Issuu on Google+

Dealer Bust: Inside China's War on Drugs


Island Divided: Whither Hong Kong?


Steppe by Steppe: China Courts Mongolia

vein of gold Could a Yangtze River Economic Belt reverse China’s flagging growth trend?


Volume No. 075 November 2014



Published by China Newsweek Corporation Publisher: Liu Beixian Executive Director: Liu Beixian Editor-in-Chief: Wang Xiaohui Editorial Office Managing Editor: Zheng Zhonghai Advisor: Liu Dizhong Senior Editor: Yang Yi Copy Editors: Jack Smith, Alex Taggart Lead Writers: Yu Xiaodong, Li Jia Editors: Wang Yan, Yuan Ye, Xie Ying, Sun Zhe, Du Guodong First Reader: Sean Silbert Address: 5th Floor, 12 Baiwanzhuang South Street, Xicheng District, Beijing, China Post Code: 100037 Tel: 86-10-88395566 Fax: 86-10-88388045 Email: Art Department Art Director: Wu Shangwen Art Editor/Designer: Zhang Dawei Publishing and Development Office China Newsweek Corporation President: Wang Xiaohui Chief Executive: Fred Teng Publishing Associate: Zhang Tianli Tel: 1-212-481-2510 Fax: 1-212-481-2503 Address: Suite 1101, 15 East 40th Street, New York, NY 10016, USA Email: Toronto Office Director: Lai Hailong Address: 51 Halstead Drive, Markham, ON Canada L3R7Z4 Tel: 1-905-604-6150 Fax: 1-905-604-6170 Email: Marketing Director: Wang Chenbo Account Manager : Ren Jie Tel: 86-10-88388027 Circulation Manager: Yu Lina Tel: 86-10-88311834 Advertising Director: Gao Weiwei Tel: 1-212-481-2510 Marketing Promoter: Jerry Meng Tel: 1-212-481-2510 New York Office: Wang Yongzhi, Ruan Yulin, Li Yang Washington Office: Wu Qingcai, De Yongjian Los Angeles Office: Mao Jianjun San Francisco Office: Liu Dan Houston Office: Wang Huan London Office: Zhou Zhaojun Tokyo Office: Sun Ran Paris Office: Long Jianwu Bangkok Office: Yu Xianlun Kuala Lumpur Office: Huang Hongbin Moscow Office: Jia Jingfeng Manila Office: Zhang Ming Berlin Office: Huang Shuanghong Sydney Office: Zhu Daqiang Legal Advisor: Allen Wu ISSN 1943-1902

An effective anti-corruption drive needs a three-dimensional approach


mid his ongoing high-profile anti-corrup- in which corruption is politically intolerable not tion campaign, President Xi Jinping said just among the public, but also among governin a speech at an event celebrating the ment officials themselves. Without such a culestablishment of the National ture, political institutions, People’s Congress that the govno matter how sound their What has been ernment will strive to create a design, are doomed to defeat largely ignored in the system in which government in their fight against corrupdiscussion is the need to tion, as all have to be staffed officials will be “unwilling, incapable and afraid” of bewith individuals, with regufoster a political culture coming corrupt. The pledge lations enforced by people. in which corruption is reflects not only the leaderUnfortunately, the moral politically intolerable. ship’s long-term approach in aspect of the anti-corruption its anti-corruption efforts, but drive has not only been igalso all three dimensions of the nored, but has even been met anti-graft mechanism the govwith cynicism and derision. ernment must establish to eradicate the corruption Many consider efforts to appeal to a sense of mocurrently endemic in Chinese officialdom. rality either too abstract or simply meaningless, There is no doubt that China’s current anti- given the prevalence of materialism among both graft drive, which has witnessed the fall of dozens officials and the general public. of ministerial-level officials and several Politburo A healthy political culture and value system is members, has brought with it a discernible atmo- indispensable in systematically eradicating corsphere of fear, causing what observers called “po- ruption. Cynicism is exactly the reason why more litical earthquakes,” as entire leaderships in cer- efforts need to be made in this regard. tain sectors and localities fall under investigation. By emphasizing the need to build a system that Hailing the crackdown as a method of “address- would discourage officials from becoming coring the symptoms” of corruption, Wang Qishan, rupt, the central leadership is clearly aware of the the Party leader spearheading the anti-graft drive, problem. To achieve this goal, the government has long pledged that the government will also should not simply resort to empty conceptual strive to address the “root causes.” rhetoric on morality, but should take concrete The consensus among experts is that the key measures to reform its recruitment processes and to eradicating corruption is an institutional ap- the appraisal of government officials. proach, establishing a system in which officials, More importantly, the government should in President Xi’s words, would be “incapable” of drastically rethink its approach to the country’s corruption. overall civic and national education to nurture a But what has been largely ignored in the dis- value system that can reverse the prevailing tencussion is the need to foster a political culture dency toward materialism. 


NEWSCHINA I November 2014







Cover Story


01 An effective anti-corruption drive needs a three-dimensional approach 10 13

Hong Kong Election: High Noon The Department of Organization : HR for the CPC


16 Yangtze River Arterial Asset/Channeling Success/Uncharted Waters

26 29 32


Gaokao Unequal to Over-equal Lin Zhibo: Pariah and Patriot Japanese Veterans: Death of Memory

P26 NEWSCHINA I November 2014

Photo by CFP

Could tapping the commercial potential of the Yangtze River jump-start a second leap forward for China’s domestic economy?




special report

36 Drugs Crackdown: Vice and Vicissitude 38 Narcotics Officer: The Dope Beat


42 Detoxification: Soil Justice


46 49

China and Vietnam: Friends Again? China and Mongolia: Steppe Forward


52 Local Government Bonds: Cleaning Balance Sheets HISTORY

56 Spies in Taiwan: Lost Legends

NEWSCHINA I November 2014


58 Yan Geling: Ms. Marginal

visual REPORT



P46 P64

60 Cold Water, Warm Hearts 64 Misty Mount Emei: Monks vs. Monkeys 72 Laws are useless if they can’t be enforced 04 MEDIA FOCUS 05 What They Say 06 NEWS BRIEF 08 Netizen Watch 55 China by numbers 66 real chinese 68 ESSAY 70 CULTURAL LISTINGS


NewsChina, Chinese Edition

Economy & Nation Weekly

September 15, 2014

September 8, 2014

Shanxi Tigers Snared

Innovation Drive

Since the 18th National People’s Congress, more than 40 high-ranking officials in Shanxi Province have been investigated for “suspected violations of law and Party discipline,” a common euphemism for corruption. Among those named, eight were provincial-level officials. The anti-corruption campaign has taken Chinese officialdom by storm, sending shockwaves through the corridors of power in this major coal-producing province. For many years, Shanxi’s resource-based economy had allowed government officials paramount authority over examination, approval, possession and transfer of coal mines, creating a broad, complex network of vested interests and making the province a fertile breeding ground for graft.

China Economic Weekly September 1, 2014

Chinese Rail Overseas Nowadays, when foreign delegations visit China, they tend to travel between Beijing, Tianjin and Shanghai by high-speed rail, rather than airplane. As of the end of 2013, China’s high-speed rail network covered over 10,000 kilometers, with another 12,000 kilometers under construction, making it the world’s longest high-speed rail network. Meanwhile, China is accelerating its efforts to sell its technology and rolling stock overseas. Recent statistics show that in the first half of 2014, the export volumes of CSR and CNR, China’s two key train manufacturers, had hit US$4.5 billion. At a time when Chinese-made products remain under pressure from the global economic downturn and market competition, high-speed rail is taking the lead in transforming the country’s manufacturing industry.


The rapid rise of Shenzhen, a city with no prestigious universities and few leading scientific research institutions yet boasting a number of globally influential sci-tech corporations including Huawei and Tencent, has astonished many. Shenzhen’s success is due in part to its designation as a special economic zone, its selection as the location for one of China’s two main stock exchanges, and its geographic location on the border with Hong Kong. Statistics in the first half of 2014 showed that biotechnology, Internet, new energy, new materials, IT and creative industries have a combined added value of 258.5 billion yuan (US$42bn), a year-on-year growth rate of 14.3 percent, accounting for 4 percent of the city’s GDP growth. Scientific innovation has proven to be the main engine driving Shenzhen’s economic take-off.

Oriental Outlook September 10, 2014

Fading Cities Qiqihar, a city in Northeastern China’s Heilongjiang Province, recently became the 125th settlement to be added to the country’s list of historic cities as of August, 2014. Nowadays, many of the places on the list are there in name only, their layouts or historic relics long since altered. The title of “historic city” is often a recognition of a city’s historical significance. Guan Qiang, head of the cultural relics protection department of the State Administration of Cultural Heritage, indicated that an overall plan to protect historic cities in China will be put into practice this year, in order to block the illegal demolition of cultural relics.

Phoenix Weekly September 22, 2014

Killer Medicine The improper use of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) was found to account for 20 percent of druginduced liver damage in 16 comprehensive hospitals in China, and roughly half at three large specialized hospitals, according to a study by Anhui Medical University. What’s more, the ingestion of TCM turned out to be a prominent reason for acute liver failure. Experts have said that a common public perception that TCM is harmless – if not necessarily effective – coupled with a lack of government supervision and heavy promotion by medicine producers, has resulted in TCM’s widespread misuse. NEWSCHINA I November 2014

“If they get my permission, passengers can smoke.”

“Many officials said that they would rather suffer heavier punishments than be exposed, but I told them that exposure is fundamental.” Anti-corruption czar Wang Qishan on using naming and shaming to deter wayward officials.

“If I can save him, then is there anyone I can’t save?” Abbot of the Shaolin Temple Shi Yongxin explaining why he took disgraced educational entrepreneur Li Yang, who is accused of beating his wife, as a disciple.

“High real estate prices are for the sake of housing the poor – how could the government afford to build low-income housing if they weren’t making big bucks from luxury developments?” Economist Jin Yanshi was slammed for his attempts to defend China’s high housing prices.

“Potential employers won’t worry that I’ll ask for maternity leave.” An arts graduate from Hefei University on her decision to hold her newborn baby in her graduation photos in a swipe at gender discrimination in the Chinese labor market.

NEWSCHINA I November 2014

Illustration by Wu Shangwen

A China United Airlines captain coming under fire after allowing passengers to smoke onboard, in violation of aviation law.

“If one day I fall, tell the world I was clean.” Wang Xin, CEO of video sharing portal QVOD, in a message left just prior to his arrest on charges of copyright infringement and distributing pornography.

“The second Sino-Japanese War [1937-1945] largely defused the conflict between the Communist Party of China and the Kuomintang by uniting them in a national struggle. A bipartisan list of war heroes would reinforce historical understanding of this.” Gong Fangbin, a professor from the National Defense University of the People’s Liberation Army, on the release of an approved list of martyrs in battles against the WWII Japanese invasion of China.

“‘Functional’ is a good adjective to describe China. The Chinese prioritize getting things done over fairness.” American journalist and author Peter Hessler has earned many fans in China for his outspoken views on corruption.

“The task of a university is not to train students for the workplace, but for social conduct. Lacking moral fiber, the more an individual knows, the more of a detriment they are to society.” Yang Yuliang, president of Shanghai Fudan University, presenting his thoughts on higher education.


Top Story

News at Gunpoint, a Chinese financial news portal headquartered in Guangzhou, has been charged with blackmail. Local police have detained a total of eight suspects, including editor in chief Liu Dong and his deputy Zhou Bin. In a confession, Liu claimed that the website had colluded with several financial PR firms to blackmail high-profile companies, demanding money in exchange for silence about real or invented illegal activities. If targets refused to pay, the website ran smear campaigns against them. “Given our influence, [companies] have to sign advertising contracts with us as ‘protection money,’” claimed Liu in his confession. According to investigators, 21cbh had acquired a total 300 million yuan (US$50m) in “protection money,” most of which was divided between executives. Financially independent since 2010, 21cbh had previously

been seen as a reputable source of market and industrial analysis, with some two million registered users. Once again, media ethics in China are under scrutiny, with many insider accounts emerging since 21cbh’s downfall. Both bribes paid to journalists for favorable coverage and blackmail rackets are regular features of the media landscape. Even State broadcaster CCTV has found itself under fire after its March 15 China Consumer Day “consumer awareness” broadcasts were found to be smearing targeted companies in exchange for bribes from rival enterprises. However, given 21cbh’s close connections with the Nanfang Media Group, a primary source of domestic reports criticizing the government, many have speculated that the website has been targeted simply to send a message. Now, critics are calling for legal guidelines on media ethics as well as greater autonomy for China’s press.

Incentive Bonus: Determined based on general performance during tenure ≤ a defined ratio of the total salary during tenure


Salary Reform in SOEs Performance Bonus: Determined based on ann ual performance appraisal ≤ a defined multiple of ann ual base salary

Basic Annu A defined m al Salary salary for SOultiple of the average an nual E employee s


China’s Politburo recently approved a new reform program on the remuneration of the State-owned enterprise (SOE) leaders. The long-awaited reform focuses on shortening the pay gap between leaders and ordinary employees, while also tightening supervision of expense accounts, which have historically been used for lavish banqueting and travel rather than official business. To facilitate supervision, leaders’ salaries will

now consist of a base salary and an annual bonus, both of which will be determined by the central government. The reform has been hailed as a muchneeded readjustment of the unfair distribution of pay in State companies. However, little has been said about enhancing public supervision of SOEs, or whether or not business leaders spending taxpayer money will have their personal expenditure publicized. NEWSCHINA I November 2014


More Chinese Billionaires when the widening income gap that the government has pledged to tackle will actually begin to contract. Hurun told the media that tycoons in real estate, automaking and other manufacturing industries still dominate the rich list, though now they face challengers from the IT sector. According to Bloomberg News, an American financial information consultancy, Jack Ma, founder of China’s biggest e-retailer Alibaba, has already leapfrogged real estate mogul Wang Jianlin to become China’s richest man.



Digital Dream Team? China’s two biggest Internet firms, online social network provider Tencent and search engine Baidu, have jointly announced the establishment of an e-commerce platform in cooperation with real estate firm Wanda Group. According to media reports, the three parties plan to invest five billion yuan (US$830m) in the initiative in the next three years, with Wanda holding a 70 percent stake and the remainder split equally between the two IT firms. The move has been seen as a big challenge to Alibaba, China’s biggest e–retailer, for dominance


Digging Deep On September 2, the Chinese Academy of Engineering, which has developed a scheme to tunnel beneath Bohai Bay in the country’s northeast, submitted their plan to the State Council. NEWSCHINA I November 2014

in this emerging field. According to Wang Jianlin, head of Wanda, the new e-commerce platform will be linked up to all 107 Wanda Plaza malls nationwide by the end of this year, and be connected to all of Wanda’s hotels and holiday resorts by 2015.

Initiated in 2010, the project aims to directly connect the Liaodong and Shandong peninsulas, and will stretch for at least 123 kilometers. If completed, the tunnel will form a new highspeed rail connection between two important industrial centers. The research team predicted that it will take 10 years to build what will be the world’s longest tunnel, with a total required investment of 200-260 billion yuan (US$33.3-43.3bn). Once finished, the tunnel will shorten the journey between the two provinces from the current six hours to only 40 minutes. Critics and environmental activists have warned of the hidden risks of building such a project across known fault lines, with seismic activity common in the area. The final decision, however, rests with the State Council.

Jailbreak in Heilongjiang Police in Harbin, Heilongjiang Province, spent 10 days hunting three inmates who had escaped from a local detention center on September 2. According to a surveillance video, the three men, Li Haiwei, Wang Damin and Gao Yulun, strangled a warden to death after he forgot to lock their cell door. The three then simply walked out of the gates of the detention center. A reward of 450,000 yuan (US$75,000) was offered for information concerning the three fugitives, at least one of whom, Gao, 55, was waiting to stand trial for murder. Local villagers alerted police to the presence of the three men on September 11. Now, poor security at detention centers has become a hot topic in Chinese media analysis of the case.

Photos by IC, CFP and CNS

Hurun, China’s Forbes equivalent, released its latest data on the country’s richest citizens on September 11, revealing that by the end of 2013, the country was home to around 300 dollar billionaires with assets worth in excess of 10 billion yuan (US$1.7bn) apiece, a 7 percent increase since 2012. Similar growth was seen across the board, indicating a healthy increase in private holdings of individuals even as the Chinese economy has slowed. Average wages, meanwhile, have stagnated, leaving many to wonder


Provoking Cao Xinglong, the director of a district-level public security bureau in Huai’an, Jiangsu Province, was reported to have used his government car to take his pet dog out for a ride. Under public pressure, Cao has been removed from his post and an investigation has been launched.


Poll the People After a decade-long boom, China’s real estate market has been stagnant since early 2014.

What do you predict will happen to the housing market? It will keep dropping: 74.4% It will rise: 15%

Alibaba, China’s largest e-commerce platform, began its IPO roadshow in September. Media have reported that Alibaba’s IPO could earn up to US$24.3 billion in foreign investment capital, with its market value estimated at around US$168 billion.

Hard to say: 10.6%


4,176 2,951

Source: China Youth Daily

Most Circulated Post

Shocking Reflecting

Annoyed by the construction noise outside, a 10-year-old boy leaned out of his window and severed a safety rope attached to a construction worker who was working on the building’s exterior, eight stories above the ground. The worker was eventually rescued by firemen.


The Chinese public has been debating whether or not schools should require freshmen to undergo military training. Recently, students and teachers at a high school in Hunan Province clashed with military drillmasters who allegedly used corporal punishment to discipline students. Over 40 people were reportedly injured during the ensuing violence.

Retweeted 86,827 times International movie star Jackie Chan posted an apology for his son Jaycee, who was detained in Beijing for possession of marijuana.

“I was quite shocked at Jaycee’s behavior. As a public figure and a father, I felt an aching sense of shame. I hope young people will take Jaycee as a warning, and keep far away from drugs. I also want to tell Jaycee: You have to take responsibility for what you have done and I, as your father, will face the music alongside you. Finally, I would like to bow in deep apology for my failure to guide my son.” NEWSCHINA I November 2014


Top Five Search Queries On


over the week ending September 16 Official suicide 300,346 Zhang Penghui, a senior government official in Hohhot, Inner Mongolia, was found dead in his office on September 8, having slashed his wrists. Keeping a mistress 272,727 A 20-year-old man from Jinan, Shandong Province, spent all of his savings and borrowed from loan sharks in order to maintain his 30-year-old mistress.

Rail Rider You Yikun from Chongqing has spent 21 days on a train journey from his hometown to Munich, Germany. Covering 14,000 kilometers, You traveled through 14 cities and nine countries, at a cost of over 5,700 yuan (US$950). You said that he wanted to spend his 22nd birthday admiring the scenery of various different countries.

iPhone 6 release 256,257 Thousands of Chinese netizens were glued to their computer screens at 1 AM on September 10 (Beijing time) to watch the release of the iPhone 6.

My Battalion 140,738 The new TV series set during the Second Sino-Japanese War is thrilling viewers with its complex characters and big-budget battle scenes.

Top Blogger Profile Wang Sicong Followers: 6,130,458 The only son of Wang Jianlin, China’s richest businessman in 2013, Wang Sicong has garnered much public attention since returning home from his overseas studies. Relying on a US$80m-valued investment fund Wang Senior gave his son to “teach him entrepreneurship,” Wang Junior started out by purchasing CCM, one of China’s best-known teams of for-profit online gamers, in 2011. Similar to many of his counterparts, Wang likes to show off his wealth and satirize social trends on his Weibo – he once said that he doesn’t feel the pressure of social competition, since none of his friends could possibly be wealthier than him. Wang has recently come back under the spotlight, accusing news portals NetEase and Sohu of spreading rumors that he had allegedly wasted millions of dollars founding and promoting girl-band SNH48. NEWSCHINA I November 2014

Some of the images used in this section are from the internet

Big rewards for good colleges 222,353 The local government in Enping, Guangdong Province, promised to award a villa to any local student enrolled in Tsinghua or Peking universities between 2015 and 2021.

Kindergarten Traitor A local kindergarten in Shanghai was roundly criticized for playing a Japanese military song over the PA system at its graduation ceremony. While the teacher responsible for the faux pas argued that she had downloaded the song from the Internet without knowing what it was, many claimed to have been hurt by her “ignorance.”

Gracious Seniors

More than 50 elderly people from Zhengzhou, capital of Henan Province, have publicly appealed to other elderly people to give up their seats to young people on public transportation. They argued that young people need more rest due to their high work pressure.

Philandering Director Wang Quan’an, a respected high-brow movie director, was recently detained for visiting prostitutes over three consecutive days from September 8 to 10 while his wife, popular actress Zhang Yuqi, was attending a fashion show in New York. Wang may also be charged for “group prostitution” for visiting two sex workers at once.



Hong Kong Election

High Noon

A political showdown looms in Hong Kong between the local government, pan-democratic activists and the central government after Beijing released an “ultra-conservative” proposal for the city’s first full elections in 2017

Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying proclaims the Hong Kong government’s support for the recent NPC resolution on electoral policy, August 31, 2014


ver since the National People’s Congress (NPC), China’s top legislative body, made a pledge in 2007 to allow Hong Kong to adopt universal suffrage by 2017, the issue of what precisely the territory’s political future would look like has dominated the news cycle. In recent months, a tug-of-war between Hong Kong’s “pan-democratic” groups and Beijing has heated up due to questions over the nomination procedure in the upcoming 2017 election. While pan-democrats demand open and public nominations in line with “international standards,” the central government insists that there are no international norms applicable in the case of Hong


Kong, and the election should follow the Basic Law, the 45th clause of which stipulates that candidates in a Hong Kong election must be nominated by an electoral committee. After the NPC released a more detailed framework on August 31 ruling out both open nominations as demanded by democratic campaigners as well as more moderate “third way” initiatives, many see a showdown looming between the motherland and the former British colony.

Black and White

According to the framework, approved unanimously on August 31 by the Standing

Committee of the National People’s Congress, only two to three candidates will be allowed to run in elections for the position of Hong Kong’s Chief Executive, the city’s highest political office. These candidates will need approval from at least half of the members of a nomination committee, themselves elected “in accordance with” current procedures for establishing the existing committee, which has served to elect the city’s top leaders since Hong Kong’s return to China in 1997. The 1,200-strong political body is elected by 250,000 individual and corporate voters chosen from four major commercial and civil sectors along with 38 sub-sectors. NEWSCHINA I November 2014

Photo by IC

By Yu Xiaodong

The NPC’s decision, viewed as politically “risk-free,” by observers, is more conservative than many had expected. As the election committee has been dominated by the “pro-establishment” groups and opposition pan-democrats have traditionally accounted for less than 20 percent of the electoral committee, this framework essentially rules out the possibility of a pan-democratic candidate standing in the 2017 election and will ensure that all candidates will be acceptable to Beijing. Adding weight to the decision, the central authorities followed it up with an announcement that if Hong Kong’s Legislative Council (Legco) fails to pass the plan, the city would revert back to its current system of choosing a Chief Executive, one already criticized as unrepresentative and undemocratic. The announcement from Beijing immediately led to an outcry among the pan-democratic camps, with scores of protests launched outside government buildings in Hong Kong on the evening of August 31, with many vowing to commence a long-term struggle for “true democracy” in the territory.

Independence Movement?

For many veteran observers of Hong Kong’s complex politics, the struggles centering on the 2017 election plan go far beyond the minutiae of nomination procedures, and instead reflect deep-rooted disputes within Hong Kong society over both its relationship with the mainland and the city’s future development path. Although Hong Kong retained much of its autonomy after its returning to China in 1997 under the political concept of “one country, two systems,” many are complaining about the increasing influence of Beijing

NEWSCHINA I November 2014

in the city’s politics. Not only has an influx of capital and immigrants from the mainland driven up housing prices and exacerbated the city’s already alarming levels of social inequality, many are also concerned that the increased influence of Beijing will change the city’s generally liberal and democratic political culture. It is this mentality, many argued, that drives Hong Kong’s democratic movement, which focuses on precisely spelling out exactly what kind of autonomy will define the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China. In a much-discussed article entitled “What are pan-democrats arguing?” published in Hong Kong’s Ming Pao on May 16, Ip Kinman, a public policy professor from the City University of Hong Kong and research director of SynergyNet, a major pan-democratic organization, argues that the real issue in dispute is the fundamental nature of the relationship between Hong Kong and the central government and how Hong Kong should interact with Beijing. “Radicals do not accept that the central government has authority in Hong Kong, refuse to accept the legal framework of the Basic Law, and believe in minimal contact between Hong Kong and the mainland,” Ip wrote. It is beyond doubt that Beijing has kept a wary eye on democratic movements in Hong Kong, increasingly seen by central officials as a subversive movement designed to both challenge Beijing’s authority and even Chinese sovereignty over the Special Administrative Region. For example, in 2012, at the height of massive protests against a Beijing-backed civic and “patriotic” education campaign

that was ultimately rejected by Legco, Chen Zuo’er, former deputy director of the Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office of the State Council, warned that a political movement advocating “Hong Kong independence” in various guises was “on the rise.” According to Chen, this movement includes the “misinterpretation” of the one country, two systems principle, by “favoring two systems over one country” and challenging the constitutional authority of the central government in Hong Kong. In 2013 and 2014, these tensions further intensified as Hong Kong protestors expanded their range of political targets to include the current Hong Kong government, mainland tourists and the military establishment. On December 26, 2013, four protestors entered the Central Barracks of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) in Hong Kong, waving a colonial-era Hong Kong flag and demanding that the PLA “get out” of the city, before being stopped by guards and arrested by Hong Kong police. The intrusion into the PLA barracks, the symbol of China’s sovereignty in Hong Kong, became a defining moment, and was followed with a hardening of Beijing’s approach to the territory’s burgeoning political counterculture. In June, the NPC released a white paper on the practice of one country, two systems in Hong Kong. Claimed as a means to “improve understanding” of the policy, the document stressed that the “high degree of autonomy” the central government has promised to Hong Kong “does not mean complete autonomy,” but rather autonomy as stipulated in the Basic Law and the NPC’s subsequent white paper, a position criticized by the pan-democrats as having “overridden” the Basic Law.



Pan-democratic lawmakers responded by seeking help from the UK, the city’s former colonial ruler, to fulfill what Emily Lau, chairwoman of Hong Kong’s Democratic Party, called “a moral obligation” to ensure that one country, two systems is “effectively implemented,” prompting the UK parliament to launch an inquiry into the issue. By involving “foreign powers” in what it deems an internal matter, these lawmakers further irked Beijing. On August 31, the same day the NPC issued its controversial framework, an unidentified spokesman from the Chinese foreign ministry’s Department of Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan Affairs told Xinhua that China would “make solemn representations” to any “external force” that attempted to “interfere in Hong Kong’s internal affairs.” In explaining the NPC’s decision, Basic Law Committee chairman Li Fei stressed in a toughly-worded statement that the Hong Kong Chief Executive must be someone who “loves the country and loves Hong Kong” and upholds the Basic Law for the “sake of national security and the city’s long term interests.”


Citing the political turmoil during elections in Thailand and Iraq where there are fewer restrictions over the nomination of candidates, Li argued that Hong Kong’s election must be safeguarded by “rule of law,” apparently referring to the high-profile Occupy Central campaign, which has threatened to paralyze Hong Kong’s financial district. Li warned that Hong Kong could be dragged into protracted political deadlock if Legco vetoes the reform proposal.

Long-term Conflict

As Beijing has entrenched its hardline approach, the focus has now shifted to Hong Kong’s citizens, among whom the NPC’s decisions have elicited a range of responses. Calling the NPC decision a “major step forward in the city’s democratic development,” Hong Kong’s current chief executive Leung Chun-ying voiced his support for the framework. Warning that Hong Kong’s people would be “deprived of their voting rights” if the framework failed to pass Legco, Leung stressed that the framework is not perpetual and can be “improved” in the future. “There is no clause

Photo by cns

Thousands of Hong Kong citizens protest the Occupy Central campaign, August 17, 2014

in the Basic Law that states we can’t make amendments further on,” Leung added. In an editorial for the South China Morning Post, lawmaker Regina Ip Lau Suk-Yi supports Li Fei’s argument that there are no international norms applicable to the elections from a purely legal perspective and argues that Hong Kong’s people should support the proposal. The pro-establishment camp needs to win over five pan-democratic lawmakers to secure the two-thirds majority needed to pass the framework. With the opposition currently rallying support, this looks increasingly unlikely. Already, all Legco’s 27 pandemocrats have said that they will vote against any plan based on Beijing’s newly-issued framework. In the meantime, leaders of more radical groups such as Occupy Central have pledged to mobilize 10,000 activists to block streets in the city’s financial district, a threat that earlier caused the city government to specially train 7,000 police officers to handle any such situation. However, with the pan-democratic camp also split over the issue of civil disobedience, with many warning that such actions will only serve to harden Beijing’s resolve while also impacting the local economy, there are hints of a change in strategy. On September 3, Benny Tai Yiu-ting, a co-founder of the Occupy Central campaign surprised people by suggesting the campaign had been “a failure up to this point,” citing waning public support. Then, on September 9, Tai said the group will work with other groups to “transform the campaign into a long-term struggle.” It is reported that members of the prodemocracy student activist group Scholarism has started to hand out fliers outside secondary schools to promote a plan calling for a one-day class boycott. With battle lines now being drawn, many are concerned that Hong Kong will become a flashpoint for further conflict between Beijing and China’s most influential Special Administrative Region.  NEWSCHINA I November 2014

The Department of Organization

HR for the CPC The Central Department of Organization (CDO) and its local branches are responsible for the appointment and management of officials. NewsChina looks into the inner workings of the world’s biggest HR department as it embarks on an ambitious reform program By Cai Rupeng and Xie Ying


fter remaining vacant for almost two months, the position of organization director for Jiangsu – essentially head of provincial Communist Party human resources – was finally filled by Wang Jiong, the former organization director of Anhui Province. Since the 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC) in November 2012, a total of 15 provinces have replaced their local organization directors, with most of the newcomers, according to media reports, either transferred from other regions or directly appointed by the Central Department of Organization (CDO). The large-scale re-shuffle is believed to target the reported sale of official titles, one of the most prominent channels for corruption in Chinese officialdom, as the CPC’s disciplinary inspection watchdog has warned. Analysts have said that compared to local officials, who are more likely to have an entrenched local network of interests, “outsider” officials will enter the job with a relatively clean slate. For half a century, candidates for official positions in China have generally been “recommended” by their superiors, and Zhang Quanjing, former director of the Central Department of NEWSCHINA I (1994-1999) November 2014 Organization



appointed based on the appraisal of relevant organization departments. Although the government’s adjustments to the selection process – such as introducing public polls and organizing public examinations for some positions – are aimed at making the process fairer, these are often mere formalities given the final decision remains in the hands of high-level government leaders. As the government’s anti-corruption campaign expands, the Party is attempting to overhaul the running of its HR department. Though established in the 1920s, the CPC’s department of organization did not come into formal operation until the early 1950s, when then deputy director An Ziwen proposed to Chairman Mao Zedong that the Party should set up a database of the nation’s officials to streamline their management. Based on the model of the former Soviet Union, the CPC issued its first list of officials in 1955, with all those at municipal level or above coming directly under the supervision of the CDO, and the rest under their relevant local branches. “The system aims to put all officials under the management of a Party’s department,” Liu Shaoqi, then the Party’s vice-chairman, stated at a Party work conference. Since the 1980s, the department has delegated more power to its local branches, only taking charge of official appointment at the provincial level or above, with local departments controlling the officials of the next lowest tier – provincial organization departments manage the city-level officials in their jurisdiction, city-level departments manage their county-level officials, and so on. Today, the CDO reportedly manages about 600,000 officials and 80 million Party members. The Financial Times once wrote that if Washington had an equivalent department to the CDO, it would be eligible to appoint the governors and vice-governors of every state, the heads of every federal department, the CEOs of more than 50 top companies like General Electric and Exxon Mobil, and the editors in chief of the New


Photo by CNS

The List

The CDO establishes a bureau of young cadres charged with selecting second-generation officials, March, 1982

York Times, the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post.


Besides the organization of the Party, a major task of the CPC’s various departments of organization is the appraisal of officials for assignment or promotion. Once an official is defined as an appraisal

candidate, his or her relevant department of organization will send at least two inspectors to the organization where he or she works, for “assessment of skills and morals.” Since these inspections have a major impact on an official’s future, those undergoing inspection tend to show disproportionate deference to inspectors from departments of organization, even though the latter generally hold a lower NEWSCHINA I November 2014

administrative rank than such candidates. According to Wei Jianxing, who served as director of the CDO from 1985 to 1987, candidate interviews are the preferred method of appraisal. “We have done these for years, since there is no other way to better understand the candidate,” he told NewsChina. These interviews differ from most job interviews both in length (proceedings may take up to a whole afternoon) and content – inspectors seldom ask questions, instead listening to the candidate talk about his or her work and life experience. A skilled inspector, the thinking goes, can quickly glean the information he or she wants from the candidate’s mannerisms. In the 1980s, CDO appraisals introduced similar psychological assessments to those used in big international companies. They also extended the interview process to include a candidate’s former and current superiors, as well as subordinates and colleagues in order to make a more comprehensive assessment. Over the decades, the CPC has greatly adjusted its criteria for selecting officials, from requirements for a “military background” in the 1950s and early 1960s to “being socialist-minded” during the Cultural Revolution, then “technical expertise” in the 1980s and 1990s, to the current requirement for “comprehensive ability with overarching perspective.” “Compared to the past, the current environment is more complicated and uncertain, requiring officials to be capable of dealing with various situations, especially implementing Party policies even when social conditions are not mature,” Wang Junxian, a policy researcher from the CDO told NewsChina. Xi Jinping, for example, had successively served as a county Party secretary (the highest Party position in any given county) in Hebei Province, Party secretary of the Fujian provincial capital Fuzhou, and Party secretary of Zhejiang Province before becoming the Party’s general secretary. In a similar fashion to how private companies send senior managers to different branches and sectors for training, the CPC prefers officials with experience in grassroots Party organizations. The higher the official position, the more this experience matters. NEWSCHINA I November 2014


Despite these changes, one core criterion has remained constant: loyalty to the Party. In order to ensure the Party’s authority over every high-level appointment, the CPC requires the designation of high-level officials be announced in the presence of the relevant departments of organization. For example, Bo Xilai’s letter of appointment as the Party secretary of Chongqing Municipality was countersigned by Li Yuanchao, then CDO director, who also witnessed the appointment of Bo’s successor after the former leader’s fall. “In many cases, the departments of organization represent the Party, so we are not allowed to make any personal comments on the appointment of officials without authorization,” Li Zhimin, a former director of the CDO told NewsChina. “We must keep consistent with the Party,” he added. Given the solemnity and confidentiality of their work, departments of organization are among the Party’s most mysterious organs. Their buildings have no obvious signage, their telephone numbers are not made public, and their employees may not reveal any information before it is published in official documents. “This confidentiality could be traced back to the 1930s, when the CPC was under pressure from Kuomintang attacks. Now, the confidentiality is more due to the sensitivity of official appointments – it would stir the waters if news was leaked before the final decision was made, especially when certain positions are in dispute,” Zhang Quanjing, the director of the CDO from 1994 to 1999, told NewsChina. This secrecy, however, has come in for increasing criticism for encouraging backroom deals out of the public eye. An inspector, who asked to remain anonymous, told NewsChina that the appraisal reports often do not show the real performance of a candidate, since “obeying one’s leader is more important than going by what you have learned in the inspections.” “If your superior is determined to promote a certain candidate, you have to put in a good word for him, even if you’ve discovered that

he or she actually has a very bad reputation among the public,” he said. In 2004, Xu Guojian, the organization director of Jiangsu Province, was sentenced to death with a two-year reprieve for selling official titles. In 2011, Li Weimin, former organization director of Sanmenxia, Henan Province, was sentenced to death with a reprieve on similar charges. More recently, Zhao Miao, the organization director of Chengdu, capital of Sichuan Province, was detained over corruption allegations. “The corruption of organization departments is potentially the most destructive [to the Party], since officials are created there,” the State-owned Xinhua News Agency once commented. However, even if organization department officials or inspectors are clean, this does not guarantee an untainted selection process, since organization departments do not have the final say over designations. During interviews, many department officials have revealed that they have offended higher-level leaders by delivering an unexpectedly positive or negative appraisal. Although local organization directors generally have a seat on the local Party committee, they are subordinate to their local Party secretaries, as well as to governors or mayors who retain the final say. Since the late 1990s, the CDO has introduced public examinations in parts of the selection process, but till now, most public openings remain in low key positions. Besides, since the interviews and the voting following examinations are not open to the public, backroom deals are still entirely possible. “Higher-level officials are now determined based on negotiation among the standing members of the local Party committees. It is good to balance the interests of different groups for the sake of stability,” Cai Zhiqiang, a professor from the Party School of the Central Committee of the CPC, told NewsChina. “But no matter how it changes, it should be made more transparent.” “Organization departments are facing momentous reform,” he added. 


cover story

Shipping lanes in Jiujiang, Jiangxi

River of GOLD 16

Wuhan’s high-speed railway station

NEWSCHINA I November 2014

The Chongqing skyline

Wuhan’s riviera

NEWSCHINAThe I November 2014 New Area, Pudong


Photo by IC and CFP

The Yangtze, the world’s second-longest river with a total drainage area of some 1.8 million square kilometers supporting an estimated 400 million people, looks set to be tapped as a major economic development zone. But can provinces, municipalities and government agencies work together to ensure that this crucial waterway can flourish without becoming a polluted and congested sacrifice to economic necessity? NewsChina takes a dip


A deep-water port in Shanghai

cover story Yangtze River

Arterial Asset The Yangtze River connects three colossal urban clusters in eastern, central and western China. Through the development of a new economic belt, it is hoped this region could supplant China’s industrial eastern coast as the country’s principal growth engine By Cai Rupeng


hongqing, a vast southwestern municipality directly under the administration of the central government and home to almost 30 million people, is located in the upper reaches of the Yangtze River, and is by far the largest urban center in China’s hinterland. On April 28, 2014, Premier Li Keqiang presided over a symposium in the city, which was viewed as almost parallel in its scale and importance to an executive meeting of the State Council. Themed “building a Yangtze River Economic Belt (YREB) by relying on the golden waterway,” the meeting was attended by Vicepremier Zhang Gaoli, Secretary-general of the State Council Yang Jing, and Governor of the People’s Bank of China Zhou Xiaochuan. The governors of the seven provinces and two municipalities that sit astride navigable sections of the Yangtze River, along with representatives from Guizhou and Zhejiang, provinces in close proximity to the main waterway, also attended. The Yangtze River, often called China’s “golden waterway,” has been a vital commercial lifeline for millennia, and for many, continues to be the country’s foremost natural wonder. Alongside its shorter but more fertile cousin the Yellow River, it constitutes a symbol of the nation. Rising from the Tanggula mountain range on the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau, the Yangtze virtually bisects the country from west to east. Its total length of 6,300 kilometers makes it the world’s third longest river. Hundreds of tributaries extend north and south along its entire length, meaning the Yangtze comprises a total drainage area of


1.8 million square kilometers, equaling about one fifth of China’s land area. Since ancient times, the Yangtze has been a central artery for Chinese commerce. It has been the principal waterway serving nine Chinese provinces and, latterly, two municipalities. An economic belt along the Yangtze, if efficiently coordinated and soundly developed, could function as an enormous propeller for China’s long-term economic development. The Chinese government has discussed the idea of an overall development scheme for the YREB for two decades. While sketches have been drawn and theories expounded, implementing such a scheme has been hindered by the generally sluggish economic development of China’s inland provinces. Until now, plans for the YREB had been shelved in favor of its more practical rivals - the Western Development Strategy and the Central Rise policy. Nevertheless, recent signals from the central government have once again created a buzz in provinces and municipalities along the Yangtze River tired of living in the shadow of China’s coastal industrial-commercial belt. Intentions to revive the dormant YREB plans have been publicly aired by top officials, and these renewed commitments to turning this overlooked region into a pillar for future economic development have convinced regional administrators that their fortunes are now set to change.

Nocked Arrow

Before the symposium in Chongqing, Premier Li Keqiang made a three-day tour of inspection of the Yangtze River, traveling upstream after a photo-op on a pier in

Chongqing’s Wanzhou district. His aim, according to official reports, was to gain an overview of navigation and ecological conditions along the river, as well as to view development projects already underway on its banks. This year, Li has publicly and repeatedly advocated the development of the YREB. His tour of inspection was therefore viewed as a signal that the zone’s establishment is now all but inevitable, with State media referring to the project as “an arrow on the bowstring.” Immediately after the meeting in Chongqing, concept stocks relating to the YREB rocketed in value, with three in particular hitting their daily surge limits. Xiao Jincheng, director of the Institute of Spatial Planning and Regional Economy with the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), told NewsChina that the NDRC has been busy with fact-finding missions relating to the establishment of the YREB for more than a year. In September last year, the NDRC, alongside the Ministry of Transportation (MoT), held a mobilization meeting in Beijing to draft their jointly-issued “Guidance for Constructing a New Supporting Zone for China’s Economy by Relying on the Yangtze River.” Delegates from seven provinces and two municipalities along the Yangtze River were instructed to attend, and, in a keynote speech, NDRC minister Xu Shaoshi told these dignitaries that planning the YREB was a “holistic strategy” which would “motivate a comprehensive renaissance in eastern, central and western areas of China.” The YREB NEWSCHINA I November 2014

would therefore become “the backbone of China’s economy,” Xu added. The general plan, according to Xu, will rely on three urban clusters located in the Yangtze River Delta, the river’s middle reaches, and the Chengdu-Chongqing municipal area. Three shipping centers – Shanghai, Wuhan and Chongqing – will enjoy a boost in upriver commerce, and the development of the middle and upper sections of the Yangtze will also be promoted. Plans were also unveiled to dig navigable waterways to link Shanghai on the east coast with Yunnan Province in the remote southwest, forming a trade pattern with “two outlets.” When it comes to the details of implementation of this grand plan, however, plenty of room for maneuver is left to regional administrators.


For some, the NDRC’s perspective is too ambitious and aggressive. For many others, the need for such a plan is self-evident, and several officials have argued that developing the commercial potential of China’s longest waterway has been deferred for far too long. Jin Yihua, former director of the Changjiang [Yangtze] River Administration of Navigational Affairs (CRANA), told NewsChina that back in the late 1980s, several proposals concerning the overall industrial development of the Yangtze River basin had been brought forward by related experts. One well-known proposal was from economic geographer Lu Dadao, who put forward a “T-shaped” development strategy designed to turn the Yangtze into a lateral axis radiating

4,296 ports are in operation along the Yangtze,10 of which have a capacity

Yangtze River Shipping The industry creates 120 billion yuan (US$19.5m) in revenue and more than 2 million jobs Supporting industries create 20 trillion yuan (US$3.26tn) in revenue and more than 10 million jobs

The Yangtze River Economic Zone consists of 9 provinces and 2 municipalities, including 3 urban clusters in the Yangtze River Delta, the middle reaches, and Chengdu and Chongqing municipalities

vertical economic corridors along its length to form a trading grid. In 1992, the 14th National Congress of the Communist Party of China also saw delegates float the idea of developing the Yangtze River Delta and the areas along the river’s banks upstream of the newly-established Pudong New Area in Shanghai. At the time, however, China’s eastern seaboard was experiencing unprecedented breakneck growth, and all eyes were on manufacturing and export-based industries, few of which had much to gain by setting up in the country’s remote interior. Pudong bloomed into Shanghai’s modern commercial hub, but proposals for developing more inland areas along the Yangtze were largely ignored. The economy of the Yangtze River basin,

exceeding 100 million tons

The Yangtze provides 35 percent of

459 ports have a cargo capacity

China’s total water resources, much of this as drinking water for 400 million people living in 220 cities and towns along the river 1/3 of China’s waste water drains into the Yangtze

Ports with cargo handling capacity in excess of 100 million tons are clustered in Jiangsu Province along the lower reaches of the river. A few are situated in Wuhan, Yueyang and Chongqing along the middle and upper reaches

exceeding 10,000 tons

National Water Resources

Jiangsu Sichuan

Hubei Chengdu

Anhui Shanghai


Chongqing Zhejiang

Yueyang Seven provinces and two municipalities along the Yangtze generate 42 percent of national GDP and are home to 200 of the country’s 500 largest companies NEWSCHINA I November 2014

Hunan Guizhou




cover story

particularly in the upper and middle reaches, was poorly developed in the 1980s and early 1990s, lacking the momentum to generate the market demand that would support further investment. Jin Yihua recalled that in the early 1980s, the government had built more than ten 10,000-ton capacity docks along the Yangtze River’s banks, a huge investment. However, the river lacked the traffic to warrant such a massive outlay. “There were too few ships coming in. These docks were doing nothing but sunbathing,” said Jin. The river would not remain silent for long. In the 1990s, the Yangtze River’s shipping lanes began to catch the attention of local governments, with a few observers noting that they could provide an essential route to inland manufacturing concerns that could operate at much lower costs than those on the coast, which were already experiencing falling profits even as living standards rose. Yet, particularly after 2000, many cities found that the Yangtze River had become a shipping bottleneck incapable of supporting demand for more open lanes, stymieing local development. “Local governments finally realized that the improved utilization of Yangtze River shipping lanes hinged on cooperation,” Jin told NewsChina. In 2006, the first meeting of the “Leading Group of Yangtze River Waterway Development and Coordination” was held in Nanjing, capital of Jiangsu Province, in the Yangtze’s lower reaches. During this meeting, seven provinces and two municipalities jointly signed an overall program to promote shipping, an agreement that has held firm until today. However, the ongoing promotional efforts have so far failed to translate into the widespread infrastructural upgrading required to turn the Yangtze into a viable conduit for the bulk of China’s inland shipping. The river remains bottlenecked by a shortfall in transportation capacity as its satellite economy, especially manufacturing enterprises situated along its banks, continues to expand.


Research from related government departments indicates that, beginning around


2014, cargo volume on Yangtze River’s upper reaches peaked at 150 million tons. Yet the gross industrial production of Chongqing Municipality alone is expected to reach 2 trillion yuan (US$324bn) in 2015, requiring an available water transportation volume of 180 million tons. In other words, China’s longest river isn’t equipped to cope with the shipping requirements of one of the several metropolises located on its banks. To serve the proposed YREB, the creation of a fully integrated transport system has become a key priority for macroeconomic planners. Last October, Xu Xianping, deputy director of the NDRC, stressed in his report to CRANA that the construction of an integrated transport system along the Yangtze River would need to incorporate current industrial structures, combine different means of conveyance and optimize the river’s transport investment structure. In Xiao Jincheng’s view, the Yangtze River could only become the “golden waterway” referred to by government officials if an integrated, efficient transport network could be established along its entire length. Last September, the MoT signed an agreement with the seven provinces and two municipalities that straddle the Yangtze River entitled the “Agreement for Cooperation on Promoting Various Important Works in the Development of Yangtze River Shipping.” This agreement set a target to raise the average per-vessel tonnage of cargo shipping in the Yangtze River to 2,000 tons along the main waterway and 1,200 tons throughout the entire river basin by 2020. Currently, since precise guidelines have yet to be issued by the central government, the specific plan to realize the goal of a panYangtze economic development zone remains unclear. However, many anticipate an even more ambitious growth plan from central agencies that will be designed to mobilize provincial authorities to commit significant resources to developing the Yangtze Basin. Shanghai, Wuhan and Chongqing, as the three main shipping hubs along the Yangtze, remain at the heart of such plans, while the major conurbations of Nanjing, Wuhu, Jiujiang, Yueyang and Yibin have all been mooted

as logistics centers to be seamlessly integrated into the region’s shipping network. Meanwhile, the continued construction of high-speed railroads and highways has also been introduced into the YREB development program. According to Chinese media, Beijing has developed a preliminary plan to build a high-speed rail line along the Yangtze River from Shanghai to Chengdu via Hefei, Wuhan, and Chongqing, along with a Shanghai-Kunming high-speed railway that would stretch from China’s leading financial center to Yunnan’s provincial capital via the strategic commercial centers of Hangzhou, Nanchang, Changsha, and Guiyang. Thus, multiple cities with populations in the millions will be linked directly into a trade network that will flow outwards from the Yangtze Basin. Meanwhile, a highway network connecting key economic zones, regional central cities, major ports and strategic border ports will be formed around four existing east-west national highways (Shanghai to Chengdu, Shanghai to Chongqing, Shanghai to Kunming, and Hangzhou to Ruili) and fifteen north-south national highways. Realizing this entire plan will cost trillions of yuan. However, the central government clearly sees this unprecedented investment in infrastructure as preferable to a continuation of lopsided development that has seen the east prosper, albeit rather unsustainably, while the west has largely depended on resource exploitation and shaky investment in real estate, tourism and other privately-led projects. In April’s symposium in Chongqing, Li Keqiang pointed out that in the history of world economics, development often starts from the coast and makes its way inland. In his view, the movement of industrial and commercial development west along the Yangtze is crucial to the government’s grand plan for upgrading China’s economy, at a stroke weaning the east off dependence on imports and the west off insecure investments such as real estate and the exploitation of dwindling natural resources. This strategy is a gamble, but one that, most observers agree, has to be taken to ensure breaking the cycle of unbalanced development.  NEWSCHINA I November 2014

Yangtze River

Channeling Success The diversity and sheer vastness of the Yangtze River Basin makes any attempt at marshaling resources to develop it a gargantuan task. Can even the Chinese government pull it off? By Cai Rupeng

NEWSCHINA I November 2014

swaths of virtually uninhabited land? Perhaps the most pressing concern is how to prevent this strategy from further germinating antagonism between a score of provinces that are already in close competition, a situation that has bred mistrust and rivalry between their respective leaderships.

Biggest Worry

Chen Yao, director of the Industrial and Regional Layout Lab of the Institute of Industrial Economics under the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS), told NewsChina that economic relations in areas along the Yangtze River have never been close, with regional development and trade gaps yawning into chasms when one compares these

Photo by IC


urrently, the “golden waterway” of the Yangtze River accommodates 60 percent of the freight traffic plying China’s inland provinces through its main stretch. 85 percent of the country’s annual yield of coal and iron ore is produced in the river’s basin, and more than 90 percent of foreign trade cargo produced in China’s interior is transported via the Yangtze to the nation’s ports. With such economic weight behind the argument, few have doubted the significance of constructing a Yangtze River Economic Belt (YREB). Yet as a regional strategy that would spread across nine provinces and two municipalities, difficulties in implementing any such scheme are also considerable. While provinces and municipalities along the Yangtze are actively involved in the debate over future cooperation, each one is individually working to carve out its own slice of this promising development strategy. Myriad challenges face those intending to spearhead the development of this vast and diverse section of China’s inland territory, not least getting regions locked in competition for resources and investment to work together for the greater good. Right now, more questions than answers seem to present themselves. How would an YREB stretching for thousands of kilometers across all manner of terrain be effectively formed? How could development projects be coordinated between enormous population centers, scattered rural communities and vast

regions with others in eastern, central and western China. Chen pointed out that after the founding of the People’s Republic in 1949, due to the lack of an overall development strategy, the foundation of interaction and integrated development of the entire Yangtze River Basin has been very weak. “There is more competition than cooperation, particularly between the cities,” he said. Hubei, Jiangxi and Hunan provinces, all of which are located along the middle reaches of the Yangtze River, have recently, however, begun to investigate cooperative trade pacts in order to consolidate development opportunities. In 2012, these provinces signed a tripartite development accord aimed at interlinking their economies through greater commercial cooperation between urban centers, using the Yangtze River as a conduit. All three provinces have also been lobbying the central government to elevate their rudimentary “trade triangle” into a national-level strategy, an essential means to acquire central government funding. However, insiders claim that in most cases, provinces, municipalities and individual cities continue to vie with one another for dominance in regional trade. Xiao Jincheng, director of the Institute of Spatial Planning and Regional Economy with the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), told NewsChina that local governments along the length of the Yangtze River have been divided over many issues, from navigation

A cable car crosses the Yangtze in Chongqing, the largest urban center in China’s hinterland, August 2013


cover story

strategy to taxation, with the subject of how best to navigate the multiple lockgates of the Three Gorges reservoir a particularly contentious issue. In 2011, the bidirectional throughput of locks on the Three Gorges reservoir was over 100 million tons, meaning the vast project had hit its intended annual shipping capacity 19 years in advance. This led to countless ships being stranded in the Three Gorges reservoir, with a logjam of 940 ships representing the worst congestion on a Chinese waterway in history. Currently, it takes about four to five days for a fast container ship to navigate from Chongqing to Shanghai. However, captains complain that two or three of these days are spent waiting to pass through locks, greatly damaging efficiency and increasing costs. These bottlenecks also seriously impact communities and ecosystems along the river through noise, light and air pollution. It is predicted that in the next 10 to 20 years, annual lockage cargo through the Three Gorges Dam will continue to rise, reaching more than 200 million tons by 2020. This situation has led to a division of opinion between the provinces that suffer most from excess traffic along the Yangtze, and those that produce the bulk of goods that navigate its waters. As a result, Hubei Province recently tabled a plan to establish an integrated trans-

port system that would make Yichang, a city within its borders, a transportation hub that would host shipping waiting to pass through nearby locks. However, Chongqing Municipality and Sichuan Province, both located upstream, have instead demanded the building of additional lock gates in order to facilitate direct navigation. Many officials have expressed concerns over the administrative barriers that may hinder the establishment of the YREB, though few are willing to speak openly about just how profound these problems might be. “The biggest worry is that the plan won’t come off in the end, despite local governments doing their best to appear enthusiastic,” one official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told NewsChina.

Middle Reaches

The lower reaches of the Yangtze River, currently the greatest beneficiary of the development of the economic hub of the Shanghai Pudong New Area, the Shanghai Pilot Free Trade Zone, and the general boom in China’s eastern coastal economies, are often the most reluctant to divert resources upstream. While populous regions and major urban centers such as Sichuan and Chongqing have enjoyed favorable policies that have led to the creation of Chongqing’s Liangjiang New Area and Beijing’s Western Develop-

Wuhan’s Wealth 1,061 kilometers of the Yangtze river are situated in Wuhan’s home province of Hubei 900 billion yuan (US$146.5bn) in GDP (2013) 387.8 billion yuan (US$63.1bn) of which was consumer spending - 10 percent growth y-o-y

4-7 hours to major cities including Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Chongqing.


1 hour to major

cities within the Wuhan province

ment Strategy, many areas on the banks of the Yangtze continue to lose out. Analysts point to Hubei as the province that would benefit most from the establishment of the YREB, likely explaining its officials’ enthusiasm in promoting the new strategy. “[The YREB] is an opportunity that Hubei has dreamed of for a long time, as well as being the biggest, most straightforward and most practical,” said a press release by the Hubei’s provincial Development and Reform Commission. Over 2,000 kilometers of the Yangtze’s shoreline are in Hubei, and the city of Wuhan has historically been a major stopping point for river shipping, with its municipal officials among the most vocal advocates for the YREB. In a recent report on the construction of the YREB submitted by Hubei provincial authorities to the NDRC, the province suggested establishing an embassy district in Wuhan to act as a catalyst for foreign investment. The same report also demanded the opening of more international trade routes and boosting international flight traffic into and out of Wuhan’s airport in order to both meet rising demand and boost global interest. However, for every enthusiastic Wuhan official, there is a lukewarm Shanghai equivalent, and until some degree of consensus can be reached on how the further development of the Yangtze Basin can benefit all those reliant on this crucial waterway, more plans are being shelved than implemented. 

2 hours by to central trading hubs in Zhengzhou, Hefei and Changsha

NEWSCHINA I November 2014

Yangtze River


Could the development of the Yangtze River Economic Belt link the Pacific Ocean to both the Indian and Atlantic oceans? One official is convinced it can, and will By Cai Rupeng


iao Jincheng, vice chairman of China Association of Research into Regional Economies, is also director of the Institute of Spatial Planning and Regional Economy with the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) – China’s foremost macroeconomic planning agency. A pioneer in the study of China’s regional economic development, Xiao has become a leading advocate for the large-scale development and streamlining of the Yangtze Basin economy. However, Xiao is the first to admit that existing barriers to regional cooperation and the effective establishment of an integrated transportation and logistics network must be overcome before any such plan can be implemented. NewsChina: What motivated the Chinese government to bring out its first action plan on a Yangtze River economic development zone in 2013? Xiao Jincheng: China’s western regions have limited habitable land resources. Even with huge investment, these areas are unlikely to attract further settlement or industry. However, the river itself, along with its tributaries, has massive potential. The Yangtze River basin is rich in resources and has been a major source of government revenue since ancient times. Yet, compared with eastern coastal areas, the potential of its upper and middle reaches has never been fully exploited. Reform and Opening-up concentrated on the eastern coast, and foreign-funded enterprises have stayed clustered in these areas. The future opening up of China needs to be NEWSCHINA I November 2014

multidirectional. The new administration hopes to develop the upper reaches of the Yangtze by relying on this “golden waterway.” The development of the Yangtze River belt is also conducive to the progress of urbanization. The central government plans to transfer 300 million people from rural areas into cities within 20 years. It is not possible for all of them to be resettled on the southeastern coast. The area along the Yangtze River has a dense concentration of large, medium and small cities along its banks, giving it great potential for industrial development and for urbanization. Moreover, in terms of trade, the YREB, when established, will extend to Yunnan Province and even into the Indian Ocean via the economic corridor of China, Myanmar, Bangladesh and India . It will become a link connecting the Pacific and the Indian oceans. Also, it will open China’s west to the Silk Road economic belt in a trade route stretching as far as the Atlantic coast. NC: What are the advantages of the Yangtze basin over other projects, such as interlinking Beiijing, Tianjin and Hebei Province, or the development of the “New Silk Road?” XJ: Economic and social development requires water resources, land and other conditions. We just have to look at geography to see where development is best situated. In the southwest, there is abundant rainfall but scarce space, ruling out largescale construction projects. The north-

western regions are mainly composed of the Loess Plateau, the Gobi desert and other arid areas that are tough to settle. In the northeast, we have expansive infrastructure and fertile land, but the long-term exploitation of resources has left these regions resourcepoor. Besides, due to the dominance of Stateowned enterprises in China’s economy, many institutional problems remain unresolved in these areas. Comparatively speaking, the coast still has the best conditions in terms of location. Since Reform and Opening-up, coastal areas have led the charge of development, starting with the Pearl River Delta, then the Yangtze River Delta, and now Bohai Bay. Right there we have a northward development shift. Why? Because investors are most concerned about land, labor and other production costs, and businesses migrate accordingly. The biggest difference between the YREB

Xiao Jincheng


cover story

and other projects is that it can serve the dual role of linking existing economic hot zones within China, and connect to Eurasian and South Asian economies. NC: So what lies in the way of realizing the project? XJ: The YREB comprises nine provinces and two municipalities directly under the central government. Each of these eleven regions has its own interests and aspirations. They all want to attract industry, but they have to cooperate in order to fully benefit, and this cooperation will require integrated development strategies. Take shipping as an example – all provinces and municipalities want to raise the status of their own ports and attract more ships. None of them care whether more ships dock in a neighboring province. Pollution stemming from overpopulation is another major issue to consider. Increasing urbanization, particularly in the upper reaches of the Yangtze, has exerted enormous pressure on the environment. We need to move these communities away from areas where their presence threatens entire ecosystems, yet these people need to be accommodated somewhere, therefore we need to build goodwill among local governments further downstream. Infrastructure in medium-sized and small cities along the river is still very weak, andcontinues to be a barrier to further investment and urban expansion, putting a damper on potential revenue streams. This is another area where improvement is needed. NC: Administrative barriers seem to be the biggest obstacles. How to overcome them? XJ: In my opinion, there should be a central-level coordinating institution overseeing the establishment of the YREB, like the Western Development Office and the Northeast Revitalization Office. Regional cooperation cannot rely on official documents alone. It needs to be pushed forward by higher level authorities. Otherwise, little progress may be made. But such oversight institutions do not need to be permanent – they can be disbanded once they meet their goals.


After establishing such an organ, concrete measures and a scientific and practical plan should be drawn up, and then applied in their entirety. Regions should be prohibited from obstructing such implementation – only through such measures can timely progress be achieved. NC: Wuhan is a major city located on the central stretch of the Yangtze River. What role should it play in the establishment of the YREB? XJ: As a large port in the Yangtze River basin, Wuhan has excellent infrastructure and a large population that it could employ to benefit surrounding areas, in order to avoid it simply becoming a prosperous island in a sea of poverty. Nearby historic cities such as Jingzhou and Yichang can also be developed to attract industry and commerce. NC: Many cities along the river have come up with plans to accelerate development. Which of these should be given priority? XJ: Not all cities along the Yangtze River may develop into economic growth hubs. In my view, priority should be given to developing small and medium-sized cities into larger conurbations. Then, each urban center needs to be considered in terms of its ability to radiate prosperity outwards and into its surrounding environs. Currently, overall development of the middle and upper reaches of Yangtze River is sluggish. Yet metropolises such as Wuhan, Chongqing and Chengdu are rapidly experiencing unsustainable population growth due largely to their isolated economic success. Other cities, meanwhile, have struggled to expand, despite every indication being that they should – Nantong and Zhenjiang in Jiangsu, Wuhu and Anqing in Anhui, Huangshi, Jingzhou and Yichang in Hubei, Jiujiang in Jiangxi, Yueyang in Hunan, and Luzhou in Sichuan are all examples of this. The situation indicates that there is still great potential in China’s regional economy, but that it is still not being realized. When the middle and upper reaches of Yangtze River develop to a similar level as its lower reaches, then we will see prosperity truly spread along this “golden waterway.”  NEWSCHINA I November 2014

Photo by CFP

An aerial shot of the Three Gorges Dam in the upper reaches of the Yangtze NEWSCHINA I November 2014




Unequal to Over-equal

China’s notoriously difficult college entrance examination is undergoing yet another overhaul in a bid to promote equality – but controversies abound By Du Guodong

Students celebrate the end of their college entrance exams, June 8, 2014


NEWSCHINA I November 2014

Photo by CFP


n September 4, the State Council, China’s cabinet, rolled out an ambitious reform package to overhaul the national college entrance examination, or gaokao, which it called the “most comprehensive reform” since the country resurrected the examinations in 1977 following the end of the Cultural Revolution (1966-76). Under the new scheme, students are no longer required to choose between either a liberal arts or science track when they embark upon their studies after junior high school. The changes will be piloted this year in Shanghai Municipality and east China’s Zhejiang Province, and are expected to be expanded nationwide in 2017, with full implementation by 2020. The two local governments participating in the trial will make public their respective plans by the end of this year.


The new round of reform includes an adjustment of the marking system, one of the most frequent targets of public criticism due to its overemphasis on numerical scores. Perhaps the most noticeable change is that gaokao results will in future be comprised of two parts: mandatory, nationally synchronized and standardized examinations in Chinese, mathematics and English, and three scores from a pool of six subjects – political science, history, geography, physics, chemistry and biology – in line with their personal strengths or desired college major. As for English, students can sit two separate exams and submit their best score. The new

NEWSCHINA I November 2014

plan, commonly referred to as “3+X,” aims to promote “well-rounded, healthy development,” as well as ease the pressure of college entrance exams, according to the Ministry of Education (MoE). The new plan also stipulated that the 16 provinces and municipalities currently authorized to draft their own exam papers would use nationally standardized papers. Over the years, admission opportunities at the college level varied wildly across China due to differences in living standards and population density. The government has been working to narrow regional disparity in education for years, said Du Yubo, deputy minister of the MoE, during a press conference. An online survey by the private 21st Century Education Research Institute showed that 80 percent of respondents favored a standardized national exam paper. “Over the years, plans on gaokao reform had been published by the MoE, but this one was released by the State Council, which is a reflection of the central government’s determination to address the problems that exist in the college entrance system,” Liu Haifeng, director of the Institute of Education of Xiamen University, told NewsChina. “Reform is a must for higher education in China, though it will take time to figure out the most suitable way and implement concrete measures,” Liu Shusen, deputy dean of the School of Foreign Languages of Peking University, told the Xinhua News Agency.


China’s gaokao system was first launched


Photo by Xinhua


Admissions staff at Shanghai Jiaotong University interview a prospective student, March 11, 2011

in 1952. In 1977 the admission rate was only 4.8 percent, but as of 2014, that figure has climbed to roughly 75 percent , with roughly 9.4 million students sitting the exam. In 1998, the average enrollment rate across the county was 36 percent, with Shanghai having the highest – 60 percent – with Gansu Province the lowest at only 21 percent. Since then, the gap has been shrinking. In 2007, the 17 percent gap between the highest and lowest admission rate was reduced to 6 percent and, according to the new plan, “the goal is less than four percent by 2017.” Over the past 30 years, reform of the gaokao examinations and enrollment process has been ongoing, as has criticism of the system, particularly with respect to equal opportunities. One move to reduce the gap this time is to alter enrollment quotas in order to increase student proportion from the relatively less developed provinces in central and western China, and more densely populated regions. Previously, nearly all universities took in a fixed number of non-local students each year, and students from heavily populated areas faced much more intense competition to secure a place at college. The new guideline also requires universities to admit more students from rural areas.


During the annual meeting of the National People’s Congress, China’s parliament, earlier this year, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang pledged to increase by at least 10 percent the number of rural students from poor areas enrolled in key universities. Statistics from a survey on higher education fairness led by Yang Dongping, director of the 21st Century Education Research Institute, showed that the proportion of college students at key universities who came from rural areas had been declining since the 1990s. Students from rural areas attending Peking University has dropped from 30 to 10 percent the past 10 years. Tsinghua, another prominent university in the country, had a 17 percent rural student body in 2010. Another highlight to promote social equality was to abolish a “bonus score” scheme from 2015, which awarded extra credit to students with sporting or artistic accomplishments, attracting much controversy due to reports of corruption. During this year’s college admissions process, 87 of the roughly 1,000 students at a high school in Benxi, Liaoning Province, were found to have been erroneously certified as athletes simply to improve their chances. The lack of standardized appraisal criteria and transparency in procedure, coupled with

loose supervision, have made the policy privilege a hotbed for corruption in some universities, generating considerable public outcry. Cai Rongsheng, former admissions chief with Renmin University of China, was officially investigated in November 2013 for allegedly taking over 10 million yuan (US$1.62m) in exchange for university places.


The reform package was made public after four major revisions within four years, with dozens of versions discarded along the way. In July 2010, the MoE released China’s National Plan for Medium and Long-term Education Reform and Development (2010NEWSCHINA I November 2014

Photo by CFP

Elated students vacate an examination venue

2020), in which it stated the necessity for the wholesale reform of college entrance exams. In November that same year, the National Educational Advisory Committee was set up, comprising 10 work groups, one of which was focused on the reform of enrollment exams. However, this move toward equality has also drawn controversy. Wen Dongmao, dean of the Graduate School of Education, Peking University, told NewsChina that the core of the dispute lay in whether to concentrate on “elite development,” or give priority to equality. “Real equality lies in tailoring teaching methods, rather than measuring each student with the same yardstick. Over-reliance on NEWSCHINA I November 2014

equality for the purpose of stability will make equality a burden on education reform,” he said. “Exams are mainly an issue of education, rather than an issue of law or equality.” Scholars and education specialists have argued that more efforts and specific regulations need to be made to ensure that the reform reaches its intended goal. Yang Dongping told our reporter that promoting equality was a good idea in principle, but if test scores in three arbitrary gaokao subjects are taken into account, high schools in different areas would be more likely to try any means to push their own students to achieve higher scores, since each province or municipality drafts their own examinations

in these three optional subjects. “It is likely to create additional unfairness,” said Yang. “It requires universities to publish more detailed enrollment rules.” A principal at a high school in southern China, who asked to remain anonymous, told NewsChina that difficulty levels vary across the six gaokao exams, making the system unfair on students who attain lower scores in the more difficult exams. For years, China’s education apparatus has frequently been criticized for its exam-oriented curriculum, with final scores being the only metric for assessment, forcing students to memorize cookie-cutter exam answers from textbooks. Xiong Bingqi, vice-director of the 21st Century Education Research Institute, told our reporter that while the reform is still restricted to examinations rather than enrollment, the latter is actually more important. “If the enrollment system remains the same, any reform will be of limited significance,” he told NewsChina. Besides, Xiong said students face gaokao pressure from their first day at high school, since “the scores they gain in the first two years also matter to university admission procedures.” In recent years, Jiangsu Province piloted a gaokao reform program in which students had to sit nine exams, which all counted towards the final gaokao scores – this was eventually abolished due to the heavy burden it laid on examinees. The MoE has indicated that the new reform package is just the beginning of comprehensive reform, and five specific regulations will be unveiled as of the end of this year. “Generally speaking, the positive parts outweigh the negative. This is a gradual process and cannot be accomplished in one move,” Yang said. “Education in China is also a political and social issue.” Chen Wei also contributed reporting. 



Lin Zhibo

Pariah and Patriot

The appointment of one of China’s most criticized “ultra-leftists” to the top job in a journalism school has raised eyebrows, despite his impressive credentials By Wan Jiahuan in Lanzhou


in Zhibo is the Gansu bureau chief of the People’s Daily, the largest official newspaper of the Communist Party of China (CPC). While his publication is typically a sober mouthpiece for the Party line, Lin’s vitriolic manner when expressing his extremeleft opinions has made him a controversial figure. In the past few years, Lin has irritated many of China’s liberals, reformers and the general public with his rabid support for the “Chongqing model” espoused by that municipality’s now-disgraced former Party secretary Bo Xilai. His official account on Weibo, China’s Twitter, currently has 230,000 followers, and he has used this channel to publicly deny the deaths of millions in the famine unleashed by catastrophic agricultural policies imposed during the Great Leap Forward (1958-1961) – deaths which even the Communist


NEWSCHINA I November 2014

Party itself has admitted. Lin was slammed for calling Hu Shi, one of China’s most respected liberal intellectuals, a “comprador politician for the West,” and said of leading movie director Zhang Yimou that his work is designed to “garner foreign rewards by presenting Chinese ugliness” and “either slanders Chinese culture or insults the Chinese revolution.” Responses to such outbursts have been equally vitriolic, with Lin coming under fire from numerous quarters, not least the diligently centrist voices of Chinese academia. When Lin was appointed as the dean of the School of Journalism and Communication (SJC) of Lanzhou University in Gansu Province in early July this year, the controversy surrounding his opinions became national news. Though located in China’s remote and impoverished northwest, the SJC enjoys a solid reputation in Chinese journalism, thanks mostly to a handful of famous alumni. Days after Lin’s appointment was announced, an anonymous Internet user using the pseudonym “A Student from the SJC” posted an open letter on Weibo calling Lin an “executioner,” and his appointment a “publicly premeditated murder” which “would drag the credibility and reputation of the SJC into the killing fields.” At press time, the open letter had already been forwarded more than 4,000 times. Lin seems unruffled by mounting calls on the Chinese blogosphere for him to step down. “I have been attacked quite a few times,” he said in his office in the Gansu bureau of the People’s Daily. “After spending too long under fire, I’ve become a wily old bird.” Lin insists that he practices what he preaches – he boycotts “foreign” (specifically Japanese) goods wherever possible and sees himself as the ultimate champion of Chinese exceptionalism – and challenges those who call him an opportunistic hypocrite to prove it. “You see, my computer and printer are Lenovo. The air-conditioner is Gree. The TV set is Hisense. The refrigerator is Haier. And the car parked outside is Hongqi,” he said, shaking his Chinese-made Coolpad cell phone. “There’s not a single product from Japan in this room,” he continued. “I’m a patriot from the bottom of my heart. I called for a boycott of Japanese products, and hold myself to the strictest standards.”


Lin likes to label his compatriots “traitors,” “puppets” and “antiChina forces,” usually for espousing midly liberal viewpoints. Most call him a fanatical Maoist, a standard-bearer for a resurgent ultraleftism that has evolved as a consequence of both more open public participation in political debate facilitated by the relative anonymity of the Internet, and as a backlash against what is seen as the increasing decadence and materialism that has emerged in the post-Mao years. He Bing, vice dean of the Law School of China under the University of Political Science and Law, historian Li Yong and Southern Metropolis Daily lead writer Han Fudong have all publicly attacked Lin as a reactionary. In mid-July, Cao Lin, director of the Social Commentary Department of the China Youth Daily, published an article entitled “Certain Qualifications Are Needed to Become the Dean of a NEWSCHINA I November 2014

Journalism School.” In the article, Cao states that Lin “lacks academic vigor” and “isn’t able to instill students and faculty with independence of thought or a spirit of tolerance.” “The issue is not whether somebody is left or right, but merely whether they are professional,” Cao continued. However, Cao’s criticism went further on his Weibo account, where he dubbed Lin a “touchstone of the ultra-left,” commenting that Lanzhou University should not have hired such a “notoriously ignorant and incompetent charlatan.” Lin was enraged by what he called Cao’s “lowbrow” attack, vowing to “educate” his peer “with the law.” “These people [Cao et al] weren’t well-meaning,” said Lin. “They were not discussing or suggesting anything, but merely finding excuses to attack me.” Lin admits that he lacks experience in academic research or journalism theory, but emphasized that “fourteen years of practicing journalism” has allowed him to “accumulate some experience.” He cited the many books he has written or co-authored, most of which are paeans to the People’s Liberation Army, including The War History of the PLA, The Military History of the PLA, and The General History of the CPC. One of Lin’s works, Military Spirit of the War of Resistance: A Biography of Zhang Zizhong, “is recognized publicly as the best biography of General Zhang Zizhong,” he claims, citing positive comments from former president of the Association of Chinese Historians Jin Chongji and online reviews as proof of that work’s quality. Zhang is a hero of Lin’s, the highest-ranked officer and the only army group commander of the Chinese National Revolutionary Army of the Republic of China to die in the Second Sino-Japanese War (1937 – 1945). Claiming his literary output and news background as evidence, Lin dismissed Cao Lin’s attack out of hand, also accusing his fellow journalist of hypocrisy. “Those who speak of ‘independence of thought and spirit of tolerance’ all the time are those who actually follow America’s lead in showing no tolerance towards different opinions,” he told our reporter. “They curse dissenters, insult them or even threaten them with death. They believe only they themselves are entitled to ‘democracy and freedom.’” Lin does admit, however, that he was initially reluctant to accept the SJC position, but that the multiple attacks on his qualifications and political leanings has stiffened his resolve to become, as he terms it, “a competent dean.” He has outlined plans to establish a doctorate degree program, creating a scholarship, improving internship programs, strengthening research and teaching of new media and inviting more guest lecturers. While Lin has floated the idea of lecturing on a number of topics, he remains unsure about whether the best place for him is in the classroom. He has, however, stated that he believes teaching a Marxist view of journalism will “help students form the right values.” Lin also aims to boost comparative study of Western and Chinese media, as he puts it, in order to “overturn the fallacy of Western journalistic professionalism and objectivity.” “Journalistic objectivity has reasonable attributes which we should



learn from such as respecting the facts and not lying, but, in many cases, the Western media fails even in this regard,” he told NewsChina.

‘Wings to a Tiger’

Despite Lin Zhibo’s claims to respect all opinions, his sources are rather selective, at least according to the publications spread over his desk. His main sources of foreign media reports on China are lifted from the State-controlled news aggregator Reference News and often rabidly nationalistic State newspaper the Global Times. Lin does not claim to be widely-read. Instead, he evidently prefers face-to-face communication, or lively and often polarizing one-to-one online debates. He even hosted a news commentary show on Gansu’s regional TV network for a short time. “Most of the time, it’s me who convinces others,” he said. “Of course, ultra-rightists are the exception.” During his career, Lin has frequently given talks at prestigious Chinese universities, many of which have been well-received by audiences. “I haven’t met a single protest or even disapproval towards my opinions when giving lectures,” he said. “I think I will make friends and reach a common understanding with students [at Lanzhou University].” He summarizes his theory of debate as “a hard shell around a soft center.” As with many left-leaning public intellectuals, he believes the Chinese should be unstintingly nationalistic when confronting what he calls “foreign forces,” but have a benevolent and open attitude when dealing with one another, guaranteeing human rights with a “people’s democracy.” The common thread? “Well, patriotism is always the overwhelming factor,” he told our reporter. “I was pretty much born a patriot.” Despite spending his early adulthood researching revolutionary heroes, Lin claims that he was also keen to learn from the West, particularly in the early 1980s, “longing for freedom and democracy.” Like his peers at the time, he was more or less uncomfortable with “leftism,” which still carried the taint of the Cultural Revolution, and Lin attributed many of the country’s problems to ideology. After graduation, Lin was assigned to work at the Academy of Military Sciences of the PLA. Even then, surrounded by pro-revolutionary propagandists, he still felt distaste for Mao Zedong. When others trotted out the stock phrase “without the Communist Party there wouldn’t be the new China,” he would retort with “What’s so good about the new China?” However, when Lin began his biography of Zhang Zizhong, a work which took him seven years to finish before it was published in 1993, he found his views began to change. At the time, political debate was gradually opening up, the memories of the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution were fading, and other values, notably, in Lin’s view, materialism, filled the void left by the demise of Maoism. “There were those who came waving the flag of reform and were, in fact, robbing the people, leading to an ever-widening rich-poor gap. There were the champions of Opening-up who were, in fact, selling


the country’s industries off piecemeal to foreigners,” he told our reporter. “I had lived in Beijing for 30 years and watched the national industries based there wither and die,” he continued, before reeling off a list of long-defunct State brand names. “Was I wrong to speak out?” By the late 1990s, largely centrist and liberal forces in mainstream political thought were assailed by a rising tide of neo-leftism, who questioned whether market economics was the true path to democracy and prosperity, as advocates claimed. Many were disillusioned at the evident corruption and an expanding income gap that had come to characterize Chinese society. Lin Zhibo said his “gradual awakening” also came with the “gradual polarization of the rich and the poor.” He started to change his view on Mao and political conservatism. “Chairman Mao left us the foundations on which a great power could be built,” he told NewsChina. “Under Mao, we built our own atomic bomb, hydrogen bomb and launched our first satellite, and we founded our independent agricultural and industrial system,” he said. “Without these things, without the Communist Party, there wouldn’t even be a basis for stability.” In 2000, Lin left the Academy of Military Sciences for the People’s Daily, working in its editorial department. He participated in the writing of many important editorials, including those commemorating the openings of the 16th and 17th CPC National Congresses. He became increasingly critical of liberalism and more hostile to the West. “I had a chance to know more than ordinary people did,” he said, calling his earlier passion for liberal values “naïve and blind.” “I hoped China would become like those Western countries. I still hope for that. But the point is that we stand no chance,” he told NewsChina. “And why? It’s those countries – the US, Europe and Japan – standing there to bar your progress. Western countries block your technological development with IP protection. They hope you become Latin-Americanized. They want you to rely on them, be their garbage dump, and work for them. The result would only be the destruction of our environment and resources.” In 1987, Lin went to Japan, his first ever visit abroad. Since then he has traveled to Russia, Germany, France, Britain, Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand. “Now many Chinese travel abroad and are impressed with what they see – the order, the beautiful buildings, the cleanliness of the streets and the politeness of locals. But it’s just superficial,” he told NewsChina. “The longer you are with Westerners, the more you uncover their apathy and selfishness. They won’t help anyone. But the Chinese are different. Whoever finds they are in trouble gets help from their friends and relatives.” Despite such obviously bigoted and simplistic statements, however, there’s always a twinkle in Lin’s eye. For every tweet slamming the West, he extols his countrymen to learn from other nations and encouraging Chinese students to study abroad – he even wants his own child to go overseas for postgraduate study. “The Chinese should learn from what’s good about Westerners,” he told NewsChina. “It should be like adding wings to a tiger.”  NEWSCHINA I November 2014

Photo by IC

A former Japanese prisoner of war camp in Taiyuan, Shanxi Province

Japanese Veterans

Death of Memory Japan’s last surviving WWII veterans remain honored and ignored, so long as their experiences continue to clash with new, right-wing interpretations of the country’s war record By Zhang Junrong


sao Inaba lives the life of a typical senior citizen in the town of Saitama in Japan. But Inaba is one of a rapidly dwindling number of people in Japan who have never been able to put their wartime experiences behind. Born in 1923, Inaba was drafted in 1943 to serve as a soldier in the Imperial Japanese Army, which invaded and occupied most of NEWSCHINA I November 2014

East and Southeast Asia during World War II. Inaba’s platoon was sent to China, the crown jewel of Japan’s imperial holdings, where they were billeted in Shanxi Province. Life in the Imperial ranks was hard, particularly for new recruits. “We were beaten by our officers every night before going to bed, sometimes with our teeth broken,” Inaba recalled.

Worse was the arms training, a process designed to desensitize raw infantrymen to killing, and encourage them to view the enemy as subhuman. Recruits would have to bayonet live POWs in front of their officers. “At first, our drill sergeants would behead Chinese captives in front of new recruits to ‘toughen us up,’” Inaba said. “Later, new recruits would be forced to bayonet captives




leave after all the killing, plundering, and raping we had done.” Inaba, along his fellow soldiers, fought on in Shanxi Province for another three and a half years in China’s civil war, until he was captured by Red Army forces. It is estimated that only 975 of the 2,600 soldiers who remained in China survived. Inaba, along with 140 Japanese POWs, would serve jail time for another five years, undergoing a “rehabilitation program” under the newly established People’s Republic of China. “As POWs, we expected to be killed, as almost all Chinese POWs were, so we fiercely resisted the rehabilitation program,” recalled Inaba, “We thought we were dead either way.” After realizing the goal was ultimately to repatriate the Japanese prisoners, however, Inaba began to rethink his view of Japan’s wartime policies. With self-criticism a key part of his rehabilitation program, Inaba began to write about his experiences. Finally in 1956, after 13 years in China, Inaba was officially acquitted of war crimes by the Chinese government and was repatriated to Japan. Once home, however, Inaba and his surviving comrades were not recognized as returned POWs, as the government determined that they had stayed in China voluntarily, and were thus classed as deserters. “Our commander testified to the Diet that he gave the evacuation order [in 1945], so that staying in China could only have been our own decision,” Inaba told NewsChina. Many of members of Japan’s 1950s parliament were themselves former Imperial politicians and military officers. “They told us that for the sake of the Japanese people, we should Photo by CFP

themselves.” Inaba refuses to reveal whether or not he personally participated in such atrocities. Serving as a communications officer at the time, he claims that he seldom Japanese POWs in Shanxi Province, 1948 saw combat, and “never personally shot anybody.” According to Ryuji Ishida, a researcher at the International Peace Research Institute of Japan’s ist army under the command of GeneralisMeiji Gakuin University, who has spent years simo Chiang Kai-shek, in order to wage war interviewing Japanese WWII veterans about against the communists. Exactly why these soldiers remained in their experiences, using POWs for bayonet practice was common among Japanese divisions in China despite having the opportunity to China. leave remains in dispute. According to the Japanese government, all 2,600 remained in China voluntarily due to their personal Abandoned What makes Inaba’s wartime experiences loyalty to brigade commander Kaoru Motoiunique is that he was among some 2,600 zumi, who would be killed in action in 1948. Japanese soldiers who were not evacuated Others claim that the soldiers stayed after befrom China in 1945 after the surrender of ing ordered to by First Infantry commander the Imperial forces to Allied commanders, Raishiro Sumita. It is said that Sumita made and instead found themselves cut off from a secret deal with Yan Xishan, a Kuomintang their homeland during the turbulence of the general in charge of Shanxi, giving Yan the use of his platoons to bolster regional desubsequent Chinese Civil War. After Japan’s forces laid down their arms fenses. Inaba, however, tells a different story. Acon the orders of the Emperor, most of the Japanese troops remaining in China were dis- cording to him, his brigade remained in armed and sent back to Japan. It is estimated China “as a result of both deception and inthat by the end of 1946, more than 3.7 mil- timidation.” “When we heard the announcement that lion Japanese soldiers and civilians had been repatriated by the Nationalist government, at the war had come into an end, we were very the time on the verge of an all-out war with happy, believing that we would be able to go home,” Inaba recalled. “But then there came the ascendant Communist Party. In Shanxi Province, however, a brigade an order that one third of us would have to of Japan’s First Infantry defied the Imperial stay in China to continue fighting, for Japan edict and determined to continue fighting. would reconquer China again in the future The brigade initially numbered over 10,000, and it was the Emperor’s wish that we should though desertions, deaths and capture soon defend Shanxi as a base for a future invasion.” saw their numbers dwindle to 2,600. These “When some soldiers protested, we were men would eventually join the National- told that [the Chinese] would never let us

NEWSCHINA I November 2014

Photo by CFP

keep our experiences a secret,” said Inaba, “Pretend you haven’t said 45 years, the Liaison Council for Rewhat you have said, please bear with patriates from China was officially it,’ – that was their message.” dissolved due to the age and infirmity of its surviving members. Moreover, the fact that the repaAs Sino-Japanese relations have triated soldiers had been deemed soured over territorial disputes and “rehabilitated” by their Communist amid a growing economic rivalry, captors meant they were treated with A PLA soldier talks with Japanese POWs in Shandong Province the past is continually dug up as a suspicion in Japan, which at the time justification for antipathy. Rightwas paranoid that Red sympathizers wing voices in Japan have come to were working to overthrow the state. dominate key areas of politics, and those who “Not only were we deprived of veterans’ uphold the responsibility of Japan’s wartime welfare, but we were monitored and stalked Not only were we deprived government for war crimes are pilloried. by the police,” Inaba recalled. of veterans’ welfare, but we Most recently on August 5, Japanese nawere monitored and stalked tional newspaper the Asahi Shimbun retractSpeaking Out ed articles mentioning “comfort women,” sex Despite warnings from the police, how- by the police. slaves abducted by Japanese troops for work ever, many of Inaba’s former comrades spoke in military brothels during WWII. In the reout about their wartime experiences. In tracted articles, the newspaper had cited tes1957, they established the Liaison Council timony by author Seiji Yoshida, who said he for Repatriates from China, a pacifist organi- such views, including veterans. zation “devoted to Sino-Japanese friendship The most famous case of this was that of had taken part in abducting 200 women on and world peace based on the admission of Shiro Azuma, who in 1987 wrote a book de- Jeju Island in occupied Korea. Pressure from right-wing activists and even and reflection on war crimes.” tailing his experiences serving with Japanese Inaba joined the Liaison Council in 1957 troops during their invasion of China. The Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who and started to actively engage in the group’s book detailed mass killings of civilians dur- criticized the Asahi Shimbun in a speech in activities, mostly through giving speeches in ing the Rape of Nanking, and Azuma even November 2012, calling Yoshida a “crook,” schools, universities and at public events. In admitted to personally beheading several soon led to the feature being pulled. Abe blamed such reports for “harming the re1962, Inaba married a woman who lost two Chinese POWs. brothers in the war. Azuma was immediately ostracized and lationship between Japan and other Asian At the time, Japan’s New Left movement threatened with violence by right-wing ex- countries.” In its retraction, the newspaper and a desire in China to broaden contact tremists. He was sued for libel by another vet- described Yoshida’s testimony as “false.” Despite his age, Isao Inaba has continued with other Asian economies led to a rapid eran named in his book, with the court rulrapprochement, with both countries normal- ing against Azuma in 1998. He died in 2006. to publicly share his wartime experiences. izing their relationship in 1972. Inaba also complied his wartime experi- The most recent speech he gave was on June The 1990s saw Japan’s economy slump ences into a book, The Unfinished War, and 24, 2013 to students at Meiji Gakuin Unieven as China’s ascended ultimately to domi- objection to his work comes even from with- versity. Inaba said that one student told him nate Asian commerce. This in turn saw a in his family, his children distancing them- that although his own grandpa is a WWII resurgence of Japanese nationalism which selves after the father insisted on document- veteran, he has never spoken about his army manifested itself in a lurch to the right in ing his wartime memories. years. Inaba’s biggest concern is that once all Jasome areas of academia. Historical revisionAs Japan’s veterans have aged and their ists attempted to downplay or even deny numbers have dwindled, their voices are less pan’s WWII veterans are gone, their memooutright Japanese war atrocities, leading to audible in the debate over how the country ries will die with them. “I am already 91,” he the harassment of those who vocally opposed should view its imperial past. In 2002, after said. “I could leave this world anytime.”  NEWSCHINA I November 2014



Drugs Crackdown

Vice and Vicissitude China’s recent high-profile crackdown on drugs has won the country’s narcotics police some positive publicity, but increasingly sophisticated smuggling methods and the rise of new synthetic drugs pose an unprecedented challenge to law enforcement By Yang Di and Du Guodong


NEWSCHINA I November 2014


Photo by CFP

arly this year, versity of China, during around 40 public an interview with Statefigures, includowned English-language ing movie stars, directors, newspaper China Daily. singers and screenwriters, She added that the raw have been charged with materials for new synthetvarious drug-related ofic drugs, such as methfenses following a highamphetamine, are easier Beijing police publicly destroy seized drugs on June 21, 2013 profile police crackdown. to obtain, and as incomes Jaycee Chan, son of inrise among China’s growternational kung-fu star ing urban middle class, Jackie Chan, and Taiwanese actor Kai Ko were the latest to be netted demand for narcotics is also growing. in August. Not long ago, a group of performance companies, headed Meanwhile, the country’s drug laws remain among the world’s by the Beijing Trade Association for Performances, came together to harshest. Besides drug-related crimes that also exist in Western counsign an agreement to bar performers with a history of drug use from tries, like possession and supply, China also prosecutes those found to appearing on-screen. have consumed drugs, or allowed the use of drugs on their property. The disgraced stars proved ample fodder for headlines over the sub- Foreign citizens found to have smuggled drugs into the country can sequent weeks, drawing plenty of publicity. However, in the context be executed. of China’s wider drugs situation in recent years, the arrests were only In recent years, the Public Security Bureau has reported a 10-perthe tip of the iceberg. cent average yearly growth in numbers of drug users being found in Beijing, and use of new types of drugs in the city is on the up, with no signs of slowing. Beijing Campaign According to annual reports on drug control in the country, China’s population of registered drug users – who undergo forced rehabilita- Crackdown tion in prison-like treatment centers – rose from 148,000 in 1991 On April 22, the Beijing Municipal Public Security Bureau anto 2.58 million in April this year, with over half of today’s users aged nounced a war on drug use and trafficking across the city, sending under 35. Data from the Narcotics Control Bureau of the Ministry nearly 400 police officers to district and county police bureaus to of Public Security (NCBMPC) showed that the proportion of young try to tackle the problem. users hit 75 percent. In addition, the police set up a special informant system, encourIn big cities across the country, the percentage of young drug users aging the public to report on suspected drug users – during the is even higher. Beijing, for example, was home to an estimated 26,000 campaign, police received over 740 tip-offs, which helped them drug users as of May this year, of whom 22,000 were young people, formally charge nearly 300 drug users and dealers. accounting for 88 percent of the whole, according to newly-released During the high-profile 100-day crackdown, 926 drug-related statistics from the Beijing Drug Control Commission. cases were investigated, 963 dealers were arrested and 3,400 users “More younger people are using drugs, or have become involved in detained, a nearly 40 percent increase on the previous year. Police drug-related incidents in recent years, since more new forms of syn- said that among those detained, most were either self-employed or thetic drugs have entered the market,” said Li Wenjun, associate pro- unemployed, with only 0.15 percent working in the entertainment fessor of drug prohibition studies at the People’s Public Security Uni- industry. They also reported that drug use had begun to gain popularNEWSCHINA I November 2014



Nobody had realized that within 10 years, users of new synthetic substances outnumbered those taking traditional drugs

ity among low-income groups and people living in suburban areas. In addition to tightening up anti-smuggling measures, the Beijing police have in recent years been working with their suburban counterparts in areas suitable for poppy cultivation, as local farmers have previously been found to be growing the flower for heroin processing. Every June, during poppy flowering season, police in Beijing’s suburbs conduct field trips to see whether poppies are being grown on newly cleared land, especially in forests and mountainous areas. Since last year, these inspections have been conducted using helicopters and drones. “Beijing has become the front line in China’s war on drugs,” said Jiang Liangdong, vice-director of the Beijing Drug Control Commission.

ers “cutting” their goods with various substances to boost their profits. During a field research trip in northeast China, Zhang said that he had come across a case where a user died after taking an ecstasy pill tainted with rat poison. “It was a rare incident, but the trend should be taken seriously,” he said. With the increase in popularity of synthetic drugs, the effects of drug use on the human body have become less predictable. Liu Zhimin, vice-director of the National Institute on Drug Dependence at Peking University, told NewsChina that new synthetic drugs are chemically complex, and consequently have a complex impact on human physiology. “In addition to affecting the nervous system, they also harm the function of the liver, kidney and heart,” Liu told NewsChina. Statistics from the Ministry of Public Security showed that from 2007 to 2011, users of synthetic drugs have grown from 16.1 percent to 32.7 percent within five years, and the figure is expected to grow. The tightening crackdown on drugs has prompted China’s dealers to seek new trafficking channels, with courier services a popular option due to their lack of government regulation. Police revealed that a growing number of synthetic drugs are delivered hidden in packages of coffee, tea, juice and candy – police have also reported cases of drugs being smuggled inside electronic devices like fax machines. Official statistics revealed that in 2013 alone, 443 cases of drug trafficking through courier services were solved in China, with 696 people charged with drug-related crimes and a total of 1.2 tons of narcotics seized. 

New Momentum

Singer Li Daimo appears in court on drug-related charges, May 27, 2014


Photo by ic

Photo by XINHUA

According to figures from NCBMPC, drug trafficking cases in the mainland before 2005 mainly involved commonly known substances, primarily heroin. Since then, however, cases involving new “synthetic drugs,” such as ecstasy and crystal methamphetamine, outnumbered those involving heroin. “Nobody had realized that within 10 years, users of new synthetic substances outnumbered those taking traditional drugs,” Zhang Xi, a senior narcotics researcher with the Beijing Academy of Social Sciences, told NewsChina. In his research, Zhang found that, similar to overseas, synthetic drugs in China have gradually become less and less pure, with deal-

Taiwan actor Kai Ko apologizes for his drug use at a press conference on August 29, 2014 NEWSCHINA I November 2014

Narcotics Officer

Half of China’s illicit drugs enter the country via Yunnan Province, keeping the province’s narcotics force on their toes. NewsChina speaks to a Yunnan drug detective about the double-life of an undercover narc By Liu Ziqian in Kunming Fu Suzhou


u Suzhou is relieved that he can finally use his real name again. Having spent the last 16 years undercover investigating narcotics, the 51-year-old officer has taken part in hundreds of drug

deals. Even after having given up his assumed identity, old habits die hard. Fu still dresses for the role he’s been playing for the majority of his career, sporting plaid shirts and heavy gold necklaces, and he still glances

NEWSCHINA I November 2014

over his shoulder before darting into his office building. He rarely goes out in public with his family. “In undercover narcotics operations, playing a character is paramount. It’s a matter of life and death,” he told NewsChina. As the deputy head of the No 1 Drug Task Force at the Kunming Public Security Bureau in Yunnan Province, Fu worked his entire undercover career using the same false identity – a drug trafficking boss


Photo by liu ranyang

The Dope Beat


“Anywhere there’s room to hide something, drug trafficking is possible.”

from Zhejiang, his real-life home province. Sifting through his career, he never once fired a gun, and managed never to blow his cover. He helped build strong cases that put over 80 drug suspects behind bars and yielded seizures of 110 kilograms of drugs worth 7 million yuan (US$1.13m).

Getting Started

In 1998, after a short stint in the army, Fu was sent to work at the Narcotics Bureau in Kunming, the first of its kind to be set up in China. Bordering the Golden Triangle, a region encompassing parts of Myanmar, Laos and Thailand notorious for being one of the world’s largest narcotics production bases, Yunnan Province has long been the front line for China’s anti-drug efforts. According to a report on drug control in China in 2011, over 50 percent of drugs in the country came from the Golden Triangle, making Yunnan the most likely point of entry. Speaking to NewsChina, Fu reminisced about his first – and probably his most fortuitous – encounter with drug runners, shortly after becoming a narc. While searching passengers’ luggage on a longdistance bus heading to Kunming, Fu found four heavily scarred bunches of bananas. Fu peeled one, and found them to be stuffed with condoms full of heroin weighing a total of 1 kilogram. Fu confessed that such easy busts were very rare. “Anywhere there’s room to hide something, drug trafficking is possible,” he told our reporter. Three months later, Fu was assigned to work as an undercover detective to meet two drug dealers from Jiangsu and Zhejiang provinces, since his accent matched theirs. On the way to the deal in his car, Fu picked up the informant who was to vouch for him, and the two rehearsed their back story. Arriving at the destination, the police informant handed Fu a bag containing 200,000 yuan (US$32,400) in cash. Fu, 35 years old at the time, followed the informant to the second floor of an old building. When the informant knocked on the door, Fu’s hands were trembling and sweating. Entering the room, he nodded nervously to the young men inside. “This is Boss Zhang, who I told you about before,” said the informant.


“Where’s the money?” replied the stouter of the two men. “I have to check the goods first,” retorted Fu. The tall smuggler took out a parcel packed in wrapping paper, and handed it to Fu, who fumbled with a key trying to cut it open. The other drug dealer handed him a large knife. Fu cut open the parcel, scattering powder all over the floor. He then scooped a small pile onto a piece of tinfoil and burned it, verifying that it was heroin. The two drug dealers leaped towards Fu to snatch the cash, and during the struggle, Fu managed to trigger the alarm hidden inside his pocket. A minute later, six police officers burst into the room and handcuffed the two drug dealers, the informant and Fu. During the subsequent interrogation, the dealers said that they had suspected that Fu was a police officer, since he looked clumsy and ill at ease. Fu told NewsChina that the experience taught him always to keep his wits about him, and that he learned the hard way that there is no room for error while undercover.


Even Fu’s wife was never fully aware of the nature of her husband’s job. More than 10 years ago, Fu called a family meeting, where he established three rules – he would not accompany his wife and son in public places, and they were not allowed to speak to him if they happened to meet by chance. On the phone, if Fu said “I’m busy,” they should not ask why. For safety reasons, Fu sold his apartment in the housing complex designated for the local police. Following any undercover work, Fu would make a detour on his way home to throw off any tails. Over the years, Fu developed a special talent: the ability to assess the quality of drugs by touch. “The image of a police officer stabbing a knife into a package of heroin and tasting it is a media invention,” he said. Perhaps Fu’s most memorable experience was in 2006, when two dealers from a remote province contacted Fu via an informant, wanting to buy 14 kilograms of heroin and 200,000 pills of methamphetamine. After several meetings in Kunming, Fu agreed to sell them what they wanted. To prove their sincerity, they gave Fu a down payment NEWSCHINA I November 2014


Fu considers himself lucky only to have been wounded once in his career. On duty one morning, Fu found a young man sleeping in the back seat of a taxi. As Fu woke the man, a gun dropped from his pocket – Fu managed to restrain the man, but got caught in the car door, earning him a 20-centimeter gash in his leg. In the trunk of the taxi, Fu found 12 bags of heroin. Fu said that being circumspect is the most important quality for an undercover detective. In some extreme cases, when Fu was asked to consume drugs to verify their quality, he would make use of his special talent, bluffing his way through by feeling the drugs with his fingers. According to Fu, the dealers never pressed the matter.

NEWSCHINA I November 2014

Photo by Liu Ranyang

of 1.2 million yuan (US$194,400), the largest amount he had ever received. However, the drug dealers proposed to make the trade in their province, but Fu said this was “a dangerous route full of uncertainties.” The drug dealers refused to acquiesce, putting the deal in jeopardy. The two sides finally agreed to meet on neutral ground, but the final payment had to be delayed. Days later, when Fu was planning to meet the dealers in a hotel they had booked, he learned from the informant that the drug dealers were keeping an AK-47 assault rifle in their room. Over the next few days, Fu and the informant noticed that they were being followed. Fu was spooked, and proposed to meet the dealers alone, but was rebuffed. “I am a police officer, but he was only an informant – why should he risk his life?” asked Fu. When the deal eventually happened, the two dealers were caught with 2.2 million yuan (US$356,400), and an AK-47 loaded with six rounds, one of which was in the chamber. Days later, Fu discovered that police in the dealers’ province had mistaken him for a Yunnan drug smuggling kingpin, and had followed Fu to the neutral province. The men following Fu were police officers, who had been authorized to use deadly force to bring him down. It was only upon intervention from higher authorities that the operation come to an end. “I could have been shot dead – by fellow police officers,” Fu said.

Fu Suzhou shows our reporter how to check the quality of drugs

Positions on the narcotics team are some of the most dangerous jobs in China’s police system. Data from the China Narcotics Control Foundation showed that from 2010 to 2012, 923 Chinese narcotics officers died or were wounded in the line of duty. Since 1979, 55 officers have lost their lives in Yunnan Province alone. But in Fu’s opinion, undercover work is “the most rewarding job a police officer can perform.” Fu said that in the first four months of this year, 5,761 drug dealers were arrested, resulting in the seizure of 6.76 tons of narcotics in Yunnan. What’s more, from 2011 to 2013, Yunnan has seen an average yearly seizure of 16 tons of drugs, including heroin and methamphetamine, accounting for roughly 80 percent of the total volume of drugs seized in China. Nowadays, Fu’s fitness and reflexes are not what they used to be – he can no longer handle the three-day shifts, and he quit the undercover team to become a normal narcotics officer early this year. “As a narcotics officer, you have to live two contradictory lives. It’s impossible to live one life,” he said. “I got tired of the days when you tell a lie, and then need 100 more to cover it.” His favorite hobby now is educating college students on the harm caused by drugs – he never misses an opportunity to do so, and is planning to compile his experiences into a book. “At least it will make my son realize that his father is a hero.” 




Soil Justice While the government has rolled out nationwide measures to cure China’s toxic soil problem, prevention efforts remain bogged down By Wang Yan


he fate of Liu Yuying, 57, is inextricably linked to 30 acres of farmland in Miyun County, a northeastern suburb of Beijing, a plot of land in which she has invested all of her family’s savings over the past four years. When Ms Liu discovered in 2011 that a nearby branch of KB Autosys Co., Ltd, a Korean-owned auto-parts company, had been dumping hazardous waste into more than 30 large pits dug on her property, she embarked on a battle for her livelihood that continues to this day. “When I noticed truckloads of black powder being dumped, I informed the Miyun environmental protection authorities,” Liu told NewsChina. “Later, the environmental bureau confirmed that KB had illegally dumped waste [mostly brake dust] on the land, and fined the company 180,000 yuan [US$30,000].”


A man picks through waste dumped on Liu Yuying’s land by KB Autosys, March 7, 2013 NEWSCHINA I November 2014

Photo by cfp NEWSCHINA I November 2014


ENVIRONMENT China Soil Pollution Survey results by location (compared with nationally recommended safe level) 11.2% 2.3% 1.5% 1.1%

According to the tests carried out by SGS, a multinational inspection, verification, testing and certification company headquartered in Switzerland, the soil was contaminated with highly unsafe levels of heavy metals, including copper and antimony. Worse, the illegal dumping was being carried out just five kilometers from a water channel that runs from the local Miyun Reservoir into the Beijing municipal water supply. Liu filed a lawsuit against KB in 2012, demanding compensation and requiring the latter to remediate the polluted soil in order to make the land safely arable – the lawsuit is ongoing. While the government had the dumped waste and over 500 tons of contaminated soil moved from the site in April 2013, no further action was taken. According to Mao Da, a researcher at Nature University, a Chinese environmental NGO, his tests on September 6, 2014 indicated that parts of the land remained highly polluted with heavy metals, sometimes hundreds of times in excess of safe levels. Liu Yuying told NewsChina that in midSeptember, the soil on her land had become barren. Liu has continued to send petitions to various government departments, including the State Council, China’s cabinet, to raise awareness of the problem and win justice, but has received no official response. In order to discourage Liu, her landlord, the local village committee, has attempted to terminate her lease, so far unsuccessfully.

Poisoned Land

Liu’s case is not an isolated one. Soil pollution has haunted China for over a decade, particularly with booms in manufacturing and mining penetrating even the remotest corners of the country, and the use of fertilizers and pesticides becoming common practice nationwide since the late 1990s. Consequently, heavy metal pollution in particular has poisoned millions of square kilometers of farmland. Entire regional populations have



5.9% 1.6% 1.2% 1.3%

13.7% 2.8% 1.8% 1.1% Arable land

Forest 8.4% 1.1% 0.9% 1.0%

7.6% 1.2% 0.9% 0.7% Grassland Minor (1×-2×) Mild (2×-3×)

Other land Moderate (3×-5×) Severe (5×+)

been found to have high levels of lead, cadmium, and mercury in their blood, and dangerous levels of carcinogens like cadmium have been detected in local rice products. Besides, the government-driven process of industrial restructuring and urban construction since the early 2000s has caused many low-grade, high-polluting industrial enterprises to move from urban regions to suburban areas, leaving behind swaths of toxic soil. The central authorities have recognized the severity of the situation, and launched a nationwide survey from 2005 to 2012 on about 6.3 million square kilometers of land across the country, more than 65 percent of the country’s total surface area. The results were guarded as a “State secret” until their publication in April this year, when the Ministry of Environmental Protection’s National Soil Pollution Survey Report, the first of its kind in China’s history, revealed that over 16 percent of the country’s soil was contaminated, with 1 percent “heavily polluted.” “The national soil situation is not optimistic,” said the report. “The quality of arable land is especially worrying, and the pollution problem arising from

Members of Nature University, a Chinese environmental NGO, take soil samples from polluted land, April 2, 2013

industrial and mining sites is prominent.” The release of the survey results was hailed by media as a step towards greater government transparency, yet detailed data about the location and severity of individual pollution cases remain unknown.


As the severity of the situation became more and more obvious, the State Council passed its 12th Five-year Plan (2011-2015) for Protection of the National Soil Environment in mid-2012, allocating 30 billion yuan (US$4.8bn) in total for soil remediation around the country, with 14 provinces and autonomous regions listed as priority regions (see “Finding the Source,” NewsChina, April, 2012, Vol. 044). With reference to similar efforts in Western countries, it was calculated that remediation would cost between tens and hundreds of dollars per square kilometer. Considering the vast area of soil pollution within the country (approximately 1 million square kilometers), the total cost would far exceed the 30 billion yuan allocated to remediation efforts in the latest Five-year Plan. NEWSCHINA I November 2014

Photo by cfp

Fortunately, China’s Soil Pollution Action Plan, drafted and passed by the Ministry of Environmental Protection and scheduled for release by the end of this year, aims to further address funding shortfalls and allocate more investment for pollution prevention and remediation. Media reports have revealed that the plan will establish six pilot “soil protection and remediation” projects, each budgeted at between 1 and 1.5 billion yuan (US$160240m). By 2020, according to the plan, soil pollution will be “generally contained,” and arable soil will be effectively protected. Outside the public sector, the authorities’ incentive measures have drawn private investment – a conspicuous number of soil remediation firms have sprung up. However, Gao Shengda, secretary of the China Environmental Remediation Alliance, points out that so far, remediation techniques and management are in need of improvement. Chen Tongbin, director of the Environmental Remediation Center at the Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources Research, a prominent Chinese opinion leader on the subject, has told the media that the NEWSCHINA I November 2014

domestic soil pollution remediation industry remains in its infancy. There are various methods for treating tainted soil, classified into two major categories: ex-situ methods involving excavation of affected soils and subsequent treatment at the surface, and in-situ methods that seek to treat the contamination without removing the soil. Domestically, research into polluted soil treatment and the application of different measures (physical, chemical, biological or botanical) is mushrooming. Even botanical measures, such as mass planting of various forms of vegetation to absorb heavy metals, has been adopted by research groups (see “Silent Killer,” NewsChina, April, 2012, Vol. 044). Debate on the most suitable method to tackle the problem continues among China’s political decision-makers and within its academic circles, with the authorities aiming to come to a conclusion with the publication of the Action Plan.

Bleak Reality

Another debate is on who should foot the bill for the soil remediation – the government, or polluters themselves? During a recent interview with New Century Magazine, Gao Shengda, Secretary of the China Environmental Remediation Alliance, said the most urgent task was to distinguish between “old and new” polluted land. “[In the case of] historical pollution, where the responsible party cannot be identified, the State should pay for remediation. In cases where companies are still causing pollution, the State should use stricter emissions and supervision standards to stop further pollution.” Without strict rules to regulate and punish polluters, the threat of contamination will remain. A recent case in mid-September, in the uninhabited Tengger desert in China’s Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, saw chemical plants continuing to dump untreated waste and sewage water into the desert, despite the scandal coming to light in the media as early

as four years ago. While the local government shut down a number of factories, the soil pollution crisis resurfaced, and then worsened. Local government admitted that there were shortcomings in their supervision system. Calls for a “polluter pays” principle are popular in China, yet the complexity of each individual soil pollution cases makes it difficult to define the level of legal responsibility of various interested parties, particularly since the use rights for many plots of land may have been transferred several times. “Soil remediation costs time and money,” Chen Nengchang, vice director of the Soil Pollution and Remediation Committee of the Guangdong Society of Soil Sciences told NewsChina. Chen also added that the key to solving the problem lies in prevention rather than a cure, and that related environment protection laws and regulations should be established and strictly implemented. Many are anticipating the final outcome of the pending Soil Environment Protection Law. The law, according to Wang Shuyi, leader of the team charged with its drafting, “will be formally announced no later than 2017.” A major supplier to auto companies such as Hyundai, GM and KIA, KB continues to manufacture brake pads in Miyun, with an annual manufacturing capacity amounting to over 300,000 units. According to a spokesperson for the company, it has yet to receive notice from the government regarding compensation for the pollution of Liu Yuying’s land. While Liu acknowledges the action the central government has taken to upgrade soil pollution protection, she remains pessimistic about the general situation, and continues to send petition letters – she hopes that someday she will receive feedback. “The policy [on tackling soil pollution remediation] from the central government is inspiring. However, it is local government implementation that is the problem,” Liu told NewsChina. 



China and Vietnam

Friends Again? Three months after maritime tensions reached boiling point, China and Vietnam appear to have mended relations. But will the peace hold? By Li Jia and Chen Jun


ccording to Vietnam’s General Statistics Office, 1.4 million Chinese visitors arrived in Vietnam in the first eight months of 2014, more than the total number of visitors from South Korea, Japan and the US, the next three largest sources of inbound travelers, combined, and twice the number of Chinese that visited the country in July arrived in August. However, it was a Vietnamese visitor to Beijing that attracted the most attention. On August 26, Le Hong Anh, special envoy of the General Secretary of the Communist Party of Vietnam (CPV) Central Committee Nguyen Phu Trong, became the first senior Vietnamese official to visit Beijing since disputes over maritime territory between the two countries in May and June 2014 caused observers to mutter darkly of a looming regional crisis. By August 27, however, both parties announced a three-point consensus, effectively reaffirming bilateral ties. “A neighbor cannot be moved away,” said Chinese President Xi Jinping during his meeting with Le on August 27, going on to reaffirm solidarity with China’s only communist neighbor. Xi went on to appreciate the invitation from Nguyen, his Vietnamese counterpart, who would like to welcome him to Hanoi. Both close geographical proximity and the shared ideologies of the ruling parties in China and Vietnam have played a crucial role in motivating and facilitating efforts to mend ties. However, deep distrust remains on both sides, with Chinese observers accusing Vietnam of hedging its bets when it comes to military strategy.

Same Boat

Seeking solidarity through communism is a default posi-


tion when ties deteriorate between China and Vietnam. Xi Jinping, with his dual role as China’s president and General Secretary of the CPC Central Committee, noted that his meeting with Le Hong Anh was “a “high-level meeting between two parties.” One of the three points agreed between the two leading Politburo members behind the resultant consensus, Le from the CPV and Liu Yunshan from the CPC, was a pledge to “consolidate inter-party relations.” The other two points supported greater engagement between both national leaders and “making the best use of” existing territorial negotiations. In all these areas, the shared political structure of both parties is a significant asset. China and Vietnam have closely intertwined commercial interests. In the first eight months of 2014, even as tensions over disputed reefs flared, growth in Vietnam-China export volume exceeded growth of Vietnam’s total exports to the EU, other Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) members and Japan. Vietnam’s Ministry of Industry and Trade is optimistic about reaching its target of selling US$15 billion worth of goods to China in 2014, according to national news agency VNA. Li Yimin, a Chinese investor in Hanoi, was hesitant to NEWSCHINA I November 2014

Photo by cfp

Workers carry cassava powder imported from Vietnam into the border city of Dongxing, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, August 22, 2014

commence a planned expansion of his garment factory after it was attacked by anti-China rioters in May. He told NewsChina that he and his friends were talking about whether to relocate to neighboring Thailand or Cambodia. Many observers made dire predictions for the future of cross-border trade, with the Vietnam Ministry of Planning and Investment estimating that the value of new and additional financed FDI projects in 2014 would be down to 80 percent of the value recorded in 2013. However, the Vietnamese government moved to suppress the riots, compensate foreign business owners and repair trade relations. On August 25, in a statement on the eve of Le Hong Anh’s Beijing tour, Le Hai Binh, spokesperson for the Foreign Affairs Ministry of Vietnam, said a delegation from the Vietnam-China Friendship Association would visit China NEWSCHINA I November 2014

to meet the families of Chinese nationals killed in the rioting, and the government would take measures to help affected Chinese enterprises resume operations and “ensure security and safety for the workers and enterprises of China and other countries in Vietnam.” Vietnam imports more from China than from any other economy. “You don’t have to look at any official trade data - just look at how popular Chinese businesses and products are in cross-border trade and in major Vietnamese cities including Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City,” said Nguyen Cao Hung, a manager at a pharmaceutical company in Ho Chi Minh City. For China, meanwhile, Vietnam is more valuable as a political ally than simply a business partner. Though ASEAN has so far remained neutral in the South China Sea disputes,



The South China Sea disputes will “overshadow business” so long as they remain unresolved

the attitudes of its various members that are involved in these disputes dramatically influences the organization’s China policy. Many Chinese analysts believe that despite Chinese objection, the South China Sea issue has already spilled beyond bilateral negotiating tables to figure on the ASEAN agenda. Although ASEAN foreign ministers have always expressed their concerns over the South China Sea issue in their numerous meetings over the past 20 years, they have been cautious about making statements specifically on this issue. The four or five existing statements were almost all made when tensions between China and Vietnam or the Philippines flared. The most recent emerged in May at the height of clashes between China and Vietnam. Hua Chunying, spokesperson for China’s Foreign Ministry, responded by criticizing “certain countries’ schemes to spoil the atmosphere of friendly cooperation between China and ASEAN by making use of the issue of the South China Sea.” China is well aware that Vietnam is a big hitter in the ASEAN club, and thus friendly relations are essential to avoid having the entire organization, pivotal to China’s booming regional exports, turn its back on Beijing. Chinese and Vietnamese efforts to build bridges appear to be paying off. In August, with both countries working hard to fix ties, the joint communiqué issued by the ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Meeting did not even mention the South China Sea issue in its chapter on China.

New Friends

While continuing to work towards détente with China, Vietnam has not hesitated to step up efforts to get closer to other major regional players. Vietnam’s economic ties with the US are even stronger than those with China, with the US their largest export market. More crucially, ever-closer military cooperation between these two former enemies has also become the focus of China’s attention, with the US, which has already outfitted the Philippine navy much to Beijing’s chagrin, seemingly on the verge of lifting a 30-year ban on arms sales to Vietnam. “I think in the near term there will be a discussion on how to lift [the ban]” said Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, during his historic visit to Ho Chi Minh City on August 16, the first by a US military figure in his position


since 1971. He advised that once the ban was lifted, the US would help improve the Vietnamese navy by providing materials for “intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance and even some weapons [Vietnam] don’t yet have for their fleet.” At a series of ASEAN forums in Vietnam as well as during Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj’s visit to Hanoi in August, Vietnam also invited India to play a bigger role in the South China Sea, according to VAN reports. It is widely reported that India has offered a US$100 million line of credit to Vietnam to buy Indian patrol boats. Japan, meanwhile, will deliver a free aid package including six used vessels to Vietnam to be refitted as patrol boats, as well as additional maritime security hardware. The South China Sea dispute between China and some ASEAN members was discussed at the ASEAN – Japan Forum in early September. Chinese analysts are not particularly worried about Vietnam’s moves, for good reasons. Vietnam’s strategy is seen as unexceptional by international observers. Murray Hiebert and Phuong Nguyen with the Center for Strategic and International Studies noted in a co-authored article in August that Vietnam often gives “a guarded response” to US initiatives for more military cooperation due to “Hanoi’s desire to remain independent in its foreign policy.” Some US officials, the article continued, are concerned that the US could “lose its leverage with Hanoi on human rights” with the lifting of the arms embargo. That Vietnam is reportedly preparing to base submarines purchased from Russia in the South China Sea is further evidence that Hanoi does not expect too much help from any external force and thus is improving her own military power to defend her claims. While things, at the diplomatic level at least, are all smiles at present, nobody knows when tensions will next flare up, or how far China and Vietnam might go to defend their maritime claims. As Li Yimin, the Chinese investor in Vietnam, told NewsChina, the South China Sea disputes will “overshadow business” so long as they remain unresolved. While both parties and governments may be keen to keep the peace, once the forces of nationalism, spurred by the media, have been unleashed among the general public, it’s hard to simply muzzle them with diplomatic niceties.  NEWSCHINA I November 2014

China and Mongolia

Steppe Forward

Despite sharing a vast border, China and Mongolia have had a complicated relationship

Photo by xinhua

By Yu Xiaodong, Xu Fangqing and Ouyang Kaiyu

Chinese President Xi Jinping (second from right) and his Mongolian counterpart Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj (first right) attend the Nadam Fair, a traditional Mongolian pageant, in Ulaanbaatar. They were accompanied by their wives Peng Liyuan (first left) and Bolormaa Khjidsuren (second from left), August 22, 2014

China welcomes Mongolia to hitch itself to the train of China’s rapid development,” said President Xi Jinping in his keynote speech to the Mongolian parliament delivered on August 22 during his recent visit to Ulaanbaatar. Proposing a “three-in-one” model for economic integration, combining mineral resources extraction, infrastructure construction and financial cooperation, President Xi said that China can help Mongolia to deal with developmental chalNEWSCHINA I November 2014

lenges such as its limited infrastructure and transportation links with China and a shortage of investment capital. “China has the willingness and capacity to help Mongolia, through close cooperation, to translate its advantages into economic development,” said Xi. The first Chinese head of state to visit Mongolia in 11 years, Xi was warmly received by Mongolian President Tsakhia Elbegdorj, who hosted Xi in his own home, and referred to the



Chinese president as “Mongolia’s most distinguished guest.” Both sides describe the visit as “an historic one.”

Distant Neighbors

During Xi’s trip, timed to coincide with the 65th anniversary of the establishment of bilateral diplomatic relations and the 20th anniversary of the two countries’ Treaty on Friendly Relations and Cooperation, both sides agreed to establish a “comprehensive strategic partnership.” Both leaders signed more than 30 agreements on trade, infrastructure, energy and financial cooperation. The agreements included a memorandum of understanding on strengthening coal processing cooperation, seen as a precursor for a long-expected coal gas project worth US$30 billion to both economies. In another agreement, Mongolia agreed to extend a bilateral currency swap for a further three years while also increasing its reserves to 15 billion yuan (US$2.4bn). Mongolia also signed up to China’s Silk Road Economic Belt initiative, a centerpiece of Xi Jinping’s global economic strategy, simultaneously becoming a founder member of the China-initiated Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank. Despite sharing a border of more than 4,000 kilometers with China, Mongolia has historically maintained a certain diplomatic and economic distance from its vast and populous southern neighbor. Domestic opinion on China is varied but tends towards wariness – understandably so in a country with a small population dwarfed by that of most second-tier Chinese cities, but which nevertheless constitutes a large geographical area containing an estimated US$1.3 trillion worth of unexplored natural resources. In 2013, bilateral trade reached US$6 billion, 15 times the volume recorded in 2003, with China accounting for more than 50 percent of Mongolia’s total annual trade volume. China received 90 percent of Mongolian exports, mostly coal, mineral and animal products. The August agreement to further increase bilateral trade volume to US$10 billion by 2020, has led many Chinese observers to conclude that it marks a “qualitative change” in the bilateral relationship. “What is special about Xi’s visit is that it is the first time a Chinese president has made a specific visit to Mongolia alone,” Huang Jiakui, former ambassador to Mongolia told NewsChina. Many have compared Xi’s Mongolian trip to his earlier one-stop visit to South Korea, which saw historic deals signed by both sides. In Seoul, too, Xi talked about bilateral relations in terms of “historic highs.” Since Mongolia gained independence from China in 1911, Chinese leaders have typically only visited Ulaanbaatar as part of a tour of other regional capitals. The change marked by Xi’s visit, some believe, represents both the increasing importance of Mongolia to regional economics, but also China’s desire to bolster its influence in Asia-Pacific diplomacy.


Indeed, many have pointed to a third party, largely unmentioned during Xi’s Ulaanbaatar visit, as the principal reason for China’s sudden interest in reinforcing ties with Mongolia – the Russian Federation.

Trilateral Coordination?

With Russia’s relationship with the West increasingly strained over the crisis in Ukraine, Mongolia’s strategic position has seen it encircled by two emerging geopolitical heavyweights. Russian interests have figured heavily in Mongolia’s China policy for over a century, with Sino-Mongolian relations waxing and waning in tandem with Sino-Russian relations. In the 1950s, the golden age of Sino-Soviet cooperation, the first ever trans-Mongolian railroad was built with the blessing of the then People’s Republic of Mongolia. To this day, the same route still serves as the major commercial rail link between Russia and China. During the Sino-Soviet Split in the 1960s, however, Mongolia fell almost entirely within the Soviet sphere of influence, adopting accordingly hostile policies towards its southern neighbor in exchange for considerable economic aid from the USSR. After the loss of subsidies from Moscow following the collapse of the Soviet Union in the 1990s, Mongolia embraced parliamentary democracy, a market economy and a more independent foreign policy, reaching out to the rapidly expanding Chinese market. Politically, Mongolia has adopted a “third neighbor” regional strategy which seeks political and strategic support from particularly the United States and Japan to reduce its reliance on its two giant neighbors. Mongolia is also a close partner of NATO, and has committed military personnel to peacekeeping operations in both Kosovo and Afghanistan. In 2012, the country became a full member of NATO’s Individual Partnership and Cooperation Program. However, given its geographic position as being completely surrounded by Russia and China, Mongolia has avoided actions that might bring it into direct conflict with either China or Russia. Mongolia has remained silent regarding Russian actions in Ukraine, and abstained from the March 27 United Nations General Assembly resolution condemning Russia’s annexation of Crimea, despite pressure from its NATO partners. Indeed, it seems as if rising tensions between the West and Russia have presented as many opportunities as challenges for Mongolia since Russia is increasingly looking eastward to expand its trade relationship with Asian countries in the face of Western sanctions. It is against this backdrop that Ulaanbaatar is seeking to establish itself as a new transportation corridor for Sino-Russian trade. In May, the Mongolian government submitted a resolution to Parliament to allow for a mix of Chinese and Russian-gauge railroads in Mongolia, rather than retaining NEWSCHINA I November 2014

the country’s long-standing Russian-gauge-only policy. Analysts see this as the first step towards establishing international-standard narrow-gauge railroad spurs across the Mongolian border with China, which would dramatically facilitate the movement of goods between the two countries. It is reported that Russian and Mongolian leaders have also held talks on linking up the Trans-Siberian and TransMongolian rail networks in order to allow both to serve as a primary trade route between China and Russia. Some see the development of such an integrated network as a bid to offset the potential impact of Beijing’s proposed New Silk Road initiative which, if realized, would establish a high-speed rail link through Central Asia connecting China with key European markets. During his visit, President Xi pledged that China would increase its cooperation with Mongolia under the framework of its New Silk Road initiative, and would remain “open” to Mongolia’s initiative of a “Grasslands Road,” which many see as a reference to the proposed trans-Mongolian railroad. Against the backdrop of this emerging commercial partnership with both Russia and China, Mongolian officials labeled Xi’s trip a “trilateral summit” as it initially looked set to coincide with that of Russian President Vladimir Putin, scheduled to visit Mongolia to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the Soviet-Mongolian victory over the Japanese at Khalkhin Gol in 1939. Although Putin’s visit was later postponed to early September, which some analysts interpreted as a sign that Russia remains wary of China’s growing regional influence, Xi personally endorsed Mongolia’s proposal to hold a trilateral summit with Russia in the future.

Beyond China?

Despite the warmth of their rhetoric, Mongolian leaders are likely to be looking further than China and even Russia as this landlocked and often overlooked Asian nation seeks to assert itself on the global stage. In the past, aside from its close cooperation with the US in matters of politics and national security, Mongolia has worked hard to diversify the sources of its foreign investment in order to avoid overdependence on a single power. Just one month prior to President Xi’s visit, Mongolia’s President Tsakhia Elbegdorj met with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, and the two sides signed a joint statement on July 22 cementing the final road map toward instituting a bilateral Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA). Slated for ratification by both respective parliaments in early 2015, this would be the first EPA Mongolia has signed, and is likely to be seen as a major coup for Japan, one of China’s principal rivals in Mongolia’s resources market. Earlier in February, Mongolia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Luvsanvandan Bold visited Seoul, marking the first official

NEWSCHINA I November 2014

Xi’s Mongolian trip was in line with China’s “peripheral diplomacy”

visit of a Mongolian foreign minister to South Korea in a decade. Both sides agreed to create an intergovernmental mechanism to stimulate Korean investment in Mongolia’s largest mining and infrastructure construction projects, as well as planning a State visit to South Korea by President Elbegdorj in 2015. Mongolia has also shown willingness to play a more active role in regional security through its Ulaanbaatar Dialog on Northeast Asian Security, an initiative launched earlier this year which according to Mongolian leaders aims to “facilitate a peaceful solution to the confrontation on the Korean peninsula.” During his visit, President Xi voiced his support for Ulaanbaatar’s aspiration to have a more prominent regional role. Among the agreements signed during his trip was a transport deal allowing Mongolian exporters to use China’s rail network. According to Mongolian media, Beijing will allow Mongolia to conduct trade via eight sea ports in northern and northeastern China. “The problems of transit and sea ports, Mongolia’s most pressing issues, have now been solved,” declared President Xi during his address to the Mongolian parliament. Xi also reiterated his earlier pledge to support Mongolia’s bid to enter APEC during the APEC leaders’ summit which will be held in Beijing in November. Xi also voiced support for the Ulaanbaatar Dialog, something other regional powers, particularly South Korea, are skeptical of. In return, Ulannbaatar signed an agreement that neither nation would enter into a military alliance with a country hostile to the other, which some analysts claimed was a swipe at US influence in Mongolian military strategy. Xi’s Mongolian trip was in line with what Qu Xing, president of the China Institute of International Studies, calls China’s “peripheral diplomacy,” which emphasizes securing a stable political relationship with bordering countries through regional economic integration and interdependence. By offering enhanced trade relations and investment, Beijing hopes to both boost its economic output but, crucially in the case of Mongolia, further secure its land borders to facilitate an increasingly proactive global strategy. 



Local Government Bonds

Cleaning Balance Sheets Will permission to sell bonds reassure the world that indebted local governments in China can get their fiscal affairs in order? By Li Jia and Lin Yuzhi


NEWSCHINA I November 2014


ust as a happy family lives within its means, so should a nation, at least in the view of most Chinese. Legislators received 330,000 responses after opening their second draft of China’s amended Budget Law to public comments between July and August in 2012. Three drafts had been rejected before the final text was endorsed by the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, China’s official legislature, on August 31, 2014, meaning the new Budget Law has been subject to more reviews than almost any other piece of legislation in modern Chinese history. Revision of the law was initiated in 2004, but it took a decade for legislators to agree on a new version. How best to distribute money and power is rarely an uncontroversial topic. A new item that will appear on the national statute book as a result of the new Budget Law is just one flashpoint. A lack of fiscal discipline in government and unregulated financial innovation were blamed for dragging the world’s most developed economies into the Great Recession. Now, China is getting a taste of such potentially dangerous flaws in its vast domestic economy. Colossal debt mountains racked up from the county to the provincial level, mostly secured by unsustainable land revenues, have sown widespread concerns both in China and across the world that the world’s number two economy might unleash yet another financial crisis. The new Budget Law tries to address this issue by allowing local governments to issue their own bonds on the open market while also supervising their debts. While legislators are agreed on what needs to be done, actually doing it is likely to be a mammoth undertaking.

Stormy Waters

By the end of June 2013, local government debt in China stood at US$2.9 trillion, comprising US$1.8 trillion in outstanding loans

NEWSCHINA I November 2014

and the US$1.1 trillion that may be needed to bail out loans by other public-funded entities and failing enterprises, mostly local SOEs. Larger than the GDP of France or the UK in 2013, this figure is alarming, but not necessarily the first sign of a looming national default. Given the size of China’s GDP and its fiscal revenue, the central government has continuously reassured the world that things remained “generally under control.” Both the market and the government, however, understand what might happen if China’s local governments default on their debts. Risk is inherent in the way China’s local governments borrow, spend and repay their debts. Indeed, it is the fiscal irresponsibility of local governments, not the amount

The new law is designed to “open the front door, close the back door and build a firewall”

of debt, that frightens economic planners. An estimate by CCXI, a Chinese ratings agency partly held by Moody’s, shows that more than 50 percent of the outstanding money has gone into civic infrastructure and transportation, areas which usually take five years or more to break even, much less turn a profit. The National Audit Office of China found that a number of local governments have already begun to borrow heavily simply to pay off debts incurred through massive infrastructure projects. The quickest way for local governments to raise money is land sales, given the State’s ability to appropriate or purchase land and sell it on to developers at a markup. Land resources are routinely offered to lenders as direct or indirect collateral for loans. Land transfer fees to local governments, as well

as other fees and taxes charged to property developers, is the principal, stable source of local fiscal revenue under the existing public fund system. However, as the property market has cooled and land resources have run out, these revenues have also dwindled. Deng Haiqing, an analyst with CITIC Securities told NewsChina that bond investors, mainly financial institutions, are becoming wary of the growing risk of governments defaulting on outstanding bonds. The behavior of Chinese lenders has exacerbated such jitters. In 2010, the central bank slapped a moratorium on the issuance of new loans to local governments, advocating greater austerity. Banks responded by circumventing procedures and lending through offbalance-sheet quasi-Ponzi schemes, mainly involving the hasty sale of short-term wealth management products to depositors and companies to finance long-term local projects. Other lenders such as trust companies also began to participate in schemes of their own or got involved with banks’ schemes. Li Ning, an analyst with the Shanghai-based Haitong Securities, told NewsChina that this situation has created a “feedback loop of risk” involving local government debt, local fiscal management, banks and the property market. The strong alliance between lenders and local governments has also made any policy aimed at facilitating fundraising for struggling private companies almost impossible to enforce. For example, investors in a private bond market for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) launched in 2012 showed much more interest in buying local government debt than investing in private SMEs. This has further concentrated risk in the financial system and distorted to an even greater degree the allocation of financial resources.


The root cause of all of these messes, as policymakers and analysts have recognized,



lies in an obsolete legal People’s Bank of China and regulatory frame(PBC), noted in a June work which overlooks 30 article in the People’s weak discipline and disDaily, bond issuance will proportionately heavy not only give local govloaded tasks in the ernments a new source of budget operations of lofunds, but push forward cal governments, inadtransparency and sound vertently incentivizing public fiscal operations. short-termism and general fiscal irresponsibility. Deficit Local governments in This overhaul of the China are desperate for Budget Law, which looks money. Publicly-funded sound and feasible on investment, though ofpaper, cannot work howten resulting in long- More than half of China’s local government borrowing is spent on civic facilities and ever without overhaul term losses, can provide transportation of other systems. Bond a temporary boost to loissuers, as with compacal GDP figures, at least nies making IPOs, have enough to guarantee the officials in charge a used as visible and invisible collateral, are also to persuade potential investors that their aspromotion. Local governments, particularly at exempt from government oversight. sets will ultimately pay for themselves. Lou the county level, are required to provide most The new Budget Law, as Finance Minister Jiwei stressed at a press conference on August basic public services, including education, Lou Jiwei explained to Party mouthpiece the 31 that local governments would be legally healthcare and social security. They face in- People’s Daily on two separate occasions in obliged to open their balance sheets to the creasing pressure from the central government September, is designed to fix all these prob- public so that their bonds would be rated – a and the public to improve these services, but lems by “opening the front door, closing the prospect likely to irk officials accustomed to are also tasked with raising the bulk of local back door and building a firewall.” Provincial keeping their dealings off the record. revenue, despite having virtually no taxation governments have been granted legal rights Preparation of balance sheets itself is tricky power. A penchant for throwing money at to issue their own bonds, also making them, in a country where the public and indepengrandiose edifices and other prestige projects rather than the central government, fully dent overseers are generally kept out of the has further drained government budgets, as responsible for honoring all terms. Funds conversation on public spending. As Profeshas China’s ongoing and endemic corruption raised in this way, Lou said, have to be used sor Wang Yongjun at the China Central Uniproblem. for the provision of public goods and services, versity of Finance and Economics explained Most taxes in China are collected by the such as hospitals and roads, not government to NewsChina, so far governments’ fiscal recentral government which then allocates funds operations – such as office buildings or ban- ports only detail annual changes in revenues back to local authorities from Beijing. Under queting. Caps on issuance will be set, repay- and spending, and provide no record of the existing law, local governments are not al- ment plans determined and an early-warning whole picture of assets and liabilities which helps investors judge whether the assets are lowed to borrow from independent financiers. system overseeing default risk installed. Instead, they have to set up companies, called Both local government bonds and land strong enough to generate cash for all debt fundraising platforms, in the process turning revenues will be included in the tightened repayment in the future. Most provincial governments have drafted government debts into corporate debts, either management of local budgets. Publicized auin the form of bank credits or bonds. dit reports are also designed to increase trans- balance sheets in the past three years, some, As a result, overseeing and regulating how parency, with a sweeping national audit plan including Shanghai Municipality, have even these loans are spent does not fall under the concerning the raising of revenue through rolled out such practices throughout their jurisdiction. However, until some difficult jurisdiction of legislators and national audi- land sales also on the way. tors. Worse still, local land revenues, often As Pan Gongsheng, deputy governor of the questions are answered, such schemes will


NEWSCHINA I November 2014


bynumbers 1.08%

NEWSCHINA I November 2014

The ratio of badlyperforming loans held by commercial banks in Q2, 2014 - a three-year high.


Quarterly badly-performing loan ratio (%) Source: China Banking Regulatory Commission


Q1 2011

Q1 2012


Q1 2013

Q1 2014


China’s ranking among 144 economies in the Global Competitiveness Index 2014. It was 29th in 2013. China’s best and worst scores 8

The number of top 500 Chinese-funded private enterprises that had overseas investment in 2013, compared with 159 in 2012. The fastest growing investment destinations were the US and Canada.



1 0








Technological readiness


Health and primary education


Macroeconomic environment


Source: All-China Federation of Industry and Commerce

Source: World Economic Forum



Jobs created in Q1-Q2, 2014, a tenyear record.



Source : China Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security / China National Bureau of Statistics





Market size

remain experimental. In an article in the PBC’s China Finance journal, Ma Jun, former Deutsche Bank AG Greater China chief economist and current head of the central bank’s principal think tank asked whether and how State-owned companies, pensions, landholdings and even antiques collections and parks should appear on official balance sheets, given their impact on budgets. A fundamental lack of detailed, transparent accounting in government is one of the two main reasons that media and analysts have questioned the top credit ratings given to nine provinces which currently have approval to issue bonds. The other reason is that China’s ratings agencies, with fewer than 20 years’ business experience between them, are not well-established enough to have an adequate overview of the national picture. There is reasonable doubt that such rookie organizations can do their job independently, particularly when their clients are China’s powerful provincial governments. The new practice of allowing local government to issue bonds is also a test of the credibility of the central government and potential investors. There is a hidden rule in China’s bond market that junk bonds should be quietly cashed by third parties, or erased through a government bailout, in order to avoid scaring investors off. Local government debts are widely regarded as risk-free because investors believe they are underwritten by the central government – a simplistic misconception that could prove problematic should local governments begin to default en masse. As Pan Gongsheng has said, only when local governments are required by law to honor their own debts, rather than simply take central government backing for granted, and when investors realize the risks they are running, will discipline govern Chinese fiscal management. It remains to see whether the central government can deliver on its tough talk to put an end to instantaneous bailouts of failing spendthrift local authorities. 












GDP growth in the first half year (%) New employment (m)

US$1.63tn June value of receivable accounts held by Chinese enterprises whose main business operations generate US$3.3m or more in annual sales revenue, US$179bn more than the end of June 2013. This indicates that companies are increasingly struggling to collect payments on time. Source: China Ministry of Industry and Information Technology



Spies in Taiwan

Lost Legends

A resurgence of interest in the fates of Communist Party spies in Taiwan in the 1940s and 50s has elicited plenty of nostalgia, but little introspection By Li Weiping and Xie Ying


n August 25, China’s State Council proposed to declare September 30 “Martyrs’ Day,” stating that that date should be devoted to honoring China’s war dead. “To forget the past is a kind of betrayal,” said Major General Luo Yuan of the China Strategy Culture Promotion Association in an exclusive interview with political news portal The State Council announcement triggered discussion of China’s millions of 20th century war dead, many of whom have gone largely unacknowledged beyond the monolithic Monument to the People’s Heroes in Tiananmen Square, the nation’s catch-all cenotaph. When a photo album depicting former Communist Party of China (CPC) spies on Taiwan emerged online, their story became part of the national discussion. These Communist agents, most of whom were eventually executed by the Kuomintang (KMT) after feeding information directly to Beijing for years, were frequently described as heroes worthy of recognition. Doubtless the Kuomintang would say something similar about the agents who caught them. According to public historical records, over 1,500 CPC agents left the mainland for Taiwan before the founding of the People’s Republic of China to “continue the fight” against the KMT, which had withdrawn to the island after losing the Chinese Civil War. These agents were all swiftly exposed by KMT counterespionage, and were summarily executed. As the Chinese authorities keep a tight lid on all records of their spy networks, many of the names of these individuals have, until now, been unknown. Although the remains of their commander Xiao Minghua were returned to the mainland in the 1980s, the records of their deeds have largely remained sealed. Now, a new generation is learning about how the Party attempted to overthrow Chiang Kaishek’s new regime on Taiwan through espionage, a tale that has elicited nostalgia for the heady early days of the New China.

Sleeper Cell

According to student files kept by Beijing Normal University, Xiao Minghua’s alma mater, the young Xiao was deeply influenced by Western democratic theory and political economics, finding particular inspiration under the tutelage of lecturer Zhu Fangchun who was


himself a Communist Party mole using the alias Yu Fei. Zhu recommended Xiao to join the Party in September 1947, two years before the end of the civil war, and Xiao later accepted an offer of a post at Taiwan University with the intention of working as a sleeper agent for the CPC. That same year, Zhu also went to Taiwan on the pretext of joining the editorial team of the local Mandarin Daily News, but with the actual intention of spying for Beijing. With their daily work largely unremarkable, Xiao and Zhu joined forces to hold lectures on the CPC’s definition of libertarianism and democracy. These lectures were a front for recruiting other secret agents, and soon the pair had committed 60 members to their cause. The growing popularity and influence of the group convinced underground CPC spy rings already active on the island to approach Xiao and Zhu. The group was renamed The Youth League for the New Democracy of Taiwan, and, for all intents and purposes, was a tool of the CPC’s espionage apparatus. The pair even entered into a sham marriage in order to facilitate their work, with Xiao allegedly claiming that she would “do anything for the Party.” Both agreed to sever all ties with family on the mainland.


Since the end of the 1940s, the CPC had made several attempts to subvert KMT control of Taiwan. KMT agents regularly netted CPC spies, but Beijing still managed to penetrate the heart of Chiang Kaishek’s shaky new regime. Commander Li Kenong, at the time the highest-level agent working on the mainland, inserted agents into Chiang’s immediate circle, and soon military intelligence was being passed directly to the CPC Central Military Commission. Xiao and Zhu’s team were instrumental in securing vital information on Taiwan’s topography for use in what both sides assumed was an imminent invasion by People’s Liberation Army (PLA) forces - at the time, most mainland maps of the island were outdated and inaccurate. A Japanese map, however, drawn up during that country’s almost century-long occupation of Taiwan, was so detailed that individual houses, trees and streams were indicated, with particular emphasis given to defensive structures. The map was kept under KMT guard, with clearance from ChiNEWSCHINA I November 2014

Xiao Minghua graduated from Beijing Normal University in 1948

already on the run. The CPC’s head of espionage on Taiwan, Cai Xiaoqian, had been arrested, and after a few days in an interrogation room, he had revealed most of the active cells on the island, even providing investigators with a list naming almost a thousand individual agents. Zhu’s cover was blown. With Beijing threatening to take back Taiwan and with Chiang still struggling to consolidate his power, the KMT was taking no chances. Within weeks, military police had arrested over 1,800 CPC members based on the list. 1,100 of these were finally executed, including the mole inserted into the KMT, and Xiao Minghua. This single cull effectively eliminated the CPC’s presence on Taiwan. According to records published by Shanghai Scene magazine, Xiao knew that she and her “husband” were under suspicion, but remained behind to allow him a better chance of escape. At around midnight on February 6, 1950, Xiao was arrested at the home she shared with Zhu Fangchun by KMT officers. Xiao spent 278 days in prison, where she was tortured by having her arms and legs broken, but records indicate she refused to give up any of her fellow spies. At 5 AM on November 8, she was taken from her cell and killed by firing squad. Her (unverified) last words were: “Long live the Communist Party of China!” She was 28. Some 30 scraps of writing that Xiao had produced while awaiting her execution still survive. Most are her desire to the freedom and political paeans to the Communist cause, giving a mily glimpse into the depth of conviction possessed her fa o t r lette ’s last by many Chinese at the time. a u h g

ang’s Chief of the General Staff a precondition for access. Moreover, the map was kept in a sealed room with its two-part key kept by three Chiefs of Staff in turn. Min Xiao However, at the time, one of Chiang’s chiefs of staff was on the CPC payroll. One day, he managed to secure both parts of the key to the map room after the other keeper went on temporary leave and privately gave his part to him. With his help, three members of Xiao’s team, posing as reporters, managed to enter the map room and photograph the map. However, their lack of experience with low-light photography left them with fuzzy, indistinct images. Under pressure from Beijing, the team resorted to a desperate tactic. Their mole stole the map and, along with Zhu Fangchun, took it to a local photo studio, where they posed as military officials and asked the photographer to take rostrum camera images of the map, claiming it was a “military emergency.” Despite adopting this somewhat farcical, some might say suicidal, approach, Zhu had completed his mission.


It took three months before Zhu could safely pass the photographs on to his superior Li Kenong. However, by that point, both men were

NEWSCHINA I November 2014

The Lost Legend

In September 1982, Xiao Minghua was confirmed as a “revolutionary martyr” by the Chinese government, and her cremated remains were interred in Beijing’s Babaoshan Revolutionary Cemetery. Her tombstone was inscribed with calligraphy penned by Zhu Fangchun - three characters meaning “finally return home.” Li Kenong has spent his twilight years visiting the families of the agents he lost in the 1940s and 50s. He also wrote a letter to the central government, asking the Party to “take good care of these agents’ family members to console their departed souls.” In 2013, the Chinese government built a memorial plaza for the heroes who died for the New China, however Xiao Minghua’s name did not appear on the 864 listed. Thanks to a heavily restricted attitude to recording its own history, the victims of the Chinese Civil War and its aftermath have more often than not vanished from public memory. 



Yan Geling

Ms. Marginal Being an outsider helps Yan Geling get a better perspective on China. In her latest work To My Teacher, With Love, Yan tries to shine a light on “cruel youth” in Chinese schools

Photo by Vincent Yu

By Su Jie

Yan Geling


an Geling casts a broad net for a Chinese writer. Coming Home, veteran director Zhang Yimou’s latest silver screen effort, was adapted from her 2011 novel Criminal Lu Yanshi, a tragic love story set during the Cultural Revolution era, and opened to critical and commercial success in May this year. Now, Yan is hoping that another tale of star-crossed lovers, this time two students who become obsessed with their high school teacher, a 36-year-old single mother, will prove similarly popular. To My Teacher, With Love has taken Yan some five years to finish. It is a tragic novel, in which the 56-year-old Yan has tried to depict what she refers to as “cruel youth.” Yan’s inspiration came from a news report shared by director Jiang Wen in 2008. She then commenced field research in the unfamiliar world of high school, spending time in classrooms in Beijing, Anhui and Shandong, interviewing students and teachers and, crucially, reading their writings. Exam pressure, social conflict and a bur-


geoning and dangerous romantic obsession with their teacher leads one of these two classmates to kill their “love rival” in the run-up to the all-important college entry examinations, or gaokao. Through both the pressure of preparing for the gaokao and the agony of first love, Yan wanted to express the honesty of emotion without splitting her characters’ actions into “right and wrong.” “The teacher [character] is no less ‘good’ than anyone else you might meet. She is just in the wrong place at the wrong time,” Yan told NewsChina. “She becomes driven by the reciprocal causations of life, death and love.” While Yan is seen as primarily a feminist writer, critics have called To My Teacher, With Love a work unveiling the complex internal world of conflict within individuals. Her attention to the minutiae of interpersonal relationships, and her clear delineation of personal and social struggles, have also been hailed as highly powerful. In July, Yan held a book signing in Beijing which attracted more than 500 readers

to a venue that could only hold 100. Similar crowds attend her events in Shanghai. She now divides her time between her home in Berlin and China. After several of her novels earned big screen adaptations in China, Yan has shifted her focus to her home market, while keeping her creative process tied to her home in Germany.

Life of a Writer

Yan lives to work. After the promotional tour for To My Teacher, With Love ended in China, she took a short vacation during which she still wrote for at least two hours a day. She says she struggles to say no to new writing commissions. “That is my weakness,” she told NewsChina. In Berlin, Yan lives with her husband Lawrence A. Walker, US diplomat and translator of his wife’s books, where her daughter attends a local international school. Returning home at 9 AM after dropping her daughter off at school, Yan turns off her cell phone and starts writing, only stopping at 4 PM when, NEWSCHINA I November 2014

ture in 2006.” Yan was surprised by the ardor of Chinese readers. “The Ninth Widow sold very well on the mainland,” she said. “Mainland readers seem to appreciate and understand my writing the most.” Director Chen Kaige, reeling from the critical panning his 2005 martial arts blockbuster The Promise had received, was also impressed by The Ninth Widow. Preparing to shoot his follow-up Forever Enthralled, a biopic of opera star Mei Lanfang which received an equally frosty critical response, he invited Yan to write the movie’s screenplay. Yan’s husband had just been transferred to Taiwan, so she found herself within easy reach of the mainland, further enriching her source material. While Forever Enthralled was largely dismissed by critics and audiences as a low-rent remake of Chen’s 1993 classic Farewell My Concubine, superstar director Zhang Yimou contacted Yan shortly after the movie was pulled from cinemas. In 2009, Zhang decided to adapt Yan’s 2005 novella The Flowers of War for the big screen, asking her to write the screenplay. During shooting, Yan extended the book to a lengthy novel which sold 100,000 copies in the three months prior to the movie’s release. While The Flowers of War also received a lukewarm response from critics, Yan was

rapidly putting her name to the biggest blockbuster releases on the Chinese mainland. In May this year, Coming Home earned 30 million yuan (US$4.9m) at the Chinese box office on its first day of release. Though Yan didn’t get a screenwriting credit, Zhang Yimou still asked for her input prior to shooting. Yan described being “moved to tears” by the finished product. But traveling between the West and China, Yan feels like “a literary nomad.” When in China, her writing takes a back seat to other practicalities, with the author only finding the space to write about her homeland when in America, Europe or Africa. “In the years I have lived abroad, I always feel like a sojourner; but then I am marginal in my home country,” she told NewsChina. “I’ve been absent for so many years and everything’s changed. I sometimes can’t find my niche.” However, Yan doesn’t see being marginal as a bad thing. “It is best to keep one’s distance and stay in the margins to observe and reflect a culture, to appreciate or criticize a society or a lifestyle,” she continued. “I’m proud of being marginal and I always call myself a marginal writer. It is good not to be caught up in the changing values of a society.” 

Photo by Lawrence Walker

in her own words, she becomes “Mrs Walker” again, collects her daughter from school and prepares an evening meal. “Writing is my job. I even write on the weekends,” she told NewsChina. “I love the lifestyle – you think and write freely, and you put your thoughts into your novel. I am obsessed with this lifestyle.” Such freedom didn’t come to Yan with ease. In the late 1980s, the 30-year-old Yan started learning English and successfully went to the US for postgraduate literary study. Before going abroad, she had already published three novels, won two literary prizes and been recruited as the youngest member of the Chinese Writers’ Association. But in the US, she found she had to start over. First, she had to overcome the language barrier. Then, she would have to pass her exams. Finally, she would have to work doubly hard if she was to be able to write for a living. To make ends meet, she worked as a babysitter, a housekeeper, and a waitress. “It was the only time in my life I did manual labor,” Yan said. Her sudden close contact with “reality” in turn provided her with ample inspiration for her writings. After being mugged, she made a criminal the protagonist of a short story. Finding she had trouble sleeping, she wrote a story about an insomniac who becomes entangled in a love affair. A classmate’s tale of her immigrant parents inspired Siao Yu, which focuses on a Chinese couple newly arrived in America. Siao Yu was a breakthrough for Yan, winning her a literary prize in Taiwan, along with US$3,000 prize money. In 1993, director Ang Lee offered to buy the rights to Siao Yu and invited Yan to co-write the screenplay. Suddenly, Yan could afford to write full time. From 1990 to 2004, most of Yan’s works focused on the lives of immigrant Chinese. Besides several literary awards, her books also landed on the New York Times bestseller lists.

Return to the Mainland

In 2006, Yan published The Ninth Widow, a novel about rural life in central China from the 1940s to the 1980s. The market reaction was strong and critics called the work “one of the biggest achievements in Chinese litera-

NEWSCHINA I November 2014

Yan Geling (right) and actress Chen Chong


visual REPORT

, Cold Water 60

Warm Hearts

NEWSCHINA I November 2014

1. Former basketball star Yao Ming 2. Multi-millionaire businessman Chen Guangbiao 3. A local man in Taiyuan, Shanxi Province 4. A local man in Tianjin 5. A four-year-old girl in Foshan, Guangdong Province





5 NEWSCHINA I November 2014


Photo by IC and CFP

he Ice Bucket Challenge, the globally popular charity video campaign to raise awareness of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also went viral in China, with everyone from tech executives to movie stars joining in. By August 30, the campaign had raised more than 8 million yuan (US $1.3m) for China-Dolls Center for Rare Disorders (CCRD). Besides raising awareness of rare diseases, the Ice Bucket Challenge also brought much enjoyment to the general public. However, the campaign was not free of controversy - the videos drew fire from environmentalists and people in drought-hit regions, who argued that it was a waste of water.

visual REPORT


1. Over 10,000 local people join the challenge in Shenzhen 2. A mascot at Tianjin Polar Ocean World 3. Terry Gou, chairman of Foxconn 4. Employees at the Shenzhen Ethnic Minorities Garden 5. Local policemen in Ningbo, Zhejiang Province 6. Local people in Yichang, Hubei Province


3 NEWSCHINA I November 2014


Photo by IC and CFP


5 NEWSCHINA I November 2014




Photo by IC

perspectives from within China

Misty Mount Emei

Monks vs. Monkeys Despite being the highest – and perhaps the holiest – of China’s sacred Buddhist mountains, Mount Emei can be something of a battleground By Will Philipps


NEWSCHINA I November 2014

Getting There Mount Emei is a 2-hour bus ride from major transport hub Chengdu, which has good transport links to domestic and foreign destinations. Buses from Chengdu to Emei Shan depart from the Xinnanmen Bus Station, and leave every 20 minutes or so, costing 48 yuan (US$7.80). When you arrive, simply follow the crowds and rows of souvenir shops towards the foot of the mountain. The last buses depart from Mount Emei back to Chengdu at 6pm every day, so allow time to get back to the foot of the mountain. If you miss the last bus, there are plenty of hotels and guesthouses in the town. Where to Stay On the mountain you can stay the night at a range of monasteries at different points on the mountain. We stayed at the Hongchunping monastery for 70 yuan (US$11) per person per night, which had hot running water and a kitchen. Monasteries nearer the summit allow you to get up early to watch the sunrise.


A tourist feeds a monkey NEWSCHINA I November 2014

Photo by IC

n the four years that I’ve been sporadically traveling around China, ticking famous sites off the World Heritage bucket list and trying my best to visit at least every province once, I’ve realized that few activities are as rewarding or insightful a glimpse of China as a hike up a revered mountain. Sure there’s the landscape, but it’s also an opportunity to share a path with vast crowds of local Chinese travelers as you climb, wheeze, pant, trudge and eventually ascend to the summit – that is, unless you join the droves taking the cable car. Some want to talk to you, some want to walk with you, some – I get the impression – just seem irritated that they’re being overtaken by a foreigner on their own sacred turf. Historically these mountains were deemed to be sacred due to their proximity to the heavens, their awe-inspiring beauty and probably the fact that the days-long journey from home to the summit made for a suitably arduous pil-

grimage. Nowadays it’s an altogether different scene. Whole villages of souvenir stores and hotels have swallowed the foot of the mountain, cable cars take most of the hassle out of the pilgrimage (although the queues ensure some lingering arduousness) and it seems that instant noodles and Red Bull are the food and drink of choice for weary hikers. To say that these peaks – with their theme park-like maps and 200 yuan (US$32.50) entrance tickets – have become commercialized, is a bit of an understatement. But does that make them any less enjoyable to walk up? Absolutely not, as two days spent hiking on Emei Shan, two hours’ bus ride south of Chengdu, reveals. In terms of the kinship you feel with your fellow hikers, there is something about being outside of an urban environment that puts everyone on a more level pegging. Halfway up a misty mountain it’s standard protocol to acknowledge a passerby with a quick “ni hao’” – imagine doing that to everyone you pass in downtown Shanghai. In the city – maybe it’s from the way we dress – it’s much more obvious who you are: white collar worker, taxi driver, student, tourist or otherwise. As you consult another hiker on whether it’s possible to get to the White Cloud Temple by foot before sundown, and whether they think the monastery has hot running water, the barriers of communication that can impede other interaction seem less pronounced. We set off from the foot of the mountain at about midday on Thursday. The first piece of advice we receive from a fruit vendor at the foot of the mountain is to buy a walking stick

made from bamboo. Conveniently, she has a large range for sale. I assure her that I can handle the steps without one, but she bursts out laughing and shouts “houzi!” at me – “monkeys!” It’s not just hoards of hikers that you’ll have to navigate past, but monkeys too. Mount Emei is crawling with Tibetan macaques, a breed of monkey that seem to have developed a great adeptness for tormenting tourists, primarily by stealing their possessions and jumping on their heads. Banging sticks against the ground, we are told, is an effective way to ward them off. We buy a stick each, for the quite reasonable sum of 5 yuan (US$0.80). Reading that monkeys are particularly attracted to hikers carrying food in their bags, we decide not to buy a pineapple for 10 yuan (US$1.60). The first stretch of the route snakes up a stone step pathway into the hills, almost entirely covered by great swooping branches from pine trees overhead. Mount Emei is incredibly green – the foliage is lush and dense, thanks to year-round heavy rainfall. Our visit in late August is hot during the day, and very humid. Rainclouds swirl around the mountains and most of the time we find ourselves walking in and out of thin mists. The roofs of the temples and monasteries we pass along the way – still practicing and almost all offering accommodation to hikers – glisten with a layer of raindrops on their eaves. The climb is strenuous, mostly solid uphill stair climbing, but despite the vast numbers who ascend via bus and cable car, we’re joined by many other hikers: male, female, young and old. One is a thirty-something woman from Beijing, who, as a Buddhist, has come to the mountain to pray. She’s traveled here on her own from the north. We meet her at a small pagoda on a quite isolated stretch of pathway. As well as being fascinated with why three foreigners would want to come all the way here, she tells us how taken she is with the serenity of the mountain. We decide to walk on together a stretch of the way. No sooner have we set off, however, than she starts playing loud pop music from her smartphone to accompany our walk. Serenity is momentarily lost, we feel, so we decide to push on ahead of her when she next stops for a break. It’s not long before we have our first en-



Photo by IC

counter with the infamous monkeys, or “monkey robbers” as the end- bowls of eggplant, kale, beans, rice and a few unidentifiable but satisfying less signs call them, warning hikers not to goad them. We heed the greens. At the next big monastery we pass, the Elephant Bathing Pool, sign’s advice, naturally, but the same can’t the monkeys seem to take delight in tauntbe said for other tourists and even guards ing the resident monks, and seem also to who seem happy not only to give them have developed a predilection for Red Bull food, but also to let them jump on their – they’ve amassed stacks of discarded cans backs and have a good rummage in their which they try to drain of every last drop. backpacks for any food. The monkeys are Despite being relatively quiet for not in the slightest bit put out by having many stretches, the summit, which we to share their home with hikers, and after reach the next day, is very busy (as are some successful bamboo stick drumming the major monasteries with road access). we move on unscathed. But it’s spacious, and provides the platLuckily the spot we choose to bed down form for the most surreal view out over for the night, the Hongchunping monasan expansive sea of white cloud. The sun tery, is free of any monkey business. There Mount Emei’s Golden Summit Temple is fierce at the top and it’s quite a contrast are 76 Buddhist monasteries on the mounto the tree-covered staircases that have tain, mainly dating from the Qing and made up the majority of the climb. We Ming dynasties. Most we pass are still inhabited by practicing monks and arrive at the summit around 3 PM the day after we started, totaling many will offer you modest accommodation for the night – we pay 70 about 14 hours of climbing (including lunch stops, photos ops and yuan (US$11.4) per person. The kitchen also provides a welcome break monkey-dodging). We decide to take the cable car and bus down – from the instant noodles and chocolate bars – we refuel on steaming total time: one and a half hours. 

real chinese




fenghuang nan Ugly Duckling

Yuan Bo (alias), a man from Changsha, Hunan Province was recently sentenced to life imprisonment after confessing to the police that he had strangled his wife to death after she quarreled with his mother. Suddenly the term fenghuang nan, an epithet originating with a Chinese saying that “a phoenix can emerge from a sparrow’s nest,” was all the rage in the media. Men born into poor rural families who manage to secure employment in a big city after attending an urban college are often described as fenghuang nan. However, unlike the proverbial ugly duckling, they have to continue to prove themselves long after they have “made it,” securing riches to pay off the debts their families accrued during their ascension, before gaining the ultimate status symbols of an urban apartment, a car, a bride and a job for life. Despite their achievements, therefore, many fenghuang nan are typified by a deep-seated


sense of insecurity engendered both by self-doubt and the perceived snobbery of born-and-bred urban residents. This can often lead to embitterment and even violence, particularly if a man is perceived to be “punching above his weight” in terms of his marriage or social circle. Tensions often flare when the conservative values of rural mothers-in-law and their sons clash with the more liberal, egalitarian views of urban women, many of whom refuse to be subservient to their husbands. Many called Yuan Bo the “ultimate fenghuang nan” for taking his mother’s side to the degree that he murdered his wife rather than attempt to find a middle ground in their constant bickering. While in a traditional Confucian hierarchy a man must always place the interests of his mother ahead of those of his wife, in modern China, such an intractable position can end up destroying a household, especially as many families live in

cramped, poorly-built apartments with little opportunity for alone time or the pursuit of independent interests. Many urban wives married to socalled fenghuang nan have found their husbands are bankrupting their households by diverting every penny of their earnings back to their parents, with some netizens claiming that they married “not a single man, but his entire village.” With escalating divorce rates coming alongside alarming statistics detailing the widespread domestic abuse, even murder, of the wives of rural-born urban males, urban Chinese women have begun to avoid potential partners born in the countryside out of fear for their lives. As such, Chinese marriages, formerly characterized by the frequent blurring of class lines, are increasingly arranged between two generally equal parties, as marrying within one’s own class is seen as the most likely chance at a sustainable, mutually beneficial life partnership. NEWSCHINA I November 2014

flavor of the month

Work those buns! By Sean Silbert


hen The Opposite House, a glittering green boutique Beijing hotel that’s the preferred lodging of Justin Bieber and Beyoncé, needed a refreshing dining concept for its elite clientele, they looked to the street. The hotel opened an outdoor food truck serving baozi – simple steamed buns – packed with appropriately posh fillings like Thai fish curry and wagyu beef. Their deluxe versions are tasty, but still a far cry from the homely appeal of pedestrian buns dropped steaming into a flimsy plastic bag. Bao House (nice pun, guys) charges a premium for gourmet buns, while their inspiration can be easily obtained citywide for mere pocket change. Nevertheless, it makes sense why this glitzy hotel wanted to appropriate the baozi: They’re among the basic standards of northern Chinese cuisine. They’re portable, cheap and infinitely variable. They are the hamburger of the East, most commonly eaten at breakfast but considered a filler anytime of the day, eaten dipped in a small dish of vinegar or chili oil. They’re also delicious. Baozi are made by folding a sheet of dough around a small ball of filling, and then steaming the whole article until it’s a puffy, gluten-rich pillow of flavor. Large cylindrical bamboo steamers, blasting vapor like a locomotive whistle, are common sights on street corners and outside small restaurants throughout China. The default fillings are pork and Chinese chive, but show up at a street stall and you can get dozens of types – eggplant, egg and chive, even some with a hard-boiled egg yolk inside. Think the same family as dumplings, but coming in a range of dimensions from bite to fist-sized and with a similarly encyclopedic range of fillings, from sweet roast pork in Shanghai to

NEWSCHINA I November 2014

lamb and carrot in Beijing. The Shanghainese even shallow-fry their baozi for an extra dose of calories in a delightfully crispy bottom. The Opposite House is a latecomer to the posh baozi party. Tianjin, near Beijing, was the first to gild their baozi lily with the now-infamous brand, goubuli. That name is part of their appeal – literally meaning “dogs won’t notice,” legend has it that the chain is named for its founder Mr Gou, a surname meaning “dog,” who was so busy stuffing his ever-popular steamed buns that he barely had a word to say to his customers. Years later, the city tried to provide a more appetizing English name in anticipation of legions of foreign tourists descending on Tianjin during the 2008 Olympics. They chose “Go Believe,” a rather devotional moniker still pasted above a number of stores selling their characteristically savory buns. One of the most enchanting types of buns are soup dumplings or xiaolongbao - “little dragon buns,” popular around Shanghai and the Jiangsu area. Instead of raised flour, the fillings, encased in glistening bouillon jelly

which dissolves during steaming, are contained within a smooth, almost translucent unleavened wrapper. Servings come as onehit in Shanghai, all the way up to unsteadily large variants in Yangzhou that are served with an accompanying straw through which to suck up the glut of soup within. The popularity of steamed buns in all their guises is a testament to the Chinese approach to down-toearth cuisine. The earliest references to baozi date from accounts of the Warring States period - making the steamed bun older than the Great Wall. Master strategist Zhuge Liang himself is attributed with their creation – legend has it he designed the first baozi to take the place of the human heads required as a sacrifice before his troops could ford a barbarian river. Indeed, to this day, the Chinese will always choose a good meal over a battle. Thus mantou, the characters for which originally means “barbarian heads” (Chinese has subsequently modified the “barbarian” character to a less morbid variant, though the same appellation endures in Japan) were born. Today, mantou are unfilled steamed buns – thick, dense slabs of carbohydrate that make the better part of a Northern workingman’s lunch. While still popular among those who remember the days of famine, today’s youth, as with many things, like a little more pizzazz in their plastic lunchbags. Bao House works with mantou as well: cutting them open and filling them with goodies like a big slice of cured pork belly, crushed peanuts and cilantro. You’d never usually find something as rarefied as this on the street – this is unquestionably fussy fusion cuisine. For something more traditional, go for the standard pork and Chinese chive option, and throw in a craft beer to make it a lunch. 



The Sun Also Rises By Noelle Mateer


I can squat, a blonde-haired island in a sea of jet-black hair, among my neighbors, both sides amused by this coming together of East and West.

Illustration by Liu Xiaochao

If there’s anywhere Hemingway would likely hang his hat today, it’s not Paris. It’s Beijing. Trust me, I know. I was once an American expat in France myself, studying literature in a clichéd attempt to live out my own version of A Moveable Feast. It’s only now that I’ve moved to China that I realize I made a mistake. Hemingway wouldn’t find much to love in the prettified, socially conservative France of today. He, like me, would love China. Let me back up a second: I am not likening myself to Ernest Hemingway. I’m a 22-year-old fledgling writer. I pay my bills in China by – surprise – teaching English. Not, say, writing masterpieces of American literature. But I try to emulate, with varying degrees of success, the bon-vivant lifestyle all the same. During my time in France, I kept a little picture of Hemingway in my wallet. Seriously. I drank too much red wine. I wandered, notebook in hand, through medieval streets, pausing often for plates of juicy roast duck or macarons on outdoor terraces. But I was still just a (self) glorified tourist. Since I’ve moved to China, I’ve spent far more hours in what Baudelaire might term a flâneuresque exploration of the ancient city of Beijing than I ever devoted to the boulevards of gay Paree. Hemingway also saw strolling through one’s resident city as an intellectual pastime—enlightening, educational, transformative. He echoed this in A Moveable Feast, even though he was born a generation after Baudelaire and his “lost generation.” In Hemingway’s Paris of the1920s, the privations of the First World War were still palpable, with a vibrant artistic spirit shining through the cracks in the rubble. The result was a multi-layered city with enough complexities to entertain the Western world’s intelligentsia for decades. But the intervening century has seen a shift

in the epicenter of our global geopolitical consciousness. Now, the East, not the West, is the sleeping dragon - a vast, overpopulated amalgam of political, cultural and social foment that could easily usurp American hegemony. Today, myself and a new generation of flâneurs (flâneuses, in my case) spend our free time wandering and wondering in Beijing, only pausing when hunger or thirst demands it. The streets here are filled with marvels for the outsider - teenagers napping on dusty stoops, bag ladies pushing three identical puppies in strollers, the hawkers of bizarre, fetid fruits. Once, I rounded the corner of my apartment complex to find my regular fruit vendor replaced by a man selling live turtles, koi carp, rabbits and

– this drew a small crowd of spectators – a caged chipmunk. Later the same day, walking home from a friend’s apartment, the taste of a green-pepper stew and spicy tofu still lingering on my tongue, I passed dozens of my neighbors burning tiny bonfires on the city sidewalks between our homes. It was a lesser-known Buddhist holiday, and the beautifully eerie sight had me Googling long into the night. Later that week, an old man biked past my apartment with a cart full of fighting crickets in individual bamboo cages. And then there are the hutongs, those labyrinthine communities which seem to remain the arteries of true Beijing life despite the encroachment of so-called development. Paris, and France in general, has been transformed into a Disneyfied confection, decorated like the proverbial gateau with lavender fields, accordion players and medieval chateaus - hallmarks of a culture that no longer exists outside a guided tour. Outside the medieval city gates, overpriced tequila bars and teenagers in Abercrombie & Fitch muscle tees greet would-be poets. Plus it’s too expensive - for the price of an espresso on the Rive Gauche, I can secure a large bag of spiced peanuts and a few rounds of beer from a Beijing street vendor. I can squat, a blonde-haired island in a sea of jet-black hair, among my neighbors, both sides amused by this coming together of East and West. While Beijing certainly has its own throngs of tourists and Western chains, the city’s own spirit, the one which can produce a culture shock so crippling many expats swiftly turn tail and run back home, endures. The result is that I’ve fallen in love with this country more than I ever thought I would. “We ate well and cheaply and drank well and cheaply and slept well and warm together and loved each other,” Hemingway wrote. Those in Beijing, the vibrant, conflicted heart of the new world order, still do.  NEWSCHINA I November 2014

The Price of Tao Alec Ash

NEWSCHINA I November 2014

The red-faced deity guarding the box stroked his meter-long beard and accepted the bribe

Illustration by Liu Xiaochao

The Taoist priest looked at me askance and guessed correctly that I was British. I was in his temple three days before the Chinese New Year, along with a Chinese friend from the area who was there to light incense and drop money into the collection box for good luck in the year ahead. The red-faced deity guarding the box stroked his meter-long beard and accepted the bribe. We were outside Dandong in northeastern China, 16 kilometers from the North Korean border, and halfway up Wulong mountain. A golden Buddhist temple higher up the hillside overshadowed its more humble Taoist brother, with low grey walls and a roofed red gate. Stencilled outside the entrance, two yin yangs for punctuation, was the phrase “Man can enlarge the Way; the Way cannot enlarge Man.” Inside was a courtyard, a bronze censer for burning incense, a cramped shrine room, living quarters with kitchen, and a five-foot priest in Taoist robes, with a square chunk of jade strapped to his forehead that looked heavier than him. Once my nationality was blown, the priest ushered me into a back room and beckoned for me to sit on a stool, while he parked himself behind an oversized wooden desk and gathered scraps of blank paper around him. I had the creeping feeling that whatever Taoist magic I was going to witness was going to cost me something more material. “What astrological year do you belong to?” the priest asked me in Chinese, picking up a biro pen and scribbling his prediction on a scrap. “The ox,” I said. The priest scrumpled up the paper he had written on, and threw it to one side. “How many brothers or sisters do you have?” he asked, writing a number. “I have one older brother.” The priest hesitated for a long second. Then he showed me his scrap, with the number two on it.

“Including you, there are two brothers.” Sorcery. There were truly more things in heaven and earth than dreamt of in my philosophy. “What floor of your building do you live on?” he asked, scribbling again, spurred on by his success. “The third floor.” He had written the number three. Alright, that guess was pretty impressive. “How old is your mother?” I told him my mother’s age. He had gotten it wrong by three years, but sportingly he showed me his scrap anyway with a shrug of his shoulders, as if to say: meh, two out of four. Having established his credentials so convincingly, we got to the advice portion of the session. “When you choose a woman,” he began, “you must remember three things.” Ah, lady tips. Always useful. “Number one: she should be Chinese.” That’s curious, I had been told the same thing

by my landlady not two weeks ago. In fact, there was someone I had my eye on, and she was Chinese-born. He had my ear. “Number two: she should be born in the year of the rat or the dragon.” I did a quick calculation. Dragon. Score. “She should definitely not be born in the year of the tiger, sheep or horse.” Mental note filed and stored. “Number two: her nose should be like this” – he made an indecipherable swoop of his hand over his nose – and not like this” – another swoop in the opposite direction. I asked for clarification. The tip of the nose, he explained more patiently, should point up rather than curve down. He even drew me a helpful diagram of correct and incorrect noses, with almond-shaped eyes above them, presumably to reinforce the first point. “Also, the eyebrows should be high, the cheeks should be low, and she should not have hair on her upper lip.” I raised my eyebrow, waiting for any final words of wisdom he had to impart. But the Way is mysterious, the priest was silent, and my last commune with the unfathomable enigmas of Tao was indeed related to lady-moustache. The silence was getting a little awkward now, and I wondered if I should offer some words of thanks to complete the ritual. But a meaningful glance from my friend told me my offering should come not from the heart, but from the wallet. I pulled out a hundred yuan bill, and gave it to the priest with both hands, who placed it on the tabletop like a sacred relic, among the discarded scraps of paper with his incorrect guesses at my astrological sign and my mother’s age. It was a small price to pay for enlightenment. I reminded myself to double check my romantic interest for the incline of her nose and any budding signs of lip hair, and feeling lighter in soul and purse, descended the mountain back to the mortal plane. 


Cultural listings Cinema

A Golden Statuette? After closing the Venice Film Festival in September, The Golden Era has recently become Hong Kong’s candidate for the Academy Awards’ Best Foreign Language Film. The threehour biopic details the short life of Xiao Hong, a leading light of early modern China’s literary scene. Narrowly escaping being sold to a brothel in her youth and treated as an outcast throughout her career for her rejection of traditional gender roles, Xiao Hong’s leftist writings, which trailblazed a mix of verse and narration to describe the lives of rural women and children, have since become iconic. Veteran Hong Kong director Ann Hui, praised for her signature sharp, experimental approach to portrayals of female characters, brings out a softer edge to Xiao Hong’s story, with the title role going to actress Tang Wei, herself widely criticized in China for her highly sexualized portrayal of a mistress in Ang Lee’s Lust, Caution.



Dark, Soft and Strong

The People Need to Set off Firecrackers

In early September, Taiwan-based post-rock band We Save Strawberries (WSS) released their latest wholly independently-produced album Dracula City. This is the third work the band has presented since previous hit albums Solar System (2003) and Feather River (2010). The band’s highly abstract lyricism has proven a hit with fans, with lines such as: “Who built up the wall, stole away your childhood dream, the dream to forever be a dispirited wanderer; who has murmured in your ears, forced you to be brave in the dark, to behave as naturally as in the daytime.” Exploring the darker side of the psyche, Dracula City is a hymn to modern Taipei, drawing both on traditional elements including guitar, drums and bass enhanced with electro rhythms, synthesizers and backing vocals, creating a web interwoven with both the realistic and the illusive.



China Through a Lens Shanghai Minsheng Art Museum’s exhibition “Contemporary Photography in China 2009-2014,” featuring photography, installations and video from 52 leading artists in China, aimed to present a panorama of contemporary photography trends in the country. The exhibition, co-organized by CAFA Art Museum and Photo Shanghai, comprised three parts – boundary/drift, landscape/daily life, and society/body. A special area was dedicated to an exhibition of citizen journalism, featuring news photos that went viral online, especially on social media, over recent years.

Written by Gao Yu, the deputy editor in chief of popular financial journal Caixin, this new anthology collects the author’s analyses and commentary on scores of social issues raised in his 20 years of journalism. Gao examines with unflinching accuracy environmental pollution, tainted food scandals, forced demolition, official corruption and over-urbanization. The focus is overwhelmingly on grassroots disaffection with China’s transition, with the author highlighting plummeting confidence in the government’s ability to reform as more people who briefly rose from poverty once again sink back into hardship. The book’s title seems to call for a popular awakening, just as the nation might set off firecrackers at Chinese New Year to drive away the demons in the dark. NEWSCHINA I November 2014

NEWSCHINA I November 2014



Laws are useless if they can’t be enforced The grand ambitions of the new Budget Law need to be supported by effective and systemic reform By Yang Yingjie


en years after revisions to China’s Budget Law began to be debts, the revised budget law will lead to increased transparency and debated, a draft amendment has finally been passed by the improve local fiscal management. National People’s Congress (NPC). However, without a strong legislature with the power to chalChina’s existing budget statute, which went into effect in 1995, lenge, supervise and, when necessary, launch enquiries into governhas long been criticized as having engendered widespread corrup- ment budgets and expenditures, it will remain impossible to tackle tion within the government. However, in the last 10 years, attempts China’s most looming fiscal problems. Debt mountains in many to revise the Budget Law have met with stiff resistance, with two localities, despite it being technically illegal for any Chinese adminprevious amendments shelved by national istrative unit to accrue any amount of legislators. debt, arew proof of just how little laws The NPC’s recent approval of the redrafted in Beijing mean when they clash The new Budget Law vised budget law at the height of the with local pragmatism. will be meaningful only ongoing anti-corruption campaign spearThe new Budget Law will be meanif it is followed up with headed by President Xi Jinping has now ingful only if it is followed up with furfurther institutional been hailed as a major step towards the ther institutional reform that will allow reform that will allow establishment of a modern fiscal admingenuine supervision of government exgenuine supervision of istration. penditure. For example, one progressive To some extent, this is accurate. Firstly, area noted in the amendment has been government expenditure it overturns the existing “general budget” detailed guidance on the publication of code that allows government agencies to budget information, including the scale defray expenses via unregulated fundraisof disclosure and the ideal channels for ing channels, most notoriously land sales. The revised act takes all its release. government revenues and expenditures into account, including the If the public and the media had the power to hold the governgeneral budget, budgets for government-managed funds and those ment to account for its fiscal policy, transparency might be achievof State-owned enterprises and the welfare system. able. Without such measures to include the general population in This amendment has also approved the sale of government bonds the oversight of decision making, backroom deals and the fudging by provincial-level governments, though it tightly restricts both of data will continue to be daily occurrences. their quantity and how the funds raised may be spent. Under the Instead of viewing this amendment as an achievement, the govexisting law, local governments were forbidden from issuing bonds ernment should take it as a starting point for genuinely systemic even as a means to rebalance a budget deficit. In practice, however, change.  governments issued “stealth bonds” in the country’s vast shadow banking sector, running up huge debts out of sight of central government supervisors. (The author is a senior commentator for NewsChina’s sister publicaIt is argued that by assuming jurisdiction over local government tion China Newsweek.)


NEWSCHINA I November 2014

NEWSCHINA I November 2014



NEWSCHINA I November 2014

November 2014