Some of the pictures used in this section are from the internet
NEWSCHINA I March 2013
A father from Ningbo, Zhejiang called police from the middle of a game of mahjong to report the kidnapping of his son. When the cops made it to the boy’s elementary school, they found him safe and sound. It later transpired that the child’s father had raised a false alarm to avoid leaving his game to pick his son up from school himself.
Tang Min This 60-year-old was a top-level economist with the Asian Development Bank and also deputy chairperson of the Youcheng Foundation, which endeavors to provide micro-credit loans to alleviate poverty in China.
This sixth-grader from Beijing found some of his classmates were being driven to school in unmarked government and military cars. He suggested that all government vehicles be marked with red license plates to reduce official abuses.
Morality Police Qi Xinfu, a policeman from Nanjing broke into a hotel room where a 20-year-old woman and a 26-yearold man, who become friends online a month previously, were on the verge of consummating their romance. Qi then called up the woman’s family, ordering them to take her home.
Public Leaders, Private Lives Late December, State news agency Xinhua released personal profiles of the seven members of the Standing Committee of the Politburo, a small but unprecedented gesture. The significance, or not, of this unexpected move is now being analyzed across the country
Photo by Xinhua
By Wang Yan
Xi family photo featuring Xi’s wife and daughter along with his elderly father, Xi Zhongxun, former Party leader
photograph of Xi Jinping, the new Chairman of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee with his teenage daughter and other family members was given priority by State media outlet Xinhua News Agency on December 23. This was the first time the family of a leading politician had been depicted in mainstream media since the Mao era. Prior to the release of this photograph, it was dif-
ficult to find any mention of the names of a top leader’s family members, with the personal lives of China’s most powerful falling under the broad legal category of “State secrets.” Five weeks after the new central committee assumed power, Xinhua’s website published profiles and photographs of the seven new members of the Standing Committee of the Politburo of the 18th CPC Central Commit-
A photo taken on Jan 31, 2008 shows Xi’s deputy Li Keqiang (center), reportedly discussing disaster relief work with his colleagues in the snowstormstricken Ziyun Village, Sichuan Province
tee over the course of three days. Different from the official headshot-and-resume format used when announcing their appointments in November, these less formal profiles mentioned the leaders’ families and the previous personal experiences, in no great detail, but to a degree unprecedented since the deaths of Mao Zedong in 1976 and Deng Xiaoping in 1997. China’s Twitter equivalent Weibo was NEWSCHINA I March 2013
Photo by Xinhua
overwhelmed with responses to the Xinhua release. Many praised the news agency’s “new pragmatism,” while others hoped that further disclosure would “shorten the distance” between the people and their leaders. Media commentators claimed a “breakthrough” in media transparency. While calls for China’s public officials to disclose details of personal lives and family backgrounds have been growing in the last decade, this is the first nod to such disclosure ever to be made by the highest officials in the secretive Communist Party.
Only the first generation of communist leaders led by Mao Zedong led relatively public lives, largely due to the fact that they were important figureheads for revolutionary ideals who aimed to distance themselves from the cloistered and invisible rulers of China’s imperial past. Mao in particular, as an icon of the revolution, used his beatification in both the media and among the general public as a
NEWSCHINA I March 2013
powerful political weapon, particularly during the Cultural Revolution. However, when Deng Xiaoping assumed power after the death of Mao, the Party began to shift focus from individual leaders, instead attempting to foster an image of faceless unity even at the highest levels. Hu Jintao, part of the fourth generation of CPC leaders, was legendarily camera-shy, and his family life, as well as those of his Central Committee colleagues, were utterly off-limits to press and public. “I have worked at Xinhua News Agency for 40 years, and this is the first time that State leaders have disclosed their personal information in such an open way,” Li Zhurun, a former newsroom director at Xinhua, told our reporter. “In the past, the private lives of top leaders were regarded as state secrets.” Cai Xia, a professor from the Central Party School, believes such practices have contributed to the perceived distance between Party leaders and the people. “China is now moving from traditional bureaucratic politics to modern politics which requires eliminating the mystery,” he told NewsChina. “Transparency and publicity are the prerequisite for democracy.” “This unprecedented openness aims to present the new leaders as friendly, and as having a people-first attitude,” said Xie Tao, professor from Beijing’s Foreign Studies University.
Other Chinese commentators, however, see this disclosure as somewhat belated, and simply an attempt to catch up with the online rumor mill. Some argue that such a disclosure was made unavoidable by the fact that CPC Chairman Xi Jinping’s wife, Peng Liyuan, is a famous former singer and TV star. Others have pointed to the online “outing” of Party officials’ children and spouses, many of whom are CEOs of State-owned enterprises, which has become common as a catalyst for change in recent years. “Frankly speaking, this progress comes rather late,” Li Zhurun told NewsChina: “If more personal information about the leadership had already been made public, rumor would not be able to get a foothold.” Xie Tao is also aware of the dangers of reading too much into what remains a heavily-
edited State press release. “Whether this is just a temporary charm offensive to allow [Party leaders] to get closer to the public or a genuine move to propel information transparency still remains unclear.” While the material assets and family background of European and American politicians are matters of public record, often by law, attempts to persuade Communist Party officials to disclose their personal assets have largely failed in China. In 2012, dozens of corrupt officials who had taken billions of yuan in bribes were exposed by Internet whistleblowers. While this new generation of leaders is continuing to talk tough on corruption, few expect a complete lifting of the curtain of secrecy surrounding the dealings of top officials. However, at the local level at least, there are indications of change. After five high-ranking officials in Guangdong Province were put under investigation for corruption in early December, provincial authorities announced new asset disclosure requirements for officials in the Hengqin New Area of Zhuhai, the Nansha district of Guangzhou and Shixing County under the administration of Shaoguan city. However, Party audits of new officials will be conducted internally, meaning the public will remain locked out of the process. Some districts have chosen to voluntarily publicize certain details. Nansha district, for example, has announced that it will work alongside local housing, taxation, and border security agencies to allow public enquiries into the assets and travel of local officials, according to the district’s disciplinary inspection committee official Mei Heqing. Other districts, however, are keen to keep public intrusion in Party business to a minimum. “So far the signs are very positive, but it doesn’t indicate an immediate progressive reform,” professor Cai Xia told NewsChina. “Government decision-making should be publicized and transparent, and at the same time the media and the general public should have the right to supervise the government.” “We should not overstate the progress so far, and we expect the next step of reform,” said Zhou Ruijin, former deputy editor of the Party mouthpiece People’s Daily. “We should continue to observe its development.” (Min Jie and Fan Xiao also contributed reporting)
NEWSCHINA I March 2013
Following the fall of Bo Xilai, a Party strongman who built his power by stoking populism and violating the rule of law, China’s new leadership under Xi Jinping has repeatedly voiced its intention to establish genuine rule of law. But since recent exposures of the widespread use of torture and extra-legal detention have led to a concerted call for swift and fundamental reforms to China’s legal system, the new leadership makes its first tentative moves in a long game. On the one hand, a frustrated public has become increasingly impatient with the incremental approach favored to reform by the authorities. On the other, the sacred objective of “maintaining political stability” and vested interests within the current system have led to resistance to reform among the ruling elite. Whether rhetoric will become action, and what form this action may take, will prove to be the government’s biggest challenge in the next decade.
NEWSCHINA I March 2013
Photo by by CFP
Photo by by AFP
A traffic patrol station in Chongqing, designed by former police chief Wang Lijun
The Chongqing traffic patrol badge, also designed by Wang Lijun
his teeth knocked out during torture,” said Li Zhuang. He alleged that there were 24 “crackdown centers” across the municipality, which were under the direct control of Wang Lijun, and that torture was routine practice. According to Li, the torture involved suspending suspects from the ceiling, beatings, and the use of the “tiger seat,” a specially designed chair with belts and braces to bolt suspects upright so that they were kept awake for days. “I myself was forced to sit on one such chair for three days,” said Li. “To my knowledge, the longest spell someone was forced to sit on it was 10 days.” According to a report in the Chongqing Daily, the municipality’s Party newspaper, more than 5,700 people belonging to more than 500 “gangs” were arrested, and more than 2,000 of them had been convicted by February 2012. In the same month, Wang Lijun, the police chief, entered the US consulate in Chengdu after a dramatic fall-out with Bo Xilai, precipitating Bo’s downfall as well as his own. “Many of [the victims] may have been guilty of wrongdoing and illegal activity. But their crimes were greatly exaggerated in many cases,” said Li. Besides the widespread use of torture, another feature of the anti-organized crime crackdown was the massive confiscation of property belonging to alleged “gangsters” or private businesspeople. The total amount of private assets confiscated during the three-year campaign remains unknown. According to the figure released by the Chongqing police in September 2009, confiscated assets in 2009 alone amounted to 33 billion yuan (US$5.3bn). No official figure had been released since then, as the anti-crime campaign dragged on into 2012. In a single case in 2011, Peng Zhimin, franchisee of a local Hilton hotel and a real estate mogul in Chongqing, received a life sentence for “organizing prostitution and crime.” All of his property, worth over 10 billion yuan (US$1.6bn), was confiscated. Rough estimates put the total amount of confiscated private property at over 100 billion yuan (US$16bn), much of which has
since been transferred to various State-owned enterprises through various channels. Li Jun, a local private businessman who fled Chongqing during the crackdown and has remained overseas ever since, told the media that he was put on the wanted list simply because he refused to sell his real estate to the Chongqing government at a very low price. After he fled Chongqing, a number of his family members were arrested. His elder brother received a life sentence for being a “ringleader” involved in organized crime, and his wife was sentenced to one year in prison for booking him an airticket out of Chongqing. All his property, worth 6 billion yuan (US$963 million) in total, was confiscated. The targets of the crackdown were not limited to the “gangsters,” corrupt officials and businessmen accused of being connected with organized crime, but extended to anyone who dared to challenge Bo and Wang. Peng Hong, a Chongqing resident in his 30s, for instance, was detained in 2009 and kept under police custody for almost two years without trial, simply because he re-posted a political cartoon questioning the legitimacy of the crackdown in an online forum. In addition to the widespread abuse of power, reports also portray Wang as an erratic and narcissistic tyrant. According to Li Zhuang, Wang had 51 different secretaries during his tenure as Chongqing’s police chief. He fired and punished his staff at will, secretaries included, for the slightest insubordination. Xin Jianwei, one of his secretaries, for example, was detained for over 300 days without trial, just because he argued with something Wang had said. According to Li Zhuang, Xin was beaten so hard that his ears bled. Another widely cited report claimed that Wang had more than 20 personal photographers who were tasked with capturing his image in moments of glory during the crackdown. Due to the overall collapse of the rule of law and the ascendancy of strongman politics in Chongqing during Bo’s tenure as Party secretary, many call the gangland crackdown and the ultra-leftist populism that came with NEWSCHINA I March 2013
it a “mini-Cultural Revolution,” comparing it to the 10-year catastrophe between 1966 and 1976 in which millions of people were persecuted. Tong Zhiwei, a professor from the East China University of Political Science and Law, called the mafia crackdown “red populism.” “It was cloaked in communism and socialism. In essence, however, it was pure populism,” said Tong in a seminar organized by online political reform forum chinareform. org.cn, entitled “Rule of Law and Lessons From Chongqing.”
The exposure of the abuse of police power has rekindled discussion among the legal circle on the roots of the abuse in Chongqing and what lessons China should draw from the rise and fall of Bo and Wang. Arriving in Chongqing in 2007, Bo stood out from other politicians with his tailored business suit, charming smile and abundance of personal charisma. With the slogan “attacking crime and wiping out evil,” Bo championed a bold, egalitarian alternative model of growth, hailed by many as the “Chongqing model,” a term Bo’s successors have refused to acknowledge since his downfall. Accompanying the anti-crime campaign, Bo launched various favorable policies towards ordinary residents, including providing subsidized housing and granting rural residents access to elusive urban household registrations. In an article published on December 25, 2012 by ifeng.com, a Hong Kong-based liberal media website, an unnamed high-ranking Chongqing official claimed the main reason that the new Chongqing authorities have refrained from systematically redressing the cases in question is that Bo and Wang remain popular in Chongqing, despite the exposure of their wanton violation of rule of law. “Many in Chongqing still don’t believe Bo committed a serious crime, and still consider his downfall a result of political persecution,” said the nameless official. For many experts, the rise of Bo and his Chongqing model was nurtured by populist sentiment and the radicalization of politi-
NEWSCHINA I March 2013
NewsChina’s December 2009 issue covered the crackdown on organized crime in Chongqing in full swing. Reporting on the endemic collusion between businessmen and corrupt officials, a common phenomenon throughout China and ostensibly the catalyst for Bo Xilai’s crackdown, NewsChina also made an attentive inquiry into alleged abuses of police power in Chongqing at the time. In the case of Xie Caiping, sister-in-law of the executed former Chongqing police chief Wen Qiang, NewsChina refuted allegations made by local police that she was a local mafiosa, running more than 20 illegal casinos and keeping 17 “male concubines.” The final court ruling acknowledged that Xie had only one boyfriend, and operated one casino with a total revenue of some 2 million yuan (US$320,000) over several years. Xie was sentenced to 18 years in prison, and a dozen members of her “gang” were given jail terms. 17
Photo by by AFP
Wang Lijun at work
cal views among ordinary Chinese, who are increasingly frustrated at the deterioration of various social problems, such as the gaping income gap, runaway housing prices and widespread corruption. Against this background, when Bo and Wang cracked down on corrupt officials and rich businessmen, many of whom gained their wealth from the real estate industry, they received widespread support from local residents. “The tragedy of Chinese society is that the people look for some kind of hero [to bring change], but when such a hero is created, there are no mechanisms to control him,” Wang Liping, a veteran lawyer, told NewsChina. At the peak of the crackdown in 2009,
Wen Qiang, former police chief of Chongqing, was hastily convicted and executed, an action that received plaudits nationwide at the time. In retrospect, legal experts have argued that Wen’s crime was far from a capital one. While officials who embezzled billions of yuan only received life sentences, Wen’s corruption case only involved a few million yuan and an accusation of rape that some say was fabricated (the alleged victim was revealed to be his mistress), in addition to the charge that he protected gangsters. When lawyer Li Zhuang was charged with perjury in 2010, and the Chongqing police revealed that Li was paid 1.5 million yuan (US$240,000) to defend “private businessman-turned-mafioso” Gong Gangmo, pub-
lic opinion quickly swung against Li. Zhou Litai, a Chongqing-based lawyer known for championing the rights of migrant workers, came under harsh criticism for “betraying the have-nots” after he expressed his concern over the coercive methods used in the crackdown. “It is evident that Chinese society has been torn apart, with strong antagonism between the haves and the have-nots,” argued Han Deyun, director of the Chongqing Bar Association. Others have argued that the rise of Bo and Wang was made possible by the flaws in China’s political system. Chen Youxi, a well-known lawyer points out that many of the duo’s practices, such as manipulation of the media, interference with judicial affairs, and incrimination of economic and financial activities are widespread practices in the country. The only difference is that Bo and Wang pushed these approaches to the extreme. “The lesson learned from the Chongqing experience is that maintaining the status quo promises no political future for the country,” said Chen Youxi. “China must carry out political reform since the people hope for change.” Since taking power, China’s new leadership has shown great determination to fight corruption – dozens of high-level officials have been made subject to investigation within a couple of months since the new administration was unveiled in November. It is expected that a grand income distribution plan will soon be released in an effort to reduce China’s income gap. However, with serious concerns over rising populism, a prudent incremental approach towards reform seems to be favored by China’s new leadership, which has warned against “Western style” electoral democracy. In the meantime in Chongqing, little progress has been made in redressing the cases in which the defendants have alleged wrongdoing. While the new leadership in Chongqing has started to review lawyer Li Zhuang’s perjury case as well as several others, no formal judgment has yet been made. NEWSCHINA I March 2013
Rule of Law
Detention in the Detail Amid widespread exposure of abuses of police power, pledges and measures to promote the rule of law have come under intense public scrutiny
Photo by by CFP
By Yu Xiaodong
Detainees work at a reeducation-through-labor camp in Shijiazhuang, Hebei Province, May 23, 2012
[ The government ] should work hard to ensure that the public feel they have received fair justice in every single legal case in China,” said Xi Jinping, China’s incoming leader, addressing the country’s law enforcement authorities on January 7. At least in terms of rhetoric, the comparatively rousing speech marked a high point in the new leadership’s efforts to promote transparency and rule of law. These impassioned new calls coincide with a deluge of reports on the widespread abuse of police power throughout the country. Besides the anger NEWSCHINA I March 2013
over the tyrannical anti-crime crackdown in Chongqing under the rule of Bo Xilai, the use of “black jails” to detain petitioners and the sentencing without trial of those who criticize the government have also contributed to a strong public outcry to curb abuse of police power and reform the legal system.
Extra-legal Labor Camps
At the meeting where Xi made his keynote speech, Meng Jianzhu, China’s top law en-
forcement official, pledged that China would “scrap its ‘re-education through labor’ system within the year.” Established under Mao Zedong in 1957 and originally used to imprison counterrevolutionaries, the system allows law enforcement authorities to detain anyone for up to four years without a formal trial. Normally, this extra-legal system is used to detain prostitutes, drug addicts and other minor criminals. But in recent years, the system has
Photo by by CFP
Chongqing police headquarters
increasingly been the authorities’ preferred method of locking away dissenting voices among the population. Recent cases include that of Ren Jianyu, a village official in Chongqing who was charged with subversion of State power in 2011 and sentenced to two years in a labor camp for posting a series of “negative” comments online. In 2011, Tang Hui, mother of an 11-year-old rape victim, was sentenced to a year and a half in a labor camp for “interference in public function” after she appealed to local courts in Hunan Province to prosecute the rapists, who she claimed were two police officers. More recently, in November 2012, Zhao Meifu, mother of a university student, was detained at a Beijing railway station on her way back from visiting her son, and sentenced to one year in labor camp. Her crime? Being in Beijing. Since she had petitioned the
central authorities several years ago, local police identified her as a “persistent petitioner” after her re-appearance in Beijing and took the precaution of silencing her. According to data released by the Ministry of Justice, as of 2008, the country’s 350 labor camps were holding about 16,000 inmates. Meng Jianzhu’s pledge to end labor camp sentences is by far the new leadership’s most concrete move so far. But while the announcement was widely welcomed by the public, discrepancies in State media coverage of what he actually said has led to skepticism. While some outlets reported that the government pledged to abolish the system entirely before the end of 2013, others toned the message down significantly, reporting that the government would “continue to reform” the system. Several legal experts who attended the meeting confirmed to NewsChina that Meng said explicitly that the gov-
ernment would scrap the system by the end of 2013, but various officials were reluctant to verify when interviewed by the NewsChina reporter. A labor re-education official in Tianjin told NewsChina that the official directive they received after the meeting was not to abolish, but to “limit, suspend and gradually reform” the system. Similar conflicts also appear to exist in the interpretation of Xi’s speech calling for “fairness” in the justice system. Following the speech, the State-run Xinhua News Agency published an editorial urging law enforcement authorities to “meet the expectations of people.” A month earlier, in a moderately worded editorial on December 4, 2012, the Party’s mouthpiece People’s Daily called constitutionalism “a safeguard” in realizing “the Chinese dream,” a heavily rhetorical concept championed by Xi Jinping that has been interpreted as “the revival of the Chinese nation.” But few official media have gone so far as directly linking constitutionalism with the socalled “Chinese dream,” and there have been serious consequences for those who have. On January 7, Southern Weekly, a liberal newspaper based in Guangzhou, published an editorial entitled “The Chinese Dream, the Dream of Constitutionalism.” It is reported that the provocative editorial was heavily redacted by censors before publication, causing a staff walkout and a protest in front of the paper’s office building, an unprecedented spectacle in China’s heavily controlled media industry. The conflict has caused discussion of a disconnect between the government and the public, perhaps also within the leadership, over the speed and scale of political reform the government is prepared to carry out. While the authorities seem to favor an incremental approach, some sections of the public aspire for immediate and drastic reform, frustrated with the lack of progress regarding rule NEWSCHINA I March 2013
China’s newly amended Criminal Procedure Law, which took effect on January 1, 2013, has proven to be yet another point of frustration for those advocating change. Including the phrase “respecting and protecting human rights” in its opening chapter and clauses that protect suspects and defendants from “illegal restriction, detention and arrest,” the law’s authors claim that it is a major step towards the rule of law. However, activists and legal experts argue that the new law actually represents only limited progress toward curbing police power. Some have called the law a step backwards. For example, to prevent police obtaining confessions through torture, the law outlaws forced self-criticism and clarifies procedures for the exclusion of illegal evidence. However, it fails to grant the right to remain silent by requiring defendants to “answer questions honestly,” and it still holds defense lawyers accountable for perjury while guarding public prosecutors against the same charge, making any progress meaningless. Regarding legal aid, the law stipulates the presence of the witness, identifier and forensic expert to ensure right of confrontation, among others, which legal experts argue is far from a systematic solution to the problem. According to Chen Guangzhong, a law NEWSCHINA I March 2013
Photo by by CFP
of law over the past 10 years. The recent exposure of massive abuse of police power and violation of human rights has only served to boost such sentiments. For many activists and legal experts, even if the controversial re-education through labor system is abolished as promised, there remain a wide range of problems within China’s legal system, such as the existence of secret detention, house arrest and the deprivation of legal aid for criminal defendant, standing in the way of the rule of law. Ren Jianyu is interviewed outside the court, November 20, 2011
professor from the China University of Political Science and Law, less than 20 percent of defendants in criminal cases received either State or privately funded legal aid. “Even for those with legal aid, criminal defense lawyers are reluctant to conduct a serious investigation,” said Chen. “Most of the time, defense lawyers adopt a passive strategy, focusing only on refuting evidence presented by the prosecutors,” Chen told NewsChina. Regarding secret detention, the new law requires the police to notify a suspect’s family members within 24 hours. However, “in circumstances where there is no way of notifying them, or in cases where notification might hinder an investigation,” police are not required to make contact, reads the law, making the clause open to abuse. The strongest criticism of the new law is aimed at the clauses dealing with “secret detention” and “residential surveillance” (better known as “house arrest”) often used to detain critics of the government. The law clarifies the conditions and circumstances under which “residential surveillance” should be carried out, which officials claim would limit its use. But rights activists argue that
this essentially legalizes house arrest and may lead to prolonged detention without trial, as in the case of blind human rights activist Chen Guangcheng, who in 2012 escaped from house arrest and took refuge in the US Embassy in Beijing, leading to a diplomatic standoff between China and the US. According to legal experts such as Cheng Guangzhong, the amended law, passed in March 2012, is the result of a 10-year tugof-war between powerful law enforcement authorities and reform advocates. “The public may be loud in voicing their opinions, but their influence is limited; the law enforcement authorities may appear silent, but they hold the final power,” commented an earlier report in Southern Winds magazine, referring to the “unbalanced lobbying” over legal reform. With the renewed rhetoric on rule of law, the law’s implementation is a litmus test for China’s new leadership under Xi Jinping. The handling of the re-education through labor issue will be an indicator of the administration’s ability to overcome stiff resistance with the system, and bring real change to the country.
Photo by CFP
Poisoned, Plucked, Processed Yet another food safety scare, this one involving chicken meat, has exposed a painfully familiar story of poor regulation, corruption and profiteering in China’s beleaguered industrial food chain By Yuan Ye
Chicken, duck, fish and pork,” is an idiom in China used to describe a lavish feast. After pork, chicken is the most prized meat used in Chinese cuisine. However, a recent safety scandal, the latest in a series of food scares which have tainted a range of consumables from watermelons to pork, has seriously undermined this popular meat’s market value. On December 18, 2012, China Central Television (CCTV) aired a report claiming to expose the heavy use of excessive antibiotics and artificial hormones in some of the largest chicken farms in the poultry hub of Shandong Province. Most of the chickens raised on these farms were recessive white broilers, a species originally bred from the American breed White Plymouth Rock. These fast-growing chickens raised on an industrial scale in Shandong need on average 45 days to go from their birth weight of around 30 grams to a mature weight of 3 kilograms. While the industrial nature of much commercial chicken farming is old news in the USA, the Chinese public are largely unaware of the changes afoot in their food supply chain, leaving many horrified by the scenes of industrial-scale farming depicted in the CCTV report. The report claimed that more than ten kinds of antibiotics were fed to the chickens in different phases of
feeding, most right up until the day of slaughter, a contravention of Chinese regulations demanding the curtailment of such practices a minimum of seven days prior to slaughter. Secondary contamination – the transfer of antibiotics from chickens to consumers, thus sparked widespread concern. The heavy involvement of China’s burgeoning fast-food industry in encouraging these practices also exacerbated the scandal. McDonalds China has previously been accused of purchasing antibiotic-laden raw chicken from illegal farms in Shanxi Province. Following the recent CCTV report, KFC’s Shanghai outlets were exposed as customers of the controversial Shandong chicken farms. As has become common practice in a country now uncomfortably familiar with food safety crises, public health authorities announced they would launch a full investigation into the scandal, while customer confidence plummeted.
Once again, the poor enforcement of regulations in China’s truncated industrial food supply chain emerged as a major culprit in this latest scandal. The CCTV report named at least 18 drugs allegedly used by chicken farmers in Shandong, among them the banned antibiotic aman-
tadine and illegal artificial hormone supplement dexamethasone, both of which are believed to have implications for long-term human health. Large-scale slaughterhouses and meat processing plants in China have little or no jurisdiction over most of the country’s chicken farms. Instead, they contract out farming to smalholders. While the feed, veterinary medicine and chicks used on such farms are all produced by large-scale enterprises, the middlemen between these and the country’s major meat processors operate on a limited scale, in part due to China’s complex agricultural rules which limit the total land area of individual farms. As a result, intensive, unhygienic farming is often the only way for farmers to turn a profit. Shandong Liuhe Group, the meat processing company named in the CCTV report was among one of the earliest commercial meat processing plants to begin operating in China. In 2008 alone, the company produced more than 1 million tons of poultry meat. Today, 2.3 million poultry are slaughtered in their plants each day, with the company also providing 100 million newly-hatched chicks to farmers every year. However, the company’s 200 subsidiaries, most of which are in the farming business, have compromised Liuhe’s ability to effectively impleNEWSCHINA I March 2013
Need for Speed
Despite the public outcry, industry figures and commentators attempted to call for calm, claiming that modern industrialized farming techniques had actually benefited consumers. There is no denying that intensive rearing has greatly reduced the price of chicken, once one of the more expensive meats at the Chinese dinner table. In 1961, China produced only 0.49 million tons of raw chicken. In 1984, the amount increased to 1.36 million tons, but the annual average consumption of chicken was only about 1.29
NEWSCHINA I March 2013
kilograms per person as prices remained high due to traditional rearing practices. However, by the end of 2010, production had reached 12.1 million tons, and the average citizen was consuming 10.3 kilograms of chicken per year. Chicken production has grown by an annual 5 to 10 percent in China in the past two decades. In 2011, China became the world’s second largest producer of chicken after the United States. Industrial intensive farming, introduced from the US in the 1990s, led to the cross-breeding of imported white broilers with local chickens, creating the breed currently favored by over 50 percent of chicken farmers in China. This came at a time when Chinese people were turning away from a largely grain and vegetablebased diet supplemented with soy protein to a largely grain and meatbased diet. In 1982, only 5 percent of the meat consumed in Chinese households was chicken. In 2011, the amount stood at around 20 percent, almost on a par with pork, still China’s most popular meat. However, as with the clenbuterol scandal which saw the market price of pork plummet in 2011, this recent scandal has seen the price of the white broiler chicks drop by 70 to 80 percent almost overnight in major production centers like Shandong and Henan provinces. The New Hope Group, the parent company of Shandong Liuhe Group, issued two public apologies in the week after the scandal. McDonalds admitted that they had purchased chicken meat from Liuhe before the scandal was exposed, while KFC, China’s most widespread fast-food chain and the country’s biggest consumer of processed chicken products, also expressed their “regrets” in a statement on their website. However, the company stopped short of a full apology, claiming that: “Current Chinese laws and regulations do not require enterprises to disclose the results of self-imposed product quality inspections to the government or to the public.” Industry insiders have stated that the unbalanced nature of the production chain
has prevented the effective supervision of the entire food industry, with some calling for changes to the limits imposed on farming to allow largerscale operations to be directly supervised by meat processing companies. However, as with previous food scandals, it remains to be seen whether such sweeping reforms will be forthcoming.
Photo by by AFP
ment quality control and safety standards. The company’s management focused on production and profitability while essentially turning a blind eye to the stages in the production cycle that occurred outside Liuhe’s own processing plants. On contracted farms, thousands of chickens were reared in cramped barns illuminated by 24hour light in order to prevent them from sleeping and keep them eating. Three types of feed were used in three phases to respectively maximize nutrition absorption, bone growth and meat production rate. Kept virtually immobile, these chickens’ growth often exceeded the supporting capacity of their skeletons, with many suffering heart attacks or becoming unable to walk. Others still would die from the viruses that regularly swept through the crowded, unsanitary barns. “[Industrialized] broiler farming largely improved the use of space. However, the crowded conditions… lead to comparatively bad ventilation,” science writer Yu Wuxin wrote in response to the CCTV report. “Ammonia in the air might cause damage to eyes and respiratory tracts. The animals get sick more easily. That’s why antibiotics must be fed to the chickens.” China’s Regulations on Administration of Veterinary Drugs allow for the limited use of veterinary antibiotics in chicken farming. However, in order to meet standards, chicken farms would have to reduce the population density in their poultry barns to lower the rate of infection, raising costs and lowering profits. In addition, meat processing plants have to foot the bill for mandatory inspections to check for drug residues. In the case exposed by CCTV, the subsidiary slaughterhouses of Liuhe Group conducted no drug residue inspections, and their customers, including KFC, didn’t ask if such inspections had taken place. Instead, the slaughterhouse operators forged official documentation in order to get their product onto the market.
Keepers of the Keys The PPPB, a high-level bureau established more than two decades ago to oversee a crackdown on pornography and IP infringement, still operates under a shadowy mandate. NewsChina takes a peek behind its closed doors By Pang Qinghui and Xie Ying
hinese author Mo Yan’s Nobel Prize win has brought even greater profits to China’s legions of illegal publishing houses. The work report of the National Anti-Pornographic and Pirate Publications Bureau (PPPB), released on its official website in late December, revealed that its Beijing office had recently shut down two major underground printing presses selling cheap versions of Mo Yan’s most popular works. “Law enforcement personnel burst into the house and seized 4,500 volumes of pirated Mo Yan books plus 3,000 book covers,” ran the typically dogmatic report. “We have been keeping a close eye on piracy since Mo Yan won the Nobel Prize… and the crackdown will be carried out on a massive scale.”
Established in the wake of the Tian’anmen Incident in 1989 under special order of then CCP leader Deng Xiaoping, the PPPB has the authority to shut down any publication it deems to be in violation of Chinese laws and regulations, its nominal targets being pornographic publications or counterfeit books or magazines. The PPPB’s consid-
erable powers were also extended to cover online material in the late 1990s. Though not an independent government department, the PPPB operates on behalf of 29 ministries and central departments, including the Politics and Law Commission, the Ministry of Public Security, the Ministry of Commerce and the Ministry of Education. “The [PPPB] is in nature a leadership team coordinating and supervising the investigation and prosecution of any pirated publications,” bureau vice-director Zhou Huilin told NewsChina. “The 29 member ministries and departments, under the coordination of the Office, take their respective responsibilities in targeting the whole industrial chain of piracy.” PPPB agents are scattered throughout various cities and towns, and each of them is charged with rooting out any illicit publishing operations. “I often make surprise inspections at night markets selling pirated books and DVDs in the guise of an ordinary customer,” PPPB agent Li Mo (alias), based in China’s “pirate bay” of Guangzhou, told our reporter. NEWSCHINA I March 2013
Photo by by CNS
Pirated and pornographic displayed before incineration in Mengcheng County, Anhui, May 16, 2012
Li’s latest swoop allowed Guangzhou police to close down an underground plant selling counterfeit books, resulting in the seizure of 70,000 complete volumes plus 530,000 unbound pages. In that case, nine suspects were detained, making it the biggest piracy arrest in Guangzhou in five years. “I spent one month tailing the suspects, which paid off in the onehour raid,” Li Mo told our reporter. “It is very hard to track down the headquarters of illegal publishers, since the suspects are used to playing cat-and-mouse… In some cases, they even tunnel out to escape,” he continued. Informants also play a major role, with Li himself maintaining a network of his own including teachers, parents, unemployed locals and even those involved in piracy themselves, many of whom want to see their rivals taken down. “The PPPB has introduced a strict confidentiality system to protect informants, who we remunerate in exchange for information,” Li Mo told NewsChina. Some have made a good living by being whistleblowers. Li told our reporter that one of his longest-term informants had on one occasion received 50,000 yuan (US$7,352) in return for NEWSCHINA I March 2013
a single lead. Keen to claim these rewards, grassroots people make up 90 percent of the tip-offs received by the national-level piracy and pornography reporting center set up in 2009. The center processes 6,500 individual reports on a daily basis. “In addition to emails and letters, many whistleblowers contact us via telephone, often in the middle of the night,” telephone operator Xu Jiahe told our reporter. “That is why the center works around the clock.” Different from field agents like Li Mo, Xu and his colleagues are restricted to a cramped 50-square-meter office packed with telephones that ring constantly. Besides answering calls, a big part of Xu’s job is to sift various pieces of information and pass likely leads to the higherups. As the volume of calls has increased, Xu has found that even official drivers are called in to man the telephones at peak times.
As the Internet has gained popularity over the easily-traceable print media, Xu Jiahe has found that more and more informants are call-
Photo by cns
ing his office to report illegal “It is now far from sufpornographic websites. In ficient to depend on the 2010, a 23-year-old college informants alone,” Zhou graduate in Shanxi Province Xianhua, former head of the caused an online furore by Guangzhou branch of the listing pornographic websites PPPB, told NewsChina. “We which China’s Great Firewall have to pre-empt potential had failed to block, as well as risks by using our database, naming and shaming classwhich also allows us to check mates who were visiting such if two independent cases are sites. related.” “I had never seen so much If catching pirates and porporn-related information benographers is hard enough, fore … A reporter even listsecuring convictions is even 20 suspected pornographic website operators appear in court, Nanjing, Jiangsu ed over 700 porn websites in tougher, says Sun Zongchao, Province, November 10, 2010 his mail,” Tao Junru (alias), an IP infringement agent in another telephone listener Qingdao, Shandong Provat the joint reporting center, ince. In one case, in order to told Oriental Outlook magazine in 2010. The same year, the PPPB get a single suspected pirate convicted, Sun and his colleagues had to launched a nationwide campaign against online pornography, shut- identify all the 40,000 DVDs found at his home and prove that each ting down more than 60,000 porn websites. one was pirated. “In view of the rapid development of the Internet, the Office has This could explain why while China is famous the world over for its shifted its focus from traditional publications to the Internet and expert counterfeiters, the first piracy case charged for IP infringement smartphones,” Zhou Huilin told our reporter. in a Chinese court was only announced in 2006. That case, which While the ostensible function of the Great Firewall is to censor cost huge amounts of public money to bring to court, resulted in a pornography, many file sharing communities specializing in pornog- one-year prison sentence for a man convicted of manufacturing some raphy remain uncensored, as do members-only areas of mainstream 200,000 pirate DVDs. porn sites. However, dozens of non-pornographic websites featuring Realizing the toothless nature of China’s flimsy IP infringement sensitive political content, from websites run by ultra-leftist bloggers regulations, Chinese lawmakers are trying to rewrite existing statutes to the homepage of the New York Times, are rigorously blocked. to allow for more severe sentences. The chief suspect in the GuangIndeed, the failure of the PPPB to effectively censor pornography zhou piracy case, for example, received a five-year prison sentence. while at the same time carefully filtering information critical of the A Beijing man convicted of making and selling over 30,000 pornoCommunist Party from the domestic Internet has singled it out for graphic books and 100,000 other pirate books was sentenced to 14 public ridicule. years in prison for both copyright infringement and the printing of “Following a series of crackdowns, most porn websites have moved pornographic material. their servers out of China, which makes it impossible for us to shut “The revisions to the Copyright Law, which mete out harsher punthem down,” said Wang Song, information director of the PPPB. ishments for violators, will change the function of the PPPB from “Quite often, a server operating inside the country will immediately investigation to enforcement,” said Zhou Huilin. transfer to another if it is reported and shut down. A lack of advanced In anticipation of a new raft of powers, Li Mo’s Guangzhou office technology to quickly analyze huge amounts of data from suspect has set up an evidence collection center in its in-house incinerator, websites makes it very difficult to uncover their operators.” used to dispose of contraband. According to the PPPB’s 2012 work report, it managed to close down two major pornography rings that year. Critics claimed the Porn or Politics? According to PPPB vice-director, Zhou Huilin, his bureau’s juris“4,000 suspects” who were detained during these two sweeps were mostly infrequent visitors to the targeted sites who police had identi- diction now encompasses four fields: pornographic publications and websites, other illegal publications, unlicensed media outlets and “illefied by their IP addresses. Along with his managers, Li Mo also feels that China’s pirates are gal journalism.” However, the precise definition of each of these fields becoming increasingly more elusive with the help of modern technol- remains at the discretion of the bureau itself. The term “pornographic,” huang (literally “yellow”) in Chinese, ogy. He told our reporter that mobile media has allowed his targets to divide their operations between different parts of the country to is applied in a broad sense by the State’s censorship agencies to encompass anything from hardcore depictions of sexuality to so-called avoid scrutiny.
NEWSCHINA I March 2013
“vulgar ideology.” In Zhou Huilin’s eyes, these broad criteria are necessary to protect the public. “It is the PPPB that has the responsibility protect our country’s ideology,” he told NewsChina. “Such criteria will never be out of date,” he added. However, not everyone believes the PPPB should be the gatekeepers of Chinese thought. Even the watchdogs find themselves confused when faced with the colossal range of websites and publications available throughout China. Cao Gang, a Web administrator told NewsChina that he has never fully understood the PPPB definition of “pornography.” “I once thought advertisements for aphrodisiacs were vulgar, but apparently not if they’ve been registered with the local commerce organ,” he said. “Now, I just judge for myself. If there’s nudity, I delete it. If not, I don’t.” Tao Junru told Oriental Outlook that the Press Office of the State Council, which reserves the right to define the role of the PPPB, has published extremely detailed guidelines as to what constitutes pornography. However, Tao says these guidelines were far from comprehensive. “For example, the explanation said that any Over 330 million pictures of naked bodies are pirated books seized ‘pornographic,’” he said. “If that is the case, then what about body art?” In 2010, a man named Yang Huajun, from Nanxi County, Two nationSichuan Province, was arrested wide anti-porfor downloading and watchnographic and ing pornographic movies on pirate publicahis home computer. His case tions campaigns sparked intense discussion in launched online forums, with the vast majority of netizens claiming that China’s stringent anti-pornography laws should not extend to consumption. An online survey by a local online forum in Nanxi County showed that over 90 percent of respondents claimed to have personally visited pornographic websites at home. Other critics questioned how the police had come to find out about Yang’s online viewing habits, with some accusing them of illegal surveillance. The Chinese government has made no secret of its desire to monitor the Internet use of the population. In 2008, it launched its NEWSCHINA I March 2013
infamous “Green Dam” software, mandating that this program be installed on all school computers and on all new PCs, claiming that Green Dam was an advanced adult content filter. However, many Internet commentators and computer scientists claimed that the program was a bid to create a self-contained, CCP-friendly Chinese Internet. “Adults should have the right to decide for themselves whether the information exposed online is harmful or not. It is not the government’s job,” ran a commentary in Caijing magazine. Although a purported “software fault” put an end to Green Dam, Chinese netizens, already operating in one of the world’s most monitored and restricted online environments, remain alert to all attempts to further extend online censorship. Several prominent lawyers have petitioned China’s legislature to re-examine the country’s pornography and IP infringement laws and bring them in line with China’s Constitution. However, media claim that they have yet to receive a formal response.
campaigns targeting local PPPBs organized, covering 31 regions
pirate publication-related cases settled
184 illegal newspaper/e-newspaper-related cases settled Over 40,000
public tip-offs processed
41,331 million illegal publications seized 13,473 pornographic and pirate publications-related cases settled
Halfway House of Ho A landmark, if hushed-up, trial of a number of people allegedly responsible for the extrajudicial imprisonment of legal petitioners has drawn attention to China’s mysterious “black jails” By Wang Yan December 6, 14 petitioners from Digou, Anhui Province beside the bus hired by their hometown officials to send them back home from Beijing
ifty-year-old Wang Weilong from Huangshan, Anhui Province might have expected trouble when he decided to travel to Beijing to petition the local government over a land dispute in his hometown. Petitioners in China, seen as an embarrassment to the authorities, are often roughed-up and moved on by police. However, Wang definitely did not expect to be plucked off the street, incarcerated without trial for two months. However, unlike others who faced the same treatment, Wang didn’t remain silent after stumbling out of his cell and back into
the world. Instead, he decided to speak out about his experiences in one of China’s socalled “black jails” – prisons operated outside the official legal system used to detain people who, while not engaging in criminal behavior, are nevertheless proving a nuisance to the government or law enforcement. After his release in late November, Wang was sent directly back to his hometown in Huangshan’s Yixian County. In early December, Wang told NewsChina that during his secret detention in Beijing, he witnessed the arrival and departure of some 80 other inmates.
Wang Weilong came to Beijing on September 21 to petition the High Court to mediate in a land dispute case between him and the Yixian County government. On September 22, while purchasing envelopes near Beijing South Railway Station, he was suddenly grabbed by three men and hauled into a minivan. “They had a photocopy of my ID. One of them asked if I was Wang Weilong, and I said yes, then they shut the door,” Wang told our reporter. “One of them pulled out a cellphone and made a call, saying that they had ‘caught Wang.’” NEWSCHINA I March 2013
All three were escorted to a one-story house and were forbidden to leave. Wang Weilong was held there for 60 days. Later he overheard from nearby villagers that the place, named Wanggezhuang, was a township in suburban Daxing District. “There were some 80 petitioners from Anhui and Fujian provinces in the same place,” Wang told our reporter. “Most of them were sent back home three to four days after they arrived, but I was kept in custody for many days and the nine young guards ordered me to do their cleaning and cooking, and to perform other services.” After spending days and nights in the “closet” without any connection with the outside world, on November 21, Wang was finally released and sent home.
Photo by by CFP
Horrors “They later told me that they were hired by the Yixian government to stop me pursuing my lawsuit against Wu Wenda, the Yixian county Party Committee secretary,” he continued. “They said: ‘We don’t personally know you, we were simply paid by your local government to catch you.’” The men confiscated Wang’s ID card and cellphone as the minivan drove to the Jiujingzhuang “petitioner reception center” in southern Beijing, an official detention center for petitioners, where it collected two female petitioners from Fujian. Wang and the two women were then transferred to an unknown location one hour’s drive south. NEWSCHINA I March 2013
As soon as he arrived home, Wang Weilong started to collect evidence to compile a lawsuit against his captors. “I’ve written to the Supreme People’s Procuratorate and will soon go to the Ministry of Public Security in Beijing to report my illegal detention and torture,” he told NewsChina. While Wang’s optimism may be admirable, he may have to wait a long time for justice. Until now, no convictions have been publicly meted out to people who have illegally detained and tortured legal petitioners. The phenomenon of China’s “black jails” has become a cause célèbre for grassroots civil rights activists, and yet has not been aggressively tackled by the authorities. The closest this widespread illegal practice has come to being outlawed was on December 2, 2012, when online news outlets led with a story concerning China’s first “illegal detention” trial. According to the Beijing Youth Daily, ten people employed by the Changge city government in Henan Province were convicted of “illegally holding petitioners in custody.” Media reported that all 10 men had received prison sentences, only to be publicly contradicted by the Beijing People’s High Court, which issued a statement claiming that the trial was ongoing. Yin Yinong, spokeswoman for Beijing Chaoyang Court admitted to the media that the time for the conclusion of the trial was uncertain.
NewsChina managed to establish contact with the alleged victims in the Henan case. Song Xuemei, a petitioner from Changge, Henan told our reporter that she was sent to the Jiujingzhuang petitioner reception center on April 28 and was transferred along with four other petitioners to a black jail in Shuanghe village on the outskirts of Beijing’s Chaoyang District. Another seven petitioners joined the four during the night, and all of them were forced into a minivan the next morning and driven back to their homes in Henan, where they were put under 24 hour surveillance. Two days later, four of the petitioners managed to escape house arrest and return to Beijing where they reported their illegal detention to local police. The black jail was raided, and the 10 guards arrested. According to an indictment later issued by Chaoyang District People’s Procuratorate, six defendants led by Wang Gaowei were arrested on June 7 and were formally indicted on August 15.
Behind the Scenes
Wang Weilong and Song Xuemei’s stories are only isolated examples of the endemic problem of black jails as a supplement to China’s existing criminal justice system. Activists claim that the illegal jailing of petitioners is particularly rampant in Beijing, the seat of the central government. Petitioners often choose to target the most senior government agencies as they believe top officials to be the most likely to give them a fair hearing. However, in practice, few petitioners ever manage to formally submit their cases – they are intercepted by thugs hired by their local governments, and either directly transported home or detained in one of the capital’s many black jails. Jiujingzhuang Petitioner Reception Center, an enclosure located in Fengtai District, Beijing, covers an area of over 50,000 square meters. This is a place chosen by Beijing Civil Affairs Bureau as a distribution center to accommodate petitioners coming to Beijing from different provinces. A local policeman in Dongcheng District told NewsChina that normally, only petitioners who remain outside major government offices without leaving after they hand over their petitions would
Photo by by CFP
be sent to Jiujingzhuang. Staff would then of the central government. However, Beijing petitioners get through, local officials find contact local liaison offices (see below) in is still awash with city and provincial-level li- themselves passed over for promotion, or Beijing to pick the petitioners up and send aison offices, or many of which have simply even removed from office. For many, making them back to their home provinces. relocated to discreet hotel rooms to escape petitioners disappear is a cheaper and simpler According to Lin Gang, a lawyer with Bei- scrutiny. option than addressing their grievances. jing’s Hongde law firm, local governments In late 2010, Southern Weekly disclosed use a variety of methods to prevent petition- the illegal activities of An Yuan Ding, a se- Crackdown Initiative ers from reaching their destinations. The first curity services company based in Beijing Since An Yuan Ding case was reported, is to dispatch their own underlings to head well-known for capturing and detaining peti- Beijing’s police bureau has taken actions off petitioners on their journey to Beijing; the tioners from other provinces. An Yuan Ding against illegal detention by certain security second is through the hiring of professional had enjoyed immense profitability through companies. security companies; and the third is to simply the patronage of local governments looking In late 2011, a police source told Caijing hire unemployed people to act as mercenar- to avoid embarrassing petitions, and the rev- that the goal of this action is to stop “petiies. elations in Southern Weekly led to the swift tion blocking.” “When such things happen, In late 2009, Outlook Weekly reported that closure of the company and the arrest of its we not only prosecute security company the number of “black jails” established by directors. However, none of the men were employees involved in jailing petitioners, but provincial or city-level governments in Bei- convicted of any wrongdoing, and all even- also the security companies,” the source told jing stood at 73, with 57 others operated by tually walked free. Caijing. county-level governments. A recent report by Despite some sporadic cases being put on Across China, “maintaining stability” has Caijing magazine in late December disclosed become a codeword for the muzzling of all trial, those responsible provincial or city-level the detailed addresses of 38 localities in Bei- forms of public protest, including petition- governments were never publicly accused. jing for detaining petitioners from different ing. The central government takes the numAt a meeting attended by heads of local buprovinces. ber of petitioner complaints lodged against a reaus for petitioning on January 10, Chinese So-called zhujingban, or liaison offices, particular local administration into account State Councilor Ma Kai called on local govhave also mushroomed in the capital in the when evaluating performance. If too many ernments to handle petitions and visits with past decade. These adminismore care, and to establish trative centers are officially an innovative management designed to assist in coorsystem. Ma stressed that officials at various levels should dinating police operations “correct” the “blocking of between provincial police reasonable petitions.” and the Beijing Ministry of On December 24, Wang Public Security. However, Weilong came to Beijing in recent years, individual again to pursue his lawsuit cities and even counties against his local governhave established their own ment on land disputes, liaison offices in Beijing, and on December 25, he with their staff mostly went to the local police charged with locating and station in Daxing District intercepting petitioners as to report. On January 15, well as keeping them away Wang Weilong was asked from Beijing police. Some by Daxing Police Bureau estimates claim that more to identify the suspects inthan 5,500 liaison offices volved in his illegal detenhave been established in tion. Wang told NewsChiBeijing by various local auna that three suspects were thorities. arrested and they will face In early 2010, as part of prosecution. Daxing Poan anti-corruption drive, lice Bureau did not repond Beijing officials vowed to to NewsChina’s interview shutter the capital’s liai- 11 petitioners, including Song Xuemei, were held at this compound in Shuanghe inquiry and made no comson offices on county-level village on April 28 ment on Wang's case. within six months, by order
NEWSCHINA I March 2013
the Wild Web
Faced with a growing threat from hackers, users of one of China’s most popular web services find that there are no laws to protect their “virtual property” By Xie Ying and Yang Di
NEWSCHINA I March 2013
ollowing a four-month investigation, police in Changzhou, “Though I immediately got the account back from Tencent, I Jiangsu Province exposed a large-scale crime syndicate that found the hackers had taken all the valuable equipment in the online had been hacking user accounts on QQ, China’s most popu- game I played with my QQ account and worse, they had posted lar online instant messaging service, with about 700 million active pornographic advertising on my QQ zone [social network profile] and blogs.” users. “[Yu Kuo’s] criminal gang hacked about 500,000 QQ accounts The crackdown was launched when a complaint from a QQ user led to the discovery of a Trojan virus, which police traced to a server every day. Given the large population base of QQ users, they could connected to IP addresses across 15 provinces and municipalities. make a huge profit just by planting advertising,” Qu Jun, the police Thirty-one suspects were apprehended in the subsequent police officer in charge of the crackdown team in Changzhou, told NewsChina. sweep. According to Qu, agents like Yu Kuo sell stolen QQ accounts to Yu Kuo, one of the case’s major suspects and a so-called “general agent” dealing in hacked QQ accounts, confessed to police that the various sub-agents, who siphon off the virtual money, game equipgroup had planted viruses into various popular websites, which in- ment and anything valuable linked to the accounts. These shakendown accounts are then sold as advertising fect any computer trying to visit the websites space for illegal services, or to con artists and automatically send users’ QQ account details and passwords to a designated server. “A [hacked] QQ account is like who make money by defrauding the victims’ friends. Finally, the empty accounts are According to police reports, the gang used a cow in a slaughter house. It passed onto hackers, who decode the user’s this method to hack tens of millions of QQ private information, such as online banking accounts, leading to an estimated loss of 40 gets skinned and carved up, details. million yuan (US$5.9m) for users, as ac- and its meat is removed…even “A [hacked] QQ account is like a cow in counts were stripped of their value through a the bones are exploited to the complex “industrial chain.” a slaughter house. It gets skinned and carved utmost,” said Qu Jun. up, and its meat is removed…even the bones are exploited to the utmost,” said Qu Jun. Underground Chain “My QQ account has been hacked, please don’t believe anyone who contacts you with Legal Troubles this number,” Ma Li, a QQ user in Jiangsu Despite the significant personal loss inProvince, wrote in an email to his entire concurred, victims of QQ hacking seldom retact list. One of the service’s earliest users, port their cases to the police, believing that Ma’s username has only 5 digits – compared to the 10-digit numbers the authorities can do little to help, according to Qu Jun, the police new users are issued with today – and is worth at least several hun- officer. dred US dollars in private online stores. “I have registered a new QQ account. Though [my new account “Short QQ numbers are valuable for their scarcity and because number] is much longer, it is more secure thanks to stricter identifithey are easy to remember, but they are also prone to being hacked,” cation procedures,” Ma Li told NewsChina. “The operators are usuhe told NewsChina. “I don’t dare to link the account with any other ally more helpful than the police,” he added. online services. The first time my account was hacked, all my QQ Ma’s opinion is backed up by media reports of online gamers who coins [virtual currency] were stolen,” he added. tried to report their stolen online accounts to police, only to have As QQ is now becoming a multi-function platform that integrates their cases refused. The police said it was impossible for them to degames, matchmaking, e-commerce and social networking, the per- termine whether or not the user had sold the account themselves, or sonal information linked to an account can be worth much more verify the value of property lost. than the amount of virtual money stored in it. “Even if the police do accept such cases, they have to find other “The hacking of QQ accounts has grown into an underground charges, because the theft of virtual property like QQ accounts falls industrial chain, often controlled by criminal gangs,” warned a July outside the spaces of Chinese law,” Lu Junxiang, a lawyer at the Beireport by Internet giant Tencent, the company behind QQ. jing Crown & Rights Law Firm, told our reporter. Wang Suna, a QQ user in Beijing, fell victim to this “industrial According to Qu Jun, the police officer in Changzhou, the police chain.” “I did not realize that my account had been hacked until a had cracked several other QQ hacking cases in the past. However, friend called me and asked if it was me that was borrowing money most suspects avoided punishment, since the courts found no legal from her on QQ,” Wang told NewsChina. grounds for sentencing. In the most recent case in Changzhou, the
NEWSCHINA I March 2013
General agent receives hacked QQ accounts on server, then transfers them to sub-agents to take away what they need for sales
Websites Users download virus as they click onto websites
QQ users QQ accounts hacked via viruses
QQ accounts “skinned” layer by layer Layer 1: QQ coins stripped Layer 2: Game equipment stripped Layer 3: Valuable QQ account numbers sold Layer 4: Illegal advertisements posted on hacked accounts Layer 5: Money extorted from QQ contacts of hacked accounts Layer 6: Empty accounts sold to hackers for decoding of personal information
suspects have been charged with illegal hacking, even though the specific definition of this crime is “hacking into the crucially important systems of government departments.” “I am wondering how it will be judged…in truth, it is impossible NEWSCHINA I March 2013
to stop the hacking of QQ accounts if the police are unable to charge those who provide the websites where we plant viruses, as these people will easily find new virus-planters if we go to jail,” Yu Kuo, the prime suspect in the Changzhou case, told NewsChina. This partly explains why QQ hacking is so rampant. A search for “QQ account hack” on Baidu, China’s most popular search engine, returned over 40,000 entries, with many websites openly selling QQ hacking tools with detailed user guides. This embarrassing situation can be traced back to the first time a QQ hacking case came to the attention of the media in 2005, when a court sentenced two suspects who hacked 160 QQ accounts to only six months in prison for the somewhat vague crime of “infringing on people’s freedom of communication.” The case triggered debate about whether or not virtual property theft should be written into China’s criminal law. “The difficulty in legislation lies in accurately evaluating the worth of virtual property,” Lu Junxiang said. “For example, how can we prove that a piece of game equipment is worth several hundred or several thousand yuan? It is not even a real commodity.” In recent years, China has been witnessing increasingly extravagant transactions of virtual property, mostly online accounts, virtual money and equipment used in online games. 5173.com, China’s largest C2C platform for virtual property sales, was listed as the country’s thirdlargest e-commerce site in 2010 following giants Taobao and 360buy, with an annual trading volume of 7 billion yuan (US$1.2bn). Some lawyers believe that virtual property should be treated as a commodity, but the definition of the “market price” of virtual property is yet to be accepted by the courts. In a well-known case in 2003, a player whose in-game inventory was stolen by hackers demanded the game operator compensate his losses, while the latter argued that the equipment was “nothing but an array of data.” In the absence of a third party to give an impartial evaluation of the virtual property’s worth, the court ruled that the game operator digitally restore the player’s equipment, but rejected his request for compensation. “Despite the rapid growth in trading, the current transactions of virtual property only constitute a niche market which is not widely acknowledged even among insiders,” said Lu Junxiang. No game operator anywhere in the world has ever openly supported game property transactions among players. Tencent, for example, forbids private transactions of QQ accounts, insisting that the company itself has sole ownership of accounts, and only grants users the right to use them. In 2009, Tencent reclaimed a five-digit account number consisting entirely of the lucky number 9, from a user who bought it from a private seller for 200,000 yuan (US$29,200). “Given the disputes in defining the ownership of virtual property and evaluating its worth, I have to say that legislation of any virtual property-protection law remains a remote prospect,” Lu Junxiang said.
The Forgotten, Remembered An investigation into a fire which killed six children and one adult in a residential building in Lankao, Henan, has shed light on the plight of abandoned children in China By Yuan Ye
NEWSCHINA I March 2013
t 8:30 on the morning of January 4, 2013, a fire broke out in a residential building in Lankao, a county under the administration of Kaifeng City, Henan Province. After the blaze was extinguished, the bodies of four children were found by firefighters. Three other young children had died from burns and smoke inhalation on their way to hospital. Another remained in critical condition. All of the victims, two of whom were newborn babies, were later found to be orphans adopted by local resident Yuan Lihai, 47. In the last 25 years, Yuan had taken in over one hundred abandoned children, most of whom suffered from congenital physical defects such as cerebral palsy, albinism, polio and deafness. In order to pay for food and lodging for her charges, Yuan worked as a cleaner at the local People’s Hospital and also ran a small food stall at its front gate. Donations from local residents made up the remainder of her meager income. A total of 34 abandoned children and young people had lived with Yuan. After the fire, the rest of them were sent to a State-run halfway house in Kaifeng City, as no public childcare facilities exist in Lankao, which has a population of 760,000. Yuan had been at work when the fire broke out, and rushed home only to be detained on arrival by police. The next day, the Lankao County government issued its official report on the accident, praising the “quick response” of local rescue services before condemning Yuan’s “illegal adoptions” as the reason for the tragic death toll. This led to a public outcry, with many claiming that the government itself had created the circumstances which had compelled Yuan to take orphans into her own home.
Photo by Yang Shenlai/CFP
Yuan Lihai is denied access to “her children” at a local hospital, January 8, 2013
NEWSCHINA I March 2013
Despite Yuan’s fame, none of the other residents in the stricken apartment building could pinpoint her home. The young people she cared for lived in four separate, cramped places including apartment buildings and shacks, while Yuan herself regularly slept at her food stall outside the local hospital. According to neighbors, Yuan first adopted
an abandoned child in 1987, when, while working at the hospital, she was presented with the “corpse” of an abandoned young boy with a cleft palate who later turned out to be alive. After she brought him home, she began to encounter other children and infants abandoned outside the hospital by their parents. According to her son-in-law Guo Haiyang, Yuan’s reputation was such that couples regularly left unwanted newborns on her doorstep. In early 2012, local police officers began to bring abandoned children to Yuan. Yuan struggled to provide for this evergrowing number of children. Mostly, her charges would wear donated clothes, and finding formula for the youngest infants was a constant worry. Also, as most of the children had congenital illnesses, they often required medical care, which was another drain on Yuan’s finances, as was hiring carers to look after them when she had to work. Yuan’s motivations were called into question in 2011, when she was accused by a local NGO of being a baby farmer – still a common phenomenon in China, where childless couples are often willing to pay large sums for healthy orphaned children. Others accused Yuan of being a welfare cheat, capitalizing on child labor and extorting money from local officials. Yuan denied all the accusations against her, in one interview stating that if she ever sold a child, she would be “condemned to death by Heaven.” She did admit to occasionally allowing local families to adopt children in her care, but “only if they could offer them good living conditions,” and claiming that no money ever changed hands. Lankao’s Bureau of Civil Affairs confirmed that Yuan, her husband and a total of 18 adopted children had been recipients of State welfare. Yet, as this allowance is only 87 yuan (US$14) per person, per month, Yuan only received 1,740 yuan (US$276) in welfare payments each month. According
Top: Yuan takes a walk with some of her charges, September 2011 Below: Orphaned infants sleep in one of Yuan’s Lankao residences, September 2011
to Guo Haiyang, baby formula alone would cost Yuan at least 2,700 yuan (US$429) per month. Despite Yuan being in violation of several laws and countless regulations, public opinion has tended towards sympathy for her situation, reserving the harshest criticism for the local government’s failure to tackle the problem of child neglect and abandonment. Several officials from the Lankao Bureau of Civil Affairs have been put under investigation in the wake of the fire, which has also stimulated debate over China’s entire child welfare system.
China’s Law for the Protection of Juveniles and the national Adoption Statute all contain provisions for the care of abandoned children by the State. This issue is also mentioned in the text of the government’s 11th Five-Year Plan (2006-2010), which outlined a strategy to make more welfare available to youngsters. While State-run orphanages and halfway houses do exist in major cities, there are far from enough spaces available for all of China’s orphans. According to statistics from the Ministry of Civil Affairs, the number of orphans in NEWSCHINA I March 2013
Photo by CFP
Top: An unconscious Yuan receives treatment after fainting in hospital, January 6 Below: An orphan previously adopted by Yuan (first from right) plays with other children in a childcare facility in Kaifeng City
China reached 700,000 by 2010. Children’s Welfare in China, a report released in 2010 by the Children’s Welfare Research Center of Beijing Normal University, states that around 100,000 children are deliberately abandoned by parents unwilling or unable to care for them. These abandoned children are overwhelmingly female, and a high proNEWSCHINA I March 2013
portion suffer from congenital physical defects. China’s controversial One Child Policy also contributes to the problem, with many healthy babies abandoned by parents who cannot afford the fines meted out to couples found in violation of strict family planning restrictions. China’s changing socioeconomic land-
scape is another factor. “The urbanization process accelerated rural migration into the cities,” Zhao Jinyun, president of the Kunming’s Children’s Nursing Home, remarked in a 2007 article. “This inevitably results in more abandoned children.” As continued urbanization remains a cornerstone of China’s economic policy, this trend looks set to continue. Moreover, traditional clan structures in rural areas, which would often lead local communities to take the lead in caring for atrisk groups such as orphans, the infirm and the elderly, are disappearing from the rural landscape, as all able-bodied adults flock into the cities in search of wealth. Wang Zhenyao, director of the China Philanthropy Research Institute under Beijing Normal University, said that China lacks “legislation, funding and infrastructure” for the adequate provision of child welfare, and has, along with representatives from other think tanks, called for new laws and administrative bodies to take charge of the situation. Only in the last decade has the Chinese government devoted public resources to the establishment of new care facilities for abandoned urban children, with a stipulation in the 11th Five-year Plan to invest 6 billion yuan (US$923m) from 2006 to 2010 in establishing children’s homes in cities with populations above 1 million. However, rural orphans in smaller counties like Lankao are largely left to fend for themselves. Lankao actually applied for government funding for its own children’s home in 2011 but its request was turned down. In 2012, it applied again, and was approved. Construction workers will break ground on the facility this year. While this new facility comes too late for Yuan Lihai and the seven youngsters who perished in December’s fatal apartment fire, there is hope that, in Lankao at least, the government has begun to accept responsibility for the children who fall through the cracks in a fractured social landscape.
East Asian Diplomacy
It’s Complicated The new leaders of East Asia’s Big Three are attempting to balance appealing to popular sentiment at home with economic pragmatism abroad. Can they pull it off? By Li Jia
hile the end of the year 2012 did not bring the end of the world, it certainly brought big changes, with the leaders of East Asia’s principal powers – China, Japan and South Korea – all reshuffled in the months leading into 2013. These men and women have come to power at a critical time for regional politics, when hawkish saber-rattling over ongoing territorial disputes and past grudges has reached fever pitch even as mutually-dependent regional economies struggle to maintain growth. After decades of having their cake and eating it too, in 2013 it may no longer be possible for regional governments to keep partisan politics out of their respective development strategies.
In early January 2013, Park Geun-hye was inaugurated as South Korea’s first female president, beginning her tenure by exchanging wishes for better bilateral relations with envoys from the newly re-elected Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Both Abe and Park have described relations with China as essential to maintaining regional stability. China’s Foreign Ministry meanwhile has repeatedly expressed hopes of more stable, cooperative relations with Japan and South Korea in the wake of the elections. Such words may ring hollow with citizens in all three nations. China, Japan and South Korea have recently hardened their respective positions NEWSCHINA I March 2013
on territorial disputes amid trilateral mudslinging. A military conflict, if not a war, either between China and Japan or even between Japan and South Korea, is now seen as a very real possibility. North Korea’s recent satellite launch, slammed by Japan and South Korea as well as developed nations as a front for an ICBM test, and a diplomatic “pivot to Asia” by the US have further complicated the picture. In that context, the decision to go ahead with negotiations for a China-Japan-South Korea free trade zone, announced on November 20, 2012 at the East Asia Summit in Cambodia, came as a surprise. Having been postponed for years, some analysts saw the talks as a chance to avert a coming crisis, believing that a closer trade partnership between East Asia’s dominant powers might guarantee peace as well as bring the benefits of the market integration of
Park Geun-hye NEWSCHINA I March 2013
the economies responsible for one-fifth of the world’s GDP to the rest of humanity. Others, however, have pointed out that these negotiations have yet to begin, making their outcome difficult to predict. Last year’s East Asia Summit was overshadowed by the ongoing territorial disputes between China and almost all its Asian neighbors, and some have now questioned the ability of the Chinese government to press ahead with its pragmatic regional trade agenda if these disputes remain unresolved. On December 30, 2012, Shinzo Abe told Japanese media that there is “no room whatsoever for negotiations” on territorial disputes with China over the Diaoyu (Senkaku) island chain in the East China Sea, which is controlled by Japan but claimed by China. Abe’s choice of defense minister, Itsunori Onodera who petitioned
Google to remove the Chinese name for the islands from their world map in 2010, has drawn fire from China and South Korea. China, too, has been pushing the envelope with regards to the Diaoyu islands. Japanese jet fighters regularly intercept Chinese maritime surveillance jets which have recently been stepping up flyovers, prompting Ministry of Defense spokesman Yang Yujun to remark on December 27 that the People’s Liberation Army “closely monitors” and is “highly vigilant” towards actions by the Japanese Air SelfDefense Force. China’s Ministry of Defense confirmed January 11 that fighters were sent to the East China Sea to monitor Japanese fighters that had tailed a Chinese transport aircraft. On December 26, 2012, South Korea officially submitted claims to a continental shelf
extending over 200 nautical miles into the On December 31, Shinzo Abe told Sankei, East China Sea to the UN, an area including a major Japanese newspaper, that he was conterritory claimed by both China and Japan. sidering a new statement to replace remarks On New Year’s Day, South Korean fighter made in 1995 by Tomiichi Murayama apolojets flew over the Dokdo (Takeshima) island gizing to Asian nations which suffered under chain, leading to a protest from Japan. South Japanese occupation during World War II. Korea also has its own ongoing dispute with While these prospective “reviews” have not China over the Suyan (Ieodo) Rock in the East been clarified, they have already been touted in China Sea. other Asian media as moves to officially retract Shinzo Abe has decided to reconsider host- these crucial statements in order to further a ing a “Takeshima Day” in early 2013 and has policy of denying or playing down Japanese canceled plans to visit the Yasukuni Shrine in wartime atrocities. Tokyo, which commemorates Japanese war While statements of regret for Japanese war dead, including 14 Class-A crimes in Asia have been delivwar criminals. However, these ered by many of the country’s conciliatory moves have not subsequent leaders, China and Historical quelled accusations of a “lurch South Korea have continued to the right” in both Chinese grudges are also to argue that these have not resurfacing amid and Korean media. gone far enough, and controAt a press conference on De- the antipathy over versies over official Japanese cember 17, Chinese Foreign territorial disputes. history of atrocities such as Ministry spokesperson Hua the Rape of Nanking, experiChunying warned against “a mentation on live prisoners tendency in Japan to break in internment camps, and the away from the postwar system definition of comfort women and deny peaceful develophave continued to be a sticking ment.” In an editorial on December 20, the point in multilateral diplomacy. English-language Korea Times labeled Abe’s Even territorial disputes between East Asian new cabinet as “an all-star list of revivalists… powers that took place in antiquity have rewalking gaffe machines” who persist in “deny- cently caused controversy. On December 24 ing or justifying Japan’s historical misdeeds.” Dong-A Ilbo, a leading newspaper in South Both Chinese and South Korean media have Korea, complained that a US Congressional previously claimed that attempts to revise Ja- Research Service report due to be released in pan’s postwar pacifist constitution are a thinly- January 2013 mainly reflects China’s claims disguised move toward full re-armament. over Goguryeo, an ancient kingdom includProfessor Tang Chongnan, head of the Sino- ing parts of China’s northeast and the Korean Japanese History Association, told NewsChina peninsula, ignoring Korean counter-claims. that he believes Abe will not compromise on South Korea regards this as an issue of national campaign pledges to revise Japan’s pacifist con- identity. stitution and redefine the Self-Defense Force In a Xinhua article dated December 29, (SDF) as a regular army. This, according to 2012, Yang Xilian, a former Chinese envoy to Tang, would mean that Japan could theoreti- both North and South Korea claimed that riscally use its military capabilities to defend its ing “negative voices” in South Korea on such national interests, something currently pre- issues, along with China’s policy of repatriavented by the country’s constitution. tion of North Korean defectors, continue to Historical grudges are also resurfacing amid undermine bilateral relations. the antipathy over territorial disputes. ReToo Many Players cently, Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary YoshiThe situation is further complicated by hide Suga indicated that Japan would review a 1993 statement by former Chief Cabinet other countries invested in the East Asian Secretary Yohei Kono apologizing for Asian balance of power. On a 2007 visit to In“comfort women,” sex slaves used in Japanese dia during his first stint as prime minister, Shinzo Abe envisaged an “arc of freedom military brothels during World War II.
and prosperity” in “greater Asia,” a statement slammed in China as a policy of containment. In a recent interview with the Yomiuri Shimbun, Abe vowed to strengthen security cooperation with India and Australia as part of Japan’s alliance with the US, using this as a counterweight to Chinese military expansion. On January 17, Abe’s envoy Katsuyuki Kawai presented a personal letter from his prime minister to NATO Secretary General Anders Fogn Rasmussen in which Abe called for closer ties with NATO in the face of rising Chinese maritime power. On January 16, Abe began his first overseas visit after re-election, heading to Indonesia, Vietnam and Thailand after a planned visit to Washington was postponed by the White House, still mired in debt ceiling negotiations. This visit was labeled by international media, including the Japanese press, as an effort to seek ASEAN cooperation in containing China. The January visit contrasted sharply with Abe’s “ice-breaking” visit to China after his first election victory in 2006, when he sought to build bridges after his predecessor Junichiro Koizumi angered China by making repeated visits to the Yasukuni Shrine. Park Geun-hye has also put South Korea’s alliance with the US at the core of her national security strategy, offering engagement with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un through the development of economic ties. While the latter policy will likely put South Korean interests north of the DMZ more in-step with China’s, the former is a cause for concern in Beijing. Park’s predecessor Lee Myung-bak antagonized Chinese leaders by stepping up sanctions on Pyongyang following the fatal sinking of the warship Cheonan and the bombardment of South Korean territory by the North Korean military, both in 2011. North Korea’s recent launch of a longrange rocket, seen as a covert ICBM test by most developed nations, and China’s refusal to condemn it, has alienated South Korea. On December 12, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei responded to the launch by stating that “the Security Council’s reaction should be prudent, moderate and conducive.” On January 3, 2013, South Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade spokesperson Cho Tai-young said that Seoul would make its views on “punishing” North Korea’s recent NEWSCHINA I March 2013
NEWSCHINA I March 2013
Japan-South Korea ( Jan.-Nov.2012 ) US$ 84bn
Japan surplus US$17 bn
China-South Korea ( 2012 ) US$256bn
South Korea surplus US$81bn
Kondo Daisuke, deputy editor-in-chief of Japanese magazine Weekly Gendai, told our reporter that his view is that only business can salvage damaged relations in East Asia. Besides, the new leaders in China, South Korea and Japan have all made their respective economies their top priority. Shinzo Abe is committed to an aggressive policy of quantitative easing which is aimed at financing massive public works and boosting exports. With more than 80 percent of South Korea’s GDP coming from foreign trade revenue according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Park Geun-hye is unlikely to alienate her country’s biggest trading partners with a belligerent foreign policy. China has identified greater urbanization as its next growth engine, and it will need foreign investment and continued strength in its export industry to secure the employment growth it will need to accomplish this objective. According to data from China’s Ministry of Commerce (MOFCOM), the value of trade between China, South Korea and Japan jumped from about US$130 billion in 1999 to more than US$690 billion in 2011, with China the main trading partner of both South Korea and Japan. World Trade Organization statistics show that South Korea is the fourth largest export market and the seventh largest origin of imports for Japan. Professor Tang believes that a trilateral free trade agreement (FTA) negotiation also reflects the economic balance of power. China needs closer economic relations with Japan and South Korea to reduce the potential threat posed by the US-led Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). While China is far from being viewed as a preferable strategic partner to the US in Japan and South Korea, public sentiment in both these countries remains in favor of greater independence from Washington.
China-Japan-ROK Merchandise Trade
China-Japan ( 2012 ) US$ 329bn
Down to Business
The success of the China-Japan-South Korea FTA is also key to the negotiation of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, which includes all three major East Asian economies plus the ten members of ASEAN, India, Australia and New Zealand. This round of negotiations is expected to be concluded by the end of 2015. While few would refute the impact of these efforts at greater cooperation, there is a lack of optimism about the likely outcome of such economic pipe dreams, most of which have been discussed since the late 1990s. Between 2002 and 2011, a glut of government-sponsored research papers in Japan, South Korea and China were the only indication that an FTA was even a possibility. As the successful establishment of a functioning FTA requires much more than simply dropping trade tariffs, reciprocity in trade must be based on sound political trust – something chronically lacking in relations between China, Japan and South Korea, according to Li Guanghui, a researcher with the Chinese Academy of International Trade and Economic Cooperation, a MOFCOM think tank. A blue book on the Asia-Pacific region by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences released on December 26, 2012 also cited Sino-Japanese political tensions and the TPP as barriers to FTA talks. Daisuke recognizes that the establishment of an FTA with China and South Korea would be key to improving Japan’s long-term economic interests, but that the maintenance of Japan’s alliance with the US is likely to lead the TPP to win out. Even commercial interests are resistant to the idea of an FTA. Japan and South Korea compete in the industries currently exporting to China, particularly vehicle parts and agricultural products. With China now attempting to move up the value chain, some argue that an FTA would ultimately benefit China at the expense of its partners. While commerce may be a more effective communication tool than diplomacy, it is impossible to fully separate business and politics. Unless the new leaders in East Asia can forego pandering to public sentiment and instead focus on long-term gains, all parties could ultimately emerge from these challenging times as losers.
Japan surplus US$26bn
satellite launch clear to the United Nations Security Council “in a more direct and active manner” when South Korea begins its twoyear non-permanent membership of this key governing body in 2013. Despite Park’s image as a more conciliatory figure than her predecessor, South Korea remains firmly in the US camp when it comes to its dealings with the North.
Source: General Administration of Customs of China/ Ministry of Finance of Japan
Japan’s Investment in South Korea (Q1 end March 2012) :
Japan’s investment in China in 2012: US$7.4 bn, the 2nd largest sources of foreign direct investment in China South Korea’s investment in China in 2012 US$3.1 bn, the 6th largest source of foreign direct investment in China Source: Ministry of Commerce of China/Japan External Trade Organization
In the Footsteps of the Spirits A group of ethnic Hmong has attempted to rediscover their cultural roots in an ever more homogenized society By Wang Yan in Leishan, Guizhou
NEWSCHINA I March 2013
Photo by by Dong Yiping
Photo by by Yang Jun
Jiof Naox (Queniao), a remote Hmong village tucked in the mountains of southeastern Guizhou
prayers to save the souls of n midwinter, life is the deceased from hell. particularly dull in On these occasions, Yang Queniao (Jiof Naox), dons ceremonial Hmong a remote mountainous Yang Shengwen and his team members interviewing elderly villagers in Queniao garb, complete with an Hmong village, notable for elaborate headdress, and its tiered rows of wooden sings the “guiding song” to houses nestled deep in light the way for the soul mountainous Leishan County, Guizhou Province. Undaunted by the silence, villager Yang of the deceased. Hmong people, a subset of a diverse ethnic groupGuangyuan (Weix Nix Niel) manages to enliven his hometown’s known as the Miao in Mandarin Chinese, believe that the final joursleepy atmosphere with his lively folk singing. For almost two de- ney of their departed loved ones is back to the semi-mythical Hmong cades, Yang has served as the dedicated shaman for Queniao’s 200-or- ancestral homeland way out East. “The ancient migration of the Hmong is recounted in song in so households. “Our ancestors first chose to settle by the banks of the river flow- detail, and [these songs] embody the glory of the Hmong people,” ing through the Queniao area,” Yang tells NewsChina, seated on a said 27-year-old Yang Shengwen (Longf Qiaof Wangx), a young local bamboo stool and, from time to time, looking up at the swallow’s nest man. While people in China’s bustling cities, sheltered from tradiunder the eaves of his house. “But it was too humid there, so they later tional beliefs, may scoff at their superstitions, the rural Hmong cling tenaciously to their indigenous culture. moved to this site.” Most of the time, this 64-year-old man is a farmer, forest ranger, and fire warden. But on some special occasions, such as funerals, he ‘Whence Did We Come?’ adopts his role as shaman, presiding over burial rites and chanting As one of the largest ethnic minority groups in China, the modern NEWSCHINA I March 2013
Xijiang, a village of over 1,000 Hmong households has tranformed into a 24-hour tourist resort
Hmong mostly live in the mountainous areas of southwestern provinces, in particular Guizhou, Hunan and Yunnan. Of an estimated 9.4 million ethnic Hmong living today in the People’s Republic of China, over half are believed to live in diverse Guizhou Province. Without their own written language, the early history of the Hmong is largely oral and thus difficult to trace. Traditional folklore maintains that the Hmong dominated southern China for at least 2,000 years prior to the arrival of the Han, China’s majority ethnic group. Historians and anthropologists have uncovered evidence that Hmong culture sprang up in eastern coastal regions before beginning a westward migration into what is now central China. In the 18th century, the Hmong continued to move into the southwest as well into parts of southeast Asia, particularly Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia, driven by wars and the need for more arable land. The historic Hmong migration has never really ended. Today, they are among the most widespread Chinese ethnic group overseas, with communities across the globe. These migrants have carried oral traditions and folk customs to Europe, the Americas and the rest of Asia, adding their own stories to a vibrant social history. Yang Guangyuan is one of the standard-bearers for the preservation of Hmong customs. Shamanic ritual and song is regarded by his fellow villagers as the principal link to their ancestors. “Songs are the vehicle for the Hmong cultural identity,” Yang Shengwen told our reporter. A college graduate of Hmong origin, Yang left his home in Queniao when he was very young to pursue his middle school education in the county seat before he entered university in Guiyang, the provincial capital. It was not until 2008, when he was in his sophomore year, that he suddenly developed a keen interest in the history and culture of his ethnic group. In 2010, he came up with the idea of forming a team of amateur Hmong anthropologists to trace ancient migrations so as to learn about the origins of his family before their arrival in Queniao. He shared his idea with other college students of the Hmong de-
Photo by by AFP
Photo by by AFP
Hmong women in Xinjiang perform a dance for tourists
scent, garnering immediate support from eight of his classmates. He then posted his plan online and attracted another seven Hmong followers from different parts of the country. In July 2010, Yang’s team traveled 250 kilometers from Guiyang to Queniao. They spent eight days visiting the village, interviewing shamans, village elders and musicians. By listening to the guiding songs sung by the village shaman as well as more ancient songs remembered by village musicians, Yang and his team began to form an outline of these historic migration routes of his village ancestors. “Go through the green water cave; Follow the Getou River downstream to Xuekong Valley; Kill a buffalo in Jiaoshui, And take a bath Here you arrive in Yangqie…” — from the ‘guiding song’ chanted by Yang Guangyuan Yang Guangyuan told Yang Shengwen’s team that Yangqie refers to Xiaodanjiang (Vangl Qiet), a village in the neighboring Rongjiang County. Xiaodanjiang is believed to be the original settlement of almost all the earliest Hmong migrants into southeastern Guizhou who first arrived over 1,500 years ago. According to the song, the ancestors of the Queniao villagers moved from Pingxiang (Vangl Jief), a village 10 kilometers east of Queniao some 500 years ago. Prior to this, even earlier generations moved to Pingxiang from Xiaodanjiang. Following these clues, Yang Shengwen organized a journey to Pingxiang and neighboring Shuizhai (Vangl Naol) village in August 2011, before paying a separate visit to Xiaodanjiang in late August 2012. The explorations of Yang’s team attracted more and more young people of Hmong origin from different villages to their project. “As students in big cities away from our home villages, we didn’t know who we should go to to learn about our history,” Yang ShenNEWSCHINA I March 2013
gwen told NewsChina. “Thankfully, people of the older generation were very supportive and thus we could trace the migration of our ancestors.” “Indeed, each ethnic Hmong village could have been a starting point for discovering our ancestral homeland,” he continued. “Since the Hmong are famous for their migratory culture, the migration routes of our ancestors should be preserved for posterity.” Yang Shengwen speaks of his efforts as a “relay race,” hoping that young Hmong villagers, inspired by his team’s example, will continue his work. So far, more than 30 people have taken part in the exploration program and their next stop, in 2013, is a village in Taijiang County.
Yang Jun (Junb Weix Zaid), 22, also a Queniao Hmong, is a student at the Guizhou Tongren Institute and a keen member of Yang’s research team. He expressed that during his visits with Hmong shamans and elders, their enthusiasm for their indigenous culture rekindled his Hmong identity. “It amazed me and made me feel proud when our elders enthusiastically disclosed to us the epic journey of our ancestors that brought them to where we live today,” he said. However, like most other indigenous peoples still surviving on the outskirts of China’s encroaching modernity, the Hmong are under threat of being assimilated into the broad Chinese diaspora. Like Yang and his team, young Hmong migrate to the cities in search of education and work, and end up blending seamlessly into mainstream society, losing their native dialects, dress, marriage customs and oral traditions in the process. During previous visits to different villages, Yang Shengwen himself observed the effects of this cultural dislocation first-hand. For example, in Pingxiang, a Hmong village located a short distance from several urban centers, the local shaman was less knowledgeable than NEWSCHINA I March 2013
Photo by by CFP
Photo by by CFP
Yaoguang village celebrates its festival on December 15, 2011
Men play gax (bamboo pipes) and women dance in the village square during important festivals
his more remotely based Queniao equivalent. In some places, even village elders knew nothing of the histories related by Hmong shamans in their own villages. Connected to Guizhou’s cities by highways and railroads, some Hmong villages have become almost completely modernized, and, as a result, have lost their unique Hmong identities, becoming indistinguishable from Han settlements. Xijiang (Hlib Jiangl), one of Leishan County’s major majority Hmong towns with over 1,000 households, is a case in point. The town has been turned into a tourist resort – local crafts such as weaving and embroidery have become oriented towards the souvenir trade, while sanitized forms of traditional dancing and tribal music are now only performed for tourists. “There is no shaman left in our community,” Wang Zheng, a Hmong woman in her twenties, told our reporter. “Most of the villagers in Xijiang are preoccupied with earning cash from tourists.” In contrast, Queniao, Yang Shengwen’s remote hometown, tucked away deep in the mountains, remains less affected, its culture better preserved.
“We call these college-educated young people seeking their cultural roots ‘people with cultural awakening,’” said Li Li, director of the Guizhou Institute for Indigenous Cultural Development, a local NGO committed to promoting the preservation of minority traditions. Yet, she added that such people remain a rarity. “Their attempts spark against the vast prairie of vanishing cultural diversity,” said Li. “Despite its efforts with cultural preservation, the local government is largely bent on promoting the tourism industry as a source of revenue,” she told NewsChina. Official statistics show that in 2012 the Guizhou provincial government invested 50 million yuan (US$8m) in developing “cultural industry,” plus 200 million yuan (US$32m) for the establishment of funds to “encourage the development” of the province’s diverse ethnic
World distribution of ethnic Hmong by country
Germany, New Zealand 100-500 Argentina 500-1,000 Canada, French Guyana, Australia 1,000-5,000 France, Myanmar 10,000-50,000 Thailand, United States, Laos 100,000-500,000 Vietnam 700,000-1,000,000 China 9,000,000-10,000,000
cultural resources. Much of this funding has found its way into either tourism or academia. Research institutes devoted to Hmong studies have mushroomed across the province. The Minzu University of China in Beijing has compiled historical, social and cultural dossiers on various ethnic minority groups and set up a databank for the use of different minority groups. However, little has been done in promoting the indigenous Hmong people to carry out their folk traditions, with most studies focused on the place of the Hmong in the Han Chinese historical narrative, rather than exploring distinct Hmong history. “Grassroots initiatives such as those made by Yang Shengwen and his friends might be small in scale, but these efforts have an impact on the people around them and may gather momentum, which might change the overall cultural development of a specific ethnic group,” said Yang Zhiqiang, a Hmong ethnologist at Guizhou University.
“From preschool to university, we largely receive a so-called ‘modern education’ which tells us the traditions handed down to us by our ancestors are just superstition,” said Yang Shengwen, “but a closer look at our cultural heritage tells us that these traditions are both selfaffirming and also academically valid as a subject of study.” “I only want to make more Hmong see the gravity of the situation – that our indigenous culture is vanishing at an alarming pace,” he added. Many young local Hmong living and working in nearby cities returned to Queniao for the Hmong New Year in 2012, which fell on December 21. “The lusheng (gax) [a traditional wind instrument] will be played and everybody will dance in the village square,” Yang Shengwen told NewsChina in the runup to the New Year festivities. “Women will wear their extravagant silver headdresses and traditional costume and dance to their hearts’ content.” This reporter hopes that Yang also joined in. NEWSCHINA I March 2013
NEWSCHINA I March 2013
Shooting Tigers While the government may be getting tough on foreign companies found to be in violation of anti-trust laws, will it mete out similar punishments to the monopolies it itself props up? By Li Jia
ot everyone had a happy New Year. On January 4, 2013, US$57 million in punitive tariffs were imposed by China’s top macroeconomic agency, the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), upon six overseas liquid crystal display (LCD) panel manufacturers, including South Korean giants Samsung and LG as well as four Taiwanese companies. The charge? Price fixing. Another US$64 million in savings is anticipated in the wake of the sanctions after all six companies agreed to offer better after-sales service to Chinese TV manufacturers.
While some have claimed that the NDRC has scored a direct hit on some of Asia’s biggest “tiger enterprises,” others see these reparations in a broader context. In 2010, all six of these overseas LCD manufacturers were fined €649 million (US$867m) by the European Commission after being granted partial immunity for their cooperation with investigators. In 2012, the same sextet was among eight companies ordered by the US Supreme Court to pay more than $1.39 billion in criminal fines, with 13 executives imprisoned. By contrast, the NDRC’s sanctions would barely register as a blip on Samsung’s account book.
The NDRC had some explaining to do. As the price fixing allegations against these six companies were brought before the NDRC prior to the enacting of China’s current anti-monopoly statute in 2008, the agency had to fall back on the country’s antiquated Pricing Law. Therefore, prosecutors were only able to seize illegal income, whereas the Anti-monopoly Law potentially allows for the seizure of total revenue. Although this legal technicality has allowed the NDRC to dodge its harshest critics on this occasion, all eyes will be on this powerful agency when major anti-trust cases land on its desk in the future. The accusations of price fixing for the Chinese market came from NDRC investigators who claimed that Samsung, LG and their Taiwanese competitors were holding what were known as “crystal meetings” in Taiwan and South Korea between 2001 and 2006. These meetings, the Chinese prosecutors argued, were tantamount to the formation of a cartel to gouge Chinese TV manufacturers. Prosecutor Huang Wei told media that these companies’ business activities in the years after 2006 may still be made subject to a secondary investigation. Huang Yong, deputy director of the State
Council Anti-Monopoly Commission expert team and professor of law at Beijing’s Universtiy of International Business and Economics, told NewsChina that the formation of cartels effectively curtails all competition and is thus the action most aggressively targeted by international anti-trust regulators. Since China’s own anti-trust law came into effect in 2008, the NDRC has launched crackdowns on price fixing in the pharmaceutical, insurance, cement and raw milk industries, while the Ministry of Commerce has investigated 584 suspect mergers and acquisitions, including a conditional approval of Google’s acquisition of Motorola in May, 2012. The State Administration of Industry and Commerce, meanwhile, has authorized its local offices to probe 18 separate anti-trust cases resulting in eight prosecutions. NEWSCHINA I March 2013
“Implementing the law is the best way to improve legal awareness,” said Professor Shi Jianzhong of the China University of Political Science and Law in a video interview with the China News Service on January 4, 2013. Professor Huang agrees, adding that many Chinese companies, State-owned and private, remain as ignorant of the country’s antitrust statute now as they did before its implementation. The failure to prosecute domestic companies in violation of this law, however, waters down its efficacy
as a weapon against unfair trade practices. Indeed, China’s judiciary is often accused of dragging its feet when it comes to breaking up monopolies owned by the Chinese government – the country’s powerful State-owned enterprises (SOEs). Whenever Chinese consumers top up their cellphones, surf the Internet, fuel their cars, make a deposit in a bank or even take a taxi or train, their money is going straight into the pockets of ring-fenced, State-controlled effective monopolies, with private enterprise all but completely frozen out of these and other strategic sectors. Already under inflationary pressure, to upstart competitors these lumbering throwbacks to the planned economy era are now clamoring to have SOEs officially slapped with the monopoly label.
Photo by by AFP
A Bigger Stick?
NEWSCHINA I March 2013
In strictly legal terms, it should be technically possible for any SOE to be punished under anti-trust legislation. “Any abuse of market dominance gained either through competition or State support is subject to the Anti-Monopoly Law,” said Professor Huang. However, in practice, that case is unlikely to come to court. In November 2011, the NDRC announced that it would launch anti-monopoly investigations into State telecoms providers China Telecom and China Unicom over allegations that both companies had used geographical dominance in broadband access to price competitors, for example, China Mobile, another SOE, out of the market, and deliberately interfering with mutual interconnectivity. According to investigators, this resulted in higher broadband charges and slower connection speeds for Chinese Internet users. One week later the two State giants “pledged to end” their “improper practices,” also applying to have the investigation closed, though their request was denied. The two companies have reportedly made some progress in responding to the allegations, but the investigation remains ongoing. The China Unicom and China Telecom case has led to speculation that other monopolistic market structures might gradually be broken down, allowing more competition. Working under similar conditions of State
backing but with a more diverse consumer base than telecommunications providers, China’s cable TV networks in particular are hoping for greater market access. Competition between SOEs, however limited, gives a certain amount of choice to consumers. Local TV stations are now fighting for audience share. China’s State banks have spent years battling to increase their share of the depositor market. However, the playing field remains slanted in favor of State monopolies, leaving consumers and private enterprises at a disadvantage. Professor Huang believes the Chinese government needs to do more good by encouraging competition and interfering less in commerce. All major economies are searching for new sources of competitiveness in the current economic climate. While the US and EU are looking to scale back outsourcing, cultivate domestic industries and renegotiate multilateral economic agreements, the Chinese government has fallen back on its old failsafe of identifying certain lucrative industries and then throwing public resources at them in a bid to stimulate growth. “The government has to withdraw from the micro-economy, and leave the law to play its part in regulating corporate governance,” said Professor Huang. Huang is now urging the State Council to upgrade China’s competition law to the status of an “economic constitution,” following the model of developed markets. This change, he believes, would allow policymakers to base national economic strategy on a level foundation, rather than devote their time to dividing State resources between certain big players. A higher judicial authority that can objectively enforce commercial law is needed to regulate such a system. Currently, three ministry-level offices have these powers, putting several agencies of equal status at odds over policy. Without a higher governing body to settle such disputes, establishing a healthy business environment in China remains a pipe dream. Taking action against foreign “tiger” enterprises is far from enough to give Chinese consumers genuine clout in their own economy. Domestic tigers, it appears, require the threat of a bigger stick before they will learn to play by the rules.
of a Cactus Empire A death sentence handed down to a successful entrepreneur has shown the lengths to which the government will go to shut down a booming private business By Pang Qinghui in Bozhou, Anhui
n the fraud case against Wu Shangli, it was difficult to determine exactly who the injured party was, or what it was they claimed Wu had done. The 41-year-old defendant was once CEO of Xingbang, a producer of edible cactus in Bozhou, Anhui Province. Over the decade leading up to 2008, Wu had meticulously built a fully integrated industrial chain of cactus planting and processing, with funds from tens of thousands of individual private investors all over the country. At the height at Wu’s success, he had more than 40,000 investors from 27 provinces and municipalities nationwide, raising a total of 3.7 billion yuan (US$593m). But high times were put to an abrupt end by the local government, when Wu was detained in late 2008. His investors have since been petitioning the central government to pardon him and have come together in support of Wu’s family, especially his two sons, who were two and three years old when their father was jailed.
China’s Ministry of Agriculture introduced the edible cactus into China from Milpa Alta, Mexico in 1998, in an attempt to bring a new flavor to the Chinese dining table. Wu Shangli, then a 27-year-old herbal medicine dealer from Bozhou, Anhui Province, had the foresight to spot a golden opportunity in the edible cactus game. Wu was a graduate in herbology from the local technical high school. Wu started his company in 1998. After mastering the cultivation of edible cactus, he began to sell cactus seed to local farmers, then bought their harvests and processed them in his factories. The company developed a whole line of products made from cactus, including cactus-based vinegar, beer, noodles, cosmetics and soft drinks. But soon, Wu’s business began to suffer from product quality issues due to the overuse of fertilizer and pesticides by some farmers, and the collection and transportation of cactus was weighing on the company’s operating costs. To cope with the problem, Wu came up with a new model of collective plantation. The company opened up its planting base, requiring investors only to pay planting costs, including land rental, organic fertilizer, greenhouses and labor, leaving the tending of the crop to Xingbang. Wu’s innovative model received strong approval from the local government. At a nationwide agricultural industrialization forum in 2003, Ji Kunsen, then deputy head of the Anhui Province People’s Congress commission, and Wu Zhentang, then deputy mayor of Bozhou, came
NEWSCHINA I March 2013
“He has a very timid sort of personality,” said Wu Shangli’s mother Wu Xiuying, an elementary school teacher who had been widowed since Wu was 10 months old. He would report his every project to the local government to be filed and approved, according to Wu Xiuying. The three projects Wu launched in 2004, including a 1,330-hectare plantation, a cactusbased beverage factory and a cactus winery, called for a total investment of 600 million yuan (US$96.5m). Wu had tried to get loans from local banks, and had also applied for government subsidies, but despite the public fanfare surrounding him, his product and business model, all efforts failed. He turned to private investment, pulling in
funds by offering lucrative returns. “Without bank loans or government fiscal support, the company had to rely on private investors for funding,” said Ye Xinglin, Wu Shangli’s lawyer. With a five-year investment package, investors submitted 28,000 yuan (US$4,490) for one mu (0.07 hectares) of cactus on the Xingbang plantation, and stood to receive a total return 102,000 yuan (US$16,350) in the third year. The rate of return was up to 3.6 times the original investments. After adopting the new business model, the company ballooned. In 2003, its sales totaled 1.75 million yuan (US$280,500). Investors from Shandong, Henan, and Hubei provinces swarmed into Bozhou to appraise the company and lay down their investment. The company and its boss were granted countless prizes and honors by various levels of government, and various senior provincial government officials were in the habit of dropping in for a visit. At its height, Xingbang’s fame was such that the city’s government conference hall was named after the company, as was the road in front of the Xingbang head office. Besides farmers, the company’s investors included many current and retired officials, journalists, and retirees from State-owned enterprises. In addition to the high rate of return, according to a survey of the company’s investors conducted in late 2009 by Wu Shangli’s lawyer
Ye Xinglin, the apparent confidence of local government and media in Wu’s projects had been a factor in their decision to invest. Dong Shoumin, an accountant from a Beijing company, had learned of the business from a program on CCTV. She went further than most investors, renting a plot of land in suburban Beijing, and hiring six men to plant cactus for her. Her crops were sold to Xingbang, and Dong made 240,000 yuan (US$38,500) over two and a half years.
In October 2005, China’s health authorities banned Xingbang from planting or processing cactus, due to the company’s lack of a license for “the cultivation of exotic food material never before eaten in China.” During its suspension, Xingbang was forced to launch new projects to attract new investment in order to repay the former investment. Wu had since entered the real estate business, and had even launched his own brand of liquor. The certificate was granted two years later, at which time the company resumed its cactus plantation and processing, and the company flourished on both fronts – cactus and housing development. But the local government had almost brought the entire company to a standstill. Without warning, Wu was detained by local police on December 15, 2008. Greenhouses at the plantation base were smashed, and the cactus crop uprooted. By way of explanation, the then Bozhou police chief Qi Shuzhi told NewsChina, “The detention of Wu Shangli was 100 percent justified.” He declined to elaborate. A source who preferred not to be identified told NewsChina that Wu Shangli’s detention was triggered by the detention of Wu Ying, a billion-
Picture by Adong
together to voice their support for Xingbang at the forum. Xiaolu (pseudonym), a journalist with the Economic Daily who was present at the forum, said he was impressed with the vehemence of the two men endorsing the company. He recalled an impassioned Wu Zhentang, the deputy mayor, proclaiming “Xingbang is not only for Bozhou, or Anhui, but China and the world.” Xiaolu himself was convinced of the prospects of Xingbang, and invested in the cactus empire himself. After the forum, the company was championed by China’s mainstream media, including State media giants like broadcaster CCTV, newspaper the People’s Daily, and the Xinhua News Agency. just three months before Wu’s detention, the overseas edition of the People’s Daily ran what was to be its final gushing advertorial praising the company and its business model, calling the cactus crop “green gold.”
Cactus on a Xingbang farm in Anhui Province, 2003
NEWSCHINA I March 2013
economy aire from Zhejiang Province whose business, ranging from housing to logistics, had snowballed in just a few years since 2000 by offering private loans with much higher interest rates than those offered by the banks. Wu Ying was detained in 2007, charged with fundraising fraud, and sentenced to death, though the sentence was overruled by the Supreme People’s Court in April last year after several prominent legal professors petitioned to have her pardoned. The verdict was eventually commuted to a two-year suspended death sentence, essentially equivalent to life imprisonment. Wu Shangli was also charged with fundraising fraud, though the court hearing made clear that over Wu’s 10 years in charge of the company, his personal wealth had not grown by a single cent,
and there was no evidence that he had ever transferred or encroached upon any other corporate assets. “Even when the case was still in the stage of review and prosecution, the Bozhou procuratorate had already concluded that Wu’s case was fundraising fraud,” said Ye, the lawyer. The trial that decided Wu’s death sentence lasted nine days. His appeal resulted in a second trial, which lasted just one day. “The second trial was so short that it basically negated its purpose of scrutinizing and righting a possibly misjudged case,” said Ye. During the trial, even the honors granted by the government to the company and to Wu Shangli were taken as covers for fraud. The verdict concluded that Wu had gained every one of
his official plaudits by underhand means. “Wu took advantage of the government’s care for the development of private enterprises, and tricked government officials into visiting his company or attending company events, so that he could put up the false front that the company was endorsed by the government,” said the verdict. To the relief of Wu’s numerous investors, whose wealth evaporated along with the government seizure of Xingbang’s assets, Wu Shangli’s death sentence has been overruled by the Supreme People’s Court, and the case will be retried. But the case serves as a stark warning to Chinese entrepreneurs: with a little start-up spirit, the support of a few prominent figures, and a clever, profitable business plan – you might just end up in jail.
Risky Business With successful businesspeople regularly ending up in prison on questionable charges, Chinese entrepreneurship is caught in an invisible net By Pang Qinghui and Li Jia
he secret of getting rich is to take smart risks while keeping to the letter of the law. However, this works on the assumption that the law is predictable. A series of high-profile criminal cases over the past few years, however, show that the road to self-made wealth may be considerably more perilous in China. Firstly, the vague definitions in many of China’s commercial laws seem to have given too much decisive power to local authorities. The death sentences for “financing fraud” handed down to private entrepreneurs by local courts have exposed the urgency of the problem. Borrowing money through private networks has traditionally been the most
readily available source of capital for Chinese private businesses. If the business goes well, the entrepreneur is hero-worshipped by both the press and the government, at least in the short-term. However, if the debtor defaults, leaving more than 30 or 150 creditors (depending on whether the debtor is an individual or an institution) out of pocket, then he or she is vilified, and accused of having been a swindler from the outset. Punishments, ranging from lengthy jail sentences to death, are imposed according to how much the local government needs to appease creditors. Secondly, irregularities in local government legal procedures are commonplace. Before a ruling is made, assets of suspects should
be under the custody of the court. However, those assets often end up at the disposal of government offices during the period of investigation. The day after Wu was arrested, his company was shut down, and his factories and cactus fields were promptly razed. The local public security bureau auctioned off part of his assets, despite strong protests from the company, its investors and lawyers. This kind of pillaging is standard practice in cases involving criminal charges against private businesspeople. Thirdly, some of the criminal charges levelled at private entrepreneurs simply reflect excessive restriction on the market, often in NEWSCHINA I March 2013
NEWSCHINA I March 2013
bynumbers No.1 The US replaced the EU as China’s top export market in 2012, as a result of an 8.4% increase in China’s exports to the US and a 6.2% decline in China’s exports to the EU.
Bilateral trade between China and its three top trading partners in 2012 China-EU China-US China-ASEAN 600
China’s GDP growth in 2012. Total GDP reached US$8.28 trillion as a result.
2012 target: 7.5%
300 200 100
40.6m The number of self-employed Chinese households by the end of 2012, an 8% increase since the end of 2011. Structure of private business entities in China by the end of 2012
China’s GDP growth
Source: General Administration of Customs of China
2001-2011 average: 9.7%
favor of vested interests. For example, a tobacco retailer can be accused of illegal business activity if it sells at a scale that qualifies as wholesaling, a practice on which the government protects its monopoly. Chen Youxi, director of Capital Equity Legal Group and one of China’s most prominent economic crime lawyers, warned that under pervasive restrictions on business operation, no Chinese private entrepreneur is safe from criminal charges. As a result, private entrepreneurs have regularly been labelled “mafiosi” in the past two or three years. In fact, Chen Youxi explained to NewsChina that the charge of “mafia” does not exist in Chinese law, adding that the label was created by placing “a package of several charges” on a single defendant. Some verdicts in which entrepreneurs were found guilty of being “mafia” have been widely protested by lawyers, particularly verdicts passed in Chongqing under the Bo Xilai administration, as well as various recent cases in other provinces. The difficulty of financing a private business has, at least, aroused public sympathy and provoked legal experts to discuss the unfairness of financing fraud charges. However, for the most part, organized crime trials tend to generate public support for prosecutors, support fueled by public resentment of the growing wealth gap in society. When accidentally breaking the law is so easy, said Chen, not only does entrepreneurship suffer, but the authority of the law is undermined. Legal experts are calling for more prudent use of criminal law in dealing with private lending cases. Professor Li Shuguang with the China University of Political Science and Law, stressed that corporate restructuring in line with the Corporate Bankruptcy Law gives the business and investors in question a much higher chance of reviving the company after a crippling investigation. “My money is still there, otherwise I would rather have died,” said Huang Huang, one of the 50,000 investors in Wu Shangli’s case who agreed to transfer their money into equity in Wu’s subsidiary company in Shanghai. This company, however, was later also forced to suspend operations later after the public security agency in Bozhou, the location of Wu’s headquarters, required regulators in Shanghai to revoke its business license.
Chinese private companies: 11 million 20.86% Foreign-funded companies: 0.44 million 0.83% Self-employed households: 40.6 million 77% Rural cooperatives: 0.69 million 1.31%
Source: National Bureau of Statistics of China
Source: State Administration for Industry and Commerce of China
The increase to 10.79 million tons in China’s imports of wheat, corn and rice in the first 11 months of 2012, compared with 3.57 million tons imported throughout 2011.
The amount of yuan-denominated settlement of cross-border trade and direct investment in 2012. Structure of yuan-denominated settlement 2012 Merchandise: US$328bn 64% Service and other current account items: US$ 139bn 27% Outbound FDI: US$4.6bn 1% Inbound FDI: US$40bn 8%
Source: Ministry of Agriculture of China
Source: People’s Bank of China
CHOKED UP For several days around January 11, Beijing and various other places in eastern and central China were shrouded in an extraordinarily heavy smog. The national meteorological center announced a “fog alert” through major websites and radio and TV stations, warning people of the hazardous conditions and advising residents to stay indoors to avoid the heavily polluted air.
Visibility plummeted to less than 200 meters in many places, and the whole city of Beijing remained wrapped in a thick grey haze. According to statistics released by Institute of Atmospheric Physics, levels of dangerous airborne particles with a diameter of 2.5 microns or less (PM2.5), reached a peak around 755 micrograms per cubic meter on January 11 and January 13. According to the US Environmental Protection Agency, PM2.5 levels of 250.5 to 500.4 are regarded as hazardous. The number of people admitted to hospital with respiratory diseases rose sharply. In Beijing, the heavy pollution lasted for four days, until wind dispersed the toxic smog on January 14. Air pollution, a chronic problem for the Beijing municipal government, has haunted the city for decades. Despite the fact that all of the city’s heavy industry, including iron and steel production, was banished to neighboring Hebei Province before the 2008 Olympic Games, the situation has not improved. The air quality of the whole region, including Beijing, Tianjin and Hebei, is almost identical. In winter, with north China’s coal-fired central heating systems at full strength, the release of sulfur dioxide has seen a sharp rise. Meanwhile, exhaust fumes from vehicles continue to pollute city air. Special weather conditions like the recent broad area of low air pressure on China’s central and eastern plains caused air stagnation, preventing pollutants from dispersing.
NEWSCHINA I March 2013
NEWSCHINA I March 2013
Photo by by CFP
January 13, In Beijingâ€™s affluent Sanlitun area, envrionmentalists participate in a performance to raise awareness of air pollution
NEWSCHINA I March 2013
NEWSCHINA I March 2013
9 1. A child suffering from a respiratory infection caused by the smog in Beijing 2. Vehicles drive in heavy smog on the highway in Nantong, China’s east coastal Jiangsu Province, January 13 3. January 9 through 14, air quality in Nanchang, Jiangsu reached an historic low 4. Masked locals perform tai chi in Fuyang, Anhui Province, January 14 5. A construction site in Zhengzhou, capital of Henan Province, January 14 6. Pangu Plaza near the North Fourth Ring Road in Beijing is almost invisible due to the smog, January 12 7. A soccer player’s mask worn during outdoor practice, January 12 8. The Monument to the People’s Heros in Beijing’s Tian’anmen Square is almost invisible, January 12 9. Beijing’s CBD, January 13 10. A factory chimney adds to the problem in Qingdao, Shandong Province, January 14
Contemporary dance choreographer Wang Yuanyuan delves deep into metaphor with Wild Grass, her heavily symbolic interpretation of a notoriously abstract collection of prose poems by Chinese literary giant Lu Xun
Courtesy of the Beijing Dance Theater
By Wan Jiahuan and Yuan Ye
Poster of the dance Wild Grass
NEWSCHINA I March 2013
The scene from the first act of Wild Grass
NEWSCHINA I March 2013
arguably China’s greatest 20th-century writer and one of the most respected literary figures in Chinese history.
In 1924, when Lu Xun was 43, he began publishing a series of prose poems. It had been 13 years since the collapse of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), but China was still in chaos under the rule of warlords (1912–1928). The May Fourth Movement of 1919, supposedly the beginnings of China’s cultural renaissance, seemed to have stalled. Three years later, 24 of Lu’s prose poems, including a preface, a doggerel and a verse play, were published under the title of Wild Grass. “When I am silent, I feel replete; as I open my mouth to speak, I am conscious of emptiness,” reads the collection’s opening line, written in 1927. Lu was doubtful that his writing would ever make an impact. Reality had taught him some harsh lessons – the 1911 Revolution had toppled the last monarchy in Chinese history, but it had ultimately been a “failure” in his eyes. “I feel the so-called Republic of China has ceased to exist,” he wrote in 1925. “Before the revolution, I felt I was a slave, but soon after it, I have been cheated by slaves, and have become their slave.” Besides, his “comrades-in-arms,” his literary contemporaries and fellow advocates of democracy and science, had gone their separate ways. “Some of them have had meteoric careers in officialdom. Some have retired into seclusion. Others have moved on [in pursuit of other goals],” he recalled. In 1918, Lu published his first short story, A Madman’s Diary, a satirical attack on China’s anachronistic values and culture that catapulted him to the very forefront of the New Culture Movement. Five years later, in 1923, Lu’s first collection of short stories was published, its red-blooded title A Call to Arms capturing vividly the political momentum and literary confidence he had gained in the interim. However, by 1926, when his second collection was published, its title Wandering belied his growing disaffection. That year, the warlord government issued a warrant for Lu’s arrest, for his support of student demonstrations. He fled Beijing, Courtesy of the Beijing Dance Theater
gainst the dark background of the stage, a dim moon casts light on a mountain of ice, as a layer of white, feather-like leaves stir rhythmically with the movements of the dancers onstage. “I dream that I am racing on ice mountains…I look down and see dead fire burning, consuming my clothes.” Taken from the prose poem Dead Fire from the collection Wild Grass by writer Lu Xun (1881-1936), these lines were the inspiration behind the movements of the group of young Chinese contemporary dancers onstage at a Peking University theater on December 11, 2012. The performance, also called Wild Grass, was divided into three parts, with the first two named after and adapted from the poems Dead Fire and Farewell to a Shadow respectively, and the last, Dance of Extremity, drawing on elements of other pieces in the collection. The vast auditorium that played host to the Beijing Dance Theater (BDT) was sparsely populated, save for a handful of hardcore fans of modern dance and a few drawn by the mention of Lu Xun,
and took refuge in Xiamen in the south. One year later, Wild Grass was published, which, laden with symbolism, expressed a sense of bewilderment, disorientation and loneliness. These pieces, though regarded as abstractly beautiful by some literary critics, are undoubtedly Lu’s most impenetrable, defined by their abstruse language and extensive use of metaphor.
“Artists should make their expression clear,” said Wang Yuanyuan, choreographer of Wild Grass and director of BDT, who took on the challenging task of making the masterful yet complex poetry collection accessible to an ordinary audience. Since graduating from the Beijing Dance Academy in 1995, Wang has devoted herself to ballet and contemporary dance. In recent years, she has won a string of high-profile international dance awards, including “Best Choreographer” at international ballet competitions in Bulgaria, France, the US and Russia. In 2008, she founded BDT, which soon became one of the most important modern dance troupes in China. A long-time admirer of Lu Xun, Wang first entertained the idea of adapting Lu’s collection of short stories Wandering to modern dance in 2008. She did extensive research on the collection, but eventually conceded to the insurmountable difficulty of adapting century-old realist scenes into dance narration. However, after “an accumulation of all sorts of feelings and realizations,” in her own words, Wang choreographed another work, Haze. She later attributed the piece to her research into Lu Xun, having come to realize that dance and literature “both deal with people’s current state of being and the awakening of their individual consciousness.” The dance became one of the BDT’s most successful pieces, and was performed in Europe and the United States on many occasions. In 2011, BDT sustained a crushing blow. After a national tour of its work The Golden Lotus, adapted from the classic Chinese erotic novel of the same name, the troope was banned from performing the piece in Beijing and Shanghai due its “licentiousness.” A year and a half of painstaking effort had gone to waste. Yet the frustration brought Wang closer to Lu Xun, a man widely regarded as a symbol of principle and resilience. “I am overjoyed at death, for without it, I would not know life,” she wrote on her microblog in the aftermath of the ban, quoting the preface of Wild Grass. Wang told NewsChina that she came to realize that in some ways, China’s current social conditions are still “very close to those in Lu
Xun’s times.” Soon enough, she decided that the time had finally come for her to “collaborate” with Lu Xun.
Lu’s works are notoriously difficult to adapt – to this day, only a handful of his more realistic and straightforward works, such as the short stories Medicine and The True Story of Ah-Q, have ever been adapted for the screen. How could the dense poetic abstraction of Wild Grass be delivered to the audience through the medium of dance? Wang and her producer Han Jiang pored over the collection, and decided that their best bet was to base the show around the metaphors they found to be most powerful, and would translate well to their medium. “Lu Xun used a good deal of objects used metaphorically in Wild Grass. These things can be easily expressed on the stage,” Han Jiang told NewsChina. They picked out the image of the ice mountain from Dead Fire; “the boundary between light and darkness” from Farewell to a Shadow; “vast wilderness” and “standing withering away” from Revenge, and “sick leaves” from The Blighted Leaf. These images, all taken from different pieces in the collection, had to be juggled and reintegrated on the stage. For instance, the ground in Dead Fire is laced with ice, yet on the stage, the ice was replaced with a layer of “sick leaves” from The Blighted Leaf. As contemporary dance is generally more abstract than traditional dance, its choreography allowed greater leeway in interpreting Lu Xun’s original pieces. In Wang’s opinion, this feature of modern dance is very helpful to the expression of Lu’s dauntingly abstract work. While developing her choreography, Wang devoted much more thought to the spiritual consistence between the dance and the original literary pieces, than to faithful narration. What she wanted most was the expression of Lu Xun’s spirit of self-reflection. “We must take care to reflect on this world. I think that’s part of the social responsibility of an artist – we don’t want to look at invariably pleasant smiles and beautiful costumes,” she told NewsChina. Fortunately, Wang found this spirit in her performers. Born in the early 1970s, Wang is of a different generation to her dancers, most of whom are under 30. “Young people today feel the same depression as Lu Xun did, and are equally rebellious as he was in his day,” she said. “We are actually wild grass,” she told NewsChina. “Just as Lu Xun used metaphors to express his ideas in Wild Grass, so I have to express mine through another language.” NEWSCHINA I March 2013
How the world rediscovered one of China’s most accomplished writers
uring the Cultural Revolution, the late Japanese sinologist Matsuji Shio wrote to Chinese writer Shen Congwen to ask his permission to translate all his works into Japanese. Shen did not dare to reply. At that time, association with foreigners was a guaranteed one-way ticket to imprisonment or torture at the hands of the marauding Red Guards. However, Shen never forgot about Matsuji Shio, a man who had not forgotten about him or his works even when his own countrymen had. While China remained closed to the world, and Shen’s idiosyncratic and magical works were buried in his homeland, his output was finding a limited audience overseas. In 1980, one of Shen’s friends, calligrapher Huang Miaozi, told him that a foreigner had obtained his doctorate degree for research into Shen’s writing. Shen responded by shyly extending three fingers. “That’s three already.” That same year, Chinese-born American
NEWSCHINA I March 2013
draw unwelcome attention to him. However, in June and July 1980, Shen accepted multiple interviews with Jeffrey C. Kinkley, a man whose profusion of work on Shen and his writing had caught the aging author’s attention. As Kinkley was in China as part of an academic exchange program at the behest of the China Academy of Social Sciences, he was, nominally, one of Shen’s colleagues. Thus Shen believed he would be safe to give a few interviews to this studious American.
By Li Jingrui in New York
Kinkley had been hoping to meet Shen, one of his literary heroes, for almost a decade. In 1972, Kinkley was 24 and a doctoral candidate in history at Harvard University, researching China’s period of warlordism in the 1930s. During a lecture, Kinkley’s supervisor threw him a novel at a seminar on the use of literature in the studies of social history, telling him that the author portrayed a China different from that found in the works of any other writer. The novel was Border Photo by fotoe
Master in the Margins
novelist Hualing Nieh Engle requested permission to visit Shen at home. Shen turned her down, afraid that foreign visitors would
that mentioned Shen Congwen was a piece of literary criticism published in the 1950s that called Shen a “lagging writer,” a pejorative label applied to any intellectual whose output did not sufficiently represent core Communnist Party ideology. During the early revolutionary period, Shen had been vehemently repudiated by leftist writers, particularly Guo Moruo, who dismissed Shen’s works as “pink literature,” particularly condemning his use of prostitutes as protagonists. Stung by withering criticism and concerned that his writing might result in his imprisonment, Shen gave up writing fiction and instead devoted himself to historical research. Only once during the Maoist period did Shen attempt to resume his writing. At the request of Mao Zedong and Zhou Enlai, in 1961 he went to live in revolutionary heartland of the Jinggangshan mountains, vowing he would write a revolutionary novel. Writers block struck instantly, and he dejectedly returned home after three months, having failed to write a single word. By 1972, Shen had been officially retired for 20 years, and was not aware that his books were finding an audience in America. On the other side of the Pacific, his most devoted fan Kinkley had no idea whether his hero was alive or dead – countJeffrey C. Kinkley in his office in New York, late 2012 less writers had perished at the hands of the Red Guards. Photo by by Li Jingrui
Town, Shen Congwen’s magnum opus. Kinkley stumbled through this novel, reading in Chinese, and became fascinated with this enigmatic author who was barely known in the Western world. A rural backwater was brought to life in its pages: its fairytale-like narrative recounting the tale of the orphaned granddaughter of a boatman, her pet dog, and her demands that suitors must serenade her for three and half years to get her to lower her drawbridge. Kinkley switched to researching Shen Congwen for his doctoral thesis, but the search for materials on Shen, in any language, proved almost a mission impossible. The only book Kinkley managed to find
However, Kinkley continued his research with the help of pre-revolutionary Chinese newspapers acquired from Harvard’s Yenching Library. This period was Shen’s golden age, when he completed seminal works such as Border Town and The Long River, both set around his hometown of Fenghuang, Hunan Province in the 1920s and 30s, prior to Shen’s departure at age 14 to serve as a mercenary for a local warlord. Kinkley’s completed his doctoral thesis in 1977, the year the Cultural Revolution ended and China began to break with ultra-leftist ideology and open up to the West. Kinkley discovered, by chance, that Shen was still alive, and immediately wrote Shen a long, gushing letter in Chinese and sent it along with a duplicate of his thesis. Shen’s reply came on September 23, 1979. The letter was written with a worn-out brush in exquisite traditional Chinese characters. In the letter, Shen humbly said that his novels were chaotic and immature, and that when his thoughts were more mature and his pen more precise, he would like to write again about the miserable lives of the “lovely, pure and honest” people of Fenghuang. He closed by expressing a hope that Kinkley could come to China so that he could show him around Beijing’s Forbidden City. It did not take long for that wish to be realized. Kinkley received a fellowship in Beijing half a year later in June 1980, eight years after he had first picked up Border Town.
Over June and July of the year, Kinkley carried out 12 lengthy interviews with Shen. At the beginning, Shen was cautious and reiterated his “dislike” of his own works, a reticence which Kinkley put down to years of political persecution. Shen hadn’t always been so dismissive of his output. In a letter to his wife and former student Zhang Zhaohe written in the 1930s, Shen said “I am better than most of the major writers of my time,” adding that “my works will last longer and spread further than theirs.” NEWSCHINA I March 2013
When Kinkley met his idol, he found that Shen was incapable of communicating in Mandarin. Instead, he answered Kinkley’s questions in Fenghuang dialect, with his wife, Zhang Zhaohe, acting as interpreter. While accompanying Kinkley during his visits to Beijing landmarks, both writers saw many inscriptions penned by leftist darlings Guo Moruo and Shen Dehong. Shen commented on the inadequacy of their calligraphy, in China seen as integral to a writer’s ability. It was in these moments, Kinkley later wrote, that he caught a glimmer of Shen’s former self. As the two men established trust, Shen began to open up, even telling Kinkley that Jiang Qing, Mao’s last wife and one of the scapegoats for the Cultural Revolution, was a former student of his. According to Shen, she wasn’t much of a scholar. Before Kinkley left China in August 1980, he paid a visit to Fenghuang. To his disappointment, instead of the thrilling, iridescent beauty of the city described in Shen Congwen’s novels, he wrote of seeing only a “shabby town.” Back in the United States, Kinkley wrote to the Swedish Academy to recommend Shen Congwen for the Nobel Prize in Literature, inviting Swedish sinologist Göran Malmqvist to join hands with him and endorse Shen for the nomination. Malmqvist, he himself a fan of Shen, became a member of the Swedish Academy in 1985, but by that time, Shen was already an ailing and very old man. In 1988, he made the final list of Nobel candidates, but died on May 10 in Beijing. Göran Malmqvist later confirmed that if Shen Congwen had lived another five more months, he would have become the first Chinese citizen to be made a Nobel laureate. Kinkley himself thought the prize mattered less than the fact that Shen was no longer an invisible man in the literary world. Though Shen never learned to speak Mandarin, to use punctuation marks or to memorize the Latin alphabet, he had brought a long-vanished China to the attention of the world. NEWSCHINA I March 2013
Shen being interviewed by Jeffrey C. Kinkley, June, 1980
Shen Congwen’s letter to Jeffrey C. Kinkley. Shen, a consummate calligrapher, never learned to speak standard Mandarin, or use simplified characters
We opted to climb up to Yellow Stone Village, the closest attraction to the park’s main entrance at Zhangjiajie Village. This turned out to be a two-hour hike up nearly 4,000 steps, but I maintain the trek is worth it for the slow revelation of astounding views that accompanies the ascent. The alternative is a 45-yuan cable car ride. Macaques were an ever-present danger during the climb, and a friend fell victim to a stealth assault during which she lost possession of a bag of dates. Monkeys aside, the park has a reputation for housing some rare species of flora and fauna, not least the clouded leopard, pangolin and giant salamander. None of these made an appearance during my visit, though scanning for a sight of the giant salamander, known locally as the wawa yu, or baby fish, for the crying sound they produce, became a recurrent theme of the trip. The second day called for a more ambitious route, and we planned a circuit beginning at the Golden Whip Stream. The clear water running along the river and lush undergrowth provided a welcome contrast to the previous day’s dizzying heights, and we had a lot of fun trying to work out the reasoning behind the names of scenic spots along the way, of which “Five Ladies Visiting the Generalissimo” and
“Commenting Freely on a Dominant Position” were particular favorites. Numerous bright-colored bird species, including the state-protected “carrying water bird,” flitted over the riverbed, and their chirping combined comfortingly with the brook’s gurglings. At the Jinbianxi confluence, we headed off the main path and up a winding route of countless steps, eventually emerging next to the youth hostel just south of Wulong Village. For those aiming to stay there overnight, the hostel appeared clean and comfortable, and provided a decent lunch of vegetable soup noodles. From there we walked over to the Yuanjiajie Scenic Area, which boasted meandering cliff-top views that, however hard I tried, were simply too epic to capture without a preposterously-proportioned wide-angle lens. This area was also home to the “Greatest Natural Bridge” in the world, a narrow sliver of stone between two karst pillars that had been draped in innumerable padlocks, which supposedly secure their owners luck in love, life or longevity. Just around the corner, a curious stall plastered top to bottom with business cards sells stimulating makgeolli Korean rice wine for 60 yuan a bottle. Walking down the thousands of steps back to the river was murder on the knees and ankles, though we were rewarded with an entirely empty park when
we finally made it to the bottom. As dusk closed in, casting an eerie light over the river and surrounds, we marched back to the main entrance, barely making it before pitch darkness entirely obscured the path. We consulted a local guide over our options for the next day. Under his advisement, we decided to give the glass elevator at Bailong and the Tianzi Mountain Scenic Zone a miss, partly because the free buses that usually make navigating the park easier were not running. Instead, we headed to the Zhangjiajie Grand Gorge Scenic Area by bus and hired car, and for an additional 150 yuan (US$24) entrance fee were treated to an idyllic gorge walk complete with waterfalls, azure pools and a cave that was reputedly a haunt for bandits in days of yore. Rounding out the trip with a boat ride back to the base of the gorge, we tumbled back into Zhangjiajie village to grab dinner at one of the many small eateries along the main strip. Zhangjiajie’s true beauty resides in the unparalleled juxtaposition of its mixed forests and the more than 3,000 karst fingers that reach accusingly into the clouds. These views will stay with you for the rest of your life, and if you pick the right time of year to go, you might be lucky enough to have them entirely to yourself.
zhòng kǒu wèi
Zhong kouwei Hardcore “I wanna play a game.” This line, from the slasher movie Saw (2004), is so internationally recognized that it has become a cliché unsed in countless subsequent schlock-fests, a genre which is known in Chinese as “zhong kouwei.” With zhong meaning “strong” and kouwei meaning “flavor,” this adjective was originally used to describe fragrant, heavily-seasoned foods. Somewhat pejorative, southern Chinese often dismiss northern-style cooking as too “strong flavored” for, as they might put it, more refined palates. Nowadays, in the post Zack Snyder pop
culture era, zhong kouwei is used in China to describe any sort of explicitly gory or erotic content in movies, videogames or literature designed to shock the viewer. Good examples of this in the West might be films such as The Human Centipede or Hostel. The definitive zhong kouwei movies known in China tend to be Japanese and Korean, with the widely-banned He Never Dies (Mermaid in a Manhole), a tale of a sewer-dwelling mermaid who breeds with maggots and finally dies in a pool of polluted sludge considered an archetype of this popular genre. That particular movie won
fame after audience members fainted and vomited during screenings. As most young Chinese voraciously consume international entertainment through free online file sharing, all tastes, even stronger ones, are now catered for. As a result, the use of the term zhong kouwei has also broadened to describe many uncommon interests. Though the mainstream media remain resolutely conservative in tone, an underground profusion of “strong-tasting” works of art, independent films and even self-shot TV shows are slowly changing the Chinese notion of entertainment. NEWSCHINA I March 2013
flavor of the month
On a Mission By Stephy Chung
NEWSCHINA I March 2013
restaurant’s laminated double-sided menu. It’s packed with fun-sounding, regionally diverse options, like “Mongolian Long Beans” with Xinjiang spices, to more liberal takes, like the “Kung Pao Pastrami” with “explosive” chilies. You get the idea that he’s approaching the food with no pretense – he exaggerates what he likes, and has the chops to execute solid, tasty creations. The “smashed cucumbers” are a fine introduction into Bowien’s world. He takes China’s most popular cucumber dish and draws out the parts we love most. There’s nothing fine and delicate about this appetizer. The crunchy cucumber looks like it’s undergone a thorough whacking with jaggy bits soaking up the vinegar, chili and sesame paste. It’s extremely garlicky and deliciously salty. I chose the second cold starter, the “Hainanese Eggplant” out of intrigue, as the name suggests a specialty that doesn’t actually exist. Bowien seems to riff on China’s coastal Li and miao minority cuisines, where the style is light and fresh. Blanched eggplant chunks are mixed with ginger scallions, chili vinegar, and a generous heap of coarsely chopped cilantro. The innovative drink menu is infused with “Chinese characteristics” like soymilk, but no actual baijiu, China’s favorite liquor. Instead the more palatable and milder Korean soju is used in the majority of cocktails. I ordered the “Michelada,” described by one of the bubbly servers as “like the spiciest Bloody-Mary you’ll ever drink.” It wasn’t. The mix of Bud Light and clam juice was savory enough, but the Sichuan pepper and lime rim tasted unnervingly like a dusting of Dorito seasoning. The “Pu’er Hai” was by far the yummier choice – with Yunnan’s famous black pu’er tea, lemon, and soju. Thirst quenched, we moved onto our entrees, with several leaving lasting impressions. The buckwheat noodles, stir-fried with bits of shrimp, egg, and green Sichuan peppercorns and chili were so memorable, that a few weeks on, I still thought back to them thousands of miles away in Beijing. Bouncy tangles of noodles held just the right amount of flavor – neither greasy nor oily but slightly thickened with a brown, sweet sauce. The boldly spiced Mapo tofu featured sizeable tofu squares in a heavy minced pork and Sichuan pepper sauce. To cut through the heat, we paired the dish with delicious salt cod fried rice with morsels of sweet Chinese sausage. Though Bowien is quick to distance himself from any claims of authenticity, with his cheap prices, close attention to flavor, and a wide variety of ingredients, he’s inadvertently aligned himself with the very best of Chinese cooking traditions. Photo by Stephy Chung
ew Yorkers are among the world’s toughest food critics. The city’s sheer number of trendy eateries and international imports has helped create an altogether more snobby breed of gourmand, hip to the latest craze, and hungry for the “the next big thing.” A restaurateur’s reputation can be broken with the slightest error of seasoning or slip in presentation, while a successful meal, on the other hand, will be Instagrammed halfway across the city in less time than it takes for a soufflé to rise. The upshot to all this buzz is that good restaurants rise quickly to the top of the city’s food chain. Take for example San Francisco’s Mission Chinese Food. It’s been just a year since 31-year-old chef and founder Danny Bowien debuted his Lower East Side offshoot and already, the establishment has served A-listers and garnered feverish praise from the press. Zagat’s, for instance, recently ranked it in its 2013 “Top 10 Hottest Restaurants in the World” list. I won’t go head-to-head with the city’s top foodies, but surely my Chinese roots, which include a line of Cantonese chefs, a three-year stint in China, and eating white rice every single day into my adult life, count for something. In the past, I’ve been let down by outlandish claims of “best bubble tea” and “best congee” joints when the real and far superior versions can be found just blocks away in Chinatown. That Mission Chinese Food, an Americanized Chinese food joint could inspire a 2-hour wait was beyond me, but the fuss stoked my curiosity. Was it all just hype? I was determined to find out. Diners take a few steps down into the restaurant’s intimate and homey sub-basement interior. A smoky, red light bathes the space creating a fun, dive-bar feel. More literal accents include a bulbous paper dragon hanging from the ceiling and kitschy plastic dinnerware resembling iconic Chinese ceramics. As I squeezed past the restaurant’s open kitchen, I found Bowien, wrapping up a late Saturday night shift. Bowien wears his stringy black mane in long blond streaks, and with an affable smile, gives off a rather cuddly rock ‘n’ roll vibe. His verbal candour could be interpreted as both a PR nightmare and refreshingly down-to-earth. “Look, this isn’t authentic Chinese food,” he stressed. “I didn’t even start cooking Chinese food until 2 years ago.” With reserved incredulity, I asked him about his food ethos. Bowien revealed his passion for fresh ingredients, making sauces from scratch, and how he was blown away by the spicy cuisine he had while on a trip to Chengdu. His enthusiasm for Chinese-inspired dishes is best translated onto the
Frankenfest By Niall O’Murchadha
ber 1, and even the most localized places jump on the bandwagon. Malls are adorned with abstract Christmas displays seemingly conceived by a troupe of conceptual artists after spending an afternoon bathing in a vat of LSD. Miniature trains lead into the secret underground lair of Colonel Santa and his loyal battalion of elf insurgents. Moreover, the Chinese can enjoy an utterly commercialized Christmas without the guilt that Westerners feel for completely ignoring the religious significance of the holiday. You aren’t even obliged to endure time with your relatives. The shopping spree that some Chinese indulge in
Illustration by Xiang Zhaohui
January is usually the month that people in the west mentally drop a few gears. The hangovers and excesses of the holiday season inevitably give way to thoughts of frugality. Financially, belts are being tightened, though some splurge on gym memberships in the hope of being able to once more tighten their literal belts. But here in China, the festival season has been trotting along much like a long distance race, and we are all grouped in the pack, awaiting the sprint finish that is the Spring Festival. This MegaFestival is the bane or the boon of the expat, depending on his or her perspective, and runs from before Thanksgiving until the end of February. If you’re Irish, like me, it goes on even longer, finishing with a final, bloated blowout on St. Patrick’s Day. On a typical January 1 it is still in full swing, and livers and kidneys must brace themselves for one final all-out assault. It wasn’t always so. When I first arrived in China almost a decade ago, the whole Christmas thing was still some weird foreign event that was little understood. Puzzled store employees could be seen muttering as they put up a Christmas tree or a picture of Santa, much like archaeologists visiting another planet trying to reconstruct an alien shrine. Business people had some vague notions that the rampant commercialism associated with the holidays might be of some value to their businesses, but much like a caveman discovering an iPad they weren’t quite sure what to do with these odd beasts of Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year. My first Christmas arrived after I’d spent several months searching for ingredients, and my Chinese friends still found the whole idea of a Christmas party to be something exotic and mysterious. Christmas dinner was something to be found in the occasional western backpacker haunt, but it lacked broader appeal. In the intervening years, the setting up of Christmas decorations has become as fluid and efficient as the seamless dance of a Formula One pit crew. Christmas music hits the stores Decem-
The Chinese can enjoy an utterly commercialized Christmas without the guilt that Westerners feel for completely ignoring the religious significance of the holiday.
during Christmas is almost a warm-up for Spring Festival a month or so later. Many people lament the loss of the special quality of Spring Festival as another materialistic nail in the coffin of culture, but these people are often the ones who romanticize poverty. Obviously, in the past, this was a big, indulgent event looked forward to by a legion of impoverished workers who rarely got to taste meat or fish. Food, new clothes and fireworks all represented a brief escape from the deadening uniformity of the daily grind. That Spring Festival does not stand out as much from the rest of the year is something that should be welcomed to a certain degree, as it is no longer a day of plenty in a year of want. Before, after or right on top of Spring Festival comes another import designed to lighten the wallet - St. Valentine’s Day. My usual plan is to cook a nice meal at home for myself and my better half, but three years ago I didn't get around to it, instead heading to Beijing’s Dongzhimen Raffles Center in the hope of a candlelit dinner for two. Even someone as inured to the fevered press of people in China as I am found it too much. Every restaurant on every floor was packed, with large groups of people milling around at each entrance. Every level was crammed with ladies clutching flowers and chocolate, their gentlemen stoically following, usually bearing a knock-off Prada handbag. My partner and I eventually got a seat at the counter of a Japanese sushi bar and paid over the odds for the leftovers. Hardly romantic. While all of this may seem like selfish overindulgence, it should be pointed out that people like me – i.e. the consumer in China – are the last great hope for the Ponzi scheme we call our global financial system. Our credit-card toting festive cavalry charges are sufficient to stave off fiscal collapse. But we don’t enjoy them for this reason – rather, at least in the frigid north, we simply appreciate the distraction from the biting wind until we can once again bask in the heady haze of summer. NEWSCHINA I March 2013
Starting Off Right By Sean Silbert
NEWSCHINA I March 2013
steaming plates of diced chicken and tofu day by day until only I, and one or two disgruntled employees, remained. Finally, the restaurant closed, and I had to resort to scavenging convenience stores. While the rest of China ate like kings, I lost three kilos in weight. It was only in the following months that I discovered what I’d been missing out on. For those that do make it home, the first day of the two-week long holiday is welcomed in with a bang. Well, more like hundreds of thousands of bangs, as each city erupts in a dynamite-fueled cacophony of firecrackers. Luckily, nobody is interested in going to bed. While the larger rockets
Illustration by Xiang Zhaohui
I’m not staying in China this year for the festivities. Some might not be able to understand that: a close Chinese friend of mine, for example, can’t wait for the new year celebrations to begin. Already, she’s been calling her family to discuss logistics. She gets a mandatory two weeks off from work, giving her 14 days at home – the sum total of her available family face time each year. I, on the other hand, can’t wait to escape. Back in the US, I remember fondly the lion dances and colorful, if restrospectively Orientalist parades held in my home city’s Chinatown. Yet, Chinese New Year in China is much more than a one-day affair. It is the event of the year. Businesses and government offices go dark for a full week, the streets empty as scarlet lanterns are suspended from eaves and in windows. Wallets empty as everyone splurges on food, liquor and end-of-year bribes. All of this would be enjoyable if it weren’t for the one crucial necessity of family holidays the world over – travel. The US is bad enough at Thanksgiving. In China, a country which never quite manages to get infrastructure to keep pace with social mobility, 1.3 billion people return to the bosom of their families. All at the same time. The chunyun, as the Chinese New Year rush is known, means that train, bus and, increasingly, air tickets sell out way before departure. Scalpers enjoy a bumper harvest as desperate travelers struggle to return to their hometowns, with many paying way over the odds as the alternative – New Year alone, is inconceivable. The few who choose to remain behind–or become inadvertently stranded - find themselves alone in post– apocalyptic, deserted cityscapes. For the new arrival, this can be the loneliest time of the year, when even finding an open restaurant becomes a trial by ice. During my first Spring Festival in China, I lived down the street from a restaurant serving simple Chinese fare. The run-up to the big week saw the tables gradually clear themselves of
I wondered how not one of my Chinese friends had lost an eye or finger after experiencing dozens of these holidays.
are technically banned in big cities like Beijing and Shanghai, out in the sticks the noise is unbelievable. Even in Beijing, the two-week window when the sale and use of fireworks is permitted leaves a pall of smoke and a constantly reverberating cycle of explosions wreathing the city from dusk till dawn. At one point last year, I remember seeing a wealthy youth drive up to a stand in front of the Beijing Worker’s Stadium and purchase enough explosives to bring down a low-flying aircraft, setting them off mere feet away. After setting off one batch, he’d return to the same stall to replenish his arsenal. Meanwhile, I wondered how not one of my Chinese friends had lost an eye or finger after experiencing dozens of these holidays. Risking life and limb is, happily, only one part of the festivities. Indoors, the merrymaking takes on a less explosive tone. Since 1983, hundreds of millions of Chinese have gathered around their prized TV sets to watch State TV’s televised Spring Festival gala. This butt-numbing fivehour extravaganza is designed to be the pinnacle of mainland Chinese entertainment. This year, the omnipresent Psy should be giving China his patented Gangnam style routine. The gala’s producers need all the help they can get, really, as the gala has been critically panned by China’s blogosphere every year since the Olympics, with a common complaint being that the traditionally irreverent comedy skits and jaw-dropping musical numbers have been “harmonized” to be less entertaining than they once were. My Chinese friends will enjoy the whole New Year package to its full. But this expat has always been shut out of the family side of the fun. Without this key element, Spring Festival feels like spending Christmas alone in a foreign country – tacky, and emotionally empty. For me, Chinese New Year isn’t a time to gather. It’s a time to wait for the rest of the year to begin. And, this year, I’d rather spend it waiting on the beach.
The Grandmaster In production for 8 years, Wong Kar-wai’s The Grandmaster was finally released on January 8, 2013 amid the “great expectations” of Chinese moviegoers. Telling the story of Wing Chun grandmaster Yip Man, Bruce Lee’s mentor, Wong and his team met with more than a hundred kung fu masters to learn the “essence” of the art prior to shooting. Superstars Tony Leung,
Chang Chen and Zhang Ziyi had also received intensive training to cope with their demanding roles. Internationally renowned for his visually unique and emotionally resonant works, Wong stuck to his trademark style in this latest offering, which has been critically acclaimed for its action sequences though grumbles over the complicated plot have also surfaced.
The Whole World Knows
Modern Sky 7, the seventh album of selected works from various artists released by Modern Sky, a major independent music label in China, was recently released to celebrate the 15th anniversary of the company. From Modern Sky 1 released in 1998, these albums have maintained an open attitude to submissions, including a variety of contemporary genres in China’s independent music scene. The new album included works from veteran rockers such as Xie Tianxiao and Brain Failure as well as upcoming artists and bands including Song Dongye, Da Bang and Glow Curves. Besides mixing genres including folk, punk, electronic, indie and post-rock, the spirit of social critique has also been incorporated into the album’s diverse themes.
Photographic Map More than 180 works from some 60 photographers went on show at the Si Shang Art Museum in Beijing from the end of 2012 to February 2013. Titled Conceptual Renewal, the exhibition aimed to show a “development map” of China’s contemporary photography in the past three decades. Divided into 9 units, the exhibition examined photographers’ interactions with China’s major issues such as modernization and urbanization as well as its culture and history. More importantly, it highlighted the importance of ideological reform and innovation in the continued development of Chinese photography.
By Li Chengpeng
A collection of essays entitled The Whole World Knows by social critic Li Chengpeng was recently published amid much controversy. Born in 1968, Li worked as a sports reporter and critic in the 1990s and early 2000s, during which time he earned his fame by his harsh criticism of China’s corrupt soccer system leading to his censure by the authorities. In recent years, he has largely turned his hand to social criticism. With often humorous and acerbic commentary, he soon became one of the most popular bloggers on the Chinese Internet, yet remained under constant attack from conservatives. During a book signing in mid-January 2013, he attracted a long queue of fans, but was also punched in the head and had a knife thrown at him by two ultra-leftist extremists. NEWSCHINA I March 2013
NEWSCHINA I March 2013
China needs a more responsible social elite To prevent China from sinking into political turmoil, China’s elites should face up to their responsibilities By Xiong Peiyun, adapted by Yu Xiaodong
t the FutureChina Global Forum held in Singapore last claim to have left a major political legacy. As for the economic elite, year, I was asked whether there would be political upheav- they seem to be content with cashing in on rapid economic growth al in China, which is probably the question I am asked rather than pushing for social progress. Few of them are interested most frequently. To be honest, I don’t in public affairs, and when some do know the answer. But I do know show interest, they are swiftly punwhat will cause political upheaval in ished. Cao Tian, an entrepreneur One problem in Chinese society is that a society: the prevalence of social infrom Henan Province, for example, people tend only to criticize, rather justice, abuse of political power and was fined more than 30 million than engaging in real-life action – to the absence of a responsible and acyuan (US$4.8m) for “tax evasion” expect others to change, rather than countable social elite. after he announced his intention to change themselves. The last time China sank into poto run for mayor of the provincial litical chaos was the Cultural Revocapital Zhengzhou. lution (1966-1976), and one reason With stagnation in political why the movement descended into reform and the growing income mob rule was the collapse of China’s gap leading to increasingly polarelite. Firstly, the country’s political ized opinions with widespread use elite violently persecuted the economic and cultural elite, which de- of violent language, China’s cultural elite seem to have chosen to stroyed the foundation for rationality and basic rule of law. In return, disengage from the debate, and retreat into personal comfort. The the political elite were then persecuted by the now fanatical mob, as result is that there are no moderate opinions in the arena, exacerbatthere was no force left to protect the rule of law. Even Liu Shaoqi, the ing the radicalization of political opinion. then president, was labeled a traitor and tortured to death. One problem in Chinese society is that people tend only to critiSince China’s Reform and Opening-up, its economic and cul- cize, rather than engaging in real-life action – to expect others to tural elite has somewhat recovered, with the political class also in- change, rather than to change themselves. These critics are known creasingly influenced by modern rights-based concepts. In terms as the “angry youth,” rather than the country’s elite. of individual affluence, most of them have achieved the “Chinese The late American psychologist and Holocaust survivor Viktor dream.” But unfortunately, China’s elite seem to lack a sense of so- Frankl once suggested a Statue of Responsibility should be placed cial responsibility. Some say that in China’s current social situation, on the West Coast of the US to balance the Statue of Liberty on ordinary Chinese are constantly oppressed by an alliance between the East Coast, on the grounds that there could be no real freedom the political, economic and cultural elites. This may be an exaggera- without responsibility. By the same token, with current concerted tion, but it bears much truth. calls for reform, China’s elite must accept their own responsibility In recent decades, having grown content with their ability to to realize change. achieve economic growth, China’s political elite have been sluggish in pushing for political reform. With only minor progress, they (The author is a professor from Nankai University)
NEWSCHINA I March 2013
NEWSCHINA I March 2013
NEWSCHINA I March 2013