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The Hardest Word: Shinzo Abe and the Art of the 'Apology'


Reset Texts: Taiwan's Schoolbook Dilemma


Old Master: Theater Legend Lan Tianye

IMAGINARY FAMILIES What does it mean to be one of China's 61 million 'left-behind' children?


Volume No. 086 October 2015



Published by China Newsweek Corporation Publisher: Zhang Xinxin Executive Director: Zhang Xinxin

Ensuring public safety is a basic responsibility of the government

Editor-in-Chief: Wang Xiaohui Editorial Office Managing Editor: Zheng Zhonghai Advisor: Liu Dizhong Senior Editor: Ruan Yulin Copy Editors: Jack Smith, Brittney Wong Lead Writers: Yu Xiaodong, Li Jia Editors: Wang Yan, Yuan Ye, Xie Ying, Du Guodong First Reader: Sean Silbert Address: 5th Floor, 12 Baiwanzhuang South Street, Xicheng District, Beijing, China Post Code: 100037 Tel: 86-10-88395566 Fax: 86-10-88388045 Email: Art Department Art Director: Wu Shangwen Art Editor/Designer: Zhang Dawei Publishing and Development Office China Newsweek Corporation President: Wang Xiaohui Chief Executive: Fred Teng Tel: 1-212-481-2510 Fax: 1-212-481-2503 Address: 820 2nd Ave, 3B-C, New York, NY 10017, USA Email: Toronto Office Director: Xu Chang'an Address: 51 Halstead Drive, Markham, ON Canada L3R7Z4 Tel: 1-905-604-6150 Fax: 1-905-604-6170 Email: Marketing Director: Wang Chenbo Account Manager : Ren Jie Tel: 86-10-88388027 Circulation Manager: Yu Lina Tel: 86-10-88311834 Advertising Director: Gao Weiwei Tel: 1-212-481-2510 Marketing Promoter: Jerry Meng Tel: 1-212-481-2510 New York Office: Wang Yongzhi, Ruan Yulin, Deng Min Washington Office: Zhang Weiran, Diao Haiyang Los Angeles Office: Mao Jianjun San Francisco Office: Liu Dan Houston Office: Wang Huan London Office: Zhou Zhaojun Tokyo Office: Wang Jian Paris Office: Long Jianwu Bangkok Office: Yu Xianlun Kuala Lumpur Office: Zhao Shengyu Moscow Office: Huang Xiujun Manila Office: Zhang Ming Berlin Office: Huang Shuanghong Sydney Office: Zhu Daqiang Brussels Office: Shen Chen Astana Office: Wen Longjie Rio de Janeiro Office: Mo Chengxiong Johannesburg Office: Song Fangchan Jakarta Office: Gu Shihong Kathmandu Office: Fu Yongkang Legal Advisor: Allen Wu ISSN 1943-1902


NEWSCHINA I October 2015


ith 116 confirmed dead, 60 missing mation on the disaster to the public. and 646 hospitalized as of August 21, After a stampede on Shanghai’s historic waterthe massive explosion at a chemical front on New Year’s Eve saw 36 people trampled to warehouse in Tianjin on August 12 has left a na- death, many alleged that the authorities’ failure to tion in shock. inform the public of the cancelation of a fireworks The disaster raised various questions regarding display “due to safety concerns” had indirectly the safety standards adopted caused the carnage. The canby the city government, such celation meant that fewer poThis string of accidents as why a facility handling danlice were deployed in the area, gerous chemicals was allowed despite the overcrowding. and disasters has to be constructed so close to This string of accidents and revealed the deeply residential areas. disasters has revealed the deeply embedded problem What has concerned the embedded problem of lax enof lax enforcement public even more is that the forcement of safety standards of safety standards Tianjin explosion was not an resulting from China’s rapid resulting from China’s isolated case. China has witurbanization. In recent years, nessed a string of deadly inas cities have expanded at an rapid urbanization. dustrial accidents stemming unprecedented rate, local offifrom a failure to enforce safety cials and industrial stakeholders standards. often placed rapid “developIn April, six people were injured in an explo- ment” ahead of public safety. Massive corruption, sion at a factory producing the chemical paraxy- an ineffective legislature and poor legal enforcement lene in the city of Zhangzhou, Fujian Province. often allow local officials and industrial stakeholders The resulting blaze raged for two days, blowing to continue to engage in irresponsible practices with fumes across the city and forcing many residents to impunity. For example, an investigation conducted evacuate their homes. Then, in July, video footage by the authorities in the first six months of this year of a mother dragged to her death in the internal found that 5 percent of elevators examined by inmechanism of a sloppily repaired escalator went vi- spectors were “potentially hazardous.” ral, followed by the exposure of several other deadly Following the Yangtze disaster, Chinese Presiescalator accidents in different cities. dent Xi Jinping said that public safety “must be a The June 1 sinking of a cruise ship in the Yang- top priority” in China. In a State Council meeting tze River which left 440 dead, the worst maritime held on July 28, Premier Li Keqiang also stressed disaster in postwar Chinese history, was also linked that China needs to change its approach to foster a to a poorly executed refit that may have altered the “new type” of urbanization that focuses on quality vessel’s center of gravity, though authorities have rather than on quantity. yet to confirm this. The Tianjin explosion has revealed the urgency Besides concerns surrounding the enforcement of this task. As concern about physical safety beof national and local safety regulations, the Chi- comes a major source of public anxiety, the authornese public is also uneasy about the management ities must show the political will and commitment of China’s ever-expanding urbanization drive. In to dedicate resources to protecting citizens from the wake of the Tianjin blast, for example, ques- everyday threats in order to ensure their physical tions were raised about why it took so long for the and environmental safety, which is, after all, the authorities in a city of 15 million to release infor- fundamental responsibility of any government. 



Going Solo



01 Ensuring public safety is a basic responsibility of the government


10 13

Administrative Procedure Law: The Power to Sue Environmental Index: Measuring Up

Cover Story


28 30

Environmental Corruption: First to Fall Taiwan Textbooks: One History, Two Interpretations


16 Left-behind Children: Hungry for Love/Helping Hands


P48 NEWSCHINA I October 2015

Photo by CFP

Millions of Chinese children living in rural areas are left to their own devices by parents working in the country’s cities. Can China ever hope to offer them a healthy childhood?



P64 34 New Expressway Policy: Paying the Price 37 An Abducted Woman: Bloody Rouge international

40 Abe’s 70th Anniversary Message: Choice Words economy

44 New Growth Engine: Serve the Economy history

48 Jean Jérome Augustin Bussiere: Back to Life culture

52 56

56 Flowers: Soft Power in a Skirt? Lan Tianye: Winter Soldier

NEWSCHINA I October 2015

visual REPORT



60 Wind and Water

64 Hidden Hong Kong: Harboring Secrets



72 China needs a coordinated strategy to avoid falling into the middle-income trap 04 MEDIA FOCUS 05 What They Say 06 NEWS BRIEF 08 Netizen Watch 47 China by numbers 66 real chinese 67 Flavor of the Month 68 ESSAY 70 CULTURAL LISTINGS


NewsChina, Chinese Edition

Southern People Weekly

August 17, 2015

August 11, 2015

Escalator Concern

Salary Debate

Nearly 120 years ago, when the first escalator debuted in New York, nobody could foresee that China would one day become the country with the largest number of escalators. China also produces, sells and installs the most escalators and elevators, recording annual industrial growth of 20 percent year-on-year, a byproduct of the country’s strong economic growth and rapid urbanization. Nevertheless, China-made escalators have long been overshadowed by overseas competitors in terms of both reputation and technology, and recent deadly accidents involving domestic escalators have further plagued China’s escalator industry. Statistics from the China Elevator Association show that, among the factors leading to safety issues, manufacturing quality accounts for 16 percent, installation makes up 24 percent, and maintenance and usage is behind 60 percent of safety problems. A comprehensive overhaul of the industry and its safety regulations should be on the horizon.

Oriental Outlook July 30, 2015

Abortion Young migrant workers are more likely to get an abortion than urban residents, according to China’s National Health and Family Planning Commission. A 2013 report shows that 41.8 percent of young migrant workers have had premarital sex, 27.4 percent do not realize the importance of using a condom to help prevent the transmission of HIV, and 43.5 percent of unmarried migrant workers do not know about the existence of emergency contraception. One consequence of this lack of understanding is China’s high abortion rate — official data shows that six million abortions are performed in China every year, excluding operations done at some private hospitals and unlicensed clinics. Migrant workers flock to busy cities but are relatively isolated from urban life, and while an enclosed environment has naturally led to sexual activity between co-workers, it has not prepared them for the potential consequences.


After a nine-year freeze on public sector employees’ salaries and a higher rate of civil service turnover in recent years due to “low wages,” China raised those salaries by about 60 percent this past June. This move has generated widespread public outcry, with most opposing the salary increase, saying that the base salary is only part of a Chinese civil servant’s monthly income, which also includes benefits and allowances. A lack of a unified salary system for public servants and inadequate transparency are mainly to blame for distrust between the Chinese public and public sector employees. At the same time, many public servants were not satisfied with the change in June because they felt there were unreasonable disparities between regions and industries. A data-based wage system for public servants needs to be established as soon as possible to measure public sector employees’ duties and workloads and then compensate them fairly. Caijing August 3, 2015

Redressing Injustice In recent years, the central government has increasingly tightened its crackdown on corruption and, at the same time, taken steps to redress judicial injustices. From 2013 to 2015, more than 20 people sentenced to death were acquitted — the same number as was recorded from 2006 to 2012. Unlike cases resulting from the high-profile anti-corruption campaign, re-examining cases involving unjust or false charges and reversing those verdicts is more closely linked to civil rights. In addition, judicial reform is deepening — 31 heads of provincial Law and Politics committees will no longer be able to take an additional post as public security chief. The evaluation system for judicial performance is also continually improving. Caijing magazine sorted, analyzed and summarized nearly 100 unjust cases from the past 20 years in order to provide a new reference for the correction of judicial errors nationwide.

Fangyuan August 11, 2015

Financial Tricks Nowadays in China when customers step into a bank, the first thing they are likely to see are brochures featuring various financial products and a uniformed staff member eager to explain how customers can use such products to “earn high profits with low risk.” This has been a common sight since 2005, when selling financial products at banking institutions became approved by law. Over the past 10 years, financial products have witnessed skyrocketing growth, with not only individuals, but also professional investors and listed companies now avid consumers. Official statistics show that the total dollar value of financial products bought by listed companies has reached 100 billion yuan (US$15.6bn). Along with rapid growth, however, illicit market phenomena and legal disputes abound. Legal risks hidden inside thick financial contracts have turned out to be hard to avoid for those investors who do not have a background in finance. NEWSCHINA I October 2015

Illustration by Wu Shangwen

“If chewing with your mouth open, picking your nose and wearing slippers outdoors is deemed uncivilized today, who’s to say that it won’t be missing a few buttons on your shirt or wearing shorts tomorrow? We should encourage people to behave more politely, but it is not proper to blindly put a spotlight on people’s bad habits.” Resident Wang Chuantao, criticizing a local TV station in Jiangsu Province for photographing and exposing its citizens’ so-called “uncivilized behavior,” such as picking their noses in public. “A commemoration of the war is not to display triumph or stir up hatred, but to denounce invasion and promote peace.” Ma Ying-jeou, current leader of Taiwan, delivering his speech at Taiwan’s celebration of the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II. He claimed that he is neither proJapan nor anti-Japan, but “friendly” toward Japan.

“I never believed that the One Child Policy was the best method [of population control], but at that time we had no other choice.” Tian Xueyuan, a chief architect of China’s One Child

Policy, acknowledging that the policy has had negative side effects and that it is not a permanent solution.

“Is a proof of loss really necessary to re-register for a senior citizen’s card? Actually, even we don’t have any way of proving whether or not someone has lost a card… Let’s serve the people rather than trouble them.” A local police station of Lengshuijiang, Hunan Province, questioning the local civil affairs bureau, which demanded that an elderly man prove he had lost his senior citizen’s card before allowing him to re-apply for it.

“There is a [unique] creature in China: the ‘single woman.’” Xu Jinglei, a popular movie star, protesting against a ban that keeps single women in China from freezing their eggs.

NEWSCHINA I October 2015

“I will keep my distance at press conferences and will no longer speak on sensitive topics. It is not proper for a retired man to make comments on State affairs.” Rear Admiral Zhang Zhaozhong, whose former progovernment comments on Chinese military affairs often stirred up controversy, confirming his retirement.

“Because the alcohol I drank might have been fake, it caused me to become delirious and black out.” Li Dequan, director of a county-level environmental protection bureau in Sichuan Province, explaining why he got drunk and kicked up a fuss in a hotel he was staying at during a business trip.

“China has lagged far behind in attracting foreign students. It has prevented us from filling the gap caused by the brain drain of Chinese talent going abroad, which has further aggravated China’s talent shortage in industrial development.“ Wang Huiyao, director of the Center for China and Globalization, commenting on how foreign colleges are relaxing entry requirements for incoming Chinese students.

“Chinese men who are accustomed to judging and labeling women finally have the experience of being judged and labeled by women.” Southern Metropolis Daily commentator Shou Shou on Chinese female fans’ adulation of a shirtless photo of Ning Zetao, a 22-year-old swimmer who won the 100-meter men’s freestyle race in the 2015 FINA World Championships.


Top Story

Tianjin Carnage

As of August 21, 116 people had been reportedly killed in the chemical explosion in Tianjin. Another 60 are still missing, and 646 have been hospitalized. The explosion occurred at around 11:30 PM on August 12, when a shipping container containing hazardous chemicals belonging to the privately owned Ruihai International Logistics company suddenly exploded, sending a huge mushroom cloud into the air. About 30 seconds later, a second explosion rocked the port, with media reporting that the two blasts combined released a shockwave equal to 24 tons of TNT. More than 1,000 firefighters were sent to fight the fires, which continued to rage until August 15. The death toll included 65 firefighters and seven police officers, with another 39 firefighters and four police officers still missing. The high death toll among emergency personnel led the public to cast doubt on the professionalism of the firefighters dispatched to the scene, with many speculating as to whether the initial explosion was the result of untrained firefighters dousing a volatile chemical fire with water, causing a violent reaction. Tianjin fire service officials refuted these claims, arguing that the priority was to rescue victims


of the explosion. The local government did not publicize the nature of the chemical that caused the explosion until their 10th press conference, which convened on August 19. According to Tianjin’s deputy mayor, He Shushan, the Ruihai warehouse stored 40 types of chemicals, including 700 tons of deadly toxins, mostly sodium cyanide, 0.1 grams of which, if ingested, can kill an adult human. Following the explosion, the central government dispatched a 214-member hazmat team to clean up chemical residue at the site. The local environmental protection bureau also set up 17 monitoring stations to keep track of the potential leakage of dangerous pollutants. However, official claims that the levels of pollutants in the air were dropping failed to convince local residents, who told reporters that just breathing in close proximity to the site was irritating their airways. As of August 21, the investigation team dispatched by the State Council had not published a specific cause behind the explosion. Some non-official sources alleged that the blast might be caused by the storage facility illegally storing excessive quantities of hazardous chemicals in unsafe conditions.

Tianjin police have already detained at least five leading figures from Ruihai, including two major shareholders and the company’s legal counsel. According to the official Xinhua News Agency, one of the company’s shareholders, Dong Shexuan, is the son of a recently deceased former director of the Tianjin port public security bureau. The Xinhua report went on to state that Ruihai’s chemical storage facility, in operation since April 2014, was only around 600 meters from the nearest residential community and a light rail line, 400 meters inside the minimum safe range set by authorities. The company’s environmental appraisal report, meanwhile, showed that 100 percent of neighboring residents surveyed “agreed with” the placement of the chemical warehouse, though it gave no names or contact information for those surveyed, and local residents interviewed said that they had never been presented with such a survey. No official has yet resigned over the accident, one of the worst industrial disasters in China’s history. City mayor Huang Xingguo came under fire after failing to appear at any press conferences until August 19. When he finally spoke publicly about the disaster, Huang stated that he “should take responsibility” and pledged to “comfort and compensate the injured and the dead” for their losses. However, several days of protests by local residents demanding the government buy their homes back went largely ignored by officials. Government attempts to silence mounting public outrage over this catastrophe in a city of 15 million have so far failed to bear fruit, as both local residents and netizens criticize what they see as ambiguous explanations and a laggardly investigation, digging deeper into available information to pinpoint what many believe will prove to be corrupt practices that allowed this tragedy to occur. NEWSCHINA I October 2015


China Secures Winter Olympics

Chinese Currency Devalues

Beijing won its bid to host the 2022 Winter Olympic Games on July 31, becoming the first world city to host both the Summer and Winter Olympic Games. The news was received with jubilation, especially in the city of Zhangjiakou, which will co-host the Games. An underdeveloped industrial city in Hebei whose 2014 GDP fell to fourth from last place in the province, Zhangjiakou officials see the Olympics as their best chance to boost development, with many investors already increasing their input into industries like tourism and real estate – media reports claimed that downtown housing prices rose 30 percent in the wake of the news. According to official data, China made more than 1.1 billion yuan (then US$146m) in profit from hosting the 2008 Olympic Games. However, in contrast to the nationwide celebrations after Beijing won its 2008 bid, this time around many have expressed skepticism, arguing that another Games will stretch the government’s already flagging budget and negatively impact people’s lives by further raising housing prices and restricting traffic. Politics

Local Governments Issue SOE Reform Schemes By mid-August, 22 provinces and municipalities had issued specific schemes for reforming local branches of State-owned enterprises (SOEs). Though independent from one another, most of the proposed schemes focus on mixed ownership by optimizing the capital structure of SOEs and encouraging them to go public. Guangdong Province, for example, pledged to support private investors to participate in restructuring by purchasing stocks in SOEs. Chongqing Municipality further detailed plans to expand private capital input into SOEs by opening them to private and foreign investment as well as social funds such as insurance companies. Many local governments also proposed re-categorizing SOEs in order to make their management more “scientific.” Most of the 22 provinces and municipalities, including the capital Beijing, now plan to classify SOEs into three types: “competitive,” “functional” and “public service,” classifications which will determine the ratio of stock the government is to hold in such enterprises.

NEWSCHINA I October 2015

2013 2014 Target of 2017 National Standard


The Pearl River Delta







The Clean Air Alliance of China (CAAC), an air quality monitoring NGO based in Beijing, issued China’s first private report of air pollution control on July 31. The investigation focused specifically on the volume of PM2.5 (fine particulate matter with a diameter less than 2.5 micrometers) found in the air of the regions incorporating Beijing, Tianjin and Hebei Province. According to the report, a total of 13 cities and regions in that area failed to meet national air quality standards for around five months of the year, results far worse than those recorded in the heavily industrialized Yangtze and Pearl river deltas in South China. Xie Hongxing, director of CAAC’s secretariat, told reporters that reducing coal consumption and adjusting industrial structures remain two major means of controlling pollution, but added that, given Hebei’s dependence on heavy industry, such controls would inevitably impact local economies. According to Hebei’s provincial environmental protection bureau, local economic growth slowed by 1.75 percent in 2014 due to various pollution control measures, with industrial growth slowing by 3 percent.

Average Concentration of PM2.5 in Key Regions


First Private Air Quality Survey Published

Annual Average Concentration of PM2.5 (ug/m3) Beijing


The value of China’s currency fell to its lowest point in four years after the People’s Bank of China (PBC) announced that the yuan’s central parity rate relative to the US dollar, or the currency’s reference rate, weakened to 6.2298 on August 11, a drastic depreciation of 1.82 percent. Zhang Xiaohui, a PBC spokesperson, said at a press conference that the currency devaluation was not designed to prop up China’s economy, but rather a move to let market forces decide the yuan’s value. Since July 2005, China started to institute a “managed float” mechanism that measures its currency against a basket of major currencies, including the US dollar. Factoring in inflation, the yuan’s real effective exchange rate against major currencies has appreciated by 50 percent over the years. The dollar’s recent ascent has exerted considerable downward pressure on the yuan. In February 2015, UK-based Barclays Bank listed the yuan as the world’s second-most overvalued currency, and predicted a drop in its value.


Photos by Xinhua and CNS


Controversial Shi Yongxin, abbot of the Shaolin Temple in Henan Province, found himself in the spotlight once again after a self-proclaimed disciple reported that Shi kept several mistresses and was struck off China’s official register of Buddhist clergy more than two decades ago. Following this online expose, seven Shaolin monks traveled to Beijing to report Shi’s “crimes,” including promiscuity and bribery. Shi, who has often come under fire for his campaign to commercialize the ancient temple famed as the home of kung fu, denied all their accusations. The case is still under investigation.

Enlightening Five Chinese teachers recently arrived in Hampshire, England, as part of an exchange program in which they would teach 50 British students. A BBC documentary crew filmed the experiment, showing the difficulties the students encountered in adapting to their Chinese teachers’ disciplinarian style, while the teachers complained that their charges were unruly and undisciplined. Netizens in both countries went on to debate the merits and disadvantages of the two teaching styles.



A waxworks museum in Sichuan Province has become a viral hit thanks to its amateurish wax figures purporting to resemble celebrities, with icons such as Maggie Cheung and Zhang Ziyi on display wearing, in the words of some commentators, “granny outfits.” Some said that the institution resembled a “rural clothing market.” The museum, however, has claimed that the waxworks closely resemble their real-life counterparts “without makeup,” adding that many were finished more than seven years ago.

A 31-member tour group on a trip to Tianshan Mountain in Xinjiang came under fierce fire for uprooting more than 100 saussurea involucrata, or snow lotuses, devastating a crop of one of China’s rarest flowers, currently under national-level protection. As the plant, a member of the daisy family, can only be grown from seeds, botanists stated that the uprooted flowers could not be rescued.


Poll the People An unwed mother, Wu Xia, attempted to raise 40,000 yuan (US$6,349) from the public to pay the so-called “social maintenance fee” for her child demanded by family planning authorities who penalize women who give birth out of wedlock. While some netizens sympathized with Wu and argued that regardless of her situation it was unfair to punish her child, others worried that “legitimizing” her behavior would damage “social morality.” Do you think that giving a residence permit to children born out of wedlock without charging a fine will damage social morality? Yes 44,197 35% No 81,104 65% Source:

Most Circulated Post Retweeted 789,086 times by August 14

On August 13, one day after the tragic chemical explosion in Tianjin, State media published a list of firefighters who were killed in the disaster. Party mouthpiece People’s Daily launched an online campaign to commemorate their heroism. “As of today [August 13], more than 10 firefighters have been confirmed to have lost their lives in the rescue attempt. The six who have been identified were all 18-30 years old. Let us retweet this post to remember them. Rest in peace!” NEWSCHINA I October 2015


Top Five Search Queries On


over the week ending August 18 Tianjin Explosion 1,424,879

A warehouse storing dangerous chemicals located in Tianjin exploded on August 12, killing at least 116 people.

Yuan Depreciation 1,018,339

The yuan’s value fell by nearly 2 percent against the US dollar after an order from the People’s Bank of China, China’s central bank.

Interracial Couple Attacked 631,777

A Chinese man wielding a katana attacked an interracial couple in Beijing on August 13, killing the Chinese woman and injuring her French partner. Police arrested the assailant but have not yet revealed details of the motivation behind the attack.

A Mother’s Love A local museum in Gansu Province recently moved netizens when it unveiled the excavated remains of a home destroyed in an earthquake 4,000 years ago, in which the skeletons of a mother cradling her child were discovered.

China Central Television (CCTV) recently saw many high-profile staff members and news anchors resign from their jobs with the national broadcaster, most of whom declined to publicly give reasons for their departures.

Bangkok Blast 144,585

A pipe bomb detonated outside a sacred Hindu shrine in a popular tourist area of Bangkok, killing at least 20 people as of August 18, including seven Chinese nationals.

Top Blogger Profile Ning Zetao Followers: 2,839,752 by August 18 The microblog of Ning Zetao, a 22-year-old swimmer, lit up after his victory in the 100-meter men’s freestyle in the 2015 FINA World Championships in Kazan, Russia. Ning joined the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Navy at 14 years old, and caught the public eye in 2013 when he won a gold medal in the 100-meter men’s freestyle race in China’s National Swimming Championships, breaking a national record. He went on to win four medals at the 2014 Asian Games in Incheon, South Korea. Ning’s boyish good looks and lean torso have earned him a legion of ardent fans, who have shown more interest in his appearance than his sporting prowess, with some even responding to his tweets with the exclamation “my husband!” Ning, meanwhile, has cultivated a clean-cut image in line with his military background, vowing to continue to “fight for the country.” When asked about his standards when it came to dating in a recent interview with State broadcaster CCTV, Ning said that he was “too busy” to get into a relationship. NEWSCHINA I October 2015

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

CCTV Resignations 415,186

“Self-salesperson” 21-year-old student Fan Shibei of Sichuan Normal University recently posted an ad online asking to “borrow” 2 million yuan (US$317,460) to buy an apartment and social insurance for her parents. In return, she claimed she would remain with her creditor for her “whole life.” Many netizens criticized the stunt as Fan “selling herself to a millionaire.”

Mountain Retreat Jing Xiangjun, a forest ranger in Sichuan Province, has lived with her husband on a mountain in self-sufficient seclusion for 18 years. Jing said that she married her husband, a local villager, after he saved her from swarming bees, and that neither could stand the idea of leaving their mountain home.

Baby Games In order to avoid serving a life sentence for various corruptionrelated offenses, a Xinjiang woman was revealed to have become pregnant 13 times in the space of 10 years, aborting each of the fetuses following her release.



Administrative Procedure Law

The Power to Sue

China’s new administrative litigation law has made it easier for private citizens to sue the government, but it has shown little effect in curbing abuse of power

Photo byCFP

By Li Teng


NEWSCHINA I October 2015

I can’t believe we won this lawsuit after 50 years of struggle,” said Chen Yan, a representative for the people of Shikao Village in Leizhou, Guangdong Province. On July 7, 2015, a municipal court ruled that a 1965 administrative decision made by the Leizhou government to appropriate 983 mu (162 acres) of forest near the village was illegal. As it was the first time in Guangdong’s history that a city mayor personally appeared in court, many legal experts have hailed it as a landmark case that signifies a new beginning for China’s litigation system in light of the revised Administrative Procedure Law that came into effect on May 1. Its revisions aim to remove various procedural obstacles that previously discouraged members of the public who wanted to sue a government body. While some praise the changes, others say the law still lacks the capacity to counterbalance official power.


Since the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress (NPC) passed the new law last November, China has witnessed a surge in the number of lawsuits filed against local governments. In Hunan Province, for example, the number of such lawsuits filed during the first half of 2015 increased by 80 percent, reaching 2,062 by the end of June. In Guangzhou, capital of Guangdong Province, the city government was sued 94 times in the first six months of this year, a 154 percent increase on last year. The rocketing number of lawsuits seems to be a direct result of the updated Administrative Procedure Law, as many of them were filed after May 1, when the revised law came into effect. In Hangzhou, capital of Zhejiang Province, for example, 600 of 1,016 lawsuits filed against the government in the first half of the year were submitted after May 1. In Beijing, among the 127 lawsuits filed during that same time period, 124 were filed after the new law was implemented. Coupled with the surge in the number of lawsuits against the government is a decline in the number of official petitions and complaints. In past years, without an effective channel to solve disputes with local government agencies, many people chose to file complaints with government bodies at a higher level. According to Shu Xiaoqin, director of the State Bureau for Letters and Calls, the body which receives petitions, the number of complaints filed with government bodies at different levels throughout the country dropped by 18 percent in the first six months of 2015, with a 20 percent drop in the number of complaints filed with the central government. The existence of a massive number of petitions and complaints has long been a major source of social unrest, as officials often used

NEWSCHINA I October 2015

intimidation, extra-legal detention and “interception” to discourage complainants and thereby avoid being disciplined by more senior authorities. One of the stated goals of the new litigation law is to solve this problem. For example, a major revision in the Administrative Procedure Law is that it allows people to sue a government agency in a higher-level court. Previously, a plaintiff could only sue a government agency in a court at the same level, which would often refuse to hear cases due to the strong political clout local governments wield over local courts. According to Xie Zhiyong, a law professor at China University of Political Science and Law who just completed a field study on this topic in Shandong and Zhejiang, most new lawsuits against the government in these two provinces were filed at the municipal or provincial level instead of the lower county level. “The number of lawsuits filed in grassroots-level courts remains stable in both provinces,” said Xie. Xie added that the increasing number of these lawsuits filed at municipal- and provincial-level courts and the declining number of complaints filed at higher-level bureaus indicate that many complainants have chosen to go to court to solve their disputes with local governments because of the new law. The apparent newfound confidence in China’s legal system among the country’s massive number of petitioners has led some to believe the revised Administrative Procedure Law shows significant progress toward achieving the government’s stated policy priority of strengthening the “rule of law,” which the Party focused on during its Fourth Plenum held last October. But, for most, clearing procedural obstacles for filing these lawsuits is only the first step. What is more important is how these lawsuits will be handled.


According to Tsinghua University law professor He Haibo, the problems in China’s legal system regarding lawsuits against the government can be summarized as the “three difficulties”: “It is difficult to have a court agree to hear a lawsuit against the government, and if a court does agree, it is difficult to have that court make a ruling, and if a ruling is made, it is difficult to implement,” He told NewsChina. In the past year, when this kind of lawsuit had been filed, many government agencies simply chose to ignore it. Even when a government agency did choose to respond to a lawsuit, it often did not take it seriously. To counteract this, as the central government has shown more political will to push legal reform forward, it has reformed the appraisal system of government officials to motivate agency directors to personally show up in court.



For example, in Guangzhou, government officials appeared in court during just 70 out of 3,072 hearings in 2014, a rate of 2.3 percent. Now, the city government requires heads of government agencies to attend at least 4 percent of administrative lawsuits in order to be evaluated favorably in the official appraisal system. In Hefei, the capital of Anhui Province, government officials have personally responded to 86.6 percent of the lawsuits filed against them in May and June, after the law was enacted. But Wang Zhenqing, a deputy director of the High Court of Beijing, told NewsChina that the push for directors of sued government agencies to come to court is more about appearances than actually changing government behavior. “It is not a legal requirement for agency directors to personally show up in court, and the appearance of agency directors in court does not necessarily mean the agency takes the case seriously,” said Wang.


The push in many provinces for agency directors to appear in court is accompanied by increased punishment under the revised appraisal system if they lose a lawsuit. For example, in Qinghai Province, agency directors can only gain one point towards their evaluation by showing up in court for an additional 5 percent of all lawsuits against the government, but a point will be deducted if they lose a single lawsuit. The rationale behind harsher punishments appears to stem from a desire to encourage government officials to make sound decisions and handle complaints carefully in order to prevent losing a lawsuit. But the requirement may cause the repetition of past mistakes. Previously, in order to motivate local officials to focus on solving their disputes with local residents, the government revised the appraisal system to punish local governments if the number of complaints filed by residents from their localities increased. But there was an unintended result — instead of tackling the problems that caused the complaints in the first place, local governments chose to devote their resources to coercing local residents into dropping their complaints. The possible negative consequences of the new appraisal system may have surfaced already. A senior judge from a district-level court in Beijing, who asked to remain anonymous given the sensitivity of the issue, told NewsChina that the court now tends to seek to solve


administrative lawsuits through mediation instead of making a court ruling. According to the judge, a major reason behind the preference towards mediation over a court ruling is the court lacks the staff to accommodate the sudden surge in administrative lawsuits. Yet many believe that the real purpose behind the push for mediation is preventing direct confrontation with government agencies, which could jeopardize the political careers of government officials. Using mediation lets the court avoid issuing a ruling that is unfavorable to government agencies. The court’s preference for mediation may also reflect a lack of confidence in its ability to enforce a sentence. Under China’s current legal system, courts lack enforcement power when a ruling involves administrative authorities. With the new Administrative Procedure Law, the judiciary has apparently gained more power to implement its own rulings. For example, now the courts can publicize the administrative authority’s non-compliance, issue a daily fine of 50 to 100 yuan (US$8-16) to directors of relevant authorities, and even issue warrants to have relevant officials arrested if they fail to comply with a court ruling. But some experts have pointed out that the court remains toothless under the new law, despite these changes. For example, most directors of government agencies usually serve as deputies of local branches of the NPC. Under China’s current law, the arrest of a deputy must be approved by the local branch of the NPC, resulting in a clear conflict of interest. All the court can do to enforce the fines issued to government officials is notify their bank. According to Wang Zhenqing of the High Court of Beijing, the preference for mediation, which may be a rational choice for the court for now, may risk undermining the original intention of the revised litigation law, which was to delineate the boundary of government power and give more legal options to the public. “In each case, we have to make it clear whether the government has done wrong and if so, where,” said Wang, who warned that failing to do so would erode people’s confidence in the new law. As the new Administrative Procedure Law has only been in effect for four months and many administrative lawsuits have not yet been processed, it may be too early to draw a conclusion on its efficacy. But what is clear is that preventing the government from abusing its power will require more than a revised litigation law.  NEWSCHINA I October 2015

Environmental Index

Measuring Up

Following a policy pledge to protect the country’s environment from irresponsible developers, China’s leadership is trying to set up a “green index” to hold officials accountable for environmental damage that occurs on their watch

Photo by CFP

By Han Yong

NEWSCHINA I October 2015




s the public has become increasingly concerned about China’s numerous and well-documented environmental problems, such as declining air and water quality due to decades of pollution, environmental issues have become one of the central leadership’s policy priorities. In addition to the outcry over deteriorating air quality across the country, a recently released report shows that the country’s air, water and soil are plagued by environmental threats. The 2014 Report on the State of the Environment in China, released on June 4, 2015, says air quality in less than 10 percent of 161 cities included in the national air quality monitoring system met national standards, which are much more lenient than those of the World Health Organization (WHO). At the same time, 29.8 percent of Chinese cities suffered from acid rain, and water quality readings from 61.5 percent of 4,896 underwater monitoring stations was deemed “polluted” or “seriously polluted.” In addition, 31.1 percent of China’s land is suffering from soil erosion. For many years it has been argued that a major factor underlying China’s severe environmental problems is the existing appraisal system for government officials, which overwhelmingly favors meeting economic growth targets when evaluating their performances. That’s why the government recently moved to reform the


appraisal system and proposed including a new “green index” in their calculations.


On July 1, the Central Leading Group for Comprehensively Deepening Reforms, a newly established agency headed by Chinese President Xi Jinping, released a regulation on how to make Party cadres and government officials accountable if they “damage the ecological environment,” along with a tentative plan to conduct a “natural resources audit” on officials leaving their posts, regardless of whether they are retiring, being promoted or being removed. It is argued that including what many dub a “green index” or “environmental GDP” into the appraisal system would revamp local officials’ priorities and compel them to change their current policies and practices in order to become more environmentally friendly. The idea was first touched on during the Party’s Third Plenum held in the fall of 2013, when China’s leadership visualized a greener China and vowed to establish an “ecological civilization.” In the keynote reform plan launched at that time, the Party pledged that it would establish a nationwide “natural assets balance sheet.” Many envision this “balance sheet” to compare simple index numbers that measure different environmental factors, similar to how an index of economic growth is calculated using variables such as trade bal-

ance and employment rate. Such an index would be used to evaluate the performance of local officials as a part of a grander plan to protect the environment. In past years similar programs have been launched in more than 10 provinces, but it appears that efforts to quantify the environmental quality of a region have encountered some serious technical problems.


A report released by the audit office of the eastern coastal province of Shandong revealed daunting challenges in pushing forward an environmental audit of the province’s marine resources. “Not only does it take at least three to five years to detect any major changes in coastal sea water quality resulting from industrial pollution, it is also very difficult to find out who is responsible given the mobility of the oceanic current,” reads the report. Shandong has witnessed a serious rise in pollution of its Yellow Sea coastal waters in recent years, mostly due to agricultural and industrial activity. Algal blooms, sudden increases in volumes of algae that obstruct sunlight and suffocate marine life, have become an annual occurrence over several summers. One of the largest algal blooms ever recorded in China struck the region in 2013, covering an area of 28,900 square kilometers. According to the 2014 environmental report, water samples taken by 18.6 perNEWSCHINA I October 2015

cent of 301 seawater monitoring stations were found to be “seriously polluted.” Most of these sites are close to major river deltas. As sources of pollution can be hundreds of miles upstream from delta regions, it is almost impossible to hold specific officials accountable for the extensive pollution. Even in inland regions, experts and environmental scientists who are attempting to quantify environmental changes are up against complex challenges. “It is easy to calculate the area of a forest, but it is very hard to measure its quality,” said Ecological Society of China vice president Peng Shaolin, who leads a pilot program that is developing an environmental balance sheet in Shenzhen. “While the area of a forest may remain unchanged, its quality, such as the level of biodiversity, can vary greatly,” Peng told NewsChina, “Even if it is technically feasible to measure, it may be too expensive to allow [the measurement] to be conducted on a regular basis and on a massive scale.”

Institutional Barrier

Moreover, Peng pointed out that there has been confusion among officials regarding some of the program’s fundamental concepts. “Currently, the government has been using terms such as ‘natural resources,’ ‘environment,’ and ‘ecological system’ interchangeably, but technically these concepts are very different and require different scientific approaches,” Peng told NewsChina.

NEWSCHINA I October 2015

Currently, the government has been using terms such as ‘natural resources,’ ‘environment,’ and ‘ecological system’ interchangeably, but technically these concepts are very different and require different scientific approaches

According to Peng, the government should make a decision on whether to concentrate on the “environment” or the “ecosystem.” The former would mean that the program would focus on air quality, water quality and other environmental aspects that impact daily life, while the latter would require a more comprehensive approach aimed at improving the overall health of China’s ecological system. Existing disagreements over the interpretation of the central government’s intentions are further compounded by the overlapping and fragmented administration that regulates natural resources and the environment. Currently, environmental administration is divided among a number of central agencies, including the Ministry of Environmental Protection, the Ministry of Agriculture, the State Forestry Administration, the Ministry of Water Resources and the Ministry of Land and Resources, each of which have different motivations when it comes to potential development of an environmental index. “How would we calculate the impact of turning forest into farmland or an urban park?” asked Peng. While the Sate Forestry Administration may consider this a negative, the Ministry of Agriculture may deem

it a positive. In an environmental forum held last September, Yang Weimin, vice director of the Central Leading Group on Financial and Economic Affairs, told the media that the government is considering setting up a new, centralized agency to reform the convoluted hierarchy that administers environmental resources and also to coordinate the policies and actions of relevant ministries. But so far, there have been no further reports regarding this proposal. According to Peking University associate professor Wang Wenzhang, even if all of the institutional barriers were overcome, the effects of this proposed “environmental audit” may still be limited because officials may not be concerned about what happens after they leave office. While official tenure is typically five years, many environmental issues can take a much longer time to come to light. For example, the contamination of tap water that struck the city of Lanzhou in April 2014 was partially caused by corroded pipes that were installed in the 1950s and due to be replaced more than a decade previously. As this “green index” has yet to be developed, it remains unclear to what extent it will be able to reverse China’s environmental crisis. But as these environmental problems undermine China’s growth, pose a long-term threat to public health and continue to cause an outcry over the slow pace of reform, the government now has limited time to deliver major change. 


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Left: Wang Bin and his sister Wang Chuqi at an irrigation ditch near their home in Shizhuan County, Shaanxi Province, May 22, 2014. Their parents, both Foxconn employees, live in Shenzhen, Guangdong Province, May 28, 2014

MILES APART Liao Xingru and her brother near their home in Shizhuan County, Shaanxi Province, May 23, 2014. Their parents (left) both work in Wuxi, Jiangsu Province, June 1, 2014


NEWSCHINA I October 2015

Left: Only child Zhang Baofeng, near his home in Balihe Town, Anhui Province, January 11, 2015. Zhang’s parents, who have worked away from home for many years, shown at a park in Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province, January 13, 2015


Left: Chen Yangyang and her brother Chen Shengsheng at the entrance gate of their home in Shizhuan County, Shaanxi Province, May 21, 2014. Their parents outside their rented home in Dongguan, Guangdong Province, May 28, 2014

NEWSCHINA I October 2015


Photo by Xinhua

ome 61 million children in rural China are left virtually home alone by their economic migrant parents. These vulnerable youngsters have been proven to be at greater risk of mental illness, criminality, injury, accidental death, rape and suicide. NewsChina takes a closer look at this looming social problem, and asks – who should take responsibility for the ‘left-behind’ generation?

cover story

Left-behind Children

Hungry for Love China is home to an estimated 61 million “left-behind children” whose parents have left home for work. Although the basic physical needs of most are met, their behavioral and psychological wellbeing go largely ignored By Du Guodong


n June 19, 2015, a study into the mental health of China’s “left-behind children,” mostly those in rural areas whose parents or one parent have moved away for work, was released by the non-profit organization Shangxuelushang (SXLS), whose name translates as “On the Way to School.” Researchers surveyed over 2,000 left-behind children in six provinces and regions mainly in the central and western parts of China. According to their findings, nearly 10 million left-behind children in China, or more than 15 percent, have no physical contact with their parents, with a further 4.3 percent failing to receive a single telephone call or other form of communication at any point during the year,


NEWSCHINA I October 2015

even during the weeks-long Chinese New Year vacation. The survey indicated that close to nine million left-behind children contact their parents once or twice a year, and 15 million contact their parents at least once every three months. It warned that children who have no contact with their parents at least once every three months are more likely to be “upset” and “confused” than those living in more settled circumstances. The survey also pointed out that left-behind children living in northwestern China, a relatively underdeveloped region, are the most susceptible to mental health problems, with girls at greater risk on average than boys. The report went on to state that reading, playing, doing an appropriate amount of homework and living with their mothers can significantly reduce the risk of left-behind children developing psychological problems. Liu Xinyu, the SXLS director who led the survey team, told our reporter that in China, while left-behind children have become something of a cause célèbre, there remains a lack of systematic and continuous research into the issue, especially regarding the psychological impact of growing up without the presence of a capable parent or guardian. “As an NGO dedicated to the psychological problems [of left-behind children], we want to present both statistical analysis and suggestions of how to improve their mental health,” Liu told NewsChina. “The aim of the report is to encourage the public to care for leftbehind children and create a better spiritual world for them.”

Left-behind children in a village in Guizhou Province, October 5, 2013 NEWSCHINA I October 2015

Photo by IC

Emotionally Orphans

Beginning in the mid-1980s, as a manufacturing- and construction-fueled economic boom swept through coastal provinces, a growing number of rural laborers flocked to eastern cities in search of better job opportunities. According to China’s National Bureau of Statistics, China was home to 274 million such migrant workers by the end of 2014, accounting for roughly one-fifth of the whole population. A raft of social and institutional barriers, including the hukou policy, which effectively restricts an individual’s access to social services and welfare to their official birthplace, have barred migrant workers and their offspring from becoming fully integrated into city life, resulting in a vast population of left-behind children in rural areas. Even if migrant workers insist on bringing their children to the city where they work, the relatively high cost of urban living and administrative barriers that keep migrant children from enrolling in urban schools often prove insurmountable. It was not until the early 2000s when the issue of left-behind children began to attract media attention as an aspect of the government’s approach to China’s “three nong [rural] issues” of agriculture, rural development and farmers. According to a survey conducted by the All-China Women’s Federation in 2013, there are over 61 million left-behind children in China, accounting for 37.7 percent of children in rural areas and nearly 22 percent of children nationwide — meaning more than one out of every five children is living without one or both of their parents, three


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Photo by IC

said. “But the cold numbers clearly reveal that they are suffering.” Ye Jingzhong, head of the College of Humanities and Development Studies at China Agricultural University, a long-time rural children’s rights advocate, conducted a survey of 400 left-behind children in several Chinese provinces, concluding that only 50 percent of those children’s parents returned home at least once per calendar year. “For most of their childhood, left-behind children are actually orphans,” he told Party mouthpiece People’s Daily.

A left-behind child in a village near Beijing, April 4, 2013

million more than were in the same situation five years ago. In addition, there are an estimated 35.8 million migrant children living with their parents in cities. Both of these figures are still growing. The federation’s report also added that one-third of left-behind children in rural areas are living with grandparents, while 3.37 percent, over two million children, are living alone. According to the “Report on Family Development 2015” released by the National Health and Family Planning Commission, two-yearolds account for the highest proportion of left-behind children in China. A recent China Youth & Children Research Center (CYCRC) survey indicated that the principal desire of left-behind children is to “live with their parents, whether in cities or in their rural homes.” Sun Yunxiao, deputy director of CYCRC, said that the younger the child, the greater their emotional need, emphasizing that parental care is “irreplaceable” at each different stage of child development. “The biggest problem facing left-behind children is the lack of parental care which is likely to result in emotional desertification, making them less likely to care for others [in the future],” Sun told Beijing Youth Daily. Li Yifei, deputy director of the Scientific Communication and Education Research Center at Beijing Normal University and the author and academic consultant on the SXLS report, said during the report’s launch event that even professional psychiatrists find it hard to identify and treat the psychological problems suffered by left-behind children. “Most left-behind children do not display severe mental problems and it is also impossible to conduct the massive psychological intervention the large number of left-behind children [would require],” he


Psychological Toll

Dong Yuhong, a fifth-grader at a school in the Development District of Dalian, Liaoning Province, began living alone with his mother five years ago because at that time his father started work as a miner in Taxkorgan Tajik Autonomous County, Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region. Dong told NewsChina that he is happiest during Chinese New Year, when his father comes home, but added that the knowledge his father would inevitably leave again also made it a bittersweet time of year. “My biggest wish is that my father would attend a parents’ meeting at my school. I envy those children who get to play with their fathers every day,” he told our reporter. “I will study very hard and earn more money after I grow up, so my father will not need to leave home to work.” For 13-year-old Liu Jia, currently attending school in Nayong County, Bijie City, Guizhou Province, she’d settle for a shopping trip to buy snacks with her parents. She told NewsChina that she particularly misses her parents when she sees other families holding hands. Her parents call her for a few minutes once a month. “Every time they give me a call, they ask about my performance in school. I wish they’d ask more about my life, whether or not I am happy or whether or not I am lonely. But, in their eyes, my studies are the topic of choice,” she told NewsChina. According to research conducted by CYCRC in May 2014, 42.7 percent of left-behind girls feel lonely “constantly,” 6.2 percent more NEWSCHINA I October 2015

Photo by IC

Photo by IC

than left-behind boys, and 6.7 percent more than girls who live with both of their parents. The SXLS report also indicated that the less contact left-behind children have with their parents, the more confused and distressed those children become. The SXLS study found that 21.5 percent of left-behind children in rural areas report higher levels of “annoyance,” indicating dissatisfaction with their current living conditions, while 16.4 percent were recorded as having a higher degree of “confusion,” an indicator for anxiety, particularly about the future. Two left-behind girls help their grandfather in Tanjia Village, Nanchang City, Jiangxi Liu Xinyu told our reporter that during a Province, July 22, 2015 recent research trip to Henan Province, he presented a drawing to a group of left-behind children and a group of children who live with their parents that depicted a child sitting on a stoop and staring into the distance. He asked the children what they felt about the picture. He said that while the children with parents living at home gave a range of responses, the left-behind children almost without exception stated that the child was “waiting for their parents to come back home.” Chen Shuyao, 11, studies at Guihuayuan Elementary School in Taohuajiang County, Hunan Province. Her parents, both under 40 years old, have been working for more than a decade in Guangzhou, Guangdong Province, rarely returning home. Chen and her five-year-old sister are cared for by their grandparents. “Six or seven months after I was born, my parents left home to work in the city. Even in Several students at the Sangesi County Boarding School leave school for winter vacation in my dreams I wish I could live with them. I do Shaoyang City, Hunan Province, February 3, 2015 not like vacations because they are the loneliest time for me,” she told NewsChina. During her summer vacation last year, Chen went to Guangzhou to stay with her parents for a time. She told our reporter that her parents rose at 4 clothes, played games, told stories and set off fireworks together,” she or 5 AM every day, returning home around 10 PM. “My father is said. “On the day they left, I lowered my head — I did not want to see reluctant to tell me details about his job and I only know my mother my parents leave, and I also did not want them to see me weeping.” keeps a small newsstand in the city square,” Chen said. According to Wen Mengqiang, principal of Guihuayuan Elementary School, the SXLS report, as many as 69.2 percent of left-behind children do told NewsChina that, according to statistics from the Taohuajiang not know what their parents do for a living. County education bureau, of the 80,000 students enrolled in county “This past Chinese New Year was my happiest time at home with schools, some 40 percent are left-behind children. “Our school is lomy parents,” Chen continued. “The whole family tried on new cated in the urban-rural fringe zone, and 20 percent of our 1,900 stuNEWSCHINA I October 2015


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dents are left-behind children. A major task for our school is to take care of them and avoid tragedies from happening,” he said.

High Risk

Zhang Xudong, researcher with CYCRC’s Children Institute, reeled off a sobering list of risk factors contributing to deaths and injuries among left-behind children. A lack of family supervision, an inadequate social care system and loopholes in programs allowing government intervention were all issues, he said, adding that China’s left-behind children were largely neglected by the government and society until stories of murder, rape, accidental death and suicide among this vulnerable group began to appear in the domestic media. One recent tragedy occurred in June, when four siblings aged between 5 and 13 died at a hospital after drinking pesticide in a village in Bijie City, Guizhou Province. The four children, three sisters and one brother, had been living on their own without a guardian since March, when their father landed a job in the city and their mother left home after an argument. In a report released by Anhui Medical University in 2013, the incidence of accidental injury among left-behind children in rural areas is as high as 46.8 percent, 13 percent higher than the rate among children living with one or both parents. Most of the nearly 50,000 Chinese children who die in accidents each year are left-behind children, according to official data. Even more worrying is the seemingly strong tendency among left-behind children towards self harm and violent behavior, which is only now beginning to be examined by experts. The SXLS report indicated that left-behind children usually have a chronic lack of self-esteem and also tend towards egocentrism. They often feel resentful towards their parents and are prone to uncontrolled violent episodes. Another report into the moral values of left-behind children living in rural areas in Guizhou Province echoed these conclusions. That report, conducted by faculty from Xingyi Normal University for Nationalities, found that 43.3 percent of leftbehind children will wage a tit-for-tat war in conflict situations, with only 2 percent appearing to demonstrate empathy and a willingness to compromise. Supreme People’s Court statistics show a high degree of criminality among left-behind children in China, with the group said to account for 70 percent of China’s cases of juvenile delinquency, the rate of which, according to the same data set, is rising by 13 percent yearon-year. Alcohol and drug abuse, underage sexual activity and illicit gambling are all reported as common among the older members of this group. “It is very hard to change bad habits developed in early life, which often presage criminality in later years,” Dong Shitan, professor at Shandong Police College, told NewsChina. “Being left-behind has marked potential to lead, insidiously, to juvenile delinquency.” Dong cited the examples of recent cases of horrific assaults on school campuses, many of which were carried out by neglected youngsters, as evidence of the tendency of left-behind children to “harm themselves


or harm others.” Ruan Mei, a writer based in Yueyang, Hunan Province, wrote a book entitled Pains of the Century: Investigation into China’s Left-behind Children, based on research into 900 minor criminal cases in a juvenile detention facility and interview records collected from 11 teenagers. “I found that over 80 percent of inmates [at the facility] were left-behind children, and over 90 percent are either left-behind children or children from divorced families,” she told NewsChina. “The most serious problem left-behind children face is psychological. More than 40 percent of my child interviewees were obviously mentally impaired,” she told the official Xinhua News Agency in an earlier interview, adding that more than 16 percent of her subjects thought that their parents did not love them, and that more than 80 percent said they felt insecure. “Their pain is like the moon in the daytime — it’s invisible, but it’s still there,” she said. Yu Minhong, founder of the Beijing-based New Oriental Education Group and a member of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, China’s top governmental advisory body, told media in March that it would be catastrophic if left-behind children who have been neglected were also unable to receive affection as adults. He added that if this group ultimately migrated to cities in search of work and continued the cycle, “it would be very traumatizing for society.” “This is the biggest problem facing China’s education system today. It deserves to be solved as soon as possible as part of a national strategy,” he added. However, as the gap between urban and rural areas yawns ever wider, left-behind children are becoming a cheap backup force that will replenish the country’s vast population of migrant workers. 30-year-old Jiang Nengjie has spent six years shooting a documentary tracking the lives of left-behind children in his hometown, in Shaoyang, Hunan Province. In one scene from the film, when Jiang asked children what they wanted to do when they grew up, the answer was virtually unanimous — “to land a job in a city as a migrant worker.” An unquestioning acceptance of the status quo among migrant families further exacerbates the problems China faces in integrating this “lost generation” into a modern, dynamic society. Liu Xinyu believes that the recent tragedies involving left-behind children are just the tip of the iceberg. He told NewsChina that the blame for such tragedies lies mainly with parents who fail to realize that it is their duty to raise children and provide them with affection and emotional support. He added that, in many cases, migrant parents were unaware that it was important for them to communicate regularly with their offspring. “The whole of Chinese society has also failed to pay enough attention to left-behind children. We urgently need to care for their emotional needs because, if this group comes of age filled with pain, regret and even hatred, the effect on society would be unimaginable,” said Liu. Chen Wei and Fu Yao contributed to this story. NEWSCHINA I October 2015

20.8 million

China’s Left-behind Generation

Number of leftbehind children in ninth grade or younger

One out of every five children is living without one or both of their parents

34 million (2/3)

Number of left-behind children of preschool age or younger

14.1 million

2.1 million (3.4%)

Number of leftbehind children in elementary schools

Number of left-behind children in rural areas who live alone

162 million

Number of children in China’s rural areas

279 million

Number of children nationwide

6.66 million


Number of left-behind children in junior high schools


Percentage of children who have been left behind

Percentage of children in rural areas who have been left behind

61 million

Number of leftbehind children in rural areas

Sources: All-China Women’s Federation, 2013 and the Ministry of Education, 2014

Left-behind Children in the Rural Areas of Shandong, Hebei, Gansu, Guizhou, Guangxi and Yunnan Ratio


Parental Contact

Southwestern China

Children who live with both parents

Northwestern China Eastern China Central China

Left-behind children

2-4 times per week Nearly every day 3-4 times per month

Left-behind children whose fathers have moved away for work Left-behind children whose parents have both moved away for work Left-behind children whose mothers have moved away for work


46% Girls

NEWSCHINA I October 2015


54% Boys

Source: All-China Women’s Federation, 2013

3-4 times per year

Sources: Shangxuelushang (On the Way to School), June 2015

1-2 times per year no contact for the whole year


Percentage of China’s cases of juvenile delinquency involving left-behind children

Sources: China’s Supreme People’s Court


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Left-behind Children

Helping Hands The government and welfare organizations have taken steps over the years to ease the plight of China’s left-behind children, but the scale of the problem makes it tough to tackle By Du Guodong

Boarding Schools

Over the years, China’s central government has attached grow-


Photo by IC


eng, a 14-year-old girl, has been a boarder for five years at an elementary school that is a half-hour bus ride from her home in Xiaowopu Village, Chengde City, Hebei Province. Her father has worked away from home for most of that time, leaving Peng and her mother alone in the house. Peng’s mother lives in the village and spends nearly all her spare time in the evening participating in public square dancing activities with local friends. According to rules set down by her school, Peng lives at home four days in every 10, but, she says, she has limited contact with her mother even when she is at home. Through WeChat, a popular online messaging tool, she likes to share her feelings with her sister, who is 10 years Peng’s elder and a college graduate — one of only four in the village — and who currently works in Beijing. “I prefer to stay at home alone. My father often calls, but if he does not contact me for a long time, I feel a little lonely,” she told NewsChina.

A volunteer teacher discusses safety issues with left-behind children and seniors in Xin’an Village, Jiangxi Province, August 16, 2015

ing importance to the problem of left-behind children, establishing boarding schools in rural areas across the country. In January 2015, the State Council, China’s cabinet, released its Guidelines on the Development of Children in Impoverished Regions (2014-2020), in which a comprehensive care system targeting left-behind children began to take shape, at least on paper. According to the plan, the number of boarding schools will be strengthened in 680 of China’s most impoverished rural counties. NEWSCHINA I October 2015

According to a report by the China Youth & Children Research Center (CYCRC) in May 2014, the average age of Chinese boarding school students, mostly left-behind children, is decreasing — 35.2 percent are elementary school students, with 15 percent in fourth grade or above. In some elementary schools, the report claimed, some first-graders and even kindergartners live at school. Official statistics also show that, in 2011, 52.9 percent of junior middle school students in rural areas nationwide were boarders. This group on average achieved lower grades and had an average recorded weight and height that was lower than the average among day students. A Ministry of Education annual report released on July 30 showed that China is now home to over 20 million left-behind children in compulsory education. Nevertheless, according to a report on boarding school students in rural areas published by child welfare NGO Geluying, or “Growing Home,” the mental and emotional health of China’s boarding school students is a major concern. The organization surveyed nearly 100 boarding school students in 10 provinces between January 2012 and November 2014. They discovered that 47.3 percent of children surveyed suffered from acute “pessimism,” 63.8 percent said that they felt “lonely,” 17.6 percent suffered from depression and 8.4 percent exhibited suicidal tendencies. According to the Rural Education Action Program, a Sino-foreign joint evaluation organization that aims to inform education, health and nutrition policy in China, boarding school students have higher levels of anxiety and demonstrate poorer social skills than students who live at home. Du Shuang, director of Growing Home, told the Beijing-based Economic Information Daily that, during a trip to a rural boarding school in Guizhou Province, she spent a night in a student dormitory. After lights out, she claimed, the children did not go to sleep immediately. Instead, she heard sobbing from several beds. “Teachers told me later that, because the semester had just started, the younger students felt homesick,” she said. The boarding school’s principal, speaking on condition of anonymity, told researchers that most mental problems suffered by boarding school students are closely linked to their home environments. Some children, he explained, would not see their parents for years at a time, adding that “many parents care even less about their children after placing them in a boarding school. Some of them don’t even answer the phone when their child calls.” Yang Dongping, director of the non-profit 21st Century Education Research Institute, believes there is currently “no better option” than building boarding schools to address the problem of left-behind children. “But it is really the lesser of two evils. Through our research we found that boarding school students tend to be intellectually exhausted, students and teachers have cold relationships, and tensions between students run high,” he told our reporter. “Top-down management and a lack of cultural activities mean mental problems abound.” NEWSCHINA I October 2015

Official Oversight

A main obstacle to improving the lot of China’s left-behind children has been ambiguous definitions of the rights and responsibilities of government bodies in the areas of child welfare and protection. For example, China maintains over 20 government agencies and departments which arguably have jurisdiction in this area, including bureaus tasked with overseeing education, civil affairs, health, jurisdiction and women’s affairs. In November 2013, during the Third Plenary Session of the 18th Communist Party of China Central Committee, the central government attempted to streamline its approach to the issue of left-behind children, specifying clearly that the Ministry of Civil Affairs, rather than the All-China Women’s Federation (ACWF), would oversee all work, indicating that the government would take responsibility for the welfare and protection of left-behind children. In January 2008, the China Children and Teenagers’ Fund established a separate branch, the first of its kind, targeting children’s mental health, with a particular focus on left-behind children in rural areas. The fund partly supports teacher training programs designed to educate teachers on how to provide counseling services to left-behind children under their care. In June 2009, the National Working Committee on Children and Women under the State Council started to register migrant children aged under 16 living in China’s cities, while also setting up a database of left-behind children still living in rural areas. The same committee also established a family training program targeting left-behind children and a special counseling hotline. In August 2004, the Red Cross Society of China launched a Humanitarian Aid Program targeting left-behind children. The initial fund, 10 million yuan (US$1.6m), was earmarked for use in five western provinces and autonomous regions including Guizhou, Yunnan and Gansu. In the first year, this fund helped to build 150 care centers responsible for some 50,000 left-behind children. In December 2011, the ACWF, in conjunction with several other government agencies, initiated a pilot care project targeting leftbehind children in rural areas, expanding to 40 areas in 19 provinces and cities by 2013. Local governments, especially in areas with higher rates of labor outflow, have also taken a number of measures to tackle the problem. In Guizhou Province alone, a total of 800 children’s homes, which function as activity centers, began to be built from April 2014. Major cities have also begun to relax rules restricting school access for migrant children. Official statistics show that close to 12.3 million school-age children from migrant families are living in China’s cities, with 79.5 percent of them receiving education at public schools. Wu Ni, director of the education policy department of the National Institute of Education Sciences, told NewsChina that left-behind children constitute a long-standing social issue resulting from rapid urbanization, adding that “the core issue is the lack of parental care.” “Families should play the defining role in raising children and meeting their spiritual needs. The government is unable to take the place [of a parent] and the key to the problem is to ensure that the


cover story

Civic Aid

China’s NGOs have been quick to respond to the challenge represented by left-behind children by offering material assistance, but it was not un- University volunteers play with left-behind children in Shuangba Village, Sichuan Province, August 5, 2015 til recently that some NGOs began to realize the importance of offering emotional support to fragile youngsters. Zhou Wenhua, secretary-general of the Guangdong-based Blue Letter Project, an NGO dedicated to children’s Shangxuelushang (SXLS) or “On the Way to School,” another mental health, said left-behind children are more in need of emo- NGO dedicated to the mental health of left-behind children, has tional support than material assistance, claiming that the physical been working to help provide emotional support to children living needs of left-behind children are often better met than those of chil- without parents or guardians. From April 2013, the group began dren living with their parents. Zhou said there have been few pro- to invite celebrities and other volunteers to read and record stories grams targeting the emotional needs of left-behind children who, he for distribution to left-behind children to provide them with “good argues, suffer most from “a lack of security and a sense of presence.” company” on their way to school. So far, over 3,000 “story boxes” “Over the years, until a basic support mechanism was established, with at least 8,000 minutes of recorded material have been distribgovernment and civil organizations mainly focused their attention uted to rural students in seven provinces. on the material support, education and living standards of left-beLiu Xinyu, head of SXLS, is experimenting with a brand-new app hind children,” Zhou told the Guangzhou-based newspaper New which allows parents or children to leave lengthy voice messages for Express. “In terms of psychological care, it has failed to generate suf- one another, allowing parents to tell stories to their children even ficient attention.” if they are not physically present. Children can also use the app to “Some NGOs address the emotional needs of left-behind children seek help from volunteer child psychologists. Once live, this app is through setting up libraries, organizing summer schools or bringing expected to benefit 30,000 children in over 70 schools across the children to cities to see their parents, but this does little to help their country, and Liu has vowed to extend its services to cover China’s long-term emotional development,” he said. entire population of left-behind children by 2020. Since its inception in 2008, the Blue Letter Project has invited over “We found through our research that the main topic of conversa3,000 social workers from Chinese universities, including 500 in a tion between parents and children is school and daily life, with very full-time capacity, to maintain regular written correspondence with few parents aware of the importance of caring for their children’s left-behind children as a means to address their emotional problems. emotional needs,” Liu told NewsChina. “The voices children want to In March 2015, the organization began to send full-time volunteers hear the most have been proven to be those of their parents.” to schools in Guangdong and Hunan provinces to lead left-behind Liu added that all of China’s child welfare NGOs combined do children in extra classes, games and family visits, encouraging them not have the capacity to help the country’s total population of leftto discuss their feelings. behind children. The problem, he stressed, must be resolved by all


NEWSCHINA I October 2015

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role of parents as guardians is solid,” he said. Wu told our reporter that the fundamental solution lies in reinforcing the development of rural areas, pointing to stagnant and even backsliding living standards and worsening environmental degradation in China’s countryside. “The central government should focus on or prioritize the rural economy, allowing migrant workers to return home, live with their children and provide them with parental care.”

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parents, a general lack of parental care and supervision is always likely to cause injury, death and mental problems. “As for child development, nobody can take the place of a parent in providing psychological solace and education. The way out for left-behind children lies in institutional reform,” Xia told NewsChina. As of 1991, the Chinese government has been a signatory to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, a document which states clearly that children are entitled to the right to live with their families and in the care of their parents. More than 20 years later, protecting these rights A left-behind child with his younger brother at a care center in Kaili City, Guizhou Province, in the face of economic pragmatism remains a diAugust 17, 2015 lemma for China. As a response to the convention, also in 1991, China passed its Law on the Protection of Minors to enhance legal awareness of child abuse and of society. According to Liu, the general public does not have a clear neglect, but Yang Dongping said the law is too vaguely worded to concept of this largely invisible group, adding that many welfare or- be applicable to specific problems, adding that there remains a lack ganizations do not have a definite objective before they take action, of professional, comprehensive legal infrastructure safeguarding the rights of minors. an approach that results in the waste of resources. Yang said that it is a matter of some urgency for China to formulate a Children’s Welfare Law, and establish an independent instiLaw Zhang Xiaoyuan, ACWF PR chief, told our reporter that caring tution responsible for the safety and welfare of vulnerable minors for left-behind children comes with a number of challenges for both while also supervising the implementation of laws and coordination the government and private organizations. She added that it is un- between different government bodies. “A Children’s Welfare Law would mainly benefit vulnerable chillikely the problem will be solved in the foreseeable future, given the dren, including left-behind children, orphans, children with disabilisize of this vulnerable group and the sheer cost of helping them all. “Over the years, the ACWF has been pushing for family educa- ties, homeless and abandoned children, and children from broken tion legislation, a strengthening of government responsibility and homes. It is the weakness and chaos of institutions that reflects the the promotion of good, dutiful parenting,” she said. According to absence of government functionality and management,” he told a recent survey of 2,000 netizens by China Youth Daily, 74 percent NewsChina. Yang also recommended inaugurating a national Left-behind of respondents blamed parents for the injury or deaths of neglected Children’s Day on June 9, the day when four left-behind siblings children. On December 12, 2014, the Supreme People’s Court, the Su- in a county in Bijie City, Guizhou Province, committed suicide by preme People’s Procuratorate, the Ministry of Public Security and the drinking pesticide after being left to fend for themselves for months. “What the government has to do is build a legal protection system Ministry of Civil Affairs issued a joint regulation calling on parents to care for their children, which also hinted that legal guardianship and boost civil involvement to foster a comprehensive supervision could be revoked in cases of neglect. This regulation came into effect and relief mechanism for the benefit of left-behind children from the bottom up,” he said. on January 1. Xia Xueluan, sociology professor at Peking University, said that whether a child is left behind or taken to a city by migrant worker Li Jia contributed to this story. NEWSCHINA I October 2015



Environmental Corruption

First to Fall

The recent downfall of Zhang Lijun, vice minister of China’s Ministry of Environmental Protection, may be a prelude to an extended anti-graft campaign that draws out corruption within the nation’s environmental agencies


hang Lijun’s precipitous career trajectory stunned onlookers. In three years’ time, he went from being a factory’s technician to its deputy director. Later in his career, it took him just five years to leap from serving in a provincial environmental office to working for the country’s highest environmental government body. So when news broke on July 30, 2015, that Zhang’s most recent title, vice minister of the Ministry of Environmental Protection (MEP), had been revoked, and that he was under investigation for “serious legal violations,” people were once again stunned, but this time by his abrupt downfall. Since the nationwide anti-corruption campaign launched in 2012 on the back of the 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China, officials from many different government bodies have been exposed for corruption. Zhang is the first “tiger” from the nation’s environmental departments to fall from grace.

Rising Up

After he graduated in 1975 with a degree in non-ferrous metallurgy from China‘s Northeastern University, Zhang worked


first as a factory worker and technician before working his way up to become county leader of Shulan County in the northeastern province of Jilin. In 1989 he was promoted to chief of the Jilin Provincial Environmental Protection Bureau. Four years later, he was posted to Beijing. 1993 was an important year for Zhang Lijun. Without any prior experience working in the media, Zhang was appointed the director of China Environment News, a Beijing-based newspaper that is directly affiliated with what is now called the Ministry of Environmental Protection. He took another step forward in 1997, becoming the head of the national environmental protection agency’s financial planning division. Staff members from China Environment News told NewsChina that Zhang Lijun was a very “enterprising” official when he was the head of the newspaper. They said Zhang had tried to divert some money allotted for the newspaper to different business operations, but added that the investments all failed to turn a profit. Zhang’s role in environmental bureaucracy gained wider recognition after he successfully handled an environmental disaster in

Photo by IC

By Wang Shan

Zhang Lijun

NEWSCHINA I October 2015

November 2005. A series of explosions took place at a petrochemical plant in Jilin, which resulted in over 100 tons of toxic chemicals draining into the Songhua River, a tributary of the Amur, which partly demarcates the Sino-Russian border. As the deputy chief of China’s top environmental body, at the time called the National Environmental Protection Agency, Zhang was in charge of pollution control and prevention. In the aftermath of the explosions, apart from conferring with the Ministry of Water Resources and the Ministry of Agriculture on certain issues, Zhang was responsible for coordination with Jilin’s local government bodies. Furthermore, there was significant pressure from the Russian side, urging China to contain the spread of pollution. To soothe China’s northern neighbor, Zhang met with Russian representatives and promised to provide them with efficient water-testing equipment according to their requirements. Zhang promised that China “will try to meet Russian inquiries regarding this water pollution issue through any means possible.” Then both China and Russia sent six professionals to join the other’s team, and together they worked on monitoring the water pollution. All updates on the situation were made accessible to Russian media. With Zhang’s effective emergency control and PR savvy, the Songhua River pollution incident was deemed effectively under control. In 2008, when the National Environmental Protection Agency was given more importance by being elevated into the Ministry of Environmental Protection (MEP), Zhang, accordingly, became the vice minister. Yet insiders disclosed to our reporter that Zhang earned the lowest number of votes during the ministry’s internal election process.

Emission Doubts

As MEP vice minister, Zhang was in charge of many departments, including pollution control, emission reduction and environmental inspection. According to inside sources, his downfall is closely related to his management policy for automobile emissions standards and the way these standards

NEWSCHINA I October 2015

were initially established. China has been one of the world’s top automobile markets for years. As a result of the sharp rise in the number of cars on Chinese streets, vehicle emissions have become a key contributor to the country’s deadly air pollution. The total number of motor vehicles in China jumped from 13 million in 1997 to over 250 million in 2013. Over a period of 16 years, while Zhang was working at the MEP, China’s automobile industry experienced a historic boom. Zhang’s policies surrounding automobile emissions control, however, did not reflect the changing times. It was not until 2009, during the Two Sessions, the annual meetings of China’s top legislative body and top national advisory body, that Zhang admitted to the press that the country’s deteriorating air quality was directly related to the increasing number of cars on the road. Han Yingjian, former chief engineer at the MEP’s Vehicle Emission Control Center, told our reporter that regulated testing of vehicle exhaust is the best method to ensure vehicle emissions meet national restrictions and thus reduce contributions to automobile-related pollution. Domestically, the test most commonly accepted for assessing vehicle exhaust is called the Accelerated Simulation Mode (ASM) vehicle emissions test, which analyzes data gained through simulating real, on-road operations like braking, accelerating and decelerating. This testing method is widely regarded as being more reliable than previous exhaust tests on stationary, unloaded vehicles. In the mid-2000s the national environmental protection bureau altered the national standard and technical requirements to include ASM testing. However, these standards and requirements were implemented later only as “recommended” principles, rather than “compulsory” ones. Han Yingjian told our reporter that without meeting the aforementioned national standards and requirements, the quality of testing is diminished, and the test results lack precision. Inaccurate results could further impede local governments’ and environmen-

tal organizations’ decision-making. A source who works for the MEP told our reporter that the ministry had organized a series of meetings with experts to figure out how to promote and implement the new standards, but in the end the requirements for testing equipment were left largely unaltered. The source said this was supposedly caused by top decision makers within the environmental bureau who intentionally kept admittance criteria low so as to allow inferior testing equipment to enter the market.

Muddy Results

Consequently, second-rate exhaust testing equipment is widely used. Yao Shengzhuo, a teacher at Beijing University of Civil Engineering and Architecture’s School of Mechanical-electronic and Automobile Engineering, told our reporter that in 2011, the MEP did a nationwide inspection on over 1,000 testing institutions, more than 200 of which conducted illegal or irregular testing. In an article written in late 2014, Yan Ziqing, of the China Association of Environmental Protection Industry, wrote: “There are over 4,000 sets of equipment used to test motor vehicle exhaust emissions through the ASM method across the country, 90 percent of which are knock-off products, with a margin of error of up to 30 percent or higher.” Shenzhen Anche Technologies, a leading seller of ASM testing equipment in China, allegedly has close ties with Zhang Lijun, according to media reports. The company was established in 2006, and it planned to be listed in 2014, yet failed to do so due to reports claiming it has used false advertisements and fabricated production certifications. As of press time, NewsChina did not find more information or evidence proving a relationship between Zhang and the company. This past February, at a national-level environmental conference, new MEP minister Chen Jining vowed to combat corruption within the environmental sector. According to a knowledgeable source, Zhang’s case may merely be the first tug on the thread, and soon more stories of corrupt officials tangling up the MEP will unravel. 


Hung Hsiu-chu makes a public speech after winning the election as the candidate in the 2016 general election

Taiwan Textbooks

One History, Two Interpretations

Disputes over new guidelines covering history textbooks used in Taiwanese schools reflect greater divisions over the interpretation of the island’s history and identity in the run-up to the general election in 2016 By Yu Xiaodong


fter more than one year of relative peace on Taiwan’s streets after opposition to a cross-strait trade deal led to the storming of the Legislative Yuan by members of the “Sunflower” student protest movement, protests erupted again on July 23, 2015. This time, high school students stormed the offices of the island’s educational authorities and confronted police. The issue under scrutiny was proposed revisions to high school history textbooks. Student protesters and the pro-independence oppo-


sition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) claim that the revisions were a move to “brainwash” young Taiwanese into accepting Beijing’s “One China” stance on the island’s geopolitical status. Supporters of the revisions, meanwhile, argued that they would “restore historical fact” to the existing curriculum which, they claimed, had been “distorted” to serve a pro-independence political agenda. The July protests are just the latest chapter in an enduring conflict over the content of Taiwanese school textbooks that has raged for 20 NEWSCHINA I October 2015

Photo by IC


years, ever since dramatic modifications were made between 1996 and 2008 under the administration of Kuomintang (KMT or Nationalist Party) leader Lee Teng-hui and his DPP successor Chen Shui-bian. Both men are well-known for adopting a pro-independence stance, although in Lee’s case his party has traditionally supported the “One China” doctrine. Critics have long argued that the current textbook guidelines formulated by these administrations violate the constitution of the Republic of China (ROC), Taiwan’s official name, by severing the history of the island itself from the history of the ROC, and thus serving a long-term strategic goal of indoctrinating students into supporting Taiwanese independence and framing the ROC as an alien regime. Since the KMT triumphed over the DPP in the 2008 general election and subsequently adopted policies to increase economic ties with the mainland, there have been strong calls to revise the guidelines. After six years in power, current Taiwan leader Ma Ying-jeou’s government finally decided to take action. Although the newly proposed changes are relatively minor when compared to the overhaul instigated by the Lee and Chen administrations, school textbooks immediately became the newest battlefield to open up between the DPP and the KMT.

‘Occupation’ vs ‘Governance’

Besides the long-standing dispute over whether to refer to the mainland as “China” or “the Chinese mainland,” a major debate has raged around wording describing Japan’s colonial rule of the island after its military victory over China’s Qing Dynasty in 1895, an occupation which endured until the end of World War II. In 2013, the Ma administration decided to use “occupation” instead of “governance” to refer to Japanese rule, although pro-independence groups prefer the latter term. The change prompted strong protests from the DPP. According to KMT officials, although Japanese rule in Taiwan was relatively less brutal than its annexation of Korea and subsequent invasion of the Chinese mainland, the word “governance” paints an inappropriately favorable image of a period in which Japanese soldiers killed thousands of Taiwanese resistance fighters and appropriated the island’s economic infrastructure both directly and through local intermediaries. Among the more than 200,000 sex slaves known as “comfort women” that were kidnapped and forced to work in Japanese military brothels during World War II, it is estimated that more than 2,000 were from Taiwan. For pro-independence groups, however, use of the word “occupation” undermines their legal argument that Taiwan is an independent nation-state, as it suggests that the cessation of Taiwan to Japan in 1895 was illegitimate and temporary. In contrast, by using “governance,” they can argue that Chinese sovereignty in Taiwan ended legally and permanently in 1895, and thus the island should have been

NEWSCHINA I October 2015

considered an independent nation after Japan’s surrender. Although the recently revised textbook guidelines appear to have compromised, using “Japan’s colonial rule” to describe the period between 1895-1945, pro-independence groups have continued to contest terminology used to describe other historical events. The new guidelines state that the island was “recovered by,” rather than “given to,” China. The latter was formerly the official term when describing the ROC takeover of the island after Japan’s surrender in 1945. The proposed guidelines also include content concerning Japan’s economic exploitation of Taiwan, and a new chapter on contributions made by the Taiwanese to the anti-Japanese resistance movement, both in Taiwan and on the Chinese mainland. If the adoption of the word “forcefully” in the guidelines when referring to the drafting of more than 2,000 “comfort women” from Taiwan into Japanese military brothels has merely made pro-independence groups uncomfortable, mention of the Potsdam Proclamation, which was jointly issued by the US, Great Britain and the ROC in 1945 and defined the terms for Japan’s surrender, broke one of the party’s central taboos. Demanding that Japan accept the terms of the Cairo Declaration, another Allied document that included a clause requiring Japan to restore “all the territories Japan has stolen from the Chinese, such as Manchuria [northeastern China], Formosa [Taiwan], and The Pescadores [Penghu Islands]... to the Republic of China,” terms imperial Japan officially accepted prior to its surrender, the Potsdam Declaration has long been used by Beijing to support its sovereignty claims over Taiwan, as well as the disputed Diaoyu Islands, known as the Senkaku in Japan. Pro-independence groups argue that the inclusion of both the Cairo and Potsdam declarations is evidence that the KMT is attempting to mollify Beijing by “selling off” Taiwan’s sovereignty. Many KMT supporters contest that they are “pro-ROC,” not “pro-Beijing,” and that the revised textbooks serve to defend the ROC’s constitution. The fact that this year marks the 70th anniversary of Japan’s World War II surrender has made such disputes even more heated. At the same time as the textbook protests erupted, former leader Lee Tenghui, now 92, made some controversial remarks regarding Japanese rule in Taiwan during a visit to Japan. In a speech to the Tokyo Foreign Correspondents’ Club, Lee remarked that Taiwanese people were “grateful” for Japanese rule, adding that Taiwan was “given” to Japan by the Qing authorities as an “unwanted territory.” In addition, Lee stated that the Senkaku [Diaoyu] Islands belong to Japan, Lee’s remarks were immediately met with criticism in Taiwan. “People were harshly bullied, abused, humiliated and oppressed during the colonial period,” said Lai Shyh-bao, head of the KMT policy committee. According to Lai, Lee’s remarks “damaged Taiwan’s rights and reputation.” Lai vowed to seek to amend the law to scrap Lee’s taxpayer-funded annual stipend of NT$10 million (US$317,000).


“If [Lee] wants to enjoy perks, he should go to Japan,” he added. Yok Mu-ming, chairman of the island’s New Party, part of the KMT’s pan-blue coalition, took it a step further by filing a complaint against Lee at the office of Taiwan’s High Prosecutor. Pointing out that Lee had, during his time in office, explicitly declared that the Diaoyu Islands belong to the ROC, Yok accused Lee of “colluding with foreign states” with the intent of subjecting ROC territory to foreign control. Given the different perspectives over Japan’s rule of Taiwan, it is not surprising that most of the criticism of Lee’s remarks has stemmed from the KMT and its supporters. When pressed by reporters to respond to Lee’s comments, Tsai Ing-wen, the DPP’s candidate for Taiwan’s top leadership position, reiterated the official stance that “the Diaoyu [Islands] belong to Taiwan,” but has declined to openly criticize Lee. When Lee returned to Taiwan on July 30, he was warmly greeted by representatives of the pro-independence Taiwan Solidarity Union, who presented the former leader with flowers and chanted “I love you.”

ROC Role

The divisions between the pro-independence and pro-ROC camps over the official narrative of Japanese rule in Taiwan are also closely mirrored in debates over how to refer to the 1945 arrival in Taiwan of the KMT-led ROC. Under the Lee and Chen administrations, a major change in the official narrative of the ROC’s rule was the highlighting of the socalled 228 Incident, which occurred February 28, 1947. Dubbed the “228 Massacre” by pro-independence groups, the incident was triggered by a dispute between a cigarette vendor and a police officer, which quickly escalated into an anti-government uprising which was violently suppressed by the KMT-administrated ROC government. The island was subsequently placed under martial law, a period now known to Taiwanese as the White Terror. Historians have long disputed the number of people killed during the KMT crackdown, with estimates ranging from a few hundred to as many as 30,000. Broaching this subject at the official level was a political taboo until in 1995, when Lee Teng-hui publicly addressed the 228 Incident upon becoming Taiwan’s top leader. Since then, annual commemorative activities gradually developed into an official Peace Memorial Day, when representatives of Taiwan’s government ring a commemorative bell in memory of the victims. Pro-independence groups have long considered the 228 Incident as the birth of the Taiwanese independence movement. While recognizing the dark past of KMT rule in Taiwan, pro-ROC groups complain that existing textbook guidelines intentionally expunge the history of later periods when the island emerged as an “Asian Tiger” economy, achieving significant economic, educational, cultural and political development under a series of KMT administrations.


Photo by IC


An event organized by students opposed to the revisions to high school history textbooks, July 23, 2015

KMT supporters are particularly resentful that the Lee and Chen guidelines skirt around KMT contributions to the establishment of multiparty democracy on the island, a system many pro-independence activists consider a part of Taiwanese identity, which many have attributed to the influence of Japan. For example, during Lee’s controversial address in Tokyo, the former leader said that Japan, during its colonial rule, helped to introduce the concepts of separation of powers and modern governance to Taiwan. A commentary published in the Taipei-based, pro-ROC China Times on April 28 argued that, by “highly praising Japanese colonial rule but casting aspersions on the ROC government,” existing school textbook guidelines aim to forge a Taiwanese identity that leads younger generations to “believe China is a foreign, uncivilized country, regard the ROC as an alien regime, [and] consider Taiwan to be their mother country, with Japan as the source of [its] culture.” “But the ROC has not faded away, and the so-called ‘Republic of Taiwan’ has never materialized,” it continued. Removing references equating the White Terror and 228 Incident with the Holocaust in social studies textbooks, the new guidelines retain historical references to the incident, but include additional content on the more recent history of KMT rule, including a landmark land reform program, economic policies and the KMT’s role in establishing multiparty democracy on the island. Proponents of the new guidelines argue that the new content includes important historical facts that can provide students with more balanced and complete knowledge about the history of ROC rule in Taiwan. Proindependence groups have contested this view, claiming that the new curriculum only presents a history of “Chinese colonialism.” NEWSCHINA I October 2015

Photo by CFP

Election candidate James Soong, chairman of the People First Party, is surrounded by journalists in front of his portrait during a press conference in Taipei, August 6, 2015

‘Crushing Defeat’?

As debate continued to rage, student protesters and the DPP began to adopt a different strategy, shifting focus away from debating historical fact and towards how the revisions were made. They accused the KMT of engaging in “back room operations” and painted the party as an enemy of “Taiwanese centrism” and “democracy.” When a local court in Taipei ruled against the educational authorities in a case concerning the revisions, the KMT argument that neither Lee nor Chen had consulted the public before making dramatic changes to school textbooks seemed rather weak. In June, education officials agreed that the government would allow schools to choose their own textbooks, old or new, when the new semester began, a concession ruled unacceptable by pro-independence groups. The July 30 death of a student protester who committed suicide by suffocating himself caused the beleaguered KMT’s position to collapse further, even as the party wavered on the brink of withdrawing

NEWSCHINA I October 2015

the proposal. Calling the whole plan a “crushing defeat,” an editorial in the China Times blamed the failure on a “lack of character, courage and ability in the face of controversy,” accusations routinely directed at the administration of Ma Ying-jeou. Such a mentality may explain the rise of Hung Hsiu-chu as the KMT’s candidate in the 2016 general election. Nicknamed “little chili pepper,” Hung has argued that Ma’s vagueness in his mainland policy has made him seem like a weak leader. She alleged that the DPP has taken advantage of Ma’s flip-flopping to openly advocate for Taiwanese independence. Hung has said that, if elected, she will adopt a more “proactive” policy to seek a permanent peace agreement with the mainland in order to better integrate Taiwan into the global economy. To achieve this goal, Hung, currently trailing far behind DPP’s Tsai Ing-wen in the polls, said that she would build on the 1992 Consensus, a political platform agreed upon by Taipei and Beijing that allows the two sides to establish an economic relationship and is commonly known as “One China, Different Interpretations.” Hung would push to reach a new agreement rooted in the spirit of “One China, One Interpretation,” which Hung said would require Beijing to officially recognize ROC sovereignty over Taiwan in exchange for Taiwanese recognition of the People’s Republic of China as the legitimate government on the mainland. Hung’s stated agenda immediately led to a backlash from both the opposition and from within her own party, with critics claiming she is a closet supporter of reunification on Beijing’s terms. However, most experts believe that it is unlikely that Beijing would accept Hung’s proposition as it effectively presents a “Two China” solution, which Beijing officially views as a two-state solution, and thus anathema to its “One China” policy. However, as pro-independence groups oppose any policy that includes a “One China” doctrine, and routinely challenge the legitimacy of the ROC itself, Hung’s argument is unlikely to sway undecided voters. Amidst heated debates over Taiwanese identity, Soong Chu-yu (James Soong), chairman of Taiwan’s People First Party (PFP) and a veteran politician and former KMT member, announced his candidacy on August 6. Criticizing both the pro-independence stance of the DPP’s Tsai Ing-wen and the pro-unification position of the KMT’s Hung Hsiuchu, Soong argues that he represents a “third way.” However, given Soong’s traditional ties to the KMT, it is widely believed that his presence will split the ruling party’s share of the vote, and hand the election to Tsai’s pro-independence DPP. The latest polling shows Tsai comfortably ahead of both Soong and Hung. As Tsai herself has adopted a vaguely worded policy vowing to “maintain the status quo” regarding the cross-strait relationship, it seems that Taiwan’s identity crisis is destined to rage on beyond next year’s election. 


Highway traffic congestion in Jiading, Shanghai

New Expressway Policy

Paying the Price

The controversy surrounding China’s revised highway toll policy is more a question of transparency and accountability than whether or not people are willing to pay to use the roads By Li Jia and He Bin

It’s not a question of ‘yes’ or ‘no,’ it’s a question of ‘which one: tax or fee,’” said Wang Wei, an expert with the Chinese Academy of Governance. He was referring to the issue of charging drivers on China’s expressway system, the longest in the world. Wang spoke at a press conference held by China’s Ministry of Transport on July 21, 2015. That same day, a new draft regulation on the tolling system became open to public comment.


Under the existing rules that came into effect in 2004, roads that meet certain standards, ranging from Class 2 highways to expressways, are allowed to keep charging drivers for 15 to 25 years in most cases in order to cover the cost of their construction. 66 percent of the toll roads are expressways. This year’s revision takes a “dual-track” form, one for expressways with tollbooths, the other keeping the remaining roads toll-free, said a statement accompanying the draft. It NEWSCHINA I October 2015

Photo by CFP


also removes the caps on tolling periods, making it possible to keep the cash cow alive forever. According to the statement, there is a huge shortfall of money that is needed to build and maintain China’s expressways, and the new method for charging drivers is more fair for those who do not use expressways. The draft proposes to charge drivers through fees instead of taxes. Perhaps foreseeing that the new policy would trigger frustration, the Ministry of Transport issued statistics about toll roads’ debts for 2013 and 2014, and held several press conferences about the data and the new policy. However, public opinion is on a completely different track, challenging the government’s justifications for both the “yes” assumption and the “fee” preference.

Debts on the Way

According to the Ministry of Transport, outstanding debts mainly accrued from the construction and maintenance of expressways had reached US$600.8 billion by the end of 2014, with a majority in bank loans, the main source of funding. 46 percent of the debt was built up between 2011 and 2014, when one-third of existing expressways were built. Wang Tai, deputy director of the ministry’s highway bureau, explained at the June 30 press conference that the increase in labor costs, rise in spending on raw materials and higher engineering demands due to mountainous terrain in China’s midwestern region had all expanded the budget, and thus exacerbated the debt. Funds raised from tolls were not enough to make annual debt payments, let alone maintain roads. As a result, the ministry reported US$5 billion in annual losses in 2011, a number which jumped to US$24.5 billion by 2014. There is an ongoing ambitious national plan to lay more roads to complete a nationwide network, with expressways a key part of the blueprint. This means, as Ministry of Transport senior officials have said in several recent press conferences, the debt burden will not be eased until the spending spree slows down in a decade, and increased traffic on the new expressways generates more returns. On top of the new growth, they added, it is time to overhaul roads built in the earlier years of China’s construction boom. Wang Tai said that besides saving money in the future by using bonds, which are cheaper than loans, and improving management, the solution for the debt problem lies in two new funding sources: private investment and road users. All of these problems and solutions have been used by the ministry to justify the two main changes in the existing toll system. Firstly, only expressways will be tolled, and existing tollbooths on non-expressways will be scrapped once their scheduled toll period expires. This will reduce the proportion of tolled roads from the current 3.6 percent to 3 percent. Secondly, the 15- to 25-year tolling caps, based on debt maturity, will be removed. Instead, users will be charged indefinitely,

NEWSCHINA I October 2015

or as long as a provincial government claims that there is a need to repay incurred debts and maintain the expressways within its provincial jurisdiction.

Debts in Question

However, as the ministry attempts to justify the new regulations by showcasing its debt and conceding on some tolls, it seems to have missed the point. There is a deep mistrust amongst private citizens regarding the operation of the country’s road system. The sloppy accounts that the transportation agencies have presented have concerned the public instead of convincing them. For example, in June, Guangdong Province transportation authorities published two different 2014 statistics for turnpikes, saying the first one included inaccurate overhead data. This has caused confusion among the public. A month later, at the local legislators’ congress, provincial auditors declared that there were “irregularities” in US$120 million worth of funds used for the ongoing construction of local expressways. And while the banking and property development sectors are both known for windfall profits, in the first half of 2015, listed highway construction companies earned higher profits than listed companies in those industries, a trend that has lasted for the past few years. In 2008, a National Audit Office report found a number of irregularities in turnpike operation, including the establishment of more tollbooths than regulations allowed, the collection of excessive tolls that exceeded construction costs and the investment of land set aside for expressways into other development projects. Ostensibly, it is fair to have drivers only pay to drive on expressways, which account for less than 4 percent of China’s road network. However, much of what constitutes those drivers’ costs have been transferred to the rest of society. Although China’s logistics-related expenses declined to 16 percent of the country’s GDP in the first half of this year compared to the approximately 18 percent it has held in the past decade, according to the China Federation of Logistics and Purchasing – that is still a much higher proportion than in developed economies. For example, spending on logistics costs in the US in 2012 amounted to about 8.5 percent of the GDP. Half of the logistics costs in China are from transportation, of which 76 percent is road transport. Expressways stand in the center of the national highway network, which links together more than 200,000 population, port and manufacturing hubs. Within this network, traffic flow on expressways is nearly double that on roads of lower standards. Indeed, both the public and policymakers have blamed high logistics costs for unreasonable price hikes on many goods in recent years, from vegetables to imported luxury items. The new policy’s compliance with the Road Law, which outlines principles of road fees and safety regulations, has also been questioned. There are a lot of doubts over whether some revisions ignore the law,


Photo by IC


including those that extend the toll period beyond debt maturity and impose fees instead of taxes to cover maintenance costs. “I would prefer taxation, not fees,” said Shanghai Jiao Tong University professor Chen Xian. He explained to NewsChina that, unlike fees, the legislation and collection of taxes is put under legal scrutiny. The new rule also proposes to create a new agency to collect the fees, a process which means huge amounts of additional spending, he added. Chen thinks the choice for fees may reflect a turf war between government agencies. Moreover, the cost of maintaining the tollbooths themselves has long been a source of social complaints. To make matters more complicated, an anonymous source within the Ministry of Transport told NewsChina that it would be very difficult to reduce the number of manned tollbooths. The massive debt disclosed this time has once again triggered the recurring controversy surrounding the investment in expressways. Critics say it is not necessary to build such an extensive expressway network at this stage of development, while proponents cite the fact that expressway traffic has been heavier than ex-


Passengers kill time during a heavy traffic jam in Yunnan, April 22, 2015

pected. It is true that predicting traffic is difficult, but in some cases a forecast is not even attempted at all. In a People’s Daily article published on August 3, experts noted that some provinces even planned expressways at the small, county level to elevate local economic growth and thereby polish officials’ political records, without considering potential traffic issues and debt repayments. Besides, the frenzy over expressways comes at the cost of other roads. Expressways are subject to a national review and ranking every five years. As a result, a lot of funding has been spent on renovating sections which were still in decent condition, while shattered roads have been neglected. The government has pledged to dismiss all concerns surrounding the proposed regulations through adequate information disclosure. However, the way that the justification for the revision has been presented so far has not given the public confidence in the government’s level of transparency now, let alone the future. In this sense, the government seems to have made a false assumption — it’s not that expressway users don’t want to pay, it’s that they want to understand why they’re paying. NEWSCHINA I October 2015

An Abducted Woman

“Bloody Rouge”

More than 20 years ago, Gao Yanmin was abducted and sold into a rural marriage. Despite attempts to escape, Gao eventually settled in the village and served as its sole female teacher, earning praise from some for ‘repaying evil with good’ even as others slammed the tacit endorsement of human trafficking. NewsChina investigates By Xie Ying

NEWSCHINA I October 2015

Photo by CFP


n 2013, Gao Yanmin caught national attention when this abductee had worked as a teacher for nearly 20 years in her captor’s village, was named one of China’s top 10 best rural teachers by the State media outlet CCTV and Party paper Guangming Daily. That story was given new life in July 2015 after a blogger re-posted the report and criticized it for condoning human trafficking by ignoring the fact that Gao was sold into the village and had never been able to escape. The post went viral overnight, with a flood of netizens retweeting it and commenting on the story. A 2009 movie based on Gao’s experiences, The Story of an Abducted Woman, also came under fire. The movie prettified Gao’s kidnapping, portraying it as a rescue, and highlighted Gao’s dedication to her new village. Today, many people, especially feminists, view this interpretation as a “disgrace” to China’s moral values, its laws and the country itself. “[This propaganda] is like rouge made of blood. Would an abscess turn beautiful

Gao Yanmin carries a student back home after school, May 13, 2015

by being covered with such rouge?” wrote well-known microblogger Honglingjin on

Sina Weibo, China’s Twitter. This idea was shared by many media figures, including some working for State publications. Even Chen Shiqu, director of the Anti-abduction Office under China’s Ministry of Public Security, publicly stated that both the traffickers and buyers should be punished and that people should rescue the victims rather than excusing the crime or sympathizing with the criminals. However, Gao herself was not so enthusiastic about netizens’ sympathy and public attention. She refused most interview requests, claiming that she did not use the Internet much and did not notice what web users were discussing. On July 30, two days after her story began to spread nationwide, Gao authorized her local publicity department to publish a signed letter for her, stating that she prefers a quiet life and hopes nobody would harm her current family. The letter triggered new rounds of discussion – people began to question how this Chinese woman’s tragedy could have been overlooked for two decades. It had been so long that even the victim had


Photo by CFP


Gao Yanmin plays with her students during a break between classes, May 13, 2015

The primary school of Xia’an Village where Gao Yanmin works

resigned herself to this “fate.”

her situation from a completely different angle.


Gao’s experience was first exposed in 2006 when she was glorified by the provincial State media of Hebei Province as one of the top 10 newsmakers who “moved people the most.” According to media reports at the time, Gao was abducted in 1994, when she was only 19 years old. Under the pretense of helping her find a new job, two women led her away from a Hebei Province train station where Gao was buying a ticket home. They sold her to three unknown men and one of them allegedly raped her before selling her again. After several more “transactions,” Gao was finally sold for 2,700 yuan (US$429) to a shepherd living in Hebei’s poor, mountainous Xia’an Village. Despite Gao’s desperate pleas, the shepherd allegedly raped her and then forced her to marry him. Gao’s husband’s family kept a close eye on her. When she tried to escape, she was soon caught, dragged back and beaten. They ensured her three suicide attempts all failed. The monitoring was not lowered until she gradually surrendered to her new reality and settled into the family. Within a few years, she gave birth to a daughter, and then a son. Because her middle school education made her the most well-educated person in the village, she served as a local teacher. Yet previous media reports did not analyze


the reasons behind her abduction, her trafficking, or her rape; nor did they appeal to the police for help. Instead, they piled praise on how she “put the past aside” and devoted herself to the education of the village’s children. “Facing children’s eyes that were full of expectation, [Gao] chose to stay in the village that had brought her bitterness and humiliation,” a reporter wrote on a local news website under the Hebei Daily. “Due to her great ability to love, her life shines like a blooming flower.” Ironically, the local village government did not view the media attention as an honor, instead blaming Gao for blackening the village’s name by exposing its backwardness to the media – some villagers told the media that Gao had intentionally misled the media by showing them the shabbiest places in the village. In 2006, renowned news magazine Nanfeng Window revealed that once Gao’s story was made public, the village government used any means possible to stop media outlets from interviewing Gao, including State broadcaster CCTV. Village leaders forbade her from leaving the area, and even threatened to remove her from the village school staff. Eventually, Gao fell out of the limelight for years, only returning now, when Chinese netizens, who have become increasingly aware of human rights, suddenly cast concerns over

Leave or Stay?

Gao had given up resisting her captors years before her story went public. She was tied to the village by her children and her work as a teacher. Perhaps the only difference to her daily life pre- and post-fame is that her husband no longer dares to beat her. According to Gao, she first got in touch with her own family as early as 1995. “Accompanied” by her husband, she visited her parents in their poor Henan Province village and found that, since she’d gone missing the year before, her father’s hair had turned white and her mother had sobbed herself sick. Yet when Gao asked if she could stay with them, they refused. “We hoped that you would consider your husband’s family first. If you chose to stay with us, they would lose both you and the money [they spent buying you],” her mother reportedly said to her. “And, as a formerly married woman, you would be looked down upon by the villagers here and it would be very hard for you to find a good man.” This was the harsh reality of her situation. Despite the decade and a half of supposed openness that China had experienced by this point, many rural people, especially those in poorly educated and underdeveloped areas, regarded married women as products NEWSCHINA I October 2015

Photo by CFP

to return to it because her son still lived there. More recently, the Shanghai Women’s Federation outraged many netizens by encouraging abused women to hug the husbands who had beaten them. “So, in Chinese society, men are human, children are human, and only women are not?” wrote one commenter on, China’s most popular online bulletin board.

belonging to their husbands – many villages even deprive married women of their right to be assigned housing and land. With nowhere else to go, Gao returned to her husband’s village and helped at the local school when the village was too poor to hire teachers. “Although there was no love between my husband and me, my parentsin-law were kind to me and that moved me... Sometimes I felt like I was being cowardly [by staying], but I have a clear conscience,” she told the media in 2006. Her response seems to defy logic to many modern netizens, with some wondering if Gao is suffering from Stockholm syndrome. Others attributed her surrender to what women are taught according to traditional Chinese customs – traditional Confucianism requires women to be willing to swallow humiliation and sacrifice herself for the good of her family – just as Gao’s parents had told her to do. Such propaganda still prevails, especially in State media, which has encouraged women to “repay evil with good.” In 2008, State broadcaster CCTV aired the movie A’xia, telling the story of an abducted woman named A’xia, praising her devotion to the village of the man she was sold to. In 2014, CCTV program Waiting for You, in which the host searches for missing people, triggered controversy by persuading an abducted woman who had escaped her captor’s village NEWSCHINA I October 2015


Following the publicity surrounding Gao’s story, China’s rampant human trafficking has once again caused great public concerns. Influenced by sexism and cultural preferences, many rural families, especially poorer ones, prefer to have sons. When those sons find it hard to find a woman to marry, they “purchase” a bride from human traffickers. Most of the locals, including many officials, view this practice as more of a “traditional custom” than a crime. For example, dozens of men in Gao’s husband’s village have “married” abducted women. The impoverished town of Huangjing, Hunan Province, was dubbed “the town without mothers” because many of the wives there were reportedly abducted women and frequently ran away. Statistics from China’s Ministry of Public Security showed that in 2014 alone, Chinese police had rescued over 30,000 abducted women. Although Chinese laws have imposed harsher punishments on traffickers, consequences for “buyers” are relatively light – a buyer will not be severely punished, according to China’s Criminal Law, unless he or she tortures the victim or obstructs the victim’s rescue. But these negative reinforcements aren’t working. Numerous media outlets have reported that residents in many villages have joined together to resist police efforts to rescue abducted women, while police regulations did not encourage police to use arms during these conflicts for the sake of “social stability.” Shi Huashan, a policeman whom the media have named an “anti-abduction hero,” once revealed that the best way to rescue an abducted woman is to secretly sneak into her village, and even then rescuers are often attacked by villagers.

Despite previous waves of media coverage, Gao said that she has never seen any government officials or police officers sent to liberate her or the village’s other abducted women. She felt stuck. “I seldom left the village [due to its remoteness],” she told Nanfeng Window in 2006. “I was locked away from the outside world, living like a simpleton.” Now, as journalists once again flood Gao’s village, few residents express guilt about her experience, but instead scold her for making it harder for village men to attract wives, mirroring the same attitude held when she first became a public figure. Given that Gao was abducted 21 years ago, the statute of limitations on prosecuting her rapes and kidnapping through normal proceedings has expired. The only way Gao’s traffickers and buyers could possibly be brought to trial is if she is willing to proactively file a lawsuit against them, which must be approved by China’s highest procuratorate. According to media reports, police have looked into her case since her story swept over the Internet in July. Gao, however, does not seem willing to take action. “21 years have passed. I chose to let the past go,” she told NewsChina. “Justice might have come, but it is too late… Now the media coverage has reopened my wounds and hurt my children and my family. [If I filed a suit], how could we live amid the villagers’ resentment?” “We have no right to denounce Gao as a sufferer of Stockholm syndrome,” wrote author Hou Hongbin on “She had tried her best to resist her fate, running away, attempting suicide, asking her parents for help and even attracting a lot of media attention. However, society, including her parents, her family and [previous] media reports, were rationalizing the crime and the violence, cutting off all of the routes which could have helped her escape her tragedy.” As of press time, apart from Anti-abduction Office Director Chen Shiqu, no government officials or policymakers have made a public statement about Gao’s story. It seems that there may be many more abducted women in the future who, left abandoned and helpless, may find themselves forced onto Gao Yanmin’s path.



Abe’s 70th Anniversary Message

Choice words

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe seems to have bent over backwards during his speech for the 70th anniversary of Japan’s World War II defeat in order to appease those expecting an outright apology while not actually directly admitting responsibility. It may make more sense for observers to look beyond Abe’s speech, instead of waiting for an apology that may never come


Prime Minister Shinzo Abe returns to his seat after making a speech at a ceremony to mourn Japan’s war dead at the Nippon Budokan, Tokyo, August 15, 2015 NEWSCHINA I October 2015

Photo by IC

By Li Jia

The Japanese typically apologize far more frequently than Westerners,” as “apologizing is considered a virtue in Japan,” explained Namiko Abe, a Japanese language expert, in her article “How to say ‘I am sorry’ in Japanese.” Her comments are consistent with observers of Japanese culture and people who have contact with Japanese people in everyday life. However, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has proven that “sorry” really is the hardest word when it comes to facing the country’s dark wartime history. On August 14, 2015, the day before the 70th anniversary of Japan’s surrender to the Allies, Abe made a televised speech approved by his cabinet, the third of its kind since the end of World War II. There were four highly anticipated key terms that viewers were looking out for: “colonial rule,” “aggression,” “remorse” and “apology.” Except for “remorse,” Abe had skirted around the other three terms in previous domestic and international addresses, which led many to assume that they would also be missing from this speech. However, these words were in fact included, but in a way that corresponded with Abe’s view of history. “Colonial rule” and “aggression” referred to actions taken by Western powers or to the use of force in general, rather than to Japan’s behavior specifically during that period of history. “Remorse” and “apology” were expressed by reiterating the attitudes of previous governments, or pledging to not let Japan’s postwar generations “be predestined to apology.” The next day, the prime minister gave an offering to the Yasukuni Shrine, which honors about 2.5 million Japanese war dead, including, since 1978, 14 Class A war criminals. According to the shrine’s official website, it is the place to “show appreciation and respect to those who dedicated their precious lives to their mother country.” Chinese analysts stressed that it is not an apology’s frequency that matters, but its sincerity and the rationale behind it, particularly now, when there is perceived momentum in Japan’s rightist faction and the Abe administration is trying to change the country’s pacifist constitution through amendments that give new powers to its Self-Defense Forces. China and South Korea were disappointed by Abe’s implicit apologies and repudiation of the nature of the war. They were also dissatisfied with his explicit respect for the Yasukuni Shrine and his statements that future apologies for wartime aggression will not be necessary, as they feel he has yet to make a sincere one. China’s Foreign Ministry criticized Abe for “being evasive” on the nature and accountability of past wars. 67 Japanese lawmakers and three cabinet ministers visited the Yasukuni Shrine on August 15, and 44 percent of Japanese voters “approved of” Abe’s speech, according to Japan’s Kyodo News. Reconciliation in East Asia remains uncertain and bumpy 70 years after the end of war.

Clear and Direct

Specifically, the words and tone expected from Japan are epitomized

NEWSCHINA I October 2015

in the 1995 statement by former Japanese prime minister Tomiichi Murayama that marked the 50th anniversary of the end of World War II, and the remarks by former Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono in 1993. Murayama became the first Japanese prime minister to use the word “owabi,” which unambiguously means “apology,” in a cabinet-approved statement about past wars. It was based on the first open recognition of Japan’s “colonial rule and aggression” toward the rest of the world. In what became known as “the Kono statement,” a government official admitted publicly for the first time that government research revealed that the Japanese military was involved in the “establishment and management of the comfort stations and the transfer of comfort women.” In the postwar years before these two statements, Japan’s Emperor Akihito and former prime ministers had expressed “remorse,” “sorrow” or “regret” over “sufferings” or “damages” inflicted by the war during their visits to other Asia-Pacific countries and meetings with those countries’ leaders. As Gao Hong, a researcher with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS), explained to NewsChina, it is not enough to say “regret” or “remorse” without clarifying the “why” behind those feelings, given the reluctance some Japanese officials and people have in recognizing the country’s wartime aggression. Some Japanese governments have followed in the spirit of those two landmark statements in terms of frank recognition of the nature of the war and clear expressions of apology. In 2005, then-Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, also a nationalist leader, used a similar choice of words in his speech marking the 60th anniversary of the end of the war.

Revisionist Views

Abe frowns upon, if not totally opposes, the statements made by Murayama and Kono. Murayama decided to make a prime ministerial statement as a cabinet decision in 1995 only after his attempts to pass a bill recognizing the act of aggression and to make a no-war pledge were blocked mainly by an alliance of conservative nationalist lawmakers, of which Abe was a member. Abe had joined a history research committee in the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) in 1994. On the same day that Murayama made his statement, that committee published and distributed a book to all LDP members that systematically blamed victim countries for causing the war and rebuked Japan’s defeat and the trial of its war criminals. Right before Abe became head of the LDP in 2006, he said at a forum that China’s policy in the 1970s of encouraging Chinese people to build a friendship with Japanese civilians, distinguishing them from Japan’s wartime military personnel, would be regarded as a “classist view of history” and would not work in Japan, according to Kyodo News. During his first one-year stint as prime minister, Abe refused a 2007 US House of Representatives resolution that demanded an apology from the Japanese government for forcing Asian women,



particularly those from South Korea, to become “comfort women.” In 2013, during his second term, he ordered a review of the research on comfort women, which was the impetus behind the Kono statement. In that same year, during the Upper House Budget Committee sessions, he claimed that there was no international or academic definition of “aggression,” and thus it was not necessary to fully embrace the Murayama statement. On March 14, 2014, while promising to “uphold” the positions of the Murayama and Kono statements, he insisted that “the issues of history should not be politicized or be turned into a diplomatic issue.” His actions and remarks have put him under a lot of domestic and international pressure to include “colonial rule,” “aggression” and “apology” in his speech ever since he announced in 2013 that he intended to speak on the 70th anniversary of the end of the war. Chinese and South Korean foreign ministry officials have repeatedly stressed the importance of this expression in their relations with Japan. A US Congressional Research Service report released this past April warned that Abe’s and his cabinet’s revisionist views of history could damage East Asia relations in a way that affects US interests, and suggested an alternative place to commemorate Japan’s war dead. Abe and his cabinet were surprised by the report’s contents and criticized it, according to Japanese newspaper Asahi Shimbun. Two days before Abe’s scheduled speech, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s spokesperson Stephane Dujarric said at a briefing that the secretary-general called for Abe to reflect on history. Leaders of the New Komeito Party, the junior partner in Abe’s coalition government, called for Abe to apologize in his speech, along with some other minor parties in the Diet, Japan’s parliament. Hundreds of Japanese academics, many of whom focus on history, politics and law, signed statements in June and July asking Abe to express remorse and apologize unequivocally in his speech. Abe’s remarks have been closely watched this year on an international level as well. The fact that he avoided defining the war as an “aggression” and bypassed offering an apology at international events, notably the 2015 Asia-Africa Summit in Jakarta and a US congressional meeting in April, as well as during domestic Diet debates, has rarely gone unnoticed by international media.

“Two Steps Back”

Chinese analysts believed that by including these words in his speech in a roundabout way, Abe is trying to accommodate voices of those who both support and oppose his views. As CASS researcher Yang Bojiang noted to State broadcaster CCTV on August 15, the context of these phrases in Abe’s speech deviates from the historical record. One example highlighted by Chinese analysts is the 1904-05 war


in which Russia and Japan fought mainly in China’s northeast for dominance over both northern China and on the Korean peninsula. In Abe’s speech, he described the Russo-Japanese War as a result of Japan’s “sense of crisis” towards “waves of colonial rule [that] surged toward Asia in the 19th century” by the “Western powers,” and the Japanese victory “gave encouragement to many people under colonial rule from Asia to Africa.” He went on to say that Japan’s involvement in World War II was caused by Japan’s “sense of isolation” due to the “Western countries launching economic blocs [that involved] colonial economies” after the Great Depression in the 1930s. Therefore, he concluded, the lesson from history is that Japan tried to “break its deadlock” by force. In the only sentence with “aggression,” the word is sandwiched between two other nouns – “Incident, aggression, war” – and is used in a pledge that Japan will never “again” use force in “settling international disputes.” This wording is in line with Japan’s right-wing narrative, that the country’s past actions were all in the name of self-defense and the liberation of Asia from Western powers. Japan’s right and left differ fundamentally in their views on the history of World War II and the postwar pacifist constitution. Instead of a direct apology from his administration, the apology is made by conveying that “Japan has repeatedly expressed the feelings of deep remorse and heartfelt apology for its actions during the war.” He also avoided using the term “comfort women” by mentioning instead “women behind the battlefields whose honor and dignity were severely injured.” All of these instances, as Tsinghua University professor Liu Jiangyong told the media, represented “two steps backward” in the understanding of history.

Moving Forward

Chinese analysts noticed some of the speech’s positive points as well. In Liu’s view, the “one step forward” in the speech is the mentioning of the “tolerance” of Chinese people who raised about 3,000 Japanese children left behind in China right after the war, mainly during the evacuation and repatriation of the Japanese army and civilians. This is the first time that a Japanese prime minister has ever talked about this in a public statement. Although Abe’s apology may be more a result of political pressure and should not be taken to show a change in his perception of history, CASS’s Gao Hong thinks it is still significant in that it is a political statement made to the world by a top political leader and endorsed by his cabinet, thus it can act as a “constraint” to his actions and keep him from reneging on this commitment. The fact that Abe had to include those key words in his speech “reflects a new situation in the tug-of-war between the rightists and NEWSCHINA I October 2015

Photo by IC

Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (front), Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko attend the memorial service for the war dead of World War II at the Nippon Budokan, Tokyo, August 15, 2015

Members of a cross-partisan lawmakers’ alliance advocating the Yasukuni Shrine visit at the shrine, Tokyo, August 15, 2015

the anti-rightists, making it difficult for Abe to go as far right as he would lean if he were unrestrained,” Liu noted to the media. A book co-edited and co-authored by Liu explained how political, social, economic and cultural factors in Japan have underlined the pro-right NEWSCHINA I October 2015

momentum that has been gradually growing since the end of World War II, particularly gaining steam after the Cold War. Indeed, several of Abe’s predecessors openly advocated redefining the war as an act of self-defense against Western powers and the protection of Japanese citizens overseas. More steps forwards can be seen when looking beyond Abe. On August 15, Japan’s Emperor Akihito, whose father surrendered to the Allies exactly 70 years before, expressed his “deep remorse” over the war, using those words for the first time in his remarks during Tokyo’s annual memorial service for the war dead. In another “first,” in his “New Year Thoughts” statement released this past January, he specified that the “Manchurian Incident of 1931” was the start of the war. International media outlets believe these statements show he is most likely trying to express his concern over Japan’s future under Abe’s revisionist view of history. Chinese analysts generally appreciate the efforts of the emperor and his father in upholding Japan’s postwar pacifist constitution. Emperor Hirohito stopped visiting the Yasukuni Shrine after the names of Class A war criminals were added to its list of honorees. According to Kyodo News, in early April a new medical history museum in Fukuoka breaks a seven-decade-old taboo by addressing another dark passage of Japan’s wartime history: vivisection carried out on living US prisoners of war conducted at Kyushu University’s medical school. On August 15, Japanese paper Mainichi Shimbun declared its commitment to “cover news while keeping war lessons in mind” in the face of trends toward “refusing to humbly listen to different opinions in Japan.” All of these instances may improve the understanding of history in Japan, particularly amongst the younger generation. As both Liu Jiangyong and Gao Hong told NewsChina, many Japanese people, including academics and researchers, do not know major sections of World War II history as this part of history is not illustrated in detail in textbooks nor discussed much in Japan. Chinese academics are also stepping up their own efforts to conduct research on this topic. The first Chinese book about the International Military Tribunal for the Far East from the perspective of international law will soon be published in China. It includes essays by Chinese, Western and Japanese researchers from China’s 2013 academic seminar about the trials. Looking forward, Abe promised in his speech that the position of “deep remorse” and “heartfelt apology” that has been “articulated by the previous cabinets will remain unshakable into the future.” He said, “We have the great responsibility to take the lessons of history deep into our hearts... and to make all possible efforts for the peace and prosperity of Asia and the world.” It is hoped that these commitments will be upheld, not revised. 



New Growth Engine

Serve the Economy

The service sector has emerged as China’s biggest growth engine. However, the primacy of two sub-sectors, finance and property, will not last long. Opportunities lie in providing China’s growing consumer demographic with innovative new services By Ye Tan


hina’s official 7 percent GDP growth rate in Q1, Q2 and for the first half of 2015 as a whole, is a figure widely questioned because it aligns so precisely with the government’s stated target. Skeptics say empirical observations do not indicate such growth, arguing instead that 7 percent is a made-up figure resulting from official book-cooking. The key question is whether China has underestimated the impact of market price fluctuations, the crucial variable in calculating an economy’s real GDP. When the price growth rate that is used is lower than the true rate, it inflates price-weighted GDP figures. Sheng Laiyun, spokesperson for China’s Na-


tional Bureau of Statistics, explained at a July 15 press conference in Beijing that China calculates the added value of domestic industrial output, and that his department has factored price changes throughout the industrial supply chain into its GDP calculations. This method is different from the Western approach, which focuses on domestic spending by individuals, businesses and governments, rather than industrial output. It therefore makes sense to look more closely at economic data covering China’s primary, secondary and tertiary industrial sectors. Growth in primary industry, which in China is mainly represented by agriculture, remains low. Tertiary industries, meanwhile,

saw an overall growth rate of 8.4 percent, more rapid than the average growth recorded in secondary industry, which in China is largely represented by manufacturing and mining. Indeed, the service industry has been consolidating its position as the principal growth engine of China’s economy since it leapfrogged the secondary industrial sector in 2013. Given this, tapping the potential of the service sector will help brighten China’s growth prospects in both the short and long term.

New Stars

Within the service sector, two markets, finance and real estate, could probably take NEWSCHINA I October 2015

Photo by IC

Workers put up posters for the Qianhai Shenzhen-Hong Kong Modern Service Industry Cooperation Zone, a trial project to develop China’s high-end service sector, in Shenzhen, Guangdong Province, October 24, 2014

most of the credit for the government’s ability to meet its 7 percent growth target. In the first quarter of the year, the added value of the financial sector grew by 16 percent, a jump rarely seen in any sector in recent years. The financial industry contributed 30 percent to national GDP in the first half of 2015, compared with an average of 12 percent in the past. “Without such a rapid rise in the financial sector, China’s GDP could have stood at only 6.5 percent in the first quarter of the year,” noted Zhu Zhenxin, an analyst with Minsheng Securities. In terms of the financial services sector itself, securities and insurance companies have outperformed other providers. The bull stock NEWSCHINA I October 2015

market in the first half of the year created a windfall for securities companies, who cashed in on being both brokers and investors in the equity market. Recent statistics disclosed by the Securities Association of China show that the country’s 125 securities companies made 373 percent more net profit in the first half of the year than they did over the same period in 2014, and the 22 listed ones, whose net profits made up more than half of the total, enjoyed a net profit increase of 358 percent. Returns in the insurance business were also generous. According to the China Insurance Regulatory Commission, net profits in the sector soared by 204 percent in the first half of 2015. In the meantime, insurers have

impressed the market with a series of highprofile mergers and acquisitions, expanding on an unprecedented scale into other services both within and outside of China. Anbang Insurance, a formerly little-known financial player, now has a presence on the board of directors of two listed Chinese banks, China Minsheng Bank and China Merchants Bank, as a result of aggressive acquisitions beginning in 2014, before also buying out Belgium’s Delta Lloyd Bank at the end of June. Then, in February, the acquisition of Baccarat Hotel & Residences New York from the US’s Starwood Capital Group by China’s Sunshine Insurance was announced. The property market carries colossal


Photo by IC


People take photos to record changes in the skyline of the Shenzhen-Hong Kong Modern Service Industry Cooperation Zone, Guangdong Province

(US$51). Though the sector’s golden age has passed, with average growth in its added value well below the overall GDP growth rate between 2011 and 2013, there were signs of recovery in the first half of the year, particularly in the second quarter. Square-footage sold in the first six months of 2015 rose by 3.9 percent compared to the same period last year, reversing the preceding downward trend thanks to three consecutive months of improved sales. As a result, more sales revenue and a crop of new mortgages replenished developer cash flow in June much more so than in May. The boom in China’s finance and property markets has also boosted household consumption. Urban retail stock investors felt more confident to spend, and new property buyers boosted sales in new furniture and construction materials. Urban household consumption rose from 5.3 percent in the first quarter to 7.2 percent in the second.

Photo by IC

Niche Stars

The Fourth China International Senior Services Expo, Beijing, May 8, 2015

weight in China’s economy, affecting dozens of sectors from steel and cement to furniture and home appliances. The National Bureau


of Statistics estimates that every 100 yuan (US$16) of input in the real estate market could lead to a total output of 315 yuan

However, there is little indication that the current equity bull market or property rebound can continue in the second half of the year, let alone in the long term. The stock market has been struggling with dramatic volatility since it took a tumble in the second half of June. Consequently, securities companies have felt the pinch. In June, China’s 22 listed securities companies reported net profits just one-quarter of those declared in May. Outside first-tier cities, the outlook for the property market remains bleak, with prices either flat-lining or declining as of June. If both the stock and property markets remain lukewarm in the second half of 2015, where are the alternative sources of growth? Besides upgrading secondary industrial sectors, mainly supply chain manufacturing, there is still great untapped potential in the service sector – even in the troubled property market. While developers are investing less, services related to property management, such as tourist resorts, are attracting capital inflow. Property giants, like Zhuhai Holding and Vanke, have recently announced or broken ground on projects for hotels, resorts or incubators for small, hi-tech business startups. In early July, China’s Hainan AirNEWSCHINA I October 2015


lines and Pierre & Vacances-Center Parcs Group, a French resort operator, signed a memorandum of understanding in France on a partnership to tap the markets for urban serviced apartments, nursing homes and ski resorts in China and across Asia. Leading online platforms for short-term room rentals, taking after the AirBnB model, have also attracted huge amounts of venture capital in China. Though outreach into these services does not necessarily bring more added value to the property market itself, it does create more added value in other sectors, which in turn will support economic growth as a whole. The same is true for the auto industry. According to the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers, the industry suffered much slower year-on-year growth in sales and production, and even a decline in export, in the first six months of 2015. However, capital is flooding into autorelated services, such as auto finance and after-sales services. Companies offering appbased door-to-door car washing services, for example, have mushroomed. Didi Kuaidi, China’s Uber equivalent, has launched a designated driver business, a market estimated by leading Internet business data provider Analysys International to be worth US$440 million in 2015. As China is now the largest auto market in the world, the development of auto-related services could be a tremendous boon to the wider economy. Indeed, the basic daily needs of consumers provide commercial opportunities that cannot be underestimated. Mobile-based services have greatly improved matchmaking between supply and demand. Analysys International recently forecasted that O2O (online-to-offline) services meeting such daily needs will ultimately create a market worth more than US$65 billion in 2015, with the food and beverage services industry securing the largest share. All of these examples show that the development of more niche markets in China’s service sector could provide significant momentum for the country’s economy.  The author is an independent economic analyst. NEWSCHINA I October 2015

bynumbers 7

CPI and PPI changes by month, %

Percentage point gap between the 1.6 percent increase in China’s Consumer Price Index, an indicator of inflation, and the 5.4 percent fall in the Producer Price Index, a deflation indicator, recorded in July 2015, putting the gap at its widest since March 2012. Source: China National Bureau of Statistics

3 2 1 0 -1 -2 -3 -4 -5 -6

















US$7.35tn Foreign exchange traded in China in the first six months of 2015. China foreign exchange trading, Q1-2, 2015 186

Increase in social retail consumption in rural areas of China in the first seven months of 2015, compared with the 10.4% overall growth in retail consumption, and 10.2% growth in urban areas. Source: China National Bureau of Statistics

0.13% Year-on-year growth in gross profits in China’s machinery industry over the first half of 2015, the lowest increase in five years, and a sharp decline from the 20 percent rise recorded in the same period 2014.



268 Spots Forwards Swaps Options

Source: China State Administration of Foreign Exchange

316 Coal consumption (in grams) for every kilowatt-hour of power supplied in the first seven months of 2015, the lowest in the same period since the data was made available in 2009. Source: China National Energy Administration

Source: China Ministry of Agriculture / China Ministry of Water Resources

Coal used per kwh 350

Amount (g)


January-July, 2009-2015



Jean Jérome Augustin Bussiere

Back to Life

French doctor Jean Jérome Augustin Bussiere came to China in 1913 and stayed for 41 years, treating politicians, liaising with celebrities and even helping Chinese forces during World War II. Six decades later, a CCTV documentary team dusts off his forgotten story By Zhou Fengting and Xie Ying


fter being left out of history books for more than half a century, Jean Jérome Augustin Bussiere, a French doctor who lived in China from 1913 to 1954, returned to the public eye in June 2015 when China’s State media outlet CCTV broadcast the documentary Once Upon a Time in Bussiere’s Garden. The documentary was made after the Chinese government held a conference in March 2014 celebrating the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and France, at which Chinese President Xi Jinping identified Bussiere as a Frenchman who had “made great contributions to the historical development of China.” In addition, France held a photo exhibition in Paris this June that told the story of the forgotten doctor’s life in China. According to historical records, Bussiere was a witness to many of China’s most historic milestones during his stay in the country, from


the fall of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1912) to the founding of the Republic of China (ROC), from fighting against Japan during World War II (1937-1945) to the Civil War (1945-1949), and then to the founding of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) in 1949. During the process, he was as much a participant as an onlooker, keeping in close touch with influential officials and politicians and even getting involved in war before finally leaving the country due to political reasons. The documentary opens with a voice-over by the doctor’s son, Jean Louis Bussiere. “I was a two-year-old child when my father passed away [in France], so [he has] remained a mystery to me. I wanted to know who were those people standing beside him in the photos and how he got deep into Chinese society. It is a fascinating phase of history and few people know about it.” NEWSCHINA I October 2015

Courtesy of Interviewee

Jean Jérome Augustin Bussiere

Bussiere’s Salons

Born in 1872, Bussiere received his medical degree at a French naval medical institute and practiced medicine in several French colonies before he arrived in China in 1913. Although China was buffeted by social and political upheaval at that time – the Qing Dynasty had collapsed and warlords jostled for regional supremacy – it was a brand new phase of life for Bussiere. He swiftly earned a reputation among China’s upper classes for his superb medical skills. According to the documentary, Bussiere introduced some vaccines and surgical tools to China, impressing a great many Chinese people who were previously skeptical about Western medicine. The doctor’s son found many notes sent from the era’s rich and famous among the late Bussiere’s things. There were even invitations from royals, proving Bussiere’s high social status at the time. Besides high-ranking officials

NEWSCHINA I October 2015

and nobles, Bussiere’s patients even included politician and general Yuan Shikai, who was elected the ROC’s first president in 1913 and then attempted to revive China’s monarchy by having himself declared Emperor in 1915. As Yuan’s medical consultant, Bussiere performed the final operation on “Emperor” Yuan, who died of uremia. Some of Bussiere’s old neighbors still have clear memories about the salons he held every Wednesday at his home, located beside the French embassy in Beijing’s foreign concession. Chinese and French dignitaries met at these events to exchange news and discuss current affairs. “The doctor lived here for years and remains well known among French notables in Beijing. He received many friends every week who, though not necessarily Sinologists, all had a deep interest in China and Asian countries. They shared information and ideas with each other, regardless of their birthplaces or educational backgrounds,” wrote Pierre Morel, former French ambassador to China. In 1923, Bussiere rented some land near Mount Yangtai in the remote western suburbs of Beijing and built a three-story garden villa. He started holding his salons there and it soon became an upper-class social hub. The list of participants included French Sinologist André d’Hormon, poet-diplomat winner of the 1960 Nobel Prize for Literature Saint-John Perse, as well as a great number of Chinese luminaries who were well known for changing the course of Chinese history, such as Tsai Yuen-pei, the ROC’s first education minister and president of Peking University from 1916-1927, and Wang Ching-wei, who served as the ROC’s propaganda minister in 1924 and later surrendered to the Japanese army during World War II. “Nearly every guest sensed sincerity and friendship in my father’s salon,” said Bussiere junior. “They tasted cakes, fruits and wine together and shared their thoughts and feelings. They came and went like clouds, while my father stayed planted there like a tree, witnessing the changes.”


Bussiere played an even bigger role in Chinese history when he engaged in a Sino-French work-study program in 1915. It was initiated by Li Shih-tseng, a prestigious member of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) in the early ROC period who was also a frequent guest at Bussiere’s salons. Li called on Chinese youth to study in France on a work-study basis, with Bussiere serving as a primary coordinator, thanks to his social network in the French embassy. With the support of his salon guests, the program made it possible for Chinese young people to learn more about the outside world, opening the door for a great number of future politicians and revolutionaries. From 1919-20, the program sent around 2,000 Chinese students to France, many of whom have deeply changed China’s fate. Program alumni include first PRC premier Zhou Enlai as well as Deng Xiaoping, the designer of China’s Reform and Opening-up policy. Besides conducting the program’s logistical work, Bussiere still devoted himself to medical practice, not only performing physical examinations on the program’s Chinese students, but also treating poor civilians, free of charge. Former patient Hu Baoshan remembers go-


Courtesy of Interviewee


Bussiere’s son examines his father’s effects at his home in France

ing to the doctor although he couldn’t afford medical care. “Bussiere had to use gasoline to sterilize my leg before an operation,” Hu told CCTV. “Despite [economic hardship], he bore the entire cost of his medical practice… If not for him, I would have died.” According to the documentary, Bussiere remodeled a watchtower in his garden, transforming it into a three-story clinic for local patients. Above his villa’s gate hung a stone plate, which Li Shih-tseng had engraved with four Chinese characters: Ji Shi Zhi Yi. It roughly translates to “Practice medicine to help the people.” Due to a shortage of funds, the work-study program failed to continue after 1920, but Li and his supporters set up the French-Chinese University in Beijing, with Bussiere as a member of the board. The doctor also served as the first president of Shanghai’s Aurora University Medical School from 1932-48, pushing the school into a well-respected position within the Chinese medical world. After the PRC was founded, the university merged with several other medical schools to form present-day Shanghai Jiao Tong University School of Medicine, which fostered a large number of the new nation’s most experienced medical experts and academics.


After World War II broke out and Japan invaded China proper in


1937, Bussiere had to suspend his salons for the sake of security. But he was not one to just watch the action from the sidelines. Taking advantage of the fact that Japan usually treated Westerners in China better, Bussiere helped the Communist Party of China’s (CPC) Eighth Route Army transport medicine to the front lines. Mei Hongkun, son of Bussiere’s then-driver, recalled an air of secrecy around the outings. “My father often brought a bag home and nobody was allowed to touch it,” Mei said. “When my mother asked where he was going, he would gesture ‘eight,’ meaning the Eighth Route Army.” “Dr Bussiere usually sat in the car calmly, since he held a pass granted by the Japanese army,” he added. Mei’s words are supported by Rong Guozhang’s historical book Eight Years of the Peking People’s Resistance Against Japan, which revealed that Bussiere helped underground CPC member Huang Hao transport medicine through Beijing’s western mountains, first by bike, then in his Buick. He also secretly performed several operations on members of the Eighth Route Army. After World War II, the Chinese were caught in a fierce civil war between the CPC and KMT. Considering various uncertainties, the French embassy instructed all French citizens to leave China, but Bussiere refused. By that time, he was practically a Beijinger, wearing NEWSCHINA I October 2015

Chinese clothes and speaking fluent Chinese. “There are few doctors and little medicine here, and my patients need me. It is duty that asks me to stay,” he reportedly wrote to one of his friends. According to Chinese media reports, another reason he wanted to stay was that he had a lot of confidence in the CPC, as he had close relationships with many of its members. Because Bussiere stayed in China, he met the Chinese woman who would become his wife, Wu Sidan. She was 52 years his junior. Despite this huge age gap, the couple cared for each other and married in 1952. Everything seemed right for Bussiere in Beijing – he and his best friend d’Hormon even bought a tomb in the city’s western mountains. He didn’t want to leave China, even in death. Their dream, however, was broken by the Korean War (19501953), during which the Chinese army joined North Korea to fight against the US. Meanwhile, in the First Indochina War (1946-1954), the new Chinese government stood against France to support the communist Viet Minh. In this political climate, an anti-imperialism campaign was sweeping through China, with all Westerners placed under tight supervision. After finding out that several foreign agents had contacted Bussiere, the Chinese government revoked Bussiere’s medical license in July 1954 and ordered him to either take Chinese citizenship or leave the country – without his wife. Bussiere chose the latter. “I regard China as my second mother country and the Chinese people as my people… I believe I deserve to be China’s guest. My entire fortune and all of my friendships are in China… and I did what a Chinese patriot would do [during my stay in China]. Apart from that, I just did what a doctor should do… Could you allow a man as old and diseased as I am to live in Beijing if I promise not to work and pose a burden [on the government]?” Bussiere wrote in a letter to Premier Zhou Enlai. “If the law does not permit [this], could you please keep my wife’s Chinese citizenship and allow her to go with me?” In October 1954, Bussiere and Wu Sidan left Beijing for the region of Auvergne in central France, bringing with them only US$30 and Bussiere’s scripts, letters, photos, certificates and pet bird. Their five crates of antiques were confiscated by Chinese customs and were stored in the French embassy. With almost no money, Bussiere and his wife had to start from scratch. Given that Bussiere was already 82 years old, Wu Sidan, who was born into a wealthy Chinese family, did the housework and labored on a farm by herself. Bussiere died in 1958, leaving his wife to raise their two-year-old son alone. She never remarried. “After the Cultural Revolution [1966-1976] broke out in China, it got harder and harder for my mother to contact her family in Beijing,”

NEWSCHINA I October 2015

Courtesy of Interviewee


Wedding portrait of Bussiere and his wife, Wu Sidan

recalled Bussiere’s son. “She often stared at the mountains around our home in a daze, saying that they were very similar to the western mountains in Beijing [where Bussiere’s garden villa was located]. Once, when she watched a Chinese film, she burst into tears at the images of China.” According to Bussiere’s son, Wu returned to Bussiere’s Chinese villa twice before her death in 2013 – once in 1983 and again in 1992 – but she saw nothing but an abandoned building covered with dust and weeds. In 2013, the Beijing government defined Bussiere’s garden villa as a cultural relic deserving of protection and restored the building. Before that, few Chinese people knew what the wasteland was, and only a few of the old villagers living in the area could remember Bussiere, or what he looked like. “I found a note written by my father in 1953 when collecting his effects,” Bussiere’s son said. “It reads: ‘I would not like to organize my materials, since I have been accustomed to their haphazard fashion. I closed my drawer and perhaps will not open it again… But someday, my children or grandchildren might see this note, being told that their father/grandfather earned some small honors in China.’” 



56 Flowers

Soft Power in a Skirt? A pop group made up of 56 girls has grabbed attention in China with their declarations of socialist values and commercial appeal, but its debut was met with criticism and controversy By Wan Jiahuan


ew Chinese girl group 56 Flowers’ signature traits leapt off the walls of the theater even before the performers set foot on stage. More than 10 huge red banners hung above the 1,000 red seats. Chinese national flags alternated with streamers bearing the group’s logo, which shares the national flag’s shades of red and yellow. One banner proclaimed: “A spirited people, a hopeful nation and a powerful


country.” “We wanted to evoke a feeling of collectivism from the audience,” said 56 Flowers’ manager Chen Guang. It was June 28, and 56 Flowers was about to hold their first official performance as a 56-member-strong musical troupe, with each member representing one of China’s ethnic groups. All 56 girls twirled in white polo shirts and black pleated skirts as they

sang eight songs, including A Chinese Dream is the Most Beautiful, Sons and Daughters of China and Sing in Praise of Our Motherland. As Chen says, “This isn’t the place for love songs.” On the group’s official website, the girls are described as “the only official brand representing the beauty of Chinese women.” Viewed as China’s answer to Japan’s insanely popular all-girl behemoth AKB48, many NEWSCHINA I October 2015

Photo by CFP

56 Flowers performs at a gala sponsored by State broadcaster CCTV, Beijing, June 30, 2015, Beijing

question whether the group is a stunt or another means to extend the reach of China’s soft power.

Daily Life

Dai Qinyi was 15 when she left her hometown in Jiangsu Province to move to Beijing in 2014. She was one of the first girls to join 56 Flowers. Like her, most of the group’s members were born after 1995. Living in a

NEWSCHINA I October 2015

dormitory in Beijing’s northern suburb of Changping, the girls get up at 6 every morning to go jogging and do other exercises to improve their fitness and lung capacity. Then, they study dance, music and other courses labeled “training for the cultivation of girl idols.” In the evening, they attend speech classes and practice oral expression. They do not return to their rooms until 9 PM, after the last course on the schedule –

an ideology and culture class. Every month, Dai and her fellow group members take one day off. They receive a monthly salary of 3,000 yuan (US$480). After a year’s training, teachers gave Dai very positive reviews and she was promoted to group leader, as well as becoming part of a “core member group” with four other girls. Many of these girls, dubbed “flowers” by their choreographer Liu Yanxi, are from Chi-



na’s rural areas. The set of criteria followed in selecting these “flowers” was unique. There was no requirement for height, weight or a pretty face; instead candidates must have had a “sunny and pure” look. Priority was also given to those with a talent for interpreting literature, drawing, painting and other arts. After receiving training, these girls are reviewed not only by their musical performance, but also by their “moral character.” And they are not allowed to date. 56 Flowers mainly sings patriotic songs praising the country and its people. At a 2014 symposium for some of China’s most famous artists and writers, “General Secretary Xi [Jinping] said that patriotism should be the main theme in the creation of literature and art,” manager and producer Chen Guang told NewsChina. “We are really following his instructions.”


At the same time, 56 Flowers isn’t stuck solely to past traditions. 56 Flowers’ dance style mixes popular and modern dance moves with those of China’s ethnic groups, including the Dai, Uygur and Tibetan peoples. When Liu Yanxi choreographs, her strategy is to emphasize a style reflective of “a large, multicultural and diverse nation.” Chen Guang is also trying to integrate more modern elements into the group’s songs, fusing their patriotic and nostalgic songs with aspects of pop, reggae and rock. In Chen’s words, the middle section of the


NEWSCHINA I October 2015

group’s Sing in Praise of Our Motherland is “on par with that of [the cover version of] Internationale by Tang Dynasty,” one of the earliest and most influential metal bands in China. In fact, Chen has made long-term plans for 56 Flowers’ future albums, and envisions a fourth album titled 56 Flowers’ Tribute to Rock ‘n’ Roll. According to Chen, his ambition is to “integrate and harmonize patriotic culture with popular culture.” But the girls in his singing group seem to favor the latter. Before becoming a member of 56 Flowers, Dai Qinyi had hardly listened to any “red songs” or watched patriotic movies or TV shows. “My grandma probably likes them,” she told NewsChina. Dai’s idol is pop and folk singer-songwriter Li Jian. Tan Xin, another one of the group’s “core members,” prefers Korean pop group Girl’s Generation. They all liked watching the Tiny Times movies, an immensely popular, Gossip Girl-like series that saw its fourth installment released this year. “We don’t limit their personal music preferences. It’s OK if they like popular dance or Japanese and Korean pop culture,” said choreographer Liu Yanxi. “We are not brainwashing anyone.” Chen Guang also considers the commercial angle: While holding up the flag of patriotism, the group is advancing into the market. “We are doing what everyone thought was inconceivable,” he said. The June 28 show was an announcement NEWSCHINA I October 2015

of the group’s official launch. A wave of feedback quickly followed. Praise was mixed with a lot of criticism and suspicion. Besides comments calling the group “extremely provincial” and saying it is “still playing off the Cultural Revolution,” many deemed 56 Flowers a copy of Japanese and Korean girl groups. These attacks were “not unexpected,” Chen Guang said, adding that he and his team still believe in their abilities and strength. “Entertainment and patriotism don’t have to be set against each other,” he continued. “Why can’t we be a super girl group with socialism as our core value?”


On many occasions, 56 Flowers has appeared to be linked to the government in some way. According to Chen Guang, one of the group’s original songs, 56 Flowers, has been chosen to be the official theme song of the Chinese Young Pioneers Business Development Center, an organization supervised by the Central Committee of the Communist Youth League of China (CCCYLC). “We are operating under the supervision and instruction of various institutions,” said Chen Guang. Liu Yanxi told NewsChina that these institutions include the General Office of the CCCYLC, the China Young Pioneers National Working Commission and China Oriental Performing Arts Group. Currently, these organizations haven’t participated directly in 56 Flowers’ management,

but further cooperation has been discussed, according to Liu. Yet when NewsChina asked these organizations about the sponsorships and cooperation, none of them knew about these talks. In fact, their respective officials and representatives told NewsChina they were not even clear about what the girl group was. Little is known about manager Chen Guang himself. He declined to speak too much about himself during the interview, saying that 56 Flowers is about the group, not an individual. Liu Yanxi told NewsChina that Chen is a “national class composer” and had previously worked for the Young Pioneers of China’s Red Scarf Art Troupe. All in all, Chen Guang and his team are expecting big things from their “socialist super girl group.” If all goes according to Chen’s plan, 56 Flowers will appear in reality shows, perform for large galas and act in movies, TV shows and commercials. He intends to found more groups under 56 Flowers’ name, including a traditional music group, a choir, a chamber orchestra and, probably, a girl’s school. His ambitions also include setting up 56 Flowers theaters across the country that show “patriotism-themed mass performance” every week. If everything goes well, he said, the next “56 Flowers Theater” might appear in Shaoshan, Mao Zedong’s birthplace, or Jinggang Mountain, the birthplace of the Communist Party of China’s armed forces.




NEWSCHINA I October 2015

Lan Tianye

Winter Soldier


n 2012, the then-85-year-old actor Lan Tianye met Wan Fang on the rooftop terrace of Peng Hao Theater, one of Beijing’s oldest independent theaters, to ask her to write a play in which he could act. Wan was familiar with “Uncle Lan,” as Lan is known to his colleagues, who had acted in classic plays written by her father, Cao Yu. Cao is probably the most well-known and widely acclaimed playwright in Chinese history, as well as the first president and founding member of Beijing People’s Art Theatre (BPAT), the company that Lan has devoted a lifetime to. Beyond his being cast in one of the roles, and his insistence that the leading characters be “two old people,” Lan had no further input until Wan presented him with her finished script. Three years later, in May 2015, A Winter Trip went on tour nationwide. In 45 days, 88-year-old Lan toured seven cities and delivered 17 performances alongside 62-year-old Taiwanese actor Li Liqun. Originally titled Confession, Wan’s play, a 105-minute twohander, centers on two friends, one of whom betrayed the other during the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976). Decades later, these two old friends meet again and one confesses his betrayal. Applause on opening night was long and thunderous, with some audience members describing both Lan’s performance and the play as “a miracle.”

At 88 years of age, Lan Tianye, still one of China’s top theater performers, is touring the country with a “sensitive” look back on the turmoil of the Cultural Revolution By Wan Jiahuan and Yuan Ye

Lan Tianye on stage NEWSCHINA I October 2015

Photo by Dong Jiexu


Only a year before he met with Wan, Lan had initially refused an invitation from his company’s president Zhang Heping to act in a BPAT production of Cao Yu’s Home, an adaptation of a novel by Ba Jin. Lan was 84 at the time, and had been living in retirement for 24 years. He had not appeared on stage since taking a role in a 40th anniversary production of BPAT favorite Tea House, by Lao She. Rather than being in the limelight, Lan spent most of his retirement painting pictures. Born in 1927, Lan’s childhood dream had been to become a painter. At 17, he received an offer from the Peking National Academy of Arts. However, his self-proclaimed revolutionary zeal took him to the stage, a move he later recalled had made him “like a brick to be placed wherever the revolution needed.” Tall, handsome and studious, Lan’s stage career progressed quickly. In 1948, at the age of 21, he moved to a communistcontrolled area of the country. 10 years later, he performed as one of the lead characters in a BPAT production of Tea House. Over the next 34 years, he and his fellow performers appeared in 374 performances of Tea House, including a European tour in 1980, when BPAT became the first mainland


Photo by CFP


Lan Tianye on his way to rehearsal, April 2014

theater company to tour overseas. However, BPAT’s revolutionary “brick” was worn down by his labors. In 1958, a new production of Tea House premiered just as the Great Leap Forward began. The Communist Party initiated a national movement to rapidly increase industrial and agricultural output through the mass mobilization of the entire population. So-called “cultural workers” also had to devote their free time to industrial labor. BPAT’s schedule had to incorporate manual labor into rehearsals and performances,


meaning that the company often had to work through the night. Lan would often give three performances a day, followed by a stint at one of the crude blast furnaces built in backyards across the country with the aim of boosting steel production. In 1959, Lan fainted backstage at a show commemorating the 10th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China. After he recovered, he became an insomniac, dependent on sleeping pills. Though he continued to act, he gradually shifted focus to his work as director of BPAT. Then, in 1966, the Cultural Revolution further devastated BPAT. Lao She, the acclaimed writer of Tea House, was hounded as a rightist and a “capitalist-roader” until he committed suicide by jumping into a lake in Beijing. Director Jiao Juyin, responsible for hundreds of performances of Tea House, was tortured, publicly humiliated and denied access to treatment for the cancer that would ultimately kill him in 1975. Lan himself was tortured by Red Guards, who specifically targeted artists and creatives for abuse. He remained, however, committed to his job. In 2008, Lan and several other retired senior BPAT artists accepted an invitation to return to the theater’s Art Committee, the body responsible for commissioning plays. Ongoing health problems and concerns over his ability to memorize lines were behind Lan’s decision to turn down Zhang Heping’s 2011 invitation to join the cast of BPAT’s latest production of Home. However, he was ultimately swayed by his interest in the piece’s main villain, a challenging change of direction for an elderly actor famous for playing revolutionary heroes. Lan’s trust in Zhang and his desire to stretch himself ultimately caused him to change his mind.


Home was a success. Lan’s health held up and he embraced the challenge of playing a villain. The following year, on the strength of that performance, Lan was invited to take a leading role in Jiazi Garden, staged to commemorate BPAT’s 60th anniversary. Lan performed alongside veteran actors like 90-year-old Zhu Lin, 88-year-old Zheng Rong and 83-yearold Zhu Xu, all of whom were celebrated performers during BPAT’s heyday. Lan read Wan Fang’s A Winter Trip in one sitting, and was deeply moved by its content. The “10 years of chaos” during the Cultural Revolution were mentally, physically and artistically disastrous for Lan and his colleagues. Other than NEWSCHINA I October 2015

Photo by Xinhua

Lan Tianye (left) and Li Liqun in rehearsals for A Winter Trip

a broken home, Lan himself had personally suffered through almost all the tortures the character he would ultimately play experiences in the script. For the first time in decades, Lan took the initiative in proposing that BPAT commission this new work. To his disappointment, the committee turned him down on the grounds of his health. However, he was approached by others keen to stage this important play. Magnificent Culture, a mainland production company representing leading Taiwanese director Stan Lai, decided to produce the play, inviting Lai to direct. The combination of Lan Tianye, Stan Lai, Wan Fang and Taiwanese actor Li Liqun immediately caught the eyes of theater-goers, media and critics. A Winter Trip marked the first time that Lan had cooperated with a private theater company. All eyes were on the nearly 90-year-old Lan Tianye, who, along with his much younger co-star, had to carry the entire production, with no understudies. Magnificent Culture hired a 24-hour personal assistant to take care of Lan, who stayed with him throughout the tour despite his opposition to being “overprotected.” In spite of his star status and advanced age, Lan insisted on eating with the rest of the company, and managed to keep pace with them all except on one occasion when NEWSCHINA I October 2015

he had to cancel a rehearsal due to illness – later apologizing to the entire team. However, the role demanded that Lan don a heavy overcoat, a costume choice that became a liability during performances in southern China’s blazing midsummer heat. Lan would come off stage dressed in sweat, while his audience members were clad in summer dresses and shorts. Lan became ill after A Winter Trip premiered in Shanghai. The original plan for three performances in the city was augmented due to high audience demand, with the organizer adding another two shows. Lan was flown to a hospital in Beijing for emergency treatment, however he managed to make all his subsequent performances by basing himself in Beijing and flying to each city on the tour schedule in turn. Halfway through the tour in July, Lan was able to rest at home in Beijing. Sporting his trademark swept-back hair and a pair of old-fashioned glasses, he spoke slowly and calmly with reporters, remarking that he was pleased the weather would be cooler for the second leg of his tour. On the stage of A Winter Trip, he would no longer need to worry about being drenched in sweat. Fortunately, the latter half of the tour will begin in the late autumn, giving this venerable performer a break from the heat.


visual REPORT

Wind and Water


NEWSCHINA I October 2015


n June 9, Wang Rong,who graduated from Xi’an University of Architecture and Technology with a master’s degree in feng shui, carries a special “compass”to a location in Yulin, Shaanxi Province. Her assignment is to determine the layout of the plan for a villa set to be constructed there. In Wang’s words, modern feng shui is the quest to establish harmony in human living environments. Historically, this ancient geomantic art’s principles were closely adhered to by Chinese people rich and poor alike, but feng shui was officially abandoned and scorned as an archaic superstition by the communist authorities in the 1950s, and its prominence on the mainland quickly faded. Only in recent decades has feng shui been revived on the Chinese mainland, becoming in the process a highly lucrative career option for some. “Feng shui is a theory set down by our ancestors aimed at resolving conflict between human beings and the natural environment,”commented Zhang Jinqiu, a member of Chinese Academy of Engineering and chief architect of China Northwest Building Design Research Institute. “It is the wisdom of our ancestors,”he added.

The government has implemented a the mansion from The government has implemented a 30-meter “exclusion zone” to protect the mansiondemolition. from demolition. NEWSCHINA I October 2015


visual REPORT

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NEWSCHINA I October 2015

1. Wang Rong displays a pair of miniature gourds, believed to enhance prosperity, in her studio. Feng shui’s rich symbology is familiar to many Chinese 2. Wang is employed by the School of Economic and Management at Northwest University. Feng shui was once ridiculed by China’s government and its academic community 3. Wang with her client, manager of a local maternity and childcare company in Xi’an. Feng shui is making a comeback in the business plans of Chinese entrepreneurs 4. Wang and friends drink tea in her small studio. Traditional Chinese belief systems are enjoying something of a renaissance, particularly those that are easily monetized 5. Wang on assignment – hills are auspicious geographical formations in feng shui, especially when placed at the rear of a property 6. Wang drafts an interior layout. Compass direction, the nature of the structure and the peculiarities of a client’s personality and astrological chart all play a part in determining appropriate feng shui

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NEWSCHINA I October 2015


OUTSIDEIN perspectives from within China

Hidden Hong Kong

Harboring Secrets Behind a slick, businesslike exterior, Hong Kong retains a uniquely enthralling culture all its own. Travelers just need to know where to look By Kenneth Kagan


ong Kong has long been renowned for worldly cosmopolitanism and savvy shopping, evidenced by the forest of skyscrapers that make up its iconic skyline. Recent years have seen the city become one of the most expensive places to live in Asia, suffering from a cutthroat real-estate market that thrives on gentrification – and the cultural drought that often comes with it. Not so fast. While the commercial tide is certainly still rising, a foray in between the glittering malls will quickly offer a glimpse of Hong Kong’s creative side. Start with Prince Edward. This district is only a few subway stops north of the commercial crossroads of Central, and can be described as a loose-knit patchwork made up of the diverse fabrics of Hong Kong life. Even well into midday, this working-class neighborhood is alive with customers spilling out of noisy cha chaan teng teahouses and wholesale stores. While Prince Edward is famous for its tourist attractions such as Goldfish Street and the Flower Market, relatively affordable rents offer fertile ground for more creative endeavors. The space around the Flower Market in particular offers delightful strolling: While people have been selling flowers here for over a century, the area is well on its way to becoming a full-blown retail destination. Hidden among the blooms is the café Hay Fever, which offers great pulls of espresso and lattes in a shop concealed among the blooms. Silver Fox Cave


There’s no Internet, and the quiet space encourages visitors to linger and, quite literally, smell the roses. Yet that quiet sensibility belies the offbeat spirit of the neighborhood. Around the corner is Zen in Five Seasons, a teahouse that skillfully utilizes the high ceilings of a restored art-deco building. The store sells bottled tea bearing a tag explaining how the various medicinal botanicals in the brew might treat what ails you – I enjoyed an excellent takeaway blend of red jujubes and brown sugar, intended to alleviate anxiety and sleeping. Also available are an assortment of locally-woven textiles and other artisan goods. Around the corner is House of Moments, one of the city’s first concealed walk-up cafés, a trend that has since spread, which offers a serene place to sit and look out over the flora for sale out on the street.


This low-key attitude toward commerce has begun to attract Hong Kong’s small, yet passionate, circle of artsy types to Prince Edward. Independent music label White Noise Records opened up a strikingly cool vinyl shop not far from the market, which uses extra space for pop-ups and DJ events. Then there’s Wontonmeen, a one-stop shop of experimentation. Walk in from the street to a tiny shop selling locally roasted gourmet coffee, then proceed further to a combination gallery, record store and chill-out space. Upstairs is a design workshop, NEWSCHINA I October 2015

Getting Around Hong Kong’s subway and bus network is affordable, clean and efficient. Anyone staying in town more than a couple of days should invest in an Octopus Card available from most station ticket booths and at the airport. The Octopus Airport Tourist Card, while the price (from HK$220 [US$28]) is steep, includes a free ride to or from HKIA.

Photo by IC

Where To Stay Given that space in Hong Kong comes at a steep premium, budget travelers can expect to squeeze into tiny digs - and they don’t come much tinier than the Mini Hotel on Ice House Road. The location – right in Central – can’t be beat, and while their almost bed-sized rooms (from around US$80 a night) are miniscule, they come with en suite showers, powerful air conditioning and cable TV. Those wishing to go upmarket, meanwhile, have a wealth of options. Foremost among them is the exceptional ICON hotel in Tsim Sha Tsui (rooms start at US$300 a night) – it features unbeatable city views, a bellybusting buffet breakfast and some of the slickest modern design flourishes the city has to offer.

A flower market in Mong Kok, February 2012

and there’s even a hostel for visitors who can’t bring themselves to leave. Hong Kong’s artistic spirit has also spread in other unexpected locales. Consider Sai Ying Pun, one of the oldest areas of Hong Kong. While this neighborhood, and its neighbor Kennedy Town, have deep working class roots, its relative proximity to Central and (reasonably) affordable rents are prompting a spread of business types threatening the area’s rough-around-the-edges charm. And since the subway extended out here earlier this year, these fears are proving more and more substantiated. Even so, some new investment has led the precipitously steep area to be on the vanguard of urban cool. Relax your aching quads from walking up those hills with breaks at art galleries like Above Second, which is now on First Street. The space specializes in bold, sometimes shocking, pop art and graffiti. There’s also much in the area that hearkens back to local heritage; the Conservancy Association has regular exhibitions on Hong Kong’s history, and the ornate granite façade of the Run Run Shaw Heritage House at nearby Hong Kong University now houses a quaint bookstore with an extensive collection on architecture and the city itself.


It’s after dark that this area really begins to strut its stuff. Compared

NEWSCHINA I October 2015

to more popular bar areas like the perpetually mobbed Lan Kwai Fong, the watering holes and restaurants out in this part are fewer and more spread apart. Yet that lends itself to new enterprises that try things a little bit differently. Consider Stack, which specializes in, of all things, upmarket pancakes. But this is far more than just bourgeois breakfast: your mind may be changed when you see the split of sweet and savory pancakes, with toppings like quail’s egg or guacamole. There’s also a selection of interesting house bottles including traditional Chinese herbal liqueurs, all served at a communal bar table. Other venues have become so hip as to attract city-wide attention. Last year, a group of Spanish expats formed the hippest place in Hong Kong with Ping Pong Gintonería, a Spanish-style gin bar with dozens of varieties of a simple gin and tonic in a former (you guessed it) ping pong hall. The options are enhanced with different proportions of bitterness and infusions to liven up the simple drink. You’ll never forget your first time – the owners haven’t taken down any of the original signage outside, and the entrance leads down into a cavernous underground space that showcases its concrete urban esthetic. After a few drinks, you’ll logically want to get your feet moving. This will inevitably lead you to XXX, a nightclub that’s more like a house party that won’t stop. Think thumping indie beats, swaying hipsters and a long, hazy climbdown. For a real undiscovered creative magnet, though, you may have to



Photo by IC

still manages to hold frequent exget far away from Hong Kong’s cenhibitions of local contemporary ter. Make the trek out east to Kwan artists. Start From Zero, a Hong Tong, where industrial parks empKong-based street art crew, detied out from a general manufacturcided to establish itself as a furniing exodus to the Chinese mainland ture workshop and apparel store. have been repurposed for the use of For a fee, you can work with a artists, musicians and anyone just small group and make your own looking for that rare gem: an affordpiece of furniture yourself. Alterable place to live or work. natively, head over to Simple LivKwan Tong is still an industrial ing, where thousands of square center, so it can seem difficult to feet house vintage cameras, furnavigate without previous direcniture or any number of knicktions. Its isolation is displayed by knacks to illustrate your home. its eerily vacant ferry pier. It’s well Goldfish on sale along Tung Choi Street, Mongkok, January 2011 Look around, however, and known among most locals due to you’ll see how the local governHidden Agenda, a venue that has ment is trying to revitalize Kwan fought government interventions Tong in ways that transform it and changing economic climates to become the premier indie venue in the city. Time your trip for one of into yet another business center. This means more malls, more offices and less creativity. But knowing the spirit of Hong Kong, that artistic the regular art and music festivals and pop-ups that occur here. Kwan Tong still maintains a few artist havens: Osage Kwan Tong urge will find another place to thrive. 

real chinese

dashen master

After the terms nanshen (dream boy) and nüshen (dream girl) had already become popular, it was time for dashen to take Chinese Internet by storm. This term describes people who enjoy unparalleled superiority in a specific field. With “shen” literally meaning “god” or “spirit” and “da” meaning “big,” dashen are a step up from their predecessors, the nanshen and nüshen. If the latter two are the people others want to be with, the dashen is likely the person everyone wants to be. The term originated in online gaming – when a new player wants to ask an old veteran for


help, their request is usually directed at a potential dashen currently online. Gradually, this term has been extended to cover other fields, although it remains part of China’s online youth culture. For example, well-regarded e-novelists are often referred to as dashen, an appellation rarely used to describe those whose works are actually in print. Online, a netizen might pray for a dashen to resolve a technical problem, but the same request would not be heard at a brick-and-mortar computer repair store. The term’s popularity online has even


caused it to become a descriptor of products, with Apple’s iPhone 6S repeatedly referred to as the dashen of smartphones. However, given the Chinese tendency towards hyperbole, the term dashen can also be twisted into a criticism. Some apply it satirically to those netizens who demonstrate little knowledge or learning but project an omnipotent image. With a keyboard and a search engine, these “pretenders” pass off expert opinions on international politics, technology and the arts as their own, leading critics to expose their plagiarism as that of a false dashen. NEWSCHINA I October 2015

flavor of the month

Brine Dining By Sean Silbert

NEWSCHINA I October 2015

Photo by IC


ver had a Chinese breakfast? Chances are, you’ll see a pickle. Want an easy-breezy snack from a convenience store? Again, pickles. What about a topping for noodles, porridge or rice? You guessed it – pickles, pickles and pickles. Who’d have thunk it? Truly, pickles are one of the most underappreciated yet commonplace elements of the Chinese diet – and while today’s pickles are more about packing in some extra flavor than ensuring survival, the Chinese palate couldn’t do without them. Sure, calling preserved foods the base of the Chinese food pyramid is an exaggeration. But much of everyday Chinese cuisine has its origins in times of scarcity, periods when one poor harvest might mean famine. Thus, developing novel ways to preserve food for long periods of time – particularly cheap, vitamin-packed vegetables – took on a special importance, which this culinary art form has retained until the present day. The Chinese term for pickling, yanzhi, encompasses a much wider array of preservation techniques than the English translation “pickle” could ever hope to. It covers brining in vinegar and salt, like the cucumber pickles you’d see in a Mason jar, but also fermentation (sometimes to the point of moldering), marinating in bean pastes, bottling in soy sauce and lacto-fermentation. Everywhere in China has its own traditions, and methods and flavors vary wildly between various diverse localities. Northern Chinese, for example, are fond of pickled cabbage, while Chinese south of the Yangtze River prefer mustard greens. The most common pickle of them all is a method known as yancai, more of a general classification than a specific food item. Yancai are produced through subjecting vegetables to a process of lacto-fermentation, similar to the methods used by picklers in the Western world. The significant difference is that on top of brining, the yancai process involves the addition of a large, heavy weight to compress the pickles as they ferment. Then come the jiangcai, or “sauced pickles.” These are vegetables that have been air- or sun-dried and then bottled in a fermented (or fermenting) soy solution, which bestows a distinctive flavor adjusted to local palates – jiangcai are saltier in the north, and sweeter in the south. This method has roots in the meat sauces favored by the elites of old: Prior to the Tang dynasty, the wealthy loved their protein to the degree that they pickled parts of every animal they could catch. There was even a “superintendent of sauces” in the imperial court to keep track of it all. The Tang, being evangelical Buddhists, substituted soy proteins. You’ll find both meaty and meatless pickles are called for in a wide medley of Chinese recipes, such as the signature noodle dish of Beijing, zhajiangmian – a thick sauce of deepfried fatty pork which derives its savor from jiangcai. The final major type of Chinese pickle is xiancai, translated as “salted vegetable.” Truth in advertising, here: With a method resulting in up to

20 percent salt content by weight, these pickles are tough to digest. Most Chinese eat them as a side dish in small servings at breakfast, alleviating the biting saltiness with another, blander food item such as an egg, or tossing these salty morsels into stir-fries. Xiancai are also the hardest pickle to make, as the vegetables need to be sliced and diced into uniform pieces small enough to completely absorb the masses of salt they require. Once you start getting into the mountains and hinterlands of China, however, you’ll start finding ancient pickle varieties that have been passed down through generations – and that modernity has been made accessible to the masses. Zhacai, for instance, is a crunchy Sichuanese pickled mustard made through a bewildering process of drying, salting, pressing and fermenting, then finished off with an additional whack of hot chili paste. It’s from Sichuan, after all, though nowadays it’s sold in convenience stores and supermarkets across the country. Thanks to their piquant, flavor-enhancing properties and a long shelf life, pickles both regional and ubiquitous are exceedingly easy to get in China. Just about every market has a pickle section, where you can pick up some tangsuan (sugar pickled garlic) to accompany Xi’an-style lamb dishes, suancai (Chinese sauerkraut) to speckle southern-style soups or even Korean style kimchi – which is, yes, a pickle. However, the easy availability of pickles means that some traditions are now threatened by industrialization. Why spend weeks or months preserving your crops when a factory can simply do it for you? This means that the seasonal customs and individual flavors that came with the pickling of the autumn harvest and differed from village to village are becoming a thing of the past. Some of the last vestiges of home preserving can still be found in the rugged and impoverished villages of the Southwest, in Yunnan and Guizhou provinces in particular, where isolated minority areas hold firm onto their time-tested traditions. Here’s hoping that diversity, as well as tried-and-tested favorites, stays on Chinese menus.



Mr. Ubiquitous By Andrew Knowles


I asked the hostel receptionist where Ma was. “Who?” she said. I repeated his name several times, and while her smile remained fixed, her eyebrows furrowed

Illustration by Liu Xiaochao

Yangshuo is a small riverside town in the south, embedded in picturesque sugarloaf karst mountains which jut out of the landscape like verdant chunks of Toblerone. The town itself has been a tourist destination and inspiration for artists and poets for over one thousand years. May 1, Labor Day, is a major holiday in China, and when I stepped off the ferry the packs of tourists were out in force. Once settled into my hostel, I secured a map from a cheery receptionist and set out to explore the town. A discreet stairwell took me down to a table by the riverside, the “office” of an effervescent and splendidly mustachioed German who, along with the melodies of Jefferson Airplane, welcomed me to the town. Between recollections of European road trips and local dining recommendations, this tireless raconteur introduced me to his friend Ma, a portly fellow who duly emerged from some nearby bushes while doing up his zipper. After a brief hello to both of us, Ma, radiating an air of mild amusement, continued to listen to the stream-of-consciousness ramblings of our shared acquaintance before parting. After a sound night’s sleep, I determined to avoid the town the following day and take my own bicycle tour of the local scenery. While picking out my ride from the hostel’s racks, Ma suddenly materialized in front of me and began to quiz me about my plans. It was already getting hot, and he outlined the shadiest cycling routes on my map, highlighting particular rest stops, all the while urging me to drink lots of water. I said I hadn’t realized Ma worked for the hostel. He mumbled something about a night shift and hurriedly waved me off into the blazing sun. My “leisurely” ride was very hard going, all steep climbs in soaring temperatures. However, the plunging valleys, water buffalodotted rice paddies, fancifully shaped geology and enduring tranquility left me light-headed

– or perhaps that was the sunstroke. Upon my return to Yangshuo that evening, the streets were gridlocked with cars, mopeds, bicycles, pedestrians and even the occasional horse, all adding their own distinct noises to an urban cacophony. I emerged from the scrum onto the dimly lit side of town where I was staying. Stopping at one small store, whose owner sat inside engrossed in a TV soap opera, a figure sitting on the stoop emerged from the shadows and greeted me by name; it was Ma. I asked him what he was doing here this evening. “Oh,” he replied. “Just talking with my friend.” He gestured towards the shop owner who had not stirred from his TV-induced reverie. I asked if he was working another night shift at the hostel but he responded, with some bemusement, in the negative. I left him on the stoop and trundled back to my lodgings.

On foot the next day, with the town a little quieter, I took a mysterious staircase winding up a karst hill on the outskirts of town, a path I soon found was leading me high above Yangshuo with nary a soul in sight. On my way back, I stumbled across Ma yet again, this time seated atop a market stall. Old friends by this point, I asked him his business today. He nodded in the direction of a couple struggling to change a motorcycle wheel. “I’m helping them fix their bike,” he stated, before turning back to stare out across the river. The next day, my last in Yangshuo, I visited one of the many caves that honeycomb the hills around the town, before returning to my hostel, which was hosting a barbecue. As I emerged onto the outdoor deck, I caught sight of Ma struggling to light the grills. Sidetracked by a conversation with an elderly Australian couple, when I turned back to talk to Ma, I saw he had gone. I asked the hostel receptionist where Ma was. “Who?” she said. I repeated his name several times, and while her smile remained fixed, her eyebrows furrowed. She pointed to a different man now working the grill, adding that she knew of no staff member named Ma. He didn’t reappear that evening. The following morning the heavens opened, and curtains of rain lashed my face as I struggled through flooded streets to the bus station. As my sodden bus waited to turn into traffic, I wiped the fog off the window and peered out into the gloom. Locals were huddled under awnings, seeking shelter. Suddenly, there – slightly apart – was that Ma, I asked myself? Same build, clothes, aspect. I tried to squint through the rain and steamy window. As the bus pulled around, the figure appeared to turn to look right at me. Then it waved. Whatever awaits me on my return to Yangshuo, among the hills, caves and the meandering river, I feel sure I will once again run into my curious friend Ma. NEWSCHINA I October 2015

Park Life By Anna Lykkeberg

NEWSCHINA I October 2015

He gestured towards me. “Clean ears?” he asked. It took me a few seconds to realize that all of these instruments were indeed designed to penetrate the aural canal

Illustration by Liu Xiaochao

It was a January morning in Chengdu. I had arrived the day before after a long semester at university, beginning my Chinese New Year travels in the home province of fragrant, spicy hotpot. Frankly, I was a little burnt out and was ready to hit something other than the books. I decided to take a stroll in People’s Park to clear my head. After navigating the appalling traffic, I was met with an oasis of greenery and herds of children rushing by me blowing bubbles. The entrance gate was flanked by vendors selling an assortment of colorful sugary snacks, and others selling those bubble-making machines that had the children so dazzled. Around the corner from this impromptu market was a square thronged with people, all moving in synchronized motion. It was a gang of China’s ubiquitous and ever-merry “dancing aunties,” led by a frizzy-haired woman in a flowery pink coat who was pumping her arms from side to side, her hair bouncing to the beat. Children, grandmas and middle-aged men had all come together in the spirit of shared movement, and I got a glimpse of at least three generations in perfect sync. Despite the blaring stereo and mishmash of outfits, there was something calming about this dancing – it is something I have only seen in China, and seems to unite people in a way few other things can. Leaving the music behind, I was met with another unforgettable sight. A group of four elderly men, dressed half in military fatigues and half in everyday clothes. The man in the center had donned a red bandana, Rambo style, and was singing so enthusiastically that his voice carried far beyond the small crowd surrounding him. His three companions were dancing to his tune, albeit less vigorously than the nearby grannies, occasionally belting out impromptu exclamations to excite the crowd. I felt the exhaustion of study slough away from me as I struck out for the main attraction in People’s Park – the huge lake. What an attraction it was! There were

women in heels shakily piloting pedal boats, their kids yelling out directions. Slightly more contemplative grannies than the dancing ones gracefully worked through their tai chi routines, unperturbed by the yells of the impatient children in the pedal boats. Circling around the lake, I heard some people whispering behind me; upon turning I was

met with the all-too-familiar phrase: “Can we have a photo?” I nodded, and became yet another stranger’s vacation souvenir. Having circumnavigated the lake, I sat down at a teahouse overlooking its limpid waters, ordered some jasmine tea, and was presented with a porcelain cup filled with tea leaves and a seemingly inexhaustible thermos of hot water. With the tea steaming away, I pondered on how much of Chengdu and its people I had already seen in this one park. What struck me the most was how it brought the city’s oldest and youngest residents together in shared activities, something that Europeans aren’t so familiar with. It was also the sheer number of elderly people who were out and about on a January morning that stood out, proof positive that age, in China at least, is just a number. While I was still deep in thought, a piercing, twangling sound broke through my reverie, bringing me back to the floral aroma of my tea. A man was standing in front of me, toting an odd assortment of small metal instruments, one of which he was tapping, the source of the odd noise that had broken my train of thought. He gestured towards me. “Clean ears?” he asked. It took me a few seconds to realize that all of these instruments were indeed designed to penetrate the aural canal, and I vigorously shook my head, my adventurousness quickly dissipating. I spotted one nearby fellow who had agreed to this “service,” and I watched in fascination as these oddly sonorous instruments twanged as they delicately did their job. I refilled my cup, and settled back into my people – watching, while keeping a wary ear out for anyone else keen to de-wax me. Despite it being January, there was something relaxing and enjoyable about sitting outside and enjoying the diversity of the people and activities around me in the cool air. Even though I had only just arrived, I was invigorated by the energy and life that filled the park, my weariness floating away like so many new-blown bubbles.


Cultural listings Cinema

Go Away Mr. Tumor Xiong Dun, a popular illustrator and cartoonist, died of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 2012 at the age of 30. A movie adapted from Xiong’s last work, Go Away Mr. Tumor, premiered in mid-August under the same name. Starring Bai Baihe as Xiong and Hong Kong actor Daniel Wu, the movie tells Xiong’s story as she faces her tragic fate while still bringing joy to the people around her. Directed by Han Yan, a promising director in his early 30s, the movie grossed 200 million yuan (US$31m) in four days at the box office, and earned many favorable reviews. At the same time, the movie has roused concerns over cancer among young people in China, who have recently made the topic a buzzword on the country’s many social media platforms.



Pushing the Envelope Chengdu-based alternative band Stolen released their debut album, Loop, in early August. The band combines electronic, post-punk, industrial rock, trip-hop and elements from other similar genres to create a dynamic, powerful and unique sound. Consisting of five local musicians and a French VJ, Stolen’s live shows are known for being avant-garde and experimental, a reputation which brings them quite a following of die-hard fans. The album’s lyrics are almost all in English, which helps to give the band more international reach.


No. 11 Badaowan By Huang Qiaosheng


Suburban Artists Yanjiao, an eastern suburb of Beijing, has become the home of a large number of young artists who have moved there in recent years due to its low cost of living and relatively close proximity to the city. In the past year, On Space, a newly founded independent art space focusing on this group of artists, held a series of exhibitions that have been characterized as raw, experimental and sharp. The latest exhibition organized by On Space’s team was held in late August at the Yuan Art Museum, a larger gallery space within Beijing’s Fifth Ring Road, with works from more than 50 Yanjiao artists. Entitled “Upstairs, Downstairs,” the exhibition shows mostly experimental works by these suburban artists. It also features a forum which discusses the difference between these artists and more mainstream ones.

Lu Xun, one of China’s most respected modern writers, and his brother Zhou Zuoren, who was also a famous writer, lived together at No. 11 Badaowan Hutong in Beijing for four years before breaking ties. At that time Lu Xun moved out of the old house, and after that the brothers never spoke again. In No. 11 Badaowan, famous Lu Xun researcher Huang Qiaosheng details the brothers’ private lives and their writings along with the changes in Chinese society that took place over the course of nearly a century. Based on rich source material, the book provides significant details on many important aspects of the brothers’ lives, which give readers a better understanding of the complicated relationship between the two literary giants. NEWSCHINA I October 2015

NEWSCHINA I October 2015



China needs a coordinated strategy to avoid falling into the middle-income trap The country must align its policies with the needs of companies and contemporary business trends By Huang Dong


or much of the past year, China has been combating an eco- facturing technology in order to unclog its technological bottleneck nomic slowdown, leading many economists to warn that and successfully advance its economy. China may fall into the so-called “middle-income trap,” Secondly, the government should further reform its financial syscharacterized by a sharp deceleration in growth after a previously im- tem to provide better and more efficient financial services to Chinese poverished country has lifted itself mostly out of poverty, barring its companies, especially those in the private sector. One of the financial advancement to the economic status shared reform’s focuses should be to promote the by developed countries. The reason behind ratio of direct finance in China’s econoIt has become even this is middle-income economies often find my. Currently, 80 percent of all funds more difficult for a it difficult to compete with low-income obtained by Chinese enterprises comes middle-income country economies in terms of labor costs, while through indirect finance, meaning borthey also struggle to enter the high-tech rowers borrow funds through indirect to develop into a highfields that have long been dominated by channels, such as a bank. The proportion income one, as the high-income countries. direct finance, which is cheaper and developed world controls of According to estimates by the World more efficient, is only 20 percent. Comthe international financial paratively, bank loans only account for Bank, among the 101 economies desigsystem nated “middle-income” in 1960, only 13 about 20 percent of financing in the US, became high-income ones by 2008 – a sucwhereas direct financing accounts for 70 cess rate of 13 percent. In the age of globalpercent. China needs to expedite its curization, it has become even more difficult rent financial reform to liberalize its polifor a middle-income country to develop into a high-income one, as cies regarding interest and currency exchange rates, open the financial the developed world controls the international financial system and market to private investors and build a robust financial system. That monopolizes the power to set industrial standards and make rules for way, China can increase its say in the global financial market and international trade. The challenge for China, given its size and popu- Chinese companies can have adequate access to financial resources. lation, is particularly acute. Thirdly, the government needs to continue to adjust its policies To break the various technological and institutional barriers, the to take advantage of new business models. In the past several years, Chinese government has launched a number of initiatives in the past the global business environment has experienced some important couple of years. By launching the One Belt, One Road initiative and changes, with businesses increasingly anchored in innovative online establishing the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, China aims platforms and integrative ecosystems, which will become the new to strengthen its position in the rule-making processes of the world’s battleground between different enterprises. A few online platform financial order. However, these State-led initiatives alone will not be companies have already emerged in China, such as Alibaba and Tenadequate to achieve the much desired upgrade in industrial status. To cent. At the same time, the Chinese government has facilitated the successfully restructure China’s economy, the Chinese government merging of State-owned enterprises in high-speed rail infrastructure needs to adopt policies that directly and precisely address some key in an effort to establish a business ecosystem in that industry. Several issues. other mergers are reportedly underway. Firstly, a major focus should be upgrading China’s manufacturing China should further pinpoint its policies to encourage Chinese industry from a labor-intensive one into an innovation-intensive one, companies to take advantage of these new business models in order because of rising labor costs. Recently, the Chinese government has to achieve the country’s desired leap forward and transform into a launched the “Made in China 2025” and “Internet Plus” strategies. high-income economy.  However, with the competitive advantage established by “lean manufacturing” in development countries, particularly Germany and Ja- The author is a researcher with Zhigang Think Tank, a private think pan, China should focus on the emerging trend toward smart manu- tank specializing in public policy.


NEWSCHINA I October 2015

NEWSCHINA I October 2015



NEWSCHINA I October 2015

October 2015