From Teen to Screen: Han Han Behind the Camera
Trans National: From Hero to Heroine
king of beasts Has the anti-graft campaign peaked with the fall of Zhou Yongkang?
Free Marketeer: China's Most Controversial Economist
Volume No. 074 October 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: Eric Abrahamsen Address: 5th Floor, 12 Baiwanzhuang South Street, Xicheng District, Beijing, China Post Code: 100037 Tel: 86-10-88395566 Fax: 86-10-88388045 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org www.newschinamag.com Art Department Art Director: Wu Shangwen Art Editor/Designer: Zhang Dawei Publishing and Development Office China Newsweek Corporation President: Wang Xiaohui Chief Executive: Fred Teng 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: email@example.com Toronto Office Director: Lai Hailong Address: 51 Halstead Drive, Markham, ON Canada L3R7Z4 Tel: 1-905-604-6150 Fax: 1-905-604-6170 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Marketing Director: Wang Chenbo Account Manager : Ren Jie Tel: 86-10-88388027 Circulation Manager: Yu Lina Tel: 86-10-88311834 Advertising Director: Gao Weiwei Tel: 1-212-481-2510 Marketing Promoter: Jerry Meng Tel: 1-212-481-2510 New York Office: Wang Yongzhi, Ruan Yulin, Li Yang Washington Office: Wu Qingcai, De Yongjian Los Angeles Office: Mao Jianjun San Francisco Office: Liu Dan Houston Office: Wang Huan London Office: Zhou Zhaojun Tokyo Office: Sun Ran Paris Office: Long Jianwu Bangkok Office: Yu Xianlun Kuala Lumpur Office: Huang Hongbin Moscow Office: Jia Jingfeng Manila Office: Zhang Ming Berlin Office: Huang Shuanghong Sydney Office: Zhu Daqiang Legal Advisor: Allen Wu ISSN 1943-1902
NEWSCHINA I October 2014
Let’s put values back on the table
o, the anti-corruption campaign has per- system, an integral feature of modern governance. sisted for more than a year, and Xi Jinping Party leaders have vowed to prioritize this, yet dehas fulfilled his promise to bring down both spite the collection of a few high-profile scalps, “tigers” and “flies.” Yet, grumgoverning seems like business as bles have begun to surface in usual to a skeptical public. China’s vast bureaucracy. The Chinese leadership should Confucians urged Some officials have threatnot only learn from the expericivil servants to keep ened to resign, citing meager ence of Western countries in esclear of commerce, salaries and high job pressure, tablishing modern governance, lest the pursuit of while others warn that the but also draw upon previous wealth blind them to campaign, which has already value systems common to China. their responsibilities devastated the luxury goods For a long period of time, Chimarket, will further jeopardize na’s traditional values have been as moral examples to China’s growth if it continues considered obsolete in a modern the masses. much further. society. However, some core prinThese complaints are a reciples, if not necessarily entire flection of how distorted the schools of thought, continue to value system of Chinese officials has become in have relevance. recent decades. Without effective supervision, ofConfucianism, for example, argues that bureauficials have come to see both power and money as crats should hold themselves to a higher level of their exclusive domain. Many choose to become moral conduct than ordinary people. While the “public servants” not to “serve the people,” but to pursuit of material wealth can be forgiven in those become rich, with successive generations seeing the without social standing, Confucians urged civil seraccumulation of wealth as an inherent feature of an vants to keep clear of commerce, lest the pursuit of official post. wealth blind them to their responsibilities as moral One major reason behind this distorted value examples to the masses. system is the collapse of the values of egalitarianThis idea was subtly echoed in a recent speech ism and class struggle required of Mao era officials. delivered by President Xi Jinping, who said that Consumerism has supplanted communism as the those seeking official positions should not side facto belief system of the nation, including its multaneously be seeking riches. The Party’s own officials, with material acquisition the sole measure economy-of-scale approach to recruitment and lax of individual success, whether one is a public ser- supervision of the behavior of its own members has vant, an entrepreneur or a road sweeper. As a result, allowed the careerists, game-players and would-be civil servants in particular have lost all sense of re- billionaires to dictate how the country is run. sponsibility. Xi’s sentiments are admirable. The challenge, For the anti-corruption campaign to have a however, is getting Party members to disembark en long-term impact on China’s officials, the central masse from a four-decade free ride on China’s gravy leadership needs to re-establish some kind of value train.
fall of the zhou dynasty
Has the Party’s anti-graft campaign peaked with Zhou Yongkang? Or are there more ‘tigers’ in their sights?
01 Let’s put values back on the table 10 Commutation: On the Inside, Getting Out
12 Zhou Yongkang: Long Time Coming/Titan Falls
20 Liu Peng: The Law of Gods and Men 24 26 30
Ludian Quake: Unpredictable, Not Unavoidable Residence Registration: Un-settling Air Traffic: Flying Blind
P36 NEWSCHINA I October 2014
P40 32 Kong Dan and Qin Xiao: Two Shades of Red
36 Liu Ting: Pain of a Paragon special report
40 Technical School: The Blue Collar Boot Camp economy
46 Zhang Weiying: Absolute Advocate
50 Sino-Japanese Relations: Old War, New Lessons culture
54 Han Han: Staying Out of Step
NEWSCHINA I October 2014
58 To The Rescue
62 Eclectic Shidu: The Tenth Crossing 65 Flavor of the Month: Bing-a-ling
70 Let’s reform the system 72 So, you want to create a fair market? Then take it seriously 04 MEDIA FOCUS 05 What They Say 06 NEWS BRIEF 08 Netizen Watch 49 China by numbers 64 real chinese 66 ESSAY 68 CULTURAL LISTINGS
NewsChina Chinese Edition
August 18, 2014
August 4, 2014
At the height of a particularly torrid summer this year, gory footage and images of bus explosions caused by arsonists in Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province and Guangzhou, Guangdong Province went viral online, spreading panic over the seeming arbitrariness of the carnage. Criminal researchers in many countries have suggested that violent crime tends to fluctuate seasonally, usually peaking in July and August. Others have also called attention to economic conditions, the prevalence of untreated psychiatric conditions, and societal attitudes to violence. In China, many blame widespread social injustice, an ever-widening income gap and the rigid nature of the social hierarchy for the rising violent crime rate. Moreover, despite its ubiquity, China’s police apparatus still relies on antiquated detection methods and heavy-handed tactics to identify would-be threats to public safety, hampering their ability to perform an effective role in society.
China Entrepreneur July 25, 2014
Getting Lost In an era of ongoing global financial crises, business performance tends to fall short of expectations, and for multinational companies in China, this situation is compounded by local conditions. Survival in a nation now questing after moderate, not breakneck, growth is now a major challenge for large international conglomerates. According to a survey by the European Union Chamber of Commerce in China, a sense of pessimism is becoming prevalent as these market challenges show little sign of abating. The survey also showed that nearly half the multinational companies surveyed believed the “golden age” of doing business in China is already over. 33 percent of respondents revealed that their pre-tax earnings in China are lower than the global average. Excessive production, growing competition with State-owned and private enterprises, discriminatory market access and regulatory barriers all contributed to the plight of those still seeking their fortunes in the People’s Republic.
Road to Reform China’s central authorities released guidelines July 16 aimed at reforming the provision and use of government vehicles in a bid to slash excessive spending amid mounting public outcries over misuse of public money. Government cars frequently earn widespread criticism for their lavish brand names, regular road safety infractions, appropriation for private functions (such as ferrying cadres’ children to school) and contribution to urban congestion. Under the terms of the guidelines, China will scrap all vehicles currently in use for “regular government affairs,” retaining only those earmarked for “special services,” namely, law enforcement, intelligence services and emergency transportation. The central government will also issue subsidies to public officials for the purposes of selecting “their own means of transportation.” Central government agencies are required to complete the reforms by year-end, with local governments having until 2015 to scrap an estimated 90 percent of their private fleets.
Southern Metropolis Weekly August 13, 2014
Seeing a Doctor Overseas Growing awareness of shortcomings in China’s healthcare industry and the boom in private wealth have turned highend medical services into a highly coveted global commodity. Wealthy Chinese are increasingly heading to countries including the United States, Japan, Singapore, Thailand and South Korea for medical treatment. A more patient-centered service, better diagnosis and treatment, holistic rehabilitation programs and, in many cases, top-level cosmetic surgery clinics, are all major attractions. For some cancer patients, foreign hospitals are their only hope of securing the cutting-edge treatments they cannot find at home. Others simply seek cheaper prices, as China’s hospital bills become prohibitively expensive.
China Economic Weekly August 9, 2014
Rotten Real Estate On July 16 during a meeting on the ongoing nationwide investigations into official conduct, Wang Qishan, China’s anticorruption czar, named the country’s real estate industry as a hothouse of corruption. He added that the main goal of today’s anti-graft operations is to rein in official malpractice in mining, land and real estate development, construction projects and the illegal appropriation of public funds intended for poverty relief. As of the end of July, three rounds of inspections beginning in May 2013 had netted 19 provincial officials with ties to 34 provinces and work units, many of them heavily involved in the real estate industry. Corruption cases were reported in the real estate industries of all 21 provinces inspected, and the powerful Ministry of Land and Resources drew fire for its allegedly “lax” enforcement of existing regulations. NEWSCHINA I October 2014
Tang Feiyan, dubbed “Queen of Thieves” by the media, enjoying abundant public support after distributing images online of government offices she had robbed, targeting illicit gifts in particular.
“This cup is 600 years old and has been used by emperors and their concubines. I just want it to bring me luck!” Businessman Liu Yiqian who has drawn criticism for drinking tea out of a Ming dynasty cup he purchased for US$36 million.
“Given the cost of high-speed rail, a 30 percent ticket discount would definitely lose us money. Empty seats are fine – it’s another view to enjoy.” Wang Mengshu, deputy chief engineer of the China Railway Tunnel Group, voicing opposition to slashing off-peak ticket prices. “Even if some countries or regions have managed to produce an economic boom through their industrial policies, it’s just a case of a blind cat stumbling across a dead mouse. Government interference in the economy is a global issue.” Economist Justin Yifu Lin reminding the Chinese government of how he thinks it should handle the country’s economy. “Once free from misery, people risk falling into mediocrity.” Director Zhang Yimou bemoaning the lack of “inspirationally tragic” events to provide fodder for the world’s filmmakers.
NEWSCHINA I October 2014
Illustration by Wu Shangwen
“I only target corrupt officials, as I have no qualms about stealing from them.”
“Economically speaking, it is good news that Zhou Yongkang has fallen, but the detention of more ‘tigers’ might cause political tensions and could damage the economy.” Xu Gao, chief economist of Everbright Securities, calling for a more systemic reform agenda.
“It is not feasible to guide China’s reform according to the hierarchies of Confucianism. To do so is to work against equality, freedom and independence.” Critic Wang Xiaodong triggering controversy by attacking Confucian values as a basis for contemporary politics.
“China is a big country, but not a strong one. Therefore, we should zero in on how to make it stronger, not bigger.” Military news editor Hu Xiancheng trying to convince his compatriots that size isn’t everything.
“I didn’t worry about how to make money, just about how to hide it.” Ma Junfei, former deputy director of the railways bureau of Hohhot, capital of Inner Mongolia, in the confession he wrote prior to his death sentence with reprieve on corruption charges.
Protesting Protestors in Hong Kong
On August 19, a total of 193,000 Hong Kong residents joined a demonstration against the Occupy Central campaign, calling for “a peaceful and legitimate path to the 2017 general election of Hong Kong’s next chief executive.” The protest was organized by the Alliance for Peace and Democracy Against the Occupy Central Campaign (APDOCC), and a petition launched by the organization has reportedly solicited over 1.5 million supporting signatures since it was established in July. With the approach of the 2017 deadline for the implementation of universal suffrage promised by the Chinese government prior to the territority’s return to the mainland in 1997, debate about democratic rights has been rife in the former British colony. In January 2013, inspired by the Occupy Wall Street campaign, Hong Kong University professor
Benny Tai launched Occupy Central, encouraging people to occupy the heart of Hong Kong’s financial district to pressure the government into bringing its electoral process “in line with accepted international standards,” among other goals. According to Hong Kong law, candidates for the position of chief executive, Hong Kong’s highest office, are nominated by the territory’s Election Committee, composed of representatives from various different industries, while the Occupy Central camp, also called the “opposition camp,” believe that the public and political parties should also have the right to nominate candidates. “To occupy Central is not the end goal, but a means to pressure the government into negotiation,” Tai told the media. According to reports, the Occupy Central campaign has received wide support from pro-democracy groups and many other non-governmental organizations. While critics of Occupy Central claim its brand of civil disobedience violates Hong Kong law, Benny Tai argues that such acts are not illegal . However, other opponents of the campaign claim it has inconvenienced locals by causing traffic congestion, and some media reports of a connection with Taiwan’s independence movement have also attracted criticism. Similar to Occupy Central, the Anti-Occupy Central campaign has also been accused of being the puppet of a certain political agenda, and the “opposition camp” has criticized it for hiring actors to demonstrate on behalf of the Communist Party of China. The Alliance’s founder Stanley Ng has denied the accusations, stating that APDOCC has united Hong Kongers in opposition to radicalism. “We want to tell the ‘opposition camp’ that Occupy Central is not the mainstream voice in Hong Kong. More people prefer peace and stability,” he told the media.
Head of QVOD Detained After 110 days of exile, Wang Xin, general manager of QVOD, maker of China’s most popular video streaming application, was apprehended by Interpol on August 7 and extradited to China the following day. According to Chinese police, Wang Xin has confessed to allowing pornographic videos to be disseminated via his website. According to Chinese law, Wang could face a maximum 10 years in prison, and face heavy fines, for having profited from pornography. Established in Shenzhen in 2007, QVOD
was originally a video player based on peer-topeer streaming, providing easy access to pirated and pornographic content. In June, QVOD was fined 260 million yuan (US$41.8m) for copyright infringement, with Tencent, one of China’s largest media companies, the primary plaintiff. Before its closure, QVOD had reportedly over 300 million registered users. Thanks to QVOD’s software being free to use, many Chinese netizens expressed sympathy with Wang Xin, suspecting the crackdown on the company to have been instigated by business rivals. NEWSCHINA I October 2014
China’s Ministry of Environment recently published their biannual report on urban air quality, claiming that only nine Chinese cities had met new air quality standards in the first half of 2014. Though only 74 cities were ranked in the report, the ministry said that a total of 161 have implemented the new standards, which includes a PM2.5 index measuring particulate matter with a diameter of less than 2.5 micrometers. According to the report, 74 of the cities recorded excessive pollution on 40 percent of the days with unacceptable levels of PM2.5. Most of the cities that met the standards were coastal settlements in south or east China. Despite overall air quality improving last year, Beijing, Tianjin and Hebei Province still remained at the bottom of the ranking, with 12.6 percent more heavily polluted days than all other cities.
Most Chinese Cities Still Suffering Air Pollution
Air Quality of 74 Chinese Cities from January to June
Source: Xinhua News Agency
Canadian “Spies” Caught A Canadian couple, Kevin Garratt and Julia Dawn Garratt, were detained on August 4 on suspicion of spying. The couple were apprehended in Dandong, a northern Chinese city on the North Korean border, where they ran a café. According to local police, the two suspects were found to have “pried into China’s secret technical and national defense research.” The news has made headlines in Canada, and the Canadian media have largely come out in defense of the Garratts, with many claiming the couple were ordinary people who had lived in China for three decades. Around one month before the couple’s arrest, Canadian police had, on instructions from the US government, arrested Chinese businessman Su Bin (Stephen Su) for allegedly stealing blueprints for the F22 fighter jet.
China Fines Japanese Enterprises for Price-fixing China’s National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), the country’s highest macroeconomic planning body, has slapped 12 Japanese enterprises with fines of US$200m for price-fixing. The list includes eight auto parts makers and four ball bearing producers that have been accused of having colluded to determine a price for their products on the Chinese market. Given that the 12 enterprises have, according to the NDRC, monopolized the Chinese market for around 10 years, the fines were equivalent to 4-8 percent of their respective sales revenue of 2013, with Hitachi and Nachi exempt from punishment for being the first enterprises to self-report, and for actively cooperating with the investigation. Earlier this month, four BMW dealerships in Wuhan, Hubei Province were hit with China’s first auto sales monopoly penalty, totaling US$27,000. Some other foreign brands, such as Mercedes-Benz, Volkswagen and Chevrolet, also received warnings.
Industrial Explosion in Kunshan
NEWSCHINA I October 2014
most of the injured suffered extensive burns. The plant has been blamed for failing to implement safety regulations, such as equipping the workshop with adequate ventilation and leaving enough space between production lines. So far, three people, including the plant’s president Wu Jitao, have been detained in connection with the incident. Media reports, however, have criticized the government’s lack of supervision, revealing that many front-line workers are working in an unsafe environment due to their employers’ attempts to minimize costs.
Photos by IC and CFP
An automobile processing workshop belonging to Zhongrong Metal Manufacturing, an industrial plant founded in 1998 in Kunshan, Jiangsu Province, blew up on August 2, leaving 75 dead and another 185 injured. The explosion occurred at around 7 AM, launching half the workshop’s roof into the air along with a flaming dust cloud. The investigation team dispatched by China’s State Council has declared the explosion a severe industrial accident caused by an excessive amount of atmospheric metal dust which caught fire when exposed to heat. Given the dust’s strong propensity to adhere to clothes,
Poll the People
An acrobatics display at the opening ceremony of the Nanjing Youth Olympic Games brought the house down as over 120 boys from a Shaolin kung-fu school performed various death-defying aerial maneuvers before finally leaping over a tower representing the theme of the show: “Build Your Dreams.”
A member of the People’s Congress of Beijing has triggered discussion by proposing to extend China’s maternity leave allocation from three months to three years. What do you think? I agree. It enables mothers to take better care of their babies. 55.28%, 1,807 I disagree. It would worsen gender discrimination, since few enterprises would be willing to employ women. 42.09%, 1,376
Saddening Farmers from Henan Province came together to sell their unripened corn as feed to local cattle farms for a reduced price. They said that the local drought, reportedly the worst for 63 years, has ruined their crop.
I don’t care.
Most Circulated Post Retweeted 157,994 times August 15 marked the 69th anniversary of Japan’s surrender to the Allies in World War II. Pictures of Japanese soldiers torturing and slaughtering Chinese people were forwarded on the Internet, reminding Chinese web users of this tragic phase in history.
A white dog sat for over an hour next to the body of a black dog that had been hit by a car, even after the carcass was moved to the side of the road by a street cleaner. Netizens lamented that in China’s increasingly indifferent society, dogs have become more compassionate than humans.
An online post about a woman from Xiangtan, Hunan Province, who was left on a gurney after dying during childbirth triggered violent public criticism. However, the hospital later revealed that while the healthy baby had been delivered via C-section, a rare complication had caused the woman to suffer a fatal allergic reaction. It also emerged that the doctors had left the operating room for their own safety, due to “violent behavior and vandalism” on the part of the deceased woman’s family members.
“Wherever you are, retweet this post for your fellow countrymen who fell under the butcher’s knife. Remember this day to pay your respects to the deceased!” NEWSCHINA I October 2014
Top Five Search Queries On
HOT? WHO’S NOT?
over the week ending August 15 “Where are we going, Dad?” 2 1,035,813 The second season of Hunan TV’s celebrity parenting show, in which celebrities go on vacation with their children, has been a smash hit. Changchun Rape Bribe 164,606 After her mother accepted a bribe of US$33,000, a girl from Changchun, Jilin Province, who had been raped by three men, lied to the police that she had consensual intercourse with the suspects. Wang Xin 134,510 The general manager of QVOD, one of China’s most popular video streaming applications, was detained for allegedly distributing pornography.
Progressive Parent In the presence of their mothers, two Chinese lesbians held an engagement ceremony at a film festival in Shanghai. One of the mothers moved audiences by claiming that she accepted her daughter as she is.
YOG 114,642 The 2014 Youth Olympic Games were held in Nanjing, Jiangsu Province, from August 16 to 28.
Top Blogger Profile Xu Lei Followers: 8,932,195 The most popular Chinese writer of ghost stories, Xu Lei, nicknamed Nanpai Sanshu on the Internet, ranked second on the 2011 rich list of Chinese authors, thanks to his best-seller Notes on a Grave Robbery. However, Xu disappointed his fans by announcing his intention to quit writing in February 2013, with media reports claiming that he had immersed himself so deeply into his profession that he had become “mentally unstable.” As various rumors about Xu’s physical condition spread online, his microblog account on Sina Weibo suddenly came back to life in early 2014, with Xu vowing to resume writing an unfinished ghost story and begin converting Notes on a Grave Robbery into a mobile game. NEWSCHINA I October 2014
Some of the images used in this section are from the internet
Deng Xiaoping 115,781 The TV series Deng Xiaoping in Historical Transition, broadcast on CCTV to commemorate the 110th anniversary of the former leader’s birth, gained a large audience.
Stoner Star Actor Jaycee Chan, son of international movie star Jackie Chan, was detained at his home by Beijing police for possession of marijuana. The younger Chan is being charged with “harboring drug users,” and may face up to three years in prison.
An 85-year-old woman from Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province took a solo journey across the country to Tibet. The elderly woman said she became hooked on tourism when she was 75 years old, and that she believes that happiness is doing different things at different ages.
Charity Hustler Guo Meimei, a young woman who in 2011 plunged the Red Cross Society of China into controversy by claiming to be employed by the charity while showing off her wealth, has come under the spotlight again, having been detained for allegedly running an illegal gambling operation. She was later also accused of prostitution.
On the Inside, Getting Out Chinese authorities are trying to curb judicial corruption by offering reduced sentences and parole to prevent convicts from simply bribing their way out of prison By Hua Xuan
n July 11, an open commutation hearing in the high-profile case of Wu Ying, a businesswoman accused of “illegal fundraising,” was held at Zhejiang Women’s Prison. At the hearing, Wu’s death sentence with a two-year reprieve was commuted to life imprisonment. In a country where most commutation and probation appeals are decided through the examination of court records, the public hearing for Wu was a rare phenomenon. Yang Zhaodong, Wu’s defense lawyer, labeled the move “a new round in the campaign against judicial corruption.” In April, the Supreme People’s Court unveiled a regulation on the commutation of sentences and parole following a spate of scandals where convicts were found to have bribed their way out of jail. Last month, the Commission for Political and Legal Affairs of the Communist Party of China Central Committee voiced its support for the move. According to the regulation, hearings are required when a case involves remission for criminals convicted of abuse of power, economic fraud and organizing mafia-style groups.
Score One for the Prisoners
In China’s prison system, it is common practice for prisoners to be “scored” according to their behavior – prison officers can issue inmates with merits and demerits, which
count towards any sentence reduction or probation. The points system for commutation was introduced in the 1980s, and is still widely in use today. Its original aim was to evaluate prisoners, encourage them to behave well, and to expediate their reintegration into society. However, given the authority bestowed on officers in an enclosed environment such as a prison, its effectiveness was somewhat blunted. “Backroom deals, including the illegal commutation of sentences, are very common in prisons,” He Junming, a Shanghai-based lawyer, told NewsChina. He served as a prison guard for more than 20 years in Jiangxi Province, until 2006. The points system was based on achievements in two types of exercises – “productivity” and the writing of “thought reports.” A prisoner could earn bonus points for completing easily verifiable production work, but criteria for “thought reports” – written self-criticism – were far less clear, leaving room for corruption. In the prison where He worked, a prisoner could earn 0.5 points for a thought report, and this was the area where underground transactions most frequently occurred, according to He. “I rarely saw a real thought report – most of them were ghostwritten by prison guards,” He said, adding that the prison eventually prescribed that each prisoner could only
write two thought reports per month. Writing for prison publications was one way of submitting a thought report, but contributors tended to be highly educated inmates with strong writing skills, the majority of whom had been convicted of “crimes of duty.” In He’s prison, 20 points could be redeemed for a public commendation, which meant a commutation of 20 days in jail. He Junming said the prison administration even had a regulation stating that a subscription to a prescribed publication was equivalent to one month’s commutation, resulting in a wave of subscriptions so large that the prison had to specify that each prisoner could only subscribe to a single publication. Prison guards rarely even bothered to distribute the publications: “Hundreds of copies piled up in the corner of the office every day, until they were eventually taken away by garbage collectors,” He said. Prisons also provide skills training for convicts, and earning a certificate counted for a point towards commutation. However, it has been alleged that some prisons were colluding with training institutions to provide certificates to inmates for a price of 100 yuan (US$16.20). Reports claim that prisoners could even hire their fellow inmates to sit their examinations for them, and prison administrators tended to look the other way. In one high-profile case, Zhang Hai, former chairman of Jianlibao Group, a Chinese NEWSCHINA I October 2014
Photo by CFP
A prisoner raises a question during a commutation hearing at Dianjiang Prison in Chongqing, April 17
food and beverage giant, used illegal means to have his sentence reduced by five years. During his second parole hearing, Zhang succeeded in having his jail term further reduced by more than four years after bribing prison and court officials, according to Xinhua News Agency. Wu Zongxian, a criminal law professor with Beijing Normal University said that while commutations were not illegal, in practice, decisions were often affected by many external factors and “inmates convicted of crimes of duty have a noticeable advantage [in commutation], with prison guards wielding disproportionately large power.”
According to China’s Criminal and Prison statutes, the commutation of death sentences with reprieve can only result from a high court ruling, while pleas for clemency in life imprisonment and lesser cases are proposed by prisons before being handed down to intermediate courts. Lu Jianping, law professor with Beijing Normal University, told NewsChina that due to the growing number of commutations and
NEWSCHINA I October 2014
paroles in recent years, supervisory bodies now spend most of their time on such cases. According to He Junming, some intermediate courts have only five to six staff members handling nearly 100 appeals per month, all of which have to be dealt with within 30 days. “It is virtually impossible for judges to examine documents carefully,” He said. Official statistics show that China deals with more than 600,000 commutation and probation cases each year. According to data from the Ministry of Justice, as of April 2012, China was home to 1.64 million convicts, and from 1997 to 2001, the commutation rate climbed from 21.7 percent to 25.3 percent. He Junming told our reporter that in the prison where he had worked, the commutation rate was nearly 30 percent, and some prisoners had their sentences reduced by half. “Prison officers also hope good behavior from inmates can ease administrative pressure. As long as they obtain enough merits, prisons are willing to consider court appeals,” He said. In contrast to its attitude to reduced sentences, China has more stringent regulations
regarding parole. He Junming said that in his prison, an average of 30 percent of inmates applied for parole per year, but only 5 percent of these applications were approved. Medical parole does not require court approval. In recent years a growing number of reports have alleged that many senior officials seek early release through bribery or on the pretext of poor health. Wu Xianzong, the criminal law professor, told NewsChina that some inmates either deliberately misuse medication in order to become ill and build a medical file, or bribe hospitals for false diagnoses. “As for the ‘thought reports,’ nobody takes them seriously, and false medical evaluations are easily spotted,” he said. In a campaign targeting judicial corruption launched by the Supreme People’s Procuratorate, a total of 188 cases involving “illegal commutation,” parole and “conditional sentences” (sentences served outside jail) from March to the end of May were reported. In addition, 247 criminals serving conditional sentences were called back into prison for failing to meet the conditions of their release. To prevent corruption and other forms of malpractice, China introduced inspections within the prison system, headed by an officer assigned by the local procuratorate. These officers are charged with the handling of appeals from inmates, supervision of commutation and parole cases, as well as conditional sentences. However, because of the complicated situation within China’s prisons, the inspection system remains a limited deterrent. An officer from a Beijing procuratorate, who declined to be named, told NewsChina that working as an inspection officer is a generally unpopular job option due to unfavorable working conditions and the role’s lack of rotation, which has caused a “community of interests” to become embedded between inspectors and prison administrators. “For a long time in China’s judicial system, trials were usually in the spotlight, with the serving of time shrouded in obscurity. Many backroom deals take advantage of the closedoff environment within prisons,” Lu said. “Supervision of how sentences are served will become a priority this year.”
Long Time Coming
By finally announcing its move against Zhou Yongkang, China’s former security czar, the central leadership in Beijing looks determined to tackle widespread corruption By Yu Xiaodong
n July 29, in a long-awaited, much-anticipated statement, China’s central leadership announced that it had launched an investigation into Zhou Yongkang, former member of the Standing Committee of the Politburo and the country’s one-time domestic security chief, for suspected “serious disciplinary violations.”
The news of Zhou’s detention immediately caused a stir across China’s social media. Being one of the most powerful politicians in China in the decade prior to his retirement in 2012, and the most senior CPC politician to be placed under official investigation in 30 years, some might say Zhou’s fall marks the erasure of what many see as an unwritten rule that former members of the Standing Committee of the Politburo are always immune from criminal investigation. Immediately following the State media announcement, the wellconnected and well-respected publication Caixin published a series of lengthy articles that many believed it had been compiling for months, exploring the business empire established by Zhou, his family members and associates. On Sohu and Netease, two of China’s major online news portals, Zhou family trees complete with interactive graphics immediately appeared, allowing readers to explore his supposed NEWSCHINA I October 2014
wrongdoings, and those of his relatives. Few were blindsided by the Party’s announcement. Rumors of Zhou’s fall from grace had circulated for over 18 months as dozens of his former secretaries and associates were placed under investigation. Reports that Zhou himself was put under house arrest in early 2013 refused to be quashed, despite official media refusing to confirm or deny them. For quite some time, the significance of what many saw as Zhou’s inevitable fall became less about the man himself and more about whether and how the central leadership would formally launch their investigation, or if Zhou would simply be permitted to quietly retire. Many analysts perceived the nature of Zhou’s fall as a litmus test not only of the seriousness of the Party’s ongoing anti-corruption campaign, but also of the level of influence and power held by Chairman Xi Jinping. Indeed, speculation had become so rife that the official investigation came as something of a relief to both reform advocates and many ordinary members of the public, who felt vindicated in trusting Xi to root out corruption within the Party, something he has pledged to do since before taking power. Others, however, remain skeptical over Zhou’s likely fate, given the
Zhou Yongkang appears at the scene of a fire in Hengyang, Hunan Province, November 2013
specific wording of the announcement. The fact that Zhou has apparently been detained by the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, the Party’s internal graft watchdog, and is thus out of the hands of the criminal justice system, is for many a cause for concern. Unless he is made subject to public prosecution, some argue that Zhou might still escape punishment proportionate to his suspected crimes. Given the scale of the allegations against Zhou, and the fact that the media has been given considerable license to report on the investigation (though the official State media have remained largely muted in their coverage), a criminal trial seems likely at some point. It remains unclear how much Zhou and his family have amassed, but reports suggest billions of US dollars. An earlier report by Reuters estimated that the Zhou family collectively held assets worth 90 billion yuan (US$14.6bn).
For the new leadership, the investigation into the Party’s former security chief is crucial both in the context of its ongoing struggle with corruption in its ranks, but also in establishing its own political line, distancing Xi Jinping in particular from the toxic legacy associated with Zhou’s tenure.
Zhou, in uniform, meets police officers in Beijing during the 2003 SARS crisis
Dubbed China’s “security czar,” Zhou had long been blamed for the widespread social injustice and excessive force applied by China’s police force in achieving the Party’s paramount goal of “stability maintenance.” Blame for such wide-ranging issues as forced demolition and illegal land appropriation, the abuse and detention of law-abiding petitioners and heavy-handed responses to public protest have all been laid at Zhou’s door. Presiding for a time over an internal security budget that outstripped all other public spending including on defense, education and healthcare, Zhou is also believed to have attempted to realign the power structure of China’s internal security mechanisms, resulting in brutality and contempt for legal procedure within the police force in particular. Since Xi took office, many structural changes introduced under Zhou have been reversed. According to various reports appearing in the Chinese media, Zhou, now described as an “erratic tyrant,” took a personal role in “handling public grievances” relating to these problems. The Beijing News for example reported that following the self-immolation of a woman surnamed Tang protesting the forced demolition of her Sichuan home in 2009, Zhou personally approved an intimidation campaign launched against her family by the provincial Party chief. This NEWSCHINA I October 2014
Photos by Xinhua
Zhou visits with an elderly resident in Chongzuo, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, 2008
resulted in Tang’s family keeping silent about the incident in exchange for financial compensation. Analysts believe that by taking down not only the unpopular Zhou but also his entire network, Xi has not only removed a major political obstacle, but has also rallied public support for his future initiatives.
‘Rule of Law’
It is no coincidence that the investigation into Zhou came on the same day as the announcement that “ruling the country by law” would be the main theme of the Fourth Plenum of the Communist Party’s 18th Central Committee, expected to be held in late October. Since its Third Plenum, the Party has cemented its anti-graft campaign as its top political priority under Xi’s deputy Wang Qishan. Reform advocates hope that, since rule of law has been enshrined in its political vocabulary, the Central Committee will now tackle head-on the root causes of the kind of abuses that typified Zhou’s reign. But despite numerous high profile arrests made in the past year, it is evident that the new central leadership’s hardline attitude has met strong resistance within the Party that elevated them. Citing Internet sources, there have been reports from overseas Chinese media suggesting that many within the senior ranks are wary of Xi’s high-profile NEWSCHINA I October 2014
anti-corruption campaign, fearing that the toppling of such a lofty figure as Zhou could backfire, exposing the scale of graft within the Party to such a degree that it undermines the very legitimacy that Xi seeks to reinforce. In an editorial published in June, Party mouthpiece the People’s Daily warned that the anti-corruption campaign has led to an outbreak of “inertia” among officials, with many holding off on implementing its measures due either to a lack of incentives or out of fear that they might be the next to fall. Critics argue that this passivity is a natural result of any anti-corruption drive launched under the current institutional arrangement, in which corruption has become an intrinsic feature of the bureaucracy. As if to confirm this opposition from within the Party regarding the investigation into Zhou, Xi told a Party meeting on August 7 that the current anti-corruption campaign has now “reached a stalemate,” but vowed to press on with no regard for his own “life and death [and] gain and loss.” Even Xi Jinping seems to see Zhou’s arrest as a point of no return. Where this road leads will depend on whether the Chairman’s professed “China Dream” of a unified, prosperous single nation under the law, genuine legal reform is the only solution.
Shareholder in Zhongxu Yangguang Energy & Technology Ltd
Source: Netease.com and Caixin
Communications director of the Communist Party’s Political and Legislative Affairs Committee, former CCTV anchor
Zhou Yongkang’s second and current wife
Li Zhiming Former head of CNPC’s Canadian operation
American citizen, chairwoman of Zhongxu Yangguang Energy & Technology Ltd
Former general manager of CNPC International (Canada) Ltd (rumored to be in Canada)
Wang Shijie Former CCTV producer
dering y laun Mone
Controls Zhongxu (Hong Kong) Ltd, Hong Kong resident
Zhou Yuanxing Zhou Bin
Major shareholder and former chairman of Zhongxu Yangguang Energy & Technology Ltd
Chinese liquor dealer, “fixer,” deceased
Former chairman of CNPC, former head of the State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission
Audi automobile dealer, did business with CNPC
rity cu f se o ad He
Deputy general manager of CNPC
Former vice-governor of Hainan Province
CNPC Communist Party chief
Member of the 12th CPPCC National Committee, chairwoman of Harbin Xiangying Group
Former deputy chairman of the Standing Committee of Sichuan Provincial People’s Congress
Former director of the Beijing Municipal Bureau of State Security
Board member of CNPC Central Asia Petroleum Co Ltd
For me r ai de
Fo rm er
ide er a Form er rm Fo
General manager of CNPC Kunlun Natural Gas Co Ltd
Chief geologist at PetroChina Co Ltd
Former aide, later colleague
Former deputy director of CCTV, former viceminister and deputy Communist Party chief of Public Security
Former deputy head of the Standing Committee of the Hubei Provincial People’s Congress, former Communist Party chief of Hubei Provincial Politics and Law Commission
Former chairman of CPPCC Sichuan Provincial Committee
Politics and Law Commission
Vice-chairman of PetroChina Co Ltd, general mananger of Chongqing Oilfield Co Ltd
Deputy general manager of CNPC, general manager of Daqing Oilfield Co Ltd
Huang “Fiona” Wan
Director of CCTV’s finance channel
Former mid-level manager at the CNOOC
Former CCTV anchor
You ng er bro the r
Former deputy general manager of China National Oil and Gas Exploration and Development Corp (CNODC)
Former CCTV anchor
Shareholder in Zhongxu Yangguang Energy & Technology Ltd
Deputy Communist Party chief of Sichuan Province
Communist Party chief of Chengdu Red Cross in Sichuan Province
Vice-mayor of Ya’an, Sichuan Province
Chairman of Sichuan Jinlu Group Co, controls Sichuan Hanlong Group
Member of the National Committee of the 12th National People’s Congress, former chairman of Sichuan Star Cable Co Ltd
Communist Party chief of Ya’an, Sichuan Province
Deputy head of Jingjiang District in Chengdu, Sichuan Province
Chairman of Sichuan Hongda Group
Liu Han’s younger brother
Chairman of Chengdu Xingrong Investment Co Ltd
Chairwoman of Chengdu Guoteng Electronics
Chairman of the State-owned Chengdu Construction Engineering Corporation
Chairman of Sichuan Langjiu Group Co Ltd (one of China’s largest liquor producers)
Legal representative for the Wang brothers’ companies
Chairman of Chengdu Industry and Investment Group
Chairman of Sichuan Derui Group
Founder and chairman of Jiuzhai Paradise, one of China’s biggest hotels NEWSCHINA I October 2014
The exposure of the business empire established by the family of former security chief Zhou Yongkang reveals how close the relationship between money and power has gotten in the highest echelons of the Party By Yu Xiaodong
espite a long list of senior politicians who have been brought down by the Communist Party’s ongoing anticorruption campaign, in terms of sheer prestige, no one compares to Zhou Yongkang, one of the most powerful men in China, who officially retired from politics in late 2012. Not only is Zhou the most senior ranking official to fall under official investigation since the Communist Party of China assumed power in 1949, the sum of money he allegedly appropriated in his decades-long career could also be a record-breaker. Earlier in March, a report appeared in Reuters claiming that Chinese authorities had seized assets belonging to Zhou’s family members and associates worth at least 90 billion yuan (US$14.6bn). Following the official announcement of Zhou’s detention by the Party’s Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, Chinese media outlets were finally free to run carefully-assembled reports on Zhou’s rumored ill-gotten gains.
Spheres of Influence
Prior to his retirement in late 2012, Zhou was a member of the Standing Committee of the Politburo, China’s highest ruling body, and was charged with overseeing the Communist Party’s political and legislative affairs committee, at a stroke making Zhou the simultaneous head of China’s police force, court system, procuratorate and paramilitary forces. During his five-year tenure, Zhou became known for his hard-line approach to “stability maintenance,” a policy typified by expanded police powers and extrajudicial law enforcement practices that garnered strong condemnation both within and outside of China. On
NEWSCHINA I October 2014
Zhou’s watch China’s domestic security budget rapidly expanded to leapfrog national defense spending, creating what critics term a “stability-maintenance economy” – an entire industry geared towards silencing dissent. Zhou was also believed to be a political ally of Bo Xilai, former Party chief of Chongqing, himself sentenced to life in prison for bribery, embezzlement and abuse of power in September last year. Reports that Zhou had fallen under scrutiny emerged at the same time that Bo was detained by Party authorities, further fueling speculation that the two had been allies. Most prominent in Chinese media analysis of Zhou’s fall, however, are the economic motivations for his removal, which some critics believe eclipse his alleged political machinations and corruption. Having spent 32 years in the State-controlled oil sector, eventually becoming general manager and Party secretary of the State-owned China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC), Zhou had established a powerful political and commercial foothold in China’s strategic fuel sector. His political powerbase was further bolstered when he was nominated as Party chief of Sichuan Province between 2000 and 2002. Zhou’s fall has been as meteoric as his rise. In the months leading up to his detention, dozens of current or former top officials based in all Zhou’s former powerbases, including the oil sector, Sichuan’s provincial government and China’s national internal security apparatus, had fallen under investigation. Among them are Jiang Jiemin, former CNPC general manager, former deputy governor of Sichuan Province Guo Yongxiang, and former Sichuan deputy Party chiefs Li Chongxi and Li Chuncheng. All these men had previously served as
A game mocking Zhou’s fall and released on the WeChat messaging application named “Brave enough to touch the tiger’s butt?”
deputies to Zhou Yongkang.
So far, the authorities have offered few details about the investigations into Zhou and his former aides. The Chinese media, however, has given extensive coverage to the assumed complicity of Zhou’s family members who have allegedly amassed huge amounts of wealth through a complicated network created by those who owed their positions to Zhou’s patronage. Many of the exposed illicit dealings relate to Zhou’s 42-year-old son Zhou Bin, who has personally accrued an extensive investment portfolio seemingly entirely through his association with his powerful father. According to Caixin magazine, Zhou Bin was formally arrested for “involvement in illegal business operations” in late 2013. Taking advantage of his father’s influence in the oil sector, the report claimed, Zhou Jr. had built a career as a wealthy investor in the oil industry, along with his wife, Huang Wan, whose family also has connections to the industry. Between them, the two are believed to own a number of shell companies with interests in oil, hydropower and real estate. The Caixin report also revealed that Zhou Bin had purchased oil fields from the CNPC at a very low price, after which CNPC continued to act as an operator while funneling profits into Zhou Bin’s account. In another deal, Zhou Jr. secured an illegal contract from CNPC to run a project upgrading retail management systems at 8,000 gas stations in several provinces. A string of other members of the Zhou clan have also fallen un-
Zhou Yongkang’s former home in Wuxi, Jiangsu
der investigation for graft. Ties to companies associated with CNPC led to Zhou Yongkang’s brother Zhou Yuanqing, former head of the Land and Resources Bureau of Huishan district of Wuxi City, Jiangsu Province, and his wife, Zhou Lingying, being put under investigation. Meanwhile, Jia Xiaoxia, Zhou’s sister-in-law, a former general manager of the Canadian branch of CNPC who is said to have accumulated considerable wealth through her connections with Zhou, refused to return to China from Canada to face a separate investigation. Zhou Yongkang is also believed to be associated with Liu Han, a Sichuan-based business tycoon who was sentenced to death in May for various crimes including murder and running an organized crime syndicate. A high court in Hubei upheld Liu’s death sentence on August 7. Although Zhou was not identified in court documents as being among Liu’s backers, it is widely believed that Zhou’s tacit support is the major reason Liu, who was infamous in Sichuan for his gangster reputation, had remained at large for more than 10 years. Caixin claimed that Zhou had asked Liu to “look after” Zhou’s son, Zhou Bin, who later sold a travel agency valued at 6 million yuan (US$977,000) to Liu for the inflated price of 12 million yuan (US$2m). Besides the oil sector and the Sichuan provincial government, investigators have even gone after alleged friends of Zhou Yongkang in the media. Zhou’s wife Jia Xiaoye, a former anchor on State broadcaster CCTV, and family friend Li Dongsheng, who Zhou promoted from vice-president of CCTV to vice-minister of the Ministry of Public Security, have both been arrested by Party investigators. Following Li’s arrest in February, it was reported that the Central NEWSCHINA I October 2014
Photos by cfp and IC
Ancestral graves of Zhou family members in Wuxi
Discipline Inspection Commission and the National Audit Office have established a total of five task forces investigating CCTV’s administrators for graft. Several prominent employees have been arrested including Guo Zhenxi, director of CCTV’s finance channel, producer Wang Shijie, and Rui Chenggang, a well-known news anchor. Following the announcement of the investigation against Zhou, another two female CCTV anchors, Shen Bing and Ye Yingchun, were also detained for questioning. It is rumored that at least Shen had at one time been Zhou’s mistress. Most likely at Zhou’s request, Shen was transferred from CCTV to the Communist Party’s Political and Legislative Affairs Committee to serve as the vice director of its information center.
Despite a raft of arrests and widespread media exposure of the illicit holdings of his family and associates, the fate of Zhou Yongkang remains a mystery, especially given the fact that the case officially remains an internal Party investigation. For most senior officials investigated in recent months, internal proceedings gave way to criminal trials, but for a heavyweight like Zhou, some speculate that the Party, which maintains its own independent procedures, might want the final say. The fact that Zhou was not referred to as “comrade” during the announcement of the investigation indicates that he will be – or has already been – expelled from the Party. However, this does not mean the Party will turn him over to the civilian courts for trial. Most analysts feel that Zhou is unlikely to escape legal prosecution, NEWSCHINA I October 2014
especially when the central leadership has repeatedly stressed the need to uphold the rule of law. A public trial would be an important symbolic boost to the Party’s claims that it wants to secure justice for all. However, to haul such a prominent Party official in front of a judge to face criminal charges is also a significant political risk for China’s leadership, with some warning of the impact such an action might have on the Party’s public image. While top officials have been purged throughout history, no Chinese leader holding Zhou’s rank or status has been made answerable to a civilian court since 1949. While for many there is sufficient evidence of corruption within the Zhou clan to secure a conviction should its patriarch face trial, some warn that if the bulk of responsibility is laid at Zhou’s feet, it could further undermine public trust in the Party leadership. Such discrepancies are also reflected in the various reports on Zhou Bin’s culpability in his father’s corruption. While some initial accounts claimed that Zhou was cooperating with the authorities and aiding the investigations into his father, later reports suggested that he was under investigation himself. The ultimate outcome of Zhou’s fall from grace will likely be determined by the Party’s Fourth Plenum to be held in October, during which Party leaders will discuss the official theme “rule of law.” Analysts believe that there are likely to be differences of opinion among the central leadership as how to best handle Zhou’s case, and thus a verdict is unlikely to emerge before the close of this key political meeting. Could the fall of Zhou Yongkang hold clues as to the future of justice in China? The nation is waiting with bated breath.
The Law of Gods and Men Should China write religion into its legal system? By Li Jia
Photo courtesy of Liu Peng
en years after their implementation, China’s regulations governing religious activities – the Regulations on Religious Affairs – are coming under increased scrutiny, with doubts being voiced about their effectiveness and even their legitimacy. While these rules were set by the State Council in 2004 and put into effect in 2005, discussions on whether and when they should be replaced by a fully-fledged law have dragged on for years among related government authorities, religious groups and legal experts. Professor Liu Peng, founder of the Pu Shi Institute for Social Science, a privately funded think tank on religion and law, has been advocating strongly for the promulgation of a law to formally separate the church from the state, and in turn protect both religious freedom and the public interest. Liu’s research has recently been the subject of significant academic and public attention, and on July 17, he published his draft “Religion Law,” the first designed by a non-official institution, at the Renmin University of China in Beijing.
NewsChina: In practice, how are religious affairs managed under the framework of the Regulations on Religious Affairs? Liu Peng: Personnel, finance and organizational affairs are all in the tight grip of the religious affairs authorities. Approvals are necessary for the registration of religious groups, investiture of clergy, the establishment and maintenance of religious sites, the scale and NEWSCHINA I October 2014
forms of rituals, programs of religious education and exchanges with overseas religious groups. The way that the country is managed fundamentally changed after Reform and Opening-up [which began in 1979]. A large number of government agencies were dissolved, including those governing the mechanical, chemical, coal and power industries. Their disappearance did not create chaos, because there was a “wall” between the government and the market – that “wall” was the law. However, this change has not happened in religion, where administrative tools and rules still prevail. As everyone knows, the administrative licensing system is a breeding ground for influence-for-hire and corruption, because the decision whether or not to grant an approval is not based on legal standards, and is instead at the discretion of officials. NC: Some areas, like religion, are not part of the market economy. Does this mean administrative management could be effective in protecting religious freedom and public interest? LP: The reality is that more than 60 years of administrative scrutiny, though very strict, have not proven effective in either of these two objectives. There are tens of millions of religious believers not recognized by the official approval system. The existence of the socalled “household church,” Protestants who hold church services at private venues rather NEWSCHINA I October 2014
than officially registered places of worship are a widely recognized community. Though no accurate statistics are available, there is a consensus among analysts that the membership of underground churches is at least as big as, if not bigger than, that of officially approved “three-self” Protestant groups [self-governing, self-supporting and self-propagating, with commitments to patriotism and rule by the government]. This is also true for Catholic churches. The administrative rules on religion have simply resulted in increased antagonism and conflict between the government and those groups, alongside a swell in the budgets of government religious affairs departments. The problem for Buddhist groups is mismanagement. Numerous ways of using Buddhism as a cash machine have been exploited by certain groups of monks, local governments and other interested parties. When you visit a temple, at the very least you have to pay admission. Some temples are leased out to contractors. They hire “staff” off the street to pose as monks in the daytime, who are then free to do whatever they want at night, including playing computer games, drinking, eating meat, gambling or fraternizing with women. Fake temples and monks like this are pervasive. Many local governments rush to build giant Buddhist megaliths for the purposes of tourism and property development. There have even been plans for temples to list on the stock exchange. Temples are exempt
from any fiscal discipline. They are not companies, so their books are not checked by government overseers. Agencies engaged in religious affairs, such as religious affairs bureaus, police and stability-maintenance offices, do not want to interfere as long as monks are obedient to them. If the current method of administration were effective, the situation wouldn’t be such a mess. NC: Why is it so ineffective? LP: Human history tells us that a secular government is supposed to remain neutral and safeguard the public interest. Without a law securing the principle of “separation of church and state,” it is highly likely that the government will impose its own preferences in dealing with religious affairs. The five government-supported “patriotic religions” – Buddhism, Taoism, Islam, Catholicism and Protestantism – enjoy fiscal and political support from the government. Their leaders are delegates to the National People’s Congress and Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference [China’s top legislature and political advisory bodies, respectively] at various levels. Those outside the system have no access to taxpayers’ money or political positions. However, followers develop very different understandings of doctrines and rituals in the process of religious diversification. Buddhists, for example, are divided into many
denominations. It is impossible for a secular government to have the authority or capability to unify standards for any religion. If the government supports some religions and obstructs others, it loses the neutrality it needs to perform its duty as the representative of public interest and guardian of public order. “Household Protestants,” as religious groups, want to register as legal entities, in order to be placed under government management within the law. But these groups would never agree to be ruled by another church which it would see as a religious competitor. It is not reasonable to require Protestant groups to get approval from the “three-self” church to be registered. It’s like the government setting up a restaurant in Beijing, and requiring anyone who wants to enter the market to get approval from that one restaurant, but the restaurant only approves those offering their particular brand of Beijing-style food. Equal treatment of religions can only be possible under the law. Religious groups are easy to set up but difficult to maintain in a fully competitive religious market. If only one temple is allowed in a town, naturally monks there, realizing that they would neither have the chance to build a new temple nor lose their existing one, have an incentive to become corrupt. In other countries, religions with government support, like the Church of England and the EKD’s Lutheran denomination, are less dynamic than their competitors without such support. NC: Do citizens have any legal recourse if they think they are being unfairly punished by the Regulations on Religious Affairs? LP: Not yet. If an administrative agency punishes citizens in line with existing regulations and citizens think it’s unfair, it is not a question of whether the agency has enforced the regulation properly or not, but a question of whether there is a law above the regulations. If a citizen decides to resort to the
law in religious cases, unfortunately they will find that the court is powerless to step in, because there is no law governing this particular area. Moreover, administrative judgements are not a basis for court judgements. This is exactly the problem often met by
“household Protestants.” When accused by religious affairs officials of violating the law, they ask their accusers to specify which law they are violating. They recognize that they have violated administrative rules, but argue that these rules are unconstitutional. As
Visitors burn incense at a temple in Jilin Province, northeast China, May 24, 2009
NEWSCHINA I October 2014
Photo by ic
there is no mechanism in China to determine whether a rule or a law violates the constitution, such actions normally turn into endless debates between government staff and “household Protestants” on the effectiveness of the rule itself. Government employees
NEWSCHINA I October 2014
themselves feel pressure in this situation. Only the law can solve this. The law defines both rights and obligations for all, and is enforced by legal procedure – none of which is true of administrative rules. NC: A law is designed by and for the secular world. How can it draw a distinction between church and state? LP: The Law of Religion, whatever it is called, is not designed to “rule” religion, but to build a “wall” between the government and religious organizations – it clarifies the respective spaces in which religion and government operate. It’s like a wall between your house and mine. What you do with your house, be that building a swimming pool or a tunnel, is none of my business. I just want a wall to define our property rights. Now the way that the government regulates religion is like someone on one side of the wall intervening in the affairs of the other side. All the affairs concerning the qualification of clergy, distribution of doctrines, organization of rituals, registration of religious sites, training of religious schools and communication between religious groups, should be left to religious groups. This should be clearly stated in the law. It must be also stated that a religious group is not allowed to engage in profit-making activities in the name of religion, or else it will be deprived of its status as a religious group and face legal repercussions. If you want to make money, you should set up a company, not a religion. In this way, the law protects religious freedom, as well as public interest and order. NC: What would you suggest to make sure these two conditions are guaranteed in the law? LP: Firstly, religious freedom as a basic right for followers has to be respected by the law. Secondly, the principle of separation between church and state has to be practiced.
Religious followers have the right to establish their own groups, whatever their doctrines may be. Once a group is registered as a religious entity and is thus entitled to tax exemption, it is not allowed to make money by doing business, as this would be unfair to tax-paying companies. How can you survive if you cannot make money by doing business? You have to ask yourself. If you can win the hearts and minds of enough people, who then donate money to you, you survive. In this process, you cannot ask for any public funds, or do anything that is forbidden or restricted by the law. How could a fake religious group survive under these conditions? Groups and their members who break the law deserve to be penalized according to the law because of their misconduct, but not because of their beliefs. NC: You have stressed that all citizens should participate in drafting this legislation. Why should non-religious people do so? LP: This law is designed to regulate the relationship between religious groups and the State, between religious groups and nonreligious groups, and between believers and non-believers. It’s about everyone. A public debate is necessary to build a public consensus, on which effective rules can be built. Without social approval based on this public consensus, no law can be as effective as it is intended to be. This has already been proven by the difficult and ineffective enforcement of the Regulations on Religious Affairs. Religious freedom is one of the basic civil rights enshrined in the constitution, which, according to our Legislation Law, must be guaranteed in law, not through administrative rules. Given all of these reasons, the solution is to begin work on legislation as soon as possible, rather than continuing to use regulations in place of laws.
Funding shortfalls on housing renovation projects in rural areas, coupled with a lack of basic earthquake safety education, are to blame for the heavy casualties in Yunnan Province’s earthquake zone By Yang Di
n August 3, a strong earthquake in Ludian County in southern China’s Yunnan Province flattened or damaged thousands of buildings, killing at least 617 people and injuring over 3,000. The 6.5-magnitude tremor struck at 4:30 PM with its epicenter at a depth of 12 kilometers, making it the strongest to hit the province in 14 years and the country’s third deadliest quake in the past six years, according to State broadcaster CCTV. Despite the province’s reputation for frequent quakes, however, the tragedy caught both the government and the public off guard. In 2002, Yunnan released a list of regions prone to strong quakes above 7-magnitude, including Ludian, some 366 kilometers east of Kunming, the provincial capital. After the massive quake in Wenchuan in 2008, the central government sped up the renovation of dilapidated buildings in quake-prone areas, especially in impoverished rural regions. Yunnan’s provincial government joined the initiative a year later. Despite all the efforts and measures, however, the sudden quake in Ludian resulted in heavy casualties in addition to significant economic losses.
The devastation after the quake in Ludian, August 5
According to the China Earthquake Networks Center (CENC), Ludian is a densely populated area of 430,000 people, a density nearly double the provincial average. Besides, it is a relatively poor area, where low construction standards leave buildings susceptible to earthquake damage. Ludian’s complex terrain and frequent landslides contributed further to the heavy death toll. Liu Jie, director of CENC, told NewsChina that Yunnan Province, accounting for 4.1 percent of China’s land territory, is located in an active earthquake region due to the collision of the Indian and Eurasian tectonic plates. Consequently, Yunnan has become one of China’s most notorious earthquake danger zones. Statistics from the China Earthquake Administration (CEA) showed that in the last century, 377 quakes above magnitude 5 have hit Yunnan Province – the active quake intervals have been reduced from 15 to 10 years. The bureau added that since 2001, Yunnan has seen 41 quakes above magnitude 5, including two in Ludian. “Currently, Yunnan is witnessing a new active seismic period,” Liu told our reporter. In June 2002, the Yunnan provincial government released a regNEWSCHINA I October 2014
Photo by CFP
Unpredictable, Not Unavoidable
ulation on earthquake prevention and relief work in areas prone to quakes, in which it designated a number of “danger zones.” It also required that local governments above county level include quake prevention and relief work in their fundamental economic and social development plans, with specific financial allocations. It also specified that public awareness education on earthquake safety should be made a priority. Nevertheless, it was not until 2013 that the provincial housing and urban-rural development bureau organized a group of experts to compile guidelines on quake resistance for residential buildings in rural areas. 60,000 copies of the document were distributed to township residents for free. The technical guideline includes details on floor-to-floor height, wall thickness and supporting beam span, specifications that could prevent buildings from collapsing in the event of a strong quake, and would enable residents to continue living at home by making simple repairs after a medium quake. However, although Ludian is prone to quakes, media reports have showed that many local residents remain unaware of the fact that they are living on an active seismic belt, nor do they know basic anti-seismic measures or how to quake-proof their houses. “Most victims were killed by collapsing houses,” said Ma Zhenxian, head of the civil affairs bureau in Ludian, during an interview with the Beijing Times. Sun Baitao, director of the Institute of Engineering Mechanics at CEA, said that nowadays 90 percent of residential houses in rural areas are not quake-proof, and few rural residents have the foresight to address the problem themselves. “Earthquakes are unlikely events, and rural residents are reluctant to spend extra money on anti-quake construction,” he said.
In 2007, the Yunnan provincial government published a directive to enforce quake-proof building standards in rural areas. In 2008, after the Wenchuan earthquake, the Ministry of Housing and Urban-rural Development, the National Development and Reform Commission and the Ministry of Finance released a joint regulation to expand the renovation of low-quality buildings in rural areas. In 2009, Yunnan Province further revised the project. According to these regulations, any household in Yunnan Province living in a “relatively dilapidated” dwelling received a subsidy of 2,000 yuan (US$324), whereas those living in “highly dilapidated” houses received 10,000 yuan (US$1,620). Moreover, local governments were encouraged to offer more subsidies within their own capabilities. On July 4, Luo Yingguang, the province’s head of housing and urban-rural development, said during a government meeting that Yunnan is home to 8.43 million rural households, and dilapidated houses made up about 60 percent of that total. The renovation project has so far benefited over 2.25 million households with a total expenditure of 13 billion yuan (US$2.1bn). “In recent years, the subsidies have been raised to 12,500 yuan (US$2,033) in inland counties and 15,000 yuan (US$2,439) in outNEWSCHINA I October 2014
lying counties,” he said. Since its inception, the renovation project has played a significant role in certain areas in the province. In Yingjiang County, during the 6.1-magnitude quake on May 30, no deaths were reported, and the rate of collapse was much lower than in other areas of the province. Yet in Ludian, the renovation project seems not to have been made a priority. According to data released by the Housing and Urban-rural Development Department of Shaotong City in 2013, the implementation rate for renovation projects in Ludian was short of 60 percent, ranking the second lowest among the 11 counties under Shaotong City. In terms of completion rate, Ludian ranked last with under 14 percent. Remote imaging pictures from China’s National Reconnaissance Office show that most collapsed houses in Ludian had clearly been built by local farmers with bricks, mud and wood – materials particularly vulnerable to quake damage. Chen Guoyong, head of Longtoushan Township in Ludian, said that while he has over 12,000 households queuing up for subsidies for renovations in his town, only a few hundred households would receive them. “To ensure cash flow to renovation projects, the government normally issues the subsidy in four stages,” he said. A local government official who spoke on condition of anonymity told our reporter that on average, a household has to spend at least 60,000 yuan (US$9,720) to renovate a 60-square-meter house, and that government subsidies are “a drop in the bucket.” To make matters worse, the per capita annual income of rural residents in Ludian is 4,300 yuan (US$697). On the Ludian government website, our reporter found data stating that from 2009 to June 2014, the local government spent 157 million yuan (US$25m) in renovations, supporting 16,610 households, meaning that roughly 85 percent of houses were not renovated. The auditing bureau in Yunnan also found that during a survey of 20 counties in the province in 2012, most recipients of renovation subsidies were relatively better-off households. For low-income households, whose houses are actually most prone to collapse, the renovation rate was only 13.6 percent. Moreover, it also found that among the 2,040 households receiving subsidies, over 20 percent had a floor space over 70 square meters, even though the official upper limit for subsidies was set at 60 square meters. Ye Yaoxian, leading engineer with the China Architecture Design and Research Group, said construction permits are compulsory in quake-proof urban areas, but in rural areas, particularly for residential constructions, the question of permits is a gray area. “Construction permits should also be implemented for residential houses in rural areas over time,” Ye told the Beijing Times. “Shouldering the whole burden is beyond the capabilities of the government at present – currently, the problem can only be solved by joint efforts from the central government and local governments, together with rural residents.”
At a time when single mothers are still ostracized in Chinese society, most claim that their greatest agony lies in attempting to secure citizenship for their children By Du Guodong
ive-year-old Yue Yue’s biggest wish is to find her father. To this day, all her knowledge of him is derived from photographs. Yet, unless he can be located, Yue Yue will never be enrolled in public school. This is because, without her father present, she cannot acquire a permanent residency permit, or hukou, that would officially make her a citizen of Beijing. Yue Yue’s mother Yu Jun is a divorced Beijinger who became pregnant at age 42 after a brief relationship with a man in his twenties. Once her partner discovered the pregnancy, and Yu refused to have an abortion, he disappeared, leaving Yu to raise the child by herself in a country where, while divorce is almost as commonplace as in the US, single mothers are almost unheard of. Despite her fear of social stigma, Yu was more afraid of spending her remaining years alone, and in 2009 she gave birth to her daughter Yue Yue. After the birth, Yu went to her local neighborhood committee and public security bureau to apply for a hukou for her daughter, only to find that, as a single mother, she had essentially had an “illegal” birth in violation of the One Child Policy, and would only be allotted a hukou for her daughter after paying a “social maintenance fee” – in other words, a punitive fine. To make matters worse, Yu had to provide the legal identity papers of the child’s father, proven with a DNA test, before she could even pay the crippling fine. Yu tried in vain to reestablish contact with Yue Yue’s father, including reaching out to his relatives, running small ads in newspapers and even attempting to sue him through the local court in his hometown. He remained in hiding, hower, and thus Yue Yue, despite having been born to a Chinese citizen and Beijing resident in
Beijing, is essentially stateless. “I just want to have a child, raise her, and have her keep me company when I am old,” Yu told NewsChina. “The hukou hurdle has pretty much smashed that dream apart.” “What I worry most about right now is getting Yue Yue into elementary school – I can’t see her getting in without a hukou,” she added.
China is one of the few countries with a strict household registration system, essentially amounting to an internal visa for its citizens. A person’s right to live, work and claim social welfare is heavily dependent on where their hukou is registered. Under current Chinese law, couples normally need birth permits confirming a “legal” birth issued by a neighborhood committee before they can register a child with their local public security bureau and apply for a hukou. Without birth permits, couples have to pay social compensation fees. Unmarried couples who choose to have a child are routinely classed as having violated the One Child Policy, and single mothers, regardless of individual circumstances, are by default defined as having had an “illegal” child. Indeed, single mothers are the hardest hit by the law, as, unless they can present DNA evidence of paternity, their child, at least in a legal sense, does not exist. There is no “unknown” option when documenting the paternity of a Chinese child, and women who become pregnant outside of wedlock are routinely encouraged by family, friends and medical professionals to immediately terminate their pregnancy. NEWSCHINA I October 2014
Photo by CFP
Beyond the hardship of raising their children alone, single mothers in China face endless bureaucratic hurdles
Most of them do. “The requirements for obtaining a birth permit differ from region to region, but usually it includes a birth approval certificate from the local family planning bureau. Some places even require a marriage license,” Liang Zhongtang, a former expert with the National Health and Family Planning Commission (NHFPC) and research fellow at the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times. A search for “single mother” on Baidu Tieba, a popular online forum, has showed that there are over 30,000 active monthly users on a sub-forum on this topic, with a collective total of 700,000 posts appearing on the subject of single motherhood. Acquiring a hukou for a child born to a single mother is one of the leading topics of discussion. Data from the National Bureau of Statistics published in the wake of its 2010 census has revealed that roughly 13 million people born in China are not registered in the hukou system. NewsChina reached out to NHFPC for more information but, as of press time, no official response was forthcoming. A family planning official in a district in Beijing, speaking on condition of anonymity, told local newspaper the Beijing News that there are no official statistics on children born outside of wedlock, and that family planning regulations classify any child born to unwed parents as “illegal.” He added that children born out of wedlock made up 5 to 8 percent of the total number of illegal birth cases in his district. In May, the Third People’s Court in Dongguan, Guangdong Province, released a report on disputes over child support involving unmarried couples. The report stated that out of the 71 cases researched, only one set of parents had succeeded in securing a hukou for their NEWSCHINA I October 2014
child. It went on to state that most cases, rather than involving custody disputes, were bids to secure court rulings on the hukou status of the children, as a judge can help to instruct a local police bureau to issue a residence registration permit. According to another report by Shanghai’s First Intermediate Court published in June, legal disputes among unmarried couples are on the rise in China’s financial capital. The average age of couples involved in such disputes, according to available data, is falling – over 30 percent were born after 1980. More liberal attitudes towards sex and relationships in China have resulted in changing perspectives towards marriage among the younger generation. Pre-marital sex and extramarital affairs are all reportedly common, particularly in major cities. Despite an evident need for a safety net to protect unmarried and single mothers, the law remains seemingly implacable. “Children without a hukou cannot enter public school, nor can they find a decent job to support themselves,” Zhao Hui, a lawyer with the Beijing Children’s Legal Aid and Research Center, told a reporter from Xinhua News Agency. “They do not have any defined social status.”
A Legal Problem
China’s National Marriage Law stipulates that “children born outside of wedlock shall enjoy the same rights as children born in wedlock. No one may harm or discriminate against them.” The hukou regulation, however, contradicts this, making it virtually impossible for single mothers to secure citizenship rights for their children.
In response to the changing tide of public opinion, though childbirth out of wedlock continues to be viewed as shameful by a broad swath of Chinese people, a number of local governments have released specific measures to loosen restrictions on the registration of children born out of wedlock. As of the end of 2013, Central China’s Hubei Province has issued a policy stating that applications for birth permits will no longer require a marriage certificate, meaning that unmarried mothers and unmarried couples with children can now apply for birth permits. However, social and political attitudes remain an obstacle to nationwide reform. Little Bird, an NGO dedicated
to helping migrant workers, was one of the foremost organizations in China trying to set up a hot-line for single mothers. However, the project was delayed because of funding shortfalls. “Social discrimination towards single mothers abounds and it is deemed ‘immoral’ to have a child out of wedlock,” Wei Wei, founder of Little Bird, told our reporter. “The hukou dilemma can only be resolved through the coordination of the government. No NGO can really make a difference, let alone a single mother.” Yang Zhizhu, an associate professor with the law department of the China Youth University for Political Sciences told NewsChina that it is not appropriate to deprive hukou rights to children born out of wedlock simply to punish their parents for not conforming to societal norms. “Depriving [children] of a hukou means they are reduced to nothing more than house pets,” Yang told our reporter. Nevertheless, Yang is not optimistic that the situation will change so long as the One Child Policy and its associated “social compensation fees” remain central to national social policies. Yao Huanqing, a civil law professor with the Renmin University of China argued that children born out of wedlock are “innocent” and that their legal rights should be protected. Along with other researchers, Yao has called upon the government to “put forth humanistic measures to help children acquire citizenship.” “Some flexible measures should be introduced. For example, as long as a blood relationship with the mother is verified, household registration should be provided after a fine has been paid,” Yao told a CCTV interviewer.
More humane measures are needed to address the plight of single parents
Photo by IC
Zhan Zhongle, a law professor at Peking University, argued that the overly restrictive laws governing marriage and childbirth are the product of China’s large population and inadequate reform measures. The black-and-white application of the One Child Policy has left a legacy that continues to cause heartbreak and deprivation today. While Zhan concedes that the government is attempting to speed up reform of the hukou system, they are failing to keep pace with need. “The goal of hukou reform is to meet the fair expectations of the public,” Zhan told State broadcaster CCTV. Huang Xihua, director of the Huizhou Tourism Bureau in Guangdong Province, also a deputy to the National People’s Congress (NPC), China’s top legislative body, stated that Chinese law “does not have any prohibitions against unmarried childbearing, nor does it impose social compensation fees on children born to unwed mothers.” “The regulations concerning social compensation fees have no legal basis. The legislature should investigate family planning regulations and other relevant provisions to remove or modify unreasonable documentation requirements,” Huang told Xinhua. In April, 32 lawyers and scholars nationwide signed a joint petition to the Standing Committee of the NPC and the State Council, China’s cabinet, calling on the country’s highest legislative and governing bodies to remove the link between household registration and the application of the One Child Policy. On May 11, Chinese Mother’s Day, six unmarried mothers from across the country sent a proposal letter to 32 provincial and municipal governments demanding equal treatment, particularly in terms of household registration, for their children. A spate of lawsuits across China are currently moving slowly through local and provincial courts, all of them filed by single mothers seeking to legally register their children.
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Photo by Greg BAKER
Thousands of Chinese air travelers remain stranded at airports on a daily basis, victims of the worst airport delays on Earth. What will it take to modernize the use of China’s restrictive airspace? By Li Jia and Xi Zhigang
A passenger at Peking Capital International Airport, Beijing
n July 24, an announcement on the website of the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) told travelers that flights bound to or from some major eastern cities including Shanghai, Wuhan and Qingdao would be delayed or canceled due to “thunderstorms and regular military drills.” Stranded travelers immediately swamped the east coast’s rail infrastructure as they attempted to secure seats on high-speed trains. By August 1, when CAAC announced that flight schedules were back to normal, according to the administration’s own data, air traffic in the same airports was down by 65 to 75 percent. CAAC went on to warn that a comparable situation would likely arise in August due to similar reasons. This was the
first time that passengers had been informed in advance of possible delays and cancelations by CAAC, as well as the first time that military drills had been publicly cited as a contributing factor. Chinese airlines are notorious for delayed departures, and regular air passengers are accustomed to lengthy, unexplained waits either at boarding gates or in their seats in a grounded aircraft. The default reason for delays usually given by operators is either “bad weather or “traffic control issues,” a term deliberately designed to be ambiguous. The cited 80 percent annual punctuality record in CAAC logs since 2005 is equally misleading, as the punctuality of a departure is only measured from the moment the cabin is closed, not when the aircraft actually takes
off. As a result, an aircraft that takes off four hours after its scheduled departure time is considered, for statistical purposes, as having taken off on time provided the exterior doors were closed on schedule. Perhaps unsurprisingly, this situation has led to unpleasant incidents during the most serious delays. Physical assaults on ground staff and cabin crew and even minor riots at airports have occurred, with footage captured on cell phones and spread via social media. Moreover, in the past two or three years, Chinese air passengers have been made aware of why they are so often stranded for hours despite clear skies and open air corridors. The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Air Force, according to widely cited data, is believed to exercise exclusive jurisdiction over 80 percent NEWSCHINA I October 2014
of the country’s airspace, leaving only about 20 percent open to civilian carriers at normal times, a percentage that is further reduced during regular military drills. The notice that appeared on CAAC’s website in July turned this imbalance into headlines across the country. During a Ministry of Defense press conference July 31, the issue of how to improve the allocation of airspace supplanted questions about military drills and maritime disputes as the leading subject of press inquiries.
After China’s civil aviation industry was released from military control in 1980, several reforms were made within the new civil aviation system to build a business-oriented market by establishing and reshuffling the division of airspace between State-owned airlines, and the market was gradually opened to private carriers. However, the dimensions and allocation of air corridors remained mostly under the direct control of the country’s military. According to the existing rules in effect since 2000, the sphere of operations for China’s civilian air traffic is controlled by a committee jointly established in 1986 by the State Council, China’s cabinet, and the CPC Central Military Commission (CMC), which presides over this committee. When air travel was still the exclusive privilege of senior government officials, and later the country’s tiny middle class and foreign tourists, this situation presented few problems. There were simply too few civilian aircraft in the skies to create major bottlenecks even in the most heavily trafficked of China’s air corridors. Since 2005, however, passenger and freight volume in China’s airspace has risen by an average of 15 percent annually, giving China the second largest volume of air traffic in the world (after the US) since 2007. Airspace allocated to civilian aircraft, meanwhile, only NEWSCHINA I October 2014
increased by 2.6 percent annually between 2007 and 2012. International carriers, too, have also been hit by increasing delays and ongoing restrictions, adding their voices to calls for reform. The US Chamber of Commerce and other business associations have been particularly vocal, and companies such as Boeing and Airbus routinely complain about a lack of adequate access to China’s domestic market.
While passenger numbers have continued to rise, and violent incidents caused by lengthy delays at airports are increasing in both severity and regularity, the economic costs of the current allocation of civilian airspace are also cause for concern, as many of the worst delays affect key economic zones, particularly the area on the east coast surrounding Shanghai and the Hong Kong - Shenzhen - Guangzhou trade triangle in the south. CAAC’s pointed reference to military drills in its warning to passengers shows just how resentful China’s civil aviation authority feels towards the military’s retention of the bulk of available airspace. Ten years ago, Yang Yuanyuan, former head of CAAC, submitted a report to the State Council demanding reform of China’s national air traffic control policy. Unhappy about this challenge from a civilian agency, the military made things even harder for civil aviation operators who applied for access to more routes, according to several CAAC insiders who spoke to NewsChina on condition of anonymity. Senior CAAC officials speaking to State media repeatedly refer to the gap between limited airspace and China’s expanding air traffic volume, though most do so without explicit reference to the military. Now, even the military has broken its silence on the issue. In recent press conferences and online announcements, the Ministry of Defense admitted the effect of drills on civil aviation, but promised to push for reform of
the existing system to allow for “more efficient use” of China’s airspace. The military, however, is already upset about the attention being drawn to its role in restricting civil aviation, with the Ministry of Defense issuing denials that the military was a major cause of flight delays and cancelations. Yin Zhuo, a well-known military commentator, told media that “bad weather and bad management” were far more culpable, as the bulk of military drills, he claims, are conducted at sea, not in civilian airspace. On its official microblog account on July 29, the PLA Daily, official newspaper of the Central Military Commission, criticized some Chinese and Western media coverage for “highlighting” the effect of drills on civil aviation, accusing offenders of possessing “either lack of common sense or ill intentions.” With decision-making power out of its hands, the CAAC is virtually powerless against the military. Its own spotty track record hasn’t helped its case – indeed, its own reports attest to frequent and major disruptions regularly caused by bad weather and poor airport management. Passenger complaints, according to the passengers themselves, are typically less to do with the actual delays and more the indignities stranded passengers are regularly subjected to by ground staff and airline officials – conflicting or incorrect flight information, refusal to compensate delayed or stranded passengers, and ground staff abandoning gates rather than dealing with irate customers are all common complaints. Apparently the public are growing weary of an absolute failure of the government to take discernible action, though provision for reform of the air traffic control exists in the government’s 12th Five-year Plan (2011-15). If such provisions fail to lead to change, however, growth in China’s civil aviation industry could soon plateau, a scenario with economic consequences likely to be felt across the world.
Kong Dan and Qin Xiao
Two Shades of Red
Despite their similar life experiences since the founding of the People’s Republic of China, the children of senior revolutionary officials – known as the “second-generation reds” – are beginning to make their increasingly divergent political views heard By Xie Ying and Wang Quanbao
Photo by CFP
n a public speech at Peking University in late May this year, Kong Dan, former president of China International Trust and Investment Corporation (CITIC), a large State-owned investment complex established in 1979, cited Chinese President Xi Jinping’s advice to the country’s youth that “life is like buttoning up your clothes,” saying that his 65 years of life have been marked by six “buttons,” each representing a crucial phase in China’s history. Born into a revolutionary family, Kong Dan and his contemporaries are known as “second-generation reds.” Many of them joined the Party as teenagers, served as Red Guards during the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976), were sent to work in the countryside by Chairman Mao, and were later transferred into management positions at State-owned enterprises (SOEs) in the 1980s when the country began to embrace a market economy. Now, some among them are becoming increasingly politically vocal, particularly when it comes to their NEWSCHINA I October 2014
views on China’s reform. “Each of you will meet a mix of opportunities in your life. You must seize these opportunities, and submit to the fate you cannot escape,” Kong told the Peking University graduates, encouraging them to bear the responsibility with which history has endowed them – to modernize China according to the country’s own conditions. Kong had long kept a very low profile until four years ago when a debate with his old classmate Qin Xiao, another second-generation red and former president of China Merchants Group, another large SOE, flared up online. Despite having lived a very similar life to Kong Dan, Qin holds altogether different views on China’s reform. “Social transition should not mean modernization in the ‘Chinese context’ – it should be a restructuring of a centralized society into a modern one that values freedom, democracy and individual rights. It should be based on market economy, democratic politics and the rule of law,” he said in a commencement speech at Tsinghua University in 2010. “I don’t think ‘Chinese characteristics’ or the ‘Chinese model’ should replace the ‘universal values’ of freedom, democracy and individual rights,” he told his audiences. Before Qin had even made it off the Tsinghua campus, snippets from his speech had already been posted online and were attracting scathing criticism, including from his old friend Kong Dan, a staunch believer in the idea that China should not attempt to copy Western societal models. Now, both Kong and Qin are concentrating on building their respective audiences, trying to expand their reach through foundations, journals and books. Though holding polar opposite viewpoints, both have told the media that their family background and individual experience give them a natural propensity to care for the future of the country. The sons of revolutionary CPC officials, Kong Dan and Qin Xiao were both enrolled at Beijing No.4 High School, then an academy for the children of senior revolutionary cadres, including former president Liu Shaoqi, Marshal Chen Yi, Bo Yibo, father of Bo Xilai, and Lin Biao, Mao’s designated successor. In 1966, during the Cultural Revolution, Kong and Qin made a name for themselves by organizing the Picket of Xicheng District of Beijing (usually shortened to the Xicheng Picket), with Kong as commander and Qin as propaganda director. The Xicheng Picket, according to Kong and Qin, was set up to maintain order and regulate the Red Guards at their school, particularly when it came to controlling violence – Kong and Qin had managed to prevent their headmaster from being beaten to death. But as the Red Guard movement gained momentum throughout the country, the picket itself became involved in violence, making Qin and Kong the target of much public controversy in subsequent decades when the public began to reflect on that particular phase of history. “I absolutely opposed the Red Guards. That is a fact,” Kong Dan
NEWSCHINA I October 2014
Photo by Lin Shu
Courtesy of Kong Dan
Kong Dan in his youth
Courtesy of Kong Dan
told NewsChina. “Having been born into a revolutionary family, it was not my wish to see senior cadres denounced and tortured, but the picket was under huge pressure from radicals at the time,” he continued. “We were dragged into a historical trend,” he added. In 2013, Kong published a memoir on the Cultural Revolution, calling the Xicheng Picket a “nightmare” that had haunted him throughout his life. Qin Xiao expressed similar sentiments: “All young people were radicalized to a certain extent, and I was no exception,” he once told Southern People Weekly. As observers have commented, second-generation reds like Kong and Qin originally viewed the Red Guard movement as a way of realizing Mao’s revolutionary ideal, an idea that was forgotten as the campaign spiraled out of control. The Xicheng Picket, reportedly supported by then Premier Zhou Enlai, was later deemed counter-revolutionary. Both Kong and Qin were jailed, and their parents denounced as “capitalist roaders.” Kong’s mother, a secretary to Zhou Enlai, committed suicide by taking an overdose of sleeping pills, dealing a heavy blow to Kong. After his release from prison, Kong was sent to a village in Yan’an, Shaanxi Province, where he spent time reading the works of German philosopher Friedrich Hegel, hoping to get a clearer idea of the respective roads ahead for China and himself. Qin Xiao was sent to remote Inner Mongolia. Despite their wildly disparate destinations, the tough local environments and the suffering of the Cultural Revolution forced the two young men to change their ways of thinking. Both reportedly immersed themselves in the works of foreign historians and philosophers, and, according to analysts, were among the first Chinese youth to begin to emancipate their minds after the indoctrination of the Cultural Revolution. “Who could imagine that the most devoted disciple [of the revolution] could finally come to betray its deity?” Qin Xiao reportedly wrote to a friend after Lin Biao attempted to flee from Beijing in 1971, and died when his plane crashed in Mongolia. Qin reportedly wrote that this event led him to begin to doubt Chairman Mao. In 1979, three years after the end of the Cultural Revolution, Kong Dan began to study economics with Wu Jinglian, a renowned economist with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. Around the same time, Qin Xiao enrolled in the China University of Mining and Technology, also majoring in economics, laying the foundations for his
Kong Dan (second from left) was sent to a village in Yan’an, Shanxi Province after being released from jail
future doctoral studies at Cambridge University.
It may have been the shadow of the Cultural Revolution that drove Kong Dan and Qin Xiao to abandon their respective government department positions after they finished their studies. “China was feeling its way toward commodity-based economy in the early 1980s, which offered me a vast space for development,” Kong Dan explained. He eventually chose China Everbright Group, a financial SOE established in 1983, to begin his new career, while recommending his old friend Qin Xiao to CITIC – both were key pilot projects for the government’s first steps toward Reform and OpeningNEWSCHINA I October 2014
up at the time. In late 2000, Kong Dan moved to CITIC, while Qin Xiao was transferred to China Merchants Group. Witnessing the ups and downs of life in a Chinese SOE, both Kong and Qin began to implement reforms in their respective companies, pulling themselves through the 2008 financial crisis by tightening control at their headquarters and specializing in investment across a number of key fields. During this period, Qin Xiao came under fierce criticism for selling off 10 percent of Ping’an Insurance, then a subsidiary of China Merchants Group, to HSBC for US$600 million, a move many equated with treason. “Headquarters had already lost the final say over Ping’an before the sale, so I think it was better to get some money back and help release the parent company from debt,” Qin Xiao said in response to his critics. CITIC came in for similar controversy in 1997 when its president Wang Jun sold off part of the company – Qin Xiao, then the company’s general manager, did not oppose the move. Kong Dan, then working at Everbright, stood on the side of Wang Jun and Qin Xiao, believing that the sale had helped CITIC weather the Asian Financial Crisis. Yet, despite their similar business management methods, Kong and Qin have clashed over the role of government in the national economy since the Asian financial crisis broke out in 1997. In alignment with the IMF and mainstream Western economists, Qin Xiao believed that the crisis was largely rooted in excessive government intervention – Qin began to make known his belief in the free market. “Economically speaking, a government is equivalent to an interest group, neither smarter nor more virtuous than any other,” he was quoted as saying in Oral History of the Second-generation Red by Mi Hedu, a well-known researcher of modern Chinese history. “This interest group has become the biggest obstacle in the Chinese economy, since the government should have provided public services rather than getting involved in business operations,” he continued. Despite his years working with SOEs, Qin publicly claimed that SOEs were a relic of the planned economy, and began advocating private ownership, making calls to “distribute State assets to the people in a fair, just and orderly manner.”
Market of Opinions
Qin’s beliefs were diametrically opposite to those of Kong Dan who,
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though having proposed to allow private investment in the SOEs as early as the end of 1980s, insisted that the public sector should continue to play a dominant role in the national economy. Since the 2010 debate, Qin Xiao and Kong Dan have generally been discussed as a pair, seen by many observers as representatives of “universal values” and “Chinese characteristics,” respectively. “Qin Xiao has accepted wholesale the Western theories learned during his overseas studies. However, these are not suitable for China’s body and soul,” Kong Dan told NewsChina. Qin Xiao, for his part, has rejected the media’s references to him as an “opinion leader” or a “dissident.” “I am not a revolutionary, but a reformer within the system,” Qin told the media, claiming that what worries him is not the fact that people curse him, but the fact that the criticism is so emotionally charged. “We need rational discussion – radicalism only exists in a backward country. We have seen during the Cultural Revolution that radicalism leads to autocracy, and worse, it will seep into people’s blood, into their genes, and cannot be removed for decades,” he added. In 2007, Qin Xiao set up the Boyuan Foundation, listing many renowned economists including Zhou Qiren, Xu Xiaonian and Leon Brittan among its ranks. Besides economic issues, the foundation engages in research into the transition and modernization of China, and advocates universal values. Kong Dan has made similar efforts. He has served as chief consultant at the Economic Herald under CITIC since earlier this year, expanding it into a comprehensive journal covering social, scientific, political and economic issues. Like Qin Xiao’s Boyuan Foundation, Kong Dan aims to establish his journal as a “think-tank” and “a platform for rational debates.” “It is necessary and inevitable that we should argue head-to-head against erroneous thinking. We will actively join in the debate,” he wrote in the journal’s preface. Kong has also told the media that he is planning to establish a foundation for academic discussion between different schools of thought. As many observers have said, the ideas of Chinese intellectuals are now beginning to compete on a more open market, in order to expand their influence over the transition of the Chinese society – the second-generation reds, whose lives have been tightly bound to the fate of the country since their teens, will certainly not be left out of the conversation.
Pain of a Paragon Named a ‘National Moral Model’ by China’s authorities, male-tofemale transsexual Liu Ting has chosen to fully and publicly transition, defying those who would prefer her to remain male, and silent
Photo by zhang xinyan
By Zhou Fengting and Li Jia
Liu Ting at her local church
NEWSCHINA I October 2014
or 28 year old Liu Ting, life in China involves facing an endless round of existential questions from a society that is still in many ways uncomfortable with non-conformity. Named a “National Moral Model” in 2007 for her “exceptional filial piety,” Liu was uncomfortable with this designation from the beginning. Her discomfort was rooted in the fact that all this press attention referred to Liu as a “boy.” Despite being born male, Liu Ting has identified as female for most of her life. It was not until Liu left her hometown in Zhejiang Province for Beijing to attend the awards ceremony, dressed in male clothing – a starched white shirt and black pants, close-cropped hair – for the first time, that she realized how difficult it would be to shake off social prejudice. Local officials who had gathered to see her off sent Liu on her way with a firm reminder to “smile like a man, no sissy stuff.” After the ceremony, Liu sobbed on the plane back home, fully aware that accepting such an award was likely to be yet another obstacle in her journey towards fully transitioning into a female body. However, while many transsexual Chinese choose to conceal their identities and conform to social mores, Liu Ting chose not to despair. Instead, she quit her job in 2013 to write an autobiographical screenplay based on her own struggle with gender identity, and is currently looking for a producer. Liu has been open in discussing her desire to surgically transition in newspapers and magazines. In the preface to her screenplay, Liu writes “When I type, I imagine I am playing myself in this movie.” Since receiving her award, Liu has found herself in a minority in more than one sense. China’s National Moral Models number in the hundreds. It is estimated, meanwhile, that China is home to tens of thousands of transsexuals. Few of these receive support from their families or society at large, and even fewer will have the opportunity to transition. Despite her celebrity status, the real Liu is struggling to have her real voice heard.
Liu Ting has always had an affinity with the performing arts. At the age of 11, she enjoyed entertaining guests by playing an electric keyboard in her parents’ 100-square-meter apartment – a spacious residence for the time. Two years later her mother was diagnosed with uremia, and her father lost his job in a bakery. Burdened by medical bills and with barely any income, the family sold their apartment and her mother’s haberdashery business. Things continued to deteriorate, with Liu Ting telling our reporter that her father “shunned his responsibilities like a child.” Liu was sent to a boarding school and her mother moved back in with her elderly grandparents. When Liu was admitted to Zhejiang Agriculture and Forestry University in 2005, it came alongside the news that her mother was dyNEWSCHINA I October 2014
ing. Her 80-year-old grandmother was too frail to take care of her sick daughter, and Liu’s uncles and aunts refused to “waste money” on medical care. Liu’s mother was told she would die unless someone donated a kidney – an operation that the family would have to pay for themselves. Liu planned to raise the funds for the operation, her self, as well as offering her own kidney. She became both nurse and breadwinner, renting a run-down apartment nearby and using her student loan to pay for her mother’s care, even taking a part-time job as a college canteen janitor.
In late 2005, Lao Guoqiang, a journalist with the Hangzhou-based newspaper Today Morning Express, heard about Liu and interviewed both her and her mother at home. The story caused a run on the next day’s edition, and readers clogged the university phone lines with financial pledges. A week later, a local Party official visited Liu and promised help. The local government launched a campaign encouraging school students to “learn from Liu Ting” by doing chores to help their parents. Two months after the article first appeared, Liu’s mother received a free kidney transplant. She was quoted in local media as having thanked God for hearing her prayers – Liu was raised Christian – and Liu donated the remaining funds to set up a joint scholarship with her university. The year 2006, when Liu’s story was making headlines, also saw a national campaign to “uphold socialist values,” which, according to the campaign rhetoric, included patriotism, diligence, honesty and self-sacrifice. State media including CCTV and Party mouthpiece the People’s Daily soon championed Liu as an example of socialist virtue, making her a “national hero of socialist values.” A photo of Liu carrying her mother – on her back – up the dark stairwell of their apartment building was re-printed everywhere. A statue of Liu was even erected on a street in Guangzhou, Guangdong Province, thousands of miles from her hometown. In 2007, she received her National Moral Model award in Beijing along with more than 200 other candidates. A few months later, a play based on her story was staged in Hangzhou. Not one of these depictions revealed the fact that Liu identified as female. Instead, visuals dwelt on the clean-cut, boyish figure of a socialist paragon. Liu was now a celebrity, and thus she had to endure the awkward questions of a public unaware of her gender identity. She dreaded Q&A sessions, particularly questions about her love life and whether or not she planned to give her mother “a cute grandchild.” She knew she could not answer such questions honestly. Liu Ting became aware of her gender identity as a small child. In el-
ementary school she had enjoyed wearing cosmetics and high-heeled shoes, behavior her parents tried to discourage. After hitting puberty, Liu nursed crushes on male classmates, earning rejection whenever she attempted to act on them. She was regularly bullied as a “sissy,” finding solace in the empowered heroines of many modern romance novels. However, Liu could not escape popular prejudice, which saw transsexuals at best as pitiful or even comedic figures, and, at worst, as unnatural and even dangerous.
Photo by zhang xinyan
Photo by zhang xinyan
Liu has been aware of her gender identity for many years
Liu Ting as a child
Despite being aware of the risks, however, Liu came out to her mother at the age of 14, announcing that she was a male-female transsexual and wanted to undergo sexual reassignment surgery. “My mother told me, ‘On TV, when the hero discovers the girl they love is actually a man, they rush to the toilet and throw up,’” Liu told NewsChina. “She said, ‘In small-town China, how can a transsexual survive?’” Her father was even less forthcoming, merely asking “Do you have any dignity?” during a brief meeting in 2008. Even after Liu’s mother had her kidney operation, she still struggled to accept she had a daughter where she still saw a son. She encouraged Liu to have a “normal campus life” and spend more time around boys. By that point, Liu was already a minor celebrity, and, fearing retribution should her secret be discovered, she followed her mother’s advice. She told our reporter she tried “to walk, dress, think and even love like a man,” but “only met with failure.” Indeed, it was her attempt to “fake it” that convinced Liu that she would have to transition if she was to have a chance to be happy. Liu’s mother was devastated by her daughter’s misery, but continued to warn against coming out, stating that people would accuse them of “using dirty tricks to attract attention.” She felt guilty that those who had donated to her and her daughter would feel cheated and used. After graduation, Liu found employment in several companies, but found concealing her secret difficult, and frequently changed jobs. Making friends was challenging, and her unhappiness at remaining trapped in a male body affected her ability to work. Things came to a head while Liu was working for a design studio. She filed the wrong version of some work, resulting in a ticking off from her manager. Liu went directly to her boss and stated that she was unable to concentrate due to her inner struggle. Soon afterward, she quit to begin work on her screenplay. After quitting her job, Liu went for a consultation with a sexual health specialist who confirmed that she was indeed transsexual. She was asked by the doctor if she could continue to “live normally,” to forget her own identity and devote herself to caring for others, her answer was an unequivocal “no.” The doctor advised her to begin to live like a real girl and consider corrective surgery. After witnessing her “son’s” long struggle with her secret, and on NEWSCHINA I October 2014
hearing the doctor’s advice, Liu’s mother came around to the decision, finding comfort in her faith and stating flatly to anyone who asked that her child was “restoring” her gender, not “changing” it. In 1983, 21-year-old Zhang Kesha became the first Chinese national to transition from male to female. Outed by a friend, she became a figure of ridicule, with rubberneckers swarming into the store where she worked to goggle at the “freak.” After her As a child, Liu Ting sought solace in music boyfriend’s parents broke off their relationship, she left her hometown. Today’s China is evolving on the issue of sexual and gender identity. In 2003, back in her hometown, Zhang was invited by leading web portal Sina to engage in an online discussion about her experiences. Legal barriers outlawing gender reassignment surgery and denying Chinese citizens the right to officially change their gender have been scrapped, though obstacles remain. Even media voices on the subject of gender identity tend towards tolerance and understanding rather than criticism. Shortly after Liu Ting declared her plan to undergo gender reassignment surgery, a commentary in the Yangcheng Evening News, one of the leading newspapers based in Guangzhou, encouraged Liu to “pursue his [sic] own happiness” without allowing her status as a National Moral Model to become a “burden.” Despite Liu’s mixed feelings about the reasons for her award, she remains grateful. Public attention not only saved her mother’s life, it earned them both an apartment, her mother a pension, and gave them both a chance at a better life. Now, Liu is turning her celebrity status into a vital platform to not only secure her dream of transitioning, but also spread awareness of gender identity to the Chinese public. So far, the response has been lukewarm. “People said initially it would be no problem, then I was told they’d need to consider, and finally no reply was given,” she told NewsChina. Organizations which originally invited Liu to lecture on her experiences as a “good son” were not interested in her feelings on being a “good daughter.” NEWSCHINA I October 2014
Photo by zhang xinyan
Liu’s problems gaining acceptance from mainstream society are indicative of those faced by all sexual minorities in China. Her coming out has brought Liu into contact with other transsexuals, few of whom enjoy the support of even a single family member. Many recounted tales of vicious opposition from their parents and friends, while almost all are acutely aware that they will never have the funds or resources to undergo a full surgical transition. According to Liu, many purchase hormones on the Internet without prescriptions, putting their health at risk. Even for those who manage to transition, few can expect to seamlessly blend back into everyday life. While Liu’s former boss assured her she would keep her job, nothing in Chinese employment law prevents employers from firing employees who identify as a sexual minority. Liu was warned she would “need to learn to work with others” if she was to survive in any profession. The often poignant back-stories of China’s National Moral Models have become a focus of criticism of the awards in recent years. Many blame China’s poverty and lack of social security for creating the circumstances that require such selfless paragons. In an interview given in 2011, Liu even voiced these concerns herself, discussing how many exemplars of “filial piety” had had to “grow up too fast” to care for parents unable to look after themselves or their children. Liu Ting’s story shows with astonishing clarity that what lies behind propaganda about moral models is often an uncomfortable social reality.
The Blue Collar Boot Camp
NEWSCHINA I October 2014
Within China, Lanxiang Technical School, Chinaâ€™s biggest private vocational school, is seen as the Harvard of technical professionals. Internationally, most of those who are aware of its existence call it a training ground for cyber terrorism. NewsChina takes a stroll through its vast campus.
Lanxiang students take exams in the worldâ€™s biggest computer lab, equipped with around 2,000 desktop PCs NEWSCHINA I October 2014
Photo by CFP
By Wan Jiahuan
Photo by IC
Two students have lunch in the cafeteria
Do you have a diploma from Lanxiang?” a customer asks her hairdresser in the movie Love is not Blind. A foreign audience member would likely be mystified by the laughs this line drew from local audiences. Lanxiang Technical School, located in Jinan, capital of Shandong Province, isn’t shy about promoting itself with the simple slogan “Go to Lanxiang to learn skills.” Since its inception three decades ago, the school has become a fount of China’s most skilled barbers, chefs, builders and mechanics. While entering academia may still be seen as the pinnacle of scholastic achievement, when it comes to learning a trade, Lanxiang has no equal in China, at least in terms of reputation. “It is just a bit of fun,” said Rong Lanxiang, founder of Lanxiang Technical School, when asked about his institution being namedropped in Chinese TV shows and movies. He told our reporter that he has learned to
ignore the wry and condescending remarks directed at Lanxiang, and has even compiled choice clips together for the school’s latest ad campaign. “We are indeed Asia’s biggest training base for blue-collar technicians, in terms of both quantity and quality,” said Rong. He proudly reels off data to support his assertion. According to its founder, at least, Lanxiang now employs 1,500 full-time teachers and has a total student body of 30,000. More crucially, the school boasts a 100 percent graduate employment rate – a statistic hard to believe in a country where even alumni from elite universities are struggling to find work. The school’s international reputation, however, is less gilded. Lanxiang made headlines outside of China in 2010 and 2011 when the New York Times and The Wall Street Journal successively speculated that it was a training ground for hackers who were target-
ing Google in retaliation for the latter’s withdrawal from China following a dispute with the censorship authorities in 2009. Although Lanxiang issued a quick denial of the reports, the military backgrounds of some of its senior faculty and its closed-door management style have done little to dispel a somewhat sinister aura. Indeed, to some, such rumors only serve to raise Lanxiang’s currency. “It is no big deal to attend Peking or Tsinghua,” is a popular sentiment among students, a reference to China’s top two academic institutions. “I am from a more powerful school, Lanxiang!”
A gastronomy major, Wu Kun’s first impression of Lanxiang was that the campus was “like a maze.” “I did not get a full view of the school until halfway through my first semester,” he told NEWSCHINA I October 2014
Photo by ic
Gastronomy majors serve up three meals a day to their fellow students
NewsChina. We spoke from a vantage point overlooking his alma mater’s 20-hectare campus, which, according to its founder Rong, constitutes less than one fifth of the total area of the five districts occupied by the school – even its main gate is wide enough to park 20 cars side-by-side. Clearly the Chinese obsession with scale has come into its own at Lanxiang. “It is big, everywhere!” Wu Kun exclaimed. “The main computer lab, for example, has set a Guinness world record with its 2,000 computers, and the automobile mechanics building is so big it is divided into three zones.” “I came here to realize my academic dream, and [Lanxiang] met my expectations at first sight,” Xu Xiaobo, a mechanical engineering major, told our reporter. However, he added, as he entered the school, he was immediately struck by the numbers of students wearing work uniforms and the roar of NEWSCHINA I October 2014
heavy machinery – features rarely associated with academia. “You can meet a variety of people here. They come from different corners of the country and vary greatly in age,” Xu continued. “It is a great place to develop social skills,” he added. Founded in the early 1980s, Lanxiang has produced three generations of China’s top technical professionals, many of whom enrolled as a last resort after failing to score sufficiently highly on the gaokao, the country’s rigorous college entrance examination. Vocational training is generally looked down upon in China as inferior to college education, a social prejudice that looks set to change, given rising salaries for technical occupations and an equivalent drop in the number of available jobs for academic graduates. According to founder Rong, Lanxiang owes its runaway success to the Reform and
Opening-up period of the 1980s, when the establishment of private institutions for training skilled workers became legal, a measure designed to help meet demand in the newly expanding commodity economy. “The 1980s was a good era for business, and I cornered the vocational training market just as migrant workers began to flood into the cities,” Rong, himself from a rural family in Henan, one of China’s most impoverished and overpopulated provinces, told our reporter. “At that time, rural people generally had one wish – to get rich – and in their eyes learning a skilled trade was a much better route to riches than farming,” he continued. Such ideas still hold water among rural residents, despite the traditional and, some would say, excessive reverence for academia. “I can drive loaders, namely, forklifts,” Yang Chenguang, a student from rural
Ningxia, proudly told NewsChina. “After returning home, I could support myself by helping villagers plant crops and load trucks.” Yang, like many of his Lanxiang peers, doesn’t exactly fit the blue-collar image. His elaborately feathered hairstyle is a particular source of personal pride – designed, he told us, by a hairdressing student. According to Yang, Lanxiang is an “independent kingdom” where people study to support themselves. Bridges connecting sections of campus, for example, are connected by the welding classes; the botanists handle floral displays; the chefs serve up breakfast, lunch and dinner, and snacks are provided by the school’s army of pâtissiers. Self-sufficiency is also a source of pride for founder Rong. Besides a vegetable garden and a small farm, the school also owns a printing press, a hotel and a factory. Although many outsiders are skeptical about certain policies – particularly the Monday-Saturday curfew which prohibits students from leaving the campus during the week, as well as insisting that all students use a school-issued swipe card rather than cash to pay for on-site purchases – Rong insists that these measures helps foster a sense of community and focus students on their studies. “The school is like a factory and our students are our product. We work hard to up our yield,” Rong said. The school charges outside enterprises wishing to utilize the skills of its students, and Rong believes its closeddoor policy is one of the secrets to its success.
While on campus, our NewsChina reporter noted closed-circuit TV cameras positioned on every corner, all of them feeding to a central monitoring hub straight out of a spy thriller. Security personnel keep a close eye on live footage from over 1,000 classrooms, and any misbehavior results in a harsh reprimand through the countless loudspeakers dotted all over the campus. “Once or twice, some bored students got
up and started walking around during class,” Zhou Wei, a reporter from China Esquire magazine, wrote in an article on Lanxiang. “Suddenly, a yell frightened everyone. ‘What are you doing? Write your class name on the blackboard.’ We looked around and found a camera at the back of the classroom.” Zhou was one of several reporters who conducted undercover investigations at Lanxiang after international media linked the school’s IT departments to hacks on foreign websites. Although he uncovered no evidence of hacking classes, he was amazed at how guarded the school’s management was when it came to outsiders. “Not all students are allowed outside even on Sundays – only those whose applications for leave have been successful,” Zhou’s report revealed. “My own applications were rejected three times – I had to slip out when the gate was left open.” Rong told NewsChina that Lanxiang was taken over by a local battalion of the People’s Liberation Army in 1989 for use as a vocational training base for retired soldiers. This relationship ended in the early 1990s when the government banned the army from involvement in business operations, but Rong retained the militaristic management style that he calls the army’s “best legacy” at the school. “The military model made it easy to discipline the students. When they have to strictly obey the schedule, as a soldier would, they won’t have time for misbehavior,” he said. Over the course of three decades, Rong has codified the school’s management style into four thick books, covering all aspects of management, from daily scheduling to very specific protocols. “Our students are preferred by employers, because they are more disciplined and obedient than those from other schools,” he said. Not everyone is on board with this approach to education. “No university, including prestigious ones, would imprison their students. [Lanxiang] just attempts to brain-
Photo by Zhao Xiaoming
Rong Lanxiang, founder of Lanxiang Technical School
wash students, making them blindly obey all the rules, including forced consumption,” an anonymous student told our reporter. Zhou Wei, the undercover Esquire reporter, also compared the school to a military camp. He revealed that, during his time at Lanxiang, he had to share a shabby dormitory with other students, adding that meals consisted of “leftovers” from cooking classes. He also drew attention to the inadequacy of certain courses – after taking a computing class, he discovered that all students learned was how to operate basic programs like Microsoft Word. When he asked to be excused from this class, he was told he needed to attend more before making a judgment about how useful they were. As the school’s popularity has grown, so has the number of critics, with many calling it an “expensive prison.” Others sneer at its enrollment of students who have failed to secure places at academic institutions.
Rong insists that his critics are simply rivals looking to undermine their main competitor. “Due to a lack of discipline, current graduNEWSCHINA I October 2014
Photo by Zhao Xiaoming Photo by Zhao Xiaoming
Mechanical engineers during a discussion session
A trainee mechanic works after class
ates generally don’t have good manners. In my opinion, all Chinese universities should adopt military management styles.” Cao Jindong, the school’s vice president, is equally contemptuous of criticism. “Most young people today cannot bear any hardship, but to be hard working and steadfast are basic qualities expected of a blue-collar technician,” he said. Despite the controversy, Lanxiang demonstrably has no problem filling its recruitment quota. “Given [Lanxiang’s] strict manageNEWSCHINA I October 2014
ment, it is at least more reliable than a ‘diploma mill,’” student Wang Shuo, from Yongfang, Shandong Province, told our reporter. Still more students admitted they were attracted to the school by its advertising. “I grew up seeing ads for [Lanxiang],” said student Jiang Tao. “Although its claims are a bit exaggerated, its big campus and all its machinery are real enough.” The school has shown no qualms about playing up to its image as an assembly line for workers, even shooting one ad in which hun-
dreds of uniformed students line up in neat rows, before actor Tang Guoqiang, who has made a living playing Mao Zedong on TV and in film, pops up on screen to encourage students to attend “Lanxiang in Shandong.” Rong admits that the entire ad was his idea – he wanted simple, memorable slogans and for his school to be associated with a reliable and steady image like Tang Guoqiang’s. While the ads have changed over the years, the slogan “Go to Lanxiang to learn skills” has never changed. Some media reports have accused Lanxiang for its excessive use of hype, even exploiting the hacker stories for more publicity. However, independent data show that the school has produced over 400,000 technicians in the past 30 years, many of whom were employed in top State-owned enterprises including the Beijing Organizing Committee for the 2008 Olympic Games. In 2013, several welders from Lanxiang were issued skilled worker visas by the Australian government, further enhancing the school’s reputation. “We value pragmatism – providing what the market demands,” Rong told NewsChina. The school regularly phases out obsolete courses – textiles is a recent example, given the high level of mechanization now standard throughout the industry – and expands others, such as automobile engineering, to match trends in the Chinese marketplace. In recent years the school has also pioneered digital disciplines in anticipation of the widespread upgrading of Chinese industrial output. While Chinese preferences for academia over vocational training die hard, Lanxiang is testament to that equally prominent cultural feature – pragmatism – that has guaranteed its continued success. While schoolchildren or, more accurately, their parents, dream of a diploma from Tsinghua or Peking University, the hardworking and relentlessly drilled students of Lanxiang have set their sights on something a little more practical – a fat paycheck and a job for life.
His full confidence in a self-regulated market has kept Peking University Professor Zhang Weiying controversial
Professor Zhang Weiying
Photo by lin shu
By Zhou Zhenghua
NEWSCHINA I October 2014
f the most well-known Chinese economists, few have advocated laissez-faire market economics so strongly, and so unstintingly, as Zhang Weiying. Zhang is one of an academic minority in China who subscribe to non-Keynesian principles, and has thus been labeled by the media as “spokesperson for vested interest groups,” and even, on more than one occasion, “an enemy of the people.” In the context of yet another round of reforms more focused than ever on giving the market, not the State, the decisive role in China’s economy, Zhang has gained more support, both among the public and in academia, than ever before. His contribution to making the Guanghua School of Management at Peking University one of the most prominent business schools in China was widely recognized during his tenure as principal of the school between 2006 and 2010. In 1983, an article by 24-year-old Zhang was published in State newspaper the China Youth Daily. The article declared to a society raised from birth to see money and profit as anathema that “making money was a contribution to society.” In 1984, Zhang’s notion of giving the market full power to price goods and services became one of the most hotly debated proposals submitted to an historic academic meeting analyzing the potential direction of China’s economic reform. In the early 1990s, Zhang’s studies at Oxford University, from which he emerged with a PhD, further strengthened his belief in a self-regulated free market. He became an admirer of Ludwig Mises, a prominent proponent of the so-called Austrian School of economics emphasizing individual choice and price signals controlling the marketplace with minimal government intervention. NEWSCHINA I October 2014
“There is a deep-rooted mentality of hating the rich in Chinese society.”
After returning to China and taking up a post as assistant to the president of Peking University, Zhang’s efforts in 2003 to introduce more competitive pressure into academic assessment and to break up alumni monopolies over faculty recruitment encountered strong resistance among his colleagues, and ultimately failed. This began a series of altercations between Zhang and mainstream Chinese thinking. The next blow came in 2004, when Zhang stood up to defend the private acquisition of State-owned enterprises (SOEs), though the public embraced Hong Kong economist Lang Xianping’s sharp criticism of placing State-owned assets in private hands. In 2006, when China’s economic reform program stalled amidst government inertia and public resentment towards corruption and a widening income gap and, Zhang argued in an essay appearing in journal Money China, that government officials had lost more from reform than any other group, and claimed they should receive one-off compensation in order to inoculate reformist leaders against an anti-liberalization force. In his essay, Zhang cited the example of buying out SOE workers in order to liquidate their jobs during privatization in the 1990s, a move strongly resented by those laid off. Zhang’s pragmatic solutions, and his
position that such short-term pain could prevent long-term agony, drew considerable fire from the Chinese public. Economic forums in which Zhang participated always saw debates erupt that would make headlines the following day. The most recent example was an encounter between Zhang and his Peking University colleague Professor Justin Yifu Lin, former chief economist with the World Bank. At a July forum held at Shanghai’s Fudan University, Zhang insisted on a complete withdrawal of the government from economic management, while Lin took a stance that saw the government as having a positive role in economy. In an exclusive interview with NewsChina, Zhang explains why he has chosen to stand apart from most of his colleagues in espousing his vision of China’s economic future. NewsChina: Why do you describe the past 10 years as a “lost decade?” Zhang Weiying: Major reforms, like SOE reform, came to a standstill after 2004. The State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission was supposed to be a reformer when it was set up in 2003, but turned into both referee and competitor. Even the direction of reform itself has become inclined in favor of making SOEs bigger and stronger. Some media sources and academics used the new problems arising from the process of SOE management and ownership restructuring to refute the principle of more private investment in SOEs. All of these factors resulted in the stagnation of SOE reform. NC: Does the media have that much power? ZW: Egalitarianism has a long tradition in human history, with the desire for fairness
and equality embedded in human nature. People have a weakness – envying others their success and blaming others for their own failure. Unfortunately, there is a deep-rooted mentality in Chinese society of hating the rich. However, the boundary between “proper” and “improper” wealth acquisition sometimes gets blurred. The biggest problem in realizing SOE reform before 2004 was ideological. Privatization was not regarded as appropriate and so it was done in secret. At the time I called for transparent oversight of the privatization process [but was ignored]. The media was an overwhelming voice opposing the selling off of SOEs, with only a few rational sources supporting it. When competition got fierce in the media market, all sides resorted to currying favor with public opinion. NC: Do you think that egalitarianism has lost some of its appeal after more than 30 years of reform? ZW: The situation has changed a lot over the years. A planned economy produces a society entirely based on an official hierarchy. Reform and Opening-up gave legitimacy to the private possession of wealth, and material capital began to gain social power. The shift of power from the bureaucracy to capital is a form of progress. There is no such thing as a perfect system for a society. In a “capital centered” society, you can enjoy anything you can afford, while in an “official centered” society you have to hold a bureaucratic position to access anything at all. I agree with [economist] Friedrich August Hayek, who argued that a society in which wealth is the way to social status is better than a society in which social status is the way to wealth. Wealth should not be created either
in the process of attaining power, or once one has obtained power. But this is what happens in China.
choose to benefit from the economy of scale though internal corruption becomes almost unavoidable in mega-companies.
NC: What do you think of the ongoing SOE reform which promotes the mix of private and State ownership in SOEs? ZW: Who will mix with whom? Who has the final say in corporate management? Which industries could benefit from this mixed ownership, and which could not? Will the merger process cause corruption? These questions have yet to be answered. The transfer to joint ownership, if not handled properly, exposes State assets to private manipulation in some cases, and corruption by officials in others. Given the different motivations of private companies and the government, it is imperative to prevent interested parties from cashing in on investiture of power.
NC: Then why do you insist that SOEs are not as efficient as private enterprises? ZW: The de facto absence of owners in SOEs means decision-makers hold power disproportionate to their responsibilities. Private enterprises are actually a way of bonding people together with private property rights together. This doesn’t apply to SOEs. Copying the practice of separating ownership from management in private companies does not make sense for State companies. Therefore, efficiency fails to improve because incompatible mechanisms fail beneath a veneer of entrepreneurialism.
NC: You mean that this mixed ownership lacks stability? ZW: I think it is just a transitional plan, not a long-term, stable solution. But there are voices claiming that it can be a long-term mechanism. As with many economic issues, people misunderstand it. NC: Liu Chuanzhi, founder of PC giant Lenovo, has said that family-run enterprises perform the best. Do you agree? ZW: No one can pass judgment on which form of corporate structure is the “best.” In the end the market will choose for itself. With private property rights, people seek efficient ways to engage in transaction and incorporation. Joint-stock limited companies are preferred by big manufacturers, for example, while traditional partnerships still dominate accountancies and law firms. Conglomerates
NC: There are outstanding managers in SOEs. They are entrepreneurs, aren’t they? ZW: As I said before, some SOE managers have good entrepreneurial qualities. However, a real entrepreneur has to bear the consequences of his or her decisions. In SOEs, even if you are successful, you rarely have the chance to realize your own ambitions as an entrepreneur because you will most likely be promoted out of your business. It is misguided to think that entrepreneurs just want a bigger paycheck. A real entrepreneur puts the health of their business ahead of their personal earnings. The inventor of the Gillette safety razor was likely motivated to make a decent razor before he was concerned with money. The success of an entrepreneur is reflected by the success of their enterprise. NC: What do you think of those business people who have faced criminal charges because of their close connection to corrupt officials? NEWSCHINA I October 2014
bynumbers 68 Number of days out of 119 in Q1-2 2014 when the yuan parity rate against the US dollar, set by China’s central bank, showed a drop in value Inter-bank trading volume of yuan against other currencies, January – June, US$bn
USD 1981 ZW: Entrepreneurs are involved in nearly every corruption case that has emerged during the recent anti-corruption campaign. This is the evidence that a good business environment based on the rule of law does not exist. Entrepreneurs are the group creating wealth. However, in the existing system, the government holds too much power, which motivates some entrepreneurs to give up their job of creating wealth and instead pursue monopolies over resource distribution by accessing and manipulating power. NC: You and your colleague Professor Lin expressed different views on a government’s role in the economy at the Fudan forum. Is that a fundamental division of opinion? ZW: Yes we are split over the relationship between the government and the market. This division is nothing new in human history, and has lasted for thousands of years. Right ideas do not always prevail. For example, the debate on whether the government is the cause, or the solution, to economic problems continues to rage. NC: However, classical economics promoting free markets also recognizes that government is a necessary evil. ZW: 99.9 percent of people would agree. But the question is how to define the role of the government in economics. If government is necessary, then why? A government protects justice and the integrity of a society. However, without a proper property ownership arrangement, neither justice nor integrity is possible. I firmly believe what David Hume believed, that justice does not exist in a society where people believe that the public interest justifies the infringement of individual liberties. NEWSCHINA I October 2014
GBP 4.2 Others
Source: People’s Bank of China
Business index of non-manufacturing sectors in July, a six-month low ebb. Above and below 50 indicates business expansion and contraction respectively. 60.0 57.5
The drop in energy consumption per GDP unit for the first half of 2014, in terms of tons of standard coal equivalent for every US$1,623 in industrial output Reduction in China’s energy consumption per GDP unit(%) 5.0
Source: China National Bureau of Statistics
The increase in tax revenue from China’s auto manufacturing sector in the first half of 2014, higher than any other major manufacturing sector Tax revenue changes in major manufacturing sectors (%)
Auto Computer, communications and other electronic equipment Electrical, mechanical and instruments Petrochemical Refining, coking Ferrous metal smelting and rolling
3.2 2.6 2.0
Source: China National Development and Reform Commission / National Bureau of Statistics
US$35.7bn Volume of subsidies from the central fiscal budget directed towards local housing projects for low-income urban and rural groups in the first half of 2014
15 10 5 0 -5 -10 -15
Source: China State Administration of Taxation
Source: China Ministry of Finance
Old War, New Lessons
In the context of rising regional tensions, Chinese strategists reflect on the country’s devastating defeat in the First Sino-Japanese war, 120 years ago By Yu Xiaodong
hile Western scholars tend to look to World War I to understand the geopolitics of today’s Asia, recently China has been looking farther into the past, commemorating the 120th anniversary of the First Sino-Japanese War, which fell on July 25. The war, known as the Japan-Qing War in Japan as it took place during China’s Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), is remembered as the War of Jiawu, named after the year’s denotation in the 60-year cycle of the traditional Chinese calendar. The fact that 2014 is another Jiawu year has added symbolic significance to the anniversary, bringing considerable attention from the top leadership, the military, academic circles and mainstream media. Not only has Chinese President Xi Jinping
made direct reference to the war on several occasions, but related articles and interviews have also featured on a daily basis in State media as well as on China’s leading online portals, such as Sina and QQ. At a recent major seminar devoted to the war, 30 articles written by strategists from the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) were published, along with another 30 written by academics. For many observers, given strained ties between the two countries in recent years, and amid Beijing’s push for the “rejuvenation” of the Chinese nation and Tokyo’s moves toward rearmament, the war, fought over a century ago, remains relevant today.
Anatomy of a Conflict
The war was triggered by an armed rebel-
lion in Korea, a vassal state of China at the time. When China sent troops to put down the rebellion at the request of the Korean king, Japan responded by sending its own troops to Korea. While the Korean rebellion was quickly quelled, the military standoff between China and Japan soon turned into a full-scale war, as Japanese troops seized the pro-China Korean king in a surprise attack, and ambushed a Chinese naval squadron in the Yellow Sea. The war concluded in April 1895 following a series of battles both on land and sea, with China suffering a devastating defeat – its entire Beiyang (“North Sea”) Fleet, the pride of the nation’s armed forces at the time, was wiped out, and China’s Liaodong Peninsula was ceded to Japan. The war has long been considered a deNEWSCHINA I October 2014
A photograph of Qing soldiers taken captive during the War of Jiawu on Febuary 16, 1895, superimposed with an image of the present-day beach at Liugong Island, Shandong Province
fining moment in the modern history of East Asia, marking the shift of the region’s center of power from China to Japan. Following the war, China would eventually become known as “the sick man of Asia,” being forced to cede Taiwan and its affiliated islands to Japan and losing its suzerainty over Korea, which was annexed by Japan in 1910. According to the post-war treaty signed between China and Japan, China was also made to pay Japan 200 million Kuping taels (roughly 8223 tons) of silver in reparations, and another 30 million Kuping taels in exchange for Japan giving up the occupied Liaodong Peninsula. It is estimated that China eventually paid a total of 13,600 tons of silver to Japan, equivalent to 6.4 times the annual revenue of the Japanese government, effectively crippling China’s economy while NEWSCHINA I October 2014
sponsoring Japan’s further industrialization and militarization. Emboldened by its victory, the war also marked the beginning of Japanese imperialism both in China and in the Asia-Pacific region over the following 50 years, until Japan’s eventual surrender to the Allied forces in 1945. In 1904, Japan defeated the Russian Empire on Chinese soil and established its dominance in northeastern China. Then in 1917, Japan sacked German strongholds in China’s Shandong Province, gaining control of much of the province. In 1931, Japan again invaded northeast China and established the puppet state of Manchukuo, before launching a full-scale invasion in 1937, known as the Second Sino-Japanese War within Chinese academic circles, or, more
commonly, the War of Resistance Against Japanese Aggression.
For many, despite being fought more than a century ago, the war is still highly relevant to contemporary politics in East Asia. First of all, the dispute regarding the Diaoyu Islands (known in Japan as the Senkaku), one of the central issues between the two countries, can be traced back to the First Sino-Japanese War. Although the islands were not named in the treaty, Japan annexed them into Okinawa prefecture in 1895. China asserts that the islands were ceded along with Taiwan, and should have been returned to China based on the Cairo Declaration, signed in 1943 by the US, Great Britain and the Republic of China, the rubric of which guaranteed that any Japanese surrender required
Photo by John Thomson
Hirobumi Ito (left sitting in the carriage)
Qing General Li Hongzhang
the country to be stripped of its imperial territorial possessions. More importantly, the war played an essential role in shaping China’s and Japan’s national psyche as regards each other, which analysts argue has had an enduring impact on the mentality of people in both nations. For China, the period that followed the war constitutes what Chinese historians now call “the century of humiliation,” during which the country was subjected to crushing Japanese (and Western) imperialism. This mentality seems to remain an underlying factor shaping China’s perception and policies towards Japan. In the meantime, analysts argue that Japan’s recent policy of almost open verbal hostility towards China is equally driven by what many analysts call Japan’s “superiority complex,” which some believe can be traced back to the War of Jiawu. In an article published on the US-based independent political analysis website Foreign Policy Journal on July 22, Dr Peter Bao-
fu, a self-proclaimed “Asian futurist” writer who holds a PhD in political science from MIT and has authored 70 books, argues that the war left Japan with a “toxic” historical legacy of “racism, and [a] superiority complex” from which it has never fully emerged, and which was reinforced by its “economic miracle” in contrast to China’s political and economic turmoil under communist rule during the Cold War. According to Baofu, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s determination to revise the Japanese constitution to allow a more powerful military and a more confrontational foreign policy, at a time when China surpasses Japan in term of both military and economic power, stems from “[a] deeper existential crisis of identity in the Japanese psyche of our time, torn in between two conflicting orientations: namely, racism (superiority complex) and [an] inferiority complex.” In China, Japanese politicians’ increasing reluctance to publicly acknowledge Japanese war atrocities during World War II, and
its various efforts to seek pride in its imperial past, are considered attempts to cling on to its imperial past, not only stirring up emotions, anger and guardedness, but also leading strategists to perceive the bilateral relationship from a perspective of strategic rivalry. Many Chinese experts draw explicit parallels between the lead-up to the Sino-Japanese wars and today. Wang Xiaoqiu, a historian from Peking University, compares Japan’s “fanning the ‘China threat’ theory” and Abe’s advocacy of “value-oriented diplomacy” to Japan’s wartime propaganda of 120 years ago, which portrayed the Sino-Japanese war as a battle of civilization versus barbarism, despite the well-documented atrocities committed by Japanese troops during the war, including the Lüshunkou Massacre, known as the Massacre of Port Arthur at the time, during which thousands of civilians were butchered by Japanese soldiers. While nowadays most Western scholars consider it inconceivable that Japan NEWSCHINA I October 2014
Despite all the references to the War of Jiawu, a notable difference in domestic debate is that it focuses primarily on self-reflection, rather than moral condemnation of Japan, the latter generally being reserved for the commemoration of historical events related to WWII, such as the 77th anniversary of the outbreak of the Second Sino-Japanese War, which also falls in July. This is likely due in part to the fact that NEWSCHINA I October 2014
Photo Provided by Liu Jianhua
would launch a pre-emptive military attack against China, several experts within China’s PLA have warned of the possibility. Peng Guangqian, a national security expert holding the rank of rear admiral, has warned that China should “guard against the type of sneak attacks that Japan has a history of making,” referring not only to Japan’s 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor during WWII, but its surprise attack on a British vessel carrying Chinese troops days prior its declaration of war against China in 1894. A popular view among Chinese historians regarding the two Sino-Japanese wars is that Japan has always chosen to attack China at a time when China is in the process of revitalizing itself. While the First Sino-Japanese War in 1894 halted China’s first westernization and industrialization movement, which had just begun to gain momentum in late 1880s and early 1890s, the Second Sino-Japanese War, started in 1937, terminated what many Chinese historians call a “golden decade” between 1927 and 1936, when China experienced annual industrial growth of 7.6 percent under the Nationalist Party, while bringing local warlords largely under control. It has been argued that Japan’s increasingly hostile recent policy shows a similar intention to prevent China from rising to the world stage. The issue has become a particularly sensitive point in China, as the Chinese leadership has adopted the concept of “rejuvenation of the Chinese nation” as its core doctrine.
A skirmish between the Qing and Imperial Japanese navies on the Yellow Sea during the War of Jiawu on September 17, 1894
Chinese historians have traditionally held Japan’s rapid industrialization during the prewar Meiji Restoration in high regard. But more importantly, the anniversary is believed to serve as part of China’s domestic agenda, as China’s leadership under Xi Jinping embarks on an ambitious program to overhaul the military and the Party. “It is more meaningful to reflect on the mistakes China has made in its history than to simply criticize Japan,” Chen Rui, president of the Chinese Naval Historical Institute, told the audience at a recent seminar on the war. A Xinhua News Agency article summarizing 30 articles written by Chinese military officers, identified a number of “deep roots of China’s defeat,” ranging from a lack of military capability, to the corrupt state system, to poor maritime strategy. While none of these viewpoints is entirely new, they all have important modern-day implications. For example, the emphasis placed on corruption within the Qing court is clearly a reference to China’s recent anti-corruption campaign, which has now spread to the military with the fall of Xu Caihou, former vice chairman of the Communist Party’s Central Military Commission. Since assuming power, Xi Jinping has repeatedly urged China’s military to be ready for battle. In recent months the Chinese military has conducted massive cross-region
exercises both on land and sea, which China’s bombastic State media have called “unprecedented.” Other lessons the articles draw from the war, such as the lack of maritime strategy, the passiveness of the Qing government’s defense policy and the lack of a central command system, are also neatly covered by the recent military establishment. For example, Zhu Yimin, a PLA general, argued that the major reasons behind China’s defeat is that the Qing army had no central command structure, and that there was no coordination between the army and the navy. While Japan devoted its entire navy to the war, China’s fleets were controlled by different factions with different vested interests. As if to address the problem, defense ministry spokesperson Geng Yansheng, confirmed on July 31 that China has established a joint-operational command system in the East China Sea, which he called “a necessary step in the information age.” For many, China’s commemoration of one of its most humiliating defeats serves to inject a sense of both crisis and urgency, as well as confidence at a critical time in China’s history. On one hand, China aspires for a longdesired national “rejuvenation,” and on the other, it appears to be endeavoring to tackle a tangled web of problems ranging from corruption, to vested interests, to foreign competition.
Staying Out of Step
One of the most popular and controversial figures in China’s literary and pop culture scene, Han Han recently made his first foray into China’s mainstream movie industry. Will he be a force to be reckoned with? By Wu Ziru and Yuan Ye
an Han, 32, has a knack for winning. With his books selling in the millions and an audience of 40 million followers – one thirty-third of China’s population – on Weibo, China’s Twitter, he is also a champion rally driver with plenty of honors to his name. Recently, Han claimed another victory – his screenwriting and directorial debut, The Continent, pulled in more than 600 million yuan (US$98m) at the box office in its first three weeks in theaters. On July 24, The Continent was released amid much media fanfare, and high expectations from both Han-fans and Chinese moviegoers, raking in 100 million yuan (US$16m) in its first day. Promoted as a “road movie,” The Continent tells a story of three young men living on one of the easternmost Chinese islands, who decide to drive west across the continent. On their journey, they meet different people who weave themes into the story including love, trust and deception. The three embrace and eventually bid farewell to a host of strang-
ers, as well as to their former selves. Born in 1982, Han never finished high school, but published his first novel at the age of 18. Titled Triple Door, the novel, of which 20 million copies were printed, went on to become the bestselling literary work of the last 20 years in China, and made Han an overnight sensation. In 2006, 24-year-old Han began to write a blog, where he commented on social issues and got involved in fierce debates with celebrities from various domains. Different from his novels, his blog posts, mostly essays, were written in simple and concise language, but retained the logic, sarcasm and humor for which he was known. His writings on the Internet helped to expand his readership into a wider age bracket, and five years later his blog had reached 500 million views, making it one of the most visited blogs in the world. Yet at the peak of his Internet stardom, at the end of 2011, Han posted three articles consecutively, respectively expoundNEWSCHINA I October 2014
Photo by Li Xiaoliang
ing his ideas on “revolution, democracy and freedom” – topics considered sensitive even when merely alluded to in China, not to mention when systematically tackled by someone like Han. Two weeks later, a movement at fiercely attacking Han began to spread online, but instead of targeting what he had written, the attackers claimed to have “evidence” that Han’s writings had been ghostwritten. Han found himself in a PR firestorm that only died down several months later. “Sometimes, you want to prove yourself to ten thousand people, but in the end you find that only one person understands you. That is enough,” is among The Continent’s most quoted lines. In the aftermath of the ghostwriting accusations, Han had kept a comparatively low profile until shooting began on The Continent earlier this year. He became increasingly active on Weibo, mocking himself and crew members, posting photos of his three-year-old daughter and interacting frequently with NEWSCHINA I October 2014
his 40 million followers. The Continent is packed with glib observations, similar to the ones that made his blog and novels so popular. “To like someone is to run wild, but to love someone is to restrain,” and “Children are judgmental, but adults only weigh the pros and cons.” These throwaway “Han-isms,” though doing little to help develop the story of The Continent, are often very witty, and eminently viral. After the movie’s trailers were released, these lines spread quickly among netizens and appeared frequently in media reports. After the movie was released, Han fans wasted no time collecting these epithets into compilations. But in the meantime, criticism of The Continent also gained momentum, mainly focusing on Han’s “uninspired” use of camera language and his excessive reliance on “cleverness” and forced exposition. Ratings for The Continent on Douban, a popular cultural social networking website in China, dropped
from a rating of 8.3 out of 10 on July 24, the first day of the movie’s release, to 7.4 on August 18, with votes from more than 220,000 viewers. Han himself has admitted the shortcomings of his debut cinematic effort, despite its current box-office success. “Anyway, I think it’s fine,” he said in an interview one week after The Continent was released. “It’s like playing mahjong. The one who wins the first round often goes on to lose for the rest of the night.” NewsChina met with Han Han shortly after the movie’s release to talk controversy, his directorial methods, and his relationship with censors. NewsChina: Being a director, you have to lead and cooperate with a large number of different people, while being a writer you need only work with yourself. Was the change difficult? Han Han: No, it wasn’t – it’s very similar to rally racing. While it looks like the driver is fighting alone, he is actually supported by a very strong team. Only when you have solid technical backup and close teamwork can you make it onto the podium in Sunday’s race. I am quite used to teamwork. I don’t have problems in this respect, not when we were publishing our magazine [titled Party, of which only one issue was published in 2010], not now we are developing our [literary] app, One. I have always worked with others. They are excellent people, but I think the most important thing is to make them trust and support you. NC: As a first-time director, how do you earn the trust and support of your team? HH: Make them believe in you. That is important. For example, some directors become irritable when they start working. They build their authority by not controlling their temper and shouting at others a lot. That is their way. But in the end, the team will judge you by your level of professionalism and the outcome of the work, then decide whether they are willing to cooperate with you or not. I don’t waste my time on building my authority. It’s also like when I’m racing, I know that the willingness of
A poster for The Continent
the technicians to cooperate and support you depends ultimately on your performance in the competition. They are watching you all the time. If you are really fast when testing your car, and your times are good in the race, you’ll get along very well. NC: Do you have any expectations in terms of your movie’s box office income? NEWSCHINA I October 2014
HH: The first rule I follow when I work is never to think about what consumers need. That is my starting point. However, I absolutely care about their experience. When I work, I follow my own way, and I believe that if you follow your ideas, things won’t go wrong. If you place emphasis on what consumers want, then you will end up asking what kind of movies they like. And the more you ask, the more answers you get. This will be unending, and you won’t be able to make what they ask for. However, once you start working on something, you need to consider consumer experience to the extreme. NC: What do you mean by consumer experience? HH: Industrial and artistic quality. These are very important. People can say that they don’t like my style, and they can ignore the movie completely. But for those who come to watch your movie, you have to make them feel your sincerity in terms of quality. It’s like playing soccer – a lucky team may win one match, even against a strong opponent, but its real power and ability depends on years of experience, and the way the team works together. Strong teams are strong for a reason. NC: We hardly ever hear from you on social issues these days. Why have you stopped writing that kind of article? HH: The reason is simple - I have done well enough and I can’t do better. And I don’t think anyone can beat me on this. I started writing essays in 2008 and 2009. In 2010 I wrote more of them. But the number dropped in 2011, with one piece every two to three months. I wrote a little more in 2012 but less in 2013, because I think I wrote enough in 2008, 2009 and 2010. Social affairs can be boiled down to a few issues: systemic problems, social inequality, historical factors and the nation’s deep-rooted bad habits. These issues can be traced back to thousands of years of feudal society, the Cultural Revolution and countless political movements. Everything can be blamed on these causes. Commenting on social issues is often a manifestation of a sense of social responsibility, but if you do it over and over and over… For me, I have done enough. I have done it all. Now we have Weibo – everyone’s discussing social affairs more actively. NEWSCHINA I October 2014
I don’t think I have much new to say. NC: You have been comparatively quiet in general over the past few years. Was this on purpose? HH: I have always been quiet. Otherwise, I might have published more books, because I would have made more money. Who doesn’t want to make money? I feel I have wasted a lot of time in the past two years. If you walk too closely in step with the times, you are always outdated. You cannot help being outdated if you are with the times. Essentially I am a writer who writes novels. If you want to write novels or make art, you have to stay away from the zeitgeist, otherwise you will really become a social commentator. I think I have far more talent than this. I will not waste too much time on it. Social responsibility is one thing. I have expectations of myself. I could have written better novels and produced better movies. Therefore, I don’t want to put too much energy into [social commentary], because I have made my point and I don’t want to repeat myself. NC: How do you see your younger self? HH: I used to be cute, actually. Sometimes when I watch videos of myself at 17, I really like myself like that. But it was strange – I was confrontational in those interviews, yet all my sharp words were cut off, so I looked vulnerable. NC: You seemed stubborn and difficult at that time. If those interviews were to happen again now, how would you act? HH: I was difficult, but now I wouldn’t be. I would try to understand and be more considerate of whomever was sitting opposite. This is the difference between the me of right now and the younger me. Back then, I felt more hostility from the world around me. When I expressed my views on the education system, I was often attacked. In fact, now, when I recall the situation, I find that some of the critics of my opinions had their reasons. The education system wasn’t as bad as I said it was. It was different in different places. You do things differently with different resources. But back then, I felt so much hostility – I felt that people were waiting for me to fall, so I would be stubborn. It was like I had to make some noise – I had to prove myself.
NEWSCHINA I October 2014
To The Rescue A
6.5-magnitude earthquake hit Ludian County in Southern Chinaâ€™s Yunnan Province on August 3, leaving at least 617 people dead and over 3,000 injured. The quake, which struck at 4:30 PM at a depth of 12 kilometers, was one of the strongest to strike the region in recent years. Shortly after the tremor, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang flew to the area to oversee relief work. At least 2,500 officers and soldiers participated in the rescue effort. The troops also ferried emergency tents, food, medical and diseasecontrol supplies and facilities to the area.
1. A child rests inside a tent after the earthquake, August 4 2. Rescuers carry the body of a man killed by a landslide, August 5 3. Rescuers carry an injured boy on a makeshift stretcher, August 4 4. Rescuers search for survivors, August 5
NEWSCHINA I October 2014
NEWSCHINA I October 2014
1. An elderly woman weeps 2. Children inside a rescue tent, August 7 3. A exhausted rescuer takes a break, August 5 4. A family prepare to set up a tent, August 6 5. Police officers search for a missing child, August 5 6. A landslide follows the quake, August 5
NEWSCHINA I October 2014
7. Rescuers pay their respects to a victim of the earthquake, August 5
OUTSIDEIN perspectives from within China
The Tenth Crossing
Amid the spectacular peaks and picturesque streams of Shidu, travelers can experience both the beauty of nature and the challenges of Chinese tourist traps By Kenneth Kagan
efore you even arrive in Shidu, the mountains overtake you. I couldn’t help but press my nose against the glass of my vehicle to gaze at the craggy karsts looming through the mist as if squished together by some cosmic hand. This whole area is three hundred and sixty degrees of breathtakingly, jaw-droppingly gorgeous views. Even on paper, Shidu looks like a dream: there’s seemingly nothing you can’t do. Travelers can hike the hills for stunning vistas of the karsts, and then bungee-jump off the peaks. Where the streams run fast, you can raft down them; where they slow down, hop aboard a bamboo raft and lazily soak in the views as you’re punted along. I won’t trouble you with all of the geological reasons scientists flock to this place, but the peaks are, even to the untrained eye, one of a kind. Add in the ten parks around the area, and you’ve got North China’s largest national park zone. Shidu is even referred to as the “Guilin of the North” due to scenic similarity with the more-famous sugarloaf mountain region of southern Guangxi Province. In terms of image, the local tourist associations have plenty to work with.
Back in ancient times, the roaring Juma river was too wild for bridge building, so a series of ten ferries was constructed to allow the valley’s residents to get in and out. Even though man latterly won out
with modern construction methods, the vistas only become more impressive after each bend in the road feeding the new(ish) bridges. The first few du – river crossings – are less developed and known for their scenery, with the later stops on the road boast man-made splash pools and even a massive Chinese character hewn into a mountainside. All of this beauty associated with Shidu is well-attested by Beijingers, and this was the reason that a small group of friends and I rented a van to spend a day there. While the North’s megacity has its fair share of parks and lush scenery, its overcrowding and pea-soup air pollution can stress tourists out to the point they find the return home a blessed relief. There are few things in life more infuriating than trying to relax with a cold beer when you can’t see the sky. So, when my friends waxed poetic about the landscape and the natural activities in Shidu, I couldn’t help but hop on board. Unfortunately, this area’s outdoorsy appeal is also a magnet for the city’s ever-growing, ever-demanding middle class. After toiling away in the office, there’s a real need for some family-friendly entertainment out in the wilderness. Most see the parks as a part of a corporate training event designed to get people out in the open air. What could have been a summer escape from the heavy drag of the city became a carnival specializing in groan-inducing, manufactured “fun.” We arrived at the rafting location before we even unloaded our lugNEWSCHINA I October 2014
Getting There It’s easiest to get into Shidu via rented car from Beijing, but a number of public buses will conveniently drop you off in the area. From Tianqiao or Guang’anmen stations in the south of the city, take bus 836 directly to the area. Look for the characters for Shi Du – the first stop is Du 1, and the bus will continue to each station until Du 10.
Photo by IC
Where to Stay Farmers’ hostels dot the town and can usually be secured without a reservation – just walk in and negotiate a price. These also provide basic meals and beer for an additional charge.
Tourists drift on bamboo rafts down the Juma River, July 2014
Photo by IC
gage. The area was teeming with others who were seemingly just as the women, had no intention of getting wet, or even damp. The “rapexcited as us, gazing starry-eyed at souvenir stalls before they’d barely ids” pitched to me were actually little more than a languid stream. alighted from their conveyances. A top At its deepest the water went halfway up seller were the wicker cowboy hats emblamy shins, and the torrent moved slowly zoned with the name of retired soccer star enough to make a boat something of a Ronaldinho – an item bizarrely ubiquitous superfluous luxury. Most enjoyed the ride with the same fervor you’d see in in China – yet we didn’t see one game of the faces of shoppers on an escalator. I soccer on our jaunt. shrugged, and decided to relax anyway. The long row of impatient vendors However, when we left the tourist also stocked a collection of water guns to clamor behind us, all was forgiven – drench your friends with. I readied my inner commando to obliterate my enemies. Shidu is about its peaks, and once you’re Landscape along the Juma River at Shidu Yet when it came time to open fire, the among them, all else melts away. Getting gun’s barrel was smothered in a mysterious to the best bits, however, takes patience. greasy film, making it unusable. When I On entry to the main geological park, finally got the obstruction clear but before I had a chance to let fly, I seeing a soaring waterfall pouring down like a horse’s tail, we finally heard the cry: “Look, a foreigner!” had our Kodak moment. That was until someone apparently turned I never found out who soaked me. off the faucet ten minutes later. Never mind, we thought, let’s get climbing. Stairs carved into the rock wove up the first trail we came to, with ponies available to carry Not-so-Rapids The rafting itself awaited us at the end of a long line of local tour- the indolent or infirm. Vendors toting bottled water and overpriced ists, many of whom somehow did not realize that being on the water corn awaited at every intersection, and battery-powered carts zoomed required a bathing suit. It quickly became clear that most, especially other travelers to the top without stopping. The road up to the trailNEWSCHINA I October 2014
Photo by CNS
head was a small menagerie of artificial attracwhere in the town itself. Many local residents tions: carousels, waterslides, even a mechanical have refurbished their modest properties into bull. The latter was also symbolic of most of the two-story courtyards. I was assigned to what was fauna we ran into throughout the park – nearly called the “honeymoon suite,” fittingly bedecked all of them were made of fiberglass. with adorable hearts, flowers and additional blanWe ploughed on, the trail snaking up higher kets. Our gracious hosts promised us a banquet into the mountains, populated by an unceasof cold beer and kabobs charred over hot coals ing tide of tourists shucking sunflower seeds – after such an exhausting day, such delights were and snapping photos. This wasn’t the wilderirresistible. It would, however, prove a DIY affair ness – it felt like the crush of the subway! Our – we’d have to prep and cook our food ourselves. team of explorers navigated our way up a hill to All part of the fun! While two of our group fiddled with a lighter, a small cave just narrow enough to shimmy a leaving the rest to stare at the piles of lamb hunks single body through. The wait was infuriating, Wild birdlife still endures the local and chicken wings on sticks, our hosts vanished but the reward after passing through made up tourist groups and we were left in the silence and faint rush of for it: grand, soaring vistas of the surrounding the mountain air. To pass the time, one of our mountainsides, covered in lush green foliage and adorned with crowns of cottony clouds. We stood, agape, unwilling group had brought out a few floating lanterns to set off into the clear, to move forward until the crowds made it unavoidable. However, cobalt-blue sky. The first one hit a power line and set itself alight. But they were starting to thin out, the exertion proving too much for all the second, and the third, and every one after that sailed effortlessly to but dedicated climbers. add another star to the dome above us. I ended the night looking off into the mountains, absorbing scarlet rays as the sun dipped behind the peaks. Resting Place This, I thought, as the aroma of grilling meat tingled my nostrils, is Finally, we reached our hoped-for sanctuary. While there are hotels in the area, it’s much more pleasant to stay in a farmer’s hostel some- what I came to see.
Hexie might be the Chinese word whose meaning is most dependant on its political context. In any official source, including the media, it means “harmony,” which is also its literal meaning in Chinese. However, among netizens, it has gradually become a synonym for “censorship.” A component of the Party buzzword hexie shehui“harmonious society” coined at the 16th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC) held in December 2012, hexie as a concept quickly entered the political mainstream. Defined as a new socialist value, a “harmonious society” could mean many things, but the overarching theme was unity under the Communist Party. However, as the Party’s legions of censors began to purge the Internet of blog posts, articles and oth-
er media that threatened to undermine “harmony,” netizens quickly flipped the term’s meaning, muttering darkly about the “harmonization” of content that had irked the authorities. Today, hexie is almost invariably a derogatory term referring to all levels of censorship and including both political and commercial forms of content suppression. Negative posts concerning certain Chinese brands have a habit of disappearing from bulletin boards – or, as netizens might say, being “harmonized.” Search engine Baidu frequently screens out – or harmonizes – search terms that the government or Chinese corporations perceive as “sensitive.” Hexie has also become a commonplace term when describing the censorship and sanitiza-
tion of the arts and culture. China’s version of the MMORPG World of Warcraft, for example, was only permitted once it had removed the content the government deemed “too violent, too bloody or too pornographic.” Similar protocols are imposed on imported movies, music and literature before they are distributed on the Chinese mainland. It must be emphasized, however, that the intended meaning of the term hexie depends entirely on context, and both its literal and iconic meanings coexist in the parallel worlds of China’s squeakyclean official media and cultural channels, and the less shackled and more user-dominated world of the Internet. To Chinese officials, however, there is only one “harmony.” NEWSCHINA I October 2014
flavor of the month
Bing-a-ling By Sean Silbert
NEWSCHINA I October 2014
Photo by Xinhua
very morning, my neighborhood wakes up the same way. Vendors unlock their iron gates; old-timers begin their tai chi in the park and the jianbing sellers pedal over to their usual stations. These plucky street food salesmen totter around on rickety tricycle kitchens, buckets of sauce and batter precariously balanced on the back. Before long, a scrum of commuters seeking a meal on the go start waiting for orders. I’m usually at the front of the line. Jianbing is Beijing’s definitive street snack. Carts and stalls selling these flavorful pancakes can be found on nearly every corner. In terms of concept, jianbing are often compared to the French crepe, but in truth are a different beast entirely. Each one is made right before your eyes according to a particular ritual. The cook begins by skilfully swirling a ladleful of batter on a griddle until it’s paper-thin. They then single-handedly crack open an egg, season with cilantro, chives, black pepper, fermented soybean sauce, black bean sauce and chili to taste. This is all folded around a fried baocui cracker for texture, and then plopped, still hot, into a wispy plastic bag. The result: a crunchy, crispy, spicy, hearty, delightful takeaway done to your heart’s desire. During my student years here I made waiting for a jianbing my after-class habit. The carts stay out the whole day, and their steaming, crisp-and-soft smackerels are just as munchable if you’re waking up with the lark or emerging bleary-eyed from a nightclub. Come with an appetite, and you can add on hot dog sausage, extra eggs or even hunks of marinated chicken breast if you score the right cart. One time I convinced the vendor to throw orthodoxy to the wind and smear a dark chocolate bar I brought in the center of mine. Many expats extemporize on the subject of this humble pancake as a symbol of their time in Beijing, even if they were only
left with vague flavor memories that they couldn’t quite grasp. A few had cravings bad enough to start up frying them up abroad: you can now bite into a jianbing (made by foreigners) in locations as far-flung as Chicago, Seattle and San Francisco. But even these exotic outlets operate according to the capital’s recipe – which is just one version of what a jianbing could be. Beijing stalwarts love the five-grain flour, packed with gluten for a satisfying chewiness. Some argue Tianjin’s hometown jianbing guozi beats it out: their attempt uses pure mung bean flour and results in a crispier finish. Others substitute out the fried cracker for a length of fried dough twist – a local breakfast treat. And some Shandong variants wrap the noticeably thinner crepe around a crunchy leek. While this variety tastes great, you’ll want a breath mint when you’re finished. Unleavened “Chinese pancakes” are frequently seen as a meal staple (for proper loaves, try areas with heavy Russian influence, like Harbin). North China, where colder temperatures and shorter growing seasons make flours the norm instead of rice, frequently substitutes the southern staples with
wheat pancakes. Congyou bing, or scallion pancakes, are usually present at the northern dining table; laobing flatbreads can be eaten in slices or torn up into strips and fried with vegetables or meat. But what sets the jianbing apart is its on-the-go portability – it’s a tasty, satisfying meal whenever you want it. According to legend, the jianbing was invented in a moment of urgency – appropriately enough for the definitive grab-and-go snackfood. The eminent Zhuge Liang (also credited with the invention of the steamed, stuffed bun), chancellor under warlord Liu Bei during the Three Kingdoms period about 2,000 years ago, needed to feed his troops, and fast. The problem was his camp didn’t have woks. Problem solved, said Zhuge, taking a mixture of wheat flour and water, and, evenly spreading it over a copper griddle, produced a truly rarefied ration. The resulting meal filled enough stomachs to ensure victory, and of course the army cooks hung onto the recipe after the battle. Since then, the recipe has been transferred down through generations in Shandong Province, and, in the last couple centuries, throughout northern China. The simplicity is the thing: The batter can be easily stored, so a peasant can use leftover millings from the day before to create a delectable pancake in the morning. There have been many times that I’ve taken their lead. No wonder some consider the jianbing to be the world’s greatest breakfast, though I’ve treated it as a meal at just about any time of day. It derives a certain cult appeal – well deserved, if you ask me. When you find the right cart, with a cook who can make it just the right level of thickness and the perfect balance of flavor, it’s easy to see why. So frequently, the jianbing you enjoyed on your journey outshines even your ultimate destination.
Seedy Journeys By Andrew Knowles
Not the chattering or the groaning of the train but the relentless crack, crack, crack of teeth chewing on sunflower seeds!
Illustration by Liu Xiaochao
Sardines don’t know how lucky they are. Put out of their misery before being crammed into those tin cans. Not so lucky we travelers, paying for the privilege of being stuffed into overcrowded train cars, tail to tail, gill to gill. It seemed like a good idea at the time, I recall. Chinese trains can be so cheap if you book the infamous “Hard Seats.” How “hard” can they be, we intrepid adventurers quip. We hadn’t counted on the beginning of the Chinese New Year crush, when families returning to their home towns for the annual cavalcade of mandatory feasting and fireworks. Our train, therefore, was fit to burst its rivets, crammed with people, baggage and noise. Oh, the noise! Not the chattering or the groaning of the train but the relentless crack, crack, crack of teeth chewing on sunflower seeds! The guy beside us had been gnawing at his stash of these dry, woodchip-flavored time-fillers for over two hours, methodically dipping into a bottomless bag, nibbling loudly and spitting out the shells at my feet. Not only was his appetite for seeds seemingly insatiable, he also wouldn’t stop staring directly at me. I wondered what he expected me to do – his gaze was meticulously purged of interest, curiosity or animosity – it simply had the vacant constance of a bored security guard who was paid to watch a video feed of an empty furniture warehouse. Maybe my unexpected traveling companion had never seen a foreigner before. Perhaps he expected me to do something spectacular like the expats you see on TV – launch into song, or a break-dancing routine. If it’d have stopped the staring, I might have obliged had the carriage been more spacious and less overcrowded. But as things stood, I remained squeezed between my other companions on a lightly-padded bench, waiting out the clock. Oh, for a “Soft Sleeper.” China’s supposedly classless society ends where its train cars begin – soft sleepers are, or at least were, in the days before wall-to-wall high-speed rail, the definition of traveling luxury. A semi-private, four-berth cabin, hot water and power outlets made long-
distance journeys a fun aspect of travel. Even “Hard Sleepers,” six tiered bunks in an open berth, exposed to the corridor, were perfectly manageable, if not very private. Hard Seats are for the cheapskates, the genuinely cash-strapped and those who couldn’t secure a better ticket in time. And you get what you pay for. I found myself idly wondering if Sunflower Seed Man was feeling as suffocated as I was, crammed in next to a woman I presumed was his wife, though neither had exchanged more than a few grunts since we set off. Before we had set off, these two had covered their child in a heap of bags and coats – clearly a ruse to avoid paying for a third ticket. I hoped the reason the child (I assume a girl, but nobody was getting a clear look) had ceased complaining was that she (he?) was now curled up, asleep, in the cozy warmth of their padded cell. I found myself wishing I could entertain thoughts of sleep, but the overcrowding made such bliss an impossibility.
My friends and I had decided to visit Harbin, a city in the heart of former Manchuria, to pass the Chinese New Year vacation among its dreaming, Russian-inspired architecture. Our carriage was, thankfully, thoroughly insulated against the winter cold – crystalline traceries of ice were slowly creeping across the doubleglazed picture windows as we sweltered inside. Our thoughts dwelt on fishermen hauling vast chunks of ice into Harbin’s parks to be carved into the sculptures that populate its annual Ice Lantern Festival. We daydreamed of caviar, of steppe-roaming horsemen, of colourful regional costumes and roasting lamb. We’d packed ski pants, heavy duty boots and facemasks to protect against the sub-zero temperatures. Now we felt we might melt long before we reached our destination. What is the point of sunflower seeds, anyway, I wondered. They hardly seem worth the effort. So little nutrition for so much mastication! A number of passive-aggressive responses to the constant stares crossed my mind, but I dismissed them all. Six months in China and the rather bland curiosity people still experience when exposed to foreigners is still a daily event, though it is fading fast among the younger generation. Any expat quickly realizes such behavior is never hostile, neither is it rude in Chinese culture, and those who can’t adapt to being hallooed every time they step out of their front door really aren’t cut out for life in the Middle Kingdom. Still, in such close quarters, even the hard-bitten China hand can be unnerved by the eyeballing I was continuing to receive from Sunflower Seed Man. I began to return to my earlier train of thought – doing something outrageous either to justify his time, or simply embarrass him into looking elsewhere. Maybe I could just strike up a conversation, give our friend a tale to tell his family over their New Year dumplings. I rummaged in my bag for an ice-breaking snack that wasn’t sunflower seeds, and might even illustrate the humor inherent in our current situation. Just my luck – I left my sardines at home. NEWSCHINA I October 2014
Streets Ahead By James Kingston
NEWSCHINA I October 2014
Resting once on a bench between the towers, I was greeted by the relaxed honking of a pair of geese, ambling in amiable fashion among the outdoor exercise machines
Illustration by Liu Xiaochao
Writing of the crushing weight of Confucian orthodoxy, Lu Xun drew an image of the Chinese as a people cannibalized by their own culture, tyrannized by the dead hand of the past. In more recent years, it is the people who are consuming history. Ancient districts are flattened by the dictates of development, to make way for shopping malls, apartments, and high-rise offices. When not simply demolished, historical neighborhoods from Beijing to Chengdu are “consumed” in another sense – razed and then resurrected, Disney-fied for the consumer, their chuanr stands lost to Chanel boutiques. Demolition men have moved into Beijing’s Gulou district, tearing the heart from an ancient neighborhood and destroying a thriving local tourist trade. The businesses of the square between the Drum and Bell Towers are smashed and empty; the Drum and Bell Bar, long a favorite of lazy afternoons, is no more; the low eaves of the hutong alleyways lie open to the sky. Entering the little knot of hutongs clustered around the Drum and Bell Towers, one gained a sense of an older, unhurried Beijing, a place of strong community ties and a relaxed way of life. Laundry left out to dry decorated the winding alleyways, and through the open doors of siheyuan courtyards could be seen the shared homes so unique to the older Beijing. The square itself offered a picture of leisurely activity – children playing on tricycles, or bouncing shuttlecocks in the evening air, their grandparents sitting nearby playing mahjong. Tradesmen cooking at barbecues, rickshaw men touting for tourists, the occasional beaming tourist, camera in hand – each strolled through. Resting once on a bench between the towers, I was greeted by the relaxed honking of a pair of geese, ambling in amiable fashion among the outdoor exercise machines. Here and there a few old timers were making desultory pulls, efforts no doubt diminished by the summer humidity and the relaxed ambience. Every night at 7 PM the square would come alive with music. Old folks danced in lines to the sounds of 80s pop tunes, feet and arms moving
in unison, slow and easy. Joining one night, I attempted to ape their easy grace, with but little success. Two tiny pyjama-clad women stood on either side of me, schooling me in footfalls, smiling patiently at my clumsy steps. Where do you all come from, I asked? Oh, very far away, one said – very far away. Some of us live four or five streets away! The hutong alleyways and the siheyuan they enclose are integral to the identity of Beijing as a wellspring of ancient culture, and to a certain vision of local and community life. One story high and with tiled roofs, each siheyuan is most quintessentially a family compound – destroying a hutong can in some cases wipe out centu-
ries of heritage. For all that, the Gulou area had long lived on borrowed time, rumors swirling for years about imminent development, or a proposed underground shopping mall. Any Chinese can tell you of the wu qian nian – the “5,000 years” of history about which so many of his countrymen proudly boast. Perhaps it is the sheer length and depth of this civilizational heritage that leads, perversely, to the cavalier disregard so often evinced for its relics. After all, how could traditions of such ageless magnificence be threatened by the demolition of mere buildings? A country wracked by waves of war, revolution and famine, then locked in a 20-year embrace of dizzying growth, may justly de-prioritize the mores of conservationism. It is precisely in such history, however, that this demolition program originates. Dongcheng District officials wish to return the square to the “original appearance” it held in the Qianlong period (1735-1795) of the Qing dynasty – by drawing attention to the glories of the imperial past, officials no doubt wish to underline Beijing’s world-straddling future. The messy twist of demolished hutongs, raised from the Republican era onwards, may reflect by those lights but the confusion and tumult of 20th century is illbefitting to a neo-imperial age. A nation and its government tell you what they think is important about themselves by that which they seek to preserve and to change; change in itself needs be no crime. Parts of southern England can, in their tweeness, be quite terrifying – architectural innovation smothered in pettifogging legislation, the countryside given over to thatched cottages and stately homes, ye olde tea shoppes serving up dewy-eyed nostalgia for an exploitative social order. Surveying today the elegant boulevards and parks of Haussmann’s Paris, few are those who lament the medieval city, or who remember the ulterior motive of his project – to render Paris easier to retake by force. Dongcheng’s officials no doubt hope for such a legacy. It remains to be seen if the comparison will be odious. Sadly, however, one suspects so: the past once again tyrannizing the present.
Cultural listings Cinema
The Ghost King Horror movies centering on ghosts and adapted from folk legends are a popular genre in China, and The House that Never Dies, directed by Hong Kong director Wai Man Yip and starring actors Francis Ng and Ruby Lin, has racked up an impressive 400 million yuan (US$65m) at the Chinese mainland box office from July to August. Set in a abandoned mansion in Beijing, the movie tells the tragic tale of several generations of a large clan who lived and died in the house. While some criticized the movie’s plot for its lack of creativity, many also recognized its high production values and a series of successful scares. With Chinese movies in the same genre usually struggling to break 100 million yuan (US16m), The House that Never Dies has been dubbed the “king of Chinese ghost movies.”
Folksong, a Route The Hakka, a distinctive patriarchal Chinese minority group mainly inhabiting the mainland’s southeastern provinces and Taiwan, and have maintained their unique dialect and culture, especially their traditional folksongs and opera, despite the pressures of modernization. Ayugo, born in Taiwan in 1960, has been a leading light of Hakka pop and folk music for over 20 years. Folksong, a Route, Ayugo’s latest album, was released in August. Combining Hakka folk songs with strong blues rhythms and elaborate extemporization, the album displays a stunningly malleable approach to various musical genres. Besides his solo career, Ayugo is also widely known for his Hakka-language collaborations with iconic Taiwanese singer-songwriter Bobby Chen and singer Shig Loog Ching. Calling themselves New Taiwan Recreational, the band has released ten albums since 1992, making them one of the most recognized symbols of Taiwanese aboriginal music.
Chinese Characteristics By Christoph Rehage
The Western Mountains Chinese painters have a deep-rooted love for nature’s magnificence, as attested to by the entire breadth of classical Chinese landscape painting. From August to September, more than 100 works by painter Ma Wanguo, all of which are studies of the Kunlun Range, one of Asia’s longest mountain chains, along with other far-flung areas of China’s remote west, were on display at the National Art Museum of China. Titled “Kunlun Heart, China’s Dream,” the exhibition’s featured works range in scale from ten-meter-high masterpieces to exquisite, fan-shaped landscapes. Born in 1961, Ma Wanguo has been a veteran devotee of the classical ink-andwash style, and is well known for his delicate strokes that combine to form heavy and grandiose compositions.
Born in 1981 in Hanover, Germany, Christoph Rehage embarked upon a challenging journey in 2007, walking from Beijing to Munich. Though he ended his journey in Urumqi, Xinjiang, after walking 4,646 kilometers, his first book about China, The Longest Way, was first published in 2013. After a positive critical response, Rehage expanded his observations of China by writing columns for several mainstream Chinese publications. Chinese Characteristics is a collection of his humorous articles delivered through a wry expat lens but touching on subjects such as abolishing the death penalty, Sino-Japanese relations, the Chinese education system and even the phenomenon of celebrity commentator Han Han. NEWSCHINA I October 2014
NEWSCHINA I October 2014
Let’s reform the system It’s time to let those who contribute to urban society also benefit from it By Li Jia
he past 35 years have borne witness to probably the largest migration within the borders of a country in human history. By the end of June 2014, there were 174 million Chinese rural migrant workers living outside their hometowns. Another flock of young migrant birds have left behind empty nests in their remote hometowns, or have brought their parents with them to their new nests. But while, like the chorus in the popular song “Beijing Beijing,” they “laugh and cry, live and die, lose and pray” in their new domiciles, they remain separate – divided from true locals by the width of a single booklet legally defining them as outsiders. This booklet, a hukou, or household registration, is proof of a Chinese person’s basic personal information including place and date of birth, family members and educational background. The two most important designations are “rural” or “non-rural household” and your address. While “non-rurals” with a local address enjoy all local public services, those lacking either of these criteria, no matter how long they have been there, may struggle with restricted access to housing, healthcare and education. For decades, the hundreds of millions of migrant workers who lack both criteria have been in a dire situation. Free flow of population is essential to economic growth and social justice – this restricted flow and unfair treatment have worsened the imbalance in economic growth and social equality between regions, and between rural and urban hukou holders. Steps to dismantle the unpopular 56-year-old system were unveiled by the State Council at the end of July, instantly becoming the subject of intense scrutiny among analysts. The distinction between “rural” and “non-rural” households will disappear from the hukou. A non-local resident with employment and residence contracts can apply for a local hukou according to standards which vary with the size and prosperity of the city – proof of social insurance payments, for example, are not required for an urban hukou in towns and counties, whereas a maximum of three to five years of records are required for medium-sized and large cities respectively, and mega-cities can set their own rules. In addition, the candidate’s spouse, dependants and parents will also be included, allowing the whole family to enjoy the same public services as locals. According to the plan, 100 million people will become real locals in the urban settlements where they have built their new lives. The same policy applies whenever anyone moves to another city. For the probably far larger population who have not lived in their new place of residence long enough to get a new hukou (or simply
do not want one), the solution is a “residence certificate” entitling the holder to all the same basic social security and some, but not all, public services as locals, incrementally accruing more provisions every year, such as government subsidized housing and local admission examinations for kids to high schools and colleges. When the transition is complete, a citizen’s hukou will only carry demographic information, and all citizens will be treated equally in terms of access to public services wherever they go. Two concerns have been discussed extensively in the media. One is the large population of migrant workers who do not have employment or residence contracts, even though they have been living in a certain city for years. They are mainly employed as couriers, housekeepers, hairdressers or wait staff. The other is the cost. At least US$16,000 is needed to turn one rural migrant worker into an urbanite, according to various estimates. Analysts have said that if a huge number of migrant workers were to apply for urban hukou, local governments, already heavily indebted, would struggle to cover the cost. However, it is necessary to look beyond migrant workers. It is not uncommon for young college graduates working for small companies to go without social security. Without this, they cannot apply for a hukou, or even a residence certificate, in the cities where they reside. Behind them are rural or poor urban families who have chosen to support their children’s higher education rather than ask them to find a job after compulsory schooling. Even some white-collar employees at certain companies, such as law firms, cannot obtain certain documents necessary for residence registration. Too much emphasis on the cost of settling a rural household in a city plays down the contribution of migrant workers to the urban economy. Hundreds of millions of migrant workers in sweatshops and slums have underwritten China’s rapid growth for decades. It is far more important to consider how to compensate for the unfair treatment they have already suffered, than stress how heavy a burden it would be to stop it. Besides, when they have stable expectations for urban settlement, they will consume more, make greater contributions to local community building, work longer and be more motivated to improve their own skills and their next generation’s education, all of which are crucial for China’s growth prospects in the face of sluggish consumption growth, rising social tension, dwindling working age population and low labor productivity. Without full acknowledgement of the importance of an inclusive society, equal treatment irrespective of place of origin will be seen as NEWSCHINA I October 2014
a gift that can be bestowed only in the alcities will be tightened. Some have arHundreds of millions together unlikely event that a locality has gued that there is much potential for of migrant workers in a government leader with both awareness cities to operate more efficiently, sweatshops and slums have those of social justice and sufficient resources at and exploiting this potential is a betunderwritten China’s rapid hand. Local governments regard the reter solution than restricting the movegrowth for decades form more as a political task and a fiscal ment of population. All cities, big burden – they would much rather spend and small, favor blue- or white-collar their budgets on government office buildworkers who are supposed to contribings, lavish town squares or heavy-handed ute to industries that their destination industrial investment than improving cities are keen to develop. However, public and social infrastructure to accommodate new residents. Ex- the practice of governments selecting certain industries has already isting local hukou holders offer even stronger resistance to “outsid- proven detrimental to growth. In addition, a growing middle or ers” in their kids’ schools or their own job markets. These factors even upper-middle class brings more demand for services in their make implementation of the policy even harder. daily lives. Given this situation, tax and social insurance records are Another hot issue is how to facilitate the land transfer within rural sufficient evidence to prove that the applicant is needed by the local areas and between rural and urban areas. This could be based on an economic structure. Standards like education, skills and even emerroneous interpretation of the policy and an incorrect assumption ployment industry should not be set. about urbanization – the policy states clearly that it is forbidden to With both economic growth and social justice at stake, the hukou set a precondition to give up rural land rights for urban residency. reform actually involves nearly all the most important and difficult According to officials at a press conference on the plan, hosted reforms on China’s agenda. Procedures to integrate the rural and by China’s State Council Information Office on July 30, the suc- urban pension accounts were put into operation recently. A database cess of hukou reform depends largely on the development of small for students in compulsory education has been built, so that the cenand medium-sized cities, home to more than half of China’s mi- tral budget will go to where a student’s registered school is located, grant workers, and numbers of migrants in the mid-western region not the address on their hukou. More investment will be made in inare incrementally overtaking numbers in the east. Indeed, migrant frastructure, public facilities and social services in smaller cities and workers are more reluctant than ever to be too far away from their rural areas. These are made possible by changes in the social security, land, to which both their basic desire for family life and their access education and budget systems. to rural subsidies and interests are attached. Many migrant workers What comes next could be harder. Labor laws have to be enforced now enjoy a half-rural, half-urban life. The central government has more effectively, and burdens for small companies have to be redeclared a plan to have 100 million mid-western rural people settle duced, so that employers cannot, and will be much less motivated in urban areas by improving job opportunities and public services to, shirk their responsibilities to their staff. Strange policies preventnear their hometowns. If this can be realized, there is even less reason ing employees in certain industries from acquiring documentation to expect them to give up their rural land or homes. for residence registration have to be scrapped. Local governments The real concern is that the legal framework to prevent forced have to be put under closer fiscal scrutiny, and given more funding. land appropriation has proven weak. In recent years there have been Priority should be placed on how to legally empower rural residents many cases where farmers have seen their land appropriated before in any deals involving their land. The market should be allowed to being forced to live in high-rise buildings in so-called “new country- choose with industries and companies are best suited to a city. In a side” campaigns. Too much talk of how to cope with a theoretical word, the roles of government, market and society need to be desurge of land deals does not make much sense in the absence of a fined clearly in law. definite legal framework. The policy itself is controversial. Population controls in mega- (The author is lead writer and senior editor with NewsChina) NEWSCHINA I October 2014
So, you want to create a fair market? Then take it seriously Paternalism, protectionism and state monopolies are the three obstructions to the development of a genuine market economy By Deng Yuwen
ince the Communist Party of China (CPC) Third Plenum eral public are currently bemoaning stem from the refusal of offiheld last year, during which the authorities pledged to al- cials to leave enterprise to the entrepreneurs. Ongoing government low the market to play a “decisive” support and subsidies to SOEs have not role in the economy, there have been calls only resulted in the inefficient use of Many officials see among Chinese entrepreneurs for the capital and materials, but have also made it as their duty to State to retreat from its current position these companies dependent on governin the country’s commercial environment. ment bailouts whenever they hit choppy micromanage enterprises In recent months, even voices from waters. Moreover, the close relationship “for their own good,” the country’s State-owned enterprises between bureaucracy and commerce, despite few of these (SOEs), often seen as the main beneficiawith no independent authorities in place officials necessarily ries of State overlordship in economics, to oversee it, is also a breeding ground having a strong business have added their voices to calls for further for corruption, creating tenacious vested background marketization. At a recent meeting that interests in many government departbrought Premier Li Keqiang and a numments, disincentivizing a voluntary reber of prominent entrepreneurs together treat from the market. to discuss future economic policy, Dong Mingzhu, chairwoman of Local protectionism is another bugbear of business leaders, with State-owned home appliance giant Gree Group Ltd., told Premier local governments remaining eager to use their administrative powLi that what her company needs is not “supportive policy,” but a er to create market barriers in order to beat down competition from business environment in which companies can rely on fair competi- neighboring areas. A lack of clear definition between the respective tion to succeed. administrative powers of central and local government, which enPremier Li responded by urging senior officials in attendance to ables re-interpretation of central policies at the local level, has styheed such calls for change. It has long been argued that it is the mied the development of an efficient and interconnected national stubborn presence of vested interests in the departments overseeing market. commercial enterprises that has held back greater market reform Most importantly, the authorities should continue to address the in China. existence of State monopolies in a variety of industries, which above In order to create a freely competitive market, the government all other enterprises are the target of criticism from the business will have to fight three tendencies and forces within its ranks – pa- community. To a large extent, such monopolies are the foundation ternalism, local protectionism, and State monopoly. of both paternalism and regional protectionism, as they continue to Paternalism, a concept deeply rooted in the minds of many Chi- receive overwhelmingly favorable treatment from all levels of govnese officials, has long interfered with progressive economic poli- ernment. cies. Many officials see it as their duty to micromanage enterprises As the central leadership vows to deepen economic reforms, it “for their own good,” despite few of these officials necessarily hav- must tackle these issues seriously and systematically. Otherwise, ing a strong business background. Despite the liberalization of the China has no hope of creating a genuinely competitive and healthy last three decades, many Chinese officials still cling to their roles national marketplace. as overseers, and are increasingly seen simply as backseat drivers – busybodies getting in the way of progress. (The author is a senior commentator with NewsChina’s sister publicaMany economic problems that economists, analysts and the gen- tion China Newsweek)
NEWSCHINA I October 2014
NEWSCHINA I October 2014
NEWSCHINA I October 2014