Babies in Bulk: Secret Surrogates
Peaceful Pathway: Wukan's Passive Revolt
Knockout Blow: Kickboxing's First Casualty
STATE AT PLAY
How government intervention has sent Chinaâ€™s fledgling stockmarkets into free fall
Volume No. 043 March 2012
NEWSCHINA I March 2012
Published by China Newsweek Corporation Publisher: Liu Beixian Executive Directors: Liu Beixian, Zhou Jianming Editor-in-Chief: Wang Xiaohui
China Faces a New Era
ver the past 20 years, with the end of the rangements and economic and financial structure Cold War, rapid globalization and a wave have been shaped by rapid economic growth, as of technological development, many have Chinese people’s values, ambitions and lifewould say that the world has seen a golden age of styles. While China has certainly faced difficulties, growth. For its part, China has contributed by join- the government has so far been able to implement ing the global market, and in return, it has become strong macroeconomic policies to prevent economic one of the biggest beneficiaries of globalization, downturn, and maintain the pace of growth. But in experiencing a new round of industrial and urban the future, with challenges closing in from all sides, expansion that have fueled two decades of rapid it will become increasingly difficult to achieve the economic growth. However, while the world’s wealth has continued to grow, the gap between rich As the era of double-digit growth and poor in both developing and developed passes into history, the entire countries has widened. With the economic downturn seen in recent years, riots, strikes superstructure that stands upon it and protests have persisted in the developed is under serious threat. world. In the developing world, protests have led to the toppling of governments in several Arab countries, and in China, the growing wealth divide, along with other problems, has led to serious social unrest. To a large extent, the golden age of global growth same effect. For example, due to tighter monetary is over. It is possible that the world will now enter policies, the government has failed to achieve its tara period of stagnation and depression, which may get 4 percent inflation. Efforts to close the income last up to 20 years. In the coming decades, countries gap by raising the minimum wage have clashed will focus more on their internal problems, which with a lack of demand from shrinking overseas may put a halt to or even push back the progress markets, which may lead to rising unemployment. of globalization. With the financial industry under Meanwhile, measures to cool house prices have cut tightening control and no new revolutionary tech- the short-term revenue of local governments, whose nology in sight, the world economy lacks a new in- debts continue to mount. dustry to revitalize growth. As the era of double-digit growth passes into hisAs China has integrated into the world economy tory, the entire superstructure that stands upon it and become dependent upon foreign markets and is under serious threat. The Chinese government technology, its economic growth has slowed down, must not stay passive, but needs to adjust itself to causing the country to accumulate domestic prob- cope with the new situation, not only with ecolems that pose serious challenges. nomic restructuring, but also through political and Over the past two decades, China’s political ar- institutional reform.
Editorial Office Managing Editor: Zheng Zhonghai Advisor: Liu Dizhong Senior Editor: Yang Yi Copy Editors: Jack Smith, Alex Taggart Lead Writer: Yu Xiaodong Editors: Wang Yan, Yuan Ye, Xie Ying, Sun Zhe, Li Jia First Reader: Wesley Jacks Address: 5th Floor, 12 Baiwanzhuang South Street, Xicheng District, Beijing, China Post Code: 100037 Tel: 86-10-88395566 Fax: 86-10-88388045 Email: email@example.com www.newschinamag.com Art Department Art Director: Wu Shangwen Art Editor/Designer: Zhang Dawei Marketing Office China Newsweek Corporation President: Wang Xiaohui Chief Executive: Fred Teng Tel: 1-212-481-2510 Fax: 1-212-481-2503 Address: Suite 1101, 15 East 40th Street, New York, NY 10016, USA Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Toronto Office Director: Lai Hailong Address: 51 Halstead Drive, Markham, ON Canada L3R7Z4 Tel: 1-905-604-6150 Fax: 1-905-604-6170 Email: email@example.com Marketing Director for China: Wang Chenbo Account Manager for China: Ren Jie Tel: 86-10-88388027 Circulation Manager for China: Yu Lina Tel: 86-10-88311834 Advertising Director for the US: Gao Weiwei Tel: 1-212-481-2510 Marketing Promoter for the US: Jerry Meng Tel: 1-212-481-2510 New York Office: Jing Xiaolin, Wei Xi, Sun Yuting Washington Office: Wu Qingcai, De Yongjian Los Angeles Office: Zhang Wei San Francisco Office: Liu Dan London Office: Wei Qun Tokyo Office: Sun Ran Paris Office: Wu Weizhong Bangkok Office: Yu Xianlun Kuala Lumpur Office: Zhao Shengyu Moscow Office: Tian Bing Legal Advisor: Allen Wu ISSN 1943-1902
NEWSCHINA I March 2012
Photo by Xinhua/Cover Illustration by Wu Shangwen
Market Stall China’s stock market seems to be defined by mismatches, be it stark depression despite strong economic growth, or conflicting interests among stakeholders. It is these disparities, however, that expose the cracks beneath the the world’s most perplexing stock market
02 China Faces a New Era 10 Leadership Change: New Blood
12 Market Stall: A Broken Barometer?/Bug Zapper
22 24 26 30
Employment Discrimination: Invisible Bias Surrogacy: The Silent Boom Martial Arts: Easy Knockout Temple Contractors: Spiritual Swindlers
NEWSCHINA I March 2012
34 Wukan Protest: Fishermen’s Fury/Family Plots
61 Rape of Nanking: A School and a Sanctuary
42 Trade War : Solar Eclipsed
46 David Henry Hwang : Found in Translation z
Jiuhua Mountain: Unexpected Possibilities Flavor of the Month: Savoring the City
49 Gao Hua: Believing in the Future fEATURE
52 Government Architecture: Political Specimens
58 Retired Athletes: New Tricks
04 MEDIA FOCUS 05 What They Say 06 NEWS BRIEF 08 Netizen Watch 45 China by numbers 66 real chinese 68 ESSAY 70 CULTURAL LISTINGS 72 Commentary
Sanlian Lifeweek December 25, 2011
Boom Fiction As a growing number of film corporations list on the stock market and video websites compete with television stations for episode premieres, TV dramas are increasing in number and cost, with the salaries of actors skyrocketing. Insiders revealed that the majority of television dramas are actually running at a loss, due to the cost of hiring actors, whose returns do not necessarily rise in step with their salaries. Analysts have called this an industrial bubble that will burst when poor-quality film companies suffer losses on the stock market, and video websites begin to close down due to their failure to find a diversified profit model.
NewsChina Chinese Edition January 16, 2012
Homeless Migrants While millions of rural migrants traditionally return to their hometowns and families over Lunar New Year, more and more Chinese are choosing to stay in the big cities where they work. Complaining that their hometowns have been altered by widespread construction and largescale immigration, they find it difficult to re-adjust to what they see as a backward lifestyle, and have trouble getting along with childhood friends. These nomadic workers have now begun calling themselves “the marginalized ones.”
China Economic Weekly December 8, 2011
Costly Sanatoriums Oriental Outlook January 5, 2012
Gates Promotes Nuclear Tech Bill Gates visited China in early December to promote bilateral co-operation on the development of the “traveling wave reactor,” a nuclear technology that directly uses nuclear waste, and can, in theory, remain operational for 100 years. Gates has been trying to sell the reactor to China for two years, but has so far struggled to convince Chinese scientists, who believe the technology is not mature enough for any commercial applications until Gates finds a stable core fuel to support long-term use. Now, the co-operation has switched to the technical level only, which would mean that China could own part of the technology’s intellectual property rights.
Generally open only to retired government officials for the summer holidays, over 100 State-owned sanatoriums in Beidaihe, the popular summer resort close to Beijing, are suffering huge losses in winter. Operators have said they have to live on millions of yuan in government handouts each year to cover huge labor and maintenance costs, which continue into the off-season. Moreover, in order to accommodate the explosion in visitor numbers every summer, they have to pay huge amounts to renovate and expand old sanatoriums. Some have suggested moving sanatoriums towards market-oriented operation, but operators worry that this would eventually force most sanitoriums to close due to a lack of marketing tools.
Xinmin Weekly December 28, 2011
Debate Over “Boy Crisis” Experts have warned that Chinese girls are now overwhelmingly ahead of boys in school, consistently outperforming them in standardized testing and beating them to sought-after university places. This “boy crisis” has been attributed to China’s exam-oriented education, with experts claiming an overemphasis on discipline and obedience has stifled boys’ natural advantages in initiative and creativity. However, some have argued that the “boy crisis” itself is a discriminatory assumption that boys should outperform girls. Others said that girls are already at a major disadvantage in the labor market, where employers retain a preference for males. NEWSCHINA I March 2012
“China has never been short of reformers. Many officials believe that democracy and the rule of law should be China’s goal. However, they have to forego their ideals in order to keep their posts. Society will not achieve benign development unless everyone discards their old beliefs.” Illustration by Wu Shangwen
Fudan professor Wei Sen on the quandary of reform.
“It is sickening to write of beauty in this filthy society, so I rewrote my first draft.” Novelist Ge Fei explains his latest work, Jiangnan in Late Spring.
“Excessively high social insurance and income tax would push enterprises to bankruptcy. That is why 90 percent of enterprises dodge taxes.” Zhou Tianyong, a professor at the Party School of the Central Committee of the CPC urging the government to slash small business tax.
“We don’t get happier as we get richer. Instead we worry that what we are doing could suddenly be made illegal at any time.” Peking University economist Zhang Weiying calls for extended property rights for ordinary Chinese during a Caijing magazine conference.
“If you think the financial crisis in 2008 was bad, you’d better fasten your seatbelt for 2012.” Independent economist Xie Guozhong makes a gloomy prediction for the new year.
“Corruption follows bad circumstances just as the hilt follows the blade.” Writer Jiang Fangzhou offers her view on China’s greatest social ill. NEWSCHINA I March 2012
“Too many disciplines have made Chinese students focus too much on their study and neglect the world around them.”
“American education has succeeded in creating exemplary American citizens. It has, however, failed to create exemplary world citizens.”
Physicist Yang Zhenning slams Chinese education at a Tsinghua University forum.
Peking University president Zhou Qifeng offers his opinion on the American education system.
“The connection between officials and the public is like water; the connection between officials and business is like blood.” Slogan adopted by locals in Qishan County, Shaanxi Province to protest actions by the local housing and construction bureau.
China Issues Report on Wenzhou Crash China’s State Council publicized on December 29 the final investigation report on the July railway accident in which two high-speed trains collided in a county of Wenzhou, Zhejiang Province, leaving 40 dead and another 200 injured (See: Speed Kills, NewsChina Issue 38). The 50-page report has confirmed that the deadly crash was caused by malfunctioning signal equipment following a lightning strike. It also criticized poor management by the local Shanghai railroad bureau, who did not send a warning signal to the trains until 33 seconds before the collision. The report revealed that the LKDI-T1 signaling equipment adopted by the bureau was poorly designed and posed a significant safety risk. According to the report, 27 of the 54 persons disciplined for the accident had been directly or indirectly
involved in the development, supervision and purchase of the questionable equipment. Liu Zhijun, the former Minister for Railways, was identified as the top official responsible for the accident. According to the report, Liu had arbitrarily raised the speed limit on the railway line where the accident happened from the approved 200 kilometer per hour to 250 kilometer per hour. Liu was removed from his post in February 2011 for alleged corruption and other offenses. The report also accused a Shanghai railroad bureau official’s decision to bury the train cars when, witnesses alleged, victims remained inside, but it emphasized that his order was made to facilitate the rescue attempt and not in order to cover up the disaster or destroy incriminating evidence. The report does not clarify whether or not the burial had any impact on
The report does not clarify whether or not the burial had any impact on the investigation, or how long the official rescue attempt took
China to Fingerprint Foreigners China’s legislature, the National People’s Congress (NPC), is considering fingerprinting foreign visitors to China from 2012, according to the country’s new draft law on entry and exit procedures. The draft, which is now under review by the NPC, for the first time allows China’s ministries of public security and foreign affairs to work out a system to collect foreigners’ biometric data, including fingerprints, allegedly to speed up customs checks and tighten border security following an influx of illegal workers from overseas, particularly in the south. According to State media, the new rules, if passed, will apply to any foreigners applying for residence permits valid for six months or longer, including
the investigation or how long the official rescue attempt took to complete, with media accusing the government of unnecessary haste meaning the retrieval of corpses and burial of train cars was rushed through in eight hours. The report concludes that China’s railway network is expanding too fast, though a recent report by Xinhua News Agency said that China will test a 500km-per-hour high speed train in Chengdu, Sichuan Province, this year.
Japan to Buy China’s Treasury Bonds businessmen, long-term residents and students.
The People’s Bank of China, China’s central bank, confirmed in late December that the Japanese government is set to purchase Chinese treasury bonds valued at US$10 billion. By November 2011, Japan possessed US$1.3 trillion in foreign currency, over 70 percent of which is composed of US T-bills. Analysts believe the coming deal with China aims to protect Japan’s assets against the ongoing euro crisis and fluctuations in the value of the US dollar. It is Japan’s first purchase of Chinese government bonds, and analysts believe the move will further promote the Chinese yuan as an international currency. Chinese domestic media have revealed that in the first 10 months of 2011, trade contracts settled in Chinese yuan amounted to US$16.9 billion, six times the amount in the same period of 2010. NEWSCHINA I March 2012
Food Security Society
Further Woes for Chinese Milk Producers
Bank Robbery in Nanjing Chinese police are hunting a suspect who allegedly robbed and shot a man to death in front of a bank in Nanjing, Jiangsu Province. The incident occurred at 9:50 AM, January 6 when two gunmen suddenly shot a man who had just withdrawn a large amount of cash from a bank on Nanjing’s Dongmen Street, the assailants escaping with 200,000 yuan (US$30,000). The local police later caught one suspect who had boarded a coach out of the city. The other man remains at large, with a reward of 100,000 yuan (US$15,850) offered for any information leading to his arrest. According to the police, the suspect is also believed to have been involved in six separate cases of homicide and robbery which have taken place in the last eight years, in which six people were killed and two seriously injured. Industry
China Announces Broadband Plans China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology announced on December 26 a national plan for enhancing China’s broadband service in both urban and rural areas. The announcement is believed to be in response to a recent report on China’s broadband services by DCCI Internet data center, which exposed that mainland broadband access, despite having the world’s largest group of users (about 155m), has a poor average download rate of 1.77 megabytes per second (Mbps), lower than the world average of 1.9Mbps. However, broadband Internet connections on the Chinese mainland are 469 times more expensive than in Hong Kong, 29 times more expensive than in South Korea, and four times more expensive than in the US. According to minister Miao Wei, the Ministry’s new plan aims to raise the average broadband rate to 20Mbps in urban areas and 4Mbps in rural areas by 2015 by expanding input in broadband development, especially in fiber-optic cables, while simultaneously urging operators to reduce fees.
China’s domestically-made milk products, still reeling from the melamine scandal of 2009, are now facing a new confidence crisis after milk from Mengniu Dairy, one of China’s leading dairy producers headquartered in Inner Mongolia, was exposed to contain high volumes of carcinogens. The scandal came in the wake of a report by China’s national quality supervision authority, saying that Mengniu “Pure Milk” contained 140 percent more flavacin M1 – a chemical linked to lung cancer – than is considered safe. Mengniu issued a formal apology the following day, saying that the toxicity was due to milk spoiling in unseasonably wet weather, spoilage not detected by Mengniu’s quality supervisor due to personal “negligence.” Mengniu also claimed that the products tested had not been put on the market, with all toxic milk destroyed. However, the company’s sales volume fell 50 percent the following day, shaving three percent off its stock price.
China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC), China’s largest oil producer and supplier, concluded an oil exploration agreement with the Afghan government on December 28. The agreement was Afghanistan’s first oil bidding since the American-led invasion ousted the Taliban from power. CNPC fought off competition from Australian, British and Pakistani companies to win the bid, granting the NEWSCHINA I March 2012
company exploration rights in three oilfields located in the Amu Darya basin. CNPC will pay the Afghan government 15 percent exploration tax per barrel plus a 20 percent business tax and a 70 percent share of total revenue. CNPC has also promised to build a US$300m oil refinery on the site, creating hundreds of local jobs. Located close to the right bank of the Amu Darya in Turkmenistan, the source of a CNPC west-east pipeline, the three zones will, analysts say, further secure China’s supply of foreign oil.
Photos by CFP
CNPC Purchases Afghan Oil Field
What’s Making China Angry? When it was revealed that they were escorted by a police motorcade, government leaders in Wenling, Zhejiang Province were quickly accused by netizens of “putting on a show” by riding to work on bicycles as part of an emissions reduction drive. Officials reacted with indignance, further inflaming criticism. “It is absolutely not a show, and we just wanted to keep the traffic smooth by using motorcycles to clear the way,” said one publicity department official.
What’s Making China Laugh
Poll the People 57,123 respondents Use of Cantonese in broadcasting will be limited from March 2012. Do you think this is a good idea?
No. Dialect should be respected 54,586 (95.5%)
What’s Shocking China
Yes. It is good for Mandarin 1,643 (2.9%) No comment 894 (1.6%)
Most circulated post Retweeted: 60,158 times
The chairman of a State-owned enterprise in Shanxi province was sacked in late December, following accusations that cash and valuables worth nearly 50 million yuan (US$7.89m) stolen from his home were already stolen goods prior to the burglary. Bai Peizhong, 48, found himself the sudden target of a police investigation after his wife reported the burglary at their home in late November. She claimed that 3 million yuan (US$473,250) of valuables and cash had been stolen by two security guards working in their apartment complex. However, the two robbers later confessed that the haul was worth 50 million yuan (US$7.9m), including cash, gold bullion, jewelry and luxury watches.
47 year-old hit-and-run suspect Lan Benxue was finally convicted for dangerous driving after hitting a woman crossing a bridge on an electric scooter in Zhengzhou, Henan Province in August 2010. Finding the woman to be unconscious after the accident, Lan threw both the scooter and the woman off the bridge into the river before driving off. The woman’s dead body was found the second day under the bridge after Lan turned himself in. Lan was later dubbed the “Yao Jiaxin of Henan” by netizens, named for a college student from Xi’an, Shaanxi who was executed last year for stabbing to death a hit-and-run victim to prevent her from identifying him to police.
After a carcinogenic chemical was found in Mengniu products, columnist Wang Xiaoshan calls for a boycott: “Do not use any Mengniu dairy product. Do not work for Mengniu. Tell others what kind of brand Mengniu is. Do not buy newspapers that carry advertisements for Mengniu. Do not watch TV programs that advertize Mengniu. When you want to say somebody is stupid, you say ‘They’ve drunk Mengniu all their life.’” NEWSCHINA I March 2012
W ho ’s Ho t?
Top Blogger Profile Anti-corruption Campaigner Followers: 93,094
Top Five Search Queries On
over the seven days to January 16
Sweet Potato Vendors
A baked sweet potato vendor in Zhengzhou, Henan gave undamaged sweet potatoes away to local children after community police officers overturned her stall.
Nanjing Robbery 173,976 A man was shot and robbed of the 200,000 yuan (US$31,550) in cash he had just withdrawn outside a Nanjing bank on January 6. Police Kill Cabbie 113,935 Shenzhen police shoot dead a taxi driver waiting outside a nightclub while the officers were being thrown out by bouncers. Most Enviable Payroll 106,675 A State institution in Shenzhen offers an annual minimum salary of 272,700 yuan (US$43,000), about 11 times that of an assembly line worker. Train Ticket Discrimination 85,971 A migrant worker wrote to the Ministry of Railways to denounce online sales of train tickets which disadvantage other migrants, most of whom have no access to the Internet. Rubber Eggs 83,452 Eggs produced in Shandong were discovered to bounce when thrown to the ground. NEWSCHINA I March 2012
Shanghai PCC Attendees
Even the presence of a retired superstar basketball player couldn’t keep these political enthusiasts awake at a recent conference.
Yang Cunhu Du Niang
An office worker who took to the catwalk for her office’s Chinese New Year party gained overnight fame with her smoldering looks.
Party secretary of Jingle County, Shanxi Province, whose daughter was paid five years’ salary for an official post despite never once turning up for work.
W ho ’s No t?
An official with the provincial discipline supervision department of central China’s Hunan Province, 40 year-old Lu Qun has adopted Weibo as his weapon of choice to fight corruption. A post claiming that power grid officials in Loudi, Hunan used their expense accounts to treat themselves to luxury Audi automobiles went viral almost instantly. He used another to unmask a scandal involving police in the provincial capital Changsha county who beat up and detained migrant workers trying to recoup unpaid salaries from a construction company.
Photo by Lian Xiao
Chen Guoquan, newly appointed Party Secretary of Tibet, along with other14 members of the Standing Committee of Tibetâ€™s Party Committee faces the media on Nobember 15, 2011.
New Blood In the run-up to the anticipated inauguration of a new politburo during the 18th National Party Congress scheduled for September, major leadership changes are already taking place at the provincial level to ensure a smooth transition By Zhao Jie
NEWSCHINA I March 2012
his year looks to be one of worldwide leadership change, or at least challenge, with 59 countries set to either hold general elections, including the United States, India and France, or internally change their top leadership. In China, seven of the nine standing members of the CPC Central Committee or politburo, China’s cabinet, are tipped for replacement, including General Secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC) President Hu Jintao, and Premier Wen Jiabao. New leaders are expected to be formally inaugurated at the 18th National Congress of the CPC in the fall of 2012. In preparation for the Party congress, personnel changes in the leadership of the CPC’s provincial-level standing committees are already taking place to ensure a smooth transition for the country’s new leaders. Provincial-level standing Party committees wield considerable power, and usually have 13 members each, headed by the Party secretary of the province or region. These committees are subject to rotation every five years, with reshuffles timed according to the Party congresses in Beijing. According to Party regulations, personnel changes at the provincial level must be implemented before the CPC national congress begins. Starting in early 2011, provincial-level Party committees in 14 of China’s 31 provinces, municipalities and autonomous regions began their customary reorganization. Only three provinces (Hebei, Yunnan and Tibet) changed their Party secretaries, indicating that maintaining stability amongst China’s top provincial leaders is a top priority for Beijing in the run-up to the national congress. Aside from Anhui and Henan provinces, where five and four members of the Party standing committees were replaced respectively, all other provincial-level Party standing committees had no more than three members replaced. Compared to 2010, when more than 20 top provincial posts were reassigned, there were few new faces at the top level of provincial government as China entered 2012. “This reflects the central authority’s intention to ensure stability in the countdown to the 18th National Congress of the CPC,” Professor Bai Zhili, vice-director of the Management School of Peking University, told NewsChina. NEWSCHINA I March 2012
Out With The Old
One trend which has been observed in provincial Party committees in recent years is the appointment of younger officials to high-level leadership positions. A notable peculiarity of this spate of reshuffles is that new leaders in border regions tend to be much younger than those in coastal and inland provinces. Among the present Party standing committee members in border areas, 46.5 percent in Tibet, Xinjiang, and Inner Mongolia were under 52 years old. This ratio falls to 27.6 percent in five central provinces (Shanxi, Henan, Anhui, Jiangxi and Hunan) and to 13.2 percent in the four municipalities (Beijing, Shanghai, Tianjin and Chongqing). In China’s southern economic powerhouse, Guangdong Province, none of the provincial Party standing committee members are younger than 52. According to Professor Wang Yukai from the Chinese Academy of Governance, governing far-flung and restive border regions inhabited by various ethnic groups is seen as both risky and labor-intensive, requiring a delicate balance of law and order and economic growth, a task perceived as better suited to young, vigorous officials. Fan Yiyang, 51, a new Party standing committee member in Inner Mongolia, studied crisis management at Georgetown University. His appointment comes in the wake of a series of protests staged in 2011 by ethnic Mongolian herdsmen opposed to unregulated mining by Han migrants on their grazing lands. Gloomy prospects for growth in 2012 have meant that leaders’ economic credentials are also a consideration, with most of the outgoing Party old guard being replaced with technocrats rather than the traditional engineers and scientists. Huang Wei, 50, a new Party standing committee member in Xinjiang, is also a member of the Chinese Academy of Engineering and has previously served as vice-minister of Housing and Urban-Rural Development. Chen Quanguo, 56, newly appointed Party secretary of Tibet, who has previously served as Party secretary of Hebei and Henan provinces, holds a Master’s degree in economics. Their appointment is widely considered a response to the call for economic development in Xinjiang and Tibet. Wang added that appointing promising
young officials to these challenging regions is also intended to help them gain more credentials and experience in coping with complex situations, which are required for future promotion. This is reflected in the career of General Secretary Hu Jintao. Before becoming a politburo member and, eventually Party general secretary, Hu had served as Party secretary of Guizhou and Tibet, two impoverished regions with large ethnic populations. For Professor Bai Zhili, the appointment of Chen Quanguo as Party secretary of Tibet may also indicate closer cooperation between governments in Tibet and Xinjiang in the future. Both Chen and Zhang Chunxian, Party secretary of Xinjiang, are from central Henan, giving similar backgrounds. Both regions face challenges of economic development and local grievances stemming from ethnic and religious issues. Others argue that these appointments reflect the central government’s approach of swapping officials between different provinces, especially between those with different conditions, for the purpose of both building credentials and preventing them from establishing a power base in one province. Notable examples in 2010 were Hu Chunhua, who was relocated from Hebei to serve as Party secretary of Inner Mongolia, and Zhang Chunxian, transferred to Xinjiang as Party secretary from Hunan. In 2011 Chen Quanguo and Zhang Qingli, were transferred to top leadership posts in Tibet and Xinjiang from eastern provinces. According to Professor Wang, we are more likely to see major leadership changes at the provincial level in 2012 than in 2011 as Party committees in China’s remaining 17 provinces and municipalities, including the crucial Beijing and Shanghai areas, put off reshuffles until after Chinese New Year on January 23. “Personnel changes in these places are more directly connected to the change in the central leadership, and are therefore more significant,” Wang told NewsChina. While it is all but certain who will be appointed to China’s top leadership in the fall of 2012, few will envy them their influential new position. They will certainly be challenged by a host of complex and perplexing problems ranging from an economic slowdown to growing calls for sweeping political reforms at all levels of society.
NEWSCHINA I March 2012
Chinaâ€™s stock mark strong economic g et seems to be defined by mismatc hes, be rowth, however, that exp or conflicting interests among stake it stark depression despite ose the cracks ben eath the the world holders. It is these disparities, â€™s most perplexing which are already stock market, undermining the fo undations of reform
NEWSCHINA I March 2012
cover story Stock Market
A BROKEN BAROMETER? Robust economic growth usually goes hand-in-hand with a healthy stock market, but consistent losses on China’s exchanges have left individual investors at their wits’ end. Does this mismatch defy the laws of economics? NewsChina looks at the facts behind the figures By Li Jia China’s A share market By December 30, 2011 (capitalization for tradable shares)
Shanghai Stock Exchange Companies: 931 Capitalization: US$1.9 trillion
SME (small and medium-sized) board Companies: 646 Capitalization: US$227.7 billion
Shenzhen Stock Exchange Companies: 1411 Capitalization: US$655.7 billion
Main board Companies: 484 Capitalization: US$388.4 billion
or China’s 100 million stockholders, 2011 will be remembered as the year of the bear; for the majority of the year, investors were disappointed time and again by a falling market. The year’s misfortunes culminated on December 13, when the Shanghai Composite Index on the Shanghai Stock Exchange, the benchmark indicator of China’s yuan-denominated or “A share” market, plunged to 2248.59 points, roughly equivalent to levels seen a decade ago. The slump continued for several days. While the last three trading days of December brought some relief, the index was down by 22 percent over the whole year, the third worst decline in the history of China’s stock market. All in all, China’s market made those of recession-mired US, Japanese and European economies look positively vigorous. The overnight crash immediately triggered
Hi-tech growth board Companies: 281 Capitalization: US$39.6 billion
panic and fury among investors. Adding to the outrage, on December 26, government mouthpiece the People’s Daily refuted the idea of zero price growth for the last 10 years, the basis for much of the debate, as a misleading interpretation of numbers. Ye Tan, a wellknown finance commentator, for example, strongly supported the zero growth conclusion, calling it “a shame.” Despite the mess, one thing is clear. Over the past decade of high growth and moderate inflation, Chinese stock market investors, particularly small ones, have endured huge losses and extreme volatility in the market. During 2010 and 2011, China became the world’s second largest economy, and the second largest stock market in terms of capitalization with strong profit growth reported by major listed companies, but its share price performance was one of the worst among all major economies. Stock markets are usually
a barometer of a country’s wider economic situation, so why does this barometer not work in China? The mismatch of strong macroeconomics and poor stock market performance, however, is misleading. While it is true that on most stock markets, fluctuations are caused by trends among individual investors and economic troubles and successes, China’s market is subject to a more powerful force: administrative power. In that sense, the stock market reflects China’s economic governance.
When the Shanghai Stock Exchange, China’s primary trading floor, was established in 1990, market economics was still a sensitive topic in political discourse. What made this capital market possible was the urgent need for funds to finance the reform of China’s State-owned enterprises (SOEs), which, as a NEWSCHINA I March 2012
group, were on the brink of bankruptcy. As a result, poorly performing small-and medium-sized SOEs became China’s first listed companies, giving the market weak foundations, but making it easy, and even necessary, for the State to intervene. 20 years later, privately owned companies are now listed alongside SOEs, but that, at least so far, has not changed the dominance of the State on China’s stock market. In a survey jointly made in 2011 by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences and consultancy Protiviti, State-owned shares outweighed any other kind in 86 of the top 100 listed companies. These 100 companies account for 83 percent of the capitalization, 86 percent of the total assets and 90 percent of profits on the A share market. The survey also found that even among companies’ second and third largest shareholders, the proportion of privately-owned shares has also increasingly lost ground to State-owned shares compared with 2009. Unsurprisingly, the rules of this game reflect the interests of the government, rather than the market. In early years, companies aiming to go public were subject to a quota system fully controlled by local governments and ministries. Despite a relaxation in the system over the years, it is still the regulator, not the market, that has the final say on who can go public, and where the price for the initial public offering (IPO) should be set. Even in the limited domain within which institutions who supposedly represent investors’ interests can play a role, State-run ones have much more say than private ones, and China’s leading securities companies are actually SOEs. The pricing of IPO shares, for example, is subject to an auction among institutional investors, who are mostly Statebacked insurers, securities and stock-oriented fund management companies. Small individual investors who don’t have fair access to IPO shares can only play on the post-IPO secondary market, where they have no choice NEWSCHINA I March 2012
but to gamble on initial prices set by others. The market itself has also developed a heavy reliance on government policies to boost investor confidence. Indeed the Chinese stock market has long been labeled a policy-oriented “market” among investors and experts, because it is more sensitive to policy changes than hard data. Lin Yixiang, chairman of TX Investment Consulting and an economist who has long been observing the systematic forces underlying China’s stock market operation, has illustrated how political forces, including economic policies and even economic editorials in State-run media, have greatly contributed to fluctuations in the stock market over the years. Lin told NewsChina that the State’s influence permeates the whole operation, and it is impossible to understand China’s stock market without looking at State forces.
A normal stock market should offer a win-win situation; companies gain access to funds, and investors profit from the dividends of the companies they assist. However, in China, the uneven distribution of power means that investors have increasingly little to play for. Between 2001 and 2011, listed companies received US$587 billion in funds from the A share market. And since some of China’s SOEs are now among the world’s most profitable companies, investors could expect to share in the success that they helped to underwrite. Dividends are the most important incentive to maintain investors’ long-term confidence, and keep the market based on investment, rather than speculation. However, SOEs have only distributed US$119 billion in dividends to their investors, which, as Lin said, is “not even
Money supply (M2, %)
Profits of listed companies(US$bn) (Source: China National Bureau of Statistics, China Securities Regulatory Commission, Shanghai Stock Exchange, Shenzhen Stock Exchange, Shanghai Securities News)
US$587 billion to listed companies US$79 billion stamp tax for share transfers US$62 billion commission US$119 billion dividends
Investor contributions (2001 - 2011)
Share market: 7 years of decline, extreme fluctuation Benchmark Shanghai Composite Index (BSCI)
Investor returns (2001-2011)
enough to cover their transaction costs on the market.” The stamp tax alone, imposed on share transfers, has cost investors more than US$79 billion over the last 10 years. Investors would have been better off depositing their money in the bank. The total dividends over the last decade are only US$6 billion more than the total net profits of the four State-held commercial banks and two oil companies, which are listed on the A share market, for the single year of 2010. These are not even the most miserly enterprises (referred to in Chinese as “iron roosters”); over the last 10 years, hundreds of listed companies have never shared their profits with their public shareholders. In the US, shareholders normally reap half of the net profits of listed companies on a quarterly basis. “What can we do about these iron roosters? Nothing,” Lin said. Another way to get return for stock investment is to buy and sell shares on the secondary market. In a speculative game usually overshadowed by losses and sharp fluctuations, small players, with limited information and expertise, have little chance of winning. According to Wind, a leading Chinese financial information service provider, 70 percent of newly listed companies in 2011 saw their share price slide below their IPO prices, leaving their public shareholders on the secondary market little chance of profiting from the sale of shares. Unlike the IPO market, individual shareholders are the main players on the secondary market, meaning that the burden of the market’s consistently worsening performance falls directly on the shoulders of the country’s roughly 80 million private shareholders. A survey by the State-owned broadcaster China Central Television found that 70 percent of small investors lost money even in the boom between 2006 and 2007, when share prices doubled. For listed SOEs, the poor performance of share prices also means the loss of State assets under their control. But managers at SOEs, NEWSCHINA I March 2012
Photo by Xinhua
Investors at the Shanghai Stock Exchange
who are also government officials, lose no sleep over ups and downs in the share prices of their companies. As Xu Hongcai, a professor of finance at China Center for International Economic Exchanges, told NewsChina, share prices have little to no effect on their careers, and their companies are at no risk of acquisition by competitors. Even when there are mergers and acquisitions between listed companies, government intervention is strong, according to research by the Shanghai Stock Exchange in 2009. That the government and governmentbacked players rather than the market has bigger influence on China’s stock market, however, does not mean that small private shareholders are powerless. Simply by acting like rational investors, they have the NEWSCHINA I March 2012
power to depress the market. Many voice disenchantement with the fact that their interests are always compromised, and some are getting wise to the deception of SOEs: “China’s small investors are not fooled; they know the truth behind the numbers of big listed companies, and that truth has not given them confidence in the market,” said Lin Yixiang. The quality of a stock market is decided by the quality of its listed companies. Profits of banks and oil companies controlled by the State account for more than half of the profits of listed companies, but their performance is propped up by State monopoly, rather than real market competitiveness. “Their growth cannot be sustained once the economy slows down or the monetary
and macroeconomic policies change, both of which are happening. Investors have noticed the risks inherent in the current growth model of both SOEs and the economy, also buoyed up by State investment, and have therefore lost confidence. As a result, share price index has continued to drop,” said Lin. A stock market where market forces are overridden by State intervention can get itself into all kinds of seemingly impossible situations. The polarization of China’s growing economy and plummeting stock market is not an anomaly, but a justification of orthodox economics. But now, as the nation’s investors are rapidly losing confidence, regulators must make urgent efforts to reverse the trend, or risk a backlash from tens of millions of unhappy shareholders.
cover story Stock Market
Bug Zappers Unraveling the distorted interests of powerful players, including China’s State regulator, must be a precondition for any stock market reform
PPhoto by Fotoehoto
By Li Jia
or Guo Shuqing, the new head of China Securities Regulatory Commission (CSRC), the early days in his post were not an easy ride. Although championed for pledging “zero tolerance” towards irregularities on the securities market in a speech on December 1, 2011, he was subsequently vilified for hinting that the market was too risky for low-income investors to get involved in. This somewhat embarrassing drama reflects the public’s high expectations for reform of China’s securities market, which some
A youth unfolds a banner reading “Strong China, Strong Stock Market” in Tian’anmen Square, Beijing
economists have said is currently “worse than a casino.” Guo’s mailbox has been stuffed with open letters from financiers, academics, analysts and investors urging him to build a market where returns justify investment and wanton wrongdoing on the part of powerful players is stopped. When the national financial work meeting concluded in early January 2012, the restoration of investor confidence through reform was bumped to the top of the agenda for the country’s financial sector over the next five years. Many seem to see a breath of fresh air at
the center of what media have called Guo’s “regulatory storm.” Misconduct has incurred harsh penalties, and new rules have been put into effect or at the very least proposed which push towards what Guo claims is a “marketoriented reform.” His words and actions have, so far, pushed all the right buttons, and the market had made a slight recovery by early January. However, the plaudits may not be as well deserved as they seem; investigations into various scandals are likely to have been launched before Guo took office, and similar NEWSCHINA I March 2012
ideas on reform have been heard during the tenure of his predecessors. More importantly, while his leadership is ostensibly moving in the right direction, it still remains to be seen whether his policies will deal with the interests that have cast doubt on the watchdog’s independence. Addressing these interests must be a precondition for any reform. Otherwise, his chance of healing the market in the short-term and building a level playing field in the long-term will be no better than that of his predecessors.
The current chaos on China’s A share market can be attributed to various factors, such as the impact of the global financial crisis and policies aimed at containing inflation. But there is already a clear consensus that unfairness and pervasive dishonesty are the biggest reasons for the predatory game in which individual shareholders lose and big players win. Analysts and investors have found that investment logic has little use in China; playing for anything more than short-term gain is futile. Companies do not have equal access to the stock market. A committee set by the CSRC has the authority to decide which companies can be floated on the market and for what reasons. As a result, when applying for permission, a company’s background is more important than its long-term growth potential. That’s why Yin Jianfeng, deputy director of the Institute of Finance and Banking at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, does not believe that Chinese listed companies represent the most dynamic enterprises. While monopoly-backed State-owned enterprises (SOEs) still account for the largest chunk of the stock market, private small and medium-sized companies (SMEs) have not shown better investment value. In 2011, the A share market saw a total of 1264 resignation announcements from senior executives of listed companies, most of them from hightech SMEs. While executives are not allowed to sell shares in their companies for some time after the IPO, resignation can shorten that grace period. Many have already taken this route. This eagerness for cash rather than shares betrays the fact that executives themNEWSCHINA I March 2012
selves don’t believe their own hype. Now investors can only look on with despair as one bubble after another bursts, and growth stories are exposed as illusions. The high-tech board, many analysts say, has become the grave, rather than the cradle, of innovation. Those who stay in the market often behave equally irresponsibly. Insider trading has been the biggest problem in the securities market. At a press conference at the end of December 2011, Liu Jinguo, deputy Minister of Public Security, warned that this form of white-collar crime is on the increase, expand-
“Now it is not a question of whether information is fully disclosed, it is a question of how much of it is true.”
ing from senior executives and companies to civil servants and government departments. Information disclosure, the most important way for public investors to judge a company’s fiscal position, is also a big problem. “Now it is not a question of whether information is fully disclosed, it is a question of how much of it is true,” said Zhang Wei’an, president of Dongbei University of Finance and Economics, in an interview with China Central Television (CCTV). Obviously, a group like this cannot be trusted to prioritize the interests of public investors by providing dividends or investment value.
Maybe This Time
“I hope Guo will bring some ‘bug zappers’ to the market,” said a shareholder who identified himself as Old Zhang in his open letter to Guo. The term “bugs” refers to listed companies which “suck out all the blood in [investors’] bodies.” Guo rose to the challenge. Listed companies must clearly state their dividends distribution, and the review process for IPO
applications will become more transparent. International practices show that institutional investors generally have more rational investment preference and better expertise than individual investors, so they will be encouraged to play a bigger role in China’s stock market, where most share accounts are held by individual investors. Furthermore, those involved in scandals are subject to criminal charges, and companies that perform poorly will face restructuring or be forced out. “We welcome the policies, even if it means the review committee will be more cautious about IPOs; so many companies line up to IPO, we need to pick the best apples,” said Edward Ho, assurance managing partner for Greater China at Ernst and Young, in an interview with NewsChina. However, these measures are not as new as they appear. Over the years, CSRC has issued a similar requirement on dividends distribution, repeatedly vowing to “maintain a powerful crackdown against insider trading,” and actions have been taken over irregularities. Institutional investors have already been given much more power than individual investors. While previous measures have not worked well enough to build a level playing field facilitating long-term investment rather than short-term speculation, it will take time to see whether Guo’s efforts will make any difference. “I am personally more confident than ever, but we need to see what concrete measures will be adopted to make real difference on the ground,” said Lin Yixiang, chairman of TX Investment Consulting.
A level playing field is about fair, efficient distribution of interests. Distorted interests do not lay a solid foundation for the way ahead. Regulators’ interests in particular have proven a double-edged sword. “They intervene too much in areas where the market should take the lead, but do too little in areas where action is urgently needed,” said Yin. That mismatch is to a large extent caused by the intertwining of their own interests with the subjects under their scrutiny. As Yin explained to NewsChina, holding the power to
Photo by Lian Xiao
Guo Shuqing’s debut as Chairman of the CSRC on November 10, 2011 in Beijing
“People are angry at the theft of a cabbage from a market, but don’t pay enough attention to hands in the pockets of shareholders, which is what insider trading is…the CSRC will have a zero tolerance policy towards insider trading and other irregularities in the securities market.”--- Guo Shuqing
decide which companies are can list on the market turns regulators from “adjudicators watching the game from the sidelines,” into “players on the field.” That lack of independence as a third party representing the public interests has reduced regulators’ incentive to put the market under strict scrutiny; the exposure of too many scandals would scare investors as well as embarrass regulators. The divergent interests of big shareholders and small shareholders are another problem. When ownership and management are sepa-
rate, shareholders’ interests converge, putting managers under pressure to perform. Chinese listed companies, either SOEs or private ones, normally have very powerful controlling shareholders who directly control the whole operation of the companies, as they or their associates are senior executives or members of the board of directors. Their interests are met more by controlling the companies than by dividends. As Lü Suiqi, vice dean of the Peking University finance department explained to NewsChina, that is why profitmaking companies are also reluctant to share
Members of the CSRC IPO review committee to be under stricter scrutiny Securities companies to be punished more severely for misconduct
No judgement of the growth potential of IPO candidate companies by the regulator IPO application review process open to media A proposal to force poor-performing SMEs to be delisted
A department for investor protection established under the CSRC Measures to ensure listed companies distribute dividends Education on market risks for investors More power to institutional investors
(Source: China Securities Regulatory Commission / Ministry of Public Security)
NEWSCHINA I March 2012
dividends with public investors. The voice of individual investors has little chance of being heard. Therefore, the pressure to share dividends with shareholders does not exist. The third distorted interest is embedded in the relationship between listed companies, securities and institutional investors. There should be a kind of balance of power between them based on their different roles, but in China, they form alliances. Securities want high commission for their underwriting services. The current system also gives them privileged access to shares of candidate listed companies at lower prices than public investors. Both have fueled their desire for high IPO prices. Mutual funds, another big institutional investor, are more likely to align with securities companies which have stakes in those fund companies, rather than with individual investors. In addition, their revenue is largely generated by the scale, not the performance, of funds under their management. Worse still, the link between fund managers and listed companies “cannot be put on the table” in some cases, according to Professor Lü at Peking University. They all have decisive power on setting prices for an IPO. On the secondary market, speculative behavior from institutional investors also add volatility to the market. Even Guo himself recognized
in his speech that the corporate governance of institutional investors is not better than that of listed companies. In that context, Dr Lin at TX Consultancy is not encouraged by the idea of giving institutional investors more power. It is not realistic to expect the CSRC alone to set those interests aright. For example, it can require private companies to diversify their shareholding, but it cannot do the same to SOEs whose shareholding structures are subject to other authorities. What they can do with SOEs is to make sure that existing external pressure, in the form of independent board of directors and a board of supervisors, is more effective than it is now. Research jointly carried out by international consultancy Protiviti and the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences shows that that pressure has been marginalized in the corporate governance of listed SOEs. In addition, the watchdog finds itself powerless to fulfil its duties when it comes up against a higher power. The CSRC needs to consolidate the fragile recovery in investor confidence by showing that this time, they’re serious, and making themselves independent from any market interests is probably the best place to start. Otherwise, the regulator’s ambitions and investors’ expectations are likely to come into conflict again and again.
From 2009 to 2011 China is the world’s
market for initial public offerings in terms of funds raised. In 2011
in capitalization evaporates – more than the total amount of China’s fiscal stimulus package to combat the financial crisis. Between 2004 and November 2011,
people have been placed under insider trading charges involving
US$350m in illegal revenue.
Scandals 1 China’s Enron Guangxia (Yinchuan) Industry, a maker of agricultural products, fabricated US$122 million net profits on its books between 1998 and 2001. Six people were imprisoned for up to 3 years and fined US$63,200.
2 Shady Officials In 2010 and 2011, four senior government officials received punishments ranging from 5 years in jail to commuted death sentences, and were fined US$5 million for their US$21 million illegal income from insider trading and bribery.
An investor watches the stock indexes at a trading house in Shanghai
NEWSCHINA I March 2012
Photo by AFP
3 The Power of Words Investment company Guangdong Zhonghengxin bought large numbers of shares, then sold them immediately after advertising to investors through mass media. Their deals involved US$9 billion and 552 stocks – the largest market manipulation ever committed. The case is still under investigation. (Source: China Securities Regulaory Commission)
Photo by Yu Yang/CFP
Applicants arrive for the public service entry exam in Wuhan, Hubei Province on November 27, 2011
Jobs in Chinaâ€™s civil service are rapidly gaining popularity, but broad discrimination remains rife in the recruitment process, exposing both deep-rooted prejudices among employers and a lack of awareness among jobseekers By Li Jingrui and Sun Chao
or over a thousand years in ancient China, the imperial civil service examination was virtually the only way for a commoner to enter the ruling class. Fiercely competitive, this examination was often compared to a single-plank bridge, with masses of people wrestling to cross. Now, it seems the old ways are back in fashion. Statistics show that more and more young Chinese people are signing up for the national public service entry test. In the latest exam session, held on November 27, 2011, more than 980,000 people competed for just 18,000 posts, meaning 1.84 percent of applicants will earn jobs in government organizations and agencies, with attractive privileges including lifelong employment, medical insurance and generous pensions.
With so many now vying for government jobs, the fairness of the recruitment process has come under intense public scrutiny: various government agencies have been accused of screening applicants using a range of criteria tailored in favor of specific demographics. Even when corruption and nepotism are excluded, it is believed that discriminatory thinking is deeply rooted in the civil service recruitment system. In November 2011, the Constitutional Government Research Institute (CGRI) of the China University of Politics and Law (CUPL) released a report on employment discrimination in the recruitment of public servants. According to the report, employment discrimination existed in all the 9,752 positions offered by central government agencies in
2011. Discrimination, according to the report, was reflected in criteria involving age, gender, physical condition, political background and other factors.
In recent years, the most notable and frequently cited form of employment discrimination is that against carriers of HBV, the virus that causes hepatitis B, with many public and private organizations routinely denying employment to such applicants. It is estimated that about 100 million people across the country are HBV carriers, roughly 7 percent of the general population. According to Lu Jun, chief coordinator of the Beijing Yirenping Center, an anti-discrimination NGO, the pervasive discrimination NEWSCHINA I March 2012
Photo by A Liang/CFP
against HBV carriers in the job market origi- Lu Jun told NewsChina that more than half of procuratorial organs, the Women’s Federation, nated from the national public service exami- all HBV carriers claim they have faced some the Disabled Federation and the Trade Labor nation. “Prior to the year 2000, no employer kind of discrimination involving work, but Union), and found that discriminatory criteria required that employees or job applicants un- fewer than 50 lawsuits to that effect have been were still prevalent. For example, 38 positions offered by the dergo HBV screenings. It all started in 2005 filed. And while discrimination against the when the government made the checkup a disabled is likely even more rife, not one case People’s Congress required that the applicants mandatory part of the recruitment process. has ever been filed that accused an employer of be Party members or members of the Communist Youth League. In Beijing, all positions Since then, many companies and organiza- discriminating against a disabled person. offered by the procuratorial tions have followed suit, since organs required the applicants what the central government to be Party or Youth League agencies do is usually taken members. as the model,” Lu told NewsThe Party-member reChina. quirement is so prevalent that According to the criteria many college undergraduates set in 2005 by the Ministry rush to join the Party before of Personnel and the Ministry graduation so that they can of Health, carriers of bloodget an advantageous posiborne viruses including HBV tion in the scramble for jobs and HIV, as well as sufferers in government agencies. Lu of diabetes, were ineligible Jing, a young judge from the for public service posts. AfNo. 1 Immediate Court of ter years of public outcry, the Beijing, told NewsChina that exclusion was later revised to the paramount reason why cover only sufferers of hepa- A test monitor check applicants’ IDs in an examination hall in Shandong on November 27, 2011 she joined the Party in the titis B, rather than those who first year of her graduate promerely carry the virus. gram was that it would give Despite this limited progher the upper hand in competition for a post ress, awareness of the concept of employment Party Bias According to Professor Liu, the most per- as a judge. discrimination is still very weak among emIn response to the CGRI report, Nie ployers. “The issue of employment discrimina- vasive but completely unchallenged form of tion in China is still masked by people’s collec- discrimination is the so-called “political back- Shengkui, head of the Examination and tive subconscious, said Professor Liu Xiaonan, ground” clause, often referring to whether or Recruitment Department of the Bureau of head of the CGRI. “That is to say that employ- not applicants are members of the Communist Public Service, told Xinhua News Agency ers, under the sway of traditional thinking, Party of China (CPC) and the Communist that the purpose of the national public service examination was “to select people capable of are unaware they are attaching discriminatory Youth League. China’s current laws do not cover politi- governance and management,” rather than conditions when they do so. Meanwhile, job applicants are equally unaware that they have cally-motivated discrimination. However, in to offer employment. By his logic, therefore, 2006, China ratified the 1958 Discrimination the question of employment discrimination is been unfairly discriminated against,” . Efforts to combat unfairness in govern- (Employment and Occupation) Convention irrelevant with regard to government recruitment recruitment are relatively new, with the which clearly forbids discrimination based on ment. In the eyes of Professor Liu, the offifirst lawsuit filed in 2002 by Zhu Jingjia, a 4ft a person’s political beliefs. According to a re- cial’s words are the best example of the afore11in college graduate who was denied access cruitment guideline issued by the Ministry of mentioned “collective subconscious.” Professor Liu told NewsChina that her into the examination because of his height. Zhu Personnel and the Organization Department lost the case, as did almost all others who have of the CPC’s Central Committee, government stitute had invited all central agencies to paralleged discrimination cases against the govern- agencies should not favor Party members over ticipate in a closed-door seminar to discuss the issue of employment discrimination. Just ment. According to a report by the Rule of Law people of non-Party affiliation. However, in reality, with the CPC the ruling one central agency representative attended. Weekend newspaper, in the past eight years, alWith employment discrimination institumost every such case that was filed was eventu- party in China, it seems natural that the govally thrown out. The only exception was a case ernment would prefer Party members consid- tionalized at government level and no sign of filed in 2004 by Zhang Xianzhu, a student and ered more politically reliable than candidates a change, the phenomenon is likely to linger, HBV carrier who won his lawsuit, but the ver- with no affiliation. The CGRI report exam- and this unfair exclusion of legitimate jobseekdict was never implemented, and he has never ined six non-Party organizations where prefer- ers could mean that those joining the nation’s ence for Party members was presumed to be civil service, while “politically reliable,” are not been given a chance to sit the examination. That may explain why legal action is so rare. weakest (the People’s Congress, the courts, the necessarily the most talented candidates. NEWSCHINA I March 2012
The Silent Boom Octuplets born to a natural mother and two surrogate mothers were a clear sign that surrogacy, while prohibited in China, allows wealthy couples to evade the One Child Policy By Wang Yan
brood of eight children is the ultimate pipe dream in China, where the One Child Policy overturned at a stroke thousands of years of traditional values prizing large families. However, octuplets appearing alongside their beaming parents and a team of eight nannies at a Guangzhou photography studio in December 2011 became an overnight sensation, with the national media quick to launch an investigation into their antecedents. The media circus discovered that the four girls and four boys had been born through a combination of IVF and surrogacy to their natural mother who gave birth to triplets and two paid surrogate mothers, one who carried triplets, the other twins. The three women gave birth to eight babies in September and October of last year.
It is estimated that the couple had spent over 1 million yuan (US$160,000) on IVF
and surrogacy and are spending more than 100,000 yuan a month on raising their eight children, much of which goes on paying their squadron of nannies. An elderly neighbor told the media that the family had hired a total of 11 staff: eight childminders, two cleaners and a cook. “They tried IVF for a few times inside China but failed. They later met a doctor from the US who told them she could give them octuplets,” said the woman during an interview with China Central Television (CCTV). When it was revealed the children had been born in part through paid surrogacy, a heated debate began both in China’s official media and online. Critics decried the couple’s overt violation of the One Child Policy and called the morality of their decision into question, as well as the legality of paid surrogacy. The Guangdong Provincial Family Planning Commission and the Provincial Bureau of Health have jointly set up a task force to investigate the case. China began to enforce the One Child Policy in 1979 in an effort to curb population growth which had skyrocketed in the years following famines in the 1950s and 60s. The government is now reviewing the policy and had relaxed constraints in certain regions and among certain groups of people in the last couple of years (see: At the Crossroads, NewsChina issue 26). However, regardless of individual circum-
stances, “having eight children is a clear violation of the family planning policy,” said Dong Yuzheng, secretary-general of the Guangdong Family Planning Association. Relevant rules and regulations stipulate that couples in violation of the One Child Policy must pay what are termed “social maintenance fees,” fines in all but name, for each additional birth, with the rates calculated by the local average cost of living. IVF treatment, while legal, is subject to myriad restrictions, and surrogacy procedures are effectively banned in Chinese hospitals. Xu Qingfeng, an official from the Guangdong Provincial Health Bureau, said that the octuplets’ parents had been contacted and the father told the investigators the operations were conducted outside of the Chinese mainland. “We still need to collect more evidence before we can draw firm conclusions about where the operations were conducted,” Xu told the media. Health officials argue that what State regulations term “artificial reproduction procedures,” especially those involving multiple births, are highly risky for mothers and show “disrespect for life.” However, the family planning policy itself has proven relatively easy to circumvent providing a couple is sufficiently wealthy, and it is this perceived loophole that has drawn the harshest criticism. In late December, the Guangdong Provincial Health Bureau announced that it would NEWSCHINA I March 2012
investigate hospitals suspected of facilitating surrogacy procedures, and curtail government support for organizations engaged in assisted human reproduction (AHR). 38 medical institutions in the province, all of which have obtained AHR service licenses, will be subject to special inspections to see if they have been involved in illegal activities such as buying and selling sperm, eggs or human embryos, providing surrogacy services, using uncertified sperm, or checking the gender of unborn babies, all of which are prohibited under the national family planning policy.
In 2001, the Ministry of Health issued the Administrative Principles for AHR Technology, banning all forms of trade in fertilized eggs and embryos and prohibiting medical institutions and medical staff from engaging in surrogacy. Yet these principles only apply to China’s official medical institutions, and have not been officially extended to private or unlicensed clinics operating outside of the State system. Many believe the government has left it too late to seriously combat China’s surrogacy industry, which has thrived in recent years with major breakthroughs in the field of IVF treatment. Data released by the China Population Association in 2010 indicate that the national infertility rate has increased by four to five times in the past 20 years, meaning that one in eight couples will be unable to conceive naturally. Official prohibitions have thus driven childless couples to underground surrogacy clinics. Any web search using the characters dai yun (surrogacy) reveals millions of results and hundreds of links to websites run by surrogacy agencies operating in China. According to an employee of one such website, the China Surrogacy Network, agencies can assist Chinese couples in finding surrogate mothers and selecting qualified hospitals or fertility clinics for the entire procedure. “The whole procedure costs around 250,000 yuan [US$38,460],” the source told NewsChina, speaking on condition of anonymity. “Of the total, medical costs run to 90,000 yuan [US$14,200], and the surrogate mother receives 140,000 yuan [US$22,170] compensation, leaving us a commission of around 14,000 yuan [US$2,217],” the emNEWSCHINA I March 2012
ployee added. An investigation by Southern Weekly indicates that there are a total of 400 surrogacy agencies in China, and that rising demand has vastly increased the cost of a surrogate birth. “Now the price for successful surrogacy has increased to around 500,000 yuan [US$77,000], more than double that of three to four years ago,” Zhong Ting, a former agency employee, told Southern Weekly, “The surrogate mother can get 100,000 to 150,000 yuan [US$15,835 to 23,735] depending on her height, weight and educational background, and the agency can expect a commission as high as 200,000 or 300,000 yuan [US$31,672 to 47,507].” According to Zhong Ting, a number of private hospitals and even some governmentrun hospitals, lured by big payoffs, have become involved in the illegal surrogacy industry. Medical staff can get 60,000 to 120,000 yuan [US$9,500 to 19,000] for their services, over a year’s wages in some cases.
Ban or Bless?
Since the first successful recorded surrogate birth using IVF was carried out in the US in 1986, AHR technology has matured, and gained widespread recognition. Yet even today, the legal complexities of gestational surrogacy have led to a swath of different regulations in different countries, ranging from outright bans to active encouragement. Whether commercial or “altruistic,” surrogacy is illegal in Germany, France and Italy. UK and Canadian law allows so-called altruistic surrogacy where the surrogate is not paid in excess of their medical expenses, but prohibits for-profit surrogacy arrangements, which carry heavy fines and even prison sentences for both the surrogate and her patron or patrons. Some US states such as California, Arkansas and Maryland allow surrogacy, while others prohibit it. Some countries such as India and Thailand, by contrast, have legalized commercial surrogacy and developed the procedure into a lucrative industry which has attracted couples from all over the world. In order to avoid legal prosecution, many surrogate mothers from countries where the procedure is outlawed are flown to these countries for embryo implantation, before returning home to bring their pregnancy to full term without
the risk of prosecution. China has so far failed to enact any law outlawing surrogacy, whether commercial or altruistic, however regulations associated with the national family planning law prohibit it, meaning the practice operates in something of a legal gray area. The Ministry of Health, for example, has no legal right to mete out any punishment in the case of the Guangzhou octuplets, falling back on typical fines for those in violation of the One Child Policy. Critics argue that the failure of the government to clarify the legality of surrogacy could lead to further development of China’s underground surrogacy market, potentially placing couples at risk of anything from birth defects to extortion. Wang Shaohui of consultancy firm Xuemei Legal raised another possible negative possibility stemming from an unregulated surrogacy market: “Due to the absence of a surrogacy law, disputes over custody and inheritance rights might erupt.” Ah Feng, who has worked as a surrogacy agent since 2004, calls China’s surrogacy industry “a double-edged sword.” “The positive side is that the industry helps sterile couples have their own babies, while the negative side is the irregularities inherent in an unregulated market,” he said during an interview with Southern Daily. “I hope a law will soon be enacted to regulate the industry. If possible, I’d like to get legal certification and continue to play my part in this field,” he added.
Easy Knockout After being killed in the ring, the first recorded casualty in 30 years of sanda boxing (Chinese kickboxing) tested positive for hepatitis B, casting doubt on the national regulators of this increasingly commercial sport By Ma Duosi
hangguan Xilong buried his son, who died after a 42-day coma, in the family plot at the foot of his cornfield. Shangguan Pengfei, 23, was a former national sanda (Chinese kickboxing) champion before a roundhouse punch to the back of the head in October 2010 left him on life support for six weeks before his death. A big fan of Shaolin kung fu, Shangguan had left his home in Jincheng, Shanxi Province at age 12 to attend a martial arts school in neighboring Henan Province. With the income from the family’s 1.65 acres of land barely enough to make ends meet, Shangguan senior had to take a second job down a coal mine to fund his son’s training. Despite his efforts, the family remains 20,000 yuan (US$3,160) in debt, even after Shangguan junior’s string of victories as part of Henan’s provincial sanda team.
In their last conversation before his death, Shangguan called his girlfriend to tell her he had made it to the semi-final of the national championships in Hainan Province, adding that the competition would be “tough” as his rivals were ranked among the top four in China. His opponent in the semi-final was Cui
Fei, nicknamed the “invincible warrior,” and representing China’s Armed Police sanda squad. The 22-year-old Cui, despite being the same height as Shangguan, was more powerfully built. Shangguan’s unexpected early lead in the first round evaporated as his more dogged opponent fought back, before delivering several powerful blows to the Shanxi fighter’s head, the last of which sent him sprawling on the mat. Already in cardiac and respiratory arrest, Shangguan was rushed to hospital where he was brought back to life, but he never regained consciousness. Three days after the boxer was hospitalized, the doctor informed Shangguan’s family that he had suffered irreparable brain damage and would remain in a persistent vegetative state for the rest of his life. This prediction was proved overoptimistic when Shangguan stopped breathing and had to be put on a respirator. Then the young fighter’s organs began to fail until he finally passed away on the morning of December 12, his family standing outside his sealed intensive care unit. Besides a few pairs of shoes and some clothing, Shangguan’s only personal effects were 19,000 yuan (US$3,000) in savings from his fighting career which he’d been hoping to spend on his wedding, planned for 2013.
Like other national sanda champions, Shangguan earned 2,000 yuan (US$320) salary a month, far below that of the average Chinese office worker. Moreover, being officially registered with the National Administration of Martial Arts (NAMA) meant he was limited to official tournaments, with the impressive prize money of commercial martial arts tournaments kept out of his reach. Even if Shangguan had won his final fight, he would have made about 4,000 yuan (US$640) in prize money, less than the cost of his plane ticket to the championship. The NEWSCHINA I March 2012
Photo by Lian Xiao
Shangguan Pengfei (right) during a match, July 16, 2009
prize money awarded on the commercial circuit for a similar bout frequently exceeds one million yuan (US$158,300). Shangguan was the first recorded casualty in a sanda match in more than 30 years. Officials ruled that Shangguan’s death was accidental, with the organization of the tournament, and the referee’s performance, both described as “flawless” by Gao Xiaojun, NAMA’s director. However, a later investigation revealed some serious oversights that could have contributed to the young fighter’s death. While undergoing treatment in hospital, NEWSCHINA I March 2012
Shangguan tested positive for hepatitis B, a condition that should have automatically disqualified him from competing in any martial arts tournament. Shangguan’s teammate Zhang Kaiyin told NewsChina that boxers attending the Hainan tournament had only undergone minimal medical testing - an electrocardiogram and an encephalogram. According to Zhang Tiequan, the first Chinese contestant in the international Ultimate Fighter Championship, before combat the fighters need to undergo more than 10 medical screenings including rigorous test-
ing of the lungs, blood, urine and eyes, in addition to conventional tests for underlying heart and brain conditions. All these tests are designed to identify any medical problem that could prove life-threatening in combat, disqualifying vulnerable competitors. It soon became clear that NAMA’s rudimentary screening policy had cost Shangguan his life.
Although kicks and wrestling holds are permitted in professional bouts, within the sanda community it is generally accepted
than 20 boxing tournaments pitting locals against foreign fighters. According to an insider speaking on condition of anonymity, in order to massage national pride and win favor with network officials, organizers deliberately select below-par international fighters to compete with Chinese champions, increasing the risk of serious injury or death. In 2009, a Thai boxer was controversially knocked out by a slamdunk smash to the back of the head from a Chinese competitor. The first weekend after Shangguan’s death, three sanda tournaments kicked off in Chongqing, Liaoning and Henan. Despite the unwelcome attention from critics, organizers were defiant. “We can not give up eating for fear of choking,” said Liu Xiaohong, organizer of a commercial boxing contest named “Top of the Forbidden City.” “One death in over 10 years after the inception of commercial contests means the commercialization and professionalization of Chinese boxing is on the right track,” he added. However, the family and teammates of Shangguan Pengfei don’t share Liu’s optimism. Photo by Lian Xiao
that despite wearing no protective headgear, sanda competitors are at less risk than professional boxers, according to former national silver medalist Dai Shuanghai. Professional boxing is positioned 25th on some international insurers’ lists of high-risk sports internationally, with skiing, parachuting, horse racing and comShangguan Pengfei’s parents mourn their son, December 17, 2011 petitive cycling all classed as more hazardous than boxing. However, commercial insurers are less he witnessed one match where the referee than comfortable with extending coverage to didn’t stop the fight even when a competisanda competitors. No insurance company, tor was put in a choke hold by his rival and whether domestic or international, will cover almost passed out. Chinese sanda champions, who are forced to Han Bin, a martial arts and boxing comfall back on the minimal premiums offered mentator with Guangdong Television, told by the China Sports Foundation (CSF), NewsChina that it is rare to have an amwhich offer a maximum 300,000 yuan bulance waiting outside the stadium, and (US$47,350) in case of death. This meager NAMA never arranges for more than a coverage is in marked contrast to the million- couple of medical staff to be placed ringside dollar policies of US championship boxers. during a competition. Moreover, a lack of proper regulation, This threadbare approach to safety is not qualified referees and skilled ringside medi- due to a lack of profits. Since the first comcal staff leave competitors at even greater risk. mercial sanda tournament was held in Bei“Some of the doctors are so green that they jing in 2000, provincial TV channels have seize up when a boxer goes down,” Andrew turned the sport into a cash cow. In 2011 Pi, a former kickboxing tournament organiz- alone, in addition to countless Chineseer in China, told our reporter. He added that Chinese matchups, the country hosted more
NEWSCHINA I March 2012
NEWSCHINA I March 2012
Spiritual Swindlers Management outsourcing has led to the fleecing of religious pilgrims and tourists alike in China’s increasingly commercialized sacred sites By Liu Ziqian
u Peng (alias) is still smarting from the (US$1,710). extortion he suffered at the hands of a “The master then followed up his prediction con artist posing as a Buddhist mas- with a barrage of further ill omens. I couldn’t ter in a prestigious temple in stand it anymore. I was there Kunming, Yunnan Province, to pray for peace and good who managed to swindle luck. Who wants to get an him out of 23,400 yuan “If you can dupe a earful of ominous words in (US$3,706). a sacred temple?” Ou told tourist into paying On October 12, 2011, Ou 9,999 yuan for a stick NewsChina. He paid up. But Peng, a native of Guangxi, that wasn’t good enough for of incense, then good and his wife joined a tourthe Buddhist master. ist group for a one-day trip for you.” He approached Ou and around Kunming and the placed his palm on top of surrounding area. The tour the tourist’s head, a sign of cost 160 yuan (US$25) per blessing, urging Ou to burn person. In the morning, the tour bus took the another stick of the same incense, this time to group to Yanquan Temple in Yiliang County, an save his son from certain death. area under the jurisdiction of the provincial capiWhen Ou pleaded with the monk that he had tal Kunming. no more money on his credit card, the master The tour guide told Ou that predictions by flew into a rage and said sharply: “When I say the fortune tellers working in the temple were you have the money, you must have it. Othersecond to none, and urged them to draw a bam- wise, with a mere wave of my arm, your life is ruboo slip from a basket. On each slip was written ined.” Ou tried to seek help from the tour guide something which was to be interpreted by these but the guide told him the only way out was to master psychics. It was from this point that Ou’s talk with the master. At the end of his rope, he nightmare began. paid the additional money for a second 2,000 Ou gave his lot slip to a robed Buddhist mas- dollar stick of incense. ter sitting nearby. After reading it, the master “That was the stupidest thing I have ever told him that the lives of his family members done,” Ou Peng told our reporter. “They fully were threatened by bad omens, and asked him exploited my desire to seek peace and safety for to burn sacred incense to ward off the approach- me and my family. They made me feel helpless. ing calamity, pointing to a one-meter long in- It was pure exortion.” cense stick with a price tag of 10,800 yuan After escaping the temple, Ou called the
NEWSCHINA I March 2012
NEWSCHINA I March 2012
complaints hotline of the Kunming Tourist Bureau, ultimately getting his money back. However, an investigation by NewsChina indicates the situation in the temple has remained the same. On October 28, 2011, our reporter joined a one-day trip in and around Kunming. In the Yanquan Temple, he participated in their fortune telling prize draw, receiving a bamboo slip numbered “14.” A “master” promptly sidled up and told him he was “not in good condition.” Pointing at a one-meter high, two-inch thick stick of giant incense, he instructed the reporter to pay 600 yuan (US$95) for it and leave his name for inclusion in a mantra to be chanted for 100 days. When the reporter said he had no cash, the “master” paused and asked: “Do you have your credit card?” The reporter said no and the master suggested an alternative stick of incense, this one priced at 200 yuan (US$31). On hearing the reporter repeat that he had no cash, the master became angry, yelling: “Are you going to burn the incense or not? In front of the Buddha as well! Get out!”
The root cause of Ou Peng’s miserable experience likely lies in the habit of contracting the operations of temples out to the highest bidder, a neat way to offset temple management costs. One employee in the Yanquan Temple, speaking on condition of anonymity, told our reporter the daily number of visiting tourists could reach 4,000. The Yiliang county government invested over 20 million yuan (US$3.2m) in restoring the temple and constructing supporting facilities such as restaurants and small hotels in 1993. In July 2001, the temple management committee signed a contract with the Kunming Nanfang International Travel Company to secure the latter’s assistance in the operation of the temple’s tourist business. The alliance paid off. In that single year alone over 200,000 tourists visited the temple, bringing in revenue of over 2 million yuan (US$320,000).
Censer at the Daimiao Temple, Taishan
This operational model was expanded in subsequent years. An insider told our reporter that from 2004 to 2008, the operations of the temple were leased to a private businessman for an annual fee of 2.2 million yuan (US$348,000). China’s tourist boom has turned Yunnan Province, known as the province of eternal spring for its mild climate, into one of the most popular tourist destinations in the country. Yanquan Temple has been a major beneficiary of increased tourism, and consequently raised the price for management contracts to 4 million yuan (US$634,000) per year in 2009. An insider disclosed that in July 2010, a businessman from Hunan Province successfully bid 7.2 million yuan (US$1.14m) to manage the temple. To recoup this massive investment, managers hired professional salespeople or, more often, con artists, encouraging them to fleece susceptible tourists. Tour guides were offered a cut of the profits, making them complicit in the scam. These newly-appointed “masters” are quick to sniff out the wealthy and devout among the throngs of tourists, and pocket eight percent of the profits, with the rest shared between the temple’s management, tour guides and tour companies, who sometimes take a cut of as much as 50 percent.
Incense is the default offering to Buddhist or Taoist deities, with a donation to the temple required for every stick purchased. A recent resurgence of Buddhist fervor in China has made the incense industry highly profitable. Contracting out temple operations to nonmonastic organizations has also become a common practice in temples dotting Taishan Mountain, Shandong Province, one of China’s most sacred Buddhist mountains. There are a total of 29 Taoist, Buddhist and Confucian temples studding the mountainside. With the exception of a very few temples such as the Taoist Bixia Temple, virtually no Buddhist monks or Taoist priests reside in Taishan’s temples, which are staffed by grayliveried porters. A local source told our reporter that it is becoming difficult not to fall prey to conmen and scam artists on Taishan. Con artists posing as tour guides or ordinary travelers wander about at the foot of the mountain, picking their targets carefully. Many have paid off local taxi drivers to bring tourists directly to them, or to a temple where the tourists are overcharged for cheap religious trinkets. The taxi driver will pocket a handsome kickback for their complicity. “They can make over 1,000 yuan (US$154) on a good day,” one local told NewsChina. Strangers frequently approach tourists and NEWSCHINA I March 2012
Photos by Sun Xiaoxi
strike up a casual conversation with them, extracting personal information such as background, family and personal wishes. They will then send this information, via phone or text message, to the “master” in the temple the tourists are headed for. Using this information as a template, fortune tellers make eerily accurate assessments of personal circumstances before extorting money in exchange for a blessing, incense or incantations. Incense rackets in particular abound, and most complaints from Taishan pilgrims concern overpriced incense. Zhang Jun, a former contractor of a temple on Taishan, told our reporter that the incense scams had once been tackled with legislation capping the price of incense. “A ceiling of 400 yuan was put on the price of incense,” he told our reporter. “But now there are no restrictions. If you can dupe a tourist into paying 9,999 yuan [US$1,582] for a stick of incense, then good for you.” According to Zhang, the widespread scams are encouraged by a connections-based bidding policy for management contracts. Zhang himself failed to keep his temple management contract because of a change in personnel at the top level of Taishan Mountain’s management committee. “If you have good relations with the director of the temple’s relics management committee, you are likely to get the one-year contract,” he told NewsChina. NEWSCHINA I March 2012
The rising cost of management contracts has led local businesspeople to form syndicates to secure the rights to a temple. For example, the 2008 contract price for the Taoist Hongmen Gong Temple was 3 million yuan (US$474,000), with nearby Doumu Gong Temple a bargain at 2 million yuan (US$317,000). Individuals among the staff at the Taishan Mountain Management Bureau, all of whom now bid for temple management contracts, pooled their money and borrowed from wealthy friends to secure their bids. “From 2007 to 2008, a friend of mine spent 1.5 million yuan [US$237,000] on a temple contract, and the profit for that year was over 2 million yuan [US$474,000],” said Zhang Jun. “If you want to win a contract, two things are indispensable: money and connections,” he added.
lations. For example, Yanquan Temple in Kunming is subject to oversight from of the local religious bureau and the local tourism bureau. Even more problematic, its official owners are the local villagers. Another difficulty is the religion bureau can only intervene in issues involving genuinely ordained religious personnel. In Yanquan Temple, there is only one ordained monk, the rest of whom were “ordained” by contractors. “There’s really very little we can do,” said Ma Xingyuan, another local religious affairs official. The increased commercialization of religion in many areas has proven a test of faith for the devout, and a source of shame for the culturally-minded. Ye Tao, a researcher from the Institute of Religion at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, believes an up-to-date management model that incorporates relics protection, religious worship and tourism needs to be worked out. Any such model would require
Poorly regulated temple management is a widespread phenomenon in many parts of China, despite the State Bureau of Religious Affairs issuing a circular in 1994 which included a clause forbidding the leasing out of temples. In most scenic spots, the management of temples is turned over to tour companies rather than the government’s religious affairs organs. Ma Kaineng, an official from the Yunnan ProA monk hands icons to tourists in Yanquan Temple vincial Religious Affairs Bureau, told NewsChina that the status quo is that many temples are simply handed over to different authorities such as the close cooperation of diverse government the cultural relics management bureau and departments and academic institutions. the tourism bureau, with some held onto by However, without such a structure, Ye argues, his own office. More often than not, over- China’s temples could well become nothing lapping areas of responsibility undermine more than prettified ATMs for local technothe enforcement of relevant rules and regu- crats and their con artist underlings.
Photo by AFP
Villagers listen to a speech by village leader Lin Zuluan at a rally in Wukan, Guangdong Province, December 21, 2011
wo years before Wukan village erupted into open revolt against its own officials, its villagers were peacefully and lawfully fighting to defend their interests. Despite their attempts to have their voices heard, however, their dwindling plots of land continued to be sold off in backroom deals by corrupt officials. Starting in 2009, Wukan villagers, like thousands more in modern China, had toed the line within an official petition system set up ostensibly to hear complaints and grievances, by submitting complaints about illegal land sales and attempting to engage in the local election of candidates to government petitioning bureaus at various levels. However, their written petitions disappeared into a labyrinth of bureaucracy, and they began to lose faith in the system claiming to represent their interests. In September 2011, when workers were
found breaking ground for a housing project on a patch of land facing the sea, the last piece they had thought to be unsold, villagers staged a protest outside the government headquarters in Lufeng, a county-level city in southeast Guangdong Province whose jurisdiction includes Wukan, a fishing village of 13,000 residents. Angry villagers targeted construction sites, pelting machinery with stones, before turning their attention to other projects by companies that had purchased land from the local government. Two major targets were an oceanfront restaurant and a pig farm owned by Chen Wenqing, a Hong Kong-based businessman who was alleged to have brokered most of the illegal land deals. The pig farm was particularly loathed because it pumped untreated sewage directly into the ocean. 71-year-old Chen is a Wukan native who moved in the early 1960s to Hong Kong
where he made a fortune, returning in 1978 to profit from the boom in private enterprises. Chen was the earliest private investor in Wukan and was the chairman of a joint venture with the village, whose vice president and general manager were Xue Chang, the village’s Party secretary, and Chen Shunyi, the villagers’ committee director – the village’s two top officials, both of whom are the same age as Chen Wenqing. Xue had served as Wukan’s Party secretary for 41 years, and Chen was the first and only villager committee director since “villager autonomy” was granted in the 1980s allowing the direct election of village heads. Despite Chen’s repeated “election” to the post, Wukan villagers we spoke to claimed never to have seen a ballot. Most believed the village election process was rigged from the start. In the latest ballot in February 2011, Chen Shunyi won more than 95 percent of the vote. However, an NEWSCHINA I March 2012
Heavy-handed treatment of lawful petitioners, as in the case of Wukan village which evicted its entire government after a local leader died in police custody, creates more dissent than it curtails By Sun Zhe
exit poll found that 60 percent of the village’s 6,800 registered voters had either not voted for Chen, or not voted at all.
For more than two kilometers along both sides of the road connecting Wukan village and downtown Lufeng, the land, which was collectively owned by Wukan villagers, was divided into multiple plots demarcated with fences. Aside from a few factories dotting the landscape, most plots were left empty. Wukan’s oceanfront location, only five kilometers from downtown Lufeng city, made it a perfect spot for high-end housing. Land prices in the area were soaring, especially after the Lufeng government moved into a new office building located between downtown Lufeng city and Wukan village, according to Peng Yijing, a member of the Party’s local standing committee. NEWSCHINA I March 2012
According to the protesters, all the plots of land opened to commercial development had been sold by village officials under the table, with the prices undisclosed. Speculation was also rife that officials had embezzled land sales revenue and accepted bribes to sell land at cut prices. Barely any of the revenue from land sales was reinvested in the village. The protest on September 21 offered an outlet for the accumulated anger against officials, whose offices were stormed by villagers. Retaliation came in the form of hundreds of riot police, who occupied the village the same day, eliciting hand-to-hand fighting that left more than 10 people injured on both sides, and six police vehicles overturned. Fearing a full-scale uprising, the local government offered to negotiate with the protesters, and 13 village representatives managed to get the government to agree to an investigation into Xue Chang and Chen Shunyi.
However, when both were elected to the local people’s congress in Lufeng city in a closed ballot, and the promised investigation failed to deliver results, local anger once again reached boiling point. “It seemed the officials made more efforts in persuading or threatening the villagers to quit any further protest,” said Huang Hanchai, 49, a local fisherman and one of the 13 villager representatives. The government paid Huang and fellow representatives a salary of 1,000 yuan (US$158) each month for their “coordination with the government investigation,” but payments were stopped two months after the second protest. Huang told our reporter he felt the government thought they’d already bought him off. Despite claims that both Xue Chang and Chen Shunyi had been fired from their posts in early November, no details of their land deals were disclosed.
SPECIAL REPORT “To get rid of those two would make no difference at all,” said Wu Suidu, 35. “All the other minor village officials were handpicked by them and just as corrupt.”
The smokescreen surrounding the investigation only served to further implicate the local government in land snatching. The interim council of 13 villager representatives organized another protest Lufeng’s main square, denouncing corruption and calling for a comprehensive investigation led by the provincial and central government. Participants in the second protest numbered more than 6,000, double the size of the first. The protest was also better organized and less confrontational. However, the local government, unnerved by the scale of participation, responded with more heavy-handed tactics. At a press conference December 9, Zheng Yanxiong, the Party secretary of Shanwei Prefecture, whose jurisdiction includes Lufeng city, alleged that Wukan villagers were in connection with “overseas forces,” a common excuse for crackdowns on what the government call “mass incidents.” Zheng added that villagers were instigated by a few organizers with “ulterior motives”, and outlawed the interim council of village representatives. The same day, plainclothes policemen detained Xue Jinbo, the deputy director of the interim council and a father of three, and two fellow villagers while they were having lunch at a local restaurant. In response, villagers hauled tree trunks across roads leading into the village to block access to police vehicles. Two days later, Xue died in custody, with an official statement attributing his death to a heart attack. However, villagers claimed Xue was in good health, and rumors soon spread that he had been tortured to death. Family members who saw Xue’s body also described it as bruised and bloody. Zhang Jiancheng, one of the two men detained with Xue, said that he was interrogated for more than 30 hours straight, and that violence inflicted on other inmates could have led to his death. When Xue’s death became public knowledge, Wukan residents chased village officials from the area and handed over control to the outlawed council of villager representatives. The government responded with police blockades both on land and sea.
At a memorial service for Xue on December 17, Lin Zuluan, the strategist behind the village’s protest and now its de facto leader, announced to more than 6,000 mourners that the villagers would break the siege to take back Xue’s body if the government would not return it within five days. Thousands took to the streets waving banners imploring the central government to intervene. The message did get through, and Zhu Mingguo, a member of the CPC’s central commission for discipline inspections and deputy Party secretary of Guangdong Province, came to Lufeng on December 21 to meet with Lin Zuluan, bringing with him an investigation team to look into the allegations of land snatching and election fraud. Zhu promised to release the other two detained advocates and return Xue Jinbo’s body, and also recognized the legitimacy of the interim council of village representatives. Protestors then removed the roadblocks to welcome the investigators, ending a tense 10-day standoff during which the village had come close to running out of food. Almost as quickly, the allegations of election fraud, embezzlement and land snatching were verified by the CPC’s investigation team. Besides the village’s Party secretary and villager committee director, several of their
underlings and officials of the local land administration bureau were also found to have accepted bribes over Wukan’s land transactions, according to an inspection team briefing released December 30. Frauds were also detected in the last villager committee election, the results of which were nullified and a new round of elections promised, though no date has been set. Despite this partial victory for the villagers, their ultimate goal, the reclamation of their lost land, seems the most insurmountable obstacle. Most plots were sold over the past 20 years, during which period some of those involved in the transactions have since been promoted to higher government positions, making a full investigation highly unlikely. Lufeng’s economy, heavily reliant on the proceeds and investment attracted by land sales, cannot afford to forcibly disenfranchise buyers and investors, regardless of the unsavory nature of many of the deals. Prices of nearby housing compounds have already dropped more than 30 percent after the Wukan protests, according to Lufeng city official Peng Yijing. Despite some inroads and the peaceful resolution of the most incendiary standoff between the villagers and the government in the recent past, Wukan’s story may be only just beginning.
Tributes to Xue Jinbo, community leader who died in police custody, Wukan, Guangdong, December 25, 2011 NEWSCHINA I March 2012
Patriotism, Patriarchy and the Press Former fishermen with sharp media skills have proven shrewd negotiators in defusing the recent standoff over land snatching
Photo by AFP
Photo by AFP
By Sun Zhe
Lin Zuluan addresses villagers at a rally in Wukan, Guangdong, December 21, 2011
NEWSCHINA I March 2012
few days after Wukan villagers removed roadblocks and the police lifted their siege, countless academics, journalists, social scientists and disenfranchised villagers from other areas poured in to see how this small fishing village had pulled off their feat. Cai Hailiang, 32, and three fellow villagers decided to travel two days and 800 kilometers from their home village of Shuidian, where similar issues of corrupt land sales have stoked popular anger. Cai’s village of 1,400 is located on the outskirts of Leizhou, a coastal city in southwest Guangdong Province, that lies 30 kilometers north of Hainan Island. Cai said that village officials had sold off all spare land without consulting villagers and pocketed all the proceeds. He also gave an account of election-rigging remarkably similar to allegations made by Wukan protesters. The four Shuidian visitors requested a meeting with Wukan’s new village head Lin Zuluan, who took power during the protest, but four separate requests were declined. “It is not convenient for me to talk to them at this moment.” Lin later told NewsChina. Lin, like other villagers involved in the Wukan protests, is cautious about becoming a figurehead for similar actions elsewhere in China, given that a number of villages have already staged copycat protests over issues ranging from land disputes to pollution. Villagers from Quanzhou, Fujian even demonstrated under a banner reading “Learn from Wukan Village!”
One lesson Cai could possibly bring home from Wukan would be the importance of Lin Zuluan’s painstaking efforts to reiterate the political legitimacy of the villagers’ actions. A very slow, considered speaker, Lin habitually corrected our reporter’s references to “negotiations with government,” insisting that we refer to “talks with government.” “Negotiation occurs between rival parties, and Wukan and the government are not rivals,” said Lin. Lin retired 16 years ago and went back to his hometown to enjoy his golden years. A former government official-turned-businessman, he was invited by the protestors to make their case to the government after an initial protest ended in violence. Lin looks every inch the model citizen, modestly clad in a dark blue pullover inside a white dress shirt, a common style for rural seniors which prioritizes warmth and convenience over style. The first rule Lin set was to outlaw any and all violence to ensure the legality of the protest. A squad of volunteers were recruited to keep order during demonstrations, and protestors were asked to sit on the
Wukan villagers wait for the return of leader Lin Zuluan after his meeting with a senior government official, December 21, 2011
floor if any police crackdown began, and not to return blows if they were met with violence. When donating money for the medical treatment of injured villagers, Lin ordered fellow protestors to refuse donations from outside of the village, a precaution which paid off when local government leaders accused protest leaders of “collusion with overseas forces,” using this accusation as a basis to detain the perceived ringleaders. “We are receiving neither capital nor communications from overseas. How could we?” Lin responded. A shrewd organizer, Lin knew his best chance of success was to appeal to the central leadership. “We Love the Country. We Support the Communist Villagers armed with clubs Party of China” was the most visible patrol the village at midnight, banner of the protest, employing a slo- December 26, 2011 NEWSCHINA I March 2012
Photo by AFP Photo by Zeng Hongge
gan Lin personally suggested, legitimizing the protest as patriotic, not rebellious. This slogan later appeared in State media reports of the protests, with requests for journalists not to refer to it as an “uprising.” Lin’s importance as the mastermind behind the form the protest took made him an obvious target for retribution, and his fellow villagers knew it. As a result, his three-story home in the center of the village was monitored round the clock by nine cameras and the courtyard wall was reinforced with barb wire. If he left the house, he would be escorted by three security guards.
NEWSCHINA I March 2012
To political analysts, Lin Zuluan seemed a resurrection of China’s longlost country gentleman. For some 1,000 years prior to the communist
victory, direct government administration in China only extended to the county level, with an elaborate clan system in charge of rural communities, acting as middleman between the urban elites and the rural masses, as in a feudal system. The clan tradition in China’s southeast coastal areas is so deep-rooted that it survived even the Cultural Revolution (1966-76) and other political movements of the Mao era designed to wipe it out as a relic of feudalism. In Wukan, each family name has a clan council of elders who are supposed to mediate in disputes between clan members and host events like weddings and funerals. The election of village representatives, who became the chief negotiators with the government during the recent Wukan protests, operated in tandem with the clan system. Each of the village’s 47 clans chose one to five candidates in proportion to the population of each clan, and then a total of 117 candidates elected 13 representatives between themselves. This council of 13 proved vital for settling the Wukan issue, as it provided a platform for the government and protestors to engage with one another, according to Xiao Shu, a Guangzhou-based columnist. He also said organization was key to the success of the protests, and the clan system had worked efficiently to ensure the best possible outcome. Another advantage for Wukan’s protestors was their village’s proximity to liberal Hong Kong, barely 200 kilometers away. With a State media blackout in place, the Hong Kong media stepped into the breach. Wukan locals were already capable of receiving TV broadcasts from the territory through rooftop antennae, and our reporter saw kitchens papered with copies of Apple Daily, an outspoken Hong Kong newspaper. This exposure to a free press gave the village representatives an extra edge in media relations, allowing villagers to neatly guide any debate back to the corruption of village officials. Upon arrival in Wukan, Cai Hailiang immediately began to court the press, buying bottled water for journalists and lighting their cigarettes. A surprisingly sophisticated media campaign had proven crucial to Wukan’s success – with rolling footage of patriotic banners and nonviolent villagers peacefully participating in calm, ordered demonstrations, the police were hardly likely to use force. Cai told our reporter he needed the press on his side before he presented evidence of corruption and land snatching in his home village. “To get media attention, you have to stage a mass protest,” said Cai. “But the risk is that if they don’t get there in time, it could merely become just another suppressed protest.”
Family Plots For the first time, China’s central leadership has pledged to safeguard rural residents’ land rights. However, they have failed to clarify how they will achieve this in the context of the country’s complex ownership system By Yu Xiaodong and Min Jie
Nobody has the right to deprive rural residents of the rights to and profits from their land, no matter whether they have an alternative source of income or have become urban residents,” said Premier Wen Jiabao during a speech at the Central Rural Work Conference (CRWC), held in late 2011. The CRWC is an annual highlevel summit which aims to set the tone for the country’s rural policy for the coming year. According to Professor Dang Guoying, an expert in rural affairs from the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS), it is the first time that the central leadership has explicitly promised to protect the land rights of rural residents after years of mass appropriations in the name of urbanization. However, as with many similar pledges, the details of implementation have yet to be disclosed.
To many, the key step is to clarify what legal rights rural residents actually have over the land the premier’s speech termed “theirs.” Unlike in western countries, where rights to private property are protected by law, China’s rigidly socialist land policy decrees that land
has two uses – urban and rural. While urban land belongs to the State, rural land is technically collectively owned by the villages standing on it, with each household in the village holding a 30-year lease on their plot. The size of this plot is determined by the number of family members in a household, and is readjusted every time a lease expires. The question is one of authority. When a developer wants to appropriate land for construction, there is no legislation in place to indicate whether the decision to sell rests with the local village committee or the leaseholder. In most cases, local government officials intervene to appropriate the land from the villagers, then sell it on and claim the profits. This practice has become a major source of government revenue in certain areas, but has also led to widespread rural unrest, as in the case of Wukan village, Guangdong, which exiled its officials after too many shady land deals. In an effort to solve this problem, the central government has repeatedly urged local governments to “clarify and register rural land ownership status,” with mixed results. Professor Li Changping, director of Hebei Univer-
sity’s Rural Construction Research Center, told NewsChina that a common suggestion is to convert 30-year leases into leases in perpetuity, a solution he argues will cause more problems than it solves. “It will lead to further confusion over land rights, as well as pose an obstacle for the establishment of much-desired farmer cooperatives, not to mention that it disconnects land distribution from population fluctuations within a village,” he said. Li argues that the true motivation behind the violation of villagers’ land property rights is government intervention which deprives them of the proceeds of land sales. “The problem lies not in the law, but in the fact that disorganized and scattered villagers are no match for local governments and other special interests, who can disregard the letter of the law,” said Li. CASS Professor Dang Guoying echoes Li’s view. “The key is to allow rural residents to deal with developers directly instead of through local governments, so that they can benefit from land deals,” Dang told NewsChina. He added that without the participation of villagers, well-intended central initiatives often ended up hurting villagers’ interests. NEWSCHINA I March 2012
Photo by Zhang Heping/CFP
High-rise apartments under construction in a village near Ningbo , Zhejiang
The latest example is a grand project named “new rural socialism community construction” launched in 2010 by the central government. Aimed at improving infrastructure and housing conditions in impoverished rural communities, the project has, critics argue, been used as a cover to snatch rural land for sale to industrial developers. In order to secure enough farmland to feed China’s huge population, China’s land laws designate a specific portion of land distributed to each household for construction, with the rest designated for agriculture. Therefore, by constructing high-rise multi-storey apartments to accommodate rural residents, local governments are able to reduce the total land used for rural housing and turn it into urban land for industrial and urban use while keeping agricultural plots intact. While villagers in some localities, such as the areas surrounding the southwestern city of Chengdu, have welcomed the scheme after local government offered them a wide range of benefits, villagers in other localities are often coerced to move out their houses or even forcibly evicted to live in newly built housing units, which has led to the uprooting of famiNEWSCHINA I March 2012
lies and social unrest.
As the number of people living in villages is expected to be more than halved from the current 650 million to 200-300 million in 30 years, further urbanization and land transfers are inevitable. The consensus among central government agencies is that villagers should be empowered to negotiate the sale of their land so they can share the profits, a move which the central authorities hope will defuse rural anger. As rural societies have become less focused on agriculture under the influence of rapid urbanization, the interests of individual villagers have also diversified. Unlike two or three decades ago when almost all residents in a rural village were engaged in agricultural production, many villagers now rely on income from urban areas. Tied together by the collective ownership of land, individual stakes differ wildly, which often leads to conflict within communities. In a recent case on December 22, 2011, 16 residents in a village under the jurisdiction of Foshan city, Guangdong Province were as-
saulted and their houses demolished by fellow villagers for refusing to honor a contract signed on their behalf by the village committee and a real estate company which sold their land from under them. According to villagers in favor of the contract, the village’s land is collectively owned and the deal was made democratically with an overwhelming 92 percent majority supporting it, while the villagers under attack insisted they had a right to their own plots regardless of whether or not others wanted to sell up. The local government refused to intervene in the case, insisting it was an “internal affair.” “There is a trend in many villages to implement a so-called democratic process to decide the fates of individual villagers, which is quite absurd,” said Dang Guoying. During the conference, Premier Wen urged relevant authorities to devise stronger regulations on land appropriation within 2012 to safeguard the land rights of villagers. According to Professor Xu Xiaoqing, head of the Department of Agricultural Economic Study and Development Research Center of the State Council, it indicates that the central government has started to consider institutional safeguards for villager land rights. In recent years, the central government has tinkered with policy but shied away from a full overhaul for fear that this might jeopardize China’s food security by causing mass rural migrations. As more and more nonfarmer villagers release their land to farmers for an annual fee, the central government has launched a system of “land transfers” in an attempt to regulate land purchases. Villagers can trade the right to farm their land with others, but not redefine its purpose. More recently, such experiments have been gradually expanded to allow the trading of actual leases, with growing impetus toward full ownership. Xu Xiaoqing believes the key to success is the establishment of a transparent mechanism through which rural residents can share the benefits of land deals. “The next objective should be to build an integral land market with open information such as location, scale, price and purpose.” However, with so many powerful vested interests able to pressure the government from all sides, just how individual farmers can realize this dream remains unclear.
Chinese solar panel manufacturers have responded furiously to a US attempt to slap anti-dumping tariffs on their products By Wang Yan
Solar cell monthly export 2009 to 2011 (US$ bn)
Photo by Lian Xiao
n October 19, 2011, seven American solar panel manufacturers filed a case with the US Department of Commerce that accused the Chinese solar industry of benefiting from excessive government subsidies in order to dump solar panels on the American market.
The filing, if successful, will lead to a 100 percent tariff hike on solar panels from China. A preliminary ruling from the Department of Commerce is expected before March 2012. The news came as no surprise to leading Chinese solar panel companies such as Yingli Solar and Suntech Power. “Anti-subsidy” and
“anti-dumping” actions against their US operations have been in the pipeline since August 2011.
In August, three American solar energy companies– Solyndra, Evergreen Solar and NEWSCHINA I March 2012
SpectraWatt – filed for bankruptcy as the result of plunging prices attributed to the influx of cheap Chinese panels. At the same time, SolarWorld Industries America, an Oregon-based subsidiary of German company SolarWorld, blamed its Chinese counterparts for the closure of its factory in Camarillo, California with the loss of 186 jobs. SolarWorld initiated a new trade association, the Coalition for American Solar Manufacturing, to advance the case of struggling US manufacturers under threat from Chinese exports, claiming that solar enterprises in China receive both direct and indirect government subsidies in forms of cash grants, low interest loans, discounted land and tax breaks. “Pervasive and all-encompassing Chinese subsidies are decimating our industry,” said Ben Santarris, spokesman for SolarWorld.
According to the China Chamber of Commerce for Import and Export of Machinery and Electronic Products (CCCME), over 95 percent of China’s domestically manufactured
solar panels are exported, with 10 percent of those exported to the US market. On October 21, the Chinese Ministry of Commerce issued a statement, condemning the discussion of increased tariffs. An unnamed senior official from the ministry’s Bureau of Fair Trade for Imports and Exports told Xinhua News Agency that China currently registered a deficit of US$1.88 billion with the US in the trade of solar products, their raw materials and equipment for making clean energy products. “If the US slaps punitive tariffs on Chinese exports of solar panels, it would also hurt US exports of raw materials and manufacturing equipment to China,” the official warned. “The potential result is a lose-lose situation with negative impacts on the bilateral trade interests of both countries.” Opinion in the United States is divided over any sanctions against China. Contrary to the viewpoint of the coalition under the leadership of SolarWorld, some media including the New York Times have echoed Chinese arguments that punitive tariffs will directly harm American companies that sell raw materials and fac-
tory equipment to Chinese solar panel makers. Others have expressed concern over a potential solar trade war that would result in retaliatory tariffs against US solar exports to China. There are signs that battle lines are already being drawn. Fourteen Chinese solar panel producers, including major players like Suntech Power, Yingli Solar, Trina Solar and Canadian Solar, decided to form a coalition to defend their interests in late October. They hired Sidley Austin LLP as their legal representation and initiated efforts to seek support from various US solar businesses including Monsanto Electronic Materials Company (MEMC) and the Solar City and Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA). At the same time, they sponsored a beltway NGO, the Coalition for Affordable Solar Energy (CASE), to act as their lobbyist in Washington. On December 20, 2011, Jigar Shah, president of CASE, appealed openly to Gordon Brinser, SolarWorld’s president, to withdraw their petition, claiming that placing the equivalent of a punitive tax on imported solar cells could significantly drive up solar panel prices
“The potential result is a lose-lose situation with negative impacts on the bilateral trade interests of both countries.”
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ECONOMY Solar panel sales revenue (US$bn) and market shares (%), Q1-Q3, 2011
18% Netherlands 4.41 23% 21%
Germany 4.11 Italy 3.44 United States 1.76 Belgium 1.28
and therefore have a devastating impact on job growth in the US solar industry. At a press conference, Li Lei from Sidley Austin LLP said that “China’s government subsidies do not run counter to either US law or WTO obligations. The US also provides various supporting policies to the American clean energy industry.” Li added that the lower market price of the Chinese solar products has more to do with low labor costs, more advanced manufacturing technologies, efficient management and larger-scale production than with government subsidies. In response to the CCCME petition, the Chinese Ministry of Commerce has started investigating trade barriers imposed by US and European clean energy policies. In a public announcement, CCCME disclosed that in 2007 SolarWorld’s Oregon project had received around US$430 million in tax breaks and financial subsidies from the US government. It also received aid from EU countries in 2003, 2010 and 2011 totaling almost four billion euros (roughly US$5 bn).
Winter is Coming
The sharp downturn in solar panel prices started as early as last spring. According to Energy Trend, an information website for green energy industries, the per-watt wholesale price of solar modules dropped from US$3.30 in late 2008 to US$1.62 in March 2010, hitting a record low price of US$0.92 in December 2011. Worldwide enthusiasm for clean energy has
caused the global output of solar cells to double between 2009 and 2010, a trend which continued in 2011. China’s market share surged in the same period. Concurrently, the price of silicon wafers and photovoltaic cells has seen a steady decline in the last couple of years, largely due to surging production and the slashing of government subsidies for such technology in manufacturing countries like Germany and Italy. According to data from the Shanghai Customs Office, China exported 120 million solar panels in the first 11 months of 2011, an increase of 27.3 percent on the same period the previous year. Yet, total revenue from solar panel exports was US$10.63 billion, one percent lower than in 2010. As a result, 10 Chinese solar companies listed on the US stock market, including Yingli and LDK, saw deficits in their third-quarter balance sheets last year. A spokesperson from the China Photovoltaic Industry Alliance told NewsChina that since March 2011, over half of China’s small and medium-size solar companies have either stopped manufacturing or downsized output by 30 percent, which has led to job losses across the sector. A prevalent view among manufacturers is that this market contraction will persist throughout 2012.
China’s domestic market is growing gradually, but its domestic solar industry is unlikely to flourish without its lucrative exports. “Chinese solar enterprises would face devastating results
The output of newly installed solar projects in China amounted to 1,000 megawatts in 2011
if the punitive tariffs were imposed,” said Li Junfeng, secretary-general of the Chinese Renewable Energy Industries Association. While China’s domestic solar industry denies American claims its success is due to favorable government policies rather than efficient business practices, the central government’s ambitious emissions targets have led to a string of regulations supporting cleaner energy. In July 2011, China introduced its first unified solar power plant tax and a feed-in tariff of 1.15 yuan (US$01.8)/kWh for solar projects to boost domestic consumption (see: Surface Heat, NewsChina issue 38). China has set its target for installed photovoltaic power capacity to 10 gigawatt (GW) by 2015. Stimulated by potential profit and local government support for clean energy that follows favorable central policymaking, solar power plants are flourishing in Gansu, Qinghai, NEWSCHINA I March 2012
bynumbers +22.5% -14.5%
China’s total foreign trade value in 2011 rose to a record high of US$3.64 trillion, while its surplus dropped to US$155 billion, the lowest since 2007.
Source: General Administration of Customs of China
Trade surplus (US$bn)
Trade value (US$bn)
US$63 billion The amount of local government loan money that has been misused, including illegal guarantees, collateral, and investment. Photo by CFP
Source: National Audit Office of China
Xinjiang and Tibet, where abundant sunshine makes them a viable alternative to conventional power plants. Yin Hao from CGN Solar Energy Development told NewsChina that his company has installed infrastructure totaling 130 megawatts in Gansu and Qinghai in 2011, with a further 90 megawatts to come. As with representatives from other Chinese solar enterprises, Yin avoided accrediting the success of the solar sector to favors from the government. “Supported by continuous technological innovation, our module conversion efficiency has been raised 17 percent, and the cost of generating solar power will continue to go down,” Yin told our reporter. However, it remains to be seen whether China’s fledgling domestic solar industry is able to pick up the slack created by the loss of its commanding foothold in the US market. NEWSCHINA I March 2012
US$16.4 billion The amount of yuan-denominated bonds issued in Hong Kong in 2011, dubbed “dim sum bonds,” more than the total from 2007 to 2010. The bonds were issued by 84 institutions, including 28 multinationals from the US and Europe.
US$9.8 trillion The estimated investable wealth of Chinese individuals by the end of 2011, an increase of 14.8 percent on 2010. Source: China Construction Bank / Boston Consulting Group
Source: Hong Kong Monetary Authority
72.81% China’s outstanding short-term foreign debt as a percentage of its total foreign debt, representing US$508 billion by the end of September 2011, up from 68% in 2010. China’s debtors
Source: State Administration of Foreign Exchange
David Henry Hwang
Found in Translation In his 2011 hit Broadway play Chinglish, Chinese-American playwright David Henry Hwang examines his own roots through the lens of Chinaâ€™s rise
NEWSCHINA I March 2012
Photo by ap
By Rong Xiaojing and Xie Ying
Photo by ap
ebuting on Broadway in late Ocdid not want to admit it. He once considered tober, Chinese-American director himself a real American, and sometimes even David Henry Hwang’s latest comhated himself for not having a Caucasian edy Chinglish has turned out to be a critical face. It was the writing of FOB that awakened as well as commercial success, earning plauawareness of his Chinese blood. dits from New York critics while selling out The first Chinese American to win an at the box office. The play ranked third in Off-Broadway Theater Award (or “Obie”), Time magazine’s list of the top 10 Broadway Hwang admitted that his early works were plays in 2011. written mostly for the benefit of other ChiInspired by the amusing pidgin nese Americans. “Self-definition is English signs Hwang had seen in crucial for me,” he told NewsChina. China, Chinglish tells the story of “Each of my first three plays was tryan American businessman who tries ing to tell the audience that we are not to make a fortune by selling signs to Chinese, but Chinese Americans.” a Chinese official in the provincial This clear-cut definition, however, backwater city of Guiyang, before fallsoon became blurred in Hwang’s selfing in love with the vice-director of image. Realizing that he was breeding the local cultural bureau. a sort of “orientalism” by focusing exAudiences have shown their apclusively on ethnic Asians, he wrote proval for the play’s humor, largely Rich Relations in 1986, a dramatic found in shoddy English translations piece based on his own family, all of of lengthy Mandarin Chinese signs, whom were portrayed by white actors which are projected in huge “supertion stage. This attempt at “re-orientatles” onto the set. Signs as innocent as tion,” however, was roundly panned “dried fruit” and “disabled toilet” beby critics even before its official openDavid Henry Hwang (right) at the 43rd Annual Tony Awards come hilarious when put through the ing. ceremony at the Minskoff Theater, New York, June 5, 1988 linguistic mangle. But the play’s merit Hwang’s big break did not come goes far deeper than the quirks of lanuntil 1988, when his play M Butterfly guage; when produced at Chicago’s won a prestigious Tony Award, and Goodman Theater in June, Chinglish earned him instant fame in American broke the city’s 80-year box office reChristian. They didn’t even celebrate Chinese drama circles. Based on Puccini’s opcord, with the Chicago Tribune praising it as New Year. Hwang said he did not feel dis- era Madame Butterfly, Hwang’s M Butterfly “a shrewd, timely and razor-sharp comedy.” criminated against in school. But the image of tells of a French diplomat who fantasizes over While Hwang’s previous work, M Butterfly, Asians in American TV shows made him feel a cross-dressing male Peking opera performer, was largely centered on relationships between uncomfortable, which might explain why he but takes his own life when he discovers his western and Chinese people, in Chinglish, he chose to pursue a career working on the stage. paramour’s true identity. Hwang made his writing debut at the age chooses to look deeper into shifts in power, In the play, the West was portrayed as more challenging the audience’s preconceptions of 10, a short story based on the experiences powerful than the East; as Song Liling, the about modern East-West relations, while of his grandmother’s family. However, his Peking opera performer, says in the play: “As maintaining an element of personal explora- quest for an answer to the question “Who am an easterner, I could never be a real man in I?” began during his college years, when he their eyes.” However, according to critics, this tion. Hwang told NewsChina he once hated to was influenced by the works of French poet was exactly the concept that Hwang aimed to be called Chinese, but now he feels happy Charles Baudelaire. challenge. In 1981, Hwang debuted his first Obie about it. Perhaps it’s because he is getting “In the original Madame Butterfly, a Japaolder, but a more important reason may be Award-winning play Fresh off the Boat (FOB). nese geisha kills herself for the American By telling the stories of three Chinese Ameri- officer she loves, while in Hwang’s play, it China’s great change. cans (one US-born, one childhood immi- is the French diplomat, the portrait of the grant and one adult immigrant), FOB reveals West, who commits suicide for the sake of his Who Am I? Although born into a Chinese immigrant the complex relationships of attraction and Chinese lover,” said Zhang Sheng, a Chinese family in Los Angeles in 1957, Hwang knew repulsion between different Chinese Ameri- critic. virtually nothing about Chinese culture in cans, and the conflicts they encounter with The writing of M Butterfly marked a change his childhood. He told NewsChina his fa- mainstream American society. in Hwang’s ideas about identity. He told our According to Hwang, he had actually been reporter he began to realize that the problems ther wished to edge his way into mainstream American society, and his mother was a dealing with these issues for years, though he that trouble Chinese Americans, which had NEWSCHINA I March 2012
CULTURE previously confronted him, were not merely confined to Chinese Americans, but also existed between nations and genders. While M Butterfly explored East-West relations, the “east” portrayed onstage was actually based more on Japanese culture, which Americans were more familiar with, than Chinese culture. Japan saw an economic boom in the 1980s, leading to widespread interest in its culture, while in the same period, Westerners’ understanding of China remained grounded in the past, explained Hwang. Having been born and raised in the US, Hwang did not set foot in his ancestral land until 1993, five years after M Butterfly’s debut on a family vacation. “China was bustling with urban construction then. I still remember the air being thick with dust, but the cultural differences left little impression on me,” Hwang said. “Perhaps that was because I considered myself a pure foreigner in a strange country, so I naturally took such differences for granted,” he added. However, in the following years, China caught the world’s attention with its rapid progress, thanks to Deng Xiaoping’s economic development policies. “My father grew up in China in the 1930s when China was called ‘the sick man of the East,’ so since his arrival in the US, he had concentrated on one thing: becoming a real American. But at his deathbed in 2005, he said he was proud of being Chinese,” Hwang said. The same year, Hwang made a second visit to China on an official invitation, which was when the funny English mistranslations first began to catch his eye. Although the absurdity of the translations did serve as a source of inspiration, they were not the main reason why Hwang wrote Chinglish. According to Hwang, writing a play means removing doubt. Whenever he is bothered by doubt and bewilderment, he writes a play to unravel the problems. He wrote Chinglish because he was at a loss as to how to deal with China’s rise. “Back in my childhood, everybody thought China was extremely poor. And now, people think China is extremely rich and powerful. Both impressions are incorrect, and I need to gain my own understanding of China through my writing,” he said.
Photo by ap
A New Outlook
Xi Yan (Jennifer Lim) and Daniel Cavanaugh (Gary Wilmes) talk business in Chinglish
That is why Chinglish is set during the financial crisis, when many Westerners are looking to China to save them from economic ruin, and Guiyang, according to Hwang, is a more suitable background for the play than booming metropolises like Beijing and Shanghai. The play’s protagonist Daniel is no longer a symbol of power as the French diplomat is in M Butterfly. On the contrary, he has to ingratiate himself to the Chinese in order to sell his signs. Peter, a British expat “business consultant,” also falls from grace as a growing number of foreigners flood into China. “Chinglish is designed to tell the audience that the US is no longer the center of the world ... and it should learn more about China,” said Hwang.
While Hwang has incorporated social critique into the play, including scenes of corruption and the abuse of power by Chinese officials, the characters in the play, according to critics, are much more lifelike than those in his previous works. For example, the director of the cultural bureau, Mr Cai, is finally disciplined for taking bribes, but defends his behavior as an effort to preserve traditional Chinese arts. Xi Yan, the female vice director of the cultural bureau who falls in love with Daniel,
may be the play’s most complex character, suggesting the audience that Chinese attitudes toward love and marriage are a world apart from those of Westerners. For example, Xi admits she would never divorce her husband if she were to have an extra-marital affair. “Americans believe romance should be the premise for a good marriage, while the Chinese believe marriage can be maintained with ‘qingyi,’ a relationship similar to that between friends and partners,” Hwang told China Entrepreneur magazine. “Many Chinese who are doing business in the US and many Americans who have been to China told me that the play has reminded them of many Xi Yans and Mr Cais around them,” Joanna Lee, cultural consultant for the production, told the magazine. Hwang said he was not aware that he had learnt much about China until he finished writing the play. Although he was a Chinese American, he seem to be natural at doing things the Chinese way. Hwang hopes that Chinglish can one day be produced on a Chinese stage, and acknowledged by a Chinese audience. Although he told our reporter he still hasn’t found an answer to the question “Who am I?” he knows that something innate can never be changed, no matter how hard you try to be someone else. NEWSCHINA I March 2012
Believing in the Future Progressive 20th-century historian Gao Hua was best known for his seminal book exposing the facts behind the Yan’an Rectification Movement, a dark period in the Communist Party’s history. Professor Gao’s death in late 2011 has provoked much reflection on his singular dedication to the pursuit of the truth By Yuan Ye
Photo by CFP
ven in turmoil, history always manages to leave scattered clues. Gao Hua spent some 20 years collecting these clues, comparing them, finding the most reliable ones and figuring out the underlying logic linking them. These efforts finally led to the completion of the 600,000-character book How the Red Sun Rose: The Cause and Effect of the Yan’an Rectification (hereafter The Red Sun), in which Professor Gao of Nanjing University disclosed in detail the process of the Yan’an Rectification Movement (1942-1945), the Communist Party of China’s (CPC) effort to attack intellectuals and supplant the popular revolutionary ideology with its own. Gao’s book exposed the harsh political struggle during the movement, its political and social motivation, and its decisive and continuing influence since the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949. Such a depiction couldn’t be further from the version in the official Party history, yet none of the sources used in the book are secrets. According to media reports, the Party Literature Research Office of the CPC’s Central Committee has acknowledged that the sources used in the book are all from publications freely available on the Chinese mainland – none of them are from classified internal materials or overseas publications. At the same time, all important arguments and quotations in the book are clearly referenced in over 1,000 footnotes. However, the book has never been approved for publication on the mainland. For years, the Yan’an Rectification Movement has been depicted as a great endeavour in Marxist education that helped the CPC to unify under
NEWSCHINA I March 2012
Maoist ideology, and improve its battle-effectiveness. Its cruelty is rarely mentioned. The deeper, darker side of the story has remained a sensitive topic over the intervening decades, and seldom has any researcher on the mainland even risked touching upon it, much less spent years systematically researching it. The Red Sun, published in 2000 by the Chinese University Press in Hong Kong, did justice to its subject and argument with abundant sources, and has received wide praise and academic acknowledgement. Surprisingly, it was also Professor Gao’s first book, released when he was 46 years of age. In 2010, his second book The Years of Revolution was finally published on the mainland, but by then, Gao was already seriously ill.
Gao was diagnosed with liver cancer in 2007, when he was working on a revised edition of The Red Sun. He continued to work while struggling with the disease over the following four and a half years. While The Red Sun went from strength to strength, being reprinted a total of eight times, Gao’s condition began to deteriorate after a sudden decline in health. On December 26, 2011, he passed away in a hospital in Nanjing, Jiangsu Province. The news rocked the Chinese academic community; his indomitable spirit and positive attitude left his contemporaries shocked at the abruptness of his death. Despite his illness he remained in his intellectual prime up to his death, and many were looking forward to his further contribution to scholarship. Perhaps most importantly, in many people’s view he was one of the few academics with a truly perceptive insight and a rigorous discipline, which helped him pierce the limited and often distorted materials available for modern Chinese historical research, while keeping his scholarship as objective and fact-based as possible. Academics and readers mourned the loss of Gao. A great number of people, including many of the country’s most famous intellectuals, came from all over China to Nanjing to attend Gao’s memorial service to pay their respects. Feng Lanrui, the ninety-one-year old economist and veteran CPC member, praised Gao’s work as “a small spark that took
some of the shine from the ‘red sun.’” Zhang Yihe, well respected author of several bestselling memoirs and historical biographies of the revolutionary era, flew from Beijing to Nanjing “not to bid farewell to Gao’s body, but to inherit his spirit – the spirit of bearing a burden and persisting with one’s pursuits even when frustrated and exhausted.”
Born to be Sensitive
The son of a “rightist,” Gao had a turbulent childhood, witnessing constant chaos and violence during the revolutionary movements of his time. Born in 1954 into poverty in the “new China,” the contrast between rhetoric and reality taught him to be intuitively skeptical. His father had been sent to do manual labor for years in the suburbs of Nanjing, and fled to avoid persecution in 1966 when the Cultural Revolution (1966 – 1976) threw society into chaos. Gao’s lineage troubled him enormously; in 1963, he passed the entrance examination to a well-known middle school in Nanjing, but was rejected due to his family background. In the spring of 1966, Gao’s school encouraged students to read the selected works of Chairman Mao, and Gao learned of the Yan’an Rectification Movement for the first time. As the Cultural Revolution began, violence increased Gao witnessed verbal and physical attacks against the first Party secretary of Jiangsu Province in Nanjing University, and the mother of one of his schoolmates was shot for tearing up a portrait of Chairman Mao and “shouting reactionary slogans.” During the Cultural Revolution, Gao read as much of Mao’s work as he could get his hands on. Meanwhile, he made the acquaintance of the elderly caretaker of a warehouse storing the books of a closed middle school library. He got access to these books and found Wang Shiwei’s Wild Lillies, an article published in 1942 criticizing the hierarchical system that led to Wang’s arrest in the Yan’an Rectification, and finally his execution in 1947. Gao also read Ding Ling, another writer seriously criticized during the movement. Meanwhile, he also read literature and his-
tory from both home and abroad, including works by Montesquieu, Romain Rolland, Walt Whitman, Lao She and Ye Shengtao. Reflecting on his own experience, Gao felt that something was wrong. He believed that the key to an explanation of the chaos he saw around him lay in the Yan’an Rectification Movement. In 1978, two years after the Cultural Revolution ended, Gao enrolled in the History Department of Nanjing University, and later began work on a book that would reveal the facts.
Although it was an iconic event in the Party’s history, sources on the Yan’an Rectification Movement were not readily available. Fortunately, the 1980s was a time of political relaxation, and the authorities gradually disclosed some historical records related to the time. Gao collected as much material as he could. His experience of China’s political movements and his natural sensitivity helped him to compare the sources at hand, and disNEWSCHINA I March 2012
Photo by Xinhua
Mao Zedong (middle) at the 1945 7th CPC National Congress. Attended by some 750 delegates, the congress marked the end of the Yan’an Rectification Campaign
cover their hidden secrets. In 1991, as a thesis began to take shape in his mind, he started writing on August 19. “Writing such a book was a long process and I didn’t think of publishing it immediately. I just felt that I should write. I needed to overcome my own fear, and get rid of all the taboos in my mind.” After decades of the Party’s official explanation of the movement, Gao felt an urge to interrogate the basic historical details of the period. It took him plenty of time to sort the reliable sources from the dubious. At the end of 1992, two thirds of the book had been finished. But Gao slowed down, feeling the need for a second round of extensive research, reading and thinking. It was another six years before he finally finished the book in early 1999. Yet writing the book was a totally independent project. Across years of writing, Gao never applied for any State funding. He knew that “even if I applied, I would never be approved for any funds.” Buying related reading material cost him dearly; before 2001, he and NEWSCHINA I March 2012
his wife had only one room to live in. The Red Sun was finished on the kitchen table. Gao once joked with a friend that he cared less about the book’s literary influence than he did about the royalties, as he needed to pay his mortgage. As an intellectual, Gao saw an essential conflict in play between the academic community and the communist revolution. In his opinion, intellectuals were attracted by the idea of revolution, which led to their cooperation with the CPC. However, he argued that intellectuals’ requirements of democracy and individualism were in opposition to the “ideological unanimity” and “collectivism” of the Communist Party. “The Yan’an Rectification Movement contributed greatly to the success of the CPC’s revolution. Yet, some of the concepts and methods in the movement had a lasting negative influence on China’s progress. Ultraleftism and Machiavellian politics grew to a surging tide that led to a series of extremeleftist movements, and finally the disastrous Cultural Revolution,” he wrote in his post-
How the Red Sun Rose: The Cause and Effect of the Yan’an Rectification by Gao Hua
script to The Red Sun. “Of course, the [Chinese] enlightenment era of the 1980s has long past. In the transformation period between old and new, old ideas and methods are still very much alive. But all in all, China has progressed. We are no longer in the Cultural Revolution, nor the 1950s and 1960s. I believe in the future,” he wrote at the end an article to commemorate The Red Sun’s ten year anniversary.
Political Specimens Photographer Bai Xiaoci has chosen the architecture of Chinaâ€™s countless government buildings as the subject of his work, using State esthetics as a gauge for the national mood. We caught up with Bai to ask how he felt Chinaâ€™s leadership were expressing themselves in the 21st century By Yuan Ye
Government building of Yingquan District, Fuyang City, Anhui Province
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Photo by Bai Xiaoci
o access one of China’s modern government buildings, one would likely have to get past several armed guards, cross a grand plaza and climb an immense staircase all before reaching the front door. Photographer Bai Xiaoci (real name Shen Xiaoming) told our reporter he feels like a “prostrate pilgrim” before these “towering and spectacular” structures that house China’s local governments, Party committees, and people’s congresses. Since 2009, Bai has made these edifices the focus of his work, with a portfolio including over 40 government buildings in provinces and regions from Shenzhen to Inner Mongolia, offering an overview of the changing face of China’s government architecture. In the last decade, accelerated urbanization has swept across China, a boom reflected in the mushrooming of grand architectural projects. Bai, born in 1974 in a small town in the eastern coastal province of Zhejiang, has long been interested in the relationship between human beings and architecture. However, his portrait photographs of government buildings are notable for the absence of human figures. “Totalitarianism has a set of rituals to lord itself over individualism,” wrote Bai in an article. “These rituals include spiritual leaders, theories, written classics, organizational life, clothes, etiquette and architecture. The rulers all hope to awe visitors by contrasting the small size of a human being with the massive size of their edifices.” Bai’s photos have found many admirers online. While many Internet users have decried the extravagance of such vast construction projects, Bai claims his aim was to highlight the “self-consciousness” of his country’s leaders, as well as their principles of governance. “These buildings of power,” he wrote, “are not merely physical constructions but living political specimens.”
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NewsChina: Why did you start shooting government buildings in the first place? Bai: I’ve been shooting serial photos related to urbanization for some time. There was one series called I Live in Here which featured family living rooms. Then, an idea hit me that I should shoot the “living rooms” of the cities, which in many cases are embodied in city squares, the main streets and the government buildings. In 2009 I was going to enter my works into the Shenzhen & Hong Kong Bi-City Biennale of Urbanism/Architecture and so I submitted my plan to shoot government buildings to the organizers. The project received sponsorship from the biennale and I formally started shooting.
Ningde County, Guangdong Province
NewsChina: How many cities have you included in your project? Bai: I shot government buildings in about 20 to 30 cities in September and October 2009, often one or two a day. The biennale displayed pictures from 14 cities. NewsChina: Why did you continue after the exhibition? Bai: As I continued shooting, I found the topic became more and more interesting. Behind the phenomenon lay a host of profound economic and political drives. These buildings are a reflection of urbanization. The main source of income for many local governments today is selling land for real estate development. The governments are thus eager to see a booming of the land market, which means increasing the value of the land. There are many ways to achieve that goal. Many local governments expanded cities and opened up new districts. Then, they built government buildings in the new districts to increase land value. It’s a very direct, fast and effective way to force land prices up. The government buildings often serve as a symbol of confidence in land value. Investors expect supporting infrastructure in these areas and so they pour cash into the most promising locale. What follows is a rise in real estate prices. That’s the economic side.
Hohhot, Inner Mongolia
Pudong District, Shanghai, East China
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In terms of politics, government officials answer to their supervisors. In recent years, one of the criteria to gauge the performance of the local officials is so-called “city management.” How the city is managed, in other words “built,” influences the career prospects of the head of a city government. Buildings are a visual testament to “city management.” Therefore, many local officials are keen to construct more, with government buildings the icons of this phenomenon. At the local level, the head of the local government actually has the power to decide everything. So, these government buildings are the embodiment of that collusion between power and money. NewsChina: Why are you so interested in urbanization? Bai: Our era is the urbanization era. The majority of the Chinese people are involved in the process of urbanization, including me. I came from a small town, entered college later in life and grew up in big cities. Some people say that China is now undergoing a transformation unprecedented in 3,000 years of history. It’s entirely natural to find this topic appealing. NewsChina: What are the most impressive features in modern government buildings? Bai: Their huge size. In front of these buildings I feel like nothing. Some are stylistically impressive. “The White House” in Yingquan district, Fuyang, Anhui Province was one of the most impressive government buildings I ever saw. Also, those buildings with “minority nationality” features such as those in Tibet and Guizhou Province can also be very impressive. NewsChina: Why did you choose to shoot the government buildings in portrait format? Bai: Shooting the façade of a government building gives a more complete view. It’s the same as shooting human portraits – normally we shoot people from the front. It’s part of my own style of documentary photography that aims for a real, solid image. I see my pictures as historical data. They need to withstand the test of time. NEWSCHINA I March 2012
Ordos, Inner Mongolian, North China
Changxing County, Zhejiang Province, East China
Baoji City, Shaanxi Province, Northwest China
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The IOC is sponsoring a new training program to help China’s elite athletes, who are often unskilled and ill equipped to handle a normal life outside of athletics, to begin a second career after retirement from competition By Tang Lei and Yuan Ye
in Wuhan, Hubei Province, many attendees shared feelings similar to Yan Lei’s.
Photo by Xinhua
onfined to gyms and sports fields for their entire competitive careers, China’s elite sportsmen and women are not known for their communication skills. But as 45 athletes handed in their questionnaires at the end of a course preparing them for their working lives after retirement, it was clear they had a lot to say; many used the back of the page to fully express complex feelings about their future. “This course is lively and attractive. I hope it can help all active and retired athletes. Please help us, we are faced with so many choices,” wrote Yan Lei, a female swimmer, on her questionnaire. She said she hoped to receive more preparation and advice for her postretirement career. The two-day event was the 2011 Career Development Training Course for Athletes in Hubei Province, sponsored by the Champion Fund, a foundation jointly launched by China’s first Winter Olympics medalist Yang Yang and the Red Cross Society of China. At the course, held on December 10-11, 2011,
Yang Yang, founder of the Champion Fund
“As competing athletes, you all have your dreams. But you don’t stop there. After your retirement, you still have 35 years ahead for another career. You need to think about the future, and you’ve got to start preparing for it today,” said Patrick Glennon, executive with international HR firm Adecco and the event’s lead trainer. In co-operation with the International Olympic Committee (IOC), Glennon has delivered lectures to more than 3,000 athletes worldwide since 2005. He told NewsChina that while every athlete has to face retirement some day, he wanted to let Chinese athletes know that they were “more than gold medal machines,” and they needed “to win the gold medal in their own lives.” The Champion Fund invited Glennon, along with his internationally adopted training workshop, to Wuhan. Gao Hong and Yang Wei, both famous retired NEWSCHINA I March 2012
Photo by Sun Xiaofeng
Champion Fund trainer Patrick Glennon coaches athletes in Hubei Province, December 10, 2011
athletes, served as his teaching assistants. Gao, a soccer goalkeeper, contributed greatly to the Chinese women’s team’s silver medals in the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games and the 1999 World Cup, and Yang Wei, a men’s gymnastics medalist, is now an official at the Gymnastics Management Center under the Hubei Provincial Sports Bureau. “Think of all you have achieved so far,” said Gao Hong. “First, you aimed for the championship in your county and you made it. Then you aimed at the top spot in your city, and you made that too. Then you aimed higher, and so on. You have survived many rounds of elimination and have consistently succeeded. You are different from average people.” The trainers emphasized that these athletes could continue their success in other walks of life after retirement. “I never realized how special we are,” said He Shuai, a rifle shooter attending the workshop.
The Harder They Fall
Post-retirement programs for athletes are not entirely new to China, but previous efforts have focused on athletes nearing or already in retirement, rather than for those still in competition. “In the past, we feared
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that such training would be distracting, and would weaken athletes’ determination to win the gold. Now we have realized they need proper guidance when they are still active, in order to prepare them for a career change in the future,” Dai Chengbao, vice-bureau chief of the Personnel Office of the Hubei Provincial Sports Bureau, told NewsChina. A handful of top athletes in China do manage to ride the wave of their success on the sports field, securing government positions or business roles after their retirement. Deng Yaping, a former women’s Olympic pingpong champion, became an ambassador for the Beijing Olympics in 2008, and is now a high-level official at the State-owned newspaper the People’s Daily. Li Ning, a successful Olympic gymnast, founded what is now one of China’s most successful sportswear brands, which he named after himself. Yet, as the swimmer Yan Lei said, the majority of athletes find themselves confused as to the right path to choose, and in extreme cases, this confusion can have terrible consequences. Zhang Shangwu, a former member of the men’s national gymnastics team and a Universiade champion, turned to crime and street performance after a foot injury forced
his retirement in 2005. Cai Li, an Asian champion in weightlifting, died in 2003 at the age of 30, five years after his retirement; local media reports attributed his death to “health problems” caused by the rapid transition from elite sportsman to school doorman earning 6,000 yuan (US$900) per year. Zou Chunlan, a national weightlifting champion, worked as a masseuse in a bathhouse after her retirement in 1993.
Often beginning their intense training regimes when barely out of infanthood, China’s elite athletes receive little formal education and usually have no skills outside of their sports abilities. While the State takes care of nearly every aspect of their life before retirement, athletes are spoiled to the point that even mere survival in normal society can pose a serious problem. Even Yang Yang, short-track speed skater and founder of the Champion Fund, suffered this confusion time after she retired in 2006. As China’s first Winter Olympics gold medalist, she had the opportunity to become a sports official, generally considered to be the best post-retirement career for athletes. “I
Photo by CFP
After turning to petty crime and street performance to earn a living, an Internet campaign allowed former Universiade gymnastics champion Zhang Shangwu (right) to gain employment as a brand ambassador wasn’t sure whether I wanted to stay in the official sports system or not. I was at a loss,” she said. Yang Yang wanted to try something new, but doubted her own ability in anything other than skating. “When most athletes reach retirement, people of their age in other industries are just beginning their careers. Having spent so much time focusing on one thing, athletes have little knowledge about anything else.” Under these circumstances, many retired athletes become frustrated with their new occupations. In the planned economy era, nearly all retirees would be allotted an unskilled job by the State, but after Reform and Opening-up in 1978, this system was replaced with support measures including cash payouts, scholarships to universities, and employment at sports bureaus for those deemed worthy. However, many athletes quickly spent their compensation or suffered losses with failed investments, and returning to the normal education system was often impossible. Employment in the official sports system could usually only be secured through backroom dealings.
As the 2008 Beijing Olympics approached, Yang Yang finally chose to work for the Olympic Organizational Committee. In 2008, she registered a charity in Hong Kong to carry out youth sports training. In 2010, Yang became a member of the IOC, where she first heard about the IOC-sponsored Athlete Career Program, and realized it was very much needed in China. She proposed to establish the program as a charity in her home country.
Making the Change
During the 2010 Asian Games in Guangzhou, Yang Yang and several others carried out a survey of the Chinese athlete community. They handed out hundreds of questionnaires in the on-site canteen, and got more than 500 responses. The result was a 70-page report about the careers of Chinese athletes. It indicated that nearly 80 percent believed that their difficulty in entering employment or education after retirement was caused by poor education, and that more than 90 percent of them were willing to take career development training. The report received support from the State
General Administration of Sports (SGAS), and Yang’s plan was given the go-ahead. In May 2011, the Champion Fund was launched by Yang and the Red Cross Society of China, with three-year sponsorship deals from Sina, China’s leading Internet portal, and Anta, a domestic sportswear brand. Initially, the Champion Fund had only planned to hold two sessions in 2011, but they soon found this fell short of demand, and decided to give more. Four training sessions were carried out in the latter half of 2011, the largest of which was the Wuhan session. Yang Wei, who invited the Champion Fund to Wuhan, hoped the course could be carried out as often as every one or two months: “With 45 athletes attending the course each time, we can help a lot of athletes in a year, which will do a lot of good for Hubei Province,” he said. Yang Yang was more patient: “The program needs time to earn the trust of the SGAS and the athletes, which is crucial to us.” She said she wanted to move steadily, step by step. The program currently follows the standard IOC curriculum, but measures specifically designed for Chinese athletes are under exploration. Luan Lin, one of the trainers, found younger athletes were not so keen on planning their future. A retired athlete himself, Luan has participated in three training sessions. “We are gradually learning more about our athletes,” said Luan. “We want to adjust our training to better suit their needs.” Under the arrangement of the Champion Fund, Wu Yan (pseudonym), an Asian trackand-field champion, is soon to start her internship as a sales assistant in a sportswear store. She had applied for a teaching position in a college or middle school after retirement, but was rejected. She later became a bus conductor, but soon found she had little interest in the job. Now offered the internship, she agreed to give it a try. “It’s difficult for her to transition from being a champion to being an ordinary worker,” said Luan Lin, the trainer. “She has to realize that she needs to start from the ground up.” Yang Yang admitted she was anxious about Wu’s internship. It’s the first internship that the Champion Fund has ever arranged for a retired athlete, and everyone involved is waiting in anticipation to see how it will work out. NEWSCHINA I March 2012
Rape of Nanking
A School and a Sanctuary
In 1937, Japanese soldiers sacked Nanking, then capital of the Republic of China, indiscriminately butchering and raping its inhabitants. Most accounts of the genocide mention a few foreigners who gave sanctuary to locals fleeing the slaughter, one of the most poignant involves schoolmistress Minnie Vautrin
Photo by Yale Divinity School Library
By Yang Min and Xie Ying
Part of refugees harbored in Ginling Girls College
he opening scene of Zhang Yimou’s latest period blockbuster The Flowers of War is full of gunshots and fog. The multimillion-dollar production stars Christian Bale as American mortician John Miller, who shielded female students from rape in a local Catholic girls school. The plot revolves around 13 local prostitutes who gave themselves up to Japanese troops in search of rape victims, taking the places of school students. The drama was inspired by events at the Ginling Girls College in Nanking, now Nanjing, and the actions of its principal, American
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missionary Wilhelmina Vautrin, who attempted to save civilians from the brutality of the Japanese occupiers in Nanking. Vautrin’s diary reveals that a senior Japanese officer ordered soldiers to select 100 “comfort women” from among 10,000 refugees who had taken shelter in Vautrin’s college in the Nanking Safety Zone, a semi-secure area of the city established by a handful of Westerners who were, unlike local Chinese, theoretically protected from violence by their countries’ treaties with the Empire of Japan. The Japanese soldiers finally abducted 21 women.
Vautrin began keeping a diary in August 1937 when Japanese war planes started launching air raids on Nanking, then the capital of Chiang Kai-shek’s Kuomintang government. The city authorities ordered all the red roofs and whitewashed walls in the city to be painted grey or black and underground shelters be dug out. “It apSex workers in Shenyang, 1934 peared that the whole city was holding a big funeral,” recalled Zhang Xiaosong, then a psychology teacher at the Ginling Girls College. People, rich and poor, were trying to flee the trapped city by train, ship, truck, or even by wheelbarrow, with the remainder shivering in their homes as bombers destroyed whole districts. Despite US embassy demanding that its citizens resident in Nanking evacuate, Vautrin chose to stay. She, along with two dozen other Westerners – European and American missionaries, schoolteachers, college professors and businesspeople – planned to establish a safety zone protected by international treaties to harbor civilians. Vautrin wrote that staying with the College was her responsibility, just as in a maritime disaster, men should not abandon their ship and women should not abandon their children. The safety zone was finally established on November 15, with John Rabe, a German executive of Siemens AG China Corporation and a Nazi Party member, elected chairman. Rabe’s wartime diaries would later serve as further eyewitness testimony to the Rape of Nanking. The Kuomintang government gave full support to the establishment of the 4-square kilometer safety zone, providing 450 policemen and 40,000 bushels of rice and flour and 80,000 Republican yuan in cash. However, the government itself, knowing the city to
be lost, evacuated its staff to the newly declared capital in Chongqing beginning November 22, leaving, according to historical records, about 500,000 civilians and 90,000 troops to hold the city. Vautrin refused to leave with other fleeing Westerners, telling US embassy staff that she would not abandon her school under any circumstances. She quickly organized a six-member security team to protect the college and had eight Stars and Stripes hoisted or planted on the campus, the biggest one some 30 feet square. The school’s staff prayed that the coming Japanese soldiers would be reluctant to attack buildings flying foreign flags.
Hopes that the advance would be slowed, however, went unanswered. On December 12, Nanking fell. Vautrin lay wide awake all night, listening to the heavy artillery pounding the city gates and the crackle of gunfire from the street-to-street fighting as the Japanese war machine crept closer to the college. The December 13 entry in Vautrin’s diary describes mayhem: streets strewn with wreckage, all public buildings and shops looted or burnt down, and mutilated bodies lying in the streets amidst discarded Kuomintang army uniforms. There was no running water, no electricity, no telephone lines and, no radio reception. Outside the safety zone, Nanking was a silent necropolis. Inside it, were throngs of weary, grimy refugees. A growing number of women flooded through the gates of Ginling Girls College, begging for shelter. They told Vautrin that Japanese soldiers broke into homes and raped any women they found, from children to the elderly. Vautrin would hear of several dozen rapes each day, usually involving the torture and murder of the victims. Overwhelmed, Vautrin tried to persuade older women to stay at home in order to leave more space for younger women in the college, now a temporary shelter. Such accounts were supported by an NHK (Nippon Hoso Kyokai) documentary, in which a Japanese army veteran recalled how the Japanese soldiers raped Chinese girls in front of their parents, who kowtowed in an attempt to “gesture to them to ‘please spare her.’” Vautrin wrote that many women were torn between staying at home and seeking shelter in the safety zone. If they stayed at home, Photo by fotoe
Vautrin’s account became the historical basis of writer Yan Geling’s 2005 book The Flowers of War, in turn the inspiration for Zhang’s screenplay. “A total of 80,000 [Chinese] women were [reportedly] raped during the orgy that is called the ‘Rape of Nanking’ in the West,” Yan told media at her book launch. “It was the rape of a nation, mentally as well as physically. It was worse than a massacre,” she added. Today, the old buildings of Ginling Girls College are still there, serving as a subcampus for today’s Nanjing Normal University, however no trace remains of the refugee camp in the retrofitted interiors.
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Photo by CFP
the Japanese response was simply to rub their faces with wet towels. they risked rape. If they took shelter in the college, they were abandoning their husbands and sons to torture and death. Chen Ruifang, a teacher in the college, affirmed Vautrin’s accounts Zhang Yimou’s movie recreates notorious images of Japanese with her own diary which revealed that on Christmas Eve 1937, a brutality in lurid detail: one scene shows two Japanese soldiers tryJapanese officer asked to select “prostitutes” from among the refugees ing to rip a college student’s clothes off before throwing her from a in the college to serve Japanese soldiers. building, another shows the corpse of a woman who has been raped According to Nanjing Requiem by Ha Jin, a Chinese-American with a bamboo stick. Both writer, on that day, while are re-enactments of events Vautrin argued with the photographed by Japanese Japanese officer about soldiers and journalists in how he could distinguish Nanking. prostitutes from ordinary Estimates at the Tokyo women, Japanese soldiers war crimes tribunal in the had already started the solate 1940s put the numbers called “selection,” choosing of women raped in the first the most attractive women month of the Japanese ocfrom the crowds of refucupation of Nanking at gees. 20,000, while international Qu Shenxing, another observers claim this figure refugee in the college, should be quadrupled to also affirmed the incident account for the total numduring an interview with ber of rapes carried out by Zhang Lianhong. “[The Japanese soldiers in Nansoldiers] searched everyking in the course of the where, and over 20 women war. were finally taken to the More than 1,000 girls waiting trucks …. Most of were raped on December the women had resisted, 16 alone, according to John and were screaming for Rabe’s diary. On the fourth help.” day of the Japanese ocTheir more glamorous silver screen counterparts, as depicted in The Flowers of cupation, in Ginling Girls Fate War College alone, about 100 Despite an order from [girls] were taken away by the Japanese occupiers insisting on the closure of the the Japanese and raped, he Nanking Safety Zone by February 1938 and the release of all refugees wrote, adding that the security zone had become “a brothel for the to Japanese authorities by May the same year, Vautrin continued to Japanese.” shelter refugees, especially women, under huge pressure. At its peak, Breakdown her college offered sanctuary to over 10,000 refugees. However, she Vautrin wrote in her diary that she would never forget a scene became a victim of China’s complex politics. In 1940, a rumor began on December 17, 1937: people knelt down by the road … women in a Chinese newspaper that Vautrin was “trafficking women refucaught by the Japanese screamed in fear. On that day, according to gees to Japan.” This may have contributed to a mental breakdown her diary, Japanese soldiers, under the pretext of checking for fugitive in 1940, which forced Vautrin to resign and return to the US. A few months later, in deep depression, Vautrin committed suicide by Chinese soldiers, started selecting women from the refugees at the turning on the stove gas in her small apartment in Indianapolis. school, finally dragging 12 away. Yan Geling guesses at the fate of the women kidnapped by the Despite the flags, Vautrin’s college was not safe from the brutality. Japanese in her book, basing her account on fragmentary historical Every day, Vautrin would patrol the campus and attempt to snatch records. It is generally understood that kidnapped women would beback food and women from Japanese looters. “This is an American school,” she would yell at the Japanese, often to no effect. come “comfort women” in Japan’s industrial-scale war brothels, most According to Zhang Lianhong, a Nanking Massacre researcher of them dying in the following years of war, from exhaustion, torture from Nanjing Normal University, a Japanese soldier once told her and disease. Still others committed suicide. that all the Japanese soldiers in Nanking knew that Vautrin’s college Zhang Yimou’s movie ends rather more optimistically, with the sheltered young women. Zhao Zhenglian, the wife of a campus sesuccessful escape of the school students from the city. The fate of the curity guard, told Zhang that the women refugees would smear their 13 prostitutes who give themselves over to the Japanese, however, is not shown. faces with dirt when they heard Japanese trucks approaching, but NEWSCHINA I March 2012
OUTSIDEIN perspectives from within china
Unexpected Possibilities There is a world of experience to be had beyond the temples and scenery at this sacred Buddhist peak
Photo by CFP
By Wang Yan
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fter a three-day training course in Jiangsu Province in late September, I postponed my return journey to Beijing for a few days, deciding instead to make a detour to the neighboring Anhui Province, whose beautiful mountainous region is one of China’s most popular tourist destinations. Keen to avoid crowds of snap-happy tourists that inevitably swarm the region’s big-name scenic spots during the National Day vacation, I decided to head to Jiuhua Mountain rather than its better known sister mountain, the picture-postcard peak of Huang Shan. Although Jiuhua Mountain has long been known as one of China’s four sacred Buddhist mountains (excluding those in Tibet), it is dwarfed by its world-famous neighbor, in size as well as visitor numbers.
On the Way
Aside from the maddening crowds and the risk of a fatal plunge at Huang Shan (the sheer volume of tourists sometimes leads to accidents along the mountain’s precipitous paths), another reason I chose Jiuhua was the attractive prospect of silent evergreen bamboo forests, exquisite ancient temples, and enticing mountain tea. Compared with the stress of Huang Shan, the choice was an easy one. For the sake of convenience, I joined a local tour group, rather than opting for my usual solo backpack hike. In the drizzling rain, our group’s bus set off on the six-hour journey to Qingyang County, the seat of Jiuhua Mountain. As we approached, the
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Dizang Temple on Jiuhua Mountain
stark outline of the mountain’s jagged peaks gradually crept forth from the rising fog and looming rainclouds. Though not particularly tall – none higher than 1500 meters – the menacing crags looked nonetheless fearsome against the ominous backdrop. On the bus, our tour guide gave us a potted history of Jiuhua Mountain; we learned that Jiuhua was where the human incarnation of Ksitigarbha, the Buddhist “Earth Treasurer,” was said to have resided. Ksitigarbha is famous for his vow not to achieve Buddhahood until all hells were emptied.
Sacred Resting Place
In Buddhist tradition, Jin Qiaojue (Kim Kyo-gak), a prince from Silla on the Korean peninsula, arrived at the mountain during the
reign of the Emperor Xuanzong during the Tang Dynasty (618-907), and settled there as a monk. After 75 years of monastic practice, he passed away at the age of 99. After three years’ preservation, his body remained uncorrupted, and his joints are said to have sounded like a golden lock when shaken. According to Buddhist scriptures, the sound of a golden lock means the person is the reincarnation of a bodhisattva. Believing he was the reincarnated Ksitigarbha, Jin’s disciples built a pagoda to house his body for his followers to worship. Upon arriving at Jiuhua, we first went to Huacheng Temple at the foot of the mountain, the first temple Jin constructed. After joining throngs of chanting Buddhist devotees in viewing an exhibition of Jin’s life that was on display inside, we headed to the Yueshen Palace, where Jin Qiaojue’s mortal body is enshrined. The bodies of dozens of Buddhist and Taoist practitioners used to be preserved on Jiuhua Mountain, but only a few survived the desecration of the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976). One such body is now stored in another temple on the mountain, the Hundred Year Palace, where the gold-plated body of a sitting monk has reputedly remained intact for over 380 years. Leaving Yueshen Palace, as the tour guide began to usher the group towards the cable car up the mountain, I decided to leave the group and hike alone for the remainder of the trip. Just as I was about to set off, I was joined by another member of the group, a middle-aged Taiwanese man. As we made our way up, the refreshingly
greeted with colorful Buddhist prayer flags. After spending some time wandering the temples in the Sky Terrace area near the summit, we set off down the mountain. Our arbitrary route led us to an ancient cave, where we met a Buddhist hermit named Shi Changgui, who had lived inside the cave for 18 years. His heart-warming hospitality and guidance were perhaps the highlight of the entire experience at Jiuhua. Back at the foot of the mountain, our group Grim Weather Ancient sutra-chanting flatform on Jiuhua parted ways after enjoyWith rain and ing a delicious vegetarian clouds lingering overhead, the whole journey remained wet and meal and exchanging contact details, with each of us promising to play host to the others foggy. A couple of hours’ arduous hike finally should the opportunity arise. brought us close to the top, where other tourOn Jiuhua Mountain, a Korean prince once ists were thankfully scarce. It was the unfavorgave up all he had, and opened a complete able weather, I guessed, that had discouraged new chapter of life. We may never be faced most people from pushing for the summit. with such a choice, but even the most innocuClimbing the stone steps up the mountain ous of our everyday decisions can open up a became increasingly taxing, and the path got world of possibility that could change our life visibly narrower; at some points, it was less or attitude forever. In choosing to climb the than half a meter wide, with a sheer drop to either side. To make matters all the more peril- mountain on foot, not only did I unwittingly recruit two new friends, but the path we joined ous, the howling wind was blowing at such a each other along eventually brought us to the force that I could barely stand upright, forcing me to crouch to retain my footing. We eventu- fascinating hermit Shi Changgui, and the realally found respite at the summit, Shiwangfeng, ization that Jiuhua Mountain has much more to offer than temples and scenery. 1,344 meters above sea level, where we were Photo by Liu Bin/CFP
moist air and the smell of living plant life quickly cleared our lungs and minds of the irritation of city living. Small temples at intervals along the well-paved mountain trails serve as ideal rest stops. The following day, our duo became a trio when we were joined by another man from Taiwan. Our destination that day was Tiantai, or the “Sky Terrace,” at Jiuhua’s summit.
Getting There Trains and long-distance buses run from Hefei, capital of Anhui Province, to Qingyang County, from which the Jiuhua Mountain Tourist Center is reachable by taxi or public bus. A shuttle-bus runs within the mountain park, and a ticket to most destinations will cost 30 yuan (US$5). No private cars are allowed within the park. Where to Stay Travelers can bed down in familyrun inns in Jiuhua town, with double rooms on offer for 100 yuan (US$14) per night. Jiuhua is a developed tourist destination, so star-graded hotels are also on offer; rooms at the Julong Hotel and Huarui Hotel range from hundreds to thousands of yuan per night. Those looking for a more authentic experience can sleep in one of the mountain’s various temples for no more than a few dollars. Other Attractions A trip to Anhui’s mountainous region would not be complete without a visit to the incomparable, if overpopulated, Huangshan. Local culture is plentiful in nearby Shexian County, and Hongcun township is known for its wellpreserved ancient-style houses. Tea fanatics would do well to visit Anji in neighboring Zhejiang Province, where white tea is produced.
shang bu qi Can’t afford to be hurt The prize for last year’s most popular online meme went to shang bu qi, a self-mocking phrase expressing frustrated dissatisfaction with an unfair situation. Approximated in English to “cannot afford to be hurt,” the speaker is making fun of the fact that they are in such an impossible situation that they don’t even have the option of admitting their own helplessness. Literally, “shang” is equivalent to the English word “hurt,” but in this case, it takes the passive voice “to be hurt.” “Bu qi” is a negative complement showing that the subject cannot afford to do the verb. Ergo, the subject, usually the speaker themselves, “cannot afford to be hurt.”
An online poll of three million people on news portal sina.com found the phrase to be the year’s most popular. Analyzing the poll’s results, experts concluded that shang bu qi encapsulated frustration with social injustice from a public whose tolerance is being increasingly tested. An example of the rather grammatically confusing phrase can be found in its first known usage: an exasperated post entitled “French learners, you can’t afford to be hurt,” written in an angry yet amusing style, which sparked a wave of imitation online. “I decided to take a French class, ahh!!! I’m on a road with no return, ah!!! Who told me that French is the most beautiful language in the world, ahh?!”
said the post, which first appeared on a message board on douban.com, a Chinese social networking site mostly used by students and white-collar workers. The amusing style quickly became popular when netizens adopted the phrase with vigor, posting more messages lamenting hardship in their personal experiences at work or in school. The phrase, dubbed “the roaring style,” is always preceded by some sort of category that includes the speaker, in this case French learners. Also, it is always over-punctuated with exclamation marks, and ends with “ahh,” an interjection that can emphasize a feeling of frustration. NEWSCHINA I March 2012
flavor of the month
Savoring the City By Stephy Chung
here are two sides to every city, let’s call them A and B. Side A is the promotional video version – grand sweeping panoramas, exclusive hotel lobbies, rarefied restaurants, landmark buildings and expensive cuisine. It’s a city’s most presentable face - its party dress - only worn on special occasions, like when there’s a hi-def camera around. The longer I live in Beijing the more familiar I become with this seemingly glamorous side of the city, maybe because of the student - young professional transition I’ve made, but I can’t help thinking it’s something more: the slow disappearance of side B. Side B has a weird way of making itself known. It’s not in any guidebooks, nor will you find it marked on tourist maps, in fact to most people it is not even visible. It simply blends in. Only in its absence do you realize it’s there - or not there - as the case may be. It’s a city’s true self, warts and all. I was reminded of this during a recent trip home to New York. As with every trip back, one of my first things to do was to call by my favorite pretzel vendor - an old Romanian immigrant called Georgie. Only this time I was left shocked to discover that he had vacated his patch. Initially I thought he was maybe taking a vacation, and so unperturbed I returned to the same spot later that week. Only then did I learn the truth: he had sold up and quit the pretzel business. Maybe this says more about New York than it does Beijing, but it certainly got me thinking. When I first arrived in Beijing, I would routinely eat jianbing for breakfast, a low-priced savory egg pancake rather like a crepe, prepared fresh daily on the back of a three-wheeled cart by a middle-aged husband and wife team from the jianbing’s spiritual home in Shandong province. Jianbing has since become a firm breakfast, and indeed, lunch staple for Beijingers. Be that as it may, I struggled to recall the last time I ate jianbing, or even encountered one of the city’s legions of jianbing street vendors. Were they disappearing, or was it that they had become NEWSCHINA I March 2012
invisible to me? I vowed to find out. My first stop was my local subway station, a prime pitch for any would-be hawker. To my surprise, gone were the rickety tricycles of old, and in their place were new shiny looking portable huts, not that dissimilar to the snack vans found at college football matches in the US. More surprising still was the appearance of English-language signs announcing “Beijing Breakfast” to any passing English speaker. Taken aback by the ostensible gentrification of this common street snack, I decided to talk to the vendor. Mrs Li who is originally from Hunan province was a jianbing vendor for three years, during which time she has noticed a considerable change in the market: “Nowadays, most people inside of the second ring road [central Beijing] prefer to buy breakfast from a supermarket. It’s becoming much harder to earn a living selling food on the street. If I want to be competitive, I have to appear professional and that means having the proper equipment.” Proper equipment means smarter looking portable kitchens, and that in turn, requires greater outlay. Mrs Li is fortunate, she has a good patch where customers are willing to pay ever so slightly more for their jianbing, allowing her to recoup her considerable expenses. Others, however, have been driven out of the city center. “All the new buildings mean there is very
little room for street vendors like me, you can get everything you want now in convenience stores.” Happily, despite the changes, the pancake is still prepared in a time-honored street style: cooked to order on a large sizzling hot plate. A near-perfect on-the-go bite, the pre-prepared pancake mixture is quickly whipped up and spread out on to the hot plate with a single flick of the wrist, followed quickly by one or two eggs, according to hunger. Then comes the exciting part: a thick smear of sweet plum and wheat sauce, a light sprinkling of hot peppers, scallions and, for the truly famished, sausage meat. Finally what many call the key ingredient: a thin crunchy sheet of delicious bubbly batter, that’s neatly tucked into the center of the pancake before it’s artfully folded up and handed over to you on the spot. As I begin to eat, Mrs Li appears unable to resist and finally, after much deliberation, asks me what I think, “One of the best I’ve ever had!” I reply enthusiastically, to which she laughs heartily. “Make sure you come back tomorrow” she calls out as I turn to leave, and I make a promise to myself that I will. There’s much more to Beijing than glitzy restaurants, but it’s sometimes hard to remind oneself to play the B side from time to time.
Marathon Man Is there a link between economic prosperity and narcissism? If the sudden rise in international gyms, running clubs, and aerobics groups in Beijing’s more well-heeled districts is anything to go by, the answer would appear to be “yes.” But surely there’s more to it than simple vanity? “Fitness,” health clubs would have you believe, is a “lifestyle choice,” and one that sedentary office workers appear keen to embrace, and why not? As a society moves from agrarian to urban, and physical toil is replaced by 10-plus hours in front of a computer, it’s only natural that people should want to run off some unwanted energy. A recent Nike-sponsored fun run in Beijing drew over 10,000 participants, more than twice the anticipated turnout. Running in particular is becoming big business, due mainly to the ease with which anyone can participate. You don’t need a private coach, or a special set of equipment. Hell, you don’t even need to be athletic. Last year alone, China hosted over 30 marathons, each of which can generate anything from several thousand to upward of several million dollars in accumulated revenue, depending on the size and the level of organization. “Keeping fit is addictive,” a local running club organizer explained to me recently. “Once people are hooked, they can’t stop!” But running, like all cheap drugs, can be bad for your health, especially if you live in Beijing. This winter, pollution levels regularly exceeded “hazardous” levels, making running outside near impossible – unless you’re Darth Vader. Even on apparently good days, a short scamper can result in headaches, coughing fits and dizziness. Which is a real tragedy, because it’s since moving to Beijing that I’ve come to rediscover my passion for running. In three years since arriving in the city, I have completed 5 marathons, including my first full marathon (Shanghai), the one where I first met my girlfriend (the Great Wall), the one where I got together with my girlfriend (the Inner Mongolian Extreme Grasslands Marathon) and a blistering hot one where I almost passed out (Xiamen). My love affair with Chinese marathons runs deep. So much so, that I’ve taken to getting up
Illustration by Xiang Zhaohui
By Stephen George
Romance, adventure, and exceptionally early mornings – it is these qualities, more than anything, that have come to define my relationship with running in China
at dawn to escape the city’s choking atmosphere to train in the outlying mountains. Romance, adventure, and exceptionally early mornings – it is these qualities, more than anything, that have come to define my relationship with running in China. So it is perhaps of no surprise, that when an “all expenses paid” offer came to participate in the inaugural Qiandongnan 100km International Ultra Marathon, to be held in the southern province of Guizhou, I immediately said yes. Participants in the modern marathon can be broadly split into two distinct groups. The Runners, a heaving crowd of masochists, fitness fanatics and lunatics propelling themselves around the course often by sheer force of will, and the Racers, a small select group of elite athletes who
actually make it their business to compete. Never do the two meet. That is of course until I arrived at the starting line of my first ultra marathon. I maybe should have guessed something was up when they handed me a race-bib marked 10 (my usual number tends to be several digits long). If that wasn’t enough, I was met at the airport by tracksuited officials and hurried into a waiting private car. But then, this is China, things have a habit of being inexplicable, you get used to it. Of course, the real clue was in the name of the race itself: Qiandongnan 100km International Ultra Marathon. I, along with various Kenyans, Ethiopians and other professional runners would be providing the international element. Only I wasn’t a professional, nor am I ever likely to be. Not that it seemed to matter to the organizers who, having placed me at the very front of the pack, encouraged me to sign autographs, wave to the crowds, shake hands with corporate sponsors, give press interviews, and generally behave like an Olympian. All of which I did, gladly; when else am I ever going to be an elite runner? The ruse came to an abrupt end almost as soon as the race began, and the real elite athletes raced off, leaving me to resume my normal position amid the heaving mass of huffers and puffers. Having kept up my end of the bargain, I was free to enjoy the race itself (at my own pace). Guizhou is without a doubt one of the most spectacular places ever to have hosted a marathon; a sort of Chinese version of Switzerland, with the race taking in alpine mountains, dense woodland, crashing waterfalls, and clusters of ornate timber housing. The locals too were fantastic, providing near-continuous support, even on the most far-flung stretches. Every one of us was made to feel like a superstar athlete. But then, that’s running in China. Made flush by a nascent sports industry, but not yet dominated by it, imbued by adventure and laced with a sense of the absurd. And what right-minded runner (or racer) would want it any other way? NEWSCHINA I March 2012
If Looks Could Sell Before I came to China last year to start a graduate program, my former professor told me something. “In the United States, when you are in public, you are actually in a private space around other people in their own private space. In China,” he said, “you are always in public.” The first weeks in Dalian, Liaoning impressed upon me a new awareness of this public self. Not only could I feel stares but sometimes noticed being followed in the mall or market. My self-consciousness about being on display has waxed and waned in the past 18 months but has never entirely disappeared. The power to command a room’s attention is a quality we associate with movie stars, politicians, or people who resemble serial-killer identikits. I like living in China, but not being stared at. Christmas last year found myself and a friend taxiing an hour outside the city for a modeling job. This friend, a part-time talent scout, had forwarded my picture through his modeling agency and I must have been pretty enough because they called back with a job. My friend wasn’t too sure what this particular gig entailed, but I was eager enough to escape the city that details weren’t so important. I was going to be a model. One of the perverse upshots of living in China is the chance to join that chic, genetically-advantaged species known as “working models.” While I’ve only indulged in this lurid racket on a few occasions, I know schoolmates who’ve spent their weekends traveling the length and breadth of the country to be exhibited to a gawking public. Photogenic foreign faces are clearly, in someone’s opinion, worth the money. The two of us sat in the back seat of the cab as we drove along the Liaoning peninsula. After spending the night at a grubby hotel in the dusty town center, we awoke at 8 AM to meet with our fellow mercenaries: dancers in warm-ups and ten girls in blue gowns. Thirty minutes in a van raced fast and we pulled up to a scene common in modern China: a NEWSCHINA I March 2012
Illustration by Xiang Zhaohui
By Zach Valenta
For that hour, we were indistinguishable from the darkness around us. We were still different, but no one could tell
newly built conference center bustling with real estate agents, rent-a-cops, and a sound crew checking levels. Cue the dancers, girls, and “models.” England Gardens. Or was it Beijing Acres? Who knows what the sprawling apartment complex was called– it was just another unaffordable slice of suburbia in a country full of them. What I do remember is feeling a strange readiness for the limelight. Where was this star drive coming from? I’ve modeled a few times since then and attribute it to stress. Being a curiosity for a crowd elicits either a shallow brashness or the defeated look of captive animal. Perhaps due to
nerves I’ve always assumed the former. Flash a smile. At least I’m wearing my suit and nice shoes today. I’ve got it covered. I’m a model. That first job was anything but flashy—it was humiliating. Our handlers said quick hellos, then hustled us into a makeshift dressing room where they turned over our outfits for the day: black pants, Sergeant Pepper blazers, and hats designed with a nod to pre-modern Turkish fashion. Think a Papal miter stitched by MC Hammer. We stood in our monkey suits and grimaced next to the housing complex entrance. We were given explicit instructions not to talk. No further sex appeal would be necessary. After 15 minutes of waiting, the buyers came in force. Stricken in our mod jackets and insane hats, we noticed that no one cared. Potential homeowners barely glanced in our direction as they leafed through brochures. They talked prices. There were more iPhones than hands to hold them. I thought that for some, this would most likely be their second or even third house. Compared to getting a hot piece of land, what were two moping foreigners? Soon enough the main event was over and my friend and I slunk to the rear of the conference hall as stragglers were ushered in and the house lights came down. Invisible now, eclipsed by lights and pulsing music, dancers, promotional videos, and bombastic company reps making hyperbolic speeches, we sat in the back of the room. For that hour, we were indistinguishable from the darkness around us. We were still different, but no one could tell. Just as quickly as it had begun, the show was over and the lights came up. We were foreigners again, to the mild shock of those who hadn’t seen us earlier. As the double takes and questions began, I felt my life slipping back into the public gaze, but not because of my looks, rather my presence at this bizarre event. Two young foreigners investing in the Dongbei real estate market? This I gotta see!
Corrupted Classic? One of the best-loved Chinese animations in history, The Monkey King: Uproar in Heaven, featuring traditional Chinese ink-and-wash paintings, became an instant classic upon release in 1964. Besides the stunningly vivid and beautiful artwork, the story of the rebellious Monkey King who smashed the mythical Chinese heaven was also a strong draw to curious and energetic youngsters. Now, after nearly 50 years, a 3D version of the original has been released, evoking nostalgia across all age groups, with those born in the 80s reminded of hours watching reruns of the film on State TV channels. However, aficionados have been less than enchanted with the 3D remastering of this old classic, with some claiming the addition of new technology has simply wrecked the visuals and done nothing to enhance the film’s artistry. Theater
State Goes Digital
After more than six months touring Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and several other major cities in China, the Chinese version of Mamma Mia! has garnered box office receipts of nearly 100 million yuan (US$15.8m). The country’s growing stage industry has attracted many internationally successful plays to enter the market in recent years. The original English version of Mamma Mia! was first staged in China in 2007, to test the reaction of the local market. The warm welcome it received built confidence in its production team to translate and localize it, despite doubts over viability. After a year’s preparation and an investment of 40 million yuan (US$6.3m), the Chinese version was launched in July 2011 and will continue to tour the country for three to five years.
Youth By Han Han
Steering his writing largely towards sociopolitical critique in the last two years, Han Han has become one of China’s few independent opinion-formers who has maintained a consistently solid public profile. His last three articles, titled On Revolution, On Democracy and Demanding Freedom, touched a nerve with the public and stirred up fierce debate over the future of China among intellectuals and laymen alike. Youth is a collection of articles written at the peak of his critical phase, mainly focusing on social topics and issues such as real estate prices, the Shanghai World Expo, Internet piracy and the Foxconn suicide scandal. Han’s strong insight and imagination, coupled with simple, sharp and humorous language, makes his latest work a uniquely refreshing read.
Blurring the ever-fine line between the real and the virtual, a multimedia exhibition featuring 10 installations from both Chinese and foreign artists marked the opening of CMoDA, the Museum of Digital Arts of the China Millennium Monument, a State-sponsored monumental art museum. Held from late December 2011 to early January 2012, the exhibition was co-presented by CMoDA and the London-based moving image and digital arts organization onedotzero. While exploring the evolution of interactive, immersive and avatar-like experiences incorporating a large range of elements and themes such as light, sound, planes of movement, cities and the origin of humanity, the exhibition also indicated rekindled State interest in modern art and digital technology as a communication tool. NEWSCHINA I March 2012
NEWSCHINA I March 2012
Push Forward Local Self-government Grassroots autonomy is an important component of political reform By Qiu Feng
f the long list of daunting social problems faced by China, Second, in designing these new systems, the people in charge many can be traced to the absence of effective self-govern- largely ignored traditional autonomy mechanisms, such as the clan ment at the grassroots level, system, which had worked effecthe bedrock of stability in any society. tively for millennia. In the absence In the 1950s, shortly after the foundof co-operation between old and new If these governments, driven ing of the People’s Republic of China mechanisms, newly-introduced orgaby inertia, continue to treat in 1949, the State apparatus had pennizations naturally lack a broad social new autonomous grassroots etrated down to the grassroots level. foundation and, as a result, cannot be The traditional grassroots self-govexpected to work effectively. organizations as their subordinates, ernment mechanism was replaced by In the face of ever louder calls for grassroots self-government will be a top-down system under which the political reform, it has become an urlargely hamstrung. State directly exercised control over ingent task for the authorities to push dividuals. In the countryside, people’s forward reform of grassroots–level communes were established, taking responsibility for the adminis- administration, taking into account that, while drastic top-down tration of peasants’ life. In urban areas, people were subject to direct reform may have wide social repercussions, a bottom-up approach administration by their “work unit” (or danwei). While providing is much less risky. cradle-to-grave welfare, the danwei also controlled every aspect of As a matter of fact, China has a long history of grassroots self-gova person’s life. ernment. In dynastic times, even absolute imperial power stopped Such a system later proved unworkable, particularly in the con- short of reaching down to the sub-county level, where society was text of Reform and Opening-up in the early 1980s. Gradually, it effectively administered by self-governing bodies following Confubegan to be phased out. The people’s communes were scrapped, and cian values and other traditional mechanisms. farmland was contracted to households. At the same time, increasThe central leadership seems aware of this problem. According to ing commercialization and liberalization of the economy led to the a document released by the State Council, the government aims to dissolution of the rigid control system in urban areas. Starting from set up neighborhood councils through direct elections in 80 percent the early 1990s, the government attempted to introduce a village of urban communities by the end of 2015. So far, these councils self-government system (village committees) in the countryside and only exist in 11 percent of neighborhoods in Beijing. local autonomy (neighborhood committees) in urban areas. Similar measures should also be introduced in rural areas. The key While serving their grassroots autonomy intentions, these systems to the success of reform in this regard is the establishment of genuine have some salient defects, due to inherent institutional restraints. self-governing organizations independent of government agencies. First, the effective operation of such mechanisms depends largely Not only will these organizations help prevent corruption among on self-restraint on the part of the lowest-level governments, namely local officials, the source of most grassroots-level social unrest, they township governments in the rural areas and sub-district offices in will also provide an effective platform for the smooth implementacities. If these governments, driven by inertia, continue to treat new tion of government policies. autonomous grassroots organizations as their subordinates, grass roots self-government will be largely hamstrung. (The author is a freelance commentator)
NEWSCHINA I March 2012
NEWSCHINA I March 2012
NEWSCHINA I March 2012